On Campus

English prof says Wikipedia is a good teaching tool

Website encourages research, editing and proper citation

Most English professors forbid their students from citing Wikipedia. The common concern is that the crowd-sourcing website allows anyone to post, so the information is less reliable that what’s found in peer-reviewed journals. But Brenna Gray, an English professor from Douglas College in suburban Vancouver, says that Wikipedia can help students become more accurate researchers — if they’re asked to contribute to the site. Her theory was that students who knew their posts would be made public would be more concerned about accuracy than students who were writing for their professor alone. She tested her theory by having students create Wikipedia posts about obscure Canadian writers. It seems to have worked. Students produced more accurate research projects than they normally would have written. That alone makes it a useful teaching tool, but Wikipedia also encourages research, citations and revision, which are all “ideals espoused by English instructors,” Gray said in a press release from the Congress for the Canadian Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Fredericton, where she presented her findings this week. Although her experiment was small, Gray says it should encourage more discussion about how  professors can embrace a website that their students use so frequently outside of class.

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