Wikipedia (2009) defines itself as; "a free, web-based and collaborative multilingual encyclopedia project...Wikipedia's 13 million articles have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world and almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone." It was created in 2001.
Wikipedia is almost shunned by the educational world; "because its very nature allows it to be edited by anyone and it is not updated by verified researchers" (Perez, 2008). Throughout high school and university, I have always been advised to never use Wikipedia as a source because it may contain bias and inconsistencies. However, It seems as though Wikipedia is usually correct and usually contains the right information, so it is a good way to gain some background knowledge about a topic. It is important to remember that it may contain inaccurate information and that more research is necessary.
The learners in my prac class are currently studying weather. I therefore had a look at the information available on Wikipedia. The information is very wordy and the learners themselves wouldn't be able to read it. However, there were some great images and many links to other information. If the learners were a bit older, they would really enjoy exploring and reading the information. Wikipedia contains a page explaining weather, but also has a list of natural disasters, timelines, links to pages related to specific weather, information about forecasting, space weather, information about weather stations. I was quite surprised that Wikipedia contained so much information. Wikipedia has the potential to cater for different learning styles with all of its links to other sites and information (Felder, & Soloman, 2009).
Wikipedia could be used to introduce a topic. For instance in my year two class, learners have the opportunity at the beginning of term to choose the topic which they want to focus upon and learn about. The learners could have their usual vote and the learning manager could show Wikipedia on the projector briefly and suggest that the learners go home and ask their parents to help them look up the chosen topic on Wikipedia.
Felder, R. & Soloman, B. (2009). Learning Styles and Strategies. Retrieved August 15, 2009, from http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/ILSdir/styles.htm
Perez, S. (2008). Our Kids are Failing: It's all Wikipedia's Fault. Retrieved August 15, 2009, from http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/our_kids_are_failing_-_and_its_wikipedias_fault.php
Wikipedia. (2009). Wikipedia. Retrieved August 15, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia