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thelmadatter



Joined: 31 Mar 2003
Posts: 1212
Location: in el Distrito Federal x fin!

PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2008 6:01 pm    Post subject: Wikipedia Reply with quote

I have used writing for Wikipedia with a bit of sucess with my advanced students here in Mexico. After all, everyone likes to talk about themselves (or, by extension, their home countries)

Wikipedia does seriously need help with articles about non-English speaking countries (esp those outside of Europe) and since so much information about non-English speaking countries is in their own language (duh), Im trying to set up a way to recruit EFL teachers who might be interested in having their students write for Wikipedia.

Contributing to Wikipedia is not the most intuitive thing in the world.. it took me a little while to figure out the basics, but once those are mastered.. it can get a bit addictive. It was easy to get my students motivated.. all I had to do was have them critique the "Music of Mexico" article and see where many of the edits are coming from. Despite the thousands of edits that article has... and continues to get... my students always diss the form it is in. Finding out that people from as far away as Russia and Japan (not to mention the US) are writing about their stuff can get their dander up pretty good.

Anyway... if anyone here is interested in having their students write or improve articles in Wikipedia, you can drop me a line here or visit my userpage in Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Thelmadatter Id be happy to help out...
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tedkarma



Joined: 17 May 2004
Posts: 1598
Location: The World is my Oyster

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 5:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sadly, I've seen a lot of inaccurate garbage on wiki - though generally it is pretty good. Unfortunately, students in the countries where I have taught would give a strongly biased spin on their country. As we all might!

Use it as an EFL exercise if you wish, but it will make the mix even more biased.
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rusmeister



Joined: 15 Jun 2006
Posts: 867
Location: Russia

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 6:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Agree with Ted.
It's really important not to overvalue or trust Wikipedia. It is truly what George Orwell saw as a "Memory Hole", where yesterday's fact becomes today's fiction becomes tomorrow's trash.

Anyone with an axe to grind can, as long as they're careful and follow the rules, can say whatever they want, create any definitions they want, insert any 'facts' they want. The dangers of this cannot be overestimated.

Purely as an example, I saw the recent artificial word 'polyamory' go from euphemism to having full-blown status as a concept. (Not going to debate that here, although it would prove my point to have people start debating it...) Whoever has the greatest determination will have their 'fact' presented as such.
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tedkarma



Joined: 17 May 2004
Posts: 1598
Location: The World is my Oyster

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 6:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like what the rusmeister had to say.

One of the Thailand sections comments on a "mandatory ovation" to the King at the beginning of movies.

Not.

People stand in respect, but in six years of living here I have never heard an "ovation" - thus the piece was written by someone who went to one movie and didn't understand what was going on.

Sad.

Unfortunately - many people will read that and really think that they must do that and the person who wrote it really knew what was going one - and he was an idi*t!
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Stephen Jones



Joined: 21 Feb 2003
Posts: 4124

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 12:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I saw the recent artificial word 'polyamory' go from euphemism to having full-blown status as a concept
The purpose of an encyclopedia or dictionary is to describe the world as it is, not as you would wish it to be.

In general I find Wikipedia as reliable as Britannica or Encarta. There has been research on the matter and it has tended to bear this out. The 'many pairs of eyes' concept does work.

The main problem I find with Wikipedia is that the style is awful. Multiple edits from multiple editors often end up leaving the page looking exactly like you would expect something designed by committee to look like.
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wildchild



Joined: 14 Nov 2005
Posts: 519
Location: Puebla 2009 - 2010

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 5:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

thelma,

I think it's a great idea and I will consider using it in my class.

All of the above criticisms of wikipedia, a great experiment in democracy, are not without merit, however, they can also be made against the system of old:

Quote:
I've seen a lot of inaccurate garbage...


Quote:
...would give a strongly biased spin on their country...


Quote:
Anyone with an axe to grind...


Quote:
...yesterday's fact becomes today's fiction becomes tomorrow's trash...



Wikipedia, on the other hand, has made it much more obvious that no one person, organization, etc. is the sole authority on truth, reality. Not surprisingly, this scares a lot of people and they will go to great lengths to stifle the challenges to the status quo, the promotion of open discussion, debate, and dissent in all its forms and as seen on wikipedia.
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cspitzig



Joined: 01 Nov 2007
Posts: 56

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 8:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like wikipedia, and as a research tool, studies have found it to be as reliable as traditional encyclopedias. Better, for some subjects, like science.

However, it has a major negative in that the student doing the research can make up what they want for the article, and quote what they just made up. Students doing research usually don't have the ability to write articles for Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MELEE



Joined: 22 Jan 2003
Posts: 2583
Location: The Mexican Hinterland

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 11:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are two issues here for English teachers.
One is students using Wikipedia to do research. If you are grading the students language use only--does it really matter? If you are teaching in a context where you are also grading content, then the school/department/or possibly the individual teacher should make a policy on it.

Two, thelmadatter was talking about student WRITING for wikipedia, which is a great idea because it is real, meaningful context for the students to use what they have learned--about the English language, people will come and edit it if it's bad--or just comment that it's poorly written. Real people, not just their teacher. I just wish I had students at that level. Wink
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coffeedrinker



Joined: 30 Jul 2006
Posts: 149

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 12:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think as a class activity it is a very neat idea.

Wikipedia is interesting as an idea itself. I don't think of it as authoritative, but if you get into, for example, serious quantitative studies of media that most of us do think of as authoritative, there are serious instances where they do not present things accurately either... but they are seen as impartial anyway.

I don't know - but it is a neat class activity. Great idea.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 13859
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 12:53 am    Post subject: wiki wiki Reply with quote

Here's an interesting article about wiki:

" A new salvo has been fired in the perennial war over Wikipedia's accuracy. Thomas Chesney, a Lecturer in Information Systems at the Nottingham University Business School, published the results of his own Wikipedia study in the most recent edition of the online journal First Monday, and he came up with a surprising conclusion: experts rate the articles more highly than do non-experts.

Wikipedia "hoax" not actually a hoax
This less-than-intuitive finding is the conclusion of a study in which Chesney had 55 graduate students and research assistants examine one Wikipedia article apiece. Each participant was randomly placed into one of two groups: group one read articles that were in their field of study, while group two read randomly-assigned articles. Respondents were asked to identify any errors that they found.

Those in the expert group ranked their articles as generally credible, higher than those evaluated by the non-experts. Chesney admits that this is unexpected, but has a possible explanation: "It may be the case that non-experts are more cynical about information outside of their field and the difference comes from a natural reaction to rate unfamiliar articles as being less credible."

Whatever the reason for the results, they will cheer defenders of Wikipedia's accuracy, though Chesney urges caution in extrapolating too generally from his study. For one thing, the sample size was small. For another, 13 percent of those in the "experts" group reported finding mistakes in their assigned articles.

Whether this is better or worse than traditional, expert-based encyclopedias depends on who you ask. Nature did a highly-publicized comparative study between Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica last year in which they found that the two were similar in terms of accuracy. Britannica disputed those findings and still claims to offer a more reliable product.

Chesney's study was not intended to settle the debate. He notes that, whatever Wikipedia's comparative accuracy, plenty of people (academics included) are using it, and he simply wanted to see whether Wikipedia could be considered accurate enough to be worth using. His study suggests that it can, but that caution—and further research—needs to be used before citing anything learned from Wikipedia as a fact.

To read the research itself:

http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue11_11/chesney/

and this article:

Wikipedia survives research test
The free online resource Wikipedia is about as accurate on science as the Encyclopedia Britannica, a study shows.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4530930.stm
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coffeedrinker



Joined: 30 Jul 2006
Posts: 149

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 1:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting.

I should probably depart from this debate soon. I guess I'd just say: I don't feel personally inclined to argue that wikipedia is necessarily more accurate or as accurate as other sources. It is interesting that people from different perspectives (countries, political believes, economic "classes")can check it and contribute.

My view is that some of the skepticism that is directed at wikipedia should also be directed at sources of info that have traditionally been seen as neutral, impartial, and because of that accurate.

Sorry if this is off topic. I just think this is a neat topic.
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Stephen Jones



Joined: 21 Feb 2003
Posts: 4124

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 1:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Where Wikipedia wins out is that it simply has a lot more information. I often have used Encarta, Britannica and Wikipedia to find information and there is simply a lot more on Wikipedia.

The good thing about wikipedia is that it has made it clear that you can't just cite one authority. The problem with mainstream encyclopedias such as Britannica is that it made it appear that the information was ex cathedra and thus should not be challenged.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 13859
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 2:01 am    Post subject: Whom can you trust? Reply with quote

It's certainly big:

As of December 2007, Wikipedia had approximately 9 ¼ million articles in 253 languages, comprising a combined total of over 1.41 billion words for all Wikipedias. The English Wikipedia edition passed the 2,000,000 article mark on September 9, 2007, and as of January 1, 2008 it had over 2,154,000 articles consisting of over 937,000,000 words.[1] Wikipedia's articles have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world and the vast majority of them can be edited by anyone with access to the Internet. Having steadily risen in popularity since its inception,[3] it currently ranks among the top ten most-visited websites worldwide.[7]

That's Wikipedia on Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia
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denise



Joined: 23 Apr 2003
Posts: 3419
Location: finally home-ish

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 2:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with Mr. Jones. Wikipedia certainly can be more up-to-date than encyclopedias, and the topics include not only standard "academic" stuff but also pop culture, which (sadly?) may appeal more to the students.

I also wish that my students' writing was up to par so that they could do thelmadatter's project. It does sound like it would interest and motivate them, especially when compared to the other projects that we've forced on them! (And no, I don't really have the freedom to stray from those projects...) And if they were to write something inaccurate, someone else out there would catch it.

d
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rusmeister



Joined: 15 Jun 2006
Posts: 867
Location: Russia

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 2:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wildchild wrote:
thelma,

I think it's a great idea and I will consider using it in my class.

All of the above criticisms of wikipedia, a great experiment in democracy, are not without merit, however, they can also be made against the system of old:

Quote:
I've seen a lot of inaccurate garbage...


Quote:
...would give a strongly biased spin on their country...


Quote:
Anyone with an axe to grind...


Quote:
...yesterday's fact becomes today's fiction becomes tomorrow's trash...



Wikipedia, on the other hand, has made it much more obvious that no one person, organization, etc. is the sole authority on truth, reality. Not surprisingly, this scares a lot of people and they will go to great lengths to stifle the challenges to the status quo, the promotion of open discussion, debate, and dissent in all its forms and as seen on wikipedia.


Hi wildchild!
I find your support of wikipedia in conjunction with the slogans under your avatar (Ministry of Love, etc)particularly interesting! Did you read 1984? Do you know what the Memory Hole is?

Quote:
The purpose of an encyclopedia or dictionary is to describe the world as it is, not as you would wish it to be.


Stephen, you're proving my point. If some people in San Francisco wish to invent a new concept and a definition that is directly opposed to what most societies throughout history have believed, they can do so and present it as 'how the world is', when in fact it is how they wish it to be. Your point about 'ex cathedra' is good and no argument there; I'm just pointing out that with a virtual and continually re-editable source, people miss how this can be turned against fact in a way the old paper versions couldn't do. A change in the paper version still leaves that pesky old dissenting opinion lying around somewhere. Now, it's literally gone, as if it had never existed. "Animal Farm" also had some good parallels, with the regular changes to the "7 Commandments" and the history of the Battle of the Cowshed.


A paper version leaves a record for future generations when memory fails. This doesn't.
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