“Wikiality,” “truthiness” and research

When grading a stack of student papers, Jacqueline Hicks Grazette, a teacher at St. Albans High School in the D.C. area,  recently noticed that a student used Wikipedia to answer a question, and had made a note of it on his paper.   

That, among other things, led her to write this opinion column in the Washington Post this morning, Wikiality in my Classroom, where she realistically outlines the collision of Wikipedia, Google, online ethics, student stress and web 2.0 tools and the dilemmas teachers face.

“In the online world in which teachers and students navigate, ambiguity. . .
is daily fare. For young people who have grown up with instant access to information, it seems like no big deal. But to educators, trained in accurate sourcing and correct attribution, deciding what the limits should be often poses a dilemma.”

As a student in the article comments:

“We are part of a networked society. . .Your world is different from ours. We are taught to share information and collaborate. We do it all the time. No one really cares where it came from.”

A collaborative world

The student’s comment perfectly highlights the tension between the online culture of sharing and the rigors of academic scholarship, as Grazette highlights. She points to Princeton’s Academic Integrity website which describes this.

The internet is bringing research issues into the forefront in ways that they never have been before, because “research” has become part of our daily lives, not a “once in awhile” project.

A comment from one student she interviews drives home the need for educators to take the time out of the rush towards testing and excellence to really discuss internet ethics with students.  They are already living in the “online” world in ways many of us are not fully, and will be living in this environment for years to come. 

Isn’t it our job to help prepare them for making good choices academically and ethically?   This is not to imply that many of us aren’t doing this–because we are–but how can we do it better across the curriculum?  


I also wonder how is all this going to change our ideas of academic scholarship, copyright, etc?  The use of information has become such a grass-roots, democratic (little d) movement, that  it is going to drive change in all our systems, and maybe changes that will make information more accessible to all. 

Is MLA format really going to be the best way for tracking citations in the future, for example?  What about the Dewey Decimal system?  While both systems are capable of handling change and were designed in ways that can be flexible, on the other hand, is that linear way of thinking going by the wayside?

What questions does her article raise for you?

dewey-decimalflickrgetdown.jpg   dewey decimal signage–Seattle Public Library

photo credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/getdown/114686279/

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