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Educators disagree on value of user-written encyclopedia

first_imgWriting research papers has never been so easy for high school students, educators say. In the era of instant access to encyclopedias and journal articles online, teachers are realizing that there is an overwhelming amount of information available with the click of a mouse. But students, while technologically savvy, still have a lot to learn regarding good and bad sources, they say. And the reliability of at least one online encyclopedia, Wikipedia – written and edited by volunteers – is being debated among educators. Some college professors have banned Wikipedia citations from papers. It may be the same as looking up books in the card catalog, but educators agree that the database helps students in finding primary source materials to use. But Lindenberg, who has been teaching for 27 years, said her fear, shared by others in the education field, is that students will not build up the skills required of time-consuming research. More often, students will type in a term and click on the first Web site. Students are wired to believe what they read and in some cases, are relieved to find any source they can use, said Ben Webster, assistant principal for instruction at Wilson High school. “They see something online and they think it is the gospel truth,” he said. Plagiarism – a long-time problem in education – has increased as students can access term papers on Web sites and turn them in as their assignment. Experts said that students’ ability to gather and analyze information is critical, particularly since the Internet has made it possible for periodicals and journal publications to be available. David Marsh, professor of education at USC, said these skills, like studying multiple sources to find bias, and searching for new material if there is none available, are all necessary to succeed in the workforce. “How they ask questions, look for information and judge it for adequacy – these are core skills students need,” Marsh said. [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2108160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! This debate is being played in high schools, too. Educators use Web sites such as Wikipedia, but struggle with how to best teach students to discern good and bad online resources. Gail Lindenberg, an English teacher at Nogales High School, tells her students that Wikipedia is not a credible source because “anyone can go in there and write any old nonsense.” She directs her students to browse Web sites that end in “.org” or “.edu” because there is oversight of the information that is posted. Some teachers will give a list of Web sites they will accept as citations. But others say Wikipedia should be used as a starting point and as a bridge to find other resources. Many school libraries have access to research databases, including ProQuest, where students can access studies or articles. last_img read more

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