from the Director's Desk

Musings about school library media and instructional technology programs from NCDPI's Instructional Technology Divison.  Subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Open Source reference

A fascinating article has been published in the New York Times Week in Review It appears that Wikipedia had published a false biography of John Seigenthaler Sr. , the former editor of the Tennessean, a Nashville newspaper. An unknown poster implicated Seigenthaler in the assassination of President John Kennedy, an out-right fabrication.

How many other inaccurate entries are posted on Widipedia? How much false information is found on the Internet? For media and technology people, this question has been primary since the Web's inception. But it becomes more insidious with an open source project such as Wikipedia, which has enjoyed a reasonably good reputation among the general public if not librarians, is confronted with this high-profile inaccuracy.

What are we as educators, especially media and technology educators, to do? How do we counter the popular student belief that "open source" information on the Internet is at least as accurate as our subscription resources, such as those found on NC WiseOwl? Perhaps it is as simple as making sure our students read a copy of this article--and even listen to the interesting discussion on NPR's Talk of the Nation at Or is it possible to create exercises that take Wikipedia articles, compare them with subscription articles of the same topic, and even print reference sources to prove a point?

Of course, the danger is that there may actually be more information on Wikipedia--and it may be equally accurate. But I don't see this as a real problem. Students need to appreciate the Web for its diversity and the amount of information it contains. They also need to understand the efficiency and effectiveness of using subscription resouces when producing assignments that value accuracy. It's all part of the depth and breadth that our students should experience in their K-12 educations, in order to prepare them to be life-long learners.