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I've never really understood those who respond to Wikipedia with vitriol or prohibition. Sure, the site has some flaws. But I still think it's an amazing project - a fairly radical experiment in knowledge-making and knowledge curation. And as such, I'm always particularly surprised when I hear educators blast Wikipedia. In Wikipedia, we have an army of volunteers who are committed to building and sharing information collaboratively. I think that's something we should embrace, not fear and certainly not ban.

Do we need to teach students about assessing and citing sources? Do we need to talk about primary sources, secondary sources? Well, sure. And in many ways, I'd contend that Wikipedia is perfect for that. Why, it would produce at least as interesting discussions about accuracy, editing, and authority as some history textbooks in Virginia have, right?

Last year, I wrote a story about how some professors were assigning their students Wikipedia entries to research and update in lieu of final papers -- Wikipedia for credit. I love the idea of engaging students' own expertise and authority -- not to mention giving them projects that will have an audience (and a significance) far broader than just their prof.

A recent Pew Internet study said that 42% of Americans use Wikipedia. That strikes me as a little low, quite frankly. I think I use it almost every day to look up entries for both items of great importance and minor minutiae.

Thank you, Wikipedia and Wikipedia volunteers.

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Audrey Watters


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