[Technology 1240] Re: Professional Development Design &Developmentfor the 21st Century

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David J. Rosen djrosen at comcast.net
Mon Aug 27 12:13:06 EDT 2007

Hello Barb,

On Aug 26, 2007, at 10:13 PM, you wrote:

> I tried to use Wikis, but I found the information can be false and

> it is difficult for students to understand that something the

> teacher is asking them to do is not correct. This is especially

> true with ESOL learners. Also, the Wiki I set up was found by some

> one who put pornographic materials on it. I deleted the page and

> the information and stopped using it.

You won't have those problems with the ALE Wiki. All of the
information is provided by adult literacy practitioners and
researchers. It is monitored daily and the occasional advertising
spam is immediately removed, usually within hours. The ALE Wiki has
hundreds of registered users, many of them "Wikiteers" who keep an
eye on it.

As for false information on wikis, I would argue that we need to help
students to use wikis and other sources, to learn how to judge the
quality of all information source(s). The New York Times, the
Economist and the Wall Street Journal have false information, too,
but much less that a supermarket tabloid. Some articles in the
Wikipedia are as good as or better than any other encyclopedia (the
technology articles for example) and are widely quoted by reputable
authors. some are not. Readers -- including students -- need to learn
how to tell the difference.

The Wikipedia, the world's most famous wiki, was the subject a couple
of years ago of a study by Nature, a prestigious science journal.
Science and technology articles, selected at random, were judged by
pairs of experts select by Nature editors. They read articles from
the Wikipedia and from the Encyclopedia Britannica (with stripped out
identifiers). They found that for these kinds of articles the error
rate was about the same, about four errors per article, if I recall.
(These were either errors of fact or misleading text.) Note that the
reviewers did not evaluate the articles for style, and they did not
evaluate social science articles -- the results would have been very
different I am sure, if they had.

What makes wikis a terrific information source for students is that
every wiki article has a "history" tab where students can see all the
changes made and a "discussion" tab where they can sometimes see
authors arguing about the text -- about sources, quality of writing,
bias, and diversity of viewpoint. Some teachers use the Wikipedia to
help their students learn that quality is achieved after many drafts,
and that articles often have a "point of view" or a bias, but that
this can be addressed by making the point of view clear, or by
providing a range of points of view.

I encourage you to use the Wikipedia with your students (there is
also a "simple English version
http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page and to engage them in
discussion about how to know whether or not to truse a source.

David J. Rosen
djrosen at comcast.net