With the ’90s-kids, the big problem was, when asked to do a report on a subject, they would come up with a 20-page file printed from some website. These students were absolutely clueless on how to check websites or to filter them correctly, but mostly because they are into passive learning. They know what is right but 'laziness' might be the correct word for kids affected by 'millennialism'.
Fortunately, Encyclopedia Learning – or the Wikipedia project such as by Gabriel Thullen, a math and computer science teacher, has brought a new interest to the life of many of his students. Middle school students are contributing valuable information to one of the most visited and most cited sources on the Internet: Wikipedia and a wide-ranging research and precise citation are the lessons learned by them through editing Wikipedia.
Every day, users of French Wikipedia might be reading and referencing entries created by the 7th grade students in Thullen’s computer science class at the College des Colombieres in Versoix, Switzerland.
Thullen’s students have created 78 Wikipedia articles—mostly in French—and contributed to hundreds of others. The student-written contributions cover a wide range of subjects—from entries on the clothing brand Aeropostale, to the Israeli singer Asaf Avidan, to the ice cream snack Dippin’ Dots, to the rap album Planete Trappes Vol. 2, to Amazonian parrots.
For more interactive assignments in order to help his students better understand researching on the Internet, Thullen focused on Wikipedia because so many students visit the resource when writing reports.
Some of the skills that one can learn by kick-starting into Wikipedia entries and editing could be much rewarding than 'rote-memorization' and 'theoretical learning'.
What you can learn through Wikipedia entries
Collective usage: Students, get to learn how to use the Internet, how to use the encyclopedia, and at the same time, to learn how to type and use a word processor.
Research and citation: Perhaps most importantly, students learn about research and citation. Since Wikipedia is such a popular resource, the project gives students a better understanding of the website’s content, which can be written or edited by anyone.
Information accuracy: It teaches them to search information on the web and to double check the information they find on Wikipedia, because they also realize that anyone can edit Wikipedia.
Cross-referencing: Learning how to properly use Wikipedia can redirect students to the resources that have been used to write the entries. Checking the references is a good idea, because the articles on Wikipedia are basically a summary of what you can find on the web.
Use of skills: Some students are at ease with writing. They want to write an article on some particular subject that is not there. They feel a lot more comfortable with just creating the article and writing. Some students are a lot less comfortable, and they are willing to add a sentence or two. Even though students have different levels of involvement, there is always something for all to get out of the experience.
Platform of anonymity: It is very delicate for students to contribute information on the web, whether it is by creating websites, blogs, or exchanging emails; there are a lot of regulations to follow, permission slips and so on. On the other hand, Wikipedia editors are by design anonymous since it does not ask for any personal information.