Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Veropedia to the Rescue! Maybe?

I have a confession to make:

I love wikipedia.

I may be a history teacher, but my memory is just bad enough that I double check myself on dates all the time. Wikipedia helps. Sometimes I want to know more about a time or place I'm not an expert on (just because I teach history doesn't mean I know all of it, people) and wikipedia is a great starting place. Sometimes I just need a source of public domain/creative commons licensed maps and photos. Wikipedia comes to my rescue! Sometimes I'm really curious about the death tolls of different wars and disasters, and not only can wikipedia help, but the arguments on the talk pages make for great reading.

However, I'm smart enough to know better than to use it as my final word on any bit of info. I don't really recommend it to my students for research, although I have pointed out that if they use it as a starting point, that's fine.

A Solution?
Veropedia, looks like a really cool thing to me. From their FAQ:
Veropedia is a collaborative effort by a group of Wikipedians to collect the best of Wikipedia's content, clean it up, vet it, and save it for all time. These articles are stable and cannot be edited. The result is a quality stable version that can be trusted by students, teachers, and anyone else who is looking for top-notch, reliable information.
This seems like the perfect solution for someone looking to have their students take advantage of wikipedia but leery of the ever-editable nature of the project. My one concern is the fact that the editors in charge of vetting seem to just be people involved with wikipedia with a good reputation within the site. However, I've spent enough time reading talk pages to know that this means that they'll have decent standards.

What do you think?


Taylor said...

I wonder whether or not your students know what you mean by the "final word on anything" because many of mine never even CONSIDER getting multiple perspectives or sources.

I tell my students essentially the same thing. That wikipedia is a good starting place, it has good links on the bottom of the page, and it can give a good sense of context & overview.

I particularly like that wikipedia includes "controversy" and "criticism" sections, so I can read about the issue, then see what different groups/people who disagree have to say. That's not usually easy to find all in one place on the net.

I like the Veropedia idea, but have often thought that use of wikipedia requires explicit instruction. If they can use wikipedia responsibly, that would be even better.

Penelope said...

Taylor -- I love reading the controversy and criticism sections, and the arguments on talk pages. I'm one of those people who enjoys studying historiography as much as history though, so I don't expect my students to get why that's interesting.

You're right about wikipedia, and I think the instruction on how to use it is valid for all sorts of other issues. I just hope that Veropedia provides something for those who feel they don't have time/can't let their students use wikipedia, but could use a good online resource like that.