Monday, June 6, 2016

Don't Be Afraid of Wikipedia!

"I hate Gmail," a colleague exclaimed. "I hate the threads. You have to click certain things, and something always gets lost. Why can't it be like Hotmail. Everything is separated." 

Feeling for the frustrated colleague, who felt the need to take Google out on me (because I like Gmail), I emailed him the steps to turn off the conversation view, effectively eliminating his message threads. 


This issue got me thinking of a much larger problem that needs to be addressed. Why do so many people draw conclusions without much (or any) evidence? How can we feel so strongly and negatively toward something without much consideration for a solution?

I don't know how people come up with these ideas because I'm most often the kind of person who looks for the strength in something. I guess we are a highly faithful species.

Bottom line: It's not 1955 anymore. We have the Internet, which means we have no excuse for not consulting sources beyond the front porch. 

Let me explain.

Take Wikipedia. It can be edited, so it must be extra vulnerable to inaccuracies, right? Have you tried? Mess it up someday. See what happens and how long it takes to be corrected. You will be surprised at how quickly the most insignificant mistake is corrected. I've done it. Your turn.

It's typical of our society to make important decisions on mostly faith. We need to be careful, however, not to have so much faith in information we could easily find through a little critical thinking.

While I'm on the rant of resources, let's take on textbooks. Why do so many teachers find security in textbooks? My jaded response: Use textbooks as a resource, not as a scope and sequence.

Although the textbook industry is shrinking and changing, it's still huge. I think education spends too much money on information that could be found for free. What's more, the free information is often on a platform that attracts a lot of scholarly collaboration. Try editing the mistakes out of your textbook.

The books on the shelf cannot be edited or peer reviewed for an indefinite amount of time, but they will always load fast. Books are still important. I just cannot bring myself to make them my go-to with Internet access almost all of the time. In fact, I can't remember the last time I was offline.

Even textbooks have acknowledged that books have limitations that a connected society cannot overlook. To compete in the industry, most publishers have provided online textbooks and many multimedia resources and other interactive learning materials.

Gmail? Wikipedia? Textbooks?

The real issue is a lack of interest in change. I don't think people are afraid of change. I think that they wish the work they have done was still relevant. Maybe they're worn out by the rate of change and the wrong directions technology has taken them.

It could be any number of these possibilities and so much more. The fact of the matter is that we are living in a connected society. College requires it, and jobs require it. This means a lot of things.

Not only do we need to teach our kids how to use online computing apps, we also need to teach them how to think critically about the implications of a connected society.

How does this "Wikipedia" issue fit into my mission?

I'm working on a way of thinking about teaching, learning, and how technology facilitates the two. It's about the power of sharing stories. 

The underlying point is to view the world as a text. View it as the narrative unfolds when we wake up, begin making decisions, and finishes through our dreams. Everybody has a story, and everybody's story is worth telling. 

My role as an educator is to provide my students with an education that allows them to identify their story and articulate it in a way and through a medium that best accesses the conditions in which they thrive. 

If your story is that Wikipedia is not trustworthy, then okay. I hope you can live with a superficial telling of things that you don't quite understand. But if your story has depth and includes critical thoughts about the world and your place in it, your story will rise above the others. It will be important, like you.