Seth Godin wrote my two favorite marketing books: Purple Cow and The Big Red Fez. Back when I was working in marketing as a webmaster, I devoured what he had to say. I still do.

He writes, “I heard from two people this week (one is 11, the other twice that) who were forbidden to use Wikipedia to do homework.”

It’s true, I’ve seen mucho Wikipedia-hate from teachers. However a commenter, spincitydotorg, points out:

I think Godin’s missing the point. It’s not that students shouldn’t use Wikipedia to do their homework, it’s that students shouldn’t cite wikipedia in their homework. There’s a big difference.

Teachers who ban Wikipedia typically fall into one of these categories:

  1. Some teachers really are banning any Wikipedia use on projects. Their reasoning is that the encyclopedia is too juvenile for high school students to use. This is a mistake. Have you read Wikipedia recently? For instance, middle school students of mine needed background info on solar panels for electricity. They were redirected to “photovoltaic module“. (An aside: there’s an easy-to-read Wikipedia in Simple English)
  2. Many teachers simply ban Wikipedia in formal citations. This is reasonable, but the research method of “start with the encyclopedia” should be reinforced. Notes and Further Reading at the end of each article is a veritable gold mine of resources for a student to check out. These results beat the heck out of Google for quality any day!

May enlightenment come to the first type of teacher.

Image Citation: “unused funk & wagnalls” from [177]’s photostream

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