When knowledge isn’t written, does it still count?

“MAKING fun of Wikipedia is so 2007,” a French journalist said recently to Sue Gardner, the executive director of the foundation that runs the Wikipedia project, reports the New York Times. And so Ms. Gardner, in turn, told an auditorium full of Wikipedia contributors and supporters on Thursday in Haifa, Israel, the host city for the seventh annual Wikimania conference, where meetings and presentations focus on the world’s most used, and perhaps least understood, online reference work…

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Study suggests Wikipedia is accurate … and a little dull

Eight out of 10 students say they use Wikipedia for background knowledge.
Eight out of 10 students say they use Wikipedia for background knowledge.

Wikipedia enthusiasts may have a new way to argue their case to professors skeptical of the online encyclopedia: Cancer researchers said in June that Wikipedia was nearly as accurate as a well-respected, peer-reviewed database, although the wiki entries were a bit more boring.

Yaacov Lawrence, an assistant professor in Thomas Jefferson University’s Department of Radiation Oncology in Philadelphia, examined 10 types of cancer and compared Wikipedia’s information to statistics in the National Cancer Institute’s Physician Data Query, a peer-reviewed oncology database.

About 2 percent of the information from both web-based resources differed from textbook sources, Lawrence found. Lawrence used algorithms to judge the readability of each cancer entry, and based on word length and sentence length, the Wikipedia entries were much more difficult to comprehend.…Read More

Journalism students turn to Wikipedia to publish stories

Fifty-two percent of students said they frequently used Wikipedia for class work.
Fifty-two percent of students in a recent survey said they frequently use Wikipedia for class work.

College students know the online resource of which they dare not speak: Wikipedia, the voluminous internet encyclopedia demonized by many in higher education—and a resource that two University of Denver instructors use as a centerpiece of their curriculum.

Denver journalism students are writing Wikipedia entries as part of a curriculum that stresses online writing and content creation as readers move to the web en masse.

Journalism instructors Lynn Schofield Clark and Christof Demont-Heinrich said students are told to check their sourcing carefully, just as they would for an assignment at a local newspaper.…Read More

Science students more likely to use Wikipedia

The Daily Princetonian reports that a majority of college students use Wikipedia.org for course-related research, and students majoring in architecture, engineering, and science are more likely to do so, according to a study published earlier this month in the journal First Monday. More than 2,000 students from six colleges and universities in the United States, including both public and private universities and two- and four-year colleges, were surveyed. Eighty-two percent of respondents reported using Wikipedia to obtain background information on a topic. While 52 percent said they were frequent users, only 22 percent said they rarely, if ever, used the web site. Students in four-year colleges were more likely than those in two-year colleges to use Wikipedia for research. Princeton students, librarians, and faculty alike agreed that Wikipedia serves as a good starting point for research, but it shouldn’t be used as a cited source. The study’s findings that more science than humanities majors, and more students at four-year colleges than two-year colleges, use Wikipedia surprised some members of the campus community…

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Textbooks that professors can rewrite, digitally

In a kind of Wikipedia of textbooks, Macmillan, one of the five largest publishers of trade books and textbooks, is introducing software called DynamicBooks, which will allow college instructors to edit digital editions of textbooks and customize them for their individual classes, reports the New York Times. Professors will be able to reorganize or delete chapters; upload course syllabuses, notes, videos, pictures, and graphs; and perhaps most notably, rewrite or delete individual paragraphs, equations, or illustrations. While many publishers have offered customized print textbooks for years—allowing instructors to reorder chapters or insert third-party content from other publications or their own writing—DynamicBooks gives instructors the power to alter individual sentences and paragraphs without consulting the original authors or publisher. “Basically they will go online, log on to the authoring tool, have the content right there and make whatever changes they want,” said Brian Napack, president of Macmillan. “And we don’t even look at it.” In August, Macmillan plans to start selling 100 titles through DynamicBooks. Students will be able to buy the eBooks at dynamicbooks.com, in college bookstores, and through CourseSmart, a joint venture among five textbook publishers that sells electronic textbooks…

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