Wikipedia is usually a dirty word in educational circles. While some educators realize the value of Wikipedia as a starting point for research, others uphold a blanket ban – Wikipedia articles should not be cited – which results in Wikipedia being ignored despite useful references in the more robust articles and the possibility of using it as part of an assignment being discounted.
The latter idea holds many possibilities. A few educators at the University of British Columbia have set Wikipedia assignments for their students. This involves students editing articles in their subject area to improve the quality of the article. The improvements, in several cases, were dramatic:
Remarkably, at the end of the project, Beasley-Murray’s students ended up producing eight “good” articles and three “featured” articles, whose designations recognize them to be the most unbiased, well-written, and accurately cited entries on the site. Before receiving the elusive “featured” title (less than 0.1% of all Wikipedia articles obtain this designation), one of the entries had undergone over 1200 revisions – a number significantly higher than what an average academic article typically receives.
You can read more about the UBC experiences with Wikipedia assignments. Wikipedia also has a page dedicated to school and university projects and a list of suggested projects.
This week’s light bite is not a video. Instead, I want to highlight Google Earth Blog’s post about 10 games you can play with Google Earth.
Did you know, for example, that Google Earth has a built in flight simulator?
For someone like me (colour blind and not willing to spend on flight simulator software), it’s as close as I’m going to get to flying a aeroplane.
But Google Earth (and the web-based Maps) is fascinating enough on its own. Besides the many things you can do with the maps and satellite images, there’s also Google Sky (virtual stellar observatory), Google Moon, Google Mars…
The title is a tad sensationalist, but that is Becta’s conclusion (via Ewan McIntosh). Becta is a UK government agency spearheading the effective use of technology in education. Their research has shown that among students of secondary school age:
- Web 2.0 helps to encourage student engagement and increase participation – particularly among quieter pupils, who can use it to work collaboratively online, without the anxiety of having to raise questions in front of peers in class – or by enabling expression through less traditional media such as video.
- Teachers have reported that the use of social networking technology can encourage online discussion amongst students outside school.
- Web 2.0 can be available anytime, anywhere, which encourages some individuals to extend their learning through further investigation into topics that interest them.
- Pupils feel a sense of ownership and engagement when they publish their work online and this can encourage attention to detail and an overall improved quality of work. Some teachers reported using publication of work to encourage peer assessment.
Closer to home, Brad Blackstone has been using blogs in his ES2007S classes. I had the pleasure of meeting him and other educators at the Centre for English Language Communication yesterday. I was at CELC to give a brief overview of blogs and wikis as possibilities for eLearning Week (presentation embedded below).
Brad has come to similar conclusions about blogs, which he highlighted in a short paper: Blogs in English language teaching and learning: Pedagogical uses and student responses [pdf].
Open Culture highlights the Top Five Collections of Free University Courses.
The post features open course material and videos from University of California Berkeley, Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Indian Institutes of Technology and Stanford University.
The world’s top universities are giving their course content away for free.
When will NUS jump in?
The availability of this content provokes further questions: What is the true value of a university education? Is it that piece of paper students get at the end of their course of study? Or is it the interactions that students have with their lecturers and tutors? Or something else?
UPDATE 09102008 Cambridge and Oxford get in on the act too.