How can Wikipedia help? Jacobs proposed that we can use Wikipedia in our instruction sessions to discuss evaluation without relying on the old banking system of knowledge. She mentions that many of her students parrot back to her that you shouldn’t use Wikipedia is research because it is unreliable, anyone can change it, and the instructor prefers that they don’t cite it. Yet of course, many of the students and librarians admit they have recently used the resource. Since instructors frequently request in sessions that we address the “Wikipedia problem” Jacobs suggests that this is one of our moments to engage with critical pedagogy through the use of problem posing. Engaging in a dialog with our students about information on Wikipedia can help break up the binaries we have been teaching about information for decades. Having students discuss Wikipedia talk pages and to see the current debate over different topics clearly illustrates the ways in which information is not objective. What is considered a valid reference and fact is always up for debate. This scholarly debate on Wikipedia forums can highlight the same issues we face with more “scholarly” resources in our collections, especially other encyclopedias. Posing these questions to students and acting as a co-investigator of Wikipedia will still accomplish what that instructor asked for. Yes, you have been able to show why you may not want to cite Wikipedia in your college level research paper. At the same time you’ve hopefully arrived at a more complex understanding of what is reliable information with your students than simply having them repeat the usual Wikipedia argument.
I will be teaching a library instruction session on Tuesday where the instructor has asked me to talk about the “pitfall of Wikipedia” in response to a plagiarism issues they’ve had earlier in the semester. I look forward to seeing if the sort of discussion recommended by Jacobs is more fruitful than previous renditions of the Wikipedia talk I’ve given.