Wikipedia has been debated amongst us library kids for some time now. Of course I understand authority issues, etc. but I have always defended it as an interesting source for providing general information about a subject for the user who is a critical thinker.
Recently, I heard Jessamyn West speak at the web2.you workshop that I helped plan and she pointed something out that never occurred to me: all images in wikipedia are free to use! FREE! This alone makes it a relevant and useful resource.
David Perry’s article Wikipedia and the new curriculum: Digital literacy is knowing how we store what we know questions the banning of wikipedia in schools. In particular, he refers to the proven accuracy of sci and tech entries:
“Because Wikipedia users tend to be more tech-savvy than the rest of the population, and because tech-savvy individuals are more likely to have science and engineering backgrounds, entries on these topics are some of the strongest in the encyclopedia. This website has grown into an immensely useful resource for background information on a wide range of scientific subjects, and can serve as a quick reference for any number of scientific facts. What is perhaps more important and useful, though, is the extent to which Wikipedia also preserves the debate and discourse around a particular subject. Two of the most important features that I point out to students when I teach them about Wikipedia are the history pages and the discussion pages. Unlike traditional archives, Wikipedia preserves not only its past representations, but also the discourse which produced the current entry. A strong example of this is the entry on global warming, which does a good job of dividing the controversy of global warming from the science on global warming. While the main page serves as a good primer to the science of global warming, students miss out if they do not also consult the discussion and history pages to understand how this article was produced.”