Thursday, 8 October 2009

Information Literacy Teaching- Sabotage!

Today in a tutorial I met one of the students I spoke to last summer when doing the first year portfolio reviews. I mentioned that I had blogged about how he and other students used social media, including YouTube and Wikipedia.

He then told me a story about a teaching session they had on information literacy. They had been asked to compare an article on Wikipedia with a review paper on the same topic from an academic journal. The session aimed to show the inaccuracies of Wikipedia and how it could not be trusted. But this student sabotaged the exercise. He demonstrated that the essential quality of Wikipedia is that it can be edited. Before most students had got round to the piece of work, he went into the Wikipedia article and improved its quality by updating the content and referencing the article!

He says that the organisers were not too happy, but I'm sure they were. He had demonstrated:
  • Wikipedia is always changing
  • It can and often is a good source of information if we all contribute
  • Medical students CAN be Wikipedia editors.
Well done!


  1. Yes! that's the type of thinking I like to see. Good for him.

  2. Hi Anne Marie
    Excellent stuff! We've discussed before whether students should be encouraged to edit articles on Wikipedia. They clearly can. Good on him.

  3. I would have been so tempted to make the two identical, to then file 'Was this a trick question, they are both the same.'

    But that rather sums up my always-look-for-the-shortcut-whilst-ignoring-the-point education ethic.

  4. That's a brilliant story! In some ways it also suggests that the people who were trying to teach about information literacy were perhaps not very information literate themselves - or at least digitally literate.

    Wikis and reviewed papers are not the same medium, as the student clearly demonstrated. One is primarily a mechanism for one-way dissemination of information and is a snapshot in time, the other for construction and negotiation of knowledge, which is constantly evolving.

    It would be interesting to hear if the organisers of the session recognised this fact and incorporated the turn of events into the session for discussion, or instead chastised the student for "acting smart."

    Examples like this, for me, highlight the huge gap between traditional systems and emerging ones. Thanks for sharing!

  5. The authoritative source lost its authority.

  6. Ya! itu jenis berpikir aku ingin melihat. Baik untuk dia.

  7. Hi AnneMarie, I'm really surprised that an information literacy session set out with such an obviously predetermined endpoint. How disappointing that they appeared to know what the outcome "should" be, and that anyone teaching information literacy should do so by slagging wikipedia. It's not the resource it was 5 years ago. Plus, why would they take the findings of one review paper to be "truth" anyway? (not to mention the fact that depending on the age of the paper and the date of the last edit of the wikipedia page it might never have been a fair "fight" to begin with...)
    Delighted at the actions of the student.

    Isla (Medical Librarian)


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