Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Trust Issue

An interesting post by Carolyn Foote. She talks about wikis, students and trust.
This issue is one that weighs on my mind every day. Students use the internet to research information for reports and projects. It is natural that students will use sites that give them up-to-date information about a certain subject area. These sites happen to be in the form of open source sites such as wikis. Being open source seems to frighten some people. The fact that anyone sitting in their bedroom in their underwear can edit an informational site on the internet seems not trustworthy to some people.
What is trustworthy? I would like to argue that all informational text, be it in print or digital, is not trustworthy. When we read to gather information, we are absorbing information that in most cases is bias.
Is a Science Textbook printed 10 years ago trustworthy?
We need to be careful when we decide to take anyones ideas for fact. The important step that we miss sometimes is to question. My students often question me, and I welcome it. I feel as though this is a crucial step in the process of learning.
Open Source sites such as Wikipedia are more powerful than anyone can even imagine. These sites are constantly being questioned by everyone in the world. If you edit information, you better have done your homework, or it will be changed back almost immediately. Sometimes the back channel chats on Wikipedia are even more revealing than the front page.
To sum up the conversation, I think that open source sites are crucial to our learning environment in the 21st Century. In my opinion, trust shouldn't even be an issue. Until next blog...


Anonymous said...

At this point in time, I agree with you but I do wonder if the legions of volunteers who help keep Wikipedia as accurate and biased-free as possible will still be around 10, 20 or 30 years from now.

Carolyn Foote said...

One thing we talked about in our presentation at TCEA was that we teach information to students as though it is something dead and set in stone.

We teach printed texts as though they are sacrosanct, when in fact, the ideas in them are being argued all the time(much like the "discussion tab" in Wikipedia reveals).

Great post about trust.

(And by the way, ed-volution, Wikipedia is working on a new project, the Citizendium which is designed more by "experts" in different fields. It'll be interesting to see how that evolves.