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Thursday, September 29, 2005

From Wikipedia to wiki-textbooks

I have to admit to a little skepticism about this - how could a "textbook" written and edited by the online masses be reliably accurate? What I discovered in reading CNET's piece about Wikibooks is that mine was an old, narrow view of textbooks. Wikibooks won't necessarily replace textbooks (at least not for a while); they add something new to the equation. They're a teaching tool. They're also a catalyst, lighting a fire under very proprietary textbook publishers that take years to get new material into the pipeline. But the teaching-tool part is the really interesting one. CNET cites U. of Massachusetts biology Prof. Steven Brewer's vision of "teachers - at any level - asking students to examine existing Wikibooks entries for accuracy and relevancy and then appending their findings to those entries … teaching tool and a work in progress all at once." The Net as it should be - a tool to enhance the immediacy, richness, and empowerment of collaborative learning, teaching kids critical thinking in the process. There's much more about this in the CNET piece, including some pitfalls that will have to be worked out - do check it out. BTW, if you want to see how the Wikipedia works, with its "749,000 some articles in English alone [among its 10 languages]," see this other CNET piece. It really is the information version of the open-source Linux operating system. I wish we could make this newsletter just as open-source - send in your comments (or post just below)!

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