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School-Mandated Wiki Walk

All the way from "Micronesia" to "Metal Machine Music" to Jesus in five clicks.
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Today, I realized that most of the actual learning—that is, the uptake of new information—that I do takes place during "wiki walks", as I wonder aimlessly through Wikipedia, going from article to article through links which tickle my fancy. During the course of these "wiki walks" I've come to know about many topics as diverse as

The culture of The Canary Islands' native Guanche people;

The industrial uses of hydrobromic acid;

The Yoido Full Gospel Church in Korea, which has 1,000,000 congregants;

The incomprehensibly gigantic "filaments" of matter which are the largest known structures in the universe;

And the anatomy of Placozoans, the simplest known animals.

All of these subjects are things that I was not interested in before, and had no knowledge of, but now know much about. And I've learned all this information without doing a page of homework or attending a single course.

That said, I acknowledge that conventional schooling is very important. But it's just as necessary for students to gain a more worldly knowledge—to increase their scope and learn about general topics that may not be part of the curriculum. "Wiki walks" are a way to make this happen. Thus, I suggest a class period in schools which is devoted to "wiki walking." Each student in the class would be placed in front of a computer with an internet browser logged on to Wikipedia. The students are then all given a starting point for the day: a Wikipedia article that they all begin on, be it "Kitti's hog-nosed bat", "Underground comix", or "Transcendental number." The students then have an hour to freely roam Wikipedia, but only through clicking from article to article through links. Searching is not allowed.

Each student's browser history is recorded and assessed by the teacher of the class, to make sure they're not just playing "Five Clicks to Jesus" or Tetris. Students are allowed to go to non-Wikipedia websites, but only if they're directly linked from a relevant article, and they must promptly return to Wikipedia.

The teacher reads each student's history and talks to the student to make sure they've gotten a satisfactory understanding of the topics they were reading about. Grades are given based on how much information the students were able to absorb based on how much time they spent on each page.

DrWorm, Feb 23 2011


       re: your last paragraph... that would require either an extraordinarily knowledgeable teacher or Wikipedia to have an educational adjunct with memory and deductive-reasoning tests for every article, targeted towards several levels of pre-knowledge.
FlyingToaster, Feb 23 2011

       I'm of the outside opinion that schools should spend as little time forcing computers on children as can be gotten away with, in trade for other skills and time to develop them, with the exception of a class or two. Kids will get enough computer time as it goes.   

       I'm frightened by how much we may be losing in one generation.
RayfordSteele, Feb 24 2011

       @FT: I'm thinking that the questioning would be more along the lines of the student describing what they had learned to the teacher. The teacher would assess the validity of the information described.   

       @RS: If the kids are going to be on the computer, they might as well be learning something instead of wasting their time.
DrWorm, Feb 24 2011

       I love my "wiki-walks", but applicability and therefore retention is limited. This would be akin to the old days when a student would be turned loose for a period in the library with no specific goal. It would be undeniablly useful in SOME manner, but it would be difficult to quantify.
normzone, Feb 24 2011

       The student should have a quota of errors to correct in the pages visited, and be required to show sources for the corrections. There could be a antiwikipedian requirement that the sources be offline.
mouseposture, Feb 24 2011

       I could go for that, mp. I do as many Wiki-walks as anyone, having more time on my hands in the land of the unemployed. There is something to be said for their expansion of my world and view, a little like the random topics here.   

       However, there is also something to be said for more physically-interactive forms of learning, as well as something further to be said for learning how to put several topics together into a more cohesive viewpoint, theme, and constructive strategem rather than a simple collection of random articles. The world isn't random by any means, and it belongs to those who can construct cohesion out of samples of chaotic information.
RayfordSteele, Feb 24 2011

       [+] for the phrase wiki-walks. It's something I've enjoyed doing for a while now, and which tabbed browsing has made a real joy as I fan-out, opening a range of topics to absorb/explore later from a central theme.   

       On the dynamic nature of wikipedia, can the kids edit their wikipedia pages, either adding their own wiki-links, in case they get stuck, or pulling up a particular ladder by deleting a link after they've clicked on it?
zen_tom, Feb 24 2011

       No. The problem is primarily that schools are seen as educational insitutions. They actively prevent learning and need to be scaled down and seen as a last resort for childcare, and nothing to do with education. There is unlikely to be much need for conventional education at that level though there may be a small minority of children who would benefit, mainly on the autistic spectrum.   

       Concerning Wikipedia, there's no need for that in schools because it can be replicated elsewhere without direction. If schools have any educational value, it would be to do things which are difficult to replicate elsewhere, such as having a representative cross-section of a community and what can be done with that.   

       Wikipedia is flawed. I have yet to decide if it's redeemable. I do know it has a lot of influential editors who completely deny things that are both notable and verifiable for no apparent reason.
nineteenthly, Feb 24 2011

       [-] Yay for [Ray]! you said it all.   

       Dr. do you have kids?   

       Oh, and WHEN this plan is actually taken seriously (as all other pill taking, computer stupefying, wii gaming ideas tend to become) PLEASE oh please have them ADD knowledge to the wikipedia, definitely allowing them to search. Then have them come back to the previously edited idea, a week later, and find out what the world did with their editing. The teacher of course can assist and follow this activity...   

       I agree with nineteenthly about wikipedia...
pashute, Feb 24 2011

       Get two windows open side by side on the projector and have them compete for fewest clicks between random topics. At least then you're honing critical thinking. This method seems a little formless. Good for stoners.
daseva, Feb 24 2011

       //but endorsing its use in schools just seems like lazy teaching.//   

       Not that I particularly disagree with your end-assertion that teaching with Wikipedia is probably not a good idea, I do take issue with your reasoning about lazy teaching, which I'd always associated with the concept of reading from an authoritative text, and responding to wider questions about how or why with a shrug, as if the only thing that mattered was what it said in the curriculum authorised book. You don't get the opportunity to do that with Wikipedia, you have to read everything with a critical eye, for the very reason that you can't necessarily trust it - and so, I'd argue that learning from Wikipedia would require a more actively involved teacher, not a less one.
zen_tom, Feb 25 2011


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