(Cross posted to ETI) So in the middle of my Tablet PC training yesterday I got sidetracked and started talking about Wikipedia. As it happened, the London bombings was another opportunity to watch collaborative construction of knowledge in process.
Here is the first post on Wikipedia at a little after 10 am London time started by Morwen.
On July 7, 2005, explosions or other incidents were reported at various London Underground stations in central London, specifically Aldgate, Edgware Road, Kings Cross St Pancras, Old Street and Russell Suare tube station. They have been attributed to power surges.
The stations do not share the same line. The incidents led to the immediate evacuation of many stations and apparently now the entire London Underground network and much of the City of London.
It takes 10 minutes for someone else to join Morwen in making changes. Nine minutes later, someone adds external links with the note
“Nobody knows what’s going on WHOLY S**T!!!!?~!!111!11!”
A minute later, the language has been removed. A couple of minutes later, a table of contents is added, which is then edited out, only to return 2 minutes later. In the eight minutes between 10:18 and 10:26 am, 52 edits are made. Within the next hour, 46 (by my count) other contributors join in and the post grows to about 650 words.
Now, here we are a day and a half later. At this writing the article just crossed 2,500 edits and is nearing 3,500 words in length. I’m not going to count how many different contributors there have been, but it’s easily in the hundreds. The amount of information is once again amazing. And I would argue the accuracy of the article is probably as good as you’ll get from any major media outlet (although the writing may not be as good.)
I find all of this amazing, and I find myself thinking more and more about what it means. The teachers in the class yesterday pushed back a bit against this whole open content concept. I showed them the South African curriculum wiki and they were amazed, yes, but concerned too. (As am I…go look at what I edited out of that site just now. Can’t imagine what I would have done had that been there yesterday…) Our whole concepts of accuracy and trust and truth are being challenged and redefined. This feels like such a big shift, such a HUGE shift for educators. And it’s just totally manic right now. The beauty of Wikipedia. The ugliness of spammers and other ne’er do wells. Opening things up creates both, unfortunately.
I don’t think we can fight these changes. The question then becomes how do we best navigate them.
Yes, the open content idea really scares educators. But watching that Wikipedia entry evolve is such a rush. I’m guessing the educators (I’m thinking of the ones I work with as well) don’t feel that same rush, but instead think, but , but, where’s the control? What if I show this to my students and it’s wrong? Well, how often have textbooks been wrong? A fair amount. The thing I appreciate most about the internet is the ease with which I can consult multiple sources. I can read the BBC account, check the Guardian and the NY Times, and the differences are interesting–and educational!