Professor Thomas Hammond from Lehigh University points out valuable ways to use Wikipedia as an information STRUCTURE and not as a SOURCe which is frequently debated in libraries and classrooms across the K+ community.
Hammond points out three classroom activities that using Wikipedia:
1) Compare Entries
Compare version of article entries using the history tab to determine edits that were made to articles and spur conversation around the purpose and validity of those edits.
Compare Wikipedia article entries to other sources such as social studies text book articles for conversations relative to content differences, descrepancies, and similarities.
2) Close study of an article,
Use the discussion tab to trace debate around article content and foster classroom discussions around that debate.
Use the history tab to trace and observe edits and editors. What might be the reason an editor has made an edit to an article.
Evaluate the references in an article for validity as a source of information. Have conversations with students around sources for research.
3) Create/adopt an article
Have student pick a topic where they do indept investigation of an article or if the article doesn't exists where they create an article for submission. This allows them to participate with a larger collaborative group on the creation and editing of a body of information. Local history might be a good place to begin this.
What was interesting about Hammonds point of view was that he took the arguement out of Wikipedia being a valid source for information and shifted it to be a structure for information. An interesting and important shift that allows classrooms to include this as a valuable resources as student discuss topics and build their own knowldge of a topic.
To view hammonds wiki on this topic visit http://hammond.seedwiki.com