Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Wikipedia for a College Student

Adriana Navarro

Over the years, Wikipedia, a portion of the Wikimedia Foundation, seems to be the most well known part of the foundation whether for its vast amount of information or its infamous lack of credibility due to the ability of anyone to edit the pages or both.  With that said, the free information that Wikimedia provides creates a steppingstone for finding other sources and summarizing information into digestible bits.  I use Wikipedia as a study guide along side my notes for classes such as history, and for papers there are many times when I have used it to get a general idea of what happened before narrowing down key facts and then researching them with more credible sources.  But even with the question of credibility, Wikimedia has its own guiding principles.

The one thing that stuck out to me the most is their goal to serve every human being.  This promise takes into consideration the possibility of a language barrier.  This may be especially important to students, specifically international students, who need general fact checking for classes that aren’t in their native or first language.  There’s also the goal to eliminate the barrier of limited access to technology to accessing or contributing to the foundation’s projects, which could also include overcoming the digital divide, or at least a in a way to make the site more easily accessible at a library.  The foundation claims to not deny anyone access to the site, the information free unlike other online encyclopedias– which probably didn’t hurt the growth of the information behemoth that it is today.  And sure enough, a wiki cite usually owned by Wikimedia can nearly always be found at the top of a search page within easy reach.

This is just a few of the several stated goals of Wikimedia.  However, while most people think of Wikipedia when anything “wiki” related comes up, it isn’t the only thing Wikimedia owns.

Photo from Wikipedia

Wikibooks is another project owned by the foundation.  The summary that Wikimedia posted is that it has a collection of free e-books and other resources, especially things that may come in useful to students such as textbooks and language courses.  The resources include over 100 different languages. 

It sounded like a dream for a college student, so I tried it out.  I’m not sure if I just don’t have the hang of navigating the site, but I searched a few of my textbooks from my current classes: Women: Images and Realities from my women gender social studies course, España: Ayer y Hoy by Pedro M. Muñoz and Marcelino C. Marcos for my Spanish culture class and The First World War by Hew Stratchan.  I haven’t found any of them on this website yet, though I did find one of the books I needed to read for my history class in the Bibliography section of the Armenian Genocide.  Giving up on textbooks, I just decided to click around and found a good-looking cake in the recipe section and learned in the children’s book section that G is for grape. 

And of course, at the top of the main page under the welcome sign is the reminder that “anyone can edit”.

Not going to lie, I was a bit disappointed.  I really was hoping for a collection of donated textbooks or something.  The language “courses” offered look interesting and offer a “wrong way” to learn a language, which captured my curiosity.  But overall, it basically is an extension of Wikipedia and is just as credible with no listed authors besides the sources used in the “books”.

Wikimedia owns a Wikiversity project as well, which may be slightly more useful than the Wikibooks, though, once again, the pages are open to editors, even those who aren't teachers.

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