Wikipedia founder hits at 'bad educators'

14th December 2007 at 00:00
Teachers who refuse to let pupils use Wikipedia to research their essays are "bad educators" one of its founders has said.

Jimmy Wales, who once said students who copied from the online encyclopaedia "deserved to get an F-grade", said new systems were in place to ensure better accuracy.

As long as students included accurate citations, he said he had "no problem" with pupils using it.

"It's a bad educator that bans their students from reading Wikipedia," he told the Online conference at Olympia.

He did add that the site was probably not suitable for academics who, he said, should do their own research. Mr Wales' comments echo those of former education secretary Alan Johnson, who last August said the site allowed children to "access information which was once the preserve of those who could afford the subscription to Encyclopaedia Britannica".

Despite the system of "peer review" in which volunteers try to pull out inaccuracies and bias, untruths on Wikipedia articles have led to some red faces since the site was launched six years ago.

One entry on the page for the late composer Ronnie Hazlehurst, who wrote themes for television programmes including Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, tricked even broadsheet writers.

When Ronnie died in October, several national papers reported he was also the writer of the S Club 7 hit "Reach" after a cheeky contributor slipped it on to his page. More outlandish contributions have included the "fact" that David Beckham was an 18th-century Chinese goalkeeper.

One entry for Kylie Minogue claimed that she was the "more beautiful and more talented older sister of Michael Jackson".

John Denham, universities, skills and innovation secretary, revealed that his page claimed that he had once run a four-minute mile, but that he was happy to leave that lie.

Researchers looking at the use of ICT in education have said the use of sites such as Wikipedia should be welcomed.

Keri Facer, head of research at the educational technology research centre Futurelab in Bristol, said the real challenge was to help children to be discerning when faced with the vast quantities of information.

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