Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Citizendium and Authoritative Wikis

Many librarians and classroom teachers have serious reservations when students want to use wikipedia for school assignments given the lack of academic credentials for authors, uncited information, and poor grammar. I find the site to be useful for explaining technical jargon or pop culture topics, but I always advise students who want to use wikipedia to view the site as a possible introductory site for information on a topic, not as a citeable resource. However, the debate over whether students should use wikipedia is nearly a mute point since so many do.

I find the newish citizendium site to be a hopeful tool for those who desire a community generated resource with more rigid oversite regarding authorship and editing of articles. In the about section citizendium states, "The Citizendium (sit-ih-ZEN-dee-um), a 'citizens' compendium of everything,' is an open wiki project aimed at creating an enormous, free, and reliable encyclopedia. The project, started by a founder of Wikipedia, feels that we can achieve this crucial improvement over Wikipedia through measures such as adding 'gentle expert oversight' and requiring contributors to use their real names. We already have over 5,800 articles and hundreds of contributors." The site features a registration form for possible contributors and a list list of topics by discipline.

I do have to wonder if citizendium will ever become a universaly known resource in competition with wikipedia since so many people are reliant on convenience and prior knowledge when looking for quick information. Hopefully, additional attention will arise with free yet authoritative resources such as citizendium which counter sites such as wikipedia and offer a resource more educators would be willing to accept from students.

- Christopher Bishop

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