Monday, 26 May 2008

Wikipedia to be studied in New South Wales from 2009

The Board of Studies in the Australian state of New South Wales, which sets the syllabus for high school students across the state, has included Wikipedia as one of the texts available for study in its "Global Village" English electives, according to The Age.

The new syllabus will apply from 2009-2012, and (certain selected parts of) Wikipedia will be one of four texts available in the elective. It will be up to teachers to choose which text is studied, so there are no guarantees that Wikipedia will actually be studied in New South Wales :) According to the syllabus documentation (DOC format), the other alternatives are the novel The Year of Living Dangerously, about the downfall of Sukarno and the rise of Suharto in Indonesia in 1965; the play A Man with Five Children; and the modern classic film The Castle.

I think formalised educational study of Wikipedia is going to be very important in the future, as the reality of its success and its widespread use coincides with a long period of neglect of skills in critically evaluating source material in many schools, certainly in this country. Thankfully the people at the Board of Studies seem to get this. There's also a good quote from Greg Black at the non-profit educational organisation

"The reality is that schools and schools systems are going to have to engage with this whether they like it or not... what the kids really need to learn about is whether it's fit for purpose, the context, the relevance, whether there's an alternative view - an understanding about how to use information in an effective way."

And, just for good measure The Age article features a quote from Privatemusings, exhorting students to "plug in". Indeed, some good advice.