Saturday, April 11, 2015

An Ode to Wikipedia

It is National Poetry Month and I'm an English teacher. I feel like I should participate and write a poem.

Now, I am not a very good poet. I know the techniques, styles, and how to read them but when it comes to writing, I'm not the best. However, I should practice what I preach to my students and be willing to take a creative risk.

After much thought, I have decided to write an ode to Wikipedia.

For those of you who may not know, an ode is a poem where the author talks about one specific thing they find amazing and praise worthy. There is no hidden meaning in this poem unlike "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by John Keats. I just really like Wikipedia and my ode will tell you why.

"Ode to Wikipedia" by Dailyish Teacher

You are misjudged and feared by many
Schools see you as a shortcut
Making classroom information as worthless as a penny

"Why should I learn this?"
Students cry out
"I can just look up the answer on Wikipedia!"
As the teacher sits at her desk and pouts

"Curse you Wikipedia!"
Many frustrated teachers yell
"I already have to deal with Facebook and Twitter
And kids constantly on their cells!"

But I know you better than that Wikipedia
Where others see a shortcut
And the easy way out
I see a way to get out of a rut

"In a world of instant answers
How do I teach a student
That not doing research and trusting everything written
Is an act most imprudent?"

I searched and I searched
All of the lessons were tired
They were out of date and not relatable
It was time for them to just retire

Then it hit me
Like when the name of that guy that escapes you
When you're watching a movie
And you remember his name five hours later out of the blue

I shouted with glee
"You're perfect for this job!"
So I sat down to plan excited as can be

First I needed to put myself in my student’s shoes
And think about why they used Wikipedia
The answer was quite simple:
Wikipedia is easier to use than any encyclopedia

Why waste time looking up information in an old book
Or typing things into a Google search
Only to sort through thousands of results when the information
Was all at one site thus simplifying research

“But anyone can edit!”
The logical side of my brain screams out
“How do I make the kids see
That you can’t trust the information without some doubt?”

Turns out Stephen Colbert already did the work for me
In his quest for “truthiness” he created “Wikiality”
Where he encouraged enough people to agree with his “facts”
In order to “bring democracy to knowledge” and increase his reality

He used satire to show the flaws
Of a system that allows edits
From anyone no matter their knowledge
Without having the proper credits

By showing the clip
I can allow my students to see
The dangers of Wikipedia
Since an edit can be made without a degree

Oh but Wikipedia
I know you are not all bad
Because there is so much good
That those that think otherwise make me sad

Although anyone can edit
The entries are policed
By those committed to making sure
That misinformation does not become an untamable beast

When edits are made
They need to ensure they have the proper citation
To include in the reference section
So that they ensure a well-information nation

If the source is deemed unreliable
The information is deleted
And the editors can discuss why in the “Talk” page
Which can sometimes can get rather heated

Many want to include opinions
But Wikipedia will not allow such things
Since the information is supposed to be factual
And not have made up information sit on top like kings

Although that is all fine and dandy
Many things go unnoticed
And opinions sneak through to confuse the reader
But that is where the lesson of research comes into focus

“You can use Wikipedia”
I tell my shell shocked students
“Just always go down to the reference section
To make sure the source is good and not a nuisance”

I sing your praises Wikipedia
Because now that my students can use you
They no longer try to hide things and now will actually
Do the research to ensure the information is not untrue

Although you are a shortcut
You are a good one
My students are now willing to do research
When before they were willing to do none

Since you require a reference page
I am not afraid to send students to you
As long as they know to check those citations
To make sure they are not taboo

So thank you Wikipedia
I owe you more than you can ever know
My students are learning good research skills and their ability
To know what is reliable and what is not continues to grow

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