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The assignments, he explained, are part of young doctors' "social contract to do good in the world and help patients" learn about health.
In revising and broadening the entry on strokes, medical student Andrew Callen experienced Wikipedia's argumentative nature. A Wikipedia medical editor, apparently a physician, challenged some of Callen's technical terminology.
Callen said his language was more precise but conceded after some back and forth that the distinction was not important for lay readers.
"I didn't take offense at it," he said. "In a way I appreciated it."
Writing for Wikipedia, Callen said, is a good way to improve the explanation of complicated science to patients."The more people we can get to edit it, the more accurate the information will be," he added.
Some skepticism remains.
Doug Hesse, vice president of the National Council of Teachers of English, said Wikipedia's understandable insistence on neutrality doesn't allow students to make reasoned arguments and analysis in term papers.
And its reliance on published sources eliminates students' independent interviews, experiments and research, said Hesse, who heads the University of Denver's writing program.
At Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, professor of human-computer interaction Robert Kraut has assigned classes to compose Wikipedia chapters in psychology. Students have benefited, he said, but he, too, doesn't think such assignments will become commonplace.
Compared to regular term papers, Wiki entries require a lot more faculty time to ensure they are ready for online viewing. Some colleges may be put off by the public editing, which Kraut said led to some of his students' writings getting excised for not following what he considered to be very complicated footnoting rules.
In Pomona College's politics class, there was no nasty flaming on any class projects, which counted for 35% of the students' grades, according to Hollis-Brusky. (Most Wikipedia authors use pseudonyms and the Pomona students were urged to do the same to avoid possible privacy violations.)
Freshman Lane Miles, who worked on the FairVote research, said it was doubly satisfying to help build the online encyclopedia. "We are educating ourselves and educating others," he said.
© 2014 Los Angeles Times (CA) under contract with NewsEdge. All rights reserved.
Posted: 2014-06-24 @ 10:37am PT
The difference between students and experts is still wide, and so can be the outcome of the Encyclopedias, with less quality in the case of Wikipedia than other encyclopedias.