Wikibooks: learning to eRead in an eBook teaching, learning and research environment

September 20, 2010

I am very enthusiastic about the concept of wikibooks as yet another tool for expanding open source teaching, learning and research.

I have serious concerns about the lack of in-line citations even in featured wiki books (2010-09). A necessary step in establishing legitimacy in knowledge claims is the ability to verify sources. At this stage wiki articles which are constantly updated, provide more in-line citations, references and footnotes.

Most textbooks are already out-of-date by the time they are published as the latest research provides new data that unsettles previously held knowledge claims. Peer-reviewed academic journal articles become “dated” rapidly providing interesting histories of science but not necessarily the most current, objective and accurate representation of reality.

Wikibooks could allow for the most current research to be at least introduced if not included as an integral part of a chapter.

I also share concerns put forward by Garfinkel (2008-12) in his article entitled “Wikipedia and the Meaning of Truth” in MIT’s Technology Review. Garfinkel claimed that “wikitruth” is true enough for most readers including journalists who use “wikiclaims” as background material. Garfinkel distinguishes between the epistemological standards used in mathematics and science where legitimization of objective truth-claims are based on laws and observability in contrast to Wikipedia epistemology where “wikitruth”-claims are included as long as they are “verifiable.” “The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth.” He raises a number of key issues about the dangers of a consensus view of knowledge-claims-about-a-thing.

But these are fundamentally the same issues that anyone seriously wanting greater clarity on any topic would consider.

Wikipedia articles on any subject come up first in search engines and are not surprisingly already a primary resource for many Canadian primary, junior and high school students doing ‘research’ for written assignments, in-class presentations (often as PowerPoint presentations. Wiki environments require learning a new way to eRead with much more attention paid to critically examining and evaluating sources.

See also my October 24, 2008 post entitled “Wiki-ontology, wiki-epistemology: is it Really Real?

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