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November 15, 2007

Wikipedia in Law Schools

Beth Simone Noveck has a new piece, "Wikipedia and the Future of Legal Education," in the Journal of Legal Education (Mar. 2007) promoting the use of Wikipedia and Wikis generally in legal education.

She compares Wikipedia to a "multi-author treatise," and notes that it allows experts who do not know each other to collaborate.  She also notes that Wikipedia can be updated more quickly than printed texts, and that Wikipedia allows for discussion and debate on a particular entry to be recorded alongside the entry.

She argues that Wikis encourage "the public exchange of reason," and teaches students "the democratic value of deliberation."  She argues that Wikis allow for an engaged mode of learning.

There's much to Noveck's argument.

Of course, students should not rely blindly on any source, printed or virtual, edited or un-edited.  (I'm sure Noveck would agree with that statement.)

Noveck encourages students to participate in creating Wiki entries, and I think this is an especially useful suggestion. 

Should professors bar students from using Wikipedia as an authority in their writing?  Does it matter whether the writing is intended to be a submission to a court?

Anupam Chander

November 15, 2007 in Technology -- in general | Permalink


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I'm not sure about allowing students to cite Wikipedia, but I have encouraged my students to think of Wikipedia as a non-regulated treatise or hornbook and using it to locate sources of information on a topic that they are just becoming familiar with. At the undergraduate level, I did use Wikipedia when teaching the Patriot Act because Wikipedia had a nice summary of each part of the act. Of course, before I used it, I verified its accuracy, which I think would be an important lesson for students to learn, too.

Wikis, on the other hand, can be used for a multitude of purposes. Wiki is one of the fastest growing technologies in fortune 500 companies and is an excellent means to keep policies (and drafts of policies).

I maintain my own wikis in my classrooms for students to post papers and access course documents. But, that's the topic of a whole other post! :)

Posted by: Hillary Burgess | Nov 15, 2007 4:56:56 PM

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