Decennial ABC: T as in Teachers

Teachers are possibly the target group number one for encyclopedias. It is teachers who consult about knowledge acquisition, and they were likely to have an encyclopedia in their home. One third of the buyers of Der Große Brockhaus in the 1950s were teachers.[1]

Harvey Einbinder mentioned already in the good old times the gap between the image and the actual content of Encyclopaedia Britannica:

‘Some teachers and professors believe it is not a reliable source of information and caution their students against blindly reproducing its material in their reports and term papers. This warning, however, has not been widely publicized. As a result, some students who obtain the set may be disappointed when they discover it does not live up to their expectations.'[2]

When I talk to teachers about Wikipedia I am amazed about the trust I meet. Many don’t hesitate to find Wikipedia very reliable, such as the previous printed encyclopedias. When we had a meeting of our Schulprojekt of Wikimedia Deutschland, we accidentally met a couple of student teachers. According to my notes, they wanted to know or answered:

  • How reliable is the information?
  • References: very very important for us. Also interesting for further reading.
  • We don’t want pupils to use Wikipedia as source because the paper would then be more or less complete already (if the article is good).
  • What about controversial issues, e.g. about bioethics? Who is writing an article, maybe someone from a company?
  • I don’t know about copyright and Wikipedia.
  • Only very few teachers check the quality in other languages.
  • Brockhaus: well… Maybe if you have guests you can show off with it. But it plays no role when it comes to acquire information.
  • Sexuality-related articles: we don’t let pupils do research about such subjects via the internet. Not suitable. They could be distracted too easily.

Nando Stöcklin in his book Wikipedia clever nutzen – in Schule und Beruf describes a future school of 2025 where pupils have a display on their internet glasses and type on a virtual keyboard. A teacher sees a pupil who is studying books. ‘Are you already finished with reading up on your subject?’ The pupil says no. The teacher: ‘But you should before starting to read books. Have an overview first, for example via Wikipedia. Otherwise you’ll drown in details.'[3]


Previously: A as in Advertisement, … S as in Sister Projects


[1] Thomas Keiderling: F. A. Brockhaus 1905 – 2005. Brockhaus in der Wissensmedia. Leipzig, Mannheim 2005, p. 247.

[2] Harvey Einbinder: The Myth of the Britannica. MacGibbon & Kee, London 1964. Reprint: Johnson Reprint Corporation, New York, London 1972, p. 72.

[3] Nando Stöcklin: Wikipedia clever nutzen – in Schule und Beruf. orell füssli Verlag AG, Zürich 2010, p. 10.


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