ESERA2013

Proposal view

Proposal Type: Oral presentation 
Strand: 4. Digital resources for science teaching and learning 
SIG: Science education in out-of-school contexts 
Scheduling category: Computer Supported Learning Environments 
Type Submitted Paper 
Equipment Overhead projector
Paper Details
Paper type Empirical
Title Wikipedia as a tool for introducing social implications into science education
Abstract

Whether we like it or not there is mounting evidence that Wikipedia is becoming a main source for scientific information. In fact for students on all levels Wikipedia is the first stop for investigating any topic. Its accessibility, vast content and dynamic character make it an easy and updated source of information. Although there are few scholars that criticize its reliability, most research validates its epistemic qualities. More important it is regularly included in the 10 most visited cites demonstrating its importance as a source of knowledge. However, we know very little of the nature of science transmitted by Wikipedia. As a result we believe that there is an urgent need to understand better the character of Wikipedia´s scientific contents. In this paper we present the preliminary results of our attempt to characterize scientific knowledge on the Spanish Wikipedia. Our analysis consists of two stages designed to carry out the above mentioned tasks: Identifying scientific and technological content and highlighting the relationships among its components. Comparing our results with similar procedures carried out on school textbooks, suggests that there is a significant difference between scientific culture in traditional educational aids and on the Web. Scientific content in textbooks is characterized by a traditional disciplinary division, in spite of efforts to integrate interdisciplinary approaches and significant social contexts. On Wikipedia on the other hand it seems that the distribution of scientific contents does not depend solely on traditional academic disciplines but also on current social concerns. We believe thus that the popularity of Wikipedia is can contribute to changing the nature of scientific content available to students. 

Summary

Whether we like it or not there is mounting evidence that Wikipedia is becoming a main source for scientific information. In fact for students on all levels Wikipedia is the first stop for investigating any topic (Moldwin and Miller, 2007). Its accessibility, vast content and dynamic character make it an easy and updated source of information. Even courts are using it on a regular basis for questions of geography and definitions of technical terms (Miller and Murray, 2010). More importantly the approval of Wikipedia in scientific circles is manifested by its frequent appearance in peer reviewed journal articles as a source of data (Okoli, 2009).

The novelty of Wikipedia is its collective and collaborative nature. The Wikipedia community consisting of single authors, editors, administrators and the public shape its content and structure. Although there are few scholars that criticize its reliability, most research validates its epistemic qualities. More important it is regularly included in the 10 most visited cites demonstrating its importance as a source of knowledge (Okoli, 2009).

However, we know very little of the nature of science transmitted by Wikipedia. Most research has been limited to evaluating its reliability. A research conducted by Nature found its accuracy comparable to that of Britannica (Giles, 2005). Nevertheless other studies maintain that despite the review process, the lack of formal gatekeeping procedure ensures that the lowest common denominator will prevail (Svoboda, 2006). Still, most efforts to examine the issue confirm its position as a valuable source of knowledge. There is even research of Wikipedia as an epistemological phenomenon examining how it affects people´s consciousness of how they know what they believe they know (Dede, 2008). Wikipedia represents thus a significant shift in how knowledge is evaluated and received.

As a result we believe that there is an urgent need to understand better the character of Wikipedia´s scientific contents. The Nature of Science conveyed by science textbooks is a growing field of research (Chiappetta, Fillman & Sethna, 1991; Abd-El-Khalick, 2008; Vesterinen, Aksela & Lavonen 2011; Groves T., Quintanilla M. Á, Escobar M., 2012). Extending this effort to Wikipedia is a challenging task due to its dimensions and diversity and to other specific problems such as the presence of many articles generated automatically which include only a title. The first task in an exploration of this kind is to design an automatic procedure that will filter Wikipedia in order to detect articles with a relevant scientific content. The second task is to reveal the semantic structure of Wikipedia’s scientific content (Chernov, Iofciu, Nejdl. & Zhou 2006), analyzing the links between different scientific articles. This will allow an initial appreciation of the potential of Wikipedia as a didactic tool as well as illuminating important characteristics of online scientific culture. 

In this paper we present the preliminary results of our attempt to characterize scientific knowledge on the Spanish Wikipedia. Our analysis consists of two stages designed to carry out the above mentioned tasks: Identifying scientific and technological content and highlighting the relationships among its components. We limited our search to articles (text), categories, and links. First we used information retrieval methods to isolate relevant scientific content. We used automatic clustering techniques, based on words, in order to identify articles referring to science and technology (Figuerola and Mateos Sánchez, 2009). We revised the results manually and found that among the 700 clusters, 89 had scientific or technological content. Analyzing these clusters, using the information about the different Wikipedia categories and the articles included in each one of them we calculated the similarity between categories. We found 7,748 relevant categories containing 139,751 articles. After eliminating the empty articles we were left with 35,935 articles and 475,374 links.

Second we analyzed the web links connecting the different articles. This process highlighted the existence of communities. These communities are groups of articles which are highly connected. The links are set up by the authors of the articles and they thus reflect a collective perception of the relations among different scientific and technological contents. We found three sets of communities: 1. The most extended one, including five communities, contains communities structured around contents related to biology. 2. The second set includes 3 communities structured around: the environment, geology and chemistry with connections also with medicine. 3. The third one with two communities: physics and electronics which are also related but on a lower degree with astronomy and IT.

Comparing these results with similar procedures carried out on school textbooks, suggests that there is a significant difference between scientific culture in traditional educational aids and on the Web. Scientific content in textbooks is characterized by a traditional disciplinary division, in spite of efforts to integrate interdisciplinary approaches and significant social contexts. On Wikipedia on the other hand it seems that the distribution of scientific contents does not depend solely on traditional academic disciplines but also on current social concerns. We believe thus that the popularity of Wikipedia is can contribute to changing the nature of scientific content available to students.

Abd-El-Khalick, F., Waters, M., & Le, A. P. (2008). Representations of Nature of Science in High School Chemistry Textbooks over the Past Four Decades. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 45 (7), 835–855.

Boldwin Mark B. and Miller T. (2007). Wikipedia’s Role in Science Education and Outreach. Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union, Vol. 88, Issue 11, 134–135.

Chernov, S.,Iofciu, T., Nejdl, W. & Zhou, X. (2006). Extracting semantic relationships between wikipedia categories. Proc. of Workshop on Semantic Wikis (SemWiki). estudian los enlaces entre categorías de la wikipedia.

Chiappetta, E. L., Fillman, D. A., &. Sethna, G. H. (1991). A Method to Quantify Major Themes of Scientific Literacy in Science Textbooks. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 28, 713-725.

Dede, C. (2008). A Seismic Shift in Epistemology. EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 43, no. 3,  80–81.

Figuerola, C. G. and Mateos Sánchez, M. (2009). Aplicación de técnicas de clustering en la recuperación de información web, Gijon: Trea.

Giles, J. (2005). Internet encyclopaedias go head to head. Nature 438, 900-901.

Groves, T., Quintanilla M. Á., Escobar M. (2012). Scientific and Technological Culture in Secondary Education Textbooks in Spain. In: Os Manuais escolares e os jóvenes: tédio ou curiosidade pelos saberes?. Lisbon: Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias.

Okoli, C. (2009). A Brief Review of Studies of Wikipedia in Peer-Reviewed Journals. Proceedings of the 2009 Third International Conference on Digital Society, 155-160.

Quintanilla, M.Á. (2012). Cultura, Tecnología e innovación. In E. Aibar & M. A. Quintanilla (Eds.), Ciencia, tecnología y sociedad. Enciclopedia Iberoamericana de Filosofía. Madrid: Trotta.

Quintanilla, M. Á., Escobar M. Groves T, Montero Becerra, A. Palacios Sánchez R. Montañés Perales O. and McBride O., Scientific and Technological Culture in ESO Textbooks. Salamanca: El Instituto Universitario de Estudios de la Ciencia y la Tecnología, 2011.

Svoboda, E. (2006). One Click Content, No Guarantees . IEEE Spectrum vol. 43, Issue 5, 64-65.

Vesterinen, V.M., Aksela, M., & Lavonen, J. (2011). Quantitative Analysis of Representations of Nature of Science in Nordic Upper Secondary School Textbooks Using Framework of Analysis Based on Philosophy of Chemistry. Science & Education, Online First. http://www.springerlink.com/content/r71913nk28771142/?MUD=MP

Keywords Computer Supported Learning Environments
ICT Enhanced Teaching and Learning
Informal Learning
Appendices
Authors
Name Surname Institution Country e-mail Presenting
Tamar Groves University of Salamanca Spain tamargroves@usal.es *  
Carlos G. Figuerola University of Salamanca Spain carlos.figuerola@gmail.com  
Jose Luis Alonso Berrocal Salamanca University Spain berrocal@usal.es  
Miguel Angel Quintanilla University of Salamanca Spain maquinta@gmail.com