Like rock, once referred to as the 'devil's music', Wikipedia was embraced by the youth culture and condemned by authoritative figures.

Wikipedia, the open-source encyclopedia, allows anyone who can access the website to edit its content, making it the arch enemy of educators.

"If we used Wikipedia in our work, we would get a zero," says Divya Mahajan, a student at Cass Business School, City University in London.

The same sentiments echoed worldwide, as educators feared the new technology that would corrupt the classroom with unreliable information.

If Wikipedia was going to survive, our generation had to fight for it. But how?

We didn't have the social frustrations that made rock 'n roll exciting and fresh. All we wanted was vast amounts of information available at the click of a mouse.

Shake it up

Launched in 2001, Wikipedia answered the prayers of countless students who needed to get the quick, dirty overview of a subject.

The ability to edit information in real time ensured that constant updates would keep us in the know. It also made it the perfect prank zone.

Even The Impressionist's own Managing Editor Alberto Furlan couldn’t resist. "Back in 2006, I went to Napoleon Bonaparte's Wikipedia entry and changed all the instances of his name to my own," he laughs.

Trying to relive the glory, he went back to Napoleon's page and found it had been locked. Wikipedia has started to mature and quickly weed out any incorrect information.

Wiki hits puberty

Just as time took its toll on the rebellious sounds of Little Richard, Elvis and The Beatles, which are now considered family-friendly listening, Wikipedia has lost its edge and gained creditability.

It's even earned the respect from the most unlikeliest of fans, a Library Media Specialist.

"Wikipedia is becoming more useful as a research tool as now the entries individuals add are cited," says Vickie Cawthra, at Frontier Middle School in Casper Wyoming.

She also believes in its teaching possibilities.

"Middle or high school teachers have set up 'wikis' as part of classroom instruction so all students can share information... kind of goes with that old saying two heads, or in this case many, are better than one."

Wiki housewife?

But Wiki may not be ready for suburban life just yet - and neither is rock. As long as Marilyn Manson still scares parents, Wikipedia might remain on the fringe of educational acceptance.

"I caution students to check for accuracy with information on countries and famous people. Knowing that anyone in the world can make a posting, I am hesitant to use it as a total teaching tool," says Germaine Wagner, a sixth-grade teacher at Frontier Middle School.

To date, pranks are still possible - abeit more difficult than before. No entry is perfect, but the scrutiny we put into fact-checking is unprecedented.

The accuracy of the entries has now opened Wikipedia to a whole new world for teacher and students. Great news for education - sad news for Wiki prankers, and possibly libraries.

With all the information Wikipedia has to offer, do we need to even use books?

Should libraries worry about becoming vinyls in this digital world?

Cawthra keeps a positive attitude. "Any good researcher learns to check more than one source of information. Information in whatever form is never a threat to libraries... it's the foundation of our work."

Photo by Raquel Villanueva
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Wikipedia: from Satan to syllabus

By Raquel Villanueva