The English pages on Wikipedia will be blacked out this Wednesday. The Wikimedia foundation is taking this drastic action to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). Whether you love or hate Wikipedia, the truth is that millions of Americans depend on Wikipedia on a daily basis for information ranging from political election facts to figuring out who exactly that actress was in The Breakfast Club.
So we thought a day without Wikipedia would be a great time to teach about other research resources, as well as draw attention to just how dependent some of us are on Wikipedia’s wealth of information. Book some time in the library on Wednesday if you can, and get researching with this Wikipedia Blackout Lesson Plan.
The Wikipedia Blackout Lesson Plan
1. So that students understand why Wikipedia is gone for the day, give students some brief background on SOPA and PIPA. You can learn more about the proposed laws and blackout here. If you’d like, hold a brief discussion about whether or not students think these bills should become law. (You could also devote a complete lesson to debating the merit of the bills, using Flocabulary’s debate lesson plan and handout.)
2. Explain to students that since Wikipedia is not available, this is a good opportunity to review other good library resources. Briefly review the types of information and research questions that each of the following sources is best for:
- Scholarly journals/ periodicals
- Magazines, online or in print
- Online Databases and Indexes
- Online government records
- Diaries / Autobiographies / Memoirs
- Special topics books
- Live Experts and Witnesses
- Primary Source objects
3. Review the following list of research questions with students. These are all questions that are easy to answer with Wikipedia (and the Wikipedia answers are included next to each question). But since Wikipedia is not available, ask students to figure out which resource type from step two would be best to find the answer sans Wikipedia. You can even make this a competition within the library, in which each student gets a question and whoever finds the answer first using a non-Wikipedia resource wins. You can make it more challenging by prohibiting Google.
- When was morse code invented? Answer.
- What is the longest German word? Answer.
- What was notable about the dog Hachiko? Answer.
- What was the last book that Charles Dickens wrote? Answer.
- What was The Beatle’s second hit single? Answer.
- Who won Superbowl X? Answer.
- Where was First Lady Michelle Obama born? Answer.
- When was our town founded? (Answer will vary).
- What animal is the largest reptile? Answer.
- What subject did Ice Cube study in college before becoming a well known rapper? Answer.
- What is Arkansas’s state bird? Answer.
- Who won the New Hampshire Republican primary last week? Answer.
- What was the final song that the band on the Titanic supposedly played before it sank? Answer.
- In what city is the first Starbucks? Answer.
- What is Lady Gaga’s real name? Answer.
- What is Lewis Carroll’s real name? Answer.
- Who invented the font Helvetica? Answer.
- How many people live in Ethiopia? Answer.
- How does a hot air balloon work? Answer.
- What movie won the Oscar for best picture in the year you were born? (Answers will vary).
4. Tell students that you will resume the discussion the following day.
5. On Thursday, when Wikipedia is back, see how quickly students can find the answers to their same questions. Then hold a class discussion where you address the following questions:
- Which types of questions were easy to find in non-Wikipedia resources? Which types were harder?
- Did any of the answers you found in other sources differ from what you found on Wikipedia? Which one do you think is correct? Why do you think there was a difference
- Do you think students should be allowed to use Wikipedia for school research? For what types of research questions might Wikipedia be an acceptable source? When wouldn’t it be?
- How have resources like Wikipedia and Google changed research? Have they changed other aspects of life, too?
- Do you think the government should limit sites like Wikipedia with SOPA and PIPA?
Share your answers to these discussion questions in the comments section!