Academia is notoriously slow at adopting modern technology.
Socrates, one of the greatest teachers in history, famously denounced the written word because he thought writing encouraged forgetfulness. ("They will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves," he argued.)
Today, the pixelated word is the subject of similarly archaic scorn by educators.
But that's changing, and those who consider elbow patches an innovative technology are slowly being forced to accept it.
Wikipedia, my favourite research tool, is one of the sites changing education. It is currently on the syllabus at 50-some universities all over the world, from the University of Copenhagen's courses on Mesoamerican culture to the University of British Columbia's food and nutrition program.
Earlier this month, the Wikipedian Canada Scholarship in Medicine was announced. It awards $1,000 to the university student who most improves a Wikipedia article on health sciences. It is the first scholarship of its kind.
Here to answer questions about it is its creator, president of Wikimedia Canada, Dr. James Heilman.
How are universities responding to the idea of a Wikipedia scholarship?
I have received some positive interest and some concerns. One university - which I shall not name - did not wish to be involved officially, as it was concerned that this could tarnish their reputation.
The scholarship is, however, being introduced independent of any specific university.
You are funding this scholarship by yourself. Why?
Wikipedia's medical articles get between 150 and 200 million page views a month - and that's just for English-language articles. It's one of the major places the world accesses health care information. I believe strongly that physicians have an obligation to the population to provide accurate health care knowledge. The lack of such information is a public health issue and one that Wikipedia seems best situated to address.
I read that Wikipedia is untrustworthy.
No one is denying that Wikipedia could be better - more accurate, broader in coverage, more readable and so on.
I've worked in a number of developing countries. Not all health care professionals have access to high-quality sources the way we do in North America. To meet that need in those regions, we need to better Wikipedia's content.
The scholarship is for contributions to improve the site's medical content.
This is where the world is getting its information.
Would you argue that Wikipedia is better than a textbook?
The concern with textbooks and journals is they can be hard to access, are frequently limited in scope and quickly become out of date.
I have seen images I've contributed used by the National Health Services in the U.K. and in a number of textbooks.
But Wikipedia isn't attempting to replace either textbooks or journals; we rely heavily on these sources as our references.
Clearly, Wikipedia is a starting point for research, not an end point. If you're an academic or journalist and you stop your verification of facts at Wikipedia, I think you should lose your job.
What do students gain from this?
Rather then having students put in work to write papers that end up in some professor's drawer, never to be read again, Wikipedia gives them the opportunity to make a contribution to the academically available literature, to write something that will make a difference.
Also, research is rarely carried out by a single person in his or her lab any more. Research is done in large, collaborative groups. Wikipedia will introduce young academics to this environment, since we are a large collaborative group.
As Newton said, "If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."