Beyond Classroom Tech Tips…

March 5, 2007

Great Encyclopedia Choices

Filed under: Encyclopedia — Donna DesRoches @ 11:20 pm

In this post I want to bring to the attention of lead technology teachers and other teachers in the school division information about ‘FREE’ encyclopedias.

There are three important encyclopedia that students have at their fingertips:

The Canadian Encyclopedia
Encyclopedia Britannica
Wikipedia

What do these three encyclopedia have to offer our students?

The Canadian Encyclopedia: Great Canadian Content!
From this page you have access to the Canadian Encyclopedia, the Youth Encyclopedia for middle years students, Encyclopedia of Music in Canada and access to Maclean’s Magazine (1995 – 2006).

You can also access The Canadian Encyclopedia via the HISTOR!CA Site. At this site you will find links to the short HISTOR!CA films, professional development activities including lesson plans and links to quality student work including animated short films.

Encyclopedia Britannica: Free from Saskatchewan Learning!
This is an excellent encyclopedia. It used to be considered only an academic resource for students in Senior High and university. However, the online version is comprised of three different encyclopedia: elementary, middle years and high school. It is provided to all Saskatchewan residents through the Multi-type Library System.

Wikipedia
This is an online encyclopedia built on a wiki platform A wiki is web page which allows registered users to make changes to the content. The Wikipedia is an encyclopedia built by volunteers – the ordinary public. This means that what a student views at one point in time can very different at another time – it also means that the information can be incorrect at any point in time. That being said there is great value in this encyclopedia especially with regards to technology, popular culture and current events.

There is great controversy over the use of wikipedia by students at all levels of education. I believe that just like any other encyclopedia it should be used judiciously. I really like Wikipedia’s response to a college that has told their students that Wikipedia is not appropriate for research.

“That’s a sensible policy,” said Wikipedia’s Sandra Ordonez “Wikipedia is the ideal place to start your research and get a global picture of a topic, however, it is not an authoritative source. In fact, we recommend that students check the facts they find in Wikipedia against other sources. Additionally, it is generally good research practice to cite an original source when writing a paper, or completing an exam. It’s usually not advisable, particularly at the university level, to cite an encyclopedia.”

I think that it is important that we teach our students at all levels when and how to appropriately use an encyclopedia.

It is really important that we as teachers become aware that Wikipedia is often in the first three hits of a Google search and that students may be using it as an in-depth research source and not consulting other valuable sources.

What about Wikipedia is a student made video from Springfield High School in Philadelphia which explains the strengths and limitations Wikipedia. You may want to use this video with your students.

Encyclopedias are valuable resources and it is important that we teach our students how to use them wisely. It is also important as teachers we understand how information can be constructed on the web so that we can help our students evaluate the information they find.

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1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for the comparison and usage guidelines for these three resources, Donna. But I have to add my opinion (for whatever it is worth) regarding your analysis of Wikipedia when you say that “… it also means that the information can be incorrect at any point in time”. I agree with you on this, but I’d also point out that one could say the same thing about the other two encyclopedias (or any encyclopedia). I know we’ve had these conversations before, but I think it’s an interesting conversation and one that is worth discussing.

    Heather Ross and I had an interesting discussion about Wikipedia on the EdTech Posse Podcast 2.5. (How’s that for blatant self-promotion?)

    Comment by Rob Wall — March 6, 2007 @ 2:38 am | Reply


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