Sunday, August 31, 2008

The internet, it's not your fathers encyclopedia.

My eight year old son needed to do a book report for a book he read over the summer and he was allowed to do it in a Powerpoint format. Needless to say the boy & I spent some quality time behind the keyboard "geeking out" once the report was written in longhand on paper.

During the book report project we were discussing how the use of the internet is going to change the way his generation looks at everything and how it has already drastically changed the educational tools available to him vs when I was a boy. I explained the set of 24 encyclopedias that I had as a youth and then showed him wikipedia. I explained news reels in World War II, network news in the Vietnam era and the use of YouTube like services which are now available to anyone. We discussed different aspects of the internet and the various uses for it.

My son really enjoyed the internet service YouTube and this was a video that was both semi educational as well as humorous. Enjoy.

1 comment:

Dunwoodyinfoguy said...

My kids are now in high school and have become adept at using the Internet for research. My younger son's report last year on 'Is the surge in Iraq working?' could never have been written without the Internet and the Rand Corporation.

Collectively we have become big fans of Wikipedia, despite its occasional shortcomings (see the entry on Dunwoody, GA for an example of its shortcomings.) To illustrate the value of Wikipedia to my 80-year old father, I recently compared the entries on The Church of Latter Day Saints in the encyclopedia (6 columns) and Wikipidia (11 pages).

But that said, that 20 volume hard-back encyclopedia has a place. And that place is by the kitchen table. We keep our World Book Encyclopedias (purchased used for $150.) in a book case next to our breakfast-room table. It is amazing over the years how often a subject has come up during a meal that could be explored quickly by reaching behind us to the appropriate entry in the encyclopedia. These teaching moments are fleeting and the nature of the hard bound books and their proximity to the table have made them invaluable.

The other fascinating use for the hard-bound books is the fun of getting distracted by all the entries around the one you are looking up. As a kid I used to get lost in the encyclopedia. You can get lost in the links in Wikipedia too, but it is subtly different. In Wikipedia you get related links, in the encyclopedia, you find entries that as completely unrelated except for alphabetical placement.

In our enthusiasm for new media, let’s not discount the value of old media. Parents: buy a 4-5 year old used encyclopedia at the Friends of the Dunwoody Library book sale and put it by the table you eat at every day. It will be worth it.