This past March, Encyclopedia Britannica announced that the printed volumes of the encyclopedia are a thing of the past and all focus will be dedicated electronic delivery and educational programs. The demise of the once status-symbol leather bound book was triggered by the rise of social knowledge. Or, in other-words, sites like Wikipedia.
Thank you to Jennifer Rhee who forwarded me her info-graphic on how Wikipedia is changing the face of research. There are several thoughts that arise while studying Jen's graphic. I recently consulted on a research project for 10th graders, and standard policy for research projects is that only databases are allowed. Wikipedia and Google were absolutely shunned. I couldn't help but wonder "why?". Google Scholar is a fantastic resource, and Wikipedia, for being a social construct, is a great place to begin research.
Of course I believe that it is very important for all students to have a command of databases and develop strong skills in information literacy. (1. “...the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information for the issue or problem at hand.”) Information Literacy is one of the most necessary skills needed to be successful in the 21st Century.
However, I see the same perpetuating limitations imposed on students time and again. I believe restricting the resources available to students is also limiting their creativity. David Warlick, a well known educational technology speaker, asked at the Tech Expo (Hosted by the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center) "What if we said 'Surprise me' to our students?" At first blush I was intimidated by this question, but its truth is unavoidable, what do we have to fear? That students will have inaccurate information? That students will plagiarize? The students that make those poor choices would likely do the same regardless of the resources they use. The key is not in the resources, but teaching students information literacy skills.
It makes no difference to me what tools my students want to use. My students are going to utilize the tools that are most intuitive for them, students tend to be on cutting edge using new resources. Of course I want my students to be adept at using databases and equally versed on the Google Research Tool, and Google Scholar. But most importantly I need them to understand how to find and evaluate resources that are pertinent for them.
Have you asked your children how they research? Or, how they evaluate their resources? It is a worthwhile conversation to have.