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pity the poor encyclopedia



10:42 pm on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member shak is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

``The Internet was really the fifth nail that was driven into the coffin -- not the first,'' said Joe Esposito, former chief executive of Encyclopaedia Britannica and now an independent consultant for digital media.


an interesting and factual article (imo)



12:20 am on Mar 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Well, i remember struggling to do homework with my family's mildewed, 50s-era encyclopedia set, and how impossible it was to know whether the information was recent enough to be trustworthy. I've a better shot with the Internet of getting enough information to evaluate what's right....
It'd be nice if kids learned some skepticism...


1:37 am on Mar 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I think critical analysis of the source is a skill kids really need to learn. The old encyclopedia could be relied on for basic facts, albeit with a bit of spin depending on the orientation of the editor/publisher. Information in the web, though, may be detailed and accurate, or it may be complete hokum. Appearances can be deceiving. If the kids learn this lesson, though, it will serve them well throughout their life - critical thinking & analysis are often in short supply!


1:42 am on Mar 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

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rogerd: I normally don't do "Amen" posts...


4:49 am on Mar 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

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One day, we'll all be reading books on electronic pads like in Star Trek.

Until then, they still do come in pretty handy.

How many times do we spend inordinate amounts of time searching for something on the Internet, when we could have picked up an encyclopedia or other book, and had the right answer within moments?

And, how will kids write their reports if the power goes out? Or, what if the power's out, the phone lines are down, and there's a medical emergency? Will the kids as adults know how to use a book to figure out what to do, or will they sit there at the blank computer screen, scratching their heads, "Gee, if I had power, I could look this up on Google. Oh, whatever shall I do?"


7:54 am on Mar 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I spent a few homeless days in some local libraries. Look just beyond all those plugged in patrons and you'll see another group just as big, waiting their turn, many reading. Granted, it may be a newspaper (tonights bed) or a work of fiction, but I've personally welcomed the availability of all the resources. (It helps to have a library card)

It is a blessing to be able to discern, decipher and decide without resorting to the web. I read the other day where a baby's first word was google. Maybe, maybe not, but what a future that image paints.


4:49 pm on Mar 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

The challenge facing paper resources is that it's SO much faster to find things on the Web. I rarely use a telephone book these days, much less an encyclopedia.

The downside is that anyone can put information on the web at near-zero cost and with no oversight. In the paper world, cranks and nutcases still have to find a willing publisher or have sufficient personal resources to publish and distribute their books. While certainly no guarantee of truth, the publishing process does establish a barrier to entry that keeps out a lot of useless drivel.

And, to expand on my earlier comment: I think a critical thinking project would be a great addition to upper elementary education:

1) Conduct a Google search for a controversial topic (affirmative action, psychic powers, etc.).
2) Choose several conflicting viewpoints and sets of "facts" from the first twenty results.
3) Discuss which of these viewpoints is most credible and why you feel that way.

One problem with a lot of teaching is that kids just learn what's in the book - teachers rarely question the credibility of the text (despite the awful quality of many "approved" texts) or encourage their students to think about alternate views. While the web can be a source of misinformation, perhaps it can also serve to help students avoid blind acceptance of published information.


5:01 pm on Mar 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I agree that the web is a powerful tool, and that kids (and adults) should learn to discern reliable sources on the web from unreliable ones. This skill would definitely serve them well in areas other than using the Internet (as Rogerd pointed out, critical thinking about the approved textbooks they use for school, for example).

I am not sure I agree the Internet is always faster for looking things up. Maybe if you're already sitting at your computer it is, but if you're in a different room and maybe the computer is even turned off, it's quicker to look in the phone book for someone's telephone number. Also, not everybody has computers, so for them it might mean a trip to a library at the very least just to get to a computer.

I had a professor once who said if she was teaching an elementary school class and was given the choice between one set of hard-bound encyclopedias and a computer with the encyclopedia on cd-rom (or on the web), she'd pick the hard-bound, because more than one kid could use it at the same time.


5:33 pm on Mar 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I don't disagree that lessons in critical thinking are a good thing.

I don't think, however, that complete reliance on the Internet is a good thing, at least not as things currently are.

For one thing, to get on the Internet, you need both an electrical and an Internet connection. In the U.S., in most areas, we have a very reliable electrical system. But, that's not the case in other parts of the world. And, when you get to Internet connections, you don't have even the reliability of the electrical system. It's good, especially as more reliable modes of connection spread. Neither type of connection is 100% reliable.

Whereas, except if it's night-time and I have no power, you can always look up something in a book. All you need is a little daylight, or a flashlight, or even a clear sky and a full moon!

Plus, bookworms these days are rarer than Internet virii, so books have less predators. ;-)

Now, when it comes to credibility and accuracy, books and encyclopedias do have a certain edge. Even if out of date, in most cases, you can look on the inside front cover (or elsewhere) and see the date the book was published. That at least gives you some idea how current the information in the book is.

Web sites, on the other hand, are far less reliable in that regard. Some sites do date their content, but in many cases, all you see is a generic copyright date, if even that! And, when you see "Copyright 2000-2004", what does that tell you about the freshness of the article? Did they revise it this year, review it for accuracy, or did they just slap on the current date to look current or because they think they need to do so to maintain their copyright?

So, in my opinion, until we have the Star Trek like bookpads that never seem to need new batteries and will survive an EM bomb, kids should learn how to get information from both computers and books.


5:46 pm on Mar 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

There is one good thing about books in a library though, they arent goin to pop up farm p*rn while your kid is trying to research farm animals.

That is the one reason I monitor my kids so closely, its insane that they can be exposed to these things so easily...and frightening ta boot.

Sure there are books like "The last of the wine" about ancient greece that reference homosexuality etc but thats literary and well not a picture of it :P So uh yeah...what was my point...

Oh..yeah internet is a great tool for research but it can lead to further research that them kiddies shouldnt be researchin.


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