February begins a big push for research projects at school. 6th grade students learn about the Middle Ages, while 5th graders are researching a famous person.
With all the great new tools for research and inquiry, I sometimes long for the days of index cards, an encyclopedia, and a few books. (not really…don’t worry)
When a student sits down to research, they literally have the world at their fingertips to learn from. Google alone will deliver far more than a ten year old could process in a lifetime. Organizing and brainstorming tools like Inspiration and text editors like Microsoft Word are invaluable.
The fact is that kids still need to read, process and organize information. It does not matter if they have index cards and books or a word processor and the web. If they cannot interpret what they read into their own ideas, it does not matter how pretty the product is. Sometimes I wonder if all the new technology tools mask this underlying need.
Wikipedia is an awesome tool when used well. One of the issues of this collaborative tool is that the language can be far above the readability for a young student. Enter a sister project of Wikipedia, aptly named Simple Wikipedia. The goal of Simple Wikipeda is to present the same content as Wikipedia, with simpler words. Not simpler concepts necessarily but simpler words. It is also geared for English Language Learners.
It is easy to see if there is a Simple Wikipedia article on a topic. Do a search at Wikipedia, and after finding an article, change the “en” part of the web address to “simple” to see the Simple Wikipedia version of the same article. You could of course just do a search at Simple Wikipedia. Simple Wikipedia has a much smaller but growing list of articles.
As an example, check out the article on Frank Lloyd Wright at Wikipedia and then Simple Wikipedia.
Simple Wikipedia is one way to help tame the flood of information available to students today.
CSIRAC (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Automatic Computer), Australia’s First Computer (1949)
Creative Commons image from the Wikimedia Commons