Monday, March 2, 2015

Reflections on Wikipedia and Youtube

First, I want to comment on how you would determine what is reliable information on Wikipedia and what is not. I usually look at the references. There is usually a a link you click on to take you to the reference. You can then click on the reference and determine if it is reputable. When you are linking to someone's blog, that is much different than looking at a peer reviewed article. Even magazines and the news do this with bias and manipulate facts to get people to watch.  "See how you can avoid dying with this one simple trick, watch at 6...."
That being said, I think since news has become so mainstream on the internet, new sources are becoming too lazy, or too eager, to get the story out first without checking sources. I have read about this too often over the past two years. Writers creating fictional human interest stories, CNN (generally thought to be a reputable source) reporting facts that end up not being 100% factual...You have to consider what the source is, who the author(s) is, the organization and whether they have some sort of agenda. Too often a single incident becomes "a nationwide epidemic".
I would not tell my students that wikipedia is bad, but I have told them to be careful of using wikipedia as a sole reference. I tell them to double check and make sure that the facts are in another reputable source, for example check the reference. I tell them anyone can post anything on the internet. They do believe everything they read on the internet is true, "but I saw it on the internet" which becomes a whole new conversation about Youtube and evidence of ghosts and UFO's.
I hear often "yes, it's true, I saw the ghost, UFO, lights, werewolf etc. on Youtube. There is evidence." Then I have to have to explain about editing tools and software and how anyone can create a video or picture to show anything they want. The Lochness monster has been proven fake by the man who did it yet they believe it because The History channel is has shows on it's schedule that are not true but appear to be with a fine print disclaimer. They had a similar show on mermaids. I spent way too much time explaining that the mermaid show was not real. :But it was on the History Channel!"  It's very difficult to make them understand this. Yet,  I give them a National Geographic and they bring it to me and ask if it's true.
I do think telling students Wikipedia is bad would taint the experience, and not always necessarily true. There are some very valid resources and unbiased information there. One of the reasons I like to also check Wikipedia is the seemingly lack of bias. That's why I would give them the facts, the warnings and tell them to  validate with another reputable source. I think you would need to give them a list of reputable vs. non-reputable sources as well as a discussion educating them on cross referencing.

Judging the Quality of Wikis and Non-vetted Sites

Wikipedia has been known to be a good foundation or go to for information. It does show up first in all searches for information. I'll admit I do like Wikipedia because it seems to have just the facts, rather than opinions and lists several categories and "further reading". Having said that, I have been told during my entire undergrad that, "sure, use it as a frame of reference but double check the facts and don't take it as 100% factual." In other words, take a look, but double check the sources.

When thinking about it though, I imagine it would be difficult to post to Wikipedia without subconsciously having some sort of bias. I also remember reading an article about one author/poster who spends a lot of time filtering through Wikipedia. His issue is a certain phrase. I can't remember specifically what the phrasing was, but I recall it was grammatically correct. He just has an issue with it, so he spends all his free time searching all the Wikipedia pages seeking out this phrase and editing it to reflect basically the same meaning, but a difference in choice of wording.

I have myself followed the same guidelines when guiding my students in research, don't take it as the holy grail, but is is a resource of some value. Check the sources, seek out other well known reputable sources and cross reference. I myself use Wikipedia frequently as well as the links posted in the reference section.

Both articles posted on CNET claim that Wikipedia is a valid source (although with a 1/3 more errors than Britannica), as much as the Encyclopedia Britannica, although it's pointed out that Britannica is not infallible either. The author also points out both sources have mistakes or misinformation in a study. With the push in the academic and business world, there is always the push for collaboration and Wikipedia does use collaboration in a very broad way including users and experts in all fields and industries.

In terms of YouTube, school tube, and teacher tube, I'll admit I use Youtube much more than the latter two. The reason for this is simply accessibility. The selection and variety on Youtube is much wider and many more choices than the other two. Admittedly, I have not tried school tube and teacher tube in some time. I will have to investigate to make a more informed decision. However, when I had tried it, I could not find videos that had exactly what I was looking for. Youtube has a much larger variety. I do need to watch my students closely because they do like to click suggested or popular videos when they think I am not watching, and some of the videos/ads are risky and inappropriate. But I have never not found what I was looking for on Youtube. I also like that I can subscribe to channels and they will be emailed to me when a new video is posted. The students easily recognize Youtube and it usually gets their full attention. I also like that teachers post tutorials and lessons that they have made and uploaded. You can find many grade level books being read by teachers as well, eliminating the need for me to purchase out of my own pocket. I also use Youtube for studying/relaxing music when students are doing independent and group work. If I forget, many of them ask me to turn on the "concentrating music". Learnzillion, which is a resource recommended by the common core website also has complete lessons with slides and tutorials specific to each standard.  Since I have to find most of my own resources, this has been extremely invaluable. I have an app for the common core and they list recommended resources. Also, this app is much easier to read than the huge sections on the Common Core website ( They also have a resource pinner which allows access to resources and assessments other teachers have pinned.

Another added benefit of Youtube is accessibility. Many websites have a share link specifically for Youtube, making it simple to add a video to the classroom website or uploading a screencast. I;m not sure about the other two, but I also use the "embed" feature quite frequently. My philosophy on using technologies has been pretty consistent. I am looking for ease of use, user friendly for the grade level of my students, and availability of resources aligned to the common core.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Educational Blogs

In searching for relevant blogs to add to my RSS feed, I found several of interest. However, I have decided to focus on a few that I am using on a regular basis.  While we have PC monitring programs in the PC lab, I would like to have one for my laptops in the classroom. I rotate within groups in 20 minute chunks between 2 groups. I also use this time as a "study hour" for groups not on the laptops to ask questions on math packets, readings, or get feedback on longterm projects. Because of this, I am not necessarily able to monitor what students are doing on the laptops as closely as I'd like. They know this and take advantage.
In my search on open source laptop monitoring software, I found several blogs, but chose (School Computing screen monitoring wikia). I chose this blog because it has several links. I am looking for more than a free trial because I would need to spend my own money and I am already using too much of my own funds to meet the needs of my students. I will need to allocate some time to research each of these links.
Another blog I found interesting is Open software for schools at (PM technology blog). I would also like to research these and complete sign ups for sampling. A problem I have seen is that an web based program is available for free for a time, then without warning they are no longer accepting new sign ups and you must now purchase a subscription. Those who already signed up for an account previously continue to have free access. I saw this with Glogster. I hadn't signed up and when I had a project I planned to use, I could not without purchasing a subscription.

Twitter Followers:

Due to the fact I had been following some educational twitter accounts, I had some teachers following me. After viewing their profile, I in turn followed them. I have posted these in the edit portion of the PLN activity with a brief description.

Reflection on Resources/Tools:

There were a few that I had already followed or subscribed to. Emerging Ed Tech is one that I have regularly used. I had originally subscribed to their newsletter to receive the free ebook offered on free ed tech resources for teachers. I also receive a print publication from them as well. I had created a classroom wiki back in 2010, but at the time found it cumbersome. Since then, I had found weebly which was very easy to use and many types of media available. I;m sure wikispaces has updated since then, so we'll see how user friendly it is.

Update 10/2015:
I had to use wikispaces for another collaborative project, Horizon Report Trends. There are some improvements, although I found some aspects still cumbersome. Although, it is an exceptional tool for group projects as it logs each activity by each group member.