Tomorrow I’m sharing the opening keynote for the 2009 Annual Scholars Academy, hosted by the Educational Service Center of Cuyahoga County in Aurora, Ohio, for area school administrators. The presentation will be a remix of my opening keynote for eTechOhio 2009: “Reinventing Education for the 21st Century: Designing School 2.0.” In the introduction, to try and make the point that our communications landscape is vastly different, I’m going to use some images I snapped this afternoon at the Aurora Memorial Library with my iPhone and compare what I found to the current English WikiPedia.

Aurora Memorial Library

Portage County District Library

Library book shelves in Aurora, Ohio

When I was in New Zealand in February presenting at the Learning@School conference, I purchased an extremely interesting children’s historical picture book titled, “The Maori Wars.” The author has written historical works about this timeperiod for adults, but this picture book is a shorter version summarizing the colonial wars Britain waged against the Maories from approximately 1860 to 1900. This was during the time of the U.S. Civil War, reconstruction, and westward expansion. I found this book fascinating because this was a chapter of history I had never heard or read anything about in my prior years of K-12 and university education. Apparently the name “The Maori Wars” is synonymous “The New Zealand Wars.”

This is a photograph of the 2008 Worldbook Encyclopedia set in the public library here in Aurora, Ohio.

Worldbook Encyclopedia 2008

The article in the encyclopedia for New Zealand is ten pages long.

New Zealand article in World Book 2008

In that article, only three paragraphs are dedicated to the Maori Wars / New Zealand Wars. No images are included.

3 paragraphs on the New Zealand Wars in World Book Encyclopedia 2008

Contrast this extremely short and abbreviated summary to the current English WikiPedia article for “New Zealand land wars,” which includes 36 paragraphs of text, links to related WikiPedia entries as well as external websites, and suggestions for further reading. The comparatively superior depth and breadth of WikiPedia on this specific historical topic is clear.

As teachers, we’ve never suggested that students only consider a single source when conducting academic research. Generally, especially at lower grades, teachers encourage students to use at least three different sources and compare them. At higher grades, many more sources are often used. Wikipedia should not be viewed as a threat to the validity of information available to learners today. On the contrary, it should be viewed as a powerful tool which can provide an outstanding place to begin research and locate additional websites to utilize during the research process. We know the information in WikiPedia should be validated and compared to other sources, so this should make the importance of information fluency even more apparent within the research process.

Without WikiPedia and other online materials, student researchers in Aurora, Ohio, might be VERY limited in the amount of information they could access, compare, and learn with concerning the Maori Wars.

Another example is the 2008 Worldbook Encyclopedia entry for Oklahoma and its short article addressing the Oklahoma City bombing.

World Book 2008 Oklahoma article

On the subject of the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, the entry includes just five paragraphs of text. One image is included.

2008 World Book Encyclopedia Entry for the Oklahoma City Bombing

A comparison to the current English WikiPedia article for “Oklahoma City Bombing” presents a stark contrast in the quantity as well as depth of information provided, similar to the previous example for the New Zealand Wars. Going beyond text and images, however, let’s consider the value of video and personal stories to relate the events of history. The following are two different videos created for our statewide Celebrate Oklahoma Voices project, focusing on the bombing and its impact on Oklahomans as well as our nation.

The video “Innocence Lost” (2 min, 39 sec) frames the bombing in the normal, everyday events and news items which preceded this tragedy. The author, Andrea, did a masterful job writing her script and syncing her narrative to both images and music in this video.


Find more videos like this on Celebrate Oklahoma Voices!

The video “KCBombing_1″ (2 min, 9 sec) created by students of Mallory-Randa-Jessica not only relates facts of the bombing, but also tells the personal story of a young bombing survivor and his family.


Find more videos like this on Celebrate Oklahoma Voices!

It is remarkable to consider how powerful digital video can be in relating not only the facts but also the feelings and emotions which are connected to historical events. We need to be using digital, hyperlinked resources like WikiPedia regularly in our classrooms, and also viewing as well as CREATING video content like the two examples above to gain an even deeper understanding of the topics in our mandated curricula.

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  • http://education-realitycheck.blogspot.com Dave Winter

    The videos with there personal narrative are more powerful than wikipedia and worldbook. The worldbook seems somewhat cold and matter of fact. The digital story while not without fact is a story real and warmer. We are working with students creating digital stories about survival. For students to create these they need to have an understanding of the cold facts but then relate them to what they mean for people. Some more ideas are here http://seein2it.wikispaces.com/Digital+Storytelling

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