Okay, maybe things have changed since I was a computer coordinator. Back then, It was the standard line to students from educators. “Don’t use Wikipedia.”

I’d like to hear from you. Has that changed at all since 2006?

Here’s why I ask. Today, January 8, 2012, I read an article in Science Daily about the entorhinal cortex. The article reported that a UCLA study suggests that stimulating this important brain region enhances memory and might be important in future treatments for Alsheimer’s disease.

I decided to check for more information about the brain region and looked at the Wikipedia article for background. You might imagine my surprise that the bottom section of the article contained a paragraph about the UCLA study.

Did I mention that the study is being published TOMORROW, January 9, 2012?

Maybe the more widely accepted Brittanica has also updated their article. I cannot check Brittanica Online Premium. I don’t have a subscription to that encyclopedia. I did a search, though and got no listing .of an article on the entorhinal cortex. this morning.

No student should be encouraged to read only from encyclopedias. That recommendation has always been wise. Check your sources. Look at multiple sources. Ultimately, try to find primary sources. However, is Wikipedia still “unacceptable” these days?

Please leave comments.

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Sometimes I feel like I’m ahead.

Sometimes I’m certain that I’m way behind.

Have you watched this RSA Animate video? As of this Thanksgiving morning, the Youtube video has been watched 6,070,127 times.

The video was made from a speech given by Sir Ken Robinson in 2008. That’s three years ago. I think today was my first time watching it. In “Internet years“, I am somewhere between 21 and 30 years late watching the video. Behind!

By contrast, I’ve been involved with free software since the 1980s. Back then, it was called public domain or freeware (mixed in with shareware). Some of it wasn’t really as open as we see today. The GNU General Public License (GPL) has formalized and supported a movement to make software a core element of an open society. (Note the geek-friendly numbering.)

  • Freedom 0: The freedom to run the program for any purpose.
  • Freedom 1: The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish.
  • Freedom 2: The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
  • Freedom 3: The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits.

Our view of education needs to be informed by GPL freedoms, OER and the open channels of the Internet. It will also help if our view of education embraces the four freedoms of the GPL.

  • The freedom to use the knowledge of our world for our own purposes
  • The freedom to examine the sources of our education and to make improvements which suit us as learners
  • The freedom to pass our learning to others, perhaps as teachers who make it a life’s work
  • The freedom to engage our communities with the educational changes we think are important and to be unfettered by top-down, one way or the highway thinking making a goal of steady improvement a goal which trumps someone else’s (too often arbitrary) standards

We might also want to ensure the four freedoms from Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

  1. Freedom of speech and expression
  2. Freedom of worship
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from fear

Just as Thanksgiving in the United States is a day of gratitude, let us be thankful we can use free software and the open channels of the Internet to express our opinions and to share our excitement and to make contributions to the common wealth.

Chris Dawson writes about education for ZDNet. In a post today, he boldly recommends educators look closely at Canonical’s newest version of Ubuntu.

There’s been a move by the Ubuntu distribution team to create a unified interface which works on desktops, laptops, and  netbooks.

What’s your take? Have you tried Ubuntu 11.04 with Unity?

Happy Cinco de Mayo to you who are from south of the border.

Educators are asked to leave no child behind by federal mandates. In essence, we are asked to run a perfect school. That’s some goal.

It also may be a debilitating one. Instead of an organic, dynamic workplace for staff and students, there’s a real chance the school will become immobile, rule-bound, ossified, rigid.

The more comfortable you become with a path you’ve already begun, the less chance there is for exploration of alternatives. A well worn path is a clear path. Paved by the pounding feet of those who have gone before, such roads lead efficiently to the selected destination. Sounds good?

The problem is that one selected destination isn’t appropriate for everyone. One job that represents success, CEO of a corporation, is an example. All of us cannot be the head of General Motors. Recent events even tell us that might not be the best job for anybody.

Fear of failure helps adults to lock onto habits which their personal experience has validated. We like “what works”. We develop patterns of behavior. We repeat, refine, repeat, refine, repeat, and effectively relax. The more things we can relegate to routine habitual behavior, the more efficient we become…but is that perfection?

Do we teach our students avoidance?
Avoid making mistakes. Avoid being different. Avoid standing out. Avoid being too far behind…or ahead.

I’d say that the job of an educator (by extension, a school) is to leave no child behind by offering a support system which allows a child to attempt all sorts of challenges with a safety net. The safety net must be “visible” enough to promote reach beyond one’s past performance level, but “invisible” as well, so that it doesn’t encourage reckless behavior. Children need an environment in which they can fall, stand up, dust off their knees and try again. Children begin their lives expecting to fail at most things until they develop skills through practice. They naturally observe the actions and behavior of those around them, trying to do their best at the tasks which their peers are doing, and try to begin the tasks of those a little older, too.

Schools need to nurture the growth of each child so that he or she steadily expands into a richly educated individual, not a molded clone of the school’s former successes. Each child needs to grow into their own space, not some adult’s preset, predetermined space for them. That isn’t an easy task.

Practice, precision, patterned performance, it becomes predicable, but is it perfection?

Striving for perfection: the tasks of angels in the hands of man.

Martin Owens has prepared a very useful visual guide that is just right when you want to explain the concepts of open source to someone. Martin is actively leading the Massachusetts Local Ubuntu Team. The team meets monthly and has a strong interest in getting open source software into use in Massachusetts schools.

http://doctormo.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/foss-understanding-foss-visual-guide/

Thanks, Martin.

In keeping with a history theme and the NERC history/social studies conference I am attending, mentioned in the prior post, I am recommending a program for you Linux users. I don’t think it is available for Windows or Macintosh. Everybody should be able to identify the states of their own country.

Kgeography is a map game quzzing program that lets you identify countries and states from capitals, capitals from states, practice with simple outline identifications on maps like Africa, Europe, the USA, etc.

If you are interested, check my more complete article:
(It is full of screen shots which take too much room in this blog.)
http://www.runeman.org/articles/kgeography/

You can also find more at the KDE Education project page:
http://edu.kde.org/kgeography/

And, if you are industrious, you can add your own maps following the directions on the program’s home site:
http://kgeography.berlios.de/howto.html

And another blogger’s map directions using an example of mapping India:
http://arindamghosh.wordpress.com/2007/12/26/insight-into-kgeography/