Can Wikipedia be saved for schools?

Andy Carvin on his blog presents a case for Turning Wikipedia into an Asset for Schools. Instead of blindly following what’s in Wikipedia, use it to present “teachers with an excellent authentic learning activity in which students can demonstrate their skills as scholars”:

[…]Take a group of fifth grade students and break them into groups, with each group picking a topic that interests them. Any topic. Dolphins, horses, hockey, you name it.

Next, send the groups of kids to Wikipedia to look up the topic they selected. […] The horse, for example, has an extensive entry on the website. It certainly looks accurate and informative, but is it? Unfortunately, there are no citations for any of the facts claimed about horses on the page.

[…]The group of students breaks down the content on the page into manageable chunks, each with a certain amount of facts that need to be verified. The students then spend the necessary time to fact-check the content.
Once the Wikipedia entry has been fact-checked, the teacher creates a Wikipedia login for the class. They go to the entry’s talk page and present their findings, laying out every idea that needs to be corrected. Then, they edit the actual entry to make the corrections, with all sources cited. Similarly, for all the parts of the entry they’ve verified as accurate, they list sources confirming it.

Don’t interrupt me

New research shows that meetings and interruptions have a negative effect on our well being that may “…contribute to burnout, anxiety, depression and other negative emotions“. Combine meetings with interruptions from students, parents, other teachers, and principals, and you have a recipe for grouchy teachers! A person takes 8-10 minutes to get back into a creative state following one interruption. Here are some ideas I had to help you minimize or eliminate interruptions:

  • Students – Lay down rules on when a student is allowed to ask questions or contribute to a discussion. Create procedures for the student to follow to request help or use the bathroom. One idea to ask for help is to use a simple paper cup. If the cup is on the student’s desk or computer, he would like a moment of your time at your earliest convenience.
  • Parents – Notify parents when you are available, and distribute your e-mail address. Let them know they are free to e-mail you at any time. Keep the lines of communication open, but tell them that you are not available to take a call during the day. Sign up for a free voicemail account at and give that number out to parents. K7 can e-mail you your voice mail.
  • Teachers – A simple thing such as “If the door is closed, email me” can work wonders.
  • Office – Notify the office that you check e-mail twice a day, and that it is your preferred method of communication. Along the same lines, be sure to check your e-mail twice a day! 🙂 Follow the idea for teachers above, and close the door when possible.
  • General Ideas – The best line of defence is a good offence. Let others know what interruptions are acceptable to you. You have e-mail, use it to eliminate as many interruptions as you can.

The key is to put you in control of your interruptions, and let you take care of them when you have time. Everything above is workable (except for emergencies).

Students and communication

The ‘millennials’ usher in a new era brings up some interesting points in the education of the next generation.

For their grandparents, the bicycle was a symbol of childhood independence.

Today, for many kids and young adults, it is the Internet. “It consumes my life,” said Andrea Thomas, a senior at Miami University. “If I’m not texting my friends over the cell phone, I have my laptop with me and I’m IM’ing them. Or I’m doing research on Google. Honestly, the only reason any one of my college friends use the library is for group meetings.”

Does this just enhance the shorter attention span, or is it the root of a deeper problem? Teachers will need to learn to adapt to this new type of student, and bring in lesson plans that not only strive to be engaging, but also use different types of media. The teacher who complains about how bad their classroom behaves is the teacher that only uses the textbook and worksheets.

Create a graph

Example GraphNeed a way to easily create a graph? The National Center for Education Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Education has put together an easy to use tool to create bar, line, area, pie, and XY graphs. Users can email the graph to themselves, which will also give a link to save the graph for 30 days.