Tag: blogs

Banning Wikipedia (for rmstraus)

Yesterday, Ken Jennings had an blog post about how schools are starting to ban wikipedia use.

He makes some good points. I agree with them and reiterate them here with some of my own thoughts added.

Ken points out that this is really nothing new. Teachers have been telling students not to use the encyclopedia as a source since the dawn of time. But what are we really teaching students by “banning” the use of wikipedia or an encyclopedia? It seems to me that we should be teaching students the different functions between first and secondary sources. Encyclopedia have value. They summarize vasts amounts of information. They provide good, general introductions to subjects. And as Ken points out, a encyclopedia like wikipedia can provide up-to-date information on subjects, or provide good general introductions to subjects that are not normally covered by other sources.

Banning wikipedia implies that there is no value to it. It is better to teach the value of sources. Why are primary sources the best? What purpose do they serve? I would argue further that with the budget cuts that school and public libraries face, it is getting more difficult for high school students to find primary sources in their libraries. When I was in high school in Ms. Thatcher’s chemistry class, I grew very interested in chemistry, in particular, how quantum mechanics relates to chemistry (which wasn’t well explained in our class). I discovered that the definitive book on the subject was written by Linus Pauling. The book, The Nature of the Chemical Bond was not available in the high school library. Nor was it available in my public library. So I settled on various encyclopedia articles on the subject. Now, granted, I wasn’t writing a paper or citing sources, but even if I was, I would not have been able to get to the primary source given the resources available to me at the time. The encyclopedia provided a general overview, while citing primary material (and one of the first books cited, was Pauling’s book).

Teach kids to make good decisions about their research and they will make the best use of all of the tools available to them. There will always be kids that are just plain lazy. But I don’t think banning a source of information to prevent the lazy kids from using it does anyone any good. (You might as well ban the whole Internet, Cliffs Notes, any every other possible summary of information on a given subject.)

Yes, updates are coming!

I’ve been inundated with inquiries as to why I haven’t kept the blog up-to-date over the weekend. My only excuse is that it has been an extremely fun weekend, one that I got to spend time with good friends and when it comes to spending time with good friends, and keep the blog up-to-date, spending time with good friends always wins–barely.

Until I get the updates posted, you can get read this precis, courtesy of strausmouse.

UPDATE: I have added entries for Saturday and Sunday, so go back and look at them. Still haven’t gotten to Monday but I’ve run out of time for now.

It’s Friday!

I was in bed at 6:45 PM last night. I watched a few episodes of M*A*S*H and then was out cold. I guess I’d been pretty tired. Up at 5:30 this morning so I got a decent night’s sleep.

It’s been a busy day here. But for the 5th day in a row, I did make it to the gym and got in a good arms and shoulders workout. My legs are still pretty sore from Wednesday’s workout, but I expect today to be the last day for that.

We’re trying to get together a small happy hour here after work. Right now, most people are “maybes” but one or two are willing to venture over to Pentagon Row after work is over.

I really did manage to get a fair amount of technical work done this morning. Then there were some meetings that I could have done without, but I got through them.

I realize all of this stuff is mundane (kruppenheimer has made me very sensitive to this), but it is as much for me as it is for anyone else who chooses to read it. I’m trying to think of ways to identify the boring stuff so that people can skip it. I’m thinking about stealing the idea Will Durant used in The Story of Civilization where the more detailed, technical passages were in a smaller font. His contention was the average reader could skips those parts without missing much enjoyment. They were more for scholars. Maybe I’ll do something like that, but you’d still be depending on my judgment.

Homer to Homer Simpson

Each issue of mental_floss magazine has a column written by Ken Jennings called “Six Degrees of Ken Jennings”. The idea is that he has to relate two things or ideas in six hops. How he gets there can be amusing and entertaining, and is always packed with trivia.

Today, on his blog, Ken gives us a previews of his upcoming column, and this time he’s going from Homer to Homer Simpson. (And the one really interesting thing I learned was that Conan O’Brien once wrote a Simpson’s episode!)

Welcome to the blogging ranks, Vicky and Norm

Those of you who read this regularly will recognize vickyandnorm as fairly regular commenters. Feeling left out of the blogsphere, they have decided to start a blog of their own. Because they are both (a) more witty and (b) more terse than I am, you can be sure that their blog will be funnier and shorter than mine. They are good people, despite the fact that Vicky is a Mets fan, and you can be sure their blog will be entertaining. Check it out, when you’ve got a moment.