"Intellectual distinction is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for election to a Rhodes Scholarship. Selection committees are charged to seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. The Rhodes Scholarships, in short, are investments in individuals rather than in project proposals..."

Monday, June 6, 2011

Alternatives to Wikipedia

Those that attended our workshop on Technology in the Homeschool know we don't recommend Wikipedia for use by kids.  If you didn't attend, perhaps you are wondering why.  Let me give you a "lite" example. 

Let's say your child hears the word "fetish" and puts it into Wikipedia.  We must first remember that Wikipedia is maintained by the world, so it is therefore, worldly.  I don't know about you, but I don't feel comfortable with my kid reading the world's perception of fetish.  What is more dangerous than that, though, is where the information will lead them.  As you know, you can keep clicking and clicking to delve deeper into subjects as you go along.  Do you really want your child to dig deeper into what that means?  I don't. Period.  The End.  They can do what I did with words like that when I was a kid...sneak the dictionary and look it up themselves.  At least there aren't hyperlinks at the end that SHOW what a fetish might be about and look like.  Yikes!

Now, a parent mentioned to my husband that he uses Wikipedia at the table during dinner discussions.  He had no idea.  That practice would be okay to me, if the parent was driving and sharing the information rather than the child driving the computer and following link after link.  So, when Wikipedia is used by a parent for the purpose of sharing information, that is a different story.  Kids shouldn't be using it by themselves.

So, when asked if I could give alternatives to Wikipedia, I suggested Encyclopedia Britannica Online.   We jokingly suggested we needed a Catholicpedia, but something close does exist.  I decided to look up alternatives. Here they are:
  1. Conservapedia
    Conservapedia is a conservative, Christian-influenced wiki encyclopedia that was created as a response to Wikipedia's worldview. The information found on this site is free of foul language, sexual topics and anything else deemed offensive by the site's editorial staff. If you feel that Wikipedia shows a strong bias toward liberal views, then this site may suit your needs. All Conservapedia users are asked to follow the site's seven Commandments.
  2. Scholarpedia
    Scholarpedia is a site made from the same software as Wikipedia. It almost appears like a mirror site, but there are some significant differences. Scholarpedia is written by scholars. Experts must be either invited or elected before they are assigned certain topics.  The site is still editable by anyone like a wiki but updates must first be approved before they are made final.
  3. Encyclopedia Britannica Online
    This is my "for pay" recommendation.  When it comes to trusted and unbiased facts, this site is your best option. Every volume of the Encyclopedia Brittanica has been transferred to Web format. All updates to the site's entries are made by professionals.  This is not a wiki community. Unfortunately, it's also not free. A subscription fee of $69.95 a year will give you full access and is cheaper and easier to store than a set of book encyclopedias. Major universities will accept the site as a reliable source when citing information in a research paper, something unlike Wikipedia.
  4. MSN Encarta
    MSN Encarta is another online encyclopedia. All entries have been written and fact-checked by professionals. It, too, requires users to pay a subscription fee. For $29.95 a year, you can access MSN Encarta in its entirety, including the site's accompanying thesaurus, world atlas and other research tools for students.
  5. Infoplease
    Infoplease is a free online encyclopedia that is a part of Pearson Education, the largest educational book distributor in the world. All of the information found on the site is gathered from trusted sources. Although entries may be limited in size when compared to Wikipedia, you can be sure that all the information is accurate and incapable of being influenced by outside users. Also, Infoplease has many multimedia features that assist researchers, particularly students who are attending distance education courses.

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