Monday, May 14, 2007

The Encyclopedia of Life - Wiki

The Encyclopedia of Life just crossed my desk and reminds me of how incredibly powerful the web has become as an information resource.

The Press Release page has some great media elements and information on the project.

From the press release:
WASHINGTON (May 9, 2007) – Many of the world’s leading scientific institutions today announced the launch of the Encyclopedia of Life, an unprecedented global effort to document all 1.8 million named species of animals, plants, and other forms of life on Earth. For the first time in the history of the planet, scientists, students, and citizens will have multi-media access to all known living species, even those that have just been discovered.

Over the next 10 years, the Encyclopedia of Life will create Internet pages for all 1.8 million species currently named. It will expedite the classification of the millions of species yet to be discovered and catalogued as well. The pages, housed at, will provide written information and, when available, photographs, video, sound, location maps, and other multimedia information on each species. Built on the scientific integrity of thousands of experts around the globe, the Encyclopedia will be a moderated wiki-style environment, freely available to all users everywhere.
So, we start with all of the species of the world and then perhaps we move on to Geology? All I know is that at some point ALL of the possible information required for K-12 will be available via the the net. So...then what? How are the educators of the old-school going to handle that?

This truly makes me wonder if David Williamson Shaffer is right?

Shaffer, D. W. (2004). Pedagogical praxis: The professions as models for post-industrial education. Teachers College Record, 106(7), 1401-1421.

Or how our children need to learn my "doing" and "becoming" from his book How computer games help children learn.

I'm not sure we can turn the ship that quickly, but from what I've seen parents are taking their kids off the ship. Virtual schools are growing like crazy, and home schooling is not so scary any more. School used to be a resource for learning. But today when your computer provides infinitely more learning possibilities than any brick and mortar can provide it makes me wonder why more aren't jumping off the ship.


Clive Shepherd said...

Home schooling over the Internet has its attractions but I wouldn't like to see it completely take over from face-to-face. Children learn very little at school in terms of knowledge, given the time that they spend there. On the other hand, they learn a great deal about the disciplines of life that they will later need to employ, not least how to get on with authority figures and peers (and how to get up in the morning). There's also the not insignificant issue of who looks after the kids when the parents are at work!

Brent Schlenker said...

Hi Clive!
You are quite right. I think the pendulum is swinging too heavily towards jumping the school system ship...and in some cases I do agree.
However, I too believe the IDEAL solution is something in the middle. The kids need to socialize and learn life lessons without mommy and daddy.
However the schooling system needs to change drastically and they just aren't doing it. So, I think there are alternatives filling the gap. I know many homeschooling systems that work around parents schedules and coop the social activities and "watching" the kids while parents are at work. Its just a different way of juggling the hours of the day. Its certainly not a 9 to 5 world any more.

r_letterman said...

Home schooling requires more than just having an internet connection. My wife works as a tutor, and finds that the students who've been home-schooled are consistently several years behind the other students in reading and math proficiency.

Brent Schlenker said...

So...what does behind every other student actually mean? Really? I have trouble with my daughter's 4th grade math...that puts me "several years behind" as I see it.

The problem is that by comparing every individual kid to every other individual kid you are STILL living the industrial revolutions idea of life and learning.

Before education became a machine I'd bet there we plenty of brilliant, happy, successful people that didn't read well and hated math.

As a father it makes me sad to hear that kids are being told they're "behind the other students".