Wikipedia – Yes or No?

See this and more information about Wikipedia at our BGS Online Reference Centre LibGuide.

There is a difference of opinion amongst educators these days as to whether or not Wikipedia is a valid source of information for student research. Some argue that lots of people contributing to the sum of what is known and understood about a topic makes it more valid.  It is also a useful source of information for breaking news stories (as the image here indicates).  However, the constantly changing nature of Wikipedia – one of its strengths – is also a weakness when it comes to research, as students may not realise at which point in time the information presented is accurate and reliable.

As teacher librarians, we advise students to refer to Wikipedia, if they wish to, for a general overview of a topic, but to actually source their information from other more reliable sources – such as our academic databases and online encyclopedia.

Many students still seem to think that Wikipedia is a reliable and credible source of information – despite the fact that they have probably added information to it themselves!  Below are some thought-provoking reasons from Mark Moran of findingDulcinea as to why they should not use Wikipedia for their assignments.

10 good reasons why you should never trust Wikipedia as an accurate source of information:

10. You must never fully rely on any one source for important information

9. You especially can’t rely on something when you don’t even know who wrote it

8.  The contributor with an agenda often prevails

7. Individuals with agendas sometimes have significant editing authority

6. Sometimes “vandals” create malicious entries that go uncorrected for month

5. There is little diversity among editors

4. The number of active Wikipedia editors has flat-lined

3. It has become harder for casual participants to contribute

2. Accurate contributors can be silenced

And the number one reason:

1. It says so on Wikipedia

“Wikipedia says, “We do not expect you to trust us.” It adds that it is “not a primary source” and that “because some articles may contain errors,” you should “not use Wikipedia to make critical decisions.”

Furthermore, Wikipedia notes in its “About” section, “Users should be aware that not all articles are of encyclopedic quality from the start: they may contain false or debatable information.”

Read more details about each of these reasons, including good examples, at:



Smilebox is basically a free scrapbooking website where you can upload up to 30 photos at a time and create an enormous array of different slideshows. You can also create scrapbooks, greeting cards, photo albums and collages.  You can make as many slideshows as you’d like and then embed the widget – which opens up into a full-size slideshow – into your Facebook page, webpage or blog. In addition to images, you can also add video, words and music.

This is the best background for a slideshow related to books and reading, but there are plenty of others to chosse from.  See also the slideshow I created for our Middle School Book Week.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Justin D'Ath Extreme Adv
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Create a free slideshow design

Deep Web vs Surface Web

Invisible Web Deep Web is Huge

Images from Juanico Environmental Consultants Ltd and US Dept of Energy

Did you know that while we are suffering from a glut of information -‘infobesity’ – with a typical search in Google yeilding thousands or millions of results, Google only actually searches one fifth of the available information on the internet?

This is called the surface web, and the most commonly used search engines trawl this area for information. The remaining four-fifths or 80% of the web is referred to as the deep web, the hidden web or the invisible web. It is made up of information locked away in password-protected databases, white papers, and grey literature.

According to the Australian Law Postgraduate Network,  “The term grey literature refers to research that is either unpublished or has been published in non-commercial form. Examples of grey literature include:

  • government reports
  • policy statements and issues papers
  • conference proceedings
  • research reports
  • market reports
  • working papers.

Professional associations, academics, pressure groups and research institutes are only some of the sources of grey literature. Much grey literature is of high quality, although grey literature has generally not passed through the process of peer review….   Grey literature is often the best source of up-to-date research in specific areas. Another benefit of grey literature is that it is often written in an accessible style, providing a clear, concise introduction to difficult or complex topics.”

White papers, on the other hand, are “detailed, sometimes highly researched, documents intended to offer a much fuller picture of the capabilities of a product or company. Unlike an advertisement or press release, white papers are normally not promotional (though certainly some are) but rather, through strong writing and hopefully good research, these documents attempt to establish a level of credibility for a company and its products or services. Since many white papers are grounded in research these often contain good information, especially in terms of results of customer surveys, sales trends, and industry forecasts.” (

The last major part of the deep web, and the one most likely to impact on school students, is information contained in databases, both free and subscription.  One of the best reasons to promote these databases to your students (generally the content in these is made up of journal articles, research papers, theses, multimedia and news archives) is because a person has checked these sites for reliability and included them in the database – as opposed to a robotic search engine which cannot discern if a site is relevant or not. To see if there is a free database available on a particular subject, type it and the word ‘database’ into Google. If there is one, Google will usually find it.

As well as looking for databases, there are many specialised search engines or websites to help you access the deep web. For academic research, Infomine from the University of California and ipl2 are two of the better web sites you can use, but also try these suggestions below:

Magazine & Journal Databases
This page is a guide to journal databases which are free on the web. Many subscription-only databases are also available through libraries, so contact your local library for details.

Complete Planet
Discover over 70,000+ searchable databases and specialty search engines.
A comprehensive listing of dynamic searchable databases. Find databases with highly relevant documents that cannot be crawled or indexed by surface web search engines.

Turbo 10
Search the Deep Net : Turbo 10 sends your query to over 800 specialist search engines.

Search for digital resources held across hundreds of university repositories.

Tools to Help You Use the Hidden Web

Information from The Hidden Web Workshop

Invisible Web Research Tools

For more interesting reading see Michael Bergman’s article,  The Deep Web: Surfacing Hidden Value and Invisible Web: What is it, how to find it, and its inherent ambiguity from UC Berkeley.

FreeRice and Helpuu


If you are looking for something useful as well as altruistic for your students to do, send them to test their knowledge at a site called FreeRice.   At this website, they can select from a variety of subject areas, then answer multiple choice questions to improve their knowledge. For every answer they get right, 10 grains of rice are donated to help alleviate world hunger (it was origianlly 20 grains – now it is 10). Advertising on the site covers the cost of the rice, which is mostly purchased in the developing countries to reduce costs, and boost farmers’ incomes.

According to (a website which alerts you to hoaxes and scams), this site really does donate rice to the United Nations World Food Program, and was was initiated by a 49 year old American computer programmer, John Breen. He also created a rather confronting site called where you can see the names and images of people who have died during the last hour from hunger and poverty.

On the day that FreeRice was first set up in October 2007, 860 grains of rice were donated. This amount has since grown over the last 2 1/2 years to a total in January 2010 of  nearly 75 billion grains of rice.  Visit Wikipedia to see monthly totals of rice donated

According to the WFP site, “the first people to benefit from  FreeRice were 20,000 Myanmar refugees sheltering in Bangladesh. Since then pregnant women in Cambodia, shool kids in Uganda and hungry people across the globe recieve food thanks to the award-winning site. Find out more about where we deliver rice.”

Find  WFP on Facebook, Twitter (@wfp) and on YouTube.

On a similar theme is a search engine called Helpuu, which is powered by Google, but which donates money to charities every time someone uses it. Again, the money raised comes from advertising on the site, and from shop sales.

From their website: “Every person that sets their homepage as Helpuu during the course of a month, is equivalent to feeding a starving child for about 3 weeks. If only 5% of the US population were to use Helpuu, 1,000,000 hungry kids could be fed every single day.”

Get your students involved, and make a difference!

Alternatives to PowerPoint

Online Presentations

Image from

If you are looking for something visual, yet easy and inexpensive to spice up your lessons a bit more, check out some of these links put together by Dr Al Mizell with Dr Marsha Burmeister, and presented at NECC in San Antonio:

Windows Movie Maker

Free Downloads:
PC World Download SiteMicrosoft’s site: Windows Movie Maker 2.1c|net
Creativity Fun Pack for Windows Movie Maker
About Windows Movie Maker 6 in the new Windows Vista for 2007
Windows Movie Maker “How To Do It Center
Getting Started with Windows Movie Maker
Step-By-Step Manual (Word Document — save and then open)
WindowsMovieMakers.Net tips, tutorials, forums & more
Atomic Learning free tutorial series
Mighty Coach Movie Maker 2 Tips & Tricks
Wikipedia‘s article about Windows Movie Maker
File Formats supported by Windows Movie Maker in Windows XP
Using Windows Movie Maker to make your “YouTube” Video — a tutorial video (high speed connection required)
In the Classroom:
Movie Making for Kids
Kids with Cameras
Digital Kids Club
Digital Video Tips & Techniques for the Classroom (A.Bell)

Windows Photo Story 3

Free download from Microsoft
Information about Photo Story 3
Putting Photo Story 3 Stories on DVD
Beginner’s Guide to Photo Story 3

3-D Album

Software for sale site with product list
Article & instructions for using this program
3D Picture Pro 3.25 free trial to download
My Pictures 3D Album — FREE download


About this software: Create highly polished home movies with photos
Free trial download of full version for 15 days
About the technology – Wikipedia entry

Visual Communicator

Visual Communicator by Serious Magic (An Adobe Company)
Trial version download
Article about using Visual Communicator
Tutorials on all aspects of using this product
Great tutorial developed by University of Central Florida (PDF)

Other Resources

Free Audio Clips from
Find Sounds: Search the Web for sounds

Information from

Mashable have also put together a list of 13 alternatives to PPT, including Zoho Show 2.0,…

Zoho Show 2.0

and of course there is Prezi

Prezi Logo

Whales vs Humans

This rather confronting video was directed by Heath Ledger before his death, and shows what it would be like for us if we were the whales and whales were the hunters.  You could use this as an introduction to a Geography unit (for older students) on whaling or endangered animals, and contrast it to what humans do to pilot whales:

Slaughter of Calderon Dolphins in Denmark

While these images are confronting as well, the people in Denmark use the pilot whales as a source of food and have for centuries. Would images of a meatworks look any better if we could see what happens there?

Modest Mouse – King Rat

Using Web 2.0 to Change the World

While a lot of negative things have been said about the ways in which teenagers behave on the internet, there are also children and teenagers out there who are comitted to making a difference in other people’s lives, and who have been able to affect a far wider audience because of the internet.  Below are 3 examples that I’ve heard about recently: Ryan Hreljac, Laura Stockman and Chris Raine.

Ryan & Friend Ryan's Well Map

Ryan’s Well Foundation

At 6 years of age, Ryan saved $70 for a well in Uganda, and has gone on to inspire others to become involved as well by using the power of the internet to attrsct, share and globally motivate people.

In 1998, when Ryan was in grade one he learned from his teacher, Mrs Prest that people were dying because they didn’t have clean water to drink. He decided that raising money for people who didn’t have clean water would be a good thing. He worked for four months in order to earn his first $70. Ryan’s first well was built in 1999 when Ryan was seven years-old at a school in a Ugandan village.

Ryan’s determination grew from the $70 collected by doing simple household chores to a Foundation that today has contributed a total of 518 water and sanitation projects in 16 countries bringing clean water and sanitation services to over 640,000 people. The Foundation has raised millions of dollars.

25 Days to make a Difference

25 Days to Make a Difference

When 10 year old Laura’s grandfather died, she decided to do 25 acts of kindness in his memory. She set up a blog, saved $25 of her  pocket money and offered this as a prize for the best act of kindness by another child. In December 2008 she and her sister Nina again challenged people to help, and said that they would help the winner’s chosen charity for the entire month of January 2009. At the same time they wrote about what was happening on Twitter –

Albert Stockman was my grandpa. He loved helping other people, and he believed that everybody could make the world a better place, not just by doing big things, but by doing small things too… In December of 2007, I decided that the best way to remember my grandpa during the holiday season would be by living my life like he did, by making a difference and being a leader. I decided to honor my grandfather’s memory by trying to make a difference every day for twenty five days. I wanted to be able to do little things, like kids my age typically do, instead of HUGE things that are sometimes hard for kids like me. I decided to write about my adventures here, and I also created a challenge.

I challenged everyone who read my blog to TRY to do something every single day during the holiday season to make a SMALL difference in his or her world.

With 76,640 hits to date, Laura’s project inspired children and adults aliike to make the world a better place. These are a couple of comments that others wrote on her blog:

i love the idea of this website .i think it really incorriges people to do something to help other people and helps the world.i think everybody should make a difference ,not just in December in any day
of the year !!!!! (hannah)

Thanks not only for creating the project, but for deciding to share it with the world via a blog. I’m sure you’ll reach more people than you’ll ever know!

Hello Sunday Morning

Hello Sunday Morning

I first heard about Chris Raine when he was interviewed on the radio about his blog Hello Sunday Morning. He is “passionate about using mass communication for good” and set up his blog and a twitter account to share his thoughts on what is was like, as a young person, to give up alcohol for a whole year. He says:

“I have committed to not drinking for a year and doing observational & psychological research into youth behaviour to find a viable alternative to problematic youth drinking. This project is for young people who believe that there is a better way. It is about creating positive change to the aspects of our youth culture for future generations. ” Read more about him and his project here.

From the website:

“On January 1st 2009 Chris Raine drank what would be his last drink for one whole year.

The reason why this was his last, was due to a commitment he made to spend one year researching and experimenting as to what exactly it would take for a young person to change their drinking behaviours. He documented that process on his blog on

What the HSM research team found in that year was just how entrenched alcohol is in a young person’s life and how just little support there is out there for those that wish to change that.

Hello Sunday Morning has now become an opportunity for young people to get the support they need to shift their personal belief systems around alcohol and in doing so, shift those of the people that surround them.

This isn’t a project that is against alcohol or for lifelong abstinence. We believe alcohol has a place in our lives and in Australian society. Hello Sunday Morning is simply a project that is about supporting young people that believe in changing their own belief systems around alcohol.”  (

Working Together

If you would like to be involved in a project to help others and make a difference in someone else’s lfe, then join this ning created by Jenny Luca

“Working Together 2 Make a Difference is a community for educators, parents, and students who are involved in volunteerism and service learning. Our goal is to create and nurture connections that will provide all of us inspiration and support as we strive to give back to our local and global communities”



This wiki is the brainchild of educators on Conversations, a webcast on Please feel free to add ideas, resources, connections that can be used by students to help connect with and support Haiti.

The internet can be a powerful tool for changing people’s lives for good. Have you heard of any other examples where children and teenagers have made s positive difference using Web 2.0?

Did You Know 4.0

Many of you will be familiar with the video Did You Know 3.0, (see below) watched by millions of people since it was released in October 2008. This video was a remake of the original “Shift Happens” videos (see the Shift Happens wiki)



How will we be reaching students in 2020?

The new Did You Know 4.0 video was created in September 2009, and predicts that the next big wave of advertising and social networking will be via mobile phones. 

Will schools be ready for this challenge when we ban phones in classrooms today? Sometimes not just in the classroom, but students are banned from bringing them to school at all.  Over the next few years we will need to get our heads around another big paradigm shift in education – and this while we are still struggling with elearning via one-to-one laptop programs.

However, doesn’t this create an ideal way for Teacher Librarians to lead the way with researching how mobile phones can be used in the classroom, and implementing some strategies themselves? For example, book reservations and RSS feeds on new items via text messaging, chapters of novels sent out via SMS (copyright free books), useful websites added to the Library webpages and sent to teachers and students via SMS etc.  Others are already exploring the potential – author Marieke Hardy earlier this year was commissioned by The Age newspaper to write a novel specifically for mobile phones: The Age Text Tales with Marieke Hardy.

We need to think carefully about Alvin Toffler’s comment:  “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”  Teacher Librarians must make sure that they are not only literate, but also leaders.

Have a look at  10 Ideas for Engaging Learners with Cell Phones, Even in Districts that Ban Them by Lisa Neilsen, also Mobile Phones, Mobile Minds: “a look at the world of young people with mobile phones, and the impact on schools and education”

Owning a mobile is becoming an indispensable element of young people’s lives, for both teenagers and increasingly primary age children, all around the world.

Are mobile phones a force for good, or an example of technology gone awry? Is it sensible to ban their use in schools or should this device be given a place in lessons and learning?” (

Great Wikis for Teacher Librarians

I am always excited when I come across collectons of incredibly useful links, especially when many of those have been tried and tested by other teachers, TLs and educators. I also feel humbled by the generosity of those who create and share their knowledge so freely with others.

Below are some great wikis that I’ve discovered, with a wealth of information that you could lose yourself in for hours – or days if you’re lucky enough to have the time!! You could even sign up to some of these wikis and add extra websites that you’ve discovered – after all, that’s why these sites have been created as wikis, rather than websites.

Joyce Valenza –  Copyright Friendly Images & Sounds Wiki

Joyce Valenza – Library Learning Tools Smackdown

Joyce Valenza – TeacherLibrarian Wiki

Joyce Valenza – School Library Websites

Joyce Valenza –  AASL Conference Wiki

Joyce Valenza – Web 2.0 Meets Standards for 21st Century Learners

Joyce Valenza –  Information Fluency Wiki

Joyce Valenza –  New Tools Workshop Wiki

Donna Baumbach – WebTools4u2Use Wiki

Buffy Hamilton – Cool Web 2.0 Tools for Librarians

Buffy Hamilton – YA Lit 2.0 Wiki

Anita Beaman & Amy Oberts – Reading 2.0 Wiki

Nancy Pearl – Book Lust Wiki

ISTE – Digital Citizenship Wiki

Camilla Elliott – Personal Learning Network Wiki

Collette Cassinelli – VoiceThread 4 Education Wiki

Ransomtech –  Digital Footprint

Cool Tools for Schools Wiki

Charles Leadbeatter says in his YouTube video We Think that “mass innovation comes from communities – it’s like a bird’s nest where everyone leaves their piece….In the past you were what you owned, now you are what you share.”

That’s the beauty of Web 2.0 – everyone sharing, everyone collaborating and working together to create knowledge communities.

Science Videos


If you’re looking for science videos for teachers or students at your school, you could try Online School’s 100 Coolest Science Videos on YouTube, a list which covers Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Astronomy,Psychology, Genetics, Geology and Experiments. While this is only one person’s interpretation of what is a ‘cool’ video, it is a starting place.

The ABC website and Steve Spangler’s Science website both have a series of science videos from TV programs (not categorised), Dagger Biology has a series of animations to illustrate biochemical concepts, and Science Video Resources is a science teacher’s blog with links to excellent videos. also has a Science video collection under the topics of:

  • Chemical and material behaviour >
  • Energy, electricity and forces >
  • Environment, Earth and the universe >
  • Forces and motion >
  • Organisms, behaviour and health >
  • Evolution >
  • How science works >
  • also has a collection of Science videos, but it’s harder to find specific videos here as they are only categorised under the topic of ‘Science’.

    If you need more academic science videos for senior teachers and students, try DNATube, a scientific video site with the aim of making complex scientific concepts easier to understand.  According to the site editor  “As graduate students, we know that it is difficult to understand biological mechanisms by reading plain text, and we know that a picture says more than a thousand words. We believe the video-based explanations of biological concepts will remove the barriers in front of those desiring to enhance their scientific knowledge” (DNATube)  To find the best quality videos, you will need to check first, as the site has a mixture of high quality and poorer quality videos (see YouTube for the TestTube Crowd) Categories with featured videos include: Experiments, Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Genetics, Microbiology, Neuroscience, Organic, Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry, Astrophysics, Geophysics and Archaeology, in addition to lectures, seminars and tutorials.

    If you want to get really academic, you can try the YouTube EDU Science video site, which is a compilation of science videos from different universities (see my post from April this year)

    ScienceHack Logo

    One of the best sites I’ve found for finding science videos is a search engine called ScienceHack. The website claims that “every science video on ScienceHack is screened by a scientist to verify its accuracy and quality”, so it would seem that this should be a good search engine to use.  A tag cloud lists possible categories to select from, while under each category each of the different titles is listed. I did notice that some of the videos have been removed, so once again, check first before recommending a title to your students.