User Generated Content And School

David Kirkpatrick started out his weekly column two weeks ago with this:

At my daughter’s New York City high school her teachers tell her to not to use Wikipedia.

David and I both live in lower manhattan and our kids go to similar, but not the same, schools. I sent David a private email telling him that I have advised my kids to turn a deaf ear to such instructions when it comes to Wikipedia.

I want my kids to include the web in their learning experience. They know that Wikipedia is "peer produced". They know they can’t trust everything they read there. They also know they can’t trust everything they read anywhere, especially so called "trusted sources" like the New York Times.

Jessica is in high school. It’s getting harder and harder for me to help her when she doesn’t understand something in math or science. So we use Wikipedia all the time, to find a formula or an example that will remind me of something I learned 30 years ago and that will help her visualize the issue in her own mind. We also consult her class notes, her textbook, and anything else that might help. But let me tell you, the Internet is the best source there is for a parent trying to help their kid learn something complicated.

This was proven to me again this week. Jessica is studying electromagnetics and superconductivity. She has a presentation on this topic today at school. She built an elecromagnet and wanted to explain how super cooled superconductors behave differently. We didn’t have the right metal or access to liquid nitrogen. But we have YouTube. And that is all it took to amaze her, educate her, and delight her. And me too.

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