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Friday, April 22, 2016

I must know all the things!

I must know all the things! 

I need to know how my car works so when it makes a noise I can figure out if I should be concerned or not. I need to know about the furry creature that seems to have taken up residence in my backyard so I know if I can shoot it or not. I need to know about the election process because there are some people I REALLY don't want to be president. I need to know why we have daylight savings time even though I think it's the stupidest thing in the world. I need to know how my body works, how we process our food, and who the monarch of England was before Queen Elizabeth (happy birthday by the way).

Basically I need to know all the things.

But it's not that I need to know them all right now and be able to recall them at a moments notice. What I really need to be able to do is know where to find the information (making sure that it is accurate and not a load of crock).

That's where encyclopedias come in handy. Encyclopedias have vast wells of knowledge presented in a straight forward manner. It can tell you the facts about any person, place, or thing that you want to know about.

My family was lucky enough to own a set of encyclopedias that sat right on top of our entertainment center. Growing up on a farm without cable, the internet, or air conditioning, there were hot summer days where you didn't want to move but you needed something to do. I often found myself grabbing a random volume of that encyclopedia and flipping through it seeing what new, weird things I could learn about. Animals were always a favorite, but people and places where fun to look at too. I wanted to fill my mind with bits and pieces of the world that I was going to grow up and go into.

Now with all the distractions of modern electronics and media, it's harder for kids to understand that having quality information, like what you find in an encyclopedia, is important.

Soap box alert! -- My students always want to go to Wikipedia for their research projects. They think because it has the suffix "pedia" that it is just as good if not better than any other encyclopedia. However, I disagree with them to a point. I love Wikipedia .... for personal use. It's great to be able to look up information about a band you heard off, get recaps of TV shows you missed, or get quick facts about a place you are visiting when it doesn't really matter if the informational is factual or not. If you look at Wikipedia many of the facts are even correctly cited, leading to original source material. BUT, and here's where the problem lies, no one ever cares enough or wants to spend enough time checking those when they are looking for information. All we want is the quick fact, no matter if it is right or wrong. Well Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, any time, so the facts you're going to get are a gamble. I tell my students that because you'll never know if it is a true day or a lie day, Wikipedia just doesn't work as an academic source.

HOWEVER, we do have access to a great online encyclopedia that is fact checked and edited by professional staff. The Encyclopedia Britannica is available for free to all residents of Wisconsin through Badgerlink so we can learn about the world around us from a credible source. Before Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Britannica was the name in encyclopedia land.

So here's the bottom line, and I applaud you for actually reading this whole thing - we want to know things. We are a curious species. But we need to be well informed individuals. Encyclopedias are one of the easiest and quickest ways to get informed about a topic so you can KNOW ALL THE THINGS!

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