Thursday, 16 June 2011

Any Questions? and Te Ara

"Any questions?" That's what teachers innocently ask after giving a 'Mission Impossible' assignment.

But there is a website that actually helps students with assignments - called Any Questions? Librarians are standing by, waiting to help kids find the answers to their homework questions. From 1pm-6pm every weekday, they are online and ready to help. Just log in and ask!

Librarians have always been experts at helping others find information. So it's a no-brainer that they are well-placed to help students with homework via the web. Why didn't we think of this before? I guess because we didn't notice that with the rise of information technology in the last 20 years, the old stereotype of a librarian with her nose in a book no longer applies. Librarians are very geeky these days - online chats, emails, txts, tweets. They are probably more adept at finding information on the internet than the average person.

So, if you are a parent and homework is not your thing, show your child alternatives. Go to Any Questions and ask a librarian for help. Who knows? It might inspire them to become librarians too.

This website is supported by the Ministry of Education, the National Library of NZ and public libraries.

While we're at it - let's talk encyclopedias. When I was a kid, we had the Encyclopedia Brittanica in our house. I poured over these heavy volumes often though they were well above my vocabulary level which made them very user-unfriendly. Now, of course with global information being created so quickly, printed encyclopedias are nearly obsolete.

But the Digital Age is keeping encyclopedias alive. The completely digital New Zealand encyclopedia is called Te Ara. It incorporates words, sounds, and video for a much fuller experience of discovering the world around us.

This is yet another reliable tool that school kids should be familiar with. I've especially liked the coverage of the Canterbury quakes. I've learned about the now evident Port Hills fault (Feb and Jun quakes) which was jolted into action by the previously hidden Greendale fault (Sep 2010 quake), and there is a map that shows the extent of aftershocks in the Lyttelton/Christchurch area.

The other neat thing about this encyclopedia is that it is interactive. If you want to leave a comment, you can. If you want to upload your own photos to their Flickr site, you can.

It even gives you the correct way to reference a page for your written assignments.

This website is offered through the Ministry of Culture and Heritage so the information in it is reliable.

So there it is, two tools that rural kids should take full advantage of in their school and individual studies.

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