To Use or Not to Use Wikipedia that is the Question

How can Wikipedia be credible and reliable when anyone can edit? Should we point students to it as a reference source? In a recent LM_Net discussion, a member suggested that Wikipedia could be used in the context of information literacy. He provided an excellent example of how to use it with students to teach them to critically look at the encyclopedia articles, make editing recommendations, and present them to the editorial staff. In other words, let students discover whether or not the articles are credible and reliable by having them look at other sources and verify the information.

Almanacs Encyclopedias
Calendars and Time Government
Conversion Programs Historical Documents
Dictionaries, Thesauri, & Quotations Maps
Directories Statistics

Handy Reference Tools

Build an Online reference collection for finding quick facts. Create your resources so they are geared toward teaching or meeting information literacy standards. Some sites offer free access to their databases while others such as encyclopedia publishers charge subscription fees. Many schools are forming consortiums to defray the costs for these pay as you go services. An excellent example is InfOhio. This core collection of electronic resources, including titles such as Britannica Online, EBSCO Host, Newsbank, Sirs Discoverer, and more is free to all of Ohio's K-12 students and teachers.

Almanacs

CIA World Factbook

The World Fact Book, published annually by the Central Intelligence Agency, provides information about countries around the world, including population, maps, flags, and other statistical data. The section on Chiefs of State and Cabinet Members of Foreign Governments is updated on a weekly basis. In addition, you can download The World Fact Book to your personal computer for free.

Fact Monster

Fact Monster provides loads of features targeted to students. Students will find the on-line dictionary, encyclopedia, maps, and homework center easy to use. The print and citation page tools make it easy to print and cite an article. Daily offerings include, today in history, today’s birthday, word quiz, spelling bee, and in the news. There is also a weekly poll on a relevant topic of interest to kids. Fact Monster will be a popular destination for students.

Encyclopedias

Britannica Online

Preview articles, browse topics, and review timelines from the free areas of the Encyclopedia Britannica. One nice feature listed at the end of the article is the citation in MLA, APA, and Britannica Style formats. On the front page of the online school edition site is a biography of the day, this day in history, and Britannica highlights. See the Website for pricing information.

Columbia Encyclopedia

The Columbia Encyclopedia originated in the 1920s and was large one volume reference guide for home use. Over 51,000 concise articles are included from the sixth edition of the Columbia Encyclopedia published in 2001 and updated in November 2004. Searching the encyclopedia can be accomplished by using full text or entry words or you can browse and locate information by perusing different categories, including a special section of biographies.

Encarta

Encarta is divided into a variety of sections. Most useful to K-12 students will be the encyclopedia, dictionary, atlas, and homework help. The basic encyclopedia provides 4,500 articles from aardvark to Zambia with embedded links to related information. You can search by key word or browse by categories and subcategories. In the dictionary section, you can find the definition of a word and listen to its pronunciation. Click on the atlas tab and locate a place on the map. Premium features, including most of the Homework Help area are available through subscription. Educational institutions can purchase an academic site license. See the Website for details.

Encyclopedia.Com

Encyclopedia.Com has over 17,000 short entries from the Concise Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia with premium services available for a fee.

Encyclopedia Mythica

This is an encyclopedia on mythology, folklore, legends, and more. It contains over 5100 definitions of gods and goddesses, supernatural beings and legendary creatures and monsters from all over the world.

World Book Encyclopedia

World Book is subscription only. There are no freebies on the site. Once you subscribe, you have access to the articles from the 22-volume print set, plus up-to-date information. In addition, there are more than 9,500 pictures and maps, 115 videos and animations, 9,300 sounds, 129 panoramic 360° views, and more than 100 simulated historic Web sites. Visit the Website for pricing information.

Calendars and Time

Date and Time Gateway

Want to know the time in Tokyo, Japan? Enter the Date and Time Gateway for the answer.

Local Times Around the World

This guide attempts to list all of the world's countries, and many of its islands, with a pointer to the local time in the region.

Space Calendar (JPL)

Captivated by the final frontier? The Space Calendar from the Jet Propulsion Lab is a treasure trove of information, pictures, and sounds on space-related activities and anniversaries for the upcoming year.

Conversion Programs, Weights and Measures

FX Converter
http://www.oanda.com/convert/classic

View up to date exchange rates for 164 currencies. The resulting information includes the median, minimum, and maximum rates with a link to the previous day.

MegaConverter

How much do you weigh on Mars? How many square feet make up an acre? How many days are left in the year? This mega tool converts and calculates weights, measures, and units. The site also has a scientific calculator that performs practically any common function and many uncommon functions. Conversions are a snap with an easy to use interactive dial.

Dictionaries, Thesauri, and Quotations

Alpha Dictionary Language Directory

Are your students learning a foreign language, getting ready for a trip abroad, or studying the culture of a country? This directory is a one-stop link of lexicon lists and dictionaries. Most of these sources translate words to or from English.

ARTFL Project: ROGET's Thesaurus Search Form

Search the headwords or full text of Roget's Thesaurus, 1911, version 1.02 (supplemented: July 1991) released to the public domain by MICRA, Inc. and the Gutenberg Project.


Bartleby

Begin with the quote of the day. Then, search over 87,000 quotations from a variety of both classic and contemporary sources. In addition to quotations, you will be pleasantly surprised to discover the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language with audio pronunciations plus the 1922 and 1995 editions of Roget’s Thesaurus.

Internet Picture Dictionary

The Internet Picture Dictionary is a completely free, online multilingual picture dictionary designed especially for ESL students and beginning English, French, German, Spanish and Italian language learners of all ages.

A Maths Dictionary for Kids

An Australian primary teacher needed a reference resource for her students. In her quest to meet that need, she learned Flash and created a dictionary that is animated, interactive, and allows students to practice. Click on "billion" and discover that you have 10 billion brain cells working for you right now. Roll your mouse over the world time zone chart and you instantly know the time for that part of the world. Over 500 terms are explained in simple language. Every math teacher should bookmark this Web site.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus

Older students who need to look-up words or find synonyms online can visit the Merriam –Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus site. It offers a choice between searching the dictionary or thesaurus. Younger kids can check out the student dictionary at the Word Center, build their own dictionary, or create a poem. Students using the Firefox browser can add a side bar, lookup button, or search plug-ins.

yourDictionary

Features include definitions, pronunciations, translations, word of the day, and activities for increasing vocabulary. There is a specialty glossary with over fifty categories of subjects. Translate foreign languages or visit the multilingual library. Enter the game room and find crossword puzzles, encryptions, fill-in puzzles, word jingles, and semantic scramblers. Write you name in fourteen different languages. The educational services section offers essays from leading linguists about word histories. This is and excellent reference site to add to your bookmarks.

Directories

Internet 800 Directory

Search for 800 and 888 numbers throughout the country.

U.S. Postal Service Zip Codes

Look-up zip+4 code information.

Government

50 States of the United States

Brief information about each state.

All of the Washington D.C. Embassies

Street address, phone and fax numbers are provided along with any Web links.

FirstGov

FirstGov.gov, the official U.S. gateway to all government information, is the catalyst for a growing electronic government. Our work transcends the traditional boundaries of government and our vision is global - connecting the world to all U.S. government information and services.

Flags of All Countries

This site has been on the Web for several years and offers images of country flags.

Thomas Legislative Information on the Internet

Follow the legislative process of current bills in Congress, learn about how a bill becomes a law, or find information about government.

Rulers

This site contains lists of heads of state and heads of government (and, in certain cases, de facto leaders who don't occupy either of those formal positions) of all countries and territories, usually going back to at least 1900.

United Nations

Information about the United Nations and its programs.

U.S. House of Representatives

Tour the U.S. House of Representatives and find information about current members.

U.S. Senate

Tour the U.S. Senate and find information about current members.

White House

On the White House web server, you can listen to messages from the President and Vice-President, learn about the First Family, leave a message for the White House, and link to other government servers.

Historical Documents

American Memory

The Library of Congress has prepared an exhibit with representative papers of many historical figures from presidents to women suffragettes.

National Archives

The National Archives provides and online exhibit, The Charters of Freedom, that include the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

University of Oklahoma Law Center

A very nice exhibit of state flags can be found at the University of Oklahoma along with a superb chronology of American historical documents.

Maps

Color Landform Atlas of the United States

The Color Landform Atlas of the United States supplies a topographic and county outline map for each state except Alaska and Hawaii.

Google Maps

View a satellite image of your house by typing your address in the search box. This aerial representation in Google Maps gives you with a sense of the topography and population density of the location. This would be a great tool to use in a geography lesson.

How Far Is It?

This service uses data from the US Census and a supplementary list of cities around the world to find the latitude and longitude of two places, and then calculates the distance between them (as the crow flies). It also provides a map showing the two places, using the Xerox PARC Map Server.

MapQuest

Create your own travel map or pinpoint locations using MapQuest. The zoom and pan features allow you to follow streets and county roads from one place to another. This is very handy, especially in rural areas. Printing maps is simple, just click on the print button. You will receive directions and several maps for navigation.

Perry-Castñeda Library Map Collection

Hundreds of maps are available from the University of Texas at Austin, which houses the Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL) collection, a good source for contemporary and historical material. Since the PCL maps have no copyright, they can be downloaded and used for any purpose.

Statistics

Population Clocks

Find out the current U.S. or World populations at this Website.

FedStats

FedStats is a gateway to statistics from over 100 U.S. federal agencies. Browse more than 400 topics, search by key word or phrase, generate a profile for your State, county or federal district, and link to agencies and program summaries. This is a good starting point for finding data and facts.

U.S. Census Bureau

Find out the current U.S. or World populations. Search for demographic records about your community. Read the latest news about national trends. The U.S. Census Bureau provides a wealth of data about the people and the economy of the United States and supplies information on topics such as poverty, genealogy, and housing. Click on Kids’ Corner for easy to read statistical facts about each state. Quizzes on population, housing employment, income, and American social characteristics help students to think about and analyze statistics. Kids’ Corner is a great resource for incorporating statistics into social studies or math classroom. Rounding out the site is a section for teachers with lessons and a very intriguing item in the reference materials titled Facts for Features that highlights little known tidbits of data collected by the Census Bureau.

Ask a Librarian

Government Information Online

Through Government Information Online (GIO) you can ask government information librarians who are experts at finding information from government agencies of all levels (local, state, regional, national international) on almost any subject.
Chat or Email

Internet Public Library

Fill out a form and submit your question. Within a fews days you will receive an answer.
Email

Library of Congress

Asisstance is provided for using the digital collections, services, and the Library of Congress Online Catalog.
Chat or Email

Originally Published Nov/Dec 2005

Updated December 11, 2008
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