Death to Encarta – Wikipedia 2.7m vs Encarta 42,000

Microsoft Encarta
Image via Wikipedia

Microsoft have announced the demise of Encarta which will be effective from 31st October 2009. The company  has said this on a FAQ page they have set up explaining the decision;

“Encarta has been a popular product around the world for many years. However, the category of traditional encyclopedias and reference material has changed. People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past.”

Yes they do.

 I only have to look at the bibliographies produced by students at my school to see that Wikipedia has taken over as the encyclopedia reference source our students go to first. With 2.7 million entries vs 42,000 in Encarta it’s not hard to see why. We try and impress upon our students the need to cross check information but we certainly don’t dissuade them from using it. 

I saw the power of Wikipedia unfold when the American airbus crash landed in the Hudson River. As the incident unfolded the Wikipedia page started taking shape. At that point in time, this method of participatory media was the best source of information about what was happening.  

We have recently made the decision at my school to unsubscribe from Encyclopedia Brittanica. We are retaining our subscription to World Book, but despite our best efforts, find it difficult to get our students to use it as their first port of call. Subscription databases are expensive and from an economic standpoint you have to look at usage vs cost. I’m waiting for the day when these subscription database services wake up and realise that they would be better served offering their services for free. They could move to accepting advertising on their sites to generate income to sustain their costs.    

Thanks to Phil Bradley and Stephen Abrams for alerting me to this in their posts. 

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Dinner with John and Jan

I was really fortunate Tuesday night to catch up with John Connell and his lovely wife Jan who were visiting Australia with Cisco, the company John works for. His job is Education Business Development Manager for the Emerging Markets – covering South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe and Russia. John has been an encouraging mentor for me as I’ve traversed the edublogosphere. I first met John at the ASLA conference in Adelaide last year where I presented about Digital Storytelling. John was a keynote speaker along with Stephen Abrams. Both spoke about the need to transform education in response to our changing technological landscape and both mentioned that they wrote blogs. I spoke to John in the tea break and told him of my desire to get involved in the transformation and he told me that he could see that I would. An empowering statement from him that helped put the fire in my belly to get involved. I started reading his and Stephen’s blogs (along with Will Richardson’s) and started my exponential learning curve that has led to this blog and all that has come with it.

John has been a reader of my blog and has made the encouraging comment or two along the way. These have certainly inspired me as I hold him in high esteem. John’s blog is insightful and he ponders the difficult questions that arise as we all tread carefully through new territory. When he knew he was visiting Melbourne he emailed to ask if we could meet up. I was thrilled. Those of you who operate in this online world will know that it’s exciting to meet someone face to face who you know only through their words. As it turns out, I crashed a dinner that was already organised – John was obliging enough to ask if I could attend! 

I had a lovely time meeting John and Jan and am very pleased to report that we had a lot to talk about and not all of it was centred around blogging and education. It really is wonderful when you meet someone and you find that they are just like you sensed them to be from their online presence.

Thanks John and Jan. Hope to meet up with you again some day.

Our flat world surprises mediasauce!

Had an interesting experience today.  The Elibrarian (a fantastic support – it’s wonderful having someone on staff who operates on the same page and can implement many of the ideas we talk about) sent me a link to a page that had featured on Stephen’s Lighthouse – Stephen Abram’s blog. We both subscribe to this site via our Google readers and love the fact that he shares so much of what he does. I really appreciate the fact that he posts many of his slides from presentations he gives – they are informative even if no audio accompanies them. Anyways, back to the story. The link was to a video called ‘Are you relevant?’, produced by Mediasauce for the Association of Fraternity Advisors in America. It’s pretty cool – a woman is talking to you and posing questions about how ‘young people’ communicate and how the ‘older generation’ uses communication devices like telephone books that are passe to people of her ilk. I really liked it and our Elibrarian put it on our Enewsletter for our staff to look at.

At the bottom of the page was a box asking ‘Like what you see?’ and offering more information if you clicked their link. It took me to an email window so I shot off an email to Scott Henderson from Mediasauce telling him I liked the video and would he mind if I wrote a post about it. What was interesting was his reply;

Thanks for the nice words about our site (our main site or the Are You Relevant? site).  We’re glad to let you write about it.  It’ll cost you one thing, though.   

You have to help me trace how you got the link.  I’d like to write a post on our blog about how an Australian college got connected to a company in Indiana, USA.

So of course, I sent off a reply explaining the process as outlined above. What I find interesting is that Scott found it fascinating how we got onto his video. Isn’t this exactly what they are exalting in their video. Our means of communication is changing and we need to adapt to these changes. My Google reader provides me with RSS feeds that are probably my primary source of information these days and it’s breaking down barriers in terms of comminication. As I replied to Scott, keeping up is the name of the game these days (as your video suggests!)