Wikipedia, not the worst place to look

Wikipedia… Not the first, or the only place to look, but no worse than anywhere else

An article on Tim Stahmer's excellent Assorted Stuff blog caught my eye among in my RSS feeds this morning.

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia gets knocked because "anyone" can contribute to it, but as Tim suggests in his Finding Value in Wikipedia post, "anyone" can also deceive Google.

Wikipedia isn't the first place I'd go to find out about — say — TEFL, but then again neither is Google.

What you do get with Wikipedia is as good a starting point as anywhere else on the cyber dungheap (aka the Internet). If Wikipedia doesn't give you the answer, often the links it provides you with will…

Don't waste time looking for pictures on Google

Of course you could get your images off of Google-is-Evil (assuming that you don't mind a spot of stolen property, that is…)

But one problem with that is that Google has zero interest in the quality of the images… or in how much language you could get out of them.

An alternative soure are newspapers and magazines — which do have a vested interest in presenting their readers with striking, interesting photos (including ads:..).

I habitually rip images out of the newspapers and magazines that are about to go in the recycled bin, and store and classify them in folders (in the image above, you can see my "transport" and "sports" folders)… just in case they might be useful in class one day…

Finding information on the Internet

My own advice would always be "Don't search!" — don't use a search engine, that is — if you can possibly help it. If you've got a book or a tutor or a colleague at hand, often you'll find that that they're faster and more authoritative sources of information.

But then again, at some point, you won't have any choice (or at least a search engine will seem to be the most readily available choice).

If you are going to use search engines ("Not just Google-is-Evil!" I would say), it pays to know how to use them efficiently. Some resources:

Refining searches
A tutorial from the BBC

More tutorials on searching the Web (

Finding information on the Internet

Information Literacy: Search Strategies
How to choose the best search option for your information need

More "21st Century Literacies"

RSS: Don't search — have things come to you

Above: my Bloglines site this morning, with the sites I am currently tracking on the left

RSS (or "Real Simple Syndication") is one of the ways in which we can have information come to us, rather than have to go to places like Google to search for it.

Basically, you use what is called a "news aggregator" to go off to the sites you are interested in (blogs and an increasingly large number of websites) and then alert you, on a single page (see image above) if it finds new content on the sites it has trawled.

There are a number of possible choices, with Bloglines being the one I use personally, and can recommend.

You can pick and choose which sites you want, can subscribe and unsubscribe easily, and have a variety of options such as seeing just the headlines, summaries (my setting on the BBC Learning English site you can see on the right of the image above) or the whole articles.

Learn more
There is an excellent introduction, RSS: A Quick Start Guide for Educators, from the (also excellent) Weblogg-ed site.

See also >> RSS feeds for ELT

Don't waste your time on the Internet!

You have to teach the difference between the present perfect and the present perfect progressive.

Which of the following would you turn to, in what approximate order?

  • A good grammar reference book
  • Google
  • Your "Favourites" (aka "Bookmarks")
  • A second grammar reference book
  • CeltaStars (our email support group)
  • The notes in your Teacher's Book
  • A second search engine (eg. Yahoo or MSN…)
  • A colleague or tutor
  • Something that might be in your mailbox
  • A directory or portal
  • A news aggregator (which uses RSS)
  • Something else…

In the hand-out for the session, I provided further notes on the above, and in the "comments" (see below), I've suggested my own answer.