Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Our Post-Factual Era





We are officially living in a post-factual period of time, where actual facts are second to agendas, feelings, opinions and emotions. It's not that facts aren't important; they just take a clear back seat to the almighty narrative, and all that supports it.

Exhibit A: CNN just announced its plans to swap out news with a zany mix of opinion, documentaries and entertaining content delivered with "attitude." How grand, because that's exactly what our culture needs ... an injection of more style ripe to be mistaken for, and presented as, substance.

Many have noted (usually with a simple sigh and a shrug) that Orwell was as much a prophet as an author. My concern is that Mike Judge might be joining him as a cultural soothsayer.

What's at stake?

As educators, we can expect incoming waves of students to mistake opinion for fact; or, at least not to discern any difference of value between the two concepts. And, the louder one talks and the more he repeats himself, the stronger his case will appear.

Or, I should say: The louder and more frequently one repeats himself, the more correct he'll be, period.

Thinking critically, and divorcing oneself from a subject to conduct an objective review and analysis ... these will increasingly become lost arts unless educators step in and try to reverse this tide. 

But working against a strong cultural current is nothing new for educators - we are up to the task. I would only add that, if you disagree with me, get a brain, Moran!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Online Paperless Testing for the Clasroom

My tenth grade classroom is pretty much paperless, and it's not because I'm especially tech savvy.

It's because making a ton of copies is both costly and time-consuming. When it comes to tests, it's far easier for me to post questions online, and have students answer in Google docs they share with me.

During these lab sessions, I can drop in on their docs and monitor their progress. I often have an idea of student grades before class is half over.

That brings up the other reason I am paperless: reliable lab access. We're fortunate at my school to have labs available several times a week.

How to go paperless for tests

Google Forms allows for test creation and student use, and there are a lot of other good software choices as well.

The first thing my students do when we hit a lab is open our class website in Chrome, and also open / share a doc.  At that point I can take them through a lesson; we can design and create; or, I can give them a test.

We thus begin a streamlined, interactive process. I teach this way a lot because it's simple, easy and it works.


Monday, September 2, 2013

The Tug of Peace


Yesterday a neighborhood a few miles from mine went into a day-long lockdown: A lanky, murderous 21 year-old punk wielding a pocket knife prompted a call from police to residents - "Get indoors, lock up and lay low" was the gist.

This is the new, softer America: A place where boys are shaped and molded into new, softer images of boys from generations past.

A place where playground tug-of-war games are thrown out by well-meaning PTA boards; replaced, instead by tugs of peace.

A place where strong citizens with guns suppress their instincts and wait for other citizens with guns (and uniforms) to save them.

A place where we gladly surrender freedom for security in all aspects of our lives.

It will be interesting to teach my son about the history of freedom, as he grows up in a world mostly devoid of it ... in the heartland where values once had meaning ... nestled inside a nation on a relentless march toward the almighty idea of Progress.

Everything is impermanent, and yes, one day even the mighty America will be but a memory. I know this.

Still, it seems proper to at least try and eulogize freedom - because it was pretty darned special while it lasted.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Social Media for Schools: Five Suggestions

"It's always a risk speaking to the press. They are likely to report what you say." So goes the old media relations quote.

True, talking to the press can be a bit scary ... but it's far scarier to be excluded from conversations altogether.  And while a positive relationship with the press should be a key component of a school's PR plan, keep in mind the media landscape has recently undergone a radical landscape shift to the benefit of schools and districts.

Now, everyone's a publisher. Organizations can circumvent the traditional press entirely through the power of social media.

I'll go even further and claim: A large high school has the publishing power and potential influence of a small weekly newspaper. By publishing power I mean the ability to communicate key messages to a mass audience.



Getting a Clue

I was a senior in college when the ClueTrain Manifesto was published. These ideas of openness and having actual conversations with our audiences resonated with me strongly, and struck me as common sense.

"... markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can't be faked."  - from ClueTrain

Around this time social media took off, and new media marketing experts popped up overnight. I've always held that the rules for social media are really pretty simple. A pro does it best, but anyone can do it well as long as the tenants of the '99 ClueTrain serve as guiding principles.

Here are some simple social media suggestions for schools, as they strive to realize their publishing potential:

1. Social media by nature and by definition is a two-way street. Like ClueTrain states, the key word is conversation.

Using social media only to rebroadcast the same top-down messages you are pushing out in other places is a great way to get tuned out by students and your community.

Think about promoting contests, calls for pictures and requests for community comments. Gauge student interest on important issues, take polls, conduct voting, etc. Always be looking for ways to talk with your school community, and for ways your publics can share with you and with each other. Great conversations usually center around sharing.

2. Multipurpose your content.  As you accumulate digital assets (fancy phrase for online stuff), consider how to get the most bang for your buck.  The sporting event where you asked students to take pictures and post them online? Why not use that content in as many different ways as you can. A great picture can find a home on your website, Facebook page, yearbook, and then on the digital newsletter you are putting out next month.

The best part: An army of engaged, enthusiastic teens is now doing much of the lifting for you, while building a spirit of community in the process.

3. Stay abreast of basic developments in the social media field.  For example, now Instagram is surpassing Facebook as the place for teens to hang out.  When mom got on Facebook, kids felt it was time to lighten their presence. But now parents are migrating to Instagram as well, so we'll see what media platform kids stake out next.

Another development worth noting: Facebook now uses hashtags.  Hashtags are a simple way to organize information online.  Students posting content online and tagging them at #yourschool is an easy way to aggregate content.

Here I searched for #edtech on Twitter, and the results produced a slew of recent tweets labeled edtech by posters.





Tags in action: Your school could request pictures from prom, with the tag #yourschoolprom, for example. It's helpful to keep hashtags as short as possible by the way ... my example is actually pushing it.

4. Teamwork: Form a social media committee, and bring in team members with specific responsibilities. Building an online community should be a collaborative process, after all.  It also helps to spread the workload; last time I checked most schools don't have budgets for full-time marketing pros. Don't let social media overwhelm you ... which leads us to the last suggestion.

5. Choose your platforms conservatively. While I think we should know the social media basics, I also think that's all we need to know. Don't try to be on every new platform that comes along. Time is limited, so pick a few top channels and get active on them.

Many channels are already integrated, making things easier for us. Google owns Blogger and YouTube. So a blog and YouTube account are easily managed through one master Google account.

Facebook owns Instagram, and Twitter now has Vine, a video hosting service for short videos.

Remember, there's a constant conversation taking place about your school - with or without your input. So why not join in with both a strategic plan, and a genuine voice - and help positively influence both your brand's* perception and the conversation about your school.

*A school's brand is the space you own in the mind of the student, parent or community member. Volvo is safety, Campbell's is soup, and your school is ___________?  





Monday, June 24, 2013

The Public School Playground


post summary: Is life imitating art, or is art imitating life, when it comes to TV, movies and public school portrayals? Or is the answer more complex? Is this post basically just a poorly written movie review? Let's find out. 

I kicked off summer vacation by watching a classic 80s-style film, Summer School. The 80s is my generation's 50s; to many of us, it's a throw back to a simpler time. We ran out the door after breakfast in summer, and we ran back home at dusk -  or when we heard our moms shouting for us from front porches. 

This nostalgic movie was the latest in a long line of films and shows I've been watching lately all featuring one key shared element: The teacher as moron, and the school as a playground.





I tuned into another 80s classic, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, a few days later and witnessed the school as play time, and administrators as utter idiots barely able to function. Love the movie, by the way ... Jeffrey Jones paints the bumbling administrator as a memorable character - the perfect counterpoint to Broderick's feisty, irreverent Buehller. 

This movie's painfully moronic dean of students fits a pretty well-established pattern.  The cultural centerpiece that is The Simpsons has also been letting us all know for 25 years that public education is not a serious thing. 



There have been some attempts at semi-serious public school portrayals over the years, like Fox's Boston Public. But so often, schools are brought to life as mismanaged zoos housing animals and run by incompetents. 

This thoughtful article on teachers and TV looks back on several decades, and notes,  "TV teachers typically have one class that is featured on the series rather than several classes. With rare exceptions, there is little sense of the real work teachers engage in. Also, ongoing issues for real teachers (standardized testing, dealing with students who have learning disabilities, scarcity of resources, school violence, drugs, etc.) become "issue of the week" situations." 



(Mr. Feeny from Boy Meets World)

I think that's a pretty tame commentary on the relationship between schools and TV / film, actually.  The constant, steady flow of teachers as bozos that's been slipping and sliding around the media's sensitivity filter is only pushing the public closer to demanding a comprehensive new education model. 

This continual messaging from media programming has consequences.  


  1. pro·gram  

    /ˈprōˌgram/
    Noun
    A planned series of future events, items, or performances.
    Verb
    Provide (a computer or other machine) with coded instructions for the automatic performance of a particular task.
    Synonyms
    noun.  programme - schedule - scheme - plan - project - bill
    verb.  programme - schedule - plan

I know the charters in my area are flooded with applications:  I spoke to a neighbor getting ready to send his child through the elementary school journey ... he's scared of our local public schools but terrified of the district next door.  

He's scared because of his perception. And perceptions can be both real and imagined ...



(Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher)


... and they can also be created. 



(Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club)

footnote: Here is the somewhat celebrated essay featured at the end of The Breakfast Club, randomly included for your 80s enjoyment. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Extreme Everything


I love Weather.com ... it's just so fascinating to me to watch a storm roll through in real time.

Apparently watching actual thunderstorms and tornadoes wasn't cutting it for the marketing and editorial teams over there ... because in the last few days there's been quite a weather.com website revamp.

Here's just a small sampling of content from the alternating headlines on today's home page:

Locusts could wipe nation out


Watch: Man sucked out of a plane


And, Before the Bikini: Rare Vintage Beach Photos


And here's a screen grab from the right hand side; the left hand side has a dozen more tabloid-style stories:

So What?

Why do I care that the go-to weather website is now half weather, half grocery store checkout isle magazine?

I'll let Neil Postman explain my concerns here, as he literally wrote the book on why this is scary. Postman's book is concerned with TV; however, he wrote it pre-Internet, and these underlying concerns are only intensified with the Internet's advent.

When all subject matter is presented as entertaining:

"…We will become a trivial people, incapable of coping with complexity, ambiguity, uncertainty, perhaps even reality. We will become, in a phrase, a people amused into stupidity ...

"The light entertainment is not the problem. The least dangerous things on television are its junk. On television all subject matter is presented as entertaining."  Postman isn't concerned with the trash, comedy or even vulgarity - though I suspect he'd be shocked how far adrift prime time's "family shows" are, at present.

He continues, "How serious can a bombing in Lebanon be if it is shown to us prefaced by a happy United Airlines commercial and summarized by a Calvin Klein jeans commercial? When newscasters say, “Now…this,” they mean to indicate that what you have just heard or seen has no relevance to what you are about to hear."    Back to Weather.com - "There's a serious flood and dozens are dead and homeless - but whoah ... look at these creepy abandoned churches!"

Postman wraps up this particular passage from his prophetic 1985 book with, "When a people become, in short, an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then…a nation finds itself at risk and culture-death is a clear possibility."

Culture death.

I frequently challenge my students to think about this question: Every culture in the history of the world rises, peaks and then declines or crashes.  So, where exactly are we at, on this universal trajectory of nations?

Clearly, if and when America falls, it will be for incredibly complex, deep-rooted reasons.

All I'm saying is that this weather website nonsense doesn't help. This general corruption and dumbing down of seemingly everything, all the time, has real consequences.

If you do go ahead and check the weather today, make sure you take a sec and see the "Huge swamp rats that are eating Louisiana!"  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

End of Year File Saving Made Simple


I'm going to a new school next year ... and I am currently working from three computers.   I have files everywhere - I'm not sure what I want and what I don't want.

What a mess!

Not really ... Thanks to the magical world of Google, I just easily captured all of my desktop items from two heavily used computers - all files and folders - with a few clicks.

Like most teachers, I create files on the machine at the front of the class powering the Smart Board - and I also have a computer at my desk.

Goal 1 today was capturing the files at that front computer.

First I made sure I was using Chrome!  I went to Google > Drive > Create a folder ... then named it "Desktop Front Machine" so I know which computer I'm dealing with.

Now I can see this new "Desktop" folder appearing in my Drive files.

Next I clicked on the new file I created - "Desktop" - then clicked Upload > Folder.

Google helped me select the right file ... it defaults to "desktop" as a file uploading choice.

Next, I just clicked "okay."

Google began uploading my entire 400 files ... I walked away and got a cup of coffee.

Now, I don't need to worry about what's on my computers, or even spend time at the end of the year trying to save files and clean up my computers.

I have literally every file saved as part of Google's generous 5 GB storage space, and at my leisure this summer I can sort, delete, save, refile, etc.

Now that's a simple solution to file saving! 



Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Anti-Social: The Case for Shutting Up and Not Sharing

I miss the good ole' days, when we didn't share everything. Life was simpler, we actually used libraries, and we largely kept our opinions - so often ignorant and ego-driven, yet now broadcast to the world - to ourselves.

Yesterday Netflix asked me to click and share my movie choices on Facebook.  Why would anyone possibly care about the movies I'm watching? See, my opinion on movies is worthless. I enjoy LifeTime movies because I like simple, linear plots that offer virtually no chance of confusing me.

Now my friend, a professional videographer who works as a skilled technician for Disney, has been making movies his whole life. His brothers make movies professionally, and his entire family is highly creative, intellectual, and watches movies with an insightful passion. Follow his movie choices, not mine!

I try ... I really try ... to keep my mouth shut in areas where my opinion has no actual value. I don't want to add to the problem and the clutter: All information channels these days are packed with useless, often mind-numbingly dumb information.

The recent Boston Marathon bombing media coverage is a clear example of opinions run amok on a large, consequential scale. Reason Magazine points out that there was a theory for every crowd and taste less than four hours after the explosion.  No facts were known ... in fact, three days later the investigation is still "wide open."  Initial news coverage seemed to cater initially to ideology as much as it did to securing and explaining the facts.

During this orgy of speculation, the media zeroed in on "the man on the roof."  Who was this mystery man up on the roof, staring down at the explosion?

A few hours later the "mystery" was solved: A man, living in an upscale apartment, was watching the race from the well-furnished rooftop.

I use the Boston bombing as an example of experts getting it wrong, because if professional journalists at the pinnacle of their profession, some with decades of experience, struggle to cover a story properly and add comments of real value ... then what is your (or my) opinion worth on the average topic?  

There exists a clear hierarchy of opinion, in terms of that opinion's relative value to the conversation, issue or topic at hand.  And this hierarchy is being tossed aside, with potentially serious consequences for our kids.

My first problem with this issue of "everyone's an expert" is admittedly kind of visceral and emotional on my part: We have enough people shooting from the hip, on every conceivable issue under the stars, without raising our next generation to spout off in lieu of actually knowing / understanding any facts.

But the real problem here goes deeper than kids mindlessly shouting down peers, or the growing swamp of annoying public Facebook arguments based on emotion rather than reason. When "expert" loses its meaning, and everyone's opinion counts equally, then we devalue the opinion of actual experts when it really matters.

What's one example? Hmm. How about nearly every teacher in this nation believing that standardized, nationalized, heavily emphasized testing is a bad idea ... while most of the nation rushes toward this very goal? Do parents have any idea what the teachers in their kids' schools think about standardized tests?

How did the opinion of teachers become so devalued, and why would anyone listen so closely to politicians on the particular issue of testing, when general public mistrust of politicians is at an all-time high?

Not all opinions are created equally.  If you want an opinion on testing in schools, ask me - not a politician. Better yet, ask my mentor ... she's been teaching three times as long as I have, and she is recognized by the community as a highly skilled, reflective teacher. Travel upward, inside the hierarchy, and the value of the opinion you seek will grow.

 Just don't ask my opinion on movies.  Every movie on this "Top Ten Worst LifeTime Original Movies Ever" list looks pretty darned good to me.   Honey ... get the popcorn, I know what we are doing tonight!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Potter Series Stretches Lexile Levels

  I've been under the weather for some time, and Harry Potter has kept me company.  All seven main series books ... all (roughly) 5,000 dense pages.

There were moments when I thought the series was silly, cheesy, sensational, epic, average ... I was all over the place.  I'll leave a book review for others, adding only that the series as a whole has earned its place on my book shelf, even if it falls a bit short of the massive over-hype it has received over the years.

I'll introduce my son to this series early on, because it is a thoughtful, fun and imaginative roller coaster for the reader; however, I think the real strength of the series is in the way it secretly stretches young students.

The series is recommended for kids ages nine and up, but if you look at the Potter Series Lexile levels, they are significantly more advanced than the ages for whom they're intended.

Just as interestingly, the Lexile levels actually increase as the series progresses ... the books kind of grow with the reader, who is growing up with Harry (the main character, if you didn't know).

When you contrast the series' levels to the Lexile grade equivalent, it's clear these books will foster both imagination and reader sophistication. It's like reading President Obama's last state of the union, only with wizards, dragons, wand fights and a complex story line that twists and turns until the final pages of the seventh and last novel. Actually, Obama's speech came in at an 8th grade level, while some of the Potter books hit a 12th grade level - surely quite a challenge for a lot of the young children tackling these thick, fun books.

A quick side note on the content of these books: When the series hit there was a media splash and a lot of attention regarding possible promotion of witchcraft among impressionable young kids. I didn't see anything more harmful or much different than what's found in the C.S. Lewis Narnia series. If you are worried about this series corrupting your child, you'd better not let him or her out the front door. And throw out your TV set, and radio while you are at it. Of all the negative cultural influences out there, this series doesn't even make my radar.  I'm not a preacher, but I'm a father (and husband, my wife / editor just pointed out), teacher, spiritual person, and pretty straight-laced fellow these days.

I hope the Potter books inspire my son as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe inspired me so many years ago.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Student-Centered ... on Steroids


I was sitting at my laptop computer the other morning, when I heard the vice president of our "ad agency" call a class meeting. "Oh, I'd better go," I thought, grabbing my pen, notepad and coffee, hustling over to the conference table along with all of my students.

Our firm's VP is a sharp senior named Jesse; he works closely with sophomore Emily, our creative director. And they are working in tandem with the social media department, IT department and, of course, our full staff of artists and designers.

We even have audio engineering capabilities.

Desktop Publishing is a class I was "born to teach," as a coworker put it, and I could not agree more. As my World History courses continue to tighten up, and rely heavily on structure, this desktop publishing course is morphing into the complete opposite. We move fast and on the fly, often winging it and changing plans on a dime ... depending on the needs of our clients.

I knew I wanted to do something special with this class. As we launched into the school year my course plans shifted ... and we literally became a miniaturized, school-based version of an ad shoppe. I'm giving my kids as much room as possible to maneuver on their own, stepping in when I need to steer our ship a bit more firmly one way or the other, or to contribute to a project. I suppose besides being "Boss of the Applesauce" - my formal title - I'm the de facto head copywriting editor.

Project-based Learning in Action

We "landed" our first client the other day - our school is constructing a nature trail and my class got some work out of the project. We're doing the logo, and creating informational flyers. Bolstered by Krispy Kreme donuts, we all jumped into action after the kick-off meeting where the account executive who "signed the client" told us all of the account details.

At one point I caught our exec taking pictures of rough drafts to send to the client; I quickly stepped in and explained our product was, at that moment, far too rough to present to the customer. It's an ideal student-driven environment ... eager kids calling the shots, but I'm watching every move and stepping in to mentor and guide as needed.

Student Buy In

The kids love it. They love the trust, responsibility, and relevancy this course is offering them.

I think there's a model here worth recreating, because it's 1. giving the students practical, hands-on experience in terms of tackling real agency-oriented projects.  It's constant, concrete problem solving in action.  But 2. it also provides our school with a valuable resource.

Any class, teacher, administrator etc. needing work done can come to us and see about engaging our services.  Being a veteran ad man, I am sitting back and not yet publicizing our services. A good agency creates enough "buzz" that people start coming to you - no advertising needed.

I'm joking - to a point. Everything we've done so far is based completely on the way a real agency functions, and I could not be more proud of my students.  When given freedom, trust, and enough structure to feel secure - and yes secure to fail - students do amazing things and function at high levels.


Don Draper would be proud. Though ... he'd have to adjust pretty quickly to our tobacco-free campus.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Cruise Control Classroom

One of the many benefits of using a website to power my classroom every day, from start to finish, is I can be (mostly) confident that class will cruise along in my absence.  I've been sick, and when I'm not sick, my son is ... so I've had the chance to test this theory / class set up several times so far.

How it works:  From the very first day of class, I tell the students, "Hey, this is your class. I expect you to know how to run it."  There's a desk at the front of the classroom, and students take turns "driving," taking our class through the entire day's scripted lesson.

My students know how to get to our website, how to drill down into folders on my desktop (for quizzes, notes, etc.); they can take attendance, pass out papers ... and at any given moment my kids know what we are studying.  I mean specifically:  Unit 3, day 2 Rome, for example.

It's a wonderful thing: When I'm out, I just update our website from home, and my kids can drive. There is only one chink in our armor - the substitute teacher who can't grasp the concept. Typically, substitutes who struggle with my system either 1. don't quite understand the whole "Internet" thingy, or 2. Just don't comprehend the concept of giving kids so much power.

I do have one of the more student-oriented classes in our school, I believe, and this is by design. The reasons  behind my choice to teach this way are probably best left for another post.

I've had a few problems. One teacher came in, shut off the overhead projector, and powered down the computer.  He decided to talk to the kids the whole time.  Okay ... kinda strange but hey, not the end of the world.

More aggravating to me are the substitutes who don't get tech, or don't trust my kids. One sub walked into class and found my students all ready to go - the class website was up, the page refreshed, and the kids had found the day's lesson (always clearly labeled by date and subject).

The teacher insisted this was not what the kids were to be studying / working on (it was), and an awkward argument of sorts ensued. It's a very touchy situation having my students politely explain to an adult that they know what they are doing.  They are freshmen for the most part, and lack tact and PR skills.

I suppose what I need is a solid relationship with a core group of subs who is comfortable letting the kids, for the most part, run the show.  Because I sure am ... I feel we constantly spoon-feed and underestimate our kids - again, a topic for another post.  I type this from home ... I was at the doctor's office today and my son is quarantined from daycare for another day.


I hope to walk back into a clean classroom with a great note from the sub. There's always that moment of "Oh great, what am I walking back into?"  But regardless, I am proud of, and committed to, the cruise control classroom.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

False Security in Times of Crisis


In the wake of recent school shootings, an entire nation is scrambling for action, meaning, and a means of feeling safer.

One troubling trend, in my humble opinion, is the offering of free self defense lessons to teachers. A recent article in our local paper was a fantastic PR score for the martial arts school hosting the clinic.

From the news article: "Teachers can lock the door and hide when an armed intruder enters their school. But that isn’t their only option. Ryan Hoover of We are Fit to Fight at Ryan Hoover’s Extreme Karate wants to give school employees training and alternative ways to handle a shooter on campus with a newly created “Safer Campus Now” program."

The seminar trains teachers - in one day - how to rush and disarm an armed gunman with bad intentions. This reminds me of another issue I have with marital arts schools who give out black belts to small children. This false sense of security is of little use if a child is simply picked up and carried away by a grown kidnapper. 

Similarly, rushing an armed gunman, with a day's knowledge of training under your belt, is probably a really bad idea. I can imagine how administrators squirm when they see such advice ... it's counter to school policy, and to common sense.

As a life-long martial artist, I have always been taught to A) run from a gun or B) comply to the greatest extent possible. Testing my reflexes and punching power is not worth my life; here, buddy, take my wallet - that's the general consensus in the fighting arts community.

A school shooting is different in the sense that the shooter doesn't want a wallet - he wants to inflict injury on a wide scale. But martial arts seminars are not a very realistic answer to this complex problem, skillful PR coups aside.





photo credit: Gaston Gazette

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What's Really Up With Wikipedia?

I'm eating a bit of crow today.  Yesterday I went on a mini rant to my SAT Prep students, explaining that Wikipedia is hardly the evil site it's made out to be.

Background:  When I worked in PR and social media, it was actually considered a smart move to link to Wikipedia when blogging. You know, because of that whole "social" component inherent to the site.  If one is already doing something social (blogging,) then it makes sense to link to resources with a social orientation. 

My experiences with Wikipedia in those days were all very positive: I actually tested the site's integrity several times, and was impressed with the results.  I'd make small edits to a page, and then watch how rapidly the edits were deleted. 

In one instance an edit to my high school's page - where I claimed to be the toughest student to ever attend - resulted in an immediate correction, and my being banned (all edits from my IP address were blocked) instantly. 

So back to yesterday: I was going on about how this site is so very closely monitored ... just go ahead and try and edit a page, I dared my students.  They couldn't - our school's IP address (and thus every computer in our school) has been banned due to editing violations. 

See?  Wikipedia is a great place to start any project - just never use it as a source, I explained.  

Then I went home, and ran another quick test: I went (randomly) to the French Bulldog page, and made a very small, inconspicuous first edit. A sentence read, "Bulldogs were very popular in the past."  

I changed it to, "Bulldogs were very popular in the past, especially in Western Europe."  I have no idea if that's true, but it sounds true. 

The change wasn't quickly deleted, like in previous experiences I've had with the site. So feeling emboldened, I made a second tweak: "The judge in question at the dog show, a Mr. Sven Feltsten, only chose winners with rose ears."

I added this fictional judge's name. 

I was certain that someone, somewhere, was now alerted to this page being altered and abused.  So I sat on the couch and kept refreshing the page ... waiting for my vandalism to be removed.  It wasn't.  

So now I added a third entry - really pushing the envelope as I did so: I ended the French Bulldog page (a section on Frenchies in pop culture) with this: 

"And just prior to this year's New Year's Eve festivities, a pack of small, possibly rabid French Bulldogs reportedly broke into a Mr. Scenzio Del Forno's Deli and Sandwich Shoppe on 144th Street, New York, stealing several pounds of salted and cured meats. The story was at first deemed an Internet hoax, until none other than Vice President Al Gore came forward and confirmed the story's validity, says the New York Times."

Ridiculous, right?  This addition was deleted, after a day and a half.  

So anyone hitting this page prior to the deletion was left with the impression that packs of these meaty, miniature dogs are running the streets of New York.

Yes, the edit was deleted ... but my first two tweaks are still standing.  SAT Prep students, I owe you an apology. 

I still maintain Wikipedia is a great first place to go, in order to get a general idea about a topic ... before starting the real research.  But, I no longer believe the site to be as airtight as it once seemed to me.  

Final recommendation for students: Use infrequently, realize that prominent topics are more likely to be heavily watched and correctly edited (like World War I), and of course, never use it as a source.  Judge Sven Feltsten would not approve!