More Bad Press for Online Encyclopaedia

clip_image001I read with interest Tuesday’s Irish Independent story ‘Teachers can’t access online encyclopaedia at home’. The latest revelation to hit this government bank rolled , school subscription to online encyclopaedias, Britannica & World Book, is that despite costing €450,000 annually, it currently can’t be accessed by teachers outside of the schools broadband network. This latest controversy follows only three weeks since serious Irish historical inconsistencies in Britannica were revealed on Liveline (Clarified later as being part of an earlier version). Needless to say Brian Hayes of FG is having a field day with this ‘”This latest screw-up is a lot more serious as it affects how teachers can do their jobs,’ and ‘What is the point in paying half a million euro a year for a service if teachers cannot access it at home?’. Whilst the INTO maintain in the story that there had been no consultation with the union before the decision was made for a significant investment in online access to two encyclopaedias and that restricting access to school computers would severely limit usefulness to teachers. The Governments rebuttal of the criticism is that the NCTE are actively exploring ways to provide home access to the digital content to all teachers citing the example of how 1,600 geography teachers previously were given access to Scoilnet Maps outside the SBN .

However are we not missing the point altogether? Admittedly, way overdue funding was provided last year through the ‘Smart Schools = Smart Economy’ initiative (albeit very prescriptive in nature), however lets not forget all the years there was nothing and against this assess the appropriateness of spending €450,000 annually on an online encyclopaedias that irrespective of access and content concerns outlined above can hardly be described as all inclusive. A child who is struggling to read is hardly going to be inspired by the content? And anyhow what’s wrong with using free tools like Wikipedia (with appropriate vetting of course) instead?

Surely this money could be put to better use? Personally, such a waste of already insufficient funding simply beggars belief.

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