Many of you will be familiar with the scenario: your child comes home from school with instructions to research a topic for homework and the question then arises, how and where is this research to be done? More often than not, the school will tell your child to “use the internet”, but as we all know, simply googling something can turn up results that might be:
For all these reasons (and a few more), I prefer to encourage my kids to use books for their research; books can be selected so that I know they have been written with language my children can access, and they have been through a long editorial process to ensure accuracy. No children’s book on Prince Albert would ever include some of the images thrown up by Google.
However, I was very interested to learn that DK (as Dorling Kindersley prefers to be known), renowned for their quality non-fiction books both for adults and children, recently launched a free, safe website for children (particularly 7-11 year olds), and also their parents and teachers: http://www.dkfindout.com/
Drawing on DK’s stunning image library and the wide range of content from its books’ backlist, DK FindOut! is full of potential.
DK FindOut! is clean and beautiful, in a way that does make doing your homework a little bit more appealing.
The website also offers some ways into knowledge, understanding and sparking curiosity which books can’t: it contains videos, it is fully accessible on all mobile devices and so is instantly available without any planning, and it makes adding visual content to homework projects very easy.
We’ve used it quite a lot in the past month to support homework and my youngest finds the site easy to navigate and enjoys being on it.
But we’ve not stopped using books…
Indeed, I personally still prefer to encourage my child to use books for her homework, not least because they are easier to share together, to sit around and discuss as we look at pictures or read text. Whilst the website is free, so too is a visit to the library. Whilst the website is in theory accessible anywhere any time, that’s dependent on your internet connection and any downtime on the site (it is still in beta mode and we have experienced a couple of occasions when, for example, the search function wasn’t available). A book on the other hand, either one you own or have borrowed from the library, is far more reliably accessible. It is not reliant on battery power or happy servers.
http://www.dkfindout.com/ is, however, an exciting development. We’ve found it a useful place to start our research and I think lots of families and schools will find it interesting and helpful. The website will continue to grow over the course of the coming months. There are already some teachers’ lesson plans available, and there will be a special area for parents later in the year. As more and more content is added I’m sure we’ll be returning to use DK FindOut! again and again. I hope it heralds a new era in visually stunning, factually reliable, child-friendly websites.