People ask me why do I post content on here? Why do I spend my time? Doesn't it help people cheat? Well I would like to provide a little information on why I put school work on ThePlaz.com.
Normally in school, there is so much information and good content which is being produced, turned in for a grade, and then thrown away. Why not give it a second home and educate thousands of people around the world, some less fortunate then us. It seemed like a good idea to me and it allowed me to start building my web presence and offer good content.
Part of the reason of why I do this site is that the distribution of knowledge in the world is limited. Not everyone has the opportunity to attend a very good public school in an advanced nation with good teachers and a good education system. Not every culture has the same amount of schooling as we do, and the internet represents a way to spread knowledge all over the word. So by making sample questions and course work available on ThePlaz.com, I give others the chance to learn from me, from my teachers, and my peers. The internet connects us in ways which could never have been imagined done before.
Open Course Ware from MIT has a similar goal posting class material online and making it freely available to all. My English 12 teacher is a fan of OCW and even asked me when I would be posting work related to English 12 online.
Work Lives On
I think that I write pretty good notes and essays compared with others. This work shouldn't be done just for my benefit and then thrown away or confined on a hard drive somewhere. I think that I'm making stuff of quality others will want to read, perhaps even if not directly for school. By making it available online and licensing it under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 license people can use it and build upon it. Its also the reason why I made SeniorQuoter, a freely available, open source web application to collect senior quotes for high school yearbooks. It's like a form of community service which benefits many.
Plus, I have also found that it gives me a little extra incentive to keep clean, consistent notes and correct my work. This helps me personally do better at school by staying focused. I've found this to be very helpful pulling me through hard times where I didn't want to do the work to my high standards.
Hotmath is a commercial web site which charges parents/schools for solutions to odd-numbered problems from popular math textbooks. Some textbook providers even pay Hotmath to give away their solutions for free. I discovered Hotmath after I moved to Pre-Calculus. My Calculus teacher is well aware of Hotmath (she's been known to check it herself I believe) and she urges students to use it when they are stuck.
Hotmath has helped me in math class. If I am stuck on a problem, I can go and look it up on the site. I can then do the next problem without any help. Yes, you can simply copy straight off Hotmath (or ThePlaz.com) without thinking about the problem. That will not help you in the long run. What will you do on the test?? What you do with the material is up to you. If you can focus and concentrate, it will help you. If you mindlessly transcribe, you will learn nothing and your grade will reflect that.
Information should be available to all. Transparency allows people to better connect with one another. The internet is powerful. Content can put online and can be used in so many ways by so many people. Transparency is necessary to prevent corruption and to find better ways of doing things. It's one of the reasons I'm a big fan of the Facebook mini-feed. It allows you to see what's going on with your friends. Sure there are privacy implications, but see my essay Privacy is Dead.
It's also one of the reasons I created Tecker, the social help site for technology. There's so much information out there. It just needs to be organized and available to all.
One of the habits in the GO Program in 9th Grade was "Think Win-Win". When people have the information they can build up to find a better solution together. When people need to replicate other's actions, they are not doing what's best and most efficient. Transparency allows people to want to talk and to want work together. Look at Wikipedia. It's fully transparent which endues volunteers to work together and produce something rich and useful.
So by making information available online, I help spread knowledge and communication through increased openness.
One to Many
I find that its more efficient to volunteer One to Many. Normal volunteering and tutoring is One to One. That's fine in some cases, but it's inefficient and you can't make a difference in many people. But One to Many, affects and helps thousands of people. For example, my French Revolution Timeline has been viewed over a thousand times.
I can best make use of my special skills to attempt to educate many people at once. By luck I am good at computers and website building. Computers have a bright future and will continue to change our world. By exploiting my special skills, I can have the biggest influence and make the biggest change.
And it's worked
The following messages were not solicited. They were just posted on my site or emailed to me.
I initially wanted to create a community like Wikipedia where others could contribute, but after a year that hasn't happened yet. My site runs MediaWiki, the software which powers Wikipedia. That means that anyone can edit my pages. So far only a few have legitimately contributed and a few have vandalized pages. I was surprised at the lack of editing (both good and bad) over the first year of my site. So the site has become more about me and authored by me then planned. Perhaps later on, others will get the importance of building a community of knowledge.
As a side note, those who contributed positively were exclusively computer enthusiasts who go to my school. Many of them also have contributed to Wikipedia. This shows the culture among the computer community.
Lets face it, I needed some content to put online. I thought "I have all of this work for school I'm doing anyway, why not upload that for easy content." It only takes a few minutes to upload stuff, so I have lots of content which attracts visitors with little additional work. Now I'm also starting to add additional, non-school work, like this, my Personal Philosophies and TI programs among others.
My site also brings together all of what I have produced to start building a strong web presence. As I start to look for a web career, I felt I needed a strong showcase for my work and center to communicate with others in the computer community. I believe that the site and some of the content is a strong online resume to show off what I am capable of. See also Self-Branding
It also serves a central location of all of the things I have worked on; one to give out on podcasts or websites.
You shouldn't copy my work word-for-word and hand it in. That's plagiarism, and we've been against that from our inception. But look at my ideas, my style, links to my sources, and gain knowledge from that. Don't cheat directly, because the only one you're cheating is yourself. --Plaz 22:28, 26 February 2007 (EST) And also as a side note, every other information source is vulnerable to the same thing.
If you look at our visitor map for a 7 day period when I wrote this initially, only 10% of users were from Pennsylvania. The rest come from Fairbanks to Beirut to Bangalore. Below is map of traffic from 2/17/2007 to 2/23/2007. Yes there is a large dot near Philadelphia, but look at all of the smaller dots around the world. This shows how the knowledge on ThePlaz.com is spreading around the world. As universal internet access spreads, the flow of knowledge online will only increase. I hope that ThePlaz.com and content on it will help some people.
Its helped me in School
As I finished my 3rd year with the website, I realized that this website has helped me a lot too. As I wrote Laptops for Students and E-Note Taking, I remembered that I hardly never go back and read my notes. As my AP Macro Econ, AP Micro Econ, and American Studies teacher, Dr. Reilly told me, just the act of writing notes helps me. ThePlaz.com has turned out to be a trick for me to make my notes neat and organized (something I struggled with in Middle School) because I knew that I would have to scan, tag, organize, and post them for others to read. So as I am starting 12th Grade, I realize that perhaps more than anything, ThePlaz.com has helped me focus in school.