Last fall, I had the pleasure of attending a talk by Sean Wheeler, teacher and instructional technologist. This wasn't the first time I heard him speak, and each time I do, I always feel both inspired and agitated. Inspired, obviously, because Sean makes me want to be a better teacher. And agitated because everything Sean says makes sense and...why aren't we transforming education RIGHT NOW?
This particular day, as he often does, Sean was discussing the disconnect between what happens in the "real" world and what happens in education--particularly in our school buildings. He pointed out, very accurately, that at anytime and at anyplace, when we need information, we immediately have access to it via our mobile devices, laptops, and tablets. We can pull up a map of Tibet, a video explaining the Pythagorean theorem, a Wikipedia article about the Underground Railroad...all in seconds.
And yet, in the one place where knowledge, information, and the acquisition of it on a daily (and hourly) basis is not only necessary but naturally expected, guess what we do?
We take away the search bars.
It's true. Student mobile devices are prohibited in school. Filtering software prevents access to websites. Limited and/or outdated technology in our schools means teachers have to resort to boring and rote worksheets.
What's wrong with this picture?
So, we adopt the Common Core because we want students to experience more rigor in their learning. And we implement the Next Generation Assessments (which are technology-task heavy, by the way) to prove students are both college and career ready.
How can we fix this? How can we return the search bar? We can't overturn district policy on student mobile devices (yet). We can't single-handedly deactivate firewalls (yet). We can't provide the latest device to every one of our students (yet). It takes time...but we'll get there.
How do I know this? Because I see it everyday. Teachers have always been creative problem-solvers. We've always invented ways to provide when the district or the budget can't. Whether it's a one iPad classroom or a classroom with three desktop computers from ten years ago, we've been able to create engaging lessons that encourage and produce critical thinking and creativity.
And even better, I've seen students who (to use a cliche) think outside of the box--who transcend our expectations with their ingenuity and imagination. We can learn from them, too (but that's another post for another day.)
This is what I tell teachers who bemoan what we don't have. (There are those teachers, too.) It CAN be done, and we just have to be creative about it.
The quotation that' the title of this post is from Sean Wheeler, too, and when I first heard it, I inwardly slumped. Because when you think about it, it's depressing. If the future already happened, how can we hope to catch up? We don't have search bars!
Sometimes, though, it's not about the technology. Sure, it's nice to have--and it's necessary to have in this day and age. But most of the time, it's about the teaching.
So, keep reading great books, and keep following great minds, check out those Pinterest boards curated by great teachers, and ask for help from your PLC. We're all in this together.
And I have faith in us.
I was recently asked by a public school administrator from another district, "What evidence can you present that using instructional technology leads to higher levels of student learning?”
Beyond my observations and anecdotal evidence that students were more excited and engaged, I couldn't come up with an answer. I was stumped. How DO we--or how CAN we--accurately measure the effect of technology integration on student learning? How can we prove what we, as teachers, have witnessed on our own, everyday, in our own classrooms: that our students have become more active learners and less passive ones because of the increased application of educational technology?
According to Edutopia, technology integration can be one of the most difficult topics in which to find clear data: "the term itself is a broad umbrella for numerous practices that may have little in common with each other. In addition, technology tools change rapidly, and outcomes can vary depending on implementation" [emphasis mine]. To me, assessing the impact of technology integration sounds a little bit like trying to grab a greased pig in a mud pit--difficult to grasp and certainly slippery enough to fail attempting to doing so.
What, then, is a school to do? We certainly want to justify to the administration that the money spent on technology was well worth it, we certainly aim to prove to parents and members of the community that their tax dollars are being well spent, and we certainly hope to prove to all parties involved that our students are exceptionally prepared for college and career life by virtue of their immersion with the educational technology purchased and implemented.
However, there's very limited research out there to prove the direct correlation between technology integration and improved learning. What is known though, is that simply placing the technology in the classroom produces very little in the way of authentic learning. Indeed, successful technology integration depends on three main ideas:
When I work with teachers who want to incorporate any technology into their curriculum, I turn these statements into questions:
These questions, then, serve as guideposts for the curricular roadmap we develop together. This prevents the all-too-often and inevitable pitfall of simply jumping on the latest edtech bandwagon. We have to always remember that pedagogy comes first and technology serves to supplement it.
So, I still don't have an answer for the question posed to me by that administrator. I'm sure there are studies and evidence out there that a quick Google search will produce.
What I do have, however, is the belief that while technology allows for more student-centered learning--and, subsequently, ownership of learning--without thoughtful and purposeful planning by our teachers, the whole question of evidence of higher levels of learning becomes moot.
Planning with a purpose--having a clearly laid-out plan for creativity and critical thinking--is perhaps the only evidence we need.
image via Reid Wilson
Has it really been two months since my last post???
Yep. It has been. New job, new district, new responsibilities. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
If it means anything, in my head I was drafting all sorts of posts that just didn't quite make it here.
Anyway, one of those many drafts being telepathically composed had to do with fear. Or, more specifically, the fear of failing.
When friends and family ask me how I like the new job, my response is usually an enthusiastic one. The absolute and undeniably best part of my job is meeting teachers, listening to the ways they want to engage their students, and helping them integrate those new and innovative methods of teaching into their curriculum.
Committing to a new technology feels like standing on the edge of a precipice: you either experience an adrenaline rush that'll empower you to sprout wings and soar, or you endure a crushing panic that's going to catapult you to your death.
Hyperbole aside. . . either option is frightening. Crash and burn? Or take a flying leap into the unknown?
That's what stepping out of your comfort zone feels like. And the biggest question I hear (both verbalized and tacit) is "What if it fails?"
I work with a number of teachers who want to step out of their comfort zone; who want to trade in worksheets for Google docs; who want to exchange exit slips for Socrative; who want to dump stale end-of-the-term assessments for project-based learning and Genius Hour.
But. . .
Look at the image below. Do you see that tiny little space between the circle that says "Your comfort zone" and the circle that says "Where the magic happens?" It might as well be a murky chasm for some educators. A daunting abyss. A bottomless and black lacuna (More hyperbole, but I'm trying to make a point.)
Every single teacher I've coached has had that one soul-crushing moment of "I can't do that. It won't work." It usually follows pretty rapidly on the heels of that anything-is-possible moment of "I can't wait to try that with my students!" If we could just cross that teensy little gap!
I share with these skeptical teachers the story of every single time as a teacher I failed at technology integration. About the times I dove right in without grasping every single aspect of the technology. About the times I looked kind of dumb in front of my students for not having all the answers. About the times I didn't plan for server issues, saving, exporting, collaborating, plug-ins, or upgrades. About the many times that a great idea took a giant kamikaze nose dive.
And then I tell the stories of how as a result, I appeared more human in front of my students. About the times we worked together to troubleshoot issues. About the times individual students rose to the challenge of actively owning their own learning instead of passively waiting for me to deliver it. About the times they then collaborated with their peers to arrive at individual and class solutions. About the times we realized that maybe for this one particular issue, lesson, or content standard, technology wasn't even necessarily the way to go.
I grew up looking to my teachers for all the answers. And that worked at the time, because the teachers did have all the answers, remember? In that mammoth, well-worn teacher's edition? Back then, our teachers gave us the answers and we gave them right back--often as a test or a paper--to an audience of exactly. . .one.
The world's a much different place than it was when I was a student. Today, our students can publish to a global audience, and they don't need us to do it. They can find answers to their questions, and they don't need us to provide them. They can explore their own historical and scientific and literary interests, and they don't need us to give them permission. And I think that's most definitely frightening when we've spent a lifetime and a career providing answers.
One teacher who's about to retire confided in me that she's glad she's done because, as she puts it, kids today have "pulled back the curtain. We used to be the great and powerful Oz. Now we're just that little guy being exposed."
There's a lot of fear behind that statement; but it's understandable, given from where we've come.
I like to share with trepidatious teachers that they can find comfort in knowing that shift happens. (Couldn't help myself.) There's something truly liberating in not being required or expected to know everything. If we're preparing our students for college and career, then having them take ownership of their learning is a valuable skill. No employer wants his employees running to him 27 times a day asking, "What do I do now? How do I do this? Is this right?" We want self-directed, self-motivated problem-solving employees out in the workplace, so why would we want anything different from our learners?
My mother always said that experience was the best teacher. I'd add that failing is the runner-up. We shouldn't treat classrooms as self-contained bubbles. Bruises and scrapes are necessary; they build character. Failure is an option. I've always learned a better and more valuable lesson after experiencing skinned knees.
I like to view failure as Henry Ford did, at the: "opportunity to begin again more intelligently."
I think once we accept that we as teachers will (probably) fail the first time we introduce a new tool, platform, or app to our curriculum, once we embrace failure as a (necessary) step towards mastery, and if we (definitely) learn from the experience, then our failure is epic.
And I mean that in the best possible way.
I'll end here with a story I share with every teacher reluctant to let go of the past, hesitant to take a leap off the edge:
In 2008, just when Wikipedia was really gaining notoriety, and when wiki platforms were really gaining momentum, I had the bright idea to give it a try with my eighth graders. Instead of book reports, we were going to create a class wiki about Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. So, I stayed up until 3:30 a.m. the night before, reading the "rules" of how to create a wiki in PBWorks, checking the FAQs, and basically making sure that, in effect, I had all the answers. My lesson on wiki creation was going to be airtight.
But when Caitlyn and Stephen both tried to edit a page and couldn't, and when James became frustrated trying to insert an image, they looked to me for the answers.
I had none.
I panicked. My lesson was going down in flames. The curtain was being pulled back and I was being exposed as Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs, the real man behind the curtain. (Yes, that's his actual name.)
I remember thinking, "This is what I get for sneaking up to the ledge and thinking I could fly." It was like being the lead in a play and forgetting your lines: dumbstruck, open-mouthed, and staring out at the audience.
I swear I could hear crickets chirping. It was that quiet.
Then Nick said, "Hey, Ms. D? I can help James. I think I figured it out."
So I let Nick show James how to insert an image.
And I started breathing again.
A few minutes later, Mark called out, "Ms. D! Look what I found! Did you know you could...?" (Whatever it was, I can't remember. I was too relieved he had figured it out for himself.)
Nick went home that night and initiated the social networking feature, or comments section, on the class wiki. (Who knew?) With each "new comment" email alert I received that evening, I grew less and less anxious. They were teaching each other, collaborating, reviewing, and guiding.
I expected them to either be mad at me (for not knowing) or to be dismissive of me (for not needing me). They weren't. They were, as they informed me much later, happy I let them simply do.
That moment was empowering--for my students and for me.
Oddly enough, it's empowering as a teacher to not have to know all the answers. It's empowering for our students to know that they're capable of finding those answers all on their own.
So, I encourage you--if you're ambivalent or doubtful or just plain unnerved by the whole idea of integrating a new technology into your classroom, prepare to fail.
Do it epically.
And I mean that in the best possible way.
images via The Tilted Cusp, Start of Happiness, and edgalaxy.com
As I prepare for my new position as the Instructional Technology Specialist for a local school district, I've been cleaning out the files, notes, and curriculum ideas that I've accumulated over the last three years. Many of the things I've re-discovered I'm planning to take with me, especially this memo I wrote in June 2013 to the staff of my old school. I had just completed my second year teaching technology and assisting teachers with the steady and gradual integration of technology across the curriculum. To keep the momentum going over the summer, I offered the following suggestions to my colleagues. And even though it's two years old, it's still pretty relevant today as we educators continue to work to prepare our students for college and career.
Here's the memo for you to review and pass on to your network, too:
We need to narrow the gap between what we know and what our students know when it comes to technology. The reality is that our students are connected, and they shouldn’t have to 'power down' when they enter the classroom.
With that said, here are some things to think about over the summer and try to implement for next year.
These are baby steps, designed to get you started in a small but meaningful way, and that's always a good place to start. If you have ANY questions or need ANY help, don’t hesitate to get in contact with me. Otherwise, I’ll see you in August!
Even though the school year is now gearing up, it's not too late to pick one of the suggestions above and invigorate your teaching. Take "baby steps" to integrate technology into your curriculum; you can't run until you crawl first!
Speaking of baby steps, I just recently delivered three workshops designed to assist teachers in making the leap from 20th century to 21st century learning, so please check them out.
Good luck, have an amazing school year, and let me know how this advice works for you!
image courtesy of Flickr
So....it's been quite awhile since my last post, and I feel a little guilty about it. Although, really, if I'm guilty of anything, it's enjoying the heck out of my summer! But now we're at the end of July and as the school supply sales commence, so does planning for the year ahead.
I've been doing some of that this summer (planning, I mean) in between trips to the pool and chauffeuring my kids to their various camps. And I'm not just referring to my Pinterest addiction, as my main source of collecting (or pilfering) lesson ideas, but I've also engaged in some "real" professional development via my Personal Learning Network, or PLC. What's a PLC? Basically, it's you taking charge of your professional knowledge, a reciprocal network in which you connect with others to learn, share, gather, and create. If you're not familiar with the concept of a PLC, I recommend you take a look at this site from David Kelly, a consultant and social media trainer. He has some useful links and resources.
Now, you don't have to be connected online to establish your PLN--conferences, face-to-face meetings, and an informal sit-down with other teachers will suffice--but, in my opinion and from my own personal experience, Twitter is the way to go. In fact, my favorite PLC this summer has been one hosted by Todd Nelsoney at #SummerLS. Todd's been issuing free weekly challenges to our virtual group, inspiring us to try out new tech tools in the classroom and introducing us to educational leaders and innovators across the country--whom I now follow on Twitter and from whom I'm learning new things every day. (Oh, the beauty of being connected!) And speaking of being connected, it was this post from Todd that got me reflecting on why I started my PLC in the first place...
See, teaching is an isolated profession.
I'm sure that statement seems contradictory to most people. I mean, we're surrounded by kids all day! Overwhelmed and sometimes annoyed, sure. But isolated? Well, think about it: we're pretty much alone in terms of adult, professional connections. The 45 (or even 30) minutes we get for lunch in the faculty room certainly doesn't serve to meet our need as educators to connect and share, to hash out the beginnings of a great idea, or to get feedback on something that just didn't quite get off the ground. (Which again, is why Twitter serves as a great resource. I can log on anytime, anywhere at my convenience.) Therefore, I know that many teachers, including myself, tend to feel...well...isolated.
I certainly was, and I had become pretty jaded over the last three years, attempting to get our technology curriculum fully integrated, but meeting with a lot of resistance and pushback on all fronts. (I don't want to get into the details right now, but suffice it to say, it was a TOUGH time.) So tough, in fact, that I was even considering leaving education completely, and had interviewed for jobs completely unrelated to my degree.
I definitely felt isolated. And stagnant. I couldn't advance my ideas, our students weren't really being challenged, and I didn't feel I had anywhere to turn--until I discovered Twitter. And that provided the much-needed outlet for my passion and vision. I was invigorated! Finally, a chance to connect with others who wanted to be out-of-the-box innovators and true 21st-century educators! "Meeting" all of these people helped me remember why I got into education in the first place, and it provided the support and encouragement I desperately needed at the time. My connections provided links for recommended reading, lesson ideas, the latest in edtech, words of inspiration, and an invitation to an Edcamp...which rocked my world! One of my connections even planted the idea in my head as to why I should and needed to be blogging...which led to even more connections, as I'll explain in a future post.
My PLC saved my sanity and my career, and for that, I'll never be more grateful. It bolstered me to keep forging ahead, and to never consider quitting--even when I felt I was fighting my battles alone. I wasn't alone anymore; I had made connections who guided me and advised me, and I believe it made me a better educator and a better colleague. And I hope in turn, it made for better students.
No man--or woman--is an island. There's a whole world (wide web) out there! Do yourself, your students, and your sanity a favor and get on the PLC bandwagon as soon as you can. It's not as hard as you think, according to Will Richardson and Christopher Wooleyhand, whose advice I followed to get myself started this past year:
1. Pick your passion, or the topic about which you'd most like to explore. Edtech? Interactive notebooks? Formative assessments? Choose one thing and start there.
2. Get a Twitter account. Of course.
3. Search blogs. Who out there is writing about your topic? Google search it. And follow those bloggers on Twitter.
4. Be a "creeper"...for a while. Until you're comfortable enough to post your first tweet, read what others have to say for a while. Get a sense of what others are tweeting and how it's done.
5. Share. You're not in a PLC if you're not participating. Retweet or post links to things you love.
6. Make it a habit. If you're not online, you're not learning. Give yourself at least fifteen minutes a day with your PLC.
And here are my own additions to the above rules:
7. Be patient. Now, it will take a while to build your community (and mine grows every day), but keep at it. Take a look at who the people you're following are following and follow them. Your followers will appear. Follow the sage advice from Field of Dreams: "If you build it, they will come." (Could I say the word "follow" more???)
8. Don't sweat the small stuff. If you're following more people than are following you, don't worry about it. Your worth is not measured in likes, comments, or follower counts.
9. Chat it up. Twitter chats are great places to share, vent, collect, and collaborate. Look for a hashtag (#) for any chat in which your interest is piqued and just follow the conversation. Here's an extensive collection of chat times and topics. Remember to include the hashtag in your tweet so that others know you're there!
And finally, here are some of my favorite Tweeters out there to get you started. Add them to your PLC, too:
I really hope you get started on your own PLC soon. It's never to late to join one. (They're not just for summer learning!) I'd love to have you join my PLC, so please follow me @sdemichele. I can't wait to "meet" you!
image courtesy of Pixabay
There's 30 of them. They're brand new. They're desired by the students in a way that nothing else in school is coveted.
And they just...sit there.
I'm talking about the brand new iPads my friend's school acquired at the start of this school year.
The administration touted its good fortune to the parents. The acquisition of this technology would bring their school into the 21st century; their students would become connected; they'd be competitive among the surrounding schools.
Which is great--if the iPads could actually walk themselves into the hands of a student and be used in a purposeful manner. (Maybe that's a 22nd-century concept?)
But see, no one in the administration thought to provide for professional development that could have assisted teachers in learning best practices for iPads in the classroom. Or even simply arranged for a day for the teachers to share ideas and plans for the iPads for the school year.
So there the iPads sat in their moveable cart, but not moving much at all.
My friend offered to hold an in-service for the teachers, having taken an iPad integration class last summer. But the administration summarily rejected his idea on the grounds that "the teachers will figure it out on their own. We shouldn't have to pay teachers their salary AND pay for training."
True story. Somehow, it was worth investing $15,000 in iPads but it wasn't worth investing in teacher training.
In her article "What's Worth Investing In? How to Decide What Technology You Need," author Tina Barseghian posits that schools need to stop and think about what they need before they purchase it: "We have to be thinking about what’s the goal of using technology. What do we want to have happen?”
Exactly. What DO we want to have happen? Simply having the technology in close proximity to the students doesn't make a school a 21st century one. Semantically speaking, ALL schools are 21st century schools, right?
Welcoming the iPads into the school didn't make students better learners, nor did it make them more tech-savvy.
To quote my sons: "Duh."
Osmosis works only at the cellular level.
Technology for technology's sake doesn't work. We need to establish goals for our students, for our curriculum, and for our teachers before we make the purchases. And in most cases, the money could be better spent on helping our teachers to integrate already-existing technology into the curriculum. I've talked to WAY too many teachers who don't integrate technology simply because it's coming at them faster than they can keep up, and no one seems to be interested in helping them do so. Which means...maybe there are a lot of us faking it out there?
On his list of the Top 10 Ways to Fake a 21st Century Classroom (which is both hilarious and disturbingly accurate, by the way), Terry Heick puts "Buy iPads" at #6: "If it’s a 21st century learning environment you’re looking for, a classroom full of students pinching and zooming on little glass rectangles will give it to you in spades."
Pretty accurate observation, Mr. Heick.
I've never understood the whole concept of "fake it until you make it." How about we learn before we do? Isn't that what we tell our students? Isn't that expected in ANY century of learning?
I've seen a recent (and hopeful) trend in local school districts, and that's the hiring of technology/instructional coaches. It's a slow-moving trend, but I hope it's on an upward swing.
Because if we don't invest in our teachers, we're certainly not making an investment in our students.
Or in their 21st century learning.
And that rings pretty false to me.
image via Flickr
Of all the things I teach with regard to the research process, teaching students how to avoid plagiarism is probably the most challenging.
As edtech blogger Med Kharbach notes, with the "boom in digital technology, plagiarism has been elevated to the ranks of serious epidemics. In academia it gets even worse. More students are growing dependent on copy paste culture."
He's right. Our digital natives, having known only the Internet their whole lives, see absolutely nothing wrong with copying and pasting information from the Internet and into their word-processing document. Of course, they don't yet understand the consequences of their actions because they don't really take it seriously. Can "borrowing" someone else's words be considered a crime? Simply put, yes, I tell my students as I share with them plagiarism's clear definition. If caught plagiarizing, I explain to the my students that, at best, they'll receive a failing grade for their hard work; at worst, a failing grade for the class, suspension, or even expulsion.
I save the plagiarism lesson for the end of the unit, right before I take the reins off the kids and let them get started on their research project. After devoting five-plus lessons to proper research techniques (understanding copyright, fair use, and public domain; citing sources; evaluating websites, and keyword searching), we finally arrive at discerning the subtle differences among summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting.
With younger students in 4th and 5th grades, understanding the pitfalls and dangers of plagiarism can be an abstract concept, which is why I use this simple and age-appropriate lesson from Common Sense Media called "Whose is it, Anyway?"
For students in grades 6-8, however, fully and clearly understanding what plagiarism is and how it can--even if you're unknowingly guilty of it--have lasting and deep-reaching consequences, is a necessary skill. The need to break the kids of the "copy-and-paste" mentality before they get to high school is critical. So here's how I approach the concept for students in grades 6-8:
Research Chunk #5
Paraphrase, Summarize, or Quote?
Pre-Class (aka "flipping the classroom")
This is the lesson plan that has worked for me. I've tweaked it over the years. Of course, you may want to tweak it for your own use, so here are some other resources you might want to review for use in your classroom:
If the students still feel the need to plagiarize, the following are some free plagiarism checkers for teachers:
And, finally, students will need to cite their work, as I've discussed in a recent post. Luckily, in this day and age, they've got a plethora of bibliography generators to do it for them:
One final note: the image below is something I created on my own, but it's loosely based on an image a colleague forwarded to me about a year ago. If anyone out there knows the origin of the image, please let me know ASAP so I can give that person credit...I don't want to be guilty of plagiarizing!
image above via BLaugh
If you follow me, you know I've been blogging lately about my research unit for grades 4-8.
Because it's such a time-consuming yet very important process, I like to take it slooooowwwly with the kids.
All too often there's just not enough time to go through the painstaking process of teaching our students the logical, organized, and linear method of properly conducting the research process. I think we've all assumed at one time or another--and I've been guilty of this myself!-- that our students know enough about Googling things to figure it out for themselves, or we've (sort of) addressed the issues--plagiarism, citing, etc.--as they arose.
I cannot stress enough the need to allow you and your class time to properly follow the necessary steps of the research process. I myself like to "chunk" the process into manageable steps: understanding copyright, fair use, and public domain; citing sources; evaluating websites; keyword searching; and avoiding plagiarism (to be addressed in a future post).
Today, I'd like to address keyword searching. Obviously, with the Common Core State Standards stressing critical-thinking skills, reasoning, and evidence collection skills, it makes sense to teach the research process instead of simply assigning a research project. Our students are going to be expected, as mandated by the CCSS, to "gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources; assess the credibility of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and providing basic bibliographic information for sources" (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.8).
Keyword searching, then, is important for gathering "relevant information." And frankly, it saves a lot of time when done correctly, and that's usually how I sell it to my students--who resent having to do research in the first place, anyway!
I also like to use the Internet to my advantage: there are others before me who've created some amazing lessons to teach students how to conduct a proper keyword search, so why reinvent the wheel?
Research Chunk #4
Effective Keyword Searching
For fun and daily practice, I LOVE this site, A Google a Day. Google provides the question, and you provide the answer, applying your newly-developed keyword search techniques! You could make this a competition for your students, and they'd love it. It's pretty addictive!
If you're interested in having your students complete research modules on their own, then read this. Finally, they can Google like a boss with this handy cheat sheet.
This is what I do in the classroom. What have you tried that works? Please share your ideas and suggestions. I'm always ready to try something new!
Image via Pixabay
When I teach my research unit, I like to devote an entire nine weeks to the process, since it's important to break up the process into manageable bite-size pieces or "chunks."
After first distinguishing among the subtle differences of copyright, public domain, and fair use, we then move on to learning how to properly cite resources. Of course, after that, the students think it's necessarily time to start researching and note-taking, and in the past that would be the next logical step. I mention the past (well, my past) because, back in the day, the only thing we had were books. (Remember those?) Now, as you know, students immediately start Googling for information...and of course grabbing everything they find.
What I most remember from those long ago nights secluded in my college library, is sitting cross-legged on the floor of a dank and dusty aisle, surrounded by a tower of books, scanning indexes and tables of contents, evaluating whether or not each book in the pile would be useful for my research, discarding some and keeping others.
I repeat this scenario to my students when it comes time to teach them how to evaluate websites. In this respect, I point out to them, the printed word isn't that different when it comes to the Internet. It's all about taking a good look at the information presented and determining if it's useful, relevant, and truthful.
Teaching kids how to research on the Internet is, in my opinion, one of the hardest things to do, precisely because of our students' belief that the Internet has everything they need (which it does), and that everything is truthful (which it isn't isn't).
Which is exactly why I feel the need to teach my students how to evaluate websites for their accuracy and relevancy.
Research Chunk #3
How to Evaluate Websites
Usually, that's enough for one day. It's a lot for the kids to process, recognizing that everything on the Internet isn't always what it seems. I always feel like Toto after I teach this lesson, pulling back the curtain to expose the great and powerful Oz as a hoax.
Image via Flickr
As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm currently teaching my research unit to students in grades 4-8, and past experience has taught me the benefit of "chunking" the research procedure into bite-sized, manageable pieces for my kiddos.
After we complete our opening lesson on copyright, fair use, and public domain, and since the idea of giving credit where credit is due is still fresh in their minds, we next dovetail into our lesson on citing sources.
While it may seem out of sequence--as most teachers address plagiarism and paraphrasing before anything else--I like to teach citations before we tackle the concept of note-taking. As I just mentioned, it's a natural extension of the copyright lesson and the idea of resisting the temptation to take what's not yours. I also think it sets the precedent that citing sources as you find them is crucial. All too often, students find information, note it, and then move on. Then, the works cited page becomes an afterthought--something they'll assemble when the research paper is finished. As we all know from experience (having made that same mistake ourselves when we were young and dumb), this is a baaaaad idea. Trying to locate research sources after the fact is like trying to herd cats: you'll end up frustrated, angry, and wondering why you even tried in the first place.
Most of you will agree that source citation is a very abstract and outdated idea to our students, and trying to make it relevant to them goes over like a pregnant pole-vaulter. (I'm really full of figurative language today. Sorry.) More often than not, student demand to know why anyone would care or even want the minutia of the details involved in citation. However, saying, "Because that's the way it's done" isn't the most clarifying of answers, and that's why you might want to read this extremely helpful post by K-M the Librarian. She makes the analogy that citations are the addresses where the resources reside, and without them, the reader is left with a set of very unclear directions.
Of course, if that analogy doesn't work, I always kindly point out to my students that if I can't read their "address" and get to the correct destination, then it will most definitely affect my "rating" of their "mapping" services. That always seems to drive home the point. :-)
Research Chunk #2
How to Teach Citation of Sources
Like anything, this is going to take practice, so be patient with yourself and with your students. Students have quite a bit of trouble citing their sources (or even remembering to) because they're not familiar with citation style guides, and because they haven't had much practice. To ease their stress, it's not a bad idea to collect and comment on their works cited rough drafts in the middle of the research process so that they can make the necessary corrections and learn from your feedback.
I'm always open to new ideas when it comes to how to teach citation to students, so if you have any resources that work for you, please share!
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Digital Learning Coach in Cleveland, Ohio, sharing innovative technology ideas.