Tag Archives: internet

Teaching Our Children the Foundations of Research

img_1484For the four grade levels I teach, my current unit for all students is a research project.  I selected four different topics and grouped my students into pairs or threes; they are to conduct proper research and create a Google Slides presentation.  The topics are as follows:

  • Grade 3–origin of a holiday
  • Grade 4–significant person or group in Black History
  • Grade 5–exploration of  a specific science topic
  • Grade 6–background and historical information about a state

In a previous lesson based around plagiarism and bibliographies, I reviewed with all of my students what exactly constitutes plagiarism and how to conduct responsible research.  They also learned how to give credit to their sources through a bibliography.  We are now bringing these learned ideas into practice through this project.  I am allowing my students to explore (with certain guidelines) and create a slideshow presentation reviewing their findings.

For the third and fourth grades, they are asked to use Kidtopia and Infotopia–simply to ensure their search results are safe and appropriate.  For the fifth and sixth grade, they are asked to utilize PebbleGo Next, which our district had purchased in the summer.  This basic database designed for children has ‘science’ and ‘states’ sections, so it works wonderfully with their respective projects.

Of course they are learning about their topics through their research and work, but the skills I want them to truly perfect are responsible research and proper citation.  These are educational building blocks that will stay with them through high school and higher education.  And, within the first day of creating their Google Slideshows, most of my students already have a bibliography slide on which they are posting their resources.  I am happy to see them become responsible students and researchers.

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Banned Books Week is coming to a close…

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am only a month into my first ever position as an ELEMENTARY educator.  And as most educators know, at least in the literacy realm, this week is Banned Books Week.  I really wanted to make sure I included this “holiday” into at least some of my classes’ curriculum, so I decided to test the waters with my fourth and six graders (about 200 students), and it went wonderfully!  We started off using Mentimeter, which is a wonderful online instant survey tool–I highly recommend it!  I laid out various banned books onto the tables, but did not tell them why they were there and that they were banned.  My Mentimeter question was “What do all of these books have in common?”  Of course, all of them at once gave me and each other puzzled looks because they couldn’t see a connection between a picture book like And Tango Makes Three and a very popular series like Harry Potter.  I encouraged them to discuss with their groups and get creative with their answers.  The end product was interesting to see because they stated things such as “fiction,” “hard cover,” and “illustrations.”

Once we did that I told them their answers were great, but unfortunately none of them was the one answer I was looking for.  And once again, I got puzzled looks across the board.  When I explained to them that the one major commonality of all of these books was that they were banned, the students immediately started calling out questions and groaning.  I loved it!  This meant they were questioning that idea, and were curious to learn more.

We then segued into it being Banned Books Week and the celebration of literacy and the First Amendment.  Some may think that free speech may be too complicated of an issue for children that are only no more than eleven or twelve years old, but it most certainly was not.  Some classes sparked debates about the validity of banning a book, while others wanted to learn the reasoning behind each banning.  It was such a spectacular moment as an educator to witness.  And I truly couldn’t have been more pleased by how the lessons played out!

To wrap up the lesson, I allowed my students to take “mugshots” to celebrate Banned Books Week, and I had more than enough volunteers.  As you can see (below), they got very creative and had a fun time producing their own representation of what banning a book means to them.  It has been a wonderful week, and I plan on spreading the wealth to the third and fifth graders next year!

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To GAFE? Or not to GAFE?

GAFE:  Google Apps for Education

Many school districts are jumping onto this bandwagon.  They want to be a part of the technological evolution that is occurring across the world.  Google, as anyone who is even remotely in the know already uses, began as a search engine, but now, is SO much more!  They are Microsoft’s arch nemesis–a competition among suites.

GAFE has so many features:  classroom, sheets, slides, forms…the list goes on for a bit!  But they are also user friendly and compatible with pretty much any electronic device and other popular tools out there, such as YouTube.  And, if you already have a gmail account, you have access!

I, myself, have been a gmail account holder for over a decade, and I’ve never wanted to part.  Gmail is easy to use, never has never issues, and I’ve never been hacked.  It simply makes sense.  And with access to so many of Google’s services, the deal is sweetened up a bit more.  So when my district offered workshops on GAFE, I did not hesitate to sign up.

We spent three long days doing a lightning introduction and review of everything, and today, we are given the opportunity to take the certification exam.  If my experiences and (short) training did its part, then I will be a Google Certified Teacher by the end of today!

Honestly, in terms of tactile rewards, the certification doesn’t give much.  (You can print out the digital certificate they email you.)  But, it does allow you a lot as an educator in this tech-driven world.  As we spent our days practicing, I was brainstorming lesson ideas in my mind.  I feel energized and excited to tackle the school year ahead!

My district is lucky enough go one-to-one with Chromebooks this school year, so we are most definitely supported to infuse as much technology as possible into our lessons.  And slowly, but surely, I am feeling equipped to take on that challenge!

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Book Club Meets Movie Night

For my final Book Club title of the school year, I had selected Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You.  I thought our end-of-May meeting would correspond perfectly with the June release date for the movie.  Not only did this get my “loyal members” a little more excitement than usual for our discussion, but it also had new students gravitate towards the club.  I even have some of them asking if we can all see the movie together!

Some die-hard book lovers argue that the movie almost always ruins the book and completely alters the story.  Now, that may just be the case, however, I say use that movie to your advantage.  Our students, especially teenagers, generally enjoy going to the movies.  So why not use that to propel them to read?  Why not use the new release as a tool to inspire a student to pick up a book and read for leisure?

I am thrilled to see that all of my Book Club members, both old and new, are excited to read the book and then compare it to the movie.  It will be enjoyable for all, and the best part is that it inspires literacy!

In addition to our monthly Book Club meetings, I also host a Page-to-Screen monthly movie night in the library.  Since the beginning of the school year, once a month I selected a movie that was based off of a book, and I invited students to purchase a ticket (only $2!).  I would pull out my projector screen, pop in the DVD to my projector, and make some popcorn.  Then we would all sit around and enjoy the film depiction of a beloved book.  This, too, is a form of literacy.  Quite a few times I’ve had a student want to read the book AFTER watching the movie!

Sometimes as educators it is easy to grumble and point fingers at something or someone else for the apathy our students feel towards reading.  But why not DO SOMETHING to fight against it?  Use something that already interests them to inspire them to pick up a book.  Even if only a couple students out of a huge group start to read, it is a victory!

I once saw a cartoon that had the caption, “Why did you become a school librarian?” and the answer read, “To avenge the decline of literacy.”  Even though it gave me a chuckle, I couldn’t agree more–whether you call yourself a librarian, a media specialist, a cybarian, et cetera,  one of your main duties is promoting literacy.  And, I believe you must do anything you can to ensure that.

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Remember when YouTube wasn’t a thing…?

So nine years ago today, YouTube was ‘born.’  It’s funny to think that there was a time in the world when YouTube wasn’t a cure-all.  “YouTube it” has become a common phrase in the English vernacular, and it’s strange to think that it didn’t exist a decade ago.  It is amazing how one simple idea for a website–a collection of videos–can completely change the way we navigate and entertain through the internet.

In honor of YouTube’s 9th birthday, Yahoo has ranked its top 9 videos:

https://www.yahoo.com/tech/for-youtubes-9th-birthday-here-are-9-of-the-greatest-83556987977.html

The list has all of the popular favorites:  including Dramatic Chipmunk and Antoine Dodson–check it out!

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Happy 25th, Internet!

This week marks the 25th anniversary of the Internet. It is mind-boggling to think how far we’ve progressed in terms of technology and communication. The internet has changed not only our daily lives, but that of the entire world. It has made us all global citizens and connected us forever.
But, it is still fun to look back and see when this thing called “the Internet” first came into our vernacular. The above video clip shows Katie Couric and her co-hosts discussing the Internet–or at least trying to! My favorite part is when they can’t figure out what the ‘@’ symbol is exactly. This clip makes me think about what might seem strange to people looking back on us in twenty years.
I remember getting my first computer when I was ten years old–it was this big clunky thing–but I was so excited. We had AOL as our service provider and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the dial tone sound of the computer ATTEMPTING to connect. But, when I did hear the “you’ve got mail” welcome message, I would be elated. Looking back at this phase of technology in my life is comical now, but back then, it was the best computers had to offer to our everyday lives.
Technology truly changes the way we do EVERYTHING and it will be interesting to see just how much more it will all evolve in the future.

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March 14, 2014 · 9:11 am

Net Neutrality: A Thing of the Past?

http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/11/so-the-internets-about-to-lose-its-net-neutrality/

We all enjoy (at least in this nation) freely creating and accessing information on the internet, and many of us may be taking this for granted.  But now, net neutrality is under attack.  Big wigs like Verizon and AT&T are looking into enforcing capitalistic control over the internet.  What this means is that creating online is going to be a chargeable action (money-wise).  

Huge companies like Google already pay fees for obtaining services of these large telecommunication companies, but now it may affect us all.  Keep in mind we already pay to receive internet access in term of technology, but now these telecom corporations may be charging us on various sources we access while under their services. 

Although this is not even an official change in the world of internet–it will be seen in the DC Federal Court (the second strongest court after the Supreme Court)–it does seem like it will happen either now or later.  These telecom companies tried another sneaky tactic back in 2006 when they tried passing legislation that would protect net neutrality BUT with a loophole that stated that these telecom companies can control the level of services provided.  That meant that the telecom corporations chose which companies had faster internet service.  We all know how finicky we are about the speed of a website, so the fact that they could control this basically meant they chose which websites succeeded and which ones didn’t.  Thankfully both the government and public saw right through this tricky loophole and voted it down.

But, now in 2013, we’re at these front lines once again.  What will happen to net neutrality?  Will the last free technological frontier turn into a capitalistic, controlled system?  

It seems that only time will tell.

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