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Posts Tagged ‘ed tech’

Currently, I teach an 8th grade class that focuses solely on research, and my two Senior classes writing research papers. For the last several days, I have listened to students complain that they can’t find enough information for their papers. I have explained that there are books written on many of the topics they have chosen. The problem is not a lack of information. It’s just knowing how to find it.

With Google, Yahoo, Bing, and all the other search engines out there, finding information should be easy. Really, compared to the way research was done 15 or 20 years ago, it is easier. Let me rephrase that; it is a whole lot easier, but I don’t know that I would go so far as to say that it is “easy.”

Research is hard work, even with all the tools that the Web provides. Take a service that searches database archives such as Ebsco Host. Finding good information still takes time, patience, and a certain amount of skill. I am yet to discover a means of finding good information on the Web without work, and this doesn’t only apply to scholarly study. All sorts of information that will help me live a more productive and fulfilling life sits at my fingertips.

Last year, Amber Case gave a TED talk titled “We are all Cyborgs now.” In her talk, she explains how the technology we use, specifically computers and smartphones, become an extension of our brains. While there is some harsh criticism on her ideas, I think she is right in the sense that I no longer have to remember every important fact that I hear and read. I just have to have a means of getting back to that information when I need it in the future. In other words, I have to know how to find it.

The cool thing is that I also have instant access to all sorts of facts and information that I have never heard before. I see the Web as an extension of our brain that is connected to everyone’s brain who uses the internet as depository for what they have learned or even thought and imagined.

It is this thinking and imagining thing that makes research hard. There is so much information packed into this “extension” of our brain, that we have to learn to discern what is good and what is bad. Doing this can make our real brain hurt at times!

Students (and teachers) need to realize that finding good information is hard work. There is no easy way to do it. However, the effort and discipline is worth it and necessary because after wading through the junk, there is a seemingly infinite amount of knowledge to be accessed.

Just think of the advantage a person has who possesses the knowledge of how to find information using the Web.

 

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Tonight, I was working on some fake Facebook resources and clicked on My Fake Wall, a resource that I have used in the past. The link took me to a page that said the site was offline. There was no indication of when it would be up and running again. There is a chance that it never will be. I was glad that using this site was not in the plans for class tomorrow!

This reminded me that no matter how well prepared you think you are, when using technology, there is always a chance of failure. The batteries in the camera die. The computer crashes. A website is down at the precise time that your classroom of thirty students is trying to log on. Believe me, this has happened to me more than once.

The web is unpredictable in this way, and I imagine it always will be. Maybe I should also say that the web is predictable in this way. At some point, it is going to let you down.

Having a decent backup plan is a must.

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Been thinking of doing a video project, but not sure where to get cameras for the students to use? I’d be willing to bet that you already have a bunch of cameras in the classroom. They are in the pockets of most students that walk through the doors of the school.

More and more students come to school with a phone that is equipped with a camera that will both take pictures and record video. If they don’t have a phone on them, there is a good chance that they will have an iPod. Whether it be a phone or an iPod, both will take excellent video footage for student video projects.

Some teachers may worry about students using their own equipment in case it gets lost or stolen. Remember, the students are already bringing it to school, and don’t be fooled, they are already using it, probably in your classrom. You might as well put it to good use.

Before you have students go out and film a project on their own device, make sure that there is a means of capturing the video and transferring it to the computer for editing. This is the one drawback in using several different kinds of devices, but I think that more and more, companies are formatting the video so it can easily be downloaded to a computer. Honestly, I have had more problems trying to get video off cam-corders that students bring than I have downloading video from mobile devices.

Having students use their devices for school work definitely gets students engaged in the work. They see that that thing they carry around in their pocket all day can be used for more than social interaction. It is a tool for learning and sharing.

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I’m not just talking about preparing students to write a paper. Show them how to discover the world.

This week, I read a cool article about the climbers who recently climbed Cerro Torre, a wicked mountain in the Patagonia.  I decided to share the story with some of my classes and use the article for a research activity we were doing. I couldn’t believe the interest my students had in the controversy brought forth in the article. I don’t know if any of them have ever climbed a mountain, but they wanted to see pictures of the mountain and of people climbing the mountain. We spent several minutes with Google images projected on the board poking around to see what we could find.

Students like to learn. They especially like to learn new things, but I think they forget, as we do at times, the power that is at our fingertips. I ‘m still not talking about researching information for a paper or class. Students need to know that the web connects them to a world of interesting and informative information. Students just need someone to show them that there is more happening in the world than what is posted on their Facebook wall.

Here’s the challenge: find a topic, any topic that might have some relation to what you are teaching, open up Google in front of the class (this can be a little scary), and do some research for the class. You won’t believe how engaged the class will be in the discussion. They really do want to learn.

 

 

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Projectors are becoming the norm in classrooms. Costing anywhere from $500-$1000 apiece, they are a pricy investment in the classroom. Occasionally, a teacher will fire it up to show a movie or maybe to have students copy notes but from what I have seen, many of them sit dormant in classrooms.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know there is a group of teachers who use their projectors on a daily basis in all sorts of cool ways, but they are the minority. Generally speaking, there are a bunch of projectors hanging in classrooms that are nothing but shiny dust collectors.

Here’s the challenge: dig out the remote, wipe off the dust,  turn on the projector, and use your projector today.

If your struggling for ideas, here are a few to get you started:

  • Show pictures to enhance a lesson
  • Show a short video to engage students in a lesson
  • Display student art work
  • Display student writing for revision (delete the name first)
  • Show students how to find information using Google that relates to the lesson
  • Make a Wordle
  • Use the Online Stopwatch in bomb mode (even high school students get excited about this one!)
  • Project short reading selections instead of making copies
  • Display class learning goals and objectives
  • Project quiz questions for short assessments (possibly made on the spot!)

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