Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Best Possible Source

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Going Paperless...
a pipedream or reality? This fall finds me in the midst of attempting to go mostly paperless in my 7th grade Info Tech class. In particular, I am trying out two free websites which allow students to share documents and take tests.

For Info Tech, we utilize a class blog as a way of posting assignments, activities, and worksheets. If I've created a worksheet, students can download it from the blog and save it on their jumpdrive and samba. When they have completed the assignment (in class), they upload the assignment to, a document sharing website. I download the assignment, make comments, and re-upload for them to review. I verbally give them their grade for the assignment. Viola! Paperless assignments. This works for two reasons - our class is held in the business room and most assignments are done in class. Settings allow the teacher to make the drop visible only to class members. more asking the office to make copies or using up my quota!

In addition to, I have very recently (as in this week), begun using, a free online test and quiz maker. Classmarker allows teachers to make multiple choice, short answer, and essay tests. Teachers register their students and students are able to take the tests right online. Again, privacy settings and controls are set so that students can only see their work and can only take the test once. I will be giving my first online Info Tech test next week! Fingers crossed as this will save a lot of paper in the long run.

Best Possible Source?

The other day I was working in the High School Library when in walked one of the best and brightest of our seventh graders to do some research for a class assignment. I became curious as to what information she needed after watching some of her Googling strategies. She was typing entire questions in Google, such as 'when was Massachusetts founded' and clicking on links in the hit list such as, about. com and wikipedia.

My mantra these past few years with students has been: "Always try to find the Best Possible Source of Information." So, when I walked over to ask her what she was looking for, she knew to expect my "What's the best possible source for these questions?" response. And she knew the answer, of course, would be Grolier (in particular, Grolier's America the Beautiful). But, for some reason she was unable to connect the research query with the information literacy skills she had been taught.

It's true that many students are unwilling to use databases or evaluate websites, taking whatever comes up on the Google hit list as fact. However, I knew with this student it was more of a disconnect than an unwillingness. And, a firm instinct to automatically Google when faced with any research topic.

To me, it seems important to integrate and reinforce information literacy skills across the curriculum. We should be asking our students and ourselves - is this really the best possible source of information? Even for personal research, we should all want quality, accurate, viable information. I try not to hover, but when students come to the library I always challenge them to find the best possible source.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Databases & Flip Cameras

Going Paperless
With databases!
As we attempt to save paper (and money) in our school, we might consider the use of databases in terms of assigning Current Events. Newsbank in particular works well for these types of assignments. As you may know, Newsbank is a database containing the FULL TEXT to hundreds of newspapers and news journals from around the country. A variety of titles are included, such as The New York Times, Newsweek, and The Buffalo News. Students can access myriad sources from official newspapers, read entire articles, and cite their sources all in one place.

It's easy to go paperless with Newsbank. Just have your students log in and search for a topic. They can then jot down the citation for the article they choose. To verify their source, simply log in to Newsbank and search for the article they used. 1-2-3! No more copies to be made of magazine articles and you know your students are practicing the much needed skill of accessing quality online resources for the assignment.

All students learn how to use Newsbank in 7th grade Information Technology. Please feel free to stop in the library for a brief one on one review of Newsbank, or any other database you'd like to use. We are happy to help!

Flip CamerasThe library currently has 5 digital video flip cameras for faculty to borrow. These cameras are simple to use - one button and you're recording. All computers in the High School Library have the proper software needed for uploading and editing the video files. Media Club members, as well as myself, would be happy to give you a tutorial on how to use these very handy cameras.

Ideas for classroom video projects include:

  • videotape a field trip and have students add a written narrative to go with the video
  • record a book review
  • create a 'public service announcement' on any number of topics
  • tell a digital story
  • record a biography (students dress up as person they have researched)
  • "Then and Now" project contrasting the Laurens of today with the Laurens of long ago