Our Second Session

We began by recapping the ground we covered in the first session. (It sounds like Etherpad is already making the rounds: in addition to Carly's successes, Rosamar is using it in brainstorming meetings, and the Pro-D chairs used it to collate group work at their last session.)


[1] How do my students find info in their Digital World?

Part of "Making Meaning in a Digital World" is the question of where to find information. (Google it? Wikipedia? What's reliable?)

  1. How to Google (a cheat sheet)
  2. World Book
  3. EBSCO databases
Who has the answers?
A feature of the new digital landscape is that the answers are not just in the teacher's head; students with a cell phone, an ipod or a laptop can get the "facts" in moments. Of course, we need to teach them to be critical consumers of the info, and help them to be more savvy "googlers". "Can I believe that medical page? that white supremacy page? that government conspiracy page? that alien sighting page?" Can students trust the results of a Google search? Of course, we can teach better search engine skills. But maybe there's more.

Can't I Google it all?
Some reports maintain that only 1% of the web is visible via a Google search, and that the rest is hidden behind firewalls or paywalls. There are great databases out there, but unless you subscribe, you can't get in. However, as part of a package negotiated by ERAC, every BC student now has access to WorldBook on-line (tutorial here) and the EBSCO periodical database (tutorial here).

We spent some time in the session looking at all three levels of Worldbook: a great "neutral" resource that students can use to "get the facts." WB is a good jumping off point that "free" resources can be measured against. (ie Wikipedia or Google results.) EBSCO also comes in three difficulty levels and can be searched by date, Lexile and publication type. Using these resources is all part of building background knowledge.

[2] Essential Question or Trivial Pursuit?
Finding the information is only the first step. Students need a reason for their work. Take a look at the "From Now On" site to see what the author has to say about the role of the Essential Question in designing lessons and units.- (fno - Essential Question). The Coalition of Essential Schools also talks about the importance of setting the question: (another link). We need to be able to answer the "So What?" that springs to mind when we look at reams of information. I can teach my students to memorize dates, events, formulas, names: so what? How can we make it important, relevant, engaging and so on? Here's a link to some "Understanding by Design" material: UbD.

Lorraine has kindly included page 1 of a planning template she is developing to help teachers and teacher-librarians think about what will go into a lesson or unit of study. (Click on the graphic on the left.)

[3] Representing student learning.
There are many tools that allow students exciting ways to represent their learning. "Scrapblog" lets students use a very visual medium that allows for the incorporation of text. (The finished product can then be posted to a blog, or webpage, used in a gallery walk, pasted into a PPT, etc!) Students are able to share their work with each other for comment, with other classes, with relatives around the world. Of course, whatever medium is chosen, it is how the final task is embedded in the context of the Essential Question that makes it more than a fancy cut and paste exercise.

See you next session.


Tried out wordle today

Hi all

Just wanted everyone to know that I tried out wordle today in our Literacy team meeting and people really liked the idea of it. Here it is (I actually lost the original but this is basically the same).


Our First Session

Here's a quick overview of what we looked at today:

1) Shift Happens (Do you know?):
On the right hand sidebar, you'll find some Youtube videos. We watched the two versions of "Shift Happens", and asked the question "What are the implications for my teaching?"
Some of the key ideas that jumped out were...

  • so many job changes...
  • so many new kinds of careers: how are we preparing our students?
  • we need to be aware of the world out students live in. (Plugged in!)
  • does their exposure to a digital environment make them scan/read differently?
  • can we get beyond the "glitz and glam" of technology?
  • who answers the questions now? Is it about content?
  • collaboration and cooperation are the new "musts".
The second video raised other questions:
  • self-publishing and self-broadcasting are the new ways to express oneself
  • common knowledge: Wikipedia. (We're part of the answer.)
  • telling our stories: Youtube. (Everybody has something to share.)
  • texting as a way of communicating. ("How many texts per day!??")
  • piracy and inappropriate posts: who is teaching about these things?
  • (BTW, here are some suggestions for using this clip with a class.)

Lorraine mentioned a book she is reading called "Proust and the Squid" by Maryanne Wolf. It discusses, among other things, how reading is something that was invented relatively recently, and this has changed the way we think and view the world. Perhaps our students will have a similar experience with digital media. Click the title link to read an excerpt from the first chapter of her book.

Diane mentioned that we will be posting articles on "new literacies" in the sidebar. Many the key publications (ie Educational Leadership) are available from EBSCO, the journal database the district subscribes to. For home use, you'll need the name and password supplied by your TL, but during the school day, you can access them directly with no login required.

2) What do we already know? (+ Etherpad and Wordle)
Using Word, we asked everyone to make a list of tools and apps they know how to use. Type the word 3x if you're very familiar, 2x if somewhat familiar, once if you have a passing acquaintance. Then, using a public pad from the Etherpad site, (we supplied the URL), everyone pasted their list into a common, shared page. Then, we pasted the entire list into Wordle. See below for the result.

The genius of Wordle is that it generates a "tag cloud" that makes the most common words appear larger and bolder, giving an instant visual feel for what are the key ideas. We could see the areas of expertise, and by omission, what areas we could work on together.

TOOL TIP: How could you use Etherpad in a class? Students could use it for "instant" collaboration on a script or outline. The resulting work can be emailed, posted on a class blog or saved in a Word document. Get instant feedback on what is important, or bothersome or inspiring in a lesson by having all students type into a common Etherpad at the end of a class, or at the start, as a warm up. (The Public pad will handle up to 16 people at a time. For a full class, you'll need to create 2 public pads.)

TOOL TIP: How could you use Wordle in a class? Paste a number of poems from a single author in a Wordle to see if there are common themes. Create a Wordle of the first page or so of a novel: guess the theme, topic, setting, genre, etc. Use the image as a poster, a unit summary, a T-Shirt design, a jumping off place. Collect student opinions, feelings, prior knowledge, beliefs about a topic and "wordle" them. Paste the image in a powerpoint, in a blog or on a class webpage.

3) Where to next?
Here are some suggestions:
  • Explore the two Tools we looked at.
  • Revisit the video clips.
  • Check out some of the links on the blog.
  • If you like, post on the blog, or leave comments on existing posts.

There was some interest in exploring: blogs for lit circles, and iMovie editing and production.
(You can also explore "gordonslearning.blogspot.com" for some examples of projects from last year. Look for the tag "blogs" and "iMovie")

See you next session!