5 Fab Ideas for Effective Online Research

Over the past few days, UWCSEA has been lucky enough to have Apple Guru Kathleen Ferenz visit our school. She has been a fabulous resource for me personallyas a Digital Literacy Coach, but also for the groups of teachers she has worked with.

One of Kathleen’s many strengths is in Literacy, and she has given us lots of handy hints to do with helping students make sense of online texts, research techniques and some strategies for developing effective research skills. Many of her ideas come from this great article ‘Making Sense of Online Text‘ which is extremely relevant today, even though it was written in 2004!

Please know that the following Fab Ideas for Effective Online Research are Kathleen’s – I am merely sharing them around.

1. Start with images

The right search words are the keys to unlocking the information you are searching for. Kathleen recommended showing students a photo of the sort of thing they would be searching for online to elicit keywords. By way of example, she showed an image of a volcano, and then asked students to think of the keywords that might describe the image. She then used the words the students gave as a starting point for a search.

2. Narrow search by Reading Level

A neat little addition to the ‘more tools’ section of the Google search results is the ability to search by reading level. I’m not sure how, but I had missed this gem.

3. Scaffold

Our Grade 6 students have been researching about the UWC movement and the other UWC schools around the world. They worked collaboratively on Google Docs to find information under various categories, with the view to making a Keynote presentation later on.

Although the teachers took care to direct students to retain the URL of their sources etc, the Google Docs quickly became a receptacle for work that had been copied and pasted.

Kathleen got the students to set up a table in Pages to help summarize and organise their data. This helped bridge the gap between the ‘research’ and the Keynote. Too often, students are not provided with enough scaffolding, and as a result, the finished product lacks a depth of understanding. This scaffold will help our students be more successful in their presentation.


4. Summarize & Transform

As part of the scaffolding process, students were asked to summarize their findings into bullet points, which was a great start of course. Where I think Kathleen really raised the bar was when she asked the kids to transform their notes into audio form. The process of transforming written text into a different form (in this case, audio) really made them think about what they had learned, and what was important. It helped put the notes into their own words and moved them away from copying.

Throughout her time at UWCSEA, Kathleen used the technique of transforming text. Occasionally it was creating/finding an image that represented a particular word, sometimes it was a movie recording, sometimes audio. I will definitely be adding this technique to my research toolbox.

5. Search Stories

How do you assess a student’s search skills? When Kathleen asked this question to a group of teachers, it certainly made them stop and think. Typically, the skills of searching and synthesizing are seldom assessed, and instead, the quality of a summative task/presentation becomes the assessment.

Using screen capture tools (e.g. Quicktime player) or a specially created video tool to help with the process, students can record their screen and show the process they use to search for relevant information. Google calls these ‘Search Stories‘ (see amusing example here).

[Although this post is primarily about researching, it would be remiss of me not to mention that Search Stories could be used as a basis for literacy – developing storylines, uncovering the plot with each new search category, character development…]

I would like to thank Kathleen for all her support, ideas and above all, her warmth! I hope you find these ideas as useful as we have.

Image credits:

Volcano Erupting ( BY NC SD ) by kahunapulej
UWCSEA by Keri-Lee Beasley
Singapore map via Google Maps

 

 

 

5 Fab Ideas for Effective Online Research

Over the past few days, UWCSEA has been lucky enough to have Apple Guru Kathleen Ferenz visit our school. She has been a fabulous resource for me personallyas a Digital Literacy Coach, but also for the groups of teachers she has worked with.

One of Kathleen’s many strengths is in Literacy, and she has given us lots of handy hints to do with helping students make sense of online texts, research techniques and some strategies for developing effective research skills. Many of her ideas come from this great article ‘Making Sense of Online Text‘ which is extremely relevant today, even though it was written in 2004!

Please know that the following Fab Ideas for Effective Online Research are Kathleen’s – I am merely sharing them around.

1. Start with images

The right search words are the keys to unlocking the information you are searching for. Kathleen recommended showing students a photo of the sort of thing they would be searching for online to elicit keywords. By way of example, she showed an image of a volcano, and then asked students to think of the keywords that might describe the image. She then used the words the students gave as a starting point for a search.

2. Narrow search by Reading Level

A neat little addition to the ‘more tools’ section of the Google search results is the ability to search by reading level. I’m not sure how, but I had missed this gem.

3. Scaffold

Our Grade 6 students have been researching about the UWC movement and the other UWC schools around the world. They worked collaboratively on Google Docs to find information under various categories, with the view to making a Keynote presentation later on.

Although the teachers took care to direct students to retain the URL of their sources etc, the Google Docs quickly became a receptacle for work that had been copied and pasted.

Kathleen got the students to set up a table in Pages to help summarize and organise their data. This helped bridge the gap between the ‘research’ and the Keynote. Too often, students are not provided with enough scaffolding, and as a result, the finished product lacks a depth of understanding. This scaffold will help our students be more successful in their presentation.


4. Summarize & Transform

As part of the scaffolding process, students were asked to summarize their findings into bullet points, which was a great start of course. Where I think Kathleen really raised the bar was when she asked the kids to transform their notes into audio form. The process of transforming written text into a different form (in this case, audio) really made them think about what they had learned, and what was important. It helped put the notes into their own words and moved them away from copying.

Throughout her time at UWCSEA, Kathleen used the technique of transforming text. Occasionally it was creating/finding an image that represented a particular word, sometimes it was a movie recording, sometimes audio. I will definitely be adding this technique to my research toolbox.

5. Search Stories

How do you assess a student’s search skills? When Kathleen asked this question to a group of teachers, it certainly made them stop and think. Typically, the skills of searching and synthesizing are seldom assessed, and instead, the quality of a summative task/presentation becomes the assessment.

Using screen capture tools (e.g. Quicktime player) or a specially created video tool to help with the process, students can record their screen and show the process they use to search for relevant information. Google calls these ‘Search Stories‘ (see amusing example here).

[Although this post is primarily about researching, it would be remiss of me not to mention that Search Stories could be used as a basis for literacy – developing storylines, uncovering the plot with each new search category, character development…]

I would like to thank Kathleen for all her support, ideas and above all, her warmth! I hope you find these ideas as useful as we have.

Image credits:

Volcano Erupting ( BY NC SD ) by kahunapulej
UWCSEA by Keri-Lee Beasley
Singapore map via Google Maps

 

 

 

Where Poetry & Blogging Collide

A few weeks back, I stumbled across Sarah Kay‘s TED Talk, ‘If I Should Have a Daughter…

I recently started blogging with 6th Graders, so found her TED talk particularly relevant when she got to the part about her experiences working with teenagers on poetry.

One thing Sarah suggested teenagers were good at was writing lists, so she began by assigning her students list poems. One example she mentioned was:

10 Things I Know to be True

I decided that list poems and list posts could well be the intersection between blogging and poetry. In their English/Humanities classes, they have started a poetry unit, so it seemed the planets aligned for me in terms of content!

This week, I asked my students to write a list post on the above topic. It has, in my opinion, been the most successful blog topic to elicit more personal and thoughtful content from my students to date.**

I always try to model what I want my students to do, so if you are interested, check out my list here.

Marius added a picture to each item on his list, including that you need to think out of the box.

Victoria knows that bad things can happen to good people.

Pavitra knows that laughter is the best medicine.

Kavya believes the world needs more leaders who consider consequences.

I teach pretty neat kids, huh?!

** If you are interested, the other topics we’ve covered are:
– a Mind Map about what they are interested in blogging about
– Something they believe deserves a bigger audience