Tech, Teaching and Me

Trying to turn off my brain by writing it down

Do I Empower My Students?

on January 23, 2012

Students today have a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips-literally. When I was growing up, a research paper would be assigned, and you would head off to the local library. Research was done with Encyclopedias at home (if you were lucky enough to have a full set!) , the library and a pocket full of dimes for making copies of the resource books. The process has changed so much over the years.

I teach grades 1-4 and that age group can be challenging for any research projects or topics. For most of my classes, I create a Wiki where I post various links and allow the students to access any and all of those links for their research. This allows me a sense of comfort that the students are researching, refining their knowledge and still learning the material. But, am I allowing them to develop their skills on filtering through to discover quality knowledge? I am not sure.

For example, my 2nd graders have studied Habitats, Christmas Traditions Around the World, and most recently Chinese New Year. I have done all the searching and found the links and placed them on my classroom wiki. Students click and read the links, find information and make notes about various facts of the subject. Students use the information and create an outline using Inspiration. Then, we use various other sites such as www.wallwisher.com, www.linoit.com, www.voicethread.com and www.voki.com to bring our information to a new level. The process of research, gather facts, and create a product is good, but after some review, I realize it could be better. My students need to be taught how to decipher through all of that information. I will continue to use my wiki to post sites, but I will add a lesson or two where I am teaching them how to find the best links for our project.

Interestingly enough, the posting for this week’s forum is “discuss ways in which technology resources enable students to explore questions and issues of individual interest and to plan and manage related research” and for many days all I thought about was, “I need to write about how my younger students do research on the internet”. I realize now that “technology resources enable students to explore questions and issues” in so many different ways than just “Google” it.

When I show my students videos from www.youtube.com about high schools in China celebrating the Chinese New Year, I am enabling their research. According to http://www.reelseo.com/youtube-search-engine-domination/, Youtube is now the #2 search engine on the internet (Google is #1). I am modeling the effect use of this site, when I present it to the class. When I create a Wiki for my class and organize their links, I realize I am modeling a basic bookmarking skill for my students. If my students were older and had access to email accounts, I would teach them to create their own Social Bookmarking sites like www.delicious.com or www.diigo.com and create stacks/groups for each of their various projects. What a fabulous organizational tool for our students to have! If teachers find it useful, wouldn’t students?

For me as at technology teacher, I realize almost daily the material I teach is important, but understanding the process, the programs and the application of the technology is my goal. I teach my students about effective, intelligent and time-saving research. Deciphering through millions of web pages is a waste of time. Learning how to do a research with a Boolean search http://www.internettutorials.net/boolean.asp is a life skill students will greatly benefit, regardless of the topic being researched. Using Youtube to help find a video that teaches the student a previously confusing Math concept, is thinking smarter not harder- www.khanacademy.org.

As a technology teacher, I hope to show my students digital resources available to them and how and when to use them to their fullest. Teaching students how to use digital tools in the most effective way will empower them to learn in ways suited to their needs.


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