Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Faking It: Evaluating Internet Resources

It's that time of year when seniors around the country migrate through an important rite of passage: the research paper.

It's that time of year when teachers around the country lead the senior migration through the research paper.

Part of that journey involves teaching seniors the important skill of analyzing and evaluating source materials.

To that end, here are a few of my favorite resources for teaching students that as consumers and users of information they need to heed the warning: caveat emptor!

We begin with a video, ostensibly from the BBC, about the elusive flying penguin.

Of course, penguins can't fly, but I have actually had students who believe this video is legitimate. Thus, we begin our discussion about choosing credible sources with a conversation about how the faux looks real.

Next, we move to some web sites. I love the Help Save the Endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus  website. If you click on the "media" tab, you can even observe the Tree Octopus in its natural habitat via a YouTube video!

I'm probably the most amused from these fake internet sources, and sometimes I think the kids get more enjoyment from my giggling than from the sites and videos. Still, these resources and others like them teach important lessons about using credible evidence in the research paper, whatever form it takes.

A simple Google search yields a plethora of fake/hoax website possibilities, so have fun. When I'm able to have students examine these sites in the lab, I put links up on Moodle or on My Big Campus so that I can mix the fake w/ the real.

To assist students in their evaluation of sites, I provide them an internet site evaluation form. Kathy Schrock offers numerous forms for a variety of grade levels and website types here.  For evaluating internet sites, I share this evaluation form with students.

Next, we talk about Wikipedia. After Google, Wikipedia may be students' second favorite search option for finding information. To illustrate the problem with Wikipedia, I share a story close to home with them. Last fall Melissa McGrath, spokesperson for Idaho State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, made a concerted effort to repeatedly edit Mr. Luna's Wikipedia page. Specifically, prior to the November election, she kept deleting Mr. Luna's education and published propaganda about the Luna Laws voters repealed in November. Luna graduated from an on-line college. Ultimately, the folks at Wikipedia contacted Ms. McGrath and directed her to cease editing the page, which they restored time and again. Major news outlets, including the Daily Koss and the Idaho Statesman published articles about McGrath's Wiki War.

Finally, I shared with students my own "you got me" story that happened recently. A friend emailed me a link to Diane Senechal's blog post "Teacher Reprimanded for Assigning Book."  The image below shows the blog header and the beginning of the story:

I was completely fooled into thinking the story really happened. I had recently finished reading Senechel's fabulous book Republic of Noise, and as I saw nothing in the headline or on the header to suggest the story is fake and given all that has transpired in education in recent years, I believed Senechal's post--and I commented. I commented in such a way, that I laid bare my deception.

Only when Senechal informed me that the story is "satire" did I realize my mistake. Oops! My "gotcha" moment provided my students with an important lesson: Even the most savvy among us can make mistakes in our information saturated world.

The story also offers a nifty segue into the next lesson: We can't always trust the expert. There's a wonderful TED talk we'll view and discuss in our ongoing efforts to evaluate resources, including the experts.


Finally, knowing how to read a URL offers students important clues about what websites to trust. Moving from left to right are the most to least reliable types of internet sites:

.gov   .edu   .net   .com   .org

There are numerous ways students will attempt to "play school" on their educational journey. Those who guide them through their rites of passage owe students an academically valuable experience. Now's not the time to embrace or allow faking it.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

When You Wish Upon a Wall: Wallwisher now Padlet:

I first discovered Wallwisher a few years ago and immediately started using it to promote whole-class discussions.

As with so many tech tools I've dabbled with, I forgot about Wallwisher and its fabulous, easy-to-use interface until last week when I received a notification that Wallwisher had reinvented itself and added a new name: Padlet.

I worried that I'd not be able to access either Wallwisher or Padlet as most certainly I'v forgotten my password. I always forget the ones I choose knowing I won't ever forget! Fortunately, I was able to login with my Google account and all my old walls greeted me like a virtual box of notes, cards, and letters filled with happy teaching moments.

One wall hi-lights ideas about Life of Pi by Yann Martel, which I also wrote about in my last post.




I love that Padlet allows students and teachers to embed videos, images, songs, etc. into a wall. It also offers a way to both label the wall with a topic and an essential question that invites students to "write on the wall."

The new Padlet, uses "streams," that can function as a back-channel for classroom discussions, collaborative writing, and presentations.

I also think Padlet could offer teachers a way to post class updates and reminders and embed the wall into a class blog or Tweet.

One way I plan to use Padlet this trimester in English 12B is as a template for planning the Senior Project Pecha Kucha presentation. I can also see Padlet as a cool tool for my speech students to create visual aides and to plan their speeches as the old version does have the feel of a graphic organizer.

One of the first ways I teach students to analyze poetry is by identifying imagery. Rather than using pencils and paper, I can easily adapt the assignment to Padlet.

This summer I'll be teaching Communication 1101 through the Upward Bound program at Idaho State University and will have excellent access to technology since I'll be teaching on the university's campus. I'm composing ideas on my mind's wall about the possible ways I can make learning and writing stylistic rhetorical devices more fun and relevant with Padlet.

I should go write on the wall so I don't have yet another lengthy memory lapse!