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Exploring Information Management

Page history last edited by Bill 9 years, 5 months ago

Exploring Information Management


The first essential skill introduced in Teaching the iGeneration is Information Management.  Bill's argument in Teaching the iGeneration is that students can't become efficient and effective learners until they learn to curate and evaluate their way through the almost overwhelming sea of content that they are surrounded by.  Information management is also a logical starting point for digital projects simply because every teacher recognizes the importance of teaching students to sift and sort through web based resources.  That means digital projects built around information management are more likely to be embraced.  


This resource page houses links to the handouts and services that Bill is using to teach the students in his classroom information management skills.  






Did You Know 4.0


Explore the video titled Did You Know 3.0  Use the handout titled Is Learning Really Easier Today to guide your reflections.







Using Feed Readers and Twitter to Manage Information


One of the first steps that teachers can take to learn more about using digital tools to manage information is to explore the role that feed readers and Twitter can play in helping them to find valuable content quickly.  To begin this study, it is important to understand just what feed readers are.



Introduction to RSS Feed Readers



The feed reader that I currently use for my professional work is Netvibes.  While it isn't a particularly beautiful tool, what I like the best about it is that there are several different layout styles to choose from. Feedly is another popular web-based RSS tool.


When I'm creating a collection of feeds for other people to explore -- like this page of Sustained Silent Reading sources for students, this page of sources that administrators would appreciate or this page of sources that might challenge classroom teachers --  I use the "Widget View" in Netvibes because it has a more interesting visual layout that people who aren't comfortable with RSS feed readers tend to enjoy. 



Introduction to Twitter Search


Educators are also joining together in Twitter to share content and resources with one another.  To find this valuable content quickly, it is important to understand how to use Twitter's Search Feature to follow education related hashtags:




There are hundreds of teachers in almost every content area and grade level using Twitter hashtags to share content with each other.  Some of the most common -- and popular -- education related hashtags are:


#edchat - General resources connected to education

#edtech - Resources on using technology in education






#langchat - Foreign Language Teachers


#cpchat - Connected Principals

#edleaders - Another stream for principals



To find an exhaustive list of educational hashtags, check out this page from the Cybraryman's website or this infographic sharing popular Twitter hashtags found on the EdTech blog.  You may also be interested in this list of regularly scheduled Twitter Chats complied by Tom Murray.  What makes these hashtags different is that they are used for both synchronous AND asynchronous conversation.  In addition to sharing resources informally, participants come together for focused conversations on a weekly and/or biweekly basis.



Math Teachers are Using Twitter to Share  Ideas


One of the most popular questions that session presenter Bill Ferriter gets during the course of Teaching the iGeneration workshop is, "I can see how digital tools are changing the work of language arts, social studies and science teachers, but what about those of us who are teaching math?  How can digital tools improve OUR teaching and learning?


There's no ONE right answer to that question simply because math teachers across curricular areas and grade levels are using digital tools differently based on their needs and the needs of their students. To begin to explore just what's possible with digital tools in the math classroom, Bill recommends that math teachers follow the thinking being shared with the Twitter hashtag  #mathchat


The #mathchat hashtag will point you to fantastic ideas about the ways that teaching and learning need to change in mathematics classrooms.  More importantly, it will point you to other math teachers who are struggling to answer the same kinds of questions about their work as you are. 



Using Twitter to Communicate with Parents


One of the first steps that school leaders can take to better understand the role that services like Twitter can play in efficient and effective learning is to begin experimenting with the tool themselves.  That's exactly what Devin Vodicka, the Superintendent of the Vista Unified School District in California, has done -- and what he's learned is that social spaces can be incredibly important for building relationships with the communities that he serves.  Learn how Vodicka is integrating Twitter into the work that his district is doing in this article.  



Using Twitter to Communicate with Students


While using Twitter with students is often difficult -- the terms of service make it impossible for children in middle and elementary school to have an account and districts often have rules that explicitly prohibit teacher/student interactions in social spaces -- many teachers working with high school students are embracing Twitter as a tool for engaging their classes.  Two recent examples include math teacher Jessica Caviness, who has been Tweeting out everyday geometry challenges for her students, and social studies teacher Maryanne Matthews, who has her students engaged in ongoing conversations about the presidential debates in Twitter.




Exploring Google's Reading Level Feature


One of the greatest challenges for student researchers is finding resources that are at an appropriate reading level.  That's where Google's Reading Level feature comes in.  With just two clicks, Google will automatically sort search results into basic, intermediate and advanced categories. Teaching students to use the Reading Level feature can help them to quickly find content that they can actually read -- which will help them to be more independent, successful readers.  To learn more about the Reading Level Feature, consider exploring this video: 


Google's Reading Level Video Introduction




InstaGrok Can Help Student Researchers find Starting Points


One of the greatest challenges that student researchers have is finding starting points when working on projects.  Because they lack background knowledge on many of the topics that they are studying, they simply can't formulate effective searches in popular search engines.  The result is the helpless hunting and clicking -- called 'fortuitous searching' - that you see when students are working on the computer. 


Here are two services that can help students search more efficiently:


Instagrok - Instagrok is a tool that will automatically generate an interactive web for any topic that can point student researchers to related topics.  What makes it especially valuable is users are connected to external links on the topic that can be sorted by reading level.  Instagrok also automatically generates a glossary for important terms related to the topic of study. This handout can be used to introduce students to InstaGrok.


Wiki Summarizer - Much like Instagrok, Wiki Summarizer will generate an interesting visual map of any topic that student researchers may be studying.  The advantage of Wiki Summarizer is that it provides users with short summaries for every new term added to the visual map.  The disadvantage of Wiki Summarizer is that it pulls all of its content from Wikipedia entries about the topic and doesn't point users to outside sources that are worth exploring.  That means that while it may serve as a great starting point for studying a concept, students will still have to go and do additional searching for sources online.



Using Scoop.it to Practice Content Curation


Another interesting tool for experimenting with content curation is Scoop.it -- a service that allows users to curate public collections of weblinks around individual topics. 


What makes Scoop.it unique is that it automatically searches for new content that users might want to add to their public collections and then makes adding that content -- along with a short description of why it is useful -- easy.  Recently, two of Bill's students used this handout to create a public collection of resources related to the New York City soda ban.  Bill recently wrote about that experience here.


Public Scoop.it pages give students opportunities to practice managing multiple streams of information and evaluating the reliability of online sources -- two additional skills that define literate 21st Century citizens.  Curating public Scoop.it pages also gives students opportunities to raise their voice on issues that matter and to have their thinking affirmed and/or challenged by commenters. 



An Introduction to Social Bookmarking Services


Easily one of the most useful information management strategies is to become a user of social bookmarking services.  Social bookmarking services allow groups of people to share their great web finds with one another.  For students working in research groups or for teachers working on professional learning teams, this is incredibly useful.  This Common Craft video will introduce you to the general concept behind social bookmarking:





Using Diigo to Curate Content Together


Designed as information management tools that allow users to categorize web finds through the use of tags---keywords that allow for easy searching and grouping of content---social bookmarking applications take advantage of the wisdom of millions of users to identify resources worth exploring.  In their simplest form, social bookmarking applications allow users to organize their own personal bookmarks in an online forum accessible from any computer connected to the internet.  In and of itself, that's pretty handy.  How many times have you wished that you could get to your favorites list when you were sitting at someone else's computer?  With social bookmarking applications, you can.


When users make their bookmarks and tag collections public, however, their favorite resources become instantly available---and searchable---to anyone who cares to look.  That means that if you find someone whose thinking stimulates yours, you can "see" what it is that is leaving them jazzed on any given day.  Chances are, that material is likely to be of interest to you as well, right?  Essentially, users of social bookmarking applic are helping one another to "sift through" the volumes of content available online.  Rather than Googling a topic, social bookmarking users can narrow their focus by exploring the links that others they admire or respect are bookmarking.


In Bill Ferriter's classroom, this means using Diigo -- a social bookmarking service that provides a TON of great features to classroom teachers and K12 students.  Bill's students recently used this handout to work together to create a balanced collection of resources exploring New York City's decision to ban sugary sodas sold in containers larger than 16 ounces.



Handouts for Structuring Classroom Diigo Projects:


Social Bookmarking Roles - Providing students with clearly articulated roles for the work that they are going to tackle in social bookmarking projects increases the likelihood that students can create a useful shared collection.  This handout includes a set of social bookmarking roles that Bill introduces his students.


Social Bookmarking as a Research Tool - This handout can be used by students working together to build a shared collection of resources to plan out their work with one another.


Building a Shared Bookmark Collection - This handout guides students through the process of creating a balanced collection of resources on a controversial topic.  It asks them to look for articles that share the full range of perspectives on the issue that they are studying.  


Shared Annotation Roles - Another useful feature of Diigo is the ability for groups of students to read and annotate articles together.  This handout describes a series of roles to help students structure this work.


Shared Annotation Checklist - This checklist can be used by students to plan a shared annotation project.  It details the kinds of steps that successful shared annotation groups take.  


Reflecting on Shared Annotations - This handout includes a sample set of annotations that Bill's students left on an article in Diigo.  It can be used to introduce students to just what quality annotations are supposed to look like.


Scoring Shared Annotation Efforts - While Bill rarely grades the annotation work that his students do, this scoring rubric can be used by teachers who want to use shared annotation as a graded assignment.


Diigo Help Resources -- A complete collection of help resources created by Diigo for Diigo users. 



Diigo Groups for Educators Worth Exploring


One of the best ways to use Diigo is to start tracking the resources being shared by other educators who are using the site as a collaborative storage ground for resources related to teaching with technology.  Here are some a few groups that may be worth exploring and joining:


Discovery Education -- This is one of the most active Diigo groups for educators.  It's monitored and maintained by the Discovery Educators Network.


Cool Tools and Ed Tech -- A group that is designed to specifically find tools that might be worth exploring in your classroom.


Teaching the iGeneration -- A group that session presenter Bill Ferriter created recently for participants in this workshop that are interested in sharing and following one another's digital resources.  Bill also uses tigresources as a common tag for digital content that he thinks participants might be interested in.  You can find those resources here


Education Technology -- This is a relatively new group that Bill includes here because it is specifically designed for elementary school teachers. 


Common Core Resources - This is an active group of about 75 educators who are sharing resources on the Common Core learning standards. 





Additional Information Management Activities to Explore


Using Flipboard to Curate Classroom Magazines



One of the most popular RSS Feed Readers for iPad and tablet users is Flipboard -- which takes content from any public stream of information and converts it into beautiful digital magazines that can be read on portable devices.  In the spring of 2013, the folks at Flipboard made their service even MORE useful for classroom teachers by allowing users to create and curate content for their own public magazines connected to any topic that they are interested in.


This post from the Flipboard blog gives more details -- including a video -- about the hows behind curating your own magazine on Flipboard. 


Imagine how powerful it would be to ask students to curate their own public magazines about the topics that you are studying in class.  Doing so would give your kids endless opportunities to practice evaluating the quality of online sources -- especially if you asked them to defend the sources that they choose to include in their final magazines.  Doing so would also provide your students with constant sources of interesting content to read during silent reading time. 



What Will You Click On Next Activity



Howard Rheingold – the author of Net Smart: How to Thrive Online (2012) – recently argued that one of the most important skills to master in today’s world was the ability to focus your attention while searching on the Web. He suggests that every learner should write down the three things that they want to get done BEFORE heading online. Then, they should make conscious choices about what to click on while surfing, only selecting sites that are likely to help them move forward towards their final goal. Use this handout to help students guide their choices while working online.



Unreliable Information Isn't Always Obvious


Early in March of 2012, Jason Russell -- leader of a group called Invisible Children -- posted a 30 minute video titled Kony 2012 on Vimeo that was designed to raise awareness around the atrocities committed by Ugandan Warlord Joesph Kony.  In four short days, the video went viral, logging over 26 MILLION views.  After watching the video, viewers were encouraged to take action -- signing petitions, donating money, buying kits to share information with neighbors, contacting their elected officials -- to end Kony's reign.


This all sounds great, right?  Who WOULDN'T want to stand against a warlord accused of abducting children?


Here's the hitch: The situation in Uganda is far more complex and the Invisible Children organization is far less forthcoming than the video suggests -- facts that are explained and sourced in great detail in this Ethan Zuckerman bit and this bit from the Globe and Mail.  Specifically, there are three reasons people are questioning the Kony 2012 project:


  1. Kony himself isn't even in Uganda anymore.
  2. The solutions supported by the Invisible Children project are not solutions supported by experts on Uganda.
  3. Invisible Children only spends 33% of the money that they raise in Uganda.  The rest goes to things like making documentaries.
  4. Lonely Planet named Uganda as the top destination to visit in 2012, a credit to the nation's stability that is overlooked in the Kony 2012 video.  


In fact, the Kony 2012 video was so emotionally loaded that the Mara Foundation -- a group dedicated to uplifting Uganda -- felt the need to craft their own video sharing the strengths of Uganda as a country. 


For classroom teachers, the Kony 2012 project is a perfect example of why today's students need to learn to question the content that they are finding online.  Just because content is popular and/or well polished doesn't mean that it is reliable.  And unless our kids can take practical steps to make the distinction between content worth trusting and content worth questioning, they are going to spend their lives being duped.



Exploring the Anatomy of a Hoax Website


Think-alouds are a great way to show students the steps involved in judging the reliability of websites.  Using the Spotting Websites You Just Can’t Trust handout, develop a Think-aloud that you can use to teach your students about unreliable websites.  Consider building your think-aloud around the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus or Dog Island hoax websites.


Additional Resources


Anatomy of a Hoax Website -- Post from session presenter Bill Ferriter's blog showing how he was almost taken by a hoax website. 


Harpseals.org , Canada's Shame, Sea Shepard -- Three great sites to use with high schoolers when studying bias and emotionally loaded words and phrases in online sources.


Coal is Clean -- This site is really interesting and can be used to talk about the reliability of online sources.  At first, it appears to be a site that supports clean coal technology.  In reality, however, it is an anti-coal site that is sponsored by environmental groups like Greenpeace. 


The Bicholim War -- For five years, Wikipedia users could have learned about a year-long war between Spain and Portugal that literally never happened.  This article from The Daily Dot gives details about the hoax -- which has since been removed.  It can make for a good conversation starter about the role that Wikipedia should play in student research and the reality that hoaxsters CAN develop pretty elaborate ploys to trick readers.


List of Hoaxes on Wikipedia - Like the Bicholim War, there have been several other famous hoaxes posted to Wikipedia over the years.  This Wikipedia page lists the most notable hoaxes -- and in the process, proves that most Wikipedia hoaxes DO get corrected eventually.


Additional Sketchy Sites Worth Exploring: Alan November has a nice collection of sites that can be used to introduce students to the notion that they can't trust EVERYTHING that they read online.  Find that collection -- and explore those articles -- here. 




Using Evernote to Organize Notebooks in High School Classrooms


Ask any high school teacher and they are bound to tell you that keeping notebooks organized is one of the single greatest challenges in the lives of their teenage students.  That shouldn't be a surprise, right?  After all, organizing notes -- or any content that we want to record and remember -- has been a stumbling block for EVERY learner at some point.  That's why high school English teacher Nicholas Provenzano has decided to introduce his students to Evernote as a tool for maintaining notebooks this year.  Read more about his efforts here:  Using Evernote to Organize Notebooks in High School Classrooms




What Will YOU Take Away from These Lessons?


Now that we have worked through our lessons on information management, it is time to do a bit of reflecting. What lessons did you learn here that you think you will be able to use in your classroom immediately? Was there anything that made real sense? Is there anything that you are still struggling to understand? What questions about managing information remain unanswered for you?






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