Monthly Archives: July 2015

Technology for All Ages

by Elizabeth Dobler

During a recent conversation with a university colleague, the topic turned to the integration of technology into teaching. We were discussing Matt Miller’s free e-book, 101 Practical Ways to Ditch That Textbook,and my colleague wondered if it was a resource for classroom teachers or for university teachers.

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In the past, there has been some distinction between the teaching methods used by teachers at various levels of education. Classroom teachers, especially those who work with younger students, were known to use more hands-on, active teaching methods while college instructors typically relied on lecture and large group discussions to share information. This dichotomy is changing. New university students are often more experienced with using mobile devices. Whether it’s accessing digital textbooks, reading novels, or creating content for class assignments, many of these college students have experienced the opportunity to have resources at their fingertips. Imagine their consternation upon entering a traditional college class held in a lecture hall where students are expected to sit passively and take notes.

University faculty are beginning to rethink their teaching methods in response to the motivation and technological experience of their students. It is becoming clear that technology resources are effective tools for all ages. The process and basic technology knowledge is similar, although the content will be more complex as students gain more knowledge and experience.

Essentially we are all teachers, no matter the age level of our students. We all face challenges with keeping students motivated and engaged whether it’s helping students collaborate through Google Docs or create a multimedia presentation using iMovie. We share the common need to continually learn about technology devices and tools so we can effectively prepare our students for today’s technological world.

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Where Did You Find that Picture?

by Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Citing sources and giving credit where credit is due is more important than ever in our digital age. To learn more about citing, you might like my article, Accuracy in Digital Writing Environments: Read Up, Ask Around, Double-check (scroll down the list of articles to find this one), available for free from Voices from the Middle, or this post on Literacy Beat. Photographs, in particular, are often overlooked for attribution, and their creators deserve credit. Sometimes it is hard to know the source of an image. That’s where reverse image lookup becomes helpful.

Google, Bing, and sites such as TinEye make this easy. Let’s say your students are creating a video for a book talk. The perfect image is in the “pictures” folder on the class computer, but they don’t know where it came from. Open images.google.com. (This is so easy, you’re going to be surprised.) Drag the image from the folder into the search bar. Google uploads the image and searches for matching photos on the web. With a bit of sleuthing, students can find out where the image was originally published and cite the source in a credit list. Bing search offers a similar tool. Go to https://www.bing.com/images/ and click the image match icon next to the search bar. Students can then upload a photo or provide a URL to one. In my (admittedly very limited) test, Google was able to locate image matches that Bing did not find.

Both engines find pages where the image is located, but Google also produces visually similar images in its results. That’s important because students may find an even better image for their purposes, or they may choose a similar photo that is better suited or includes the needed attribution information.

Other reverse image search tools are available. One I find useful is http://tineye.com/. While Google ranks its search results on other criteria, this image search tool organizes images by date.  That can be helpful if you are trying to track down who posted an image on the web first. Be aware, of course, that being first online doesn’t mean that the poster is the owner of the image or even has permission to post it. Seeing is believing, so please take a look at this short video demonstrating how nifty these reverse image search tools are. How will you use them with your students?

Read more about teaching students to give credit for the images they use.

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Information Literacy, Digital Literacy, and Web Literacy: What’s the Difference?

by Elizabeth Dobler

Although summer is traditionally a time of vacations and lazy days at the pool, teachers know that summer is a time for learning. This summer I am teaching (and learning with) a group of thirteen teachers in a summer graduate class entitled “Information Literacy,” which is part of a STEM master’s degree program. We are using the book Reading the Web: Strategies for Internet Inquiry, 2e, by Dobler & Eagleton.

While some students enter the course thinking we are going to learn about informational texts, they are surprised to discover the term information literacy and its connection to the Common Core State Standards. Other students express uncertainty about their role as classroom, reading, or special education teachers when it comes to teaching information literacy skills. In the past this was thought to be the realm of library media specialists, but as librarians are being expected to do more with less, the responsibility is shifting. In addition, educators are coming to realize that it now takes a team effort among educators to prepare our children for their future information and learning needs.

For the course, we make a distinction between the terms information, digital, and Web literacy. If one peruses the literature, it’s easy to see that these terms are often used interchangeably, but I found it helpful to make distinctions, so teachers can zero in on the specific skills and strategies students need to know.

According to the American Library Association, an information literate person must “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.” Information may take many forms, including a print or digital book, magazine, or newspaper, a video or podcast, or primary source artifacts, such as letters and photographs. Having the ability to access and make sense of the information we need, and then use that information to solve a problem or to convey an idea, is at the heart of teaching, learning, working, and communicating. It’s easy to see why information literacy skills are critical to students’ future success.

Digital literacy, as defined by Dustin Summey in the book Developing Digital Literacies, focuses on the skills of electronically:

  • Locating & filtering
  • Sharing & collaborating
  • Organizing & curating
  • Creating & generating
  • Reusing & repurposing

These skills are seen as the foundation for managing information and communicating with others in the digital world of school, home, and work. Other definitions of digital literacy can be found, but I like this one because of the active language. For the classroom, it’s not just about using technology – it’s about using technology to serve a purpose. For example, websites such as Zotero, Live Binders, or Diigo are for collecting and organizing resources.

Web literacy is a more specific set of skills needed to find, evaluate, understand, and use information found on the Web. A skilled Web reader also recognizes the ways information is produced, the influences of commercialism, the degrees of bias in online information, and the importance of online safety.

While each of these terms has its own distinction, overlap exists. Let’s focus on what readers need to do to be successful in meeting their information needs now and in the future.

Posted in Language Arts Methods, Literacy, Teaching, Technology | Leave a comment