Tuesday, July 31, 2012

findingDulcinea to do research

Being a school librarian, I am often asked by both students and teachers alike ways to find materials to use for papers, speeches or even extra credit.  That is my job as a media specialist, to teach and help people sift through information and help people decide what is good and what is bad.  I came across a site called findingDulcinea, which according to the site is the librarian of the Internet.  It is used to teach people how to find good materials and information instead of having to sift and sort through thousands of websites.

In today's age, people automatically go to google to get their information.  Even I am guilty of googling something that I want to learn about fast, but, often, the information  isn't always credible enough to use for research or an accurate paper. Dulcinea offers viewers information about different search engines and alternative sites to use for  accurate and relevant information.

A database can cost a school district thousands of dollars.  Books are often outdated as soon as they arrive in the library. Using Dulcinea can teach patrons how to locate their materials through content specific web guides. Each guide has different tools for the learner.  The main page offers top stories and articles where patrons can start their journey.

Dulcinea has a sweet search engine, as it is called, directed for students.  Every website in the mix has been evaluated by educators for relevance and information. Within the search engine, there are a few content specific sites as well- Social Studies, Biographies and an educator site to teach skills to teachers.

My corporation has a few database subscriptions that have not been used but maybe a few times.  I am thinking of adding this as a potential site to obtain information and cancel my databases.  The money we spend on those databases could be used for something else we need, like maybe ebooks!  I am really glad I came across this site.  I am thinking it could do a lot to benefit my kids.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Lino.it for collaboration

If you are a teacher and are looking for some tools to use to collaborate in the classroom, investigate Lino.it.  I was told about the site last semester because I was using Wallwisher and had some problems with the overall site. Upgrades or something were frustrating me and I needed a quick way for the students to share what they know. I tried it and the concept went very well.

First of all,  lino is a site that allows you and collaborators to insert sticky notes onto a wall, or a canvas as lino calls them.  You can custom design the canvas you want to use (special images for backgrounds, etc.) and you can customize your sticky notes.  What is fantastic about this site, you can create private groups and invite people to join them.  I did that for my classes and each class had a canvas to use and work with.  

Here's how I did it.  Each of my students set up twitter accounts on the first day of school.  We do use it sometimes in class so I found that was the easiest way to create a lino account- via twitter.  After the kids created an account, I invited them to join the group, made a canvas within the group and off we went. 

I teach French so I used the canvases to review grammar with the kids.  I asked them questions and allowed them to answer the questions.  To the left, you see a sample canvas.  This is one we did to review the reflexive verbs.  My stickies were larger, I started the collaboration.  I had the kids color code to match the question so it was easier for them to see what they had done so far.  Each sticky labels the collaborator so you can see who posted.  I also went to the student's stickies and made corrections.   The one thing I dislike is not being able to use more than one color for the font.  If I made corrections, it had to be in black.

So, what can you do with this?
1. Exit slip/ warmup  Use it to see what the kids learned and picked up that day or the day prior.  Have them login and go as soon as class starts or a few minutes before end.
2. Review games.  Make a whole bunch of stickies that need to be matched up.  Kids can work in groups and line up the notes to make them work. You would have to have several canvases, however since the collaborators can move things around and everyone working on it sees it move.
3. Task management. Train students to create a daily lino canvas that has tasks and such.  Kids can keep it as a means of organizing their day.
4. Research paper organization. As students work on a paper, have them use the sticky notes as their note cards where they detail the paper.  They could do the first note as the MLA/ APA entry for a works cited page and then each note of that color could be the information for the paper.
5. Vocabulary Review.  Have students create a canvas for each chapter you study and require them to document the words being studied.  The cool thing, for the visual learner, is that you can insert an image to the sticky.  Color code again> First sticky is the word, maybe the origin.  Second sticky is a photo of the word, third is definition, last maybe using it in a sentence.  If you are reading a novel in a lit class, this would be a great way to organize notes.

How many ways could you see this being used?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Popplet- A different approach to organizing

At a conference a few months back, I saw someone use a Popplet to share information, so I had to try it in my classroom.  The kids enjoyed it, and it was easy to teach and use.

A popplet works exactly like a graphic organizer but you are able to insert more dynamic media into it.  You link the topics together to assemble a detailed visual presentation.  I had my students use them to do projects about African Francophone Countries.  I informed the students what I wanted them to include in each branch of the popplet and they gave detailed information about what they found.  It is a free service with an additional amount for a paid service.

The neat thing about a popplet, it can be shared after it is done and other people can see it. You can use it for some different kinds of things:

1.  Research-  That's a no brainer.  Kids do research about a topic and treat it as a traditional graphic organizer.  Maybe include it with the paper they write as a secondary component.  It can assemble all of the student's notes and include documentation.  If students view a video clip, that can also be linked.  I can also see a teacher adding input and commentary to a student's information to assure it is being done accurately.

2. Collaboration-  The share tool allows you to send invites to different attendees and collaborators.  A teacher could establish the groups, create the original popplet and send an invite to each student int he group. The collaborators are identified next to the information they input. A teacher can login and see who does what.

3. Short story writing-  In the Foreign Language classroom, we do these story developments where students start with a topic and branch out to build a story.  A popplet could be a way to do that digitally.  Students start the central popplet with a starting statement.  Each branch can be a portion of the story.  I can see it used in the elementary grades as well.  Students could develop their own images on paint software on their computer and upload it to the popplet.  The sentences could be added under the image.   In the end, the student assemble their popplets into a book format on Publisher or an online book assembling program.  If your school is 1:1, you could spend a few days on a project such as this. This could help develop simple sentences into more complex ones as students build their skills.  Perhaps it is a tool that is started on day one and is used as a digital portfolio that builds as the year goes.

I know I only added three ideas for a popplet, but I am sure as you delve into it, you will find some other things that may work.