Archive for February 2006

Historic Video Clips

February 27, 2006

According to a recent article in eSchools News, Google has added over 100 free historic films and news reels to its recent video search feature. The videos are available thanks to an agreement between Google and the National Archives.

I looked through some of the videos and there seems to be some pretty useful video clips offered. If you are a history teacher (or integrate history in your lessons), I suggest giving it a look.

Some Thoughts on Internet Literacy

February 27, 2006

As I was reading some of the blog sites I frequent, I came across the following article on Weblogg-ed by Will Richardson. I think his thoughts are on target…

So Where is the Internet Literacy Bill?

I really don’t have a problem with the Virginia state legislature passing a bill that makes it mandatory for schools to teach safe practices on the Internet. I think it’s a shame that schools have to be told to do this, but there’s no doubt that every kid needs to get straight about what he or she should and should not do when navigating the Net. Too many of them aren’t hearing it at home.
But I still think the biggest issue facing our kids when it comes to the Internet is not safety as much as it is basic Web illiteracy among students AND teachers. I’m more worried about the fact that thousands of kids are going to believe much of the junk they read on the Internet without any thought about who is posting it our why. Case in point, which I’ve used before, is the Stormfront (White Aryan Nation) site about Martin Luther King. I know I have voiced my astonishment time and again about how few teachers I meet are able to identify the owners of a particular Website. It happened again recently where only two or three hands went up out of over 100 educators when I showed the site and asked who knew how to find the domain registration.

Why don’t we write law requiring teachers and students to learn about that?

My thoughts exactly (or pretty close at least). In my attempts to educate my staff and students about Internet literacy, I have created a presentation (in conjunction with Eric Creeger) that I use. You are welcome to it!

How responsible are educators for teaching Internet safety?

February 23, 2006

With the rise in popularity of social websites such as Myspace and Xanga, there has been increasing controversy about the educator’s role and responsibility in teaching Internet safety. I had a brief conversation this morning with one of the district technology coordinators for my school district, and he asked me to begin thinking about how I think our district should systematically address some of the problems we have encountered… improper images in Google image search, explicit entries in Wikipedia, inappropriate and indecent student postings on Myspace, etc.

My initial reaction to his request is that I do not want our district and our educators to become the laptop and Internet “police”, and I do not want to spend my time chastising students. I certainly do not want the district to “block” student access to useful tools simply because some students use them inappropriately. Let’s face it, we can block websites and restrict programs, but if the students want to access these items, they will figure out a way to do it.

I think the key to eradicating the problem lies in education itself. As an educational community, we have to train the students as to what is safe and appropriate, and in addition, we have to educate the community and parents about the Internet and technology in general. Parents need to be aware of what their children are doing on the Internet and how to discuss safety concerns and appropriate Internet behavior. So, now we just need to figure out how we get there… logistically how do we educate our teachers, parents and students about these concerns?

Delegate William H. Fralin, Jr. of Virginia has authored a bill suggesting that Internet Safety be taught in schools. I agree that it needs to be taught. I just do not know where to teach it. I hate to ask teachers who are already working diligently to add one more subject to their list of topics to teach, but then again, Internet safety is much more relevant than some of the information educators are expected to teach their students. So, I suppose we are just going to have to squeeze it in somewhere between dangling participles and thermal expansion

From what I gathered from my brief conversation this morning, my district is leaning towards using resources from I-Safe as a foundation for teaching Internet safety. I currently know very little about Internet safety curricula, so I would appreciate any effective resources any of you are aware of. I would also appreciate in thoughts you have about how to begin implementing Internet safety training at school and in the community.

Is the English Language Evolving?

February 22, 2006

Well, of course the English language is evolving, it always has. Over time (lots of time), the English language has evolved from Old English and has been infused with words from other languages. The question is, what is it evolving in to? As a former English teacher, I hear concerns from educators about the lack of correct grammar and spelling in student writing, about the informality of their writing – specifically the use of slang. Is our language developing in to a more informal language? A language of e-mail and Instant messaging short-cuts?

Anyone who knows teenagers will probably recognize what seems like jargon to many adults… the letters that stand for phrases.

LOL – laugh out loud
BBL – Be back later
OMG – Oh my God

So as educators, is the use of slang in writing, in correspondence, in discussion boards, etc. something we should be concerned about or is it something we should accept? Like Lynn Truss, should we fight the battle to stamp out the use of incorrect grammar or should we leave it alone and let it evolve in to something else? WDYT (what do you think)?

Plagiarism in the 21st Century

February 16, 2006

NPR hosted an interesting segment on plagiarism the other day.

Cut and Paste Plagiarism

The segment raises some relevant issues and questions regarding plagiarism in today’s age and discusses ways to address plagiarism. I suggest giving it a listen.

Using BLOGS in the classroom… some ideas

February 14, 2006

I am teaching Part II of a Blog training today and thought I would brainstorm some effective ways to utilize blogs in the classroom. This is what I have come up with so far:

  • To model examples and teach “voice” in writing
  • To teach editorial writing
  • For journaling on daily topics (current events, prompts, etc.)
  • To teach reflective writing
  • To keep a learning log and foster metacognition
  • To take on another’s voice (historical figure, literary figure, etc.)
  • Incremental publishing (chapter a day, collection of poetry)
  • Vocabulary blog (with links to illustrations of words)
  • Display student artwork for “global” comments
  • Display writing for “global” comments
  • To foster collaboration and discussion
  • Expand student access to relevant materials by incorporating links to other sources
  • Facilitate idea sharing with “experts” and/or guests from outside the classroom
  • Model and foster knowledge as a social process

Other ideas? Anyone?

Aggregator Anyone?

February 12, 2006

According to Wikipedia, “An aggregator or news aggregator is a type of software that retrieves syndicated Web content that is supplied in the form of a web feed (RSS, Atom and other XML formats), and that are published by weblogs, podcasts, vlogs, and mainstream mass media websites. Aggregators reduce the time and effort needed to regularly check websites of interest for updates, creating a unique information space or “personal newspaper.” An aggregator is able to subscribe to a feed, check for new content at user-determined intervals, and retrieve the content.” So, basically… with an aggregator you can sign-up to receive your favorite blogs and news delivered to the same location which saves you a little time.

Two pretty popular aggregators Netvibes and Bloglines are free and pretty easy to use. After signing up for an account, you can add “feeds” from the sites you would like to receive by copying and pasting the RSS, Atom or XML feed in to your aggregator. I have been using Netvibes for a couple of months and am enjoying it; the site allows me to see at a glance what sites have published new information so I can keep up with the content on the sites I enjoy… pretty cool.