21 October 2012

Tech Skills Your Students (Probably) Don't Have and You (Probably) Do - Part 1: Research

Your students have a wide variety of technology skill sets coming into your classroom. "Digital Native" does not mean that millennials inherently know how to use any and all of the technology you charge them to, but rather, that they are usually more willing to try because of the way technology is a natural part of their lives.

I've seen tons of students come through my classroom in these 5 years of teaching that would probably say, "I love technology," but the only professional-type skills they possess are in sending an email and putting some pizazz into a PowerPoint.

Where do we start? This page from the Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction begins with the ISTE NETS-S standards, breaks them down, and suggests ways for students to meet the standards. We're using it in our district as the bones of our on integration plan. From the doc, I've picked out several of those skills you're likely proficient or near-proficient with.

In part one, we'll look at 4 research/study skills you can model for your students.

1. Finding reputable sources of online articles for research papers.

You've just finished your anti-Wikipedia monologue; now what? I'm sure your library-media specialist has the know-how, but why shouldn't you?

2. Using Advanced Search to get results at particular reading level, file type (jpg, pdf, doc, ppt), or usage right (creative commons)

Ever feel like your searching students are getting a ton of results that are over their heads? You're probably most certain when you wind up with reports from your students with words you know they'd never use. Ever hunt through pages of results looking for a particular PowerPoint or PDF file that you found "that one time"? Advanced options (available after you perform an initial search on the gear cog at the top right of the results page) allow you to refine your search with more than just Boolean operators.

3.  Easing the stress over MLA or APA format and allowing a computer to get it right for you. 

Even 12 years ago, when I was writing senior papers in high school, we were slave to the MLA handbook, left only to hope we were categorizing our source correctly and interpreting the examples the same way our teachers would. I think a lot of teachers still want to do these "by hand", and its probably for the same reason we still often graph lines by hand in math class. Please tell me when you find out what that reason is. Let your student do citations the quick, easier way and go to KnightCite, the Purdue O.W.L center, try one from this list by Central Oregon Community College, or take the citation straight from the Ebsco or Google Scholar page. The computers aren't disappearing anytime soon, and if they do, I'm sure using the actual MLA Handbook for writing citations will be the least of our worries.

4. Using other sources of knowledge than just the textbook for help.

Do you only use your teacher edition for examples, notes, scaffolding questions, and activity ideas? Of course, not! You're a blog reader! I hope you're not (intentionally) expecting the same of your students! Reading the textbook is a very important skill that our students lack (particularly for college readiness), and its a growth I see in my AP Stats students every year, but we're really closing our students' worlds if we aren't intentional about modeling the use of different sources of knowledge. Having your students think you (and only you) know everything is great for the ego, but damaging to kids when they need additional help from others ("I don't want you to teach it to me wrong") or when your delivery methods aren't getting through. They need to know that you may be unorthodox in some of your methods, but that your content is consistent and reliable with other texts and instructors.

Ways to Get the Sage Off The Stage:
  • Play a YouTube video from a channel you have previewed and trust (in class or as homework). If you choose well, the star of the video will end of saying many of the things kids have already heard from you. Having established this practice saved a lesson of mine one day.
  • If you have a special ed co-teacher, have them lead for small segments every day or most of the class once or twice a week. 
  • Establish a small reference library of relevant subject texts (math/history/science/grammar/foreign language/etc.) and have students refer to them when they have a question
  • Link to a handful of generic subject area websites on your own site. Kids will have a place on the web to trust outside of blindly searching (and you'll know the examples they might come back with will be reliable)

Tech Adaptations for YOU:

Are any of these things you can already do? Depending on the age of your students, you have so many professional and/or creative skills that they need, but don't yet have! Come back tomorrow for part 2 on skills for work and productivity, or reflect on some things of your own you might be able to share!

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Thanks for sharing!