Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

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100 Sticky Notes, or The Simple Way to Move from Observations to Composing

posted: 9.30.09 by Traci Gardner

I have a new challenge for the next class of students I teach:

Buy one package of sticky notes. Any brand will do, but be sure that they are about 3″ square. There should be about 100 notes in the pad. They don’t need to be a name brand. Check the dollar store for cheap ones.

As you read texts for class this term, write your comments or questions on the sticky notes, along with the related page number, and add them to the book. During the term, I want you to use the entire pad of sticky notes.

Sound like busy work? It’s anything but. Take a look at “Added Bonus—Writing a Reader’s Response Journal Entry” from the Scholastic Classroom Solutions blog. I know. It’s an entry from a 3–5 teacher. Stay with me. Take a look at what she’s having students do.

Students write their reader response reflections and analysis on sticky notes and then adhere them to the page that the comment applies to. The journal questions that Victoria Jasztal, the teacher-blogger, uses could work with students at any level, with some slight changes to make the task age-appropriate, or you could use your own journal questions with this technique. Later, Jasztal shares a journal entry that a student might write after writing their sticky notes.

My hunch is that you’re asking why go through all this trouble. If students bought their own books, couldn’t they just underline and make comments in the margin? Sure, they could. But there are some real benefits that I’d like to point out for using sticky notes.

Perhaps the most obvious argument for the technique is that there are times when students can’t or don’t want to write in the books that they are using. The student might have a book from the library for a research project. Perhaps the student has borrowed a book from a roommate. Maybe the student just doesn’t like the idea of writing in books. Sticky notes seem like the perfect solution for all these situations. That’s only the beginning of why this is a great technique for the writing classroom, though.

The size of the sticky notes encourages students to focus on concise, concentrated comments. I suggest either the 3″ square notes or, at most, the 3″ by 5″ rectangular notes. Anything other than the little flags will probably work though. On a 3″ square note, most students can write at least one full sentence. The notes are for their own use, so abbreviations and shortcuts are fine. As long as they can read their notes later, spelling and mechanics don’t really matter. Compare the short comments to the kind of concentrated comments people post on Twitter and in Facebook status updates. The kind of commentary should be familiar to most students. The goal is to ask them to apply that kind of writing to the texts that they are reading in class.

Once students begin using the technique, the sticky notes can improve class discussion. Ask students to point to a passage that stood out in a reading and you often get blank stares. Who remembers that the third paragraph on page 345 was confusing? Underlined text and margin notes might help, but sticky notes poking from the edges of the book make this task easy. The same things works in reverse, of course. If you point the class to a specific passage, you can ask who has a note on the page. Depending upon your classroom set-up, you may even be able to see whose books have notes on the page.

When it comes time for students to compose, the sticky notes can help writers point to supporting details. First, have students make sure that their sticky notes include the page number they relate to, so that they can return to the passages later. You might even urge them to be more specific by pointing to a paragraph number or sentence (e.g., sentence 2 in the second paragraph). Next, have students pull all notes out of the book and arrange them based on similarities. Depending upon the project, there could be piles based on different kinds of imagery, different characters in a story, different rhetorical techniques, and so forth. After notes are sorted, students can choose a topic based on the pile that is most interesting and that gives them enough support for their argument. Students can then place the notes on notebook paper and use them as a jot outline for the evidence to include in their paper. Remind students that they don’t need to use every sticky note, only those that relate to the paper topics they choose.

After writing a paper, students can use the sticky-note technique for peer review comments. Have students write their questions and comments on sticky notes and adhere them to the peer drafts. Since they are writing for other readers, remind them to avoid any unfamiliar abbreviations or shorthand. The sticky notes will give reviewers plenty of space to make their comments without marking up the original document. They can also be removed so that a second reader can comment on the same draft without seeing what other readers have said. Perhaps most importantly, the process applies the same critical thinking process to peer drafts that students apply to the every other text in class.

The technique can take students from first observations all the way to composing the final draft. It’s definitely not busy work. It encourages students to make critical connections to their readings, and, by nature of sticking their comments down, students are literally forced to connect their thoughts to specific passages in the texts. Once they understand this technique, students can easily use it in any class or subject area (as well as in the workplace). And my hunch is that when they use up that first pad of 100 sticky notes, they’ll get another pad.

Comments: (2)
Categories: Assignment Idea, Citing Sources, Discussion, Drafting, Peer Review, Planning
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Supporting Scholarly Research with Free Sources

posted: 9.17.09 by archived

As an adjunct with no R1 institutional affiliation, I have found it hard to research the past couple of years. When I was only teaching at a community college, this research was even more difficult because I did not have access to the majority of scholarly journals in my field. At first, I focused on teaching and did not notice this deficiency; however, as I sought to return to the world of research, this gap became obvious. Fortunately, social networking, peer exchange, and the Web provide some viable work-arounds for adjuncts in similar situations: those who cannot afford individual subscriptions to academic journals or services, who teach for institutions with minimal academic resources online, or who are between jobs.

Rather than attempt a comprehensive list, what follows is one of my research processes — and it is a process that has served and continues to serve me well. I have used it when I had access to a good research library and when I was without one. I would rather develop research skills and resources that work in times thick as well as times thin. If you have developed other work-arounds that are effective, please share them in the comments.

The first obvious source is Google Scholar. It ranks the relative scholarly importance of articles by showing how often they are cited. Additionally, Google Scholar provides a list of related articles; this can be almost as good as an annotated bibliography. It is also useful for identifying patterns. Sometimes this has led me to discover related articles in free, online, and open access scholarly journals.

Once potential sources and leads are identified, I move to Google Books. I follow the leads there, locate the books, and find out just how much of the materials I can read online. Unfortunately, it is not possible to copy and paste from Google Books; however, viewing is better than having to buy pricey texts, and it offers you a chance to at least look at them. On top of that, it provides an opportunity to review the working scholarly bibliographies and lists of works cited so that if and when you do hit an open window for materials, you are prepared with a list of goodies to go find. Be sure that you save these books to your GBooks library so that it is easy to relocate the texts.

Finally, I go to ScribD. The site hosts a number of scholarly books and articles, and I download them without hesitation. When I have a book-buying budget, then I will purchase the books. At this point, my budget is limited, so I do what I need to do in order to further my scholarship. Additionally, by downloading a PDF, I can use Adobe Acrobat, mark up my own PDF, and keep my notes stored — all without killing trees or paying $230 for a single book. If texts from academic presses are more reasonably priced, like some of University of Chicago’s books or MIT’s books, then I am certainly happy to buy them or pay for a digital download. Ditto on the academic articles.

While ScribD certainly does not have all the materials that scholars need, you can get a lot of material. I also find a lot of interesting and semi-related material in the sidebars which, like YouTube, show related or potential articles of interests. This sort of incidental or coincidental discovery has led me towards a number of useful sources. For example, when I was researching “Biopower” and “Foucault,” Eugene Thacker’s work was listed in a sidebar. I followed that link and discovered his text The Global Genome. From that developed a new area of interest for me: the rhetoric surrounding genetic capitalism and development. I have spent hours and hours researching a topic that I happened to bump into in a sidebar.  Thus, the peer-exchange nature of sites like ScribD offer the additional benefit of numerous potential paths/distractions/leads to follow — something that can be more intense than straight research in a library’s online or physical resources. Unlike looking at books in similar locations, sites like ScribD enable intersections with ideas based on the user who posts the content as well as the content’s key words.

Finally, be sure to network with people in person and online. Perhaps one or several of them will share their PDF library or access with you. It may be a long shot, but you never know until you check. Fortunately at key points in my intellectual development, people have passed along vital PDFs which reshaped my thinking and theorizing.

As an adjunct, we have far fewer resources than many graduate students and most full-time faculty. This means we must adapt, adopt, and innovate to continue our research. The Web can facilitate this.  Hopefully the peer-exchange and social nature of the Web will also cultivate the development of research work-around strategies that bolster our academic work while avoiding the costs of information access.

Comments: (1)
Categories: Adjunct Advice, Finding Sources, Gregory Zobel, Professional Development & Service, Research, Working with Sources
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Two Simple Tools to Test Copyright and Fair Use

posted: 9.3.09 by Traci Gardner

Copyright and fair use laws can be confusing to explain to students. I rounded up some resources earlier this year to help you discuss Intellectual Property Rights, but recently, I’ve found these two little tools from the Copyright Advisory Network that make the process even simpler to demonstrate to students:

Digital Slider

Digital Slider Screenshot

Just find the copyright information published in the front of a text and slide the red triangle in the Digital Slider to the right place. The tool will tell you whether the text is in copyright and whether you need to seek permission to use it in your own work. Simple and easy. If you can find the date of first publication, you can figure out whether the work is in copyright.

Exceptions for Educators

Exceptions for Instructors

That work you want to use in class falls under copyright, but you may still be able to use it. Answer the questions in the Exceptions for Educators tool and find out whether your purpose falls within fair use. Just answer some simple “yes” or “no” questions, and you’ll know!

These Flash resources still leave a good bit of thinking to the user. They help you make informed decisions, but they won’t make the decisions for you or the students you teach. That’s what I like about them. The user still has to decide what to do with the information the tools provide.

But that’s not what I think the best feature of the tools is. Copyright and fair use always seems so murky to me. I’m no law student — digging through the explanations of what does (and doesn’t) require permission always takes me out of my comfort zone. I’m never quite sure if there’s something I’m missing. For me, these two tools take some of the mystery out of figuring out copyright permissions. It really can be a fairly easy process if you have some basic information about the text you want to use. If the basic decision can be found on a simple slider, surely I can figure it out — and you and your students can too!

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Categories: Citing Sources, Research, Working with Sources
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Three Tutorials on Using Search Engines

posted: 7.20.09 by Traci Gardner

Most college students think they already know everything there is to know about using search engines. I’ve found, however, that while they can type a few words into Google or Yahoo, they need to learn a lot about more sophisticated search options and about how to sift through the results they get.

Google has announced a collection of resources that will make teaching these lessons a snap. You can either run through the three Search Education lessons yourself to brush up on your understanding of the search engine before leading class discussion or you can use the lesson materials, all created by Google Certified Teachers, as resources in your lessons themselves.

The “Summer 09 Edition” of the Google Teacher Newsletter describes what the lessons have to offer:

[Google Certified Teachers have] developed three modular lessons not specific to any discipline so you can mix and match what best fits your needs. And all of the lessons come with presentations which will help guide your classroom discussions. You’ll learn fundamentals of search (which includes judging the validity of sources), search techniques and practices (for more advanced searches), and features and functionality (to learn some neat tips and tricks).

While the lessons are far more scripted than most of us would use in the college classroom, there is plenty of stand-alone material that you can adapt and use in whatever way fits your teaching style. The lessons are broken into basic, intermediate, and advanced techniques, so you can easily find resources that will fit any classroom of students.

The lessons include great suggestions for extending the lessons as well. For instance, be sure to check out the list of hoax sites for students to practice on in the advanced Believe It or Not lesson.

Looking for more than the Google lessons offer? Check out Bedford/St. Martin’s Research and Documentation Online for additional classroom resources, including Tips for Evaluating Sources.

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Categories: Citing Sources, Finding Sources, Professional Development & Service, Research, Teaching with Technology
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Teaching Students to Use Wikipedia Wisely

posted: 7.7.09 by Traci Gardner

Like it or not, Wikipedia now shapes how many of us learn about the events that happen in the world today. Perhaps you have never turned to Wikipedia to find out more once you’ve heard something in the news, but many people in the world do.

How do we know? Wikipedia set a new traffic record on June 25th as thousands of people rushed to the site to learn more about the death of pop star Michael Jackson. What bothers some teachers isn’t that students may look up information online, but that students need to evaluate the information they find carefully to determine if it’s valuable.

On a collaboratively produced site like Wikipedia, any number of people may be updating and changing the information that is posted. On the day Michael Jackson died, for instance, hundreds of editors were updating the related Wikipedia entries.

Wikipedia entries can change frequently, and sometimes those changes are more subjective than objective. It’s useful to talk with students about the different perspectives that make up each Wikipedia entry.

Once students understand the range of information that can be included in a Wikipedia entry, they need to develop the skills to determine how accurate and relevant the entry is. I share these suggestions to help them decide:

  1. Look for images and notes on Wikipedia that indicate special details about the entry—and read them for tips on which information in the entry may change soon. For example, this note appears at the top of the Wikipedia entry on the Funeral of Michael Jackson this week:
    Current Event Warning on Wikipedia Entry
  2. Visit the History tab for the entry, and you’ll find details on the revisions that people have made. Check out the Page History Help for tips on how to use the information. Notice the dates of the changes to determine how current the information in the entry is.
  3. Use the comparison tool on the History page to look at how revisions have changed the article. The specific changes are highlighted on the comparison page.
  4. Click on the Discussion Tab for details on specific issues that have been explored regarding the article, including any debates on the information that has been included.
  5. Review the list of Notes and the References for the entry. If there are links, click through to compare them to the information in the article. Additionally, consider whether the references are reputable resources on the topic.
  6. Check the External Links for the article. Compare the information on the outside pages to the details in the entry. If there are differences, try to determine why.

If students need additional help, use the guidelines and examples in Bedford/St. Martin’s “Evaluating Online Sources: A Tutorial by Roger Munger.”

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Research, Student Success, Teaching with Technology, Working with Sources
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Discussing Intellectual Property Rights

posted: 6.15.09 by Traci Gardner

Teaching about Copyright
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recently released their “Teaching Copyright” curriculum and website. Created in part as a response to The Copyright Alliance’s “Think First, Copy Later” collection, the EFF curriculum focuses on 5 lesson plans:

You may find the lesson plans are too scripted for the classes you teach, but the ideas and the linked materials are great resources for college classrooms.

In fact, you might skip the lessons altogether and go directly to the Resources Tab, where you’ll find the handouts, articles, and related information all on one Web page. Here are some examples:

Teaching How to Avoid Plagiarism
If your intellectual property rights unit also includes a discussion of avoiding plagiarism, visit the St. Martin’s Tutorial on Avoiding Plagiarism. It’s a free resource that explains what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. The tutorial includes everything you need, from readings to practice exercises.

For a fast review of plagiarism with your class, be sure to take a look at The Bedford Researcher’s Checklist: Avoiding Plagiarism. The one-page handout makes a simple outline for class discussion and provides a handy take-away resource that students can use as they write.

Additional Information
If you want to learn more about copyright and fair use in the classroom, check out the Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in Media Literacy Education. This report and the related resources from the Media Education Lab at Temple University should answer any lingering questions you have about intellectual property rights.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Integrating sources, Plagiarism
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Copyright Basics Video

posted: 5.11.09 by archived

Courtesy of Librarian in Black, here’s an interesting video about copyright. It’s only six minutes in length, but it could be used to foster some class discussion on copyright and intellectual property. It could also be used to help remind colleagues about their copyright responsibilities.

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Categories: Adjunct Advice, Gregory Zobel, Research, Working with Sources
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Illegal 21st Century Research Skills

posted: 4.13.09 by Traci Gardner

Sure, you probably knew “There’s Something Terribly Rude About Texting on a PDA During Conversation.” But did you know that there were times that picking up that Blackberry was actually illegal?

In a number of recent cases, jurors have caused legal problems by consulting digital resources during trials. It’s not that they are checking on their own email messages that’s the problem. Instead, they hear or notice something in the course of the trial and decided to look for more information, either on their cell phone there in the courtroom or later at home on their computers.

Unfortunately, it’s not legal. Juries are expected to make their decisions based solely on the information presented at trial. Increasingly, however, that’s not what’s happening. Consider these stories, which tell of jurors who took things into their own hands:

So here’s the conundrum: We know that students need to develop digital research skills, but how do we help them understand when not to use them? Once people learn to search out answers on their own, how do we convince them to turn that kind of thinking off?

I don’t have any easy answers. What I do know is that these so-called “Google mistrials” could yield some great classroom discussions:

  • Ask students to read some of the articles and then debate what seems reasonable behavior and what does not. Get the issues out in the open. The articles could lead to great conversations that might culminate in a persuasive paper assignment or a letter to the editor assignment.
  • Brainstorm and discuss similar situations when digital research or discussion might be illegal or ill-advised. You might start with questions like these:
    • Is it okay to Twitter during an exam? Consider the difference between posting the answer to question 42 on your biology exam and posting a message that says the exam is hard and you wish you studied more.
    • Can you use your cell phone during a test? How will the teacher know if you’re checking the time or checking a cheat sheet in your notepad?
  • Consider the difference that digital access makes in these legal cases. Is digital technology a scapegoat? What if people looked up information in an encyclopedia at the library or a college textbook that they had on hand? Is “Google mistrial” more interesting than “Encyclopedia Britannica mistrial”?
  • Supplement your discussion of the drama 12 Angry Men with some of these articles. Does everything that the jurors do seem strictly legal? I keep thinking of the scene in the movie where the Henry Fonda character throws the duplicate knife onto the table. Was searching for that knife conducting research?

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Discussion, Document Design, Research, Teaching with Technology
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Plagiarism Workshop

posted: 12.9.08 by Nick Carbone

Presented to the Cuyahoga Community College English Faculty

“Steal This Talk” Part 1 of 8
Losing Voice: The Threat of Plagiarism.

“Steal This Talk” Part 2 of 8: We Were All Freshmen
“Steal This Talk” Part 3 of 8: Plagiarism Statements: Do’s and Don’ts
“Steal This Talk” Part 4 of 8: Problematizing Plagiarism
“Steal This Talk” Part 5 of 8: Helping Students Not Hang Themselves
“Steal This Talk” Part 6 of 8: Research: What Might It Mean
“Steal This Talk” Part 7 of 8: The One True Source
“Steal This Talk” Part 8 of 8: The Benevolent Panopticon

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Categories: Plagiarism, Student Success, Teaching Advice, Teaching with Technology, Working with Sources
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Stop Dihydrogen Monoxide!

posted: 4.14.08 by Barclay Barrios

As an exercise in getting students to evaluate Web sources with a critical eye, have them review the Web site for the Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division. This site details the dangers of this chemical, which include death from inhalation and severe burns from its gaseous form. The punch line is that the chemical is water. See if your students can decode this hoax and then prompt a discussion of the reliability of Web sources in research projects.

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Categories: Argument, Assignment Idea, Critical Reading, Finding Sources, Rhetorical Situation, Teaching with Technology
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