Posts Tagged ‘Google’

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Common Knowledge in the Age of Google

posted: 7.28.11 by Andrea Lunsford

I’ve been working lately on the documentation section of The Everyday Writer and thinking about the difficulties students have with citations. And it’s no wonder! They are inundated with information coming at them from all sides and all media, and a lot of it has been remixed from other sources. It’s not unusual for a student to ask, “So how do I cite a video on YouTube of an interview for a magazine that was also on NPR?” (How would you cite this Alison Bechdel video?) No citation system I know if can give examples of everything students will need to cite, so I always work with students to decide what their “text” is most like.  If it is most like a video, then cite it using that model, and so on.

But these discussions have led me to believe we need to do some hard rethinking of citation practices.  For one thing, we need to be flexible and let students know that it’s OK to just do the best they can to follow MLA style, for example.  I was talking with a high school student—a senior—who said “My teacher lets us choose what to write about—as long as we use really strict MLA.” When I asked her what “MLA” was, she vaguely understood that it was a documentation system, but she had no idea at all that the MLA was a very large organization with a full publishing program, annual meetings, and so on. To her it was just a set of hidebound rules that she was forced to conform to. So being flexible to me means explaining where citation systems come from, why they gained currency right alongside intellectual property rights, and why scholars use them today. [read more]

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Categories: Teaching with Technology
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Paying the Piper

posted: 7.28.11 by Jack Solomon

When teaching popular cultural semiotics—especially with respect to the mass media—perhaps the most crucial point to impart to your students is that the way mass media is financed determines the nature of its content. That is, the mass media in themselves (from the Hearst newspapers to the Internet) are only conveyors of information, and therefore ideologically neutral technologies, but their content is not neutral and is determined by the motivations of those who control them.

It is easy to presume that all mass media follow the American model, which is a commercial one financed by advertising and marketing, but that is not always the case. British radio and television, for example, were at first financed by a governmental agency that we know as the BBC. Programming was determined by public servants, who happened to believe that radio and television should be employed to inform and culturally educate the British public. Broadcasting costs were paid by the government, and funded by the licensing fees paid by purchasers of radios and televisions.

From the start, American radio and television were funded quite differently. One only had to purchase a radio or TV and the rest was free. Broadcasting costs were paid by the commercial sponsors who bought advertising time. This apparently trivial fact is of profound significance: with the motive of reaching the largest possible audience/market, commercial American media content was designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. This is why, scarcely a decade into the television era, American TV was already being referred to as a “vast wasteland.” [read more]

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Categories: Popular Culture
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Why Writing Teachers Should Pay Attention to Google+

posted: 7.12.11 by Traci Gardner

G+I am one of the lucky people who received an invitation to Google+ within twenty-four hours of its launch (thanks @z_williamson). Considered by many as Google’s answer to Facebook, Google+ is a social networking site that foregrounds the ability to connect and share content with very specific groups of people, or “Circles” as they’re called on the Google+ site and in the Android app (shown right).

Combine the fine-grained control that Google+ Circles give users with the capability to work with existing Google products (like Google Docs), and you have a tool that is perfect for the writing classroom. Google+ has the potential to simplify blogging, collaborative writing, peer review, and group work—all while reducing the creepy treehouse effect that students often encounter on Facebook.

Before I talk about Google+ in the classroom, I need to share more information on Google+ Circles and the other features in Google+. Google has published a series of YouTube videos and a demo that explain the different aspects of the Google+, but they are (as you’d expect) a bit commercialized and idealistic. For an even-handed explanation and review of Google+, watch this CNET video, “First Look at Google’s Facebook killer, Google+”:

[read more]

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Categories: Teaching with Technology
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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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The Sky is Falling! The Students Will Fail!

posted: 4.16.09 by Traci Gardner

If you’ve heard the recent technology news stories, you’re probably thinking that you need to gather all the students in your classes and hide them away in a quiet room with no access to digital technology. No cable TV. No iPhones. No Blackberries. And heaven forbid, no computers! Certainly not computers with Internet access.

Scan this sampling of headlines, and you’ll see a frightening trend toward presenting technologies as a great evil in the classroom:

Okay, seriously, some Chicken Littles need to calm down. Contrary to the popular media’s reports, Google isn’t making us stupid, and Facebook, Twitter, and cable television are not really to blame for the woes of the classroom.

The sky is not falling. On the contrary, with resources like Twenty-Two Interesting Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom, these technologies are actually able to bring some interesting new aspects to the ways we teach students to read and write.

Instead of buying the panic, ask students to think critically about their relationship to these technologies. Try one of the following activities to get started:

  • Have students think about the technologies that shape their lives by writing technology autobiographies.
  • Ask students to compare their own experiences with technology to those described in the articles. Students might keep track of the leisure time they spend online (as well as offline) and compare it to the time they spend on academic activities. Encourage them to draw conclusions about the influence of digital technology on their grades.
  • Assign a persuasive writing activity that asks students to respond to the issues raised in one of the articles (e.g., Does Twitter confuse your moral compass?).
  • Work together to examine the research strategies described in one of the articles. Check out the number of subjects in the Facebook study, for instance. What conclusions can you draw from a pool of only 13 subjects?
  • Look for the information that is not included in the articles. How were those Facebook users with lower grades chosen, for example? Since the lower-achieving students had a 3.0 to 3.5 GPA, they must have been a rather limited group.
  • Have students choose an online tool that they use and write a review that describes their experiences with the tool and their recommendations for others interested in using it.
  • Ask students to search for news articles that report the opposite experiences with digital technologies—that technologies are having a positive impact on student literacy in and out of the classroom. Use the Williamson Daily News article “Student uses MySpace to expose school conditions” as one example.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Popular Culture, Teaching with Technology
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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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Search Trends

posted: 1.16.07 by Barclay Barrios

Review the material in the handbook on locating a research topic. Google has a tool that maps trends in search terms: http://www.google.com/trends. As part of a research project, have students put in key terms from their research to see how these terms are playing out in the real world.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Finding Sources, Research, Teaching with Technology
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Babel Grammar

posted: 9.25.06 by Barclay Barrios

Have students take a sentence from their drafts and translate it into another language using an online tool such as Babel Fish or Google’s Language Tools. Students might even choose to translate it several times (from English to French to German to Chinese); in the end, translate it back into English. The resulting sentence will be a mess. Have students use the handbook to determine where the mess happened and why (e.g., “The verb shifted in tense and number”).

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Grammar & Style, Teaching with Technology
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