Posts Tagged ‘skills’

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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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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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Studenting Skills List

posted: 2.20.08 by Barclay Barrios

Ask your students to create a list of “studenting” skills, those skills that make a successful student. This list might include coming to office hours, communicating about absences, and showing up to class on time, but encourage them to work with the handbook and their own experience to create a list specific to your course.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Learning Styles, Student Success
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