Tuesday, March 9, 2010
A few cool tech things
As the kids (and the teachers) start to wind up for our state standardized testing (AIMS) and other tests, stress levels rise and behavior goes down the tubes. Needless to say, this is true on both sides of the teacher's desk. So, as is usually my M.O., I've resorted to technology to ratchet down stress levels and behavior issues.
About a month ago, I ran across this genius idea by @rmbyrne on Twitter (author of the always excellent Free Technology for Teachers blog). His idea was to take a topic and compare what different technology sources say about it. So, since women's suffrage was next up in our march through US History, we read the 8 paragraphs in the textbook about women's suffrage, then read sections of the Wikipedia entry on the same topic, and then looked at primary source documents (which we've studied) about women's suffrage. Then, the students wrote blog posts explaining why they would choose one source over another, and how the information that was offered by each differed.
This turned out to be a great exercise. It benefitted the students in several ways. First, it showed them the beauty of Wikipedia (which they've discovered off-handedly, but we haven't done any direct work with). They weren't aware how much information could be found there, which needless to say, is a wealth of information. Next, in order to save time, which was not surprisingly, running short, I found about handful of primary source items available online (poems, photos, legislative documents, etc.) , showed them to the kids and explained them. First of all, they were very interested in them, which was great. But even better, I was shocked to discover that they were fascinated with the concept of the Library of Congress, where I'd found some of the sources. They just thought it was the coolest thing that there was a place where all these original sources were stored :-) Bonus for the LOC! And finally, they were able to reflect on which source was most effective in various ways on the class blog, by answering some questions I posed.
Speaking of the blog, I was thrilled to discover last week that somehow, a college class of students studying to be teachers discovered our class blog and posted lots of comments on it. The kids were THRILLED to see that other people actually cared about what they had to say!