Posts Tagged ‘ncsssmst’

NCSSSMST Presentation: Google Is Not the Enemy

March 8, 2010

Last Wednesday through Saturday I attended the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science, and Technology Professional Conference.  The acronym isn’t much better:  NCSSSMST.  I attended a workshop on social media by Corey Alderdice of the Gatton Academy, a session on using robotics to stimulate interest in STEM topics by David Platt from Wheeler High School Center for Advanced Studies, and I spent a couple of hours with the LASA E-Zine folks.

Our librarian Alaine Martaus and I presented a session called Google Is Not the Enemy, demonstrating the Google search tools and techniques that students can use to access legitimate sources online.  Alaine demonstrated Google Scholar, Google Books, and Google Patent Search.  I introduced Google Alerts, Wonder Wheel, Timeline Search, and Google Squared.  You may recognize some of the slides in this presentation from Searchin’ Like It’s 1999.

Led by a Google Certified Teacher, this session is designed to familiarize faculty who guide student research on the finer points of using Google’s specialized search tools and applications for advanced research results. Though many students rely heavily on the standard Google search for their research needs, faculty are increasingly wary of the reliability and accuracy of the information accessed through this generalized web search engine. The primary method of preventing unverified information from making its way into student writing has been to educate students in methods of website evaluation. What this session aims to do is present an additional method that involves using specialized search tools and scholarly applications available from Google that will improve the overall quality of all sources found through online searches. Using information gained at the selective Google Teacher Academy, this session means to demonstrate a variety of Google applications that will be of use both to students in their research and to teachers. The session will also discuss the advantages of building on the familiar foundation of Google searching, which is already so popular with students. Lastly the session will touch briefly on some of the controversies and worries that teachers often have about Google with the hopes that open discussion will alleviate any concerns about using Google tools more fully in the classroom.

We had some spare time at the end of the session, so we demonstrated the Google Applications for Education suite offered free to schools.  One very excited participant ran out of the room asking her colleague, “Why aren’t we doing this?  I don’t understand exactly what it is, but it’s wonderful!”  Several expressed interest in my 3-day summer workshop, “Go Paperless with Free Google Tools.”  More on that in a future post.

NCSSSMST conferencegoers enjoyed an evening at Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon. Line dancing lessons were complimentary for the uninhibited.  See that video after the break.

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Civil War Blog Project – Check it Out!

January 22, 2009
One of the 15 student blogs in this pilot project

One of the 15 student blogs in this pilot project

As I mentioned in a post several months ago, I visited with our humanities department chair about incorporating technology into the American Studies class that most of our 11th graders take.  Between then and now, we laid out some project requirements, selected 10 focus events, borrowed an awesome student blog rubric, created step-by-step instructions for securing student blogger accounts, and pulled the trigger.  The results are some amazing examples of student research and writing.

We’re running this project for 2 weeks.  Each class day, one of the history teachers lists the focus event on the project blog.  Students then respond to the event in character.  Although we require the posts to be based upon research (cited in the post), the students are to write their own posts rather than pasting lengthy passages from their research.  Posts are due by 9:00 PM.  Additionally, each student is required to comment on two other posts each day.

Sample Blog Comment

Sample Blog Comment

We chose Blogger because of its relative simplicity.  Only after we got the project off the ground did we realize how convenient the built-in following features would be.  Our teaching team consists of the two history teachers who team teach the class and myself (a computer science teacher).  One of the history teachers had never read a blog post (that he knew of), and the other said she had read but never responded to blog posts.  By the third day of the project, both were reading, commenting, and creating posts of their own quite easily.

Once the project comes to an end and we solicit student feedback, we will present our final report at the NCSSSMST Professional Conference in Washington, D.C.  If this sounds like something you’re interested in trying with your students, please do! We were amazed at the quality of the research and writing.  If you need help getting started, contact me for help via email, twitter, skype, or right here using comments.