Teach your students the right way to Google
As in decades past, proper research methods are an essential skill for today’s students. At a time when most students (and adults, for that matter) are accustomed to heading straight to Google to answer all of their questions, being able to sagely sift through the good, the bad, and the ugly of search results is key to creating independent 21st century thinkers.
However, even when used properly, Google is not always the right resource. On its website, the Kentucky Virtual Library provides a detailed, student-friendly interactive map of the research process, called “How To Do Research,” which spells out the steps for making the most of the research process, from planning to searching to taking notes and ultimately using gathered information effectively. Many educators like the map because it doesn’t focus exclusively on web research, but instead provides a broader list of tools—think library catalogs and reputable magazines—that can be just as helpful for students.
Learn how to search
Print resources undoubtedly still have a place at the table, but it would be futile to deny that the ability to locate and evaluate online sources is an equally valuable skill. Do your students know how to find and refine effective search terms? Do they know how to filter results using advanced search options? To that end, Google’s Search Education site offers a plethora of beginner, intermediate, and advanced search lesson plans related to picking the right terms, understanding results, narrowing a search, searching for evidence for research tasks, and evaluating the credibility of sources.
In addition to the Search Education Lessons, Google also offers a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) titled: “Power Searching with Google.” (The course is taught by Dan Russell, a senior research scientist at Google, who is also the man behind SearchResearch, a blog about all things search and research). If you have limited time, you may find the Power Searching Quick Reference useful, and the explainer video emporium Common Craft also offers a short video on web search strategies, which students might find easy to digest.
Obama praises educators’ efforts to end digital divide
President Barack Obama recognized school superintendents from across the country on Nov. 20 whose efforts to expand classroom technology means it no longer takes 20 minutes for a student in rural Alaska to log onto the Internet and that one in a poor district in California can get Wi-Fi near home.
About 110 school leaders attended the National Connected Superintendents Summit on digital learning. The event was part of the administration’s five-year plan, ConnectED, to have 99 percent of the nation’s students connected to high-speed broadband Internet in their schools and libraries.
Less than 40 percent of public schools have high-speed internet.
“There is no greater gap right now than the digital gap, and if we close that gap then we have the potential to level the playing field for students like nothing we’ve seen before,” Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, said in remarks to introduce the president. “This is a game changer.”
School leaders need to be innovative in how they work to eliminate “digital deserts” that are most evident in counties with low-income schools, Carvalho said. In Miami-Dade, 74 percent of students live at or below the poverty line.
The school district sought partners such as Microsoft and raised $7 million to outfit 350 schools with Wi-Fi access and bump the number of digital devices in the district to more than 150,000.
Schools also need to balance working with a student body that is increasingly “hyper-connected, multi-tasking rapid consumers of information,” Carvalho said. “We knew if we did not engage with them on their terms, many of them would be lost.”
Obama said it is crucial for schools to bring the world to every child’s fingertips through improved technology, because this generation of students’ digital savvy means they will lose interest in school otherwise.
“In most American schools, teachers cannot use the cutting-edge software and programs that are available today,” Obama said. “They literally don’t have the bandwidth. And even in schools where there is high-speed Internet, so often there aren’t enough computers to go around, so only a small percentage of our classrooms have the 1-to-1 ratio of students to computers or tablets.”
Obama pointed to Superintendent Mary Wegner, of the Sitka School District in Alaska, which is only accessible by train or boat and where it used to take students 20 minutes to log on to the internet. The students recognized the need for better access and petitioned the school board. Now they have Wi-Fi that allows them to use Skype or FaceTime to learn from experts all over the world.
A bond measure in Coachella, Calif., where every student is on a federal program that provides free or reduced-price lunches, is the reason that each of the district’s 20,000 students have an iPad tablet computer. Darryl Adams, superintendent of Coachella Valley Unified School District, said he also is working with Comcast to provide internet service to low-income families for $9.95 per month.
Obama applauded such innovative techniques.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said America has to compete with countries such as South Korea, which replaced textbooks with digital content, and Uruguay, where every student is assigned a digital device. But the playing field also has to be leveled within the United States, Duncan said, as he spoke of a North Carolina teen who is the first in his family to go to college.
Study reveals steps to kindergarten prep
An intervention that uses music and games to help preschoolers learn self-regulation skills is helping prepare at-risk children for kindergarten, a new study from Oregon State University shows.
Self-regulation skills--the skills that help children pay attention, follow directions, stay on task and persist through difficulty--are critical to a child’s success in kindergarten and beyond, said OSU’s Megan McClelland, a nationally recognized expert in child development and a co-author of the new study.
“Most children do just fine in the transition to kindergarten, but 20 to 25 percent of them experience difficulties--those difficulties have a lot to do with self-regulation,” McClelland said. “Any intervention you can develop to make that transition easier can be beneficial.”
The results of the new study are notable because positive effects of an intervention, especially one that aims to improve self-regulation and academic achievement, can be difficult for researchers to find, said McClelland, the Katherine E. Smith Healthy Children and Families Professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.
The intervention was most effective among children who are considered at highest risk for struggling in school--those from low-income backgrounds who are learning English as a second language. In addition to a positive effect on self-regulation, the intervention had a positive effect on math achievement for English language learners.
“The math gain was huge,” McClelland said. “English language learners who were randomly assigned to the intervention showed a one-year gain in six months. This was in spite of the fact that we had no math content in these games.”
That indicates that children were more likely to integrate the self-regulation skills they’ve learned into their everyday lives, McClelland said. It also supports previous research finding strong links between self-regulation and math skills.
The study was published recently in “Early Childhood Research Quarterly.” Lead author Sara A. Schmitt conducted the research as a doctoral student at OSU and now is an assistant professor at Purdue University. In addition to McClelland, the other authors of the study are Alan C. Acock of Oregon State and Shauna L. Tominey of Yale University.
App of the Week: Preschool math with monkeys
Join the monkeys in their journey and help them solve math problems to keep their space ship fueled up for their new explorations!
The Benchmark Study 2014: Best Practices for Implementing Online and Blended Learning in K–12 School Districts
This report examines results from Market Data Retrieval's EdNet Insight Services' 2014 Benchmark survey, an annual survey of experienced educators that looks at best practices when implementing online and blended education programs in K–12 schools.