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Find more Web 2.0 and Global Awareness
If you weren’t able to attend the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in July, you missed these selected tools from the inaugural “American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Best Web Sites for Teaching and Learning.” But never fear: here is a selection of sites with actual teaching situations.
What is better than sharing an exceptional book with your students? Using that book as a cornerstone to create a dynamic unit of study incorporating twenty-first century skills with national standards. Were I to create such a unit, it would look and feel something like this: start with a title like 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy, a well-written picture book that chronicles the true story of a Kenyan village that, after hearing about the tragic events of 9/11, decides to show its caring by “giving” America something that is of great value to the villagers—cows. After the initial reading of this story, invite an inquiry-based discussion centered on this question: “What is the role of the citizen in the community and the nation, and as a member of the world community?” (National Council for the Social Studies [NCSS] Strand —Civic Ideals and Practices) As the discussion progresses, use an Internet tool like bubbl.us to list the questions that come about through the inquiry. This will become the online KWHL chart that forms the foundation of the class study. (H on this chart stands for HOW I found my information).
This is when the real fun starts! After setting some expectations (using a checklist or research plan) students begin to look for answers to the student-generated questions. To provide differentiation opportunities for students, level the searching. For example:
Create a wiki using free sites for educators, such as Wikispaces for Teachers or PBworks, which offer levels of security, such as granting permission to enter the site.
Adding information to the wiki can be as easy as utilizing a GoogleDocs page on your wiki, where students can post as they discover new information to share, or using Simply Box facts to collect and share. Once students have collected information, use one of the free online polling sites to survey them for ideas to transform this unit from a detached research project to engaging them as citizens of the world. Is there a cause that would be appropriate or meaningful for your class? “Through exposure to various media and firsthand experiences, young learners become aware of and are affected by events on a global scale.”(NCSS Strand—Global Connections) There are many worthy causes on a global level: Heifer International or Share Our Strength to name just a couple; or projects near your own community, including food pantries, community clean-ups, or other projects. Actually participating in community activism helps to make it a concrete realization for students, rather than just some idea from a book.
At the conclusion of this unit of study, there are many ways for students to share what they have learned. Two ideas that can easily be posted to your class Web page for families to view are Animoto or VoiceThreads. These production tools provide another differentiation opportunity because they allow for creative display of learning as opposed to mere report writing. Animoto is a professional-style presentation that easily allows the user to combine slides, music, and pictures to prepare a finished product that is as fun to watch as it is to make. VoiceThreads is great way to add student voice to a project, literally.
Assessment is always with us, but that does not mean it needs to be business as usual. Two online tools that can be used by students to demonstrate learning are Wordle and Twitter. Wordle products are often called creations of word clouds. The number of times one uses a word determines its size. A student creates one of these with the words (ideas) that best summarize what was learned or as a clue page for other students. If the students can guess the writer’s topic from the clues, important ideas and descriptive words were used. The concise writing idea of Twitter can be used as a model, with students stating the big idea using 140 characters or fewer. Alternatively, after students present their final projects to the class, their classmates can evaluate the presentation as a Tweet.
If this all seems too much, there are online sites designed to help teachers and librarians find their way through the Web 2.0 jungle. Curriki is a site designed by a community of professional businesses and individuals to be an online community for sharing and creating open source curricula. Partnership for Twenty-First Century Skills has resources to share that integrates these skills for today and tomorrow. SOS for Information Literacy provides lesson plans, handouts, presentations, videos, and other resources to enhance the teaching of information literacy.
Now, before you bookmark this article in your “Yikes, when will I ever have time to learn this!” folder, remember that it is reasonable to try one new online tool at a time, not a dozen. There are many resources to assist you, in addition to the ones suggested in this article. Visit AASL’s Best Web Sites for Teaching and Learning for descriptions and tips for using the top 25 Web sites for teaching and learning, awarded last July for the first time by AASL, as well as AASL’s Standards for Twenty-First Century Learner.
Lizabeth L. Deskins and Christina H. Dorr are library media specialists for Hilliard City Schools in Ohio.
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