Today and tomorrow I am working with Ms. Thomas and Ms. Samuel, 8th grade Language Arts teachers, helping them kick off their research unit. We are using Schoology, Google, and Wikipedia.
I think these tools are indispensable in today’s world. They are only seen as bad by people who don’t want to take the time to educate kids on how to get the most out of them. Wikipedia is the absolute best place to start any search. Articles are written in very accessible language and organized in ways that help students narrow down topics, formulate a research question, and get to the original location of the information by following the links at the bottom. Google has given us A Google a Day puzzles to help students hone their search term selection skills. With the appropriate guidance, students can learn lots about validating sources, something they miss when using a paid service such as GALE (does anyone still use GALE?).
Schoology is letting us curate student ideas using the discussion tool. It is also making the distribution of documents and links to students very, very easy. Using a folder with student completion requirements, students will race each other to solve selected A Google a Day puzzles to earn badges.
Of course, when we are done with this introductory phase, students will take notes and draft their papers using Google Docs, and using Teacher Dashboard, Ms. Thomas and Ms. Samuel will be able to give timely feedback and scaffold progress without killing any trees.