Tuesday, February 20, 2007

New Test Finds Student's Cyber Aptitude Wanting

I found this in the Sunday Tribune.
Just 52 percent of test takers could correctly judge the objectivity of a Web site and only 65 percent assessed the site's authoritativeness.
When asked to use a search engine to look for information on the Internet, only 40 percent entered multiple search terms to narrow the results.

Heyboer, Kelly. "New Test Finds Students' Cyber Aptitude Wanting." Chicago Tribune 18 Feb. 2007, sec. 1: 6.

I want to take this test and find out what my digital (The word cyber is so 90's.) aptitude is. I'd like to think I've got a step up on most people when it comes to digital literacy but the sad truth is that I find myself all too often turning to Wikipedia and Google (only) for a quick informational fix. I've asked several kids about what they would do if they had to look up Teddy Roosevelt and didn't know anything about him. They all said Wikipedia. Are some kids digitally illiterate or is it more about laziness? It's a lot easier to just jump to Google or Wikipedia than to query several different search engines or to browse several different websites.

We definitely need to educate our students on how to find valid information, but how will we fight digital laziness?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

From Marylaine Block's Newsletter

Good link suggested from Marylaine Block's Newsletter on alternatives to Google. Speciality search engines work well when your purpose
might be a clustering engine that maps results, a recommendation search
tool, a spoken word engine, a social bookmark tool, or a podcast search
engine. See "Neat New Stuff I Found This Week"
Try subscribing to Marylaine Block's weekly posts. She is one of the best "Internet Librarians" and finds incredibly great stuff to share with teachers.

Games May be Better than Homework?

Did I get your attention? In Sunday's Tribune there was an article about some current research efforts that may show that there are educational benefits to playing video games.

"We realized that over 80 percent of American kids have game consoles at home, 90 percent of kids are online and 50 percent of them are producing things online, so we really need to understand what is going on here," said Constance Yowell, director of the MacArthur Foundation's digital research initiative. "This is what kids are doing, so we need to know both the positive benefits and the unintended consequences."
Witt, Howard. "Skip the Textbook, Play the Video Game." Chicago Tribune 11 Feb. 2007.
Of course any good gamer could have told you this ten years ago, but it takes an army of researchers and millions of dollars to convince people of this. The complexity and depth of modern day games can be mind boggling. The learning curve for some games is steep and many come with tutorials that just gloss over the basics of game play, let alone some of the deeper aspects of the game.

Don't dismiss videogames. There is more value to them than we give them credit for. If you get a chance, give one a try.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Creative Commons - Spread the Love

Creative Commons License

Have you ever found yourself working on a presentation and wondered if all the media you were using was in copyright compliance? Are you constantly looking for copyright free media to use in presentations? Have you ever had to go back into your personal archives to delete and destroy materials on which the fair use rights have expired? (I really hate when that happens.) If all of this has happened to you, you should be looking into media given a Creative Commons license. Content placed under a Creative Commons (CC) license lacks the heavy restrictions that accompany the standard copyright license.

There are 4 conditions that can (but don't necessarily) accompany a CC license:
  • Attribution - You must attribute the content that you are using to the original creator. (Basically include citations.)
  • No Derivative Works - You must use the work as a whole in its entirety without alteration. (You can include a picture under CC in your powerpoint, but you cannot alter or crop it or change it in any way.)
  • Share-A-Like - Anything that you create that includes content under this CC license must also be placed under a CC license. (This spreads the meme.)
  • No Commercial Use - You can use the CC content however you like as long as it is not for a commercial purpose.
Now that you have an idea of what Creative Commons is, let me give you some ideas of how you can put this to work for you. There are three sites that specifically speak to the need for media with lenient restrictions.
  • flickr.com - Flickr is a social photo sharing site that allows you to place creative commons licenses on your photos. You can then search the site for everybody's photos that have a specific license that you need. Need a photo of the Great Wall of China? There are 150 of them under the attribution only license! Great for powerpoint presentations and anything else that uses pictures. I find that the pictures on flickr tend to be of higher quality than those found at Google Images and you don't have to worry about copyright.
  • The Free Sound Project - The Freesound Project is a database of sound effects and music loops that are all under a Creative Commons license. This resource is great for putting together narratives, radio plays and even adding a few sound effects to a powerpoint. (Warning: Some of the sounds are saved in a format called FLAC. You need some extra software to convert these sounds into something usable by another program. Don't worry, there are FLAC converters that are Open Source!)
  • ccMixter - "ccMixter is a community music site featuring remixes licensed under Creative Commons, where you can listen to, sample, mash-up, or interact with music in whatever way you want." (ccMixter, http://ccmixter.org/ accessed Feb. 5, 2007)
Now that you have some idea what Creative Commons is you may ask yourself, "How can I help spread the word?" Educate your students and make sure that they know the difference between copyrighted media and Creative Commons media, and make sure they understand that media under a CC license gives them freedom and flexibility to do what they want. Copyright does not.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

We are Web 2.0

I just watched the U-tube video on web 2.0. It's an easy way to understand how the Internet has evolved and changed. I really understand now the difference between html and xml. Html is about form and xml is about content. Don't miss this video.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

"Forget Dewey and His Decimals"

Pew Internet & American Life Project

"Tagging Play: Forget Dewey and His Decimals, Internet Users Are Revolutionizing the Way We Classify Information - and Make Sense of It". This is a good article to read if you need to learn about the growing use of tagging on sites such as http://del.icio.us/.

I have experimented with the use of tagging as a quick way to make an electronic pathfinder for student use. Simply tag all the sites you wish to use with the same tag and then link to the page of similar tags you create. You create a del.icio.us account where you can store your tags. See:
a page of links tagged "congress" as a possiblity for a pathfinder.