We’re spending more time online, reading and researching with our students. We often need to print out these online resources for use as handouts or review materials. One of the problems with online research is that if you or your students print out a news article, a blog post, or just about anything on the web, the print job ends up being multiple pages that include ads and other things you don’t need.
And as more districts move to mobile devices such as iPads, the rules change even more. I often work with teachers and students who are struggling with how best to access and use online materials as learning tools. How can we use online resources such as primary source documents without using paper?
But wasting paper and time aren’t the only concerns. Ed tech folks often talk about the powerful impact that appropriate use of technology can have on learning, especially with online tools. The assumption is that web use by kids increases brain wiring—that being online makes students smarter. But we need to be careful with those sorts of assumptions.
A 2010 Wired article by Nicholas Carr does a great job of documenting what happens in our brains when we’re online. And it’s not always good. Carr discusses a wide range of research claiming that hyperlinks, especially those that live inside text, cause comprehension problems.
- “People who read linear text comprehend more, remember more, and learn more than those who read text peppered with links.”
- “It takes hypertext readers longer to read documents and they were seven times more likely to say they found it confusing.”
- “Comprehension declines as the number of links increase—whether or not people clicked on them.”
So while online resources are powerful tools for learning, they can waste paper, be awkward to use in a mobile environment, and decrease understanding if not used appropriately. What to do? Read more
I know that some research is suggesting that there really aren’t such things as visual or auditory learners. Well . . . that research is wrong. Cause I’m a visual learner. No question.
I don’t listen well. I can’t pay attention to audio books. I have trouble staying focused during long lectures and speeches. Just the way it is. And I think I’m a lot like most of your kids – someone who feels more comfortable using visual stuff like graphic organizers, infographics, photos, and videos as part of my learning process.
So I’ve always love tools like Glogster and Wallwisher and Prezi. They help me “see” what I need to understand. They help me organize information in ways that make sense to me.
And I can hear you thinking way over here:
Glogster does have an “educational” version but it’s not the same since they started charging money. Wallwisher is now Padlet and Prezi makes me dizzy.
So . . . I need something else. And today, thanks to Kelly over at iLearn Technology, I’ve got a new toy to play with.
It’s Digital Learning Day.
Isn’t celebrating Digital Learning Day a bit like observing Black History Month?
I mean, shouldn’t we be teaching teaching black history (and women’s history and Latino history and Asian American history and dead white guy history and Native American history and . . . well, history history) all year long? I can certainly understand the sentiment – for far too long, it was just Dead White Guy History.
Black History Month was a way to encourage teachers and kids to learn more about a part of who we are that was often pushed to the margins. The hope was that these critical pieces of US history would be incorporated throughout the instructional year. The problem? Too many social studies teachers still use February to have kids memorize random black history facts and call it good.
I get the same sense about Digital Learning Day. Not that there is anything wrong with the idea of a Digital Learning Day – the folks over there seem very concerned about best practice and argue that digital tools should be embedded into instruction as part of everyday practice.
But . . .
The world of educational resources and materials is shifting away from print stuff towards digital stuff. One of the reasons for this shift is the ease of creating and sharing digital stuff.
ePUBS and tablets and apps like iBooks are merging into a mini-Perfect Storm event that supports and encourages the use of digital content. As social studies teachers, we need to take advantage of these sorts of tools.
And I just ran across an incredibly easy to use online tool called Readlists that lets you create an ePUB book from resources that you find on the web. Imagine being able to create a digital book that has a variety of articles, data, and multimedia.
Readlists is the latest project of the Arc90 people – the same people who created Readability.
The process is simple:
- Go to Readlists
- Paste URLs of articles or websites that you want to share with others
- Give your list a description and a title
- Send the book to the device of your choice (Kindle, iOS, Readmill, email, or download to desktop)
- If desired, you can share your ePUb via social media like Twitter and Facebook or on websites.
You can also create an editable list that allows other users to add additional content to the list.
My example? An eBook of social studies and Common Core resources via an ePUB format or website. You could use Readlists to create course packets, collections of primary source documents, and reading assignments.
The beauty of all of this, of course, is that you can create content for your kids to use that becomes mobile – anywhere and anytime. Kids can access this on eReaders, cell phone browsers, or iBooks. But it’s not just you pushing content out to kids. It could be kids pushing content back to you as part their assignments, research, and projects.
Very cool stuff indeed!