If you know the Common Core Standards you know that “The need to conduct research and to produce and consume media is embedded into every aspect of today’s curriculum. In like fashion, research and media skills and understandings are embedded throughout the Standards rather than treated in a separate section.” Common Core Learning Standards for ELA & Literacy, Key Design Considerations
Innovative educators know that when used in the right way, social networks and other online technologies are great tools to conduct such research and gain knowledge. Not only do they leverage resources students already know and love, but they can also encourage learning in a way that is less restrictive and more open and natural. For example, collaboration in an online group creates relationships “in which people from often widely divergent cultures and who represent diverse experiences and perspectives learn and work together” as called for in the Common Core Standards.
Think of how access to personal learning networks created via places like Twitter, Facebook, and Google Hangout can expose students and teachers to “other perspectives and cultures through reading and listening, and they are able to communicate effectively with people of varied backgrounds.” Think about how these groups require members to “evaluate other points of view critically and constructively,” as is also called for in the Standards.
Unlike when we were in school, our students have access to the internet which has democratized the ability to access, evaluate, organize, and make meaning of what is found. With all this information however, comes a new issue:
Sorting through infinite content.
Let’s look at two big resources students turn to when they want to learn or know more about something—and one fairly new site that combines elements of both.
YouTube, the number one learning space for teens, contains many hours of educational videos on any topic a student might be interested in investigating—from the morality of capitalism to topics in trigonometry. But sorting through the volume of videos can be overwhelming to students. Fortunately students can learn video search and quality discernment skills for this vast resource. They can also turn to a tool like the YouTube for Schools program which enables students see videos only from well-known organizations.
Students love using Wikipedia as a resource for research and learning. When they do, they need to review materials with careful source scrutiny. This article and Wikipedia’s own FAQs for Schools are good guides. Since source citation is part of Wikipedia’s own guidelines to its writers, tracking down an original source is fairly easy. The “notes” section supports the facts presented in a Wiki article, while the “resources” section is for background. Ensure your students know how to use both.
Students love to “Google,”what they are interested in learning. One way teachers can deepen the learning is by helping students “compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts” as called for in the Common Core State Standards. Mediander provides another way to deepen student learning and meet the standards. It is a digital resource that enables students to “take advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.”Sound familiar? That’s because these are requirements taken directly from the Common Core State Standards.
Mediander does this by enabling students to explore interconnected topics and see how they are related. Think of it as educational game of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” Ask your students to start with a topic they know and then see how far afield they can travel by jumping from topic to topic—within and across traditional categories. Is there a story to be told out of the associations that were uncovered? By encouraging your students to contextualize their learning in new ways, they learn to form creative associations and think more critically.
You can see it in action in the below video.