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Save the endangered tree octopus!

6 Feb
Tree Octopus

Tree Octopus

It’s a well-known fact that new animals are added to the endangered species list on a regular basis, and sadly, we can’t save them all.  Species are going extinct at an alarming rate.

Today I present to you one of the latest that is sure to be on the endangered list soon: the Pacific Northwest tree octopus (Octopus paxarbolis).  This awesome creature resides in temperate rainforests and lives a double life; they’re amphibious mollusks!  They are extremely intelligent with amazing eyesight.  They use their tentacles to climb trees in a form of locomotion called “tentaculation”.  Sadly, their breeding numbers are decreasing at an alarming rate due to “decimation of habitat by logging and suburban encroachment; building of roads that cut off access to the water which it needs for spawning; predation by foreign species such as house cats; and booming populations of its natural predators, including the bald eagle and sasquatch”.  (Info from the Official Save the Pacific Northwest Octopus site)

Hopefully, most people can spot the humorous and ridiculous points in the above story.  But can our students? 

The current student population consists of mostly tech savvy kiddos, usually much more so than we are ourselves.  They’ve grown up with computers, the internet, DVD players, Playstations, cell phones, mp3 players, etc.  They know the basics of using search engines to quickly find information.  Surely this is a huge advancement and advantage compared to the way we had to research our projects and research papers “back in the day”.  Yet teachers know that students will often go for what’s easiest (or, what gets homework and projects done the fastest) without bothering to stop and think if what they have found is valid or reliable. 

Researchers at the University of Connecticut conducted a study involving the aforementioned tree octopus.  The goal?  To test students’ ability to evaluate information they find online.  The results?  Sobering.  “The students not only believed all of the fabricated information, but also insisted on the existence of the octopus, even when researchers explained all the information had been made up.” (From dailymail article)

If students are going to continue to use search engines and the internet in general, teachers must incorporate ways to show them how to do so properly.  We need to teach them how to validate the content they find online.  Much of what has been taught in the past on reading critically is, of course, still applicable. 

  • What is the nature of the information being presented?  Is it original data, summaries of original data, anecdotal, etc?
  • Is the information current?
  • Are sources clearly documented?
  • What are the credentials of the original information and the sources listed?
  • Is the information verified by others in the field?
  • What is the purpose of publishing the information?  Is it geared to simply inform, sell a product, entertain, etc?

There are several good articles (on the internet! ha) about validating information and reading critically.  Here are a few, in no particular order:

Assessing and Validating Information Found on the Internet

Critical Reading Tips from Indiana University

E-how article on validating internet info

Evaluating Internet Information from Johns Hopkins

Fellow teachers, I urge you to broach this topic when an assignment comes up in which you know students will be using the internet for research. 

P.S.  Also, if we all teach critical reading and validation, then Wikipedia can be used.  It is not the devil.  🙂

Interesting Ways to Use…

3 Feb

Found a nice collection of “Interesting ways to use _____” for education.  Links include interesting ways to use Google docs, Prezi, Wallwisher, Nintendo Wii, blog posts, and lots more.  Check it out.

Kids and Social Media Dangers

6 Jan

I found this YouTube video courtesy of Michael at Passionate Teaching.  The video demonstrates some of the dangers of kids using social media.  Honestly, it’s a good reminder for us adults, too.  As Michael at Passionate Teaching stated, I urge you to watch it.  Try to find a way to incorporate it into class or suggest to your administration to present it at an assembly or something similar.  The video is very creepy and downright disturbing, but it’s extremely effective.

Web Tools for Educators

22 Dec

Are you an educator who wants to incorporate more technology into the classroom but don’t know where to start?  You’re not alone.  Even teachers that already use quite a bit of technology in their classes struggle with information overload.  There are so many cool things to try.  Where do you start?

Whether you are a teacher, administrator, involved in elementary education or secondary education, teach online classes, or teach ELL/ESL students, The Super Book of Web Tools for Educators can help you get started.  It’s a free e-book created by bloggers, teachers, and administrators. 

Here’s a sample from the high school section:

Synchtube (http://synchtube.com) is a service for watching videos and chatting about them at the same time. Here’s how it works; find the url of your favorite YouTube video, copy that url into Synchtube, and begin chatting with your friends while the video is playing. You can comment on the video and share thoughts inspired by the video while you’re watching. Synchtube allows you to have up to 50 people watching and chatting simultaneously.

The entire book is basically short synopses of various tools geared toward many different areas of education.  Even if you are tech savvy, I say give it a glance.  From just briefly browsing through it myself, Isaw lots of tools I have never heard of before.

Pet Peeve–would you please actually READ your email?

14 Nov

It’s probably happened to most of us.  Many of us are even guilty of this ghastly sin.

The criminal offense I refer to is (insert suspenseful pause):

Responding to an email without fully reading it and therefore not actually answering what was asked in the first place.

As I’ve mentioned previously on my blog, I really would like to start a Moodle (or some sort of Learning Management System) for my classes this year.  I’ve run into a lot of snags, and consequently, I am nowhere close to getting my students set up for this really cool piece of technology.  I had this brilliant idea to email someone who is tech savvy…someone who is personable…someone who seems to know education and what they are talking about.  (Actually, I tried this approach with several people, but only one irked me so much that I am now blogging about it.)

I emailed the owner of a “technology in education” blog.  It’s a well-known blog that I subscribe to, and I figured the person might be too busy to even reply, but it was worth a shot.  I told them in my email that I subscribed to the blog and really enjoyed it and was wondering if they could help with ‘x’.  I mentioned that I had already looked for the topic on their blog but didn’t see anything about it. 

To my joy, a few hours after I emailed the blogger, I saw a response in my inbox.  I was delighted to see my original email quoted at the bottom of the response–it wasn’t just an automated “Thank you for contacting so-and-so” note. 

That’s where my hope died and the anger flared.  The blogger did indeed write back personally, but only to say, “Hey, thanks for reading the blog.  I’m glad you enjoy it.  I recently switched subscriber providers, so I’ve taken the liberty to add you to the list.  You’ll get another email with a link to confirm your subscription.”  And that was it.

Um, am I missing something?  I didn’t ask to be added to your new list (which I had already joined anyway).  I asked a specific question.  If you don’t have time to actually respond to what I ask, then either don’t reply at all, or mention that you don’t have time at that moment but hope to do so in the near future.

So annoying.

Yet another great technology, web 2.0, etc, site for educators

31 Oct

There are lots of blogs, sites, etc, that fall under the category mentioned in the post title.  But this one is still worth mentioning. 

iLearn Technology: http://ilearntechnology.com

You can find lots of good tips and ideas for integrating technology into the classroom at this blog.  Through iLearn Technology, I found something called edu2.0, which is apparently a free LMS along the lines of Moodle.  (One of my goals this year is to start using an LMS, so edu2.0 may be the way to go, since my school doesn’t host Moodle.  More on that later, though.)

What I like about ilearntechnology is that it doesn’t just give a quick blurb about some of the sites and tools it mentions.  It gives a detailed review and suggestions for how to use, and people often participate in the comments, including the owner of the blog. 

Go visit iLearn Technology today!

Play with Moodle free

17 Oct

Did you know that Moodle has a demo site you can play with for an hour?  For those new to Moodle, this is a nice way to become familiar with the layout and features.  You can log in as an administrator, teacher, or student and get a feel for how Moodle works.

Go here to play with Moodle!

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