Posts Tagged ‘research’

There’s nothing like a good competition to spur students interest and enthusiasm for learning and exploring.


The National History Challenge, promoted by the History Teachers’ Association of Australia (HTAA), is open to Year 1 to Year 12 students across Australia.  As noted on their website:

The National History Challenge ….. is an exciting contest that encourages students to use research and inquiry-based learning to discover more about the past. Students are the historians. They can investigate their community, explore their own and their family’s past and consider ideas throughout history. The NHC encourages the use of primary and secondary sources and offers a variety of presentation styles. It rewards students with generous cash prizes and travel opportunities.

Complete registration details online to get an Information Kit and encourage students to start thinking now about a suitable project.

Keep an eye on the Key Dates page though, as closing dates are not yet available.

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I just listened to an outstanding TED talk by Rita Pierson.

Rita F. Pierson spent her entire life in or around the classroom, having followed both her parents and grandparents into a career as an educator.  Quoting from her bio online I’ve learned that:

Rita F. Pierson, a professional educator since 1972, taught elementary school, junior high and special education. She was a counselor, a testing coordinator and an assistant principal. In each of these roles, she brought a special energy to the role — a desire to get to know her students, show them how much they matter and support them in their growth, even if it was modest.

For the past decade, Pierson conducted professional development workshops and seminars for thousands of educators. Focusing on the students who are too often under-served, she lectured on topics like “Helping Under-Resourced Learners,” “Meeting the Educational Needs of African American Boys” and “Engage and Graduate your Secondary Students: Preventing Dropouts.”

She has qualities that every teacher should have.  How do I know?   Those qualities shine through every single word she speaks in this presentation.  She is direct, clear, emphatic, sincere and determined in every word she shares with us.   Here is a woman who believes in the importance of education, but most importantly believes in the important role that teachers have in the lives of those students they teach.

In this short presentation, Rita Pierson speaks about the value and importance of human connection – relationships – and the impact this can have on the achievement and success of students.   Her talk is replete with quotable moments.

A colleague said to me one time:   They don’t pay me to like the kids.  They pay me to to teach a lesson.   The kids should learn it.  I should teach it.   They should learn it.  Case closed.

Well … I said to her… you know ….. kids’ don’t learn from people they don’t like!”

Rita Pierson tells it as it is.   She acknowledges that while we won’t like all the students we teach, those students will never know it.   Teachers are great actors and actresses she tells us.   Our job is to teach and make a difference in the lives of our students.   Our job is to inspire students to realise academic achievement and to bolster their self-esteem, even when their skills are low.  How we achieve this she says is by building relationships with our students.  Connect with them.  Be real and know that you are making a difference in the life of each student.

Despite the difficulties, despite the policies, despite it all Pierson says:

We teach anyway because that’s what we do.  Teaching and learning should bring joy.  How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think …..  Every child deserves a champion — an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be ….

We can do this.  We are educators.  We are born to make a difference.”

Rita Pierson passed away in June 2013.  Our great loss.

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Released a couple of days ago, I just discovered the latest Google search app and I must say it’s really cool!

Designed for both the iPhone and iPad, this latest update allows you to search just by asking a question!!  Simply select the microphone icon on the new Google search page to instantly find answers to absolutely anything.

I’ve just had fun asking some very basic questions and had graphic returns within seconds:

What year was Napoleon born?

What is 10 Euro in Australian dollars?

What’s the weather tomorrow?

And if you want to be really impressed, just sit back and relax after giving the command ‘Play the trailer for the new James Bond movie’.

By using Knowledge Graph in its search technology, the app is able to answer questions about people and places, says Google.   Referred to in some reviews as Google’s attempt to take on Siri at her own game, the competition is certainly heating up with this new release and the winners are most definitely the users!

My one disappointment though, is that none of the responses to my questions have elicited audio responses as they do in this video released by Google.  I must admit though, that even without audio responses, I’ve been very impressed with both the speed and accuracy of responses.   My mind is abuzz with the many different ways this can be used in our classrooms.

Have a listen and be inspired!

Read more about Google Search or download the free app from iTunes.

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Just recently, in a post here on NovaNews: 10 skills every student should learn,  I blogged about the importance of students being taught Information Literacy skills:

Being able to fluently use technology is different to knowing how to manipulate the technology to locate information sought.  In other words, using Google as a search engine is common practice.  But understanding and learning how to use Google as a search tool needs to be taught in our schools.  Being able to evaluate hits returned, to weigh up both their relevancy and reliability, require critical thinking skills that also must be taught.   As I mentioned in a previous post on NovaNews, Google can’t replace learning.  Assuming that our Digital Natives know it all, is incorrect.  Just recently the website Boing Boing blogged on this very topic: “Digital Natives” need help understanding search.

So when a friend – thanks Nikki – sent me a post by Clive Thompson writing in a recent online issue of Wired – Why kids can’t search – I was not in the least surprised to read his take on this important, basic issue.

Commenting that the question has shifted from ‘Why Johnny can’t read?” to “Why Johnny can’t search?” supports much of what is happening today in our schools.  Just watch a group of students tackling a research topic.  Unless directed otherwise, they go straight to Google and usually focus only on the first half a dozen or so hits.  Tech savvy or not, it is clear that these digital natives are not evaluting either the source or the content of webpages returned by Google.  They instead naively ‘assume’ these hits to be authentic simply because Google lists them.

I’m sure that Thompson’s words brought a smile to many a face of a Librarian and Teacher Librarian when he said:

Librarians are our national leaders in this fight; they’re the main ones trying to teach search skills to kids today.”

Oh how refreshing it is to have someone like this advocate for us.  If we can’t do it ourselves, Teacher Librarians, as a professional group, need to gather more academics like Thompson to be in the cheer squad that advocates loud and clear our skills set and our Raison d’être.

So what is it that our students need to conquer to be able and capable searchers?  I suspect that these ten points are just the tip of the iceberg:

  1. Awareness: Google is only one of many different search engines that can be used to locate information.
  2. Brainstorm: Thinking about what it is you want to find in an online search before starting to search is a key to a successful search.
  3. Learn: Selecting good keywords and/or wording a query well is half the battle of getting a good search result.  Boolean logic is powerful.
  4. Sift: Sort through facts to be sure returned hits really respond to the search query.
  5. Consider: Look critially at the content and tone of a webpage.  Is it biased?  Cross reference information found.  Can it be backed up by other sources?
  6. Question: Don’t believe everything you read.  Seek out other sources and opinions.
  7. Check: Authenticate the authorship of a webpage.  Don’t assume that the name of a person or organization listed on a webpage is legit.
  8. Acknoweldge: Fact filled websites should cite sources and/or include a bibliography for further reference.
  9. Understand: The structure of a URL is important in judgng the validity and authenticity of a website.  Learn the meaning of tags such as org and edu.
  10. Determine: The currency of a website is a key to knowing whether its information is reliable.  Locate the date of its latest update.

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It looks fairly simple: a plea by someone and then a reply by another:

Thu 03 Feb 13:53 – Help librarians. I need to put together a 50 minute session for Year 12 IB students on Internet, research and study skills. #vicpln #edtech

Thu 03 Feb 14:20 – @megsamanda Start local, go global. So school resources, area resources (public libs),globalrescs (wiki, goog, worldcat) GL! #vicpln #edtech

Thu 03 Feb 15:45 – @MentoneMif thanks for your help…anything else you would recommend? #vicpln #edtech

Thu 03 Feb 16:42 – @megsamanda Goog wonderwheel for narrowing searches? #vicpln #edtech

If you still need to be convinced about the value (read power) of Twitter, then consider what happened to me this afternoon.

I logged onto Twitter to just have a look around.  I saw the reply from @MentoneMif on one of the hashtags – #vicpln –  I regularly follow.  Intrigued by the content of the tweet, I scrolled through my nicely organized TweetDeck lists and saw the plea for help from @megsamanda just 30 minutes earlier.  Satisfied that I couldn’t add much more to the succinct reply by @MentoneMif I continued scanning through #edtech.   Many tweets later I spotted the thanks from @megsamanda with the tag question of anything else recommended.  Just an hour later @MentoneMif suggests wonderwheel.

This is the point at which I very unexpectedly achieve a short powerful lesson about yet another amazing ‘tool’ that is out there in cyberspace just waiting to be utilized!  Wonder wheel is amazing!  A fantastic tool for helping to suss out resources for research or just general learning.

I found it a little convoluted to locate though.  Not sure why.   These directions should help.

Go to the Google page > Enter ‘google’ into the search bar > Select ‘More search tools’ from the left menu panel > Select ‘WonderWheel’

While enjoying the wheel of wonder be sure to look at the websites listed on the right hand side. They contain much info.  I ran three searches: cyclone > cyclone definition > cyclone verses hurricane

Cyclone 1

Cyclone Definition 2

Cyclone vs Hurrican 3

Little did these two people know that they were ‘educating’ a third along the way.   Because I enjoyed my discovery so much I of course re-tweeted @MentoneMif’s tweet adding my own take – Fabulous resource! To ensure a larger audience, I added additional hashtags:

RT @MentoneMif @megsamanda Goog wonderwheel for narrowing searches? #vicpln #edtech #elearning #edchat – Fabulous resource!

Who knows how many more people may now discover this resource.  Go Twitter!!

**Thanks @MentoneMif and @megsamanda for permission to publish your tweets.

Since publication of this post, Wonder Wheel was decommissioned by Google.  Fortunately though, due to popular demand perhaps, this great tool has been reinvented as Contextural Targeting Tool and is now available for users.

This post was the impetus for a longer article which was published by TLN (Teacher Learning Network) in May 2011.  While a copy of this article is no longer available online, the full text of the article can be read below:

The Power of Twitter!  Bev Novak

The truth is out:  I’m a recent convert to all things “Webish”!!  I’d never have thought it possible.   No way!!

Back then, in my ‘other’ life, I was busy enough.  I worked a full week in schools, attended PDs, tried to keep up with the latest by reading journals and constantly kept my ear to the ground.  Yes, like you, I read and  heard and listened to others speaking about ICT and how we should embed this into the curriculum.  I played with bits and pieces of it myself, but time was short and ….. well ….. I don’t have to tell you the rest.  You know how it goes.  There’s just so much to do and just not enough time to do it all!

But then – my life changed!  Midway through 2010, I enrolled in a 12 week online mentored PD which sounded interesting.  It seemed to cover lots of cool tools, ones referred to as Web 2.0.  Some of them I’d heard of, others were out of my league.  The program was to be self paced.  I could do as little or as much as I liked.  And best of all, I could log into this program from home which meant my focus wouldn’t be distracted by work related issues.  I read that the content of the program would cater for the beginner as well as the experienced.  ‘What did I have to lose?’ I thought.  Little did I know that my participation in the VicPLN program was about to change my life forever!  And now, for me, there is no looking back.

While it seems hard to believe that it’s possible to learn much by just sitting at your computer in your own home, the reality is that you can and you do!  While I’ve gotten hooked on a host of different and diverse paths over the last few months, one of the most powerful tools I’ve encountered is Twitter.

It’s amazing!  Really!!!  And best of all, it is one of the most powerful tools around for self paced ‘learning’.

Yes, I admit that it took me a while to figure out how to use this new tool.  It’s different to email and is nothing like Facebook.  I struggled, read articles and ‘how to’ manuals and asked others heaps of questions along the way.

So what changed?  What got me hooked?  What brought me to the point that I now argue the case for Twitter with seasoned computer gurus who spend countless hours exploring all manner of information out there in cyberspace on a daily basis?   Some time down the track, I now recognize that my adoption of Twitter was three fold: readiness, a shift in my thinking paradigm and finally the virtual people I met up with along the way who now figure as invaluable members of my Personal Learning Network.  If interested I’ve written about this metamorphosis in some detail in one of my blog posts (yes – I’m now an addicted blogger too!!): Twittering to my heart’s content!

Just a few short weeks ago, when I signed onto Twitter, I was hit by a most powerful example of how valuable Twitter is as a resource for sharing, for assisting and for teaching/learning.

To understand the conversation I saw, you, the uninitiated, need only know that when you sign up to Twitter you are required to create a username.  Mine is novanews19.  When someone wants to ‘talk’ or ‘tweet’ to me or about me they add the @ sign before the username.  If those tweeting want to share information with others about a particular topic, a hash tag symbol – # – and the agreed or used tag is included in the tweet.  #edtech for example is comprised of lots of people who are interested in technology in education.

The conversation I saw on Twitter which blew me away, was an exchange between @MentoneMif and @megsamanda.  It  looked fairly simple: a plea by someone and then a reply by another.  As you read their conversation, check the times that the tweets were posted.  This will give you a feel of the speed with which information is shared on Twitter.

Thu 03 Feb 13:53 – Help librarians. I need to put together a 50 minute session for Year 12 IB students on Internet, research and study skills. #vicpln #edtech

Thu 03 Feb 14:20 – @megsamanda Start local, go global. So school resources, area resources (public libs),globalrescs (wiki, goog, worldcat) GL! #vicpln #edtech

Thu 03 Feb 15:45 – @MentoneMif thanks for your help…anything else you would recommend? #vicpln #edtech

Thu 03 Feb 16:42 – @megsamanda Goog wonderwheel for narrowing searches? #vicpln #edtech

This was the point at which I very unexpectedly achieved a short powerful lesson about yet another amazing ‘tool’ which is out there in cyberspace just waiting to be utilized!  Wonder wheel is amazing!  A fantastic tool for helping to suss out resources for research or just general learning.  (If you too are interested in exploring Wonder wheel, just open Google and select the ‘More search tools’ tab on the left hand menu.)

Little did these two people know that as they exchanged thoughts and ideas they were ‘educating’ a third along the way.  Because I enjoyed my discovery so much, I re-tweeted @MentoneMif’s tweet adding my own take – “Fabulous resource!” And to ensure that this information was shared with a larger audience, I added additional hash tags:

RT @MentoneMif @megsamanda Goog wonderwheel for narrowing searches? #vicpln #edtech #elearning #edchat – Fabulous resource!

Like many others, I too doubted the relevance of this communication tool and doubted that it had much to offer me.  Taking the time to explore, learn and discover though has opened a new world to me.  While I just happened to spot this exchange between @MentoneMif and @megsamanda on this day, this kind of interaction is frequent on Twitter.   The air of collegiality and support that is out there in cyberspace is quite overwhelming.

Information and resource sharing occurs constantly on Twitter.   It is common to see a question such as that posed by @megsamanda and to read several others responding with ideas, guidance or websites that will educate and explain.

The fact that tweets are restricted to 140 characters is a real plus.  Instead of rambling on, giving lengthy opinions or long explanations, tweets are short and succinct.  Being forced to focus on the kernel of the issue ensures that time poor readers are fed exact, precise and ‘on track’ information.

Twitter has grown tremendously since it first came on the scene.  Its adoption has been expansive.  Professionals in all walks of life have been drawn to the power of this form of communication.  Its use in the field of education is increasingly blossoming among both educators and our students both in and out of the classroom.

Taking a first step into cyberspace can be daunting.  Taking a risk and exploring the new is also scary.  But taking that first step and having a peek to see what is ‘out there’ can be life changing.

Take little steps at the start.  Go to the Twitter  website, select the ‘sign up’ tab and complete the registration.  No idea who to start following?  Find someone you know and have a look at who they follow.  Read a few of their tweets, then start following them. Start following topics that are of interest to you.  Read the tweets of those that follow these topics.  Follow up on links included in the tweets so that you start to experience the value of the sharing that occurs in the Twitterverse (the Twitter Universe).  Install TweetDeck a browser for managing your tweets.  This will help make sense of the constant stream of tweets that flow into your account.    Don’t forget: the more people you follow the more tweets will stream into your account.  You can only truly evaluate the value of Twitter once you have accrued a reasonable amount of ‘traffic’, so aim to follow around 50 as an initial target.

Some of these sites may also be of value as you traverse this new world.

The remarkable power of Twitter  by Jeff Goldstein

Twitter – A teaching and learning tool 

Take time and enjoy!  And most of all, share your discoveries on Twitter so that others can learn from you.  Before you know it you will have a stream of tweeps (people who use Twitter) following you!

The author expresses thanks to  @MentoneMif and @megsamanda
for permission to include their tweets in this article.

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