In the last few days I have come across a few interesting blogs and resources that are worth taking a look at on our quest for Critical Thinking in our classrooms. Each of these resources came to my attention through connections in my Professional Learning Network made on Twitter’s social media network. I use Twitter a great deal to share ideas and resources with teachers throughout Canada, parts of the United States, and Europe as well. This is an extremely powerful form of Professional Development that has greatly enriched my teaching. It is worth noting that the Ontario College of Teachers has just released its own Advisory on the Acceptable Use of Social Media which guides teachers in their appropriate use of the now ubiquitous social media. On his blog “The Clever Sheep” Rodd Lucier wrote today about the OCT Social Media Advisory and refered to the media release that says teachers “Represent yourself in social media the same way you would in person.” With this good advice in mind, the focus of this post is some of the wonderful resources I have been directed to because of the members of my PLN.
Rodd Lucier tweeted today about Wikipedia and scholarly research.
While I am sure he was being a bit tongue-in-cheek, there is merit to considering how we teach students to use resources like Wikipedia. In addition to usage guidelines for this project, the website, which is strengthened through user posted and edited content, offers these reasons for assigning research work through Wikipedia:
In contrast to traditional writing assignments, working with Wikipedia may offer several advantages for students:
- students are held accountable to a global audience for what they are doing, and thus may feel more devoted to the assignment as a whole;
- students’ work will likely continue to be used and to be improved upon by others after the assignment has ended;
- students learn the difference between fact-based and analytical writing styles;
- students strengthen their ability to think critically and evaluate sources;
- students learn how to work in a collaborative environment
- students gain insights in the creation process of texts on Wikipedia. This enables them to draw conclusions about the purposes for which Wikipedia is best used;
- students gain insights in the creation process of texts on Wikis in general, an increasingly essential skill in a modern IT workplace (that can be put on one’s CV); and
- students understand that they not only consume information, they help to create it.
This is certainly something to consider as we deal with student who believe that all scholarly research begins and ends with Wikipedia and Google. While I have previously been quite vocal in my opposition to Wikipedia as a valid resource, I believe teachers have a responsibility to teach students how to be good researchers and to distinguish between poor information and valid information.
Earlier today, Kelly Power Tweeted about introducing a group of teachers to the London Region Professional Network’s Assessment and Evaluation resource website.
While Assessment and Evaluation is certainly a major topic in Ontario schools following last year’s publication of Growing Success, not many districts have provided such thorough and accessible resources. For teachers in the Ottawa Carleton District School Board, London’s MISA Resources site will be an excellent companion to the OCDSB’s Educators’ Resource Guide.
Last week, Ben Hazzard posted a blog listing his top 5 tech resources for 2011, all of which were based on cloud computing. He calls these soft tools because these resources are neither OS or location specific. For Ben cross-platform usage was an essential requirement to be included on his list. The motivation for Ben’s list was Rodd Lucier’s updated top 10 list of tech tools in which he included the MAC specific Keynote presentation software.
Until I had started following teachers like Ben and Rodd on Twitter, I had no real idea of the power of cloud computing, however the two lists these educators have provided really give us an idea of what tools we can use to be more creative, productive, and organized; more importantly these are tools we really should be using with our students so that their own toolboxes are more complete. I still recall with pride a comment made by a former student after her first semester at Algonquin College. I had been an early user of the Blackboard LMS, the standard at Algonquin. She was thrilled to arrive at college with a working knowledge of Blackboard because we had used it the year before in ENG4U. She said that her prior knowledge and experience eliminated for her the angst and frustration her classmates were experiencing. She was able to focus on the excitement and challenge of being at college rather than figuring out how to get her homework and lab notes. In addition to our professional responsibility to be life-long learners, we have a responsibility to our students to give them exposure to the tools they may need after they leave our classrooms and hallways.