I just love the way that blogs can throw up responses to issues that are currently percolating around in my brain. Answers are not always provided but there's always a new angle of perspective, fresh directions to pursue and new learning guaranteed. So, over the last few days I've been grinding my teeth over the issue of appropriate student internet use at my school. Certain kids in my class have been spending time downloading images of dubious educational value - nothing inappropriate, wrestling pics, soccer and AFL players, the band Kiss , Ferraris.
So the Big Brother in me formulates a few responses, (1) put offending URLs and key words on the net filter (2) limit the MB limit of the offenders or (3) start planning to improve Internet usage here though a planned Information Literacy program. The first two are certainly knee jerk reactions but the second isn't solely my responsibility - surely my teaching colleagues are covering this in their classrooms? But little signs tell me that the message about using the internet effectively as a tool isn't reaching the target audience. There are Year Threes spending thirty minutes and countless MB searching for a vague topic using Google without any success (it's all in their internet usage history log in Educonnect), there are Year Sixes and Year Sevens quoting Google in their bibliography (I hope they write Library if they use any books!) and some middle school boys with up to 200 go kart images in their network folder (it's for a project!) And let's not forget the kids who think research is cut'n'paste a slab of information from the first website that looks vaguely relevant into a Word document. So is this my failure? How do I redress this problem? I feel confident with my skills when online, but do other teachers? Because if they don't and therefore they are maybe unable to identify inappropriate or even just plain inefficient use of this vital resource.
So, as I said earlier, all of this stuff is circling in my cranium when I check my mail and see a comment for this blog awaiting moderation. It's a genuine one, caught by the WordPress filter because it has more than one URL in it, from Rachel of Bard Wired who posted a link to a Jerry King cartoon for me to enjoy. And then she mentions that she responded to a comment that I had posted to her site on the post Working the Web with Kids. I quickly click to have a look. What she has to say is immediately relevant to my current mindset:
Hi Graham - yp i know what you mean - i came in at the tail end to help these kids with the technical details & uploading of their sites. This is what their teacher had to say:
I got the kids to copy and paste from websites, then print it out and each group had their own folder. I had previously talked about plagarism and why it was important to not just copy and paste. The kids then just highlighted the bits that answered their questions and then set about putting it into their own words. I think discussion might be the key and as it was a small group there was plenty of chances to discuss with them and get them to justify their thoughts. It was really instilled in them though because one boy was copying and pasting to his website and the other kids 'told on him!!!!!! So nothing new, just a talented bunch of kids!!!"
I have done some workshops with teachers "Developing Critical NetStudents" We look at issues such as copyright, plagiarism, evaluating websites, developing questioning skills, netsafety & effective searching strategies. My key message really is if you want to develop Critical Students you need to be a Critical Teacher.
I really like the advice of Blanchy
www.edcentric.com who tells us that to get around plagiarism teach children how to quote directly (in moderation) and then make comments on their quotes - it gets around the 'rewording' of other peoples ideas - & i have seen my son do it using the thesaurus - it is still cut&paste...
Thanks a heap, Rachel. This one quote "My key message really is if you want to develop Critical Students you need to be a Critical Teacher." means that I have to invest more time in developing the critical literacy skills of my fellow staff members. We had about twelve staff complete a Teaching and Learning With The Internet (LTI) course last year. I want to make information literacy a focus with students next year in my revised role. And my own class must become the role models with me leading by example. I can sense a bit of holiday professional reading, designing of unit plans to re-introduce the concepts of key word searching, copyright, fair use, etc. to our students so that they will want to use the internet for the higher purpose of learning instead merely as an outlet for entertainment. Any chance of sending me any notes to do with your workshops, Rachel? After all, we are Antipodean educational neighbours!