Developing Blogging Skills: Simple Rubric

I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a blogging scope and sequence for a while. However, something about that idea makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like the thought of limiting blogging skills to certain age levels.

For example, a number of my grade two students were sourcing and attributing Creative Commons materials for blog posts, and using HTML in comments. These sorts of skills would probably not appear in the grade two section of any blogging scope and sequence.

I find blogging to be a fantastic avenue for students to work at their own pace, while developing their skills as far as their capabilities and interests allow.

A number of teachers who are introducing blogging into their classrooms have asked me what they should teach their students next. I decided a simple rubric might help blogging teachers and students to gain ideas on how skills can be developed. It could also be used to assess student or class blogs, however that is not the intention.

I have borrowed a couple of ideas from Kim Cofino’s Blogging Scope and Sequence (with permission), while incorporating many of the ideas I have developed through blogging with my students.

Educational Blogging Rubric

If you are having trouble viewing/downloading the rubric, you can access the PDF here K Morris Blogging Rubric November 2012

What would you add to the rubric?

How could you use this document?

Ten Tips for Teaching Students how to Research and Filter Information

I was recently involved in a conversation about how difficult it now is to filter what is on the internet and research effectively. In the past, students would primarily use books to research; being overloaded with possibly unreliable information wasn’t really an issue.

Teaching students research skills is becoming increasingly important. Some refer to the filtering and critical evaluation of information as ‘web literacy’.

Unfortunately, many teachers don’t feel confident with their own skills to be able to assist their students with this. Often this is due to the fact that teachers aren’t actively searching and using material from the internet themselves.

Some schools get around this issue by heavily blocking the sites children have access too. My philosophy is to educate rather than block, in most cases.

I’m no expert in this area but I have compiled a list of ten tips that I try to give my students to help them with internet research and filtering. I’d love you to add your tips in a comment!

  • Search: Start with some general key words. If your results aren’t what you want, alter the keywords to make a more specific search. I often encourage my students to put the word “kids” in to find child friendly websites and articles. The Google Search Education website provides detailed lesson plans on teaching search skills. This cheat sheet also summarises some of Google’s advanced search features.
  • Delve: Look beyond the first few results. Flick through a few pages if need be. Let students know that many websites use Search Engine Optimisation to improve the visibility of their pages in search results. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the most useful or relevant sites.
  • Source: Look at the actual URL address to see where you’re going before you click on a search engine result. Use some intuition to decide whether it seems reliable. Is it from a well known site? An educational or government institution? Is it a forum or opinion site?
  • Validity: Ensure students understand that you cannot believe everything you read. Encourage them to make their own judgement by checking more than one source if they’re not sure.
  • Purpose: Be wary of websites that are cluttered with advertisements or might be trying to sell you something.
  • Background: When reading articles, try to look for the author’s name and when the article was written. Is it recent or outdated?
  • Teach: Integrate the teaching of these skills into everything you do. Model your searches explicitly and talk out loud as you look things up. Researching skills don’t need to be covered in stand alone lessons.
  • Justify: When you’re modelling your research, go to some weak websites and ask students to justify whether they think the site would be useful and reliable.
  • Path: Students might like to start their search with some sites they know or have used before rather than randomly googling.
  • Cite: Give students lots of practice of writing information in their own words, and show them how to use quotation marks and cite sources. Remind students about the seriousness of plagiarism and copyright infringement. These are terms even my grade two students used. It’s never to early to learn about web literacy.

Image: 'not quite clear on the concept' http://www.flickr.com/photos/73645804@N00/1431384410

There are some useful lesson plans on the Common Sense Media website if you’d like to try some more structured lessons in your class. There are also some great links on the Education World website.


What tips can you add?

How do you teach ‘web literacy’?

Do you use custom search engines designed for children?

Troubleshooting Computer Problems

I am a big advocate of training my students to become as independent as possible with technology. Many technology users can get bogged down with “technical issues” which can take away from the benefits of using the tools.

As I have written about before here and here, I try to make my use of ICT explicit to my Grade Two students. While teaching incidental skills, rather than simply instructing, I like to ask the students what they think we should do. I believe that confident users of ICT use their intuition a lot and this is something I want to develop in my students.

With the addition of 20 new netbooks to our classroom, the need for students to be able to troubleshoot their own problems has increased.

I recently made this poster to remind students of the troubleshooting skills we have discussed incidentally.

After going through the poster with the students, it is displayed in various places in the classroom as a constant reminder of how to troubleshoot common computer problems.

For a little bit of humour, I love this cartoon that Kim Confino once published in a blog post.

tech_support_cheat_sheet

What other troubleshooting tips could you add?

How do you teach your students to troubleshoot?

Learning to Type

Over the years, the need for my students to be able to type has become increasingly important.

Being able to type with reasonable speed and accuracy helps students to better cope with the technological world they live in. Students are increasingly going to be held back in their school work, everyday life and future career if they don’t have adequate typing skills.

Of course, we still write with pencil and paper daily in our grade two class and have formal handwriting lesson,s but I find typing lessons and practice is often neglected in the primary curriculum.

Throughout the course of each year, I see a big improvement in students’ typing skills just from the regular practice they have with blogging, however we try to do typing practice where we can. This has become easier with the 20 netbooks and 10 classroom computers we now have in our class of 43 students. Typing practice is now a regular activity in 2KM and 2KJ.

Typing Test

Last week, I had the students take a typing test.

Thanks to @rebeccacarr87 for suggesting 10 Fast Fingers Speed Test which, despite the ads, was perfect for my grade two students. It contained high frequency words and no punctuation. It also gives a simple “words per minute” (wpm) score.

typing2

I wrote the students’ best wpm score on a class list and told them we’ll retest again with the goal of improving by the end of the year. The score range was 4 to 21 with an average score of 9.5 wpm. It will be interesting to see how they improve. I only wish I had thought to test them at the beginning of the year!

Teachers of older students might find this Typing Speed Test more useful as it contains more complex paragraphs including punctuation. This test gives a speed and accuracy score.

Typing1

Online Typing Activities

I have put together a collection of free, online typing games for my students into this Sqworl.

The link is http://sqworl.com/9r5u8p

Typing sqworl

Feel free to use it with your students too!

Lessons Vs Practice

I like to give my students a mix of formal tuition in typing as well as practice time.

How people get to the point of being able to touch type is something that interests me. I learnt “by doing” while my colleague, Kelly Jordan learnt through formal lessons, however we both got to the same place as proficient touch typists.

If you consider yourself a touch typist, I am interested to hear how you learnt to type. Did you learn by doing or did you learn through formal touch typing lessons?  Please complete this quick poll!


How do you approach typing lessons and practice with your students?


Do you know of any other good typing websites?

Windows 7 Features I Love

I’ve been using Windows 7 for eighteen months now. I felt a bit silly when I finally decided to learn how to use one of Windows 7 most advertised features the other day- the “Snap” feature to display two windows side by side. It looks great!

This discovery made me think about the large number of Windows 7 users I know who aren’t using some of the great features Windows 7 has to offer.

I’m the type of person who is often looking for a better way to do things so I am sometimes perplexed to see many computer users happy taking the long route. I continually find myself frustrated using the computer in my classroom that is hooked up to the interactive whiteboard and is running Windows XP. I miss some of my timesaving features!

I thought I’d share some of the Windows 7 features that I love. Please comment with any other features you enjoy!

Snap

This feature makes comparing two windows side-by-side and multitasking a breeze. A few days ago, someone asked me if I knew how it works. I admitted that I didn’t after trying to figure it out when I first got Windows 7 and giving up too soon!

To use this feature, simply make sure the two windows you want to put side by side are restored (the “square” option in the top right hand side of your screen).

1. Drag the title bar of a window to the left side of the screen until the mouse is on the edge of the screen and an outline of the expanded window appears. Alternatively, press ‌Windows logo key Picture of Windows logo key +Left Arrow.

2. Release the mouse to expand the window then repeat to arrange the other window on the right hand side.

snap

Don’t get it? There is a video demonstrating the feature here.

Sticky Note

This is an incredibly simple feature which I understand is enhanced from the Windows Vista feature. I use the sticky note for my to-do list. I have experimented with all different sorts of ways to maintain a to-do list in the past from an actual paper sticky note, Outlook task list, Word document and Firefox add ons. The sticky note is simple, can be colour coded and goes everywhere with me (and my PC).

sticky note

Find out more about sticky notes here.

Search in the Start Menu

If you’re like me, your PC is a maze of documents, videos, music, pictures and other applications. When I’m looking for something, I simply open the Start Menu and type in the name of the file I’m looking for. Voila! Search results appear in seconds. No more wading through libraries and racking your brain to remember where you filed things!

start menu

Improved Taskbar

The taskbar is the tray with icons at the bottom of your screen. Pinning and jump lists means you can have the files and applications you use most right at your fingertips. Windows 7 lets you organise your taskbar with the programs you use most with bright clear icons, much like a Mac.

Hover your mouse over icons with open windows to preview them. Another way that multitasking is made easier!

taskbar

Find out more about customising your taskbar here.

Show Desktop

The show desktop button is incredibly handy if you have lots of windows open and you want to access your desktop without closing everything.  Simply hover your mouse over the rectangle on the bottom right hand side of your screen to view the taskbar and click the rectangle to access your desktop. Unclick to go back to your windows. What did we do before it?

show desktop

Snipping Tool

This is such a quick and easy way to make a screen shot to annotate, save or email. Screen shots are really handy when you’re capturing images of your desktop for blog posts (see below!). I’ve also used screen shots to email someone a computer error, capture an important Tweet and create instructions for handouts among other things! Simply type “Snipping Tool” into your Start Menu to find this feature and don’t forget to pin it to your Taskbar, you will probably be using it a lot!

snipping tool

Learn more about Snipping Tool here.

What are your favourite Windows 7 features?

Are there any features you’d like to see in the next version of Windows?

Google Doc: Incidental ICT Skills

My last post was about ICT Skills that can be taught incidentally. Ian Guest left a terrific comment with the suggestion that I make a list of these incidentals that people can contribute to.

I have started a public Google Doc spreadsheet with the “incidentals” that I suggested and others suggested in comments on the post.

This list is not complete!

What other ICT skills could we teach our students in an explicit yet incidental way?

Add your ideas to the list by clicking here.


Let’s work together to make this list a useful document for all teachers and students!

Teaching Technology Post “Noughties”

For a while now I have been questioning the curriculum that is seen in many primary school I.T/ICT/Technology/Computer classes. Many primary school students spend an hour each week in a computer lab learning about Office programs and the like….”how to make a PowerPoint, Word Document, Photo Story etc”.

Now that we have left the “noughties”, these sorts of skills will no longer get students very far.

I believe that students should be taught basic skills in an authentic way and the list of skills that students need to know has changed dramatically in recent times. In 2008, I was involved in creating a Scope and Sequence (list of skills) for my school’s technology curriculum. I now cringe to think of some of the stand alone “skills” I listed in this document just 18 months ago!

Granted, there are many technology teachers who are now moving beyond these “stand alone, software based” skills into the world of Web 2.0, collaboration and multimedia which is fantastic. I also believe that teaching students about technology is not the sole responsibility of the technology teacher and technology integration in the general classroom is essential.

Today I came across a fantastic blog post by Kim Cofino which basically put all these thoughts I had been brewing into words! Check it out here….

Kim suggested a list of skills that emphasise “bigger, more wider-reaching concepts like collaboration across distances, communicating ideas to multiple audiences, or creating something new using technology tools”

Some of the skills that Kim suggested included:

  • knowing to hold your mouse over an icon or a link to see what it does.
  • understanding that the menus for any program are at the top of the screen, that they are usually very similar, and generally what you find within them (for example: “view” usually means how you see things on the screen and that menu is found in almost every program).
  • recognizing when something is lit up (or underlined) on a website, you can click on it.
  • knowing that the cursor changes when held over different parts of the screen and what that means (the little arrow turning into a hand over a weblink for example, or being able to stretch out a picture when it turns into the double-sided arrow).
  • using tab to move from cell to cell or box to box on forms or websites.
  • being able to recognize drop-down menus – and that they hold additional features.
  • understanding that right clicking on things brings up more options.

These skills are transferable across almost all computer programs and operating systems. Many of her readers also added to this list with excellent suggestions.

Reading Kim’s post has really made me think about how I’ll approach teaching my Grade Two students in 2010 as well as how I will approach my coaching of fellow staff members. As she says, it is important to make the implicit, explicit.

I also loved this cartoon that Kim included in her post! It perfectly captures the way I’ve (unsuccessfully) tried to explain to many people that I’m not an expert but just have a few strategies that I try when I’m trying to figure something out!

tech_support_cheat_sheet