Friday, March 20, 2015

Google Research Tool - Make Researching and Citing in Google Docs Easy

Google has a little known and very underutilized tool available for use in Google docs and presentations called simply Research.  However, the efficiency and potential time saver for this seemingly simple addition is enormous.  Working in a library, we spend a lot of our lesson time trying to drive home the idea that students need to cite, whether it's information they get from a source or a picture in their presentation.  The Google Research tool helps with that because it lets you do a search from directly within your document or presentation and then add a citation for information or add and cite a picture quickly and easily.

The research tool can be found under the Tools menu and Research.  Once opened, you can do a general Google search, or limit your search to images, scholar, quotes, dictionary, or tables.  From the list of search results, you can then preview each result, click on the link to go out to the full page on the web, insert a link for the result into your doc, or cite the result within your document.  Now, while the citation features is great, it does provide citations as footnotes, so for most students, they will still need to do some editing to make sure their citations are formatted correctly in their paper or presentation.  Additionally, when searching images, results can be filtered by usage rights so students are only searching for images that are free to use.  When you find an image, you can simply drag it onto your document or presentation, and a citation is automatically generated for the image, again as a footnote.

Overall, when having students work on papers and projects in Google docs and presentations, the Research tool can be a helpful way for them to find and easily cite information and images.  It can be especially helpful for younger students who are still working on really understanding the importance of citations, and provide them with an easy way to find and include that in their projects.  Additionally, instead of doing a regular Google search for images and videos, it can be an easy way to add images and videos to presentations, searching ones that are reusable by copyright, and easily adding them to a project.

Click this link for more information from Google on using the tool.
Here is a link to another blog post with step by step directions and pictures on the different features.
Final link - same blog as above, but a different post on adding images and videos to presentations with the research tool.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Livebinders - Organizing Student Resources

A livebinder really is just a binder of resources that can be created by or for students.  There are many different ways it can be used in the classroom, and can be an easy way to collect and house resources for students, student work or projects, or a collection of links or sites on a topic.

On the livebinder site, teachers or students can create a new binder, and then organize information within the binder using tabs and subtabs.  Each tab or subtab can include a piece of information such as a link to a website, an uploaded file, a link to an online file, typed text, etc.  What is nice about linking sites is that the site itself actually embeds in the livebinder page, so students can read information and navigate through the site without actually having to go out to every site and have numerous tabs open at the same time.

There are a variety of uses for livebinders in the classroom.  In the library here, we use it for different research products with students, particularly when the focus is more on using the information instead of the information search, or with classes like ELL when we are just starting out.  The librarian will find a variety of resources on the different topic options, and compile them into a livebinder that students can then use as a resource (see example links below).  However, teachers could also use livebinder by having students create them, either when doing research and working on source evaluation, or as an online portfolio showcasing different work they have done, etc.  Depending on the goal, livebinder can be a useful tool in a number of ways.  Check out the links below for some examples and resources on using livebinders.

Example of an ELL Social Studies Livebinder
Link to Educators Guide to Livebinders Resource
Livebinders website

Friday, March 6, 2015

Newsela - Non-fiction Articles for Student at Their Reading Levels

Newsela is a great resource for teachers in all content areas.  One of the biggest challenges teachers face, especially with the implementation of the Common Core, is finding appropriate, grade-level non-fiction for students to read.  Newsela helps meet that need by providing an expansive variety of news articles on a wide variety of topics, and the best part is that each article can be read at five different lexile levels.  This provides an easy way to differentiate within the classroom and allow students to read at their level, leading to greater understanding.

There are thousands of articles available on the site, in a wide range of subject areas, including: War & Peace (great for social studies!), Science, Money, Law, Health, Arts, and Sports.  When opening each article, students can then choose from five different lexile reading levels. And it's easy to change between levels so if an article is too hard, they can change to a lower level.  Additionally, many of the articles have comprehension quizzes so students can get an idea of how well they understand the material.  Or if teachers don't have electronic access all the time in class, articles can be downloaded as PDFs or printed to use in class with students.  There is a wonderful article linked below on how to use Newsela with Google Docs to create reading groups with your students and have them actually comment and engage in discussion on the articles.

Overall, Newsela can provide teachers a resource for finding and using short, non-fiction articles in class to work on reading and critical thinking skills.  While the site does have a paid option with features like assigning articles to students and tracking their quiz results, the free version provides plenty of resources and as the link below shows, there are workarounds for having students engage in discussion about the articles, even without the paid features.  So if you are looking for more non-fiction reading options for your students, check out Newsela!

Link to article about using Newsela with Google Docs - You should read this!
Video about Newsela  (Just watch the first 3 minutes for a good introduction to what Newsela is)