Wednesday, April 2, 2008

My Students Use Wikipedia for Everything... And I Love That

Not a week goes by that I don't hear a teacher complain about their students using Wikipedia to find information. Students come to my class and are completely shocked that I allow them to use Wikipedia. I always explain to them that it's fine with me if they use Wikipedia, but they need to be sure that what they're reading is accurate. Everyday fact checking and cross referencing becomes easier for students as the web expands everyday. While having fact checking skills is important the real skill that students need to develop is making productive use of the information they gather from the web.

Today, anyone can find just about anything on the web. For example, yesterday I learned how to measure the speed of sound. Do I have any need to measure the speed of sound? No, but someone else might. I find new web applications on the Internet everyday, but those applications don't have any value until I use them to do something. Some web applications that I find I use as instructional tools which gives them value to me. Some web applications that I find I just share with readers along with ideas about using that application. My idea sharing is (theoretically) the value of my research, just listing a link doesn't give the link any value. The Internet is about sharing information, knowledge, and ideas. Being able to do something with the information and ideas we find on the Internet is the skill that we and our students need for the future.

Wikipedia is not bad. Plagiarizing Wikipedia is bad. Not fact checking the information found on Wikipedia is bad. Teaching our students to make productive use the information they find on the Internet is good. Don't be afraid to let your students use Wikipedia instead teach them to really use Wikipedia.

Below is a fantastic video about the value of sharing information on the Internet.

Free Technology For Teachers: Free Education Games

Novel Games provides a large list of fun, simple, educational games. The list of games includes numerous math and word games. All of the games are free and are available in multiple formats.

Applications for Education
All of the games on Novel Games are easily embedded into your class blog or website. Including fun and engaging games in your class blog or website is a good way to keep students checking in. If your students have a reason to check the class web page other than looking for due dates, they're likely to visit the site frequently and stay engaged.

Free Technology For Teachers: Create Flash Movies in a Flash

I first heard about Toufee last week on Wicked Decent Learning. Today was the first time I actually tried to use this great web application.
Toufee is a free flash-based movie maker program. At its most basic level Toufee is platform for making slide shows into movies. That feature is nothing special because a lot of programs have that capability. What makes Toufee a good program is the option of including video, still images, audio, and text into one video package. The videos made with Toufee are easily embedded into other websites or you can have your movies hosted on Toufee.

Applications for Educators
Toufee has a very simple drag and drop interface that students can learn quickly and easily. Students can use videos from other websites to include in their movies. The way I envision students creating products with Toufee is by combining still images and video clips to create persuasive videos. The text editor on Toufee allows users to place text over a video or image. This feature will allow the students to comment on or explain their reasons for including a particular video or image.

Below is a sample video from Toufee.
Making Flash is easy with Toufee!

Free Technology For Teachers: Science Podcasts

Astronomy Cast puts those Ipods and MP3 players to good use in an educational environment. Astronomy Cast, as you've probably guessed, is a series of podcasts about Space Science. This week's episode, "Space Junk," is about pollution in space caused by humans. In addition to the podcasts Astronomy Cast hosts a discussion forum for amateur astronomers. Astronomy Cast is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Applications for Education
Astronomy Cast has a great education section where school can submit questions for Astronomy Cast to include in upcoming podcasts. The "ask an Astronomer" section of the Astronomy Cast links visitors to the California Institute of Technology's astronomy web page called Cool Cosmos. Cool Cosmos has a large selection of videos and classroom activities suitable for students in elementary school through high school.