Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Hardest Type of Web Search for Students

There are three basic types of searches that students conduct on the Internet. Those types of searches are navigational, transactional, and informational. Navigational searches are conducted to find something specific like a website or physical location. Transactional searches are conducted for the purpose of trying to purchase something. Informational searches are conducted to discover information about a topic. Of these three types of searches informational searches are the ones that students struggle with the most.

Five strategies that help students conduct better informational searches.
1. Create a list of things that you already know about the topic. This helps students pick better keywords and helps them more quickly identify information that may not be relevant to their searches.

2. Develop of list of ways that other people might talk about your topic. I will let students poll their peers for ideas about how they would describe the topic.

3. Search by file type. A lot of good information is hidden way inside of PDFs, Word files, KML files, PowerPoint, and spreadsheet files. Unfortunately, those file types generally don't rank high in commercial search engines so students will need to search by file type to find those files.

4. Try a different search engine. Contrary to what a lot of students think, Google is not the only search engine. Your school library probably has a subscription to a database or two that students can search within and find resources that a Google search won't find. Students can also try Google Scholar, Google Books, Bing, Choosito, or Yahoo.

5. Search within webpages and documents for clues that can help you form your next set of search terms. As they read through webpages and documents students should be taking note of things like how the author is describing a topic. Students can then use that description to help them form their next search queries.

5 Online Activities for Teaching With Primary Sources

As a history teacher one of my favorite yet challenging things to do was introduce my students to primary sources. It's great because it reveals to them a whole new world of research opportunities. There's nothing better than a student saying, "wow! Mr. Byrne, look at this!" At the same time learning to read, evaluate, and utilize primary sources can be long process with some students. The following are some of the online activities incorporating primary sources that I've done with my students over the years.

1. Compare textbooks, primary sources, and Wikipedia.
This is a rather simple activity that I've done over the years as an introduction to the value of primary sources. In the activity I provide students with a textbook entry, a Wikipedia entry, and a primary source document about the same event or topic. I then have them read all three and compare the information about the event. The outline of questions for students is available in this Google Document that I created.

2. Guided reading of primary sources through Google Documents.
One of my favorite ways to use the commenting feature in Google Documents is to host online discussions around a shared article. Through the use of comments connected to highlighted sections of an article I can guide students to important points, ask them questions, and allow them to ask clarifying questions about the article. All the steps for this process are outlined in Using Google Documents to Host Online Discussions of Primary Sources.

3. Historical Scene Investigations.
Historical Scene Investigation offers a fun way for students to investigate history through primary documents and images. Historical Scene Investigation presents students with historical cases to "crack." Each of these thirteen cases present students with clues to analyze in order to form a conclusion to each investigation. The clues for each investigation come in the forms of primary documents and images as well as secondary sources. HSI provides students with "case files" on which they record the evidence they find in the documents and images. At the conclusion of their investigation students need to answer questions and decide if the case should be closed or if more investigation is necessary. (Once you have done a couple of these with your students it becomes easy to craft your own HSI activities or have them craft HSI activities for each other).

4. Create videos and posters featuring primary sources.
The National Archives Experience Digital Vaults is one of the resources that I almost always share in my workshop on teaching history with technology primary sources. The Digital Vaults offers good tools that students and teachers can use to create content using images and documents from the National Archives. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how students can create digital posters and movies in the National Archives Experience Digital Vaults.

5. Layer old maps on top of modern maps.
In Google Earth your students can layer images of old maps on top of current maps. This is a great way for students to see how early cartographers saw the world. It can also provide some insight into how and why early explorers chose the paths that they traveled. The David Rumsey Historical Map collection is my go-to place for historical maps.

Learn more about these activities and many others in my online course Teaching History With Technology

How to Distribute Add-ons to an Entire Google Apps Domain

Add-ons for Google Sheets, Docs, and Forms can dramatically increase the features and utility of those tools. A domain administrator has the power to push Add-ons out to all users within a Google Apps for Education domain. Doing that ensures that every teacher and or student in a domain has the same set of Add-ons. It also saves teachers time because they don't have to walk their students through installing the Add-ons that they need. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to distribute Add-ons to an entire domain.

Learn more about Add-ons by browsing the videos in my Google Tutorials playlist or by getting direct instruction in my online course Getting Going With GAFE.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Set and Track Goals in Google Calendar

The Google Calendar app on your iPhone or Android phone had a great new feature added to it this week. Google Calendar now helps you set and track goals. Now when you tap the "add item" icon in Google Calendar you will see an option to set a goal. When you select "goal" you will be asked a few questions about when and how often you want to work toward your goal. After answering those questions Google Calendar will identify and set times in your calendar to work on those goals.

Goals in Google Calendar will be rescheduled if you schedule another event in direct conflict with your goal. For example, if you schedule a parent-teacher conference at the same time as your exercise goal, the exercise goal will be overridden in your calendar for that day. You can also defer your goals in your Google Calendar. Defer too often and Google Calendar will reschedule your goals for a better time.

Applications for Education
Setting Goals in Google Calendar could be a good way for students to set aside time for themselves for things like "reading for 30 minutes a day" or "reviewing SAT vocabulary words."

Teachers seeking to restore a little work/ life balance may find the Goals feature of Google Calendar to be a good way to remind themselves to take time to exercise, read for pleasure, or play with the dog.

People looking to find time to write a blog could find Goals in Google Calendar to be a good way to set aside time for writing.

Goals in Google Calendar will be rolling out over the next few days. Make sure you update the app to see the new Goals option. 

How to Add Accessibility Options to Google Chrome

I was setting up a new Chromebook today with a brand new Google Account. One of the things that I did on that Chromebook was enable some accessibility options (more on Chromebook accessibility in a future post). The Chrome web browser supports a handful of accessibility options.

To enable accessibility options in the Chrome web browser visit the Chrome Web Store list of accessibility extensions. While signed into your Google Account select "Add to Chrome" listed next to any of the extensions.

In the video embedded below I provide a short overview of how to enable accessibility options in the Chrome web browser.

Join me at the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp to learn more about using Chrome, Chromebooks, and Google Apps in your classroom.

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