Friday, September 9, 2016

5 Tools to Organize and Cite Research Sources

The ways in which we conduct research and organize research have changed significantly over the last couple of decades. When many of us were in middle school and high school our research options were limited to books and periodicals available through our local libraries. Our organization of our research was done mostly in notebooks or perhaps in a desktop document. Today's students have more resources available to them than ever before. They also have more tools than ever for keeping track of the resources they find through research. Here are some of the tools that can help students organize and cite their research sources.

Google Documents users have a research tool at their disposal whenever they open a document. Simply open the "tools" menu in Google Docs and select "research." Once that selection is made a Google search box opens in the right margin of the screen. Resources selected from that search pane will be accompanied by a link placed in the footnotes of the document. The formatting of the citations often leaves something to be desired, but at least it gets students in the habit of keeping track of resources.

One of the most useful Add-ons for Google Documents is the EasyBib Bibliography Creator. The EasyBib Bibliography Creator makes it easy to properly cite resources and format a bibliography in APA, MLA, or Chicago style. The Add-on allows students to enter book titles, authors' names, websites, webpages, and periodical titles. The Add-on will then create a citation that is added to a page at the end of students' documents. Click here for directions for the process of using this add-on.

Cite This For Me is a free service designed to help students keep track of the resources that they use in their research work. Cite This For Me offers a free Chrome extension that lets students cite a webpage with just one click. The free extension will format citations in APA, MLA, Harvard, or Chicago style. Students can also use the extension to highlight and save portions of the webpages that they are citing. All Cite This For Me citations are saved in students' free Cite This For Me accounts. In their account dashboards students can edit citations as well as manually enter citations of books, journals, and other references.

RefMe is currently my favorite tool for creating bibliographies outside of the Google Docs environment. RefMe offers browser extensions, a free Android, and a free iPad app for saving resources and generating bibliographies from your collection of resources. Watch my video embedded below to learn more about how to use RefMe in your web browser.




refDot is a Google Chrome extension that could be very helpful for keeping track of and formatting references for use in bibliographies. Whenever you're viewing a website, an online book, an online journal, or a news article just click the refDot icon in your browser to open a window into which you enter all of information you need for a bibliography. For example if you were viewing a blog post on Free Technology for Teachers that you wanted to reference in a bibliography, click on refDot and the pop-up box will prompt you to enter the date of access, URL, title, and year.


Before you email me with a criticism of one of these tools:
As with all automatic citation tools, you will need to remind your students to double check that the citations created are properly formatted. Aside from that little quirk, these can be good tools for students to use to keep track of the webpages that they use while conducting research online. And from a realist perspective, I'm more concerned with getting students to cite their work in a standard format than I am about them knowing the nuances of MLA 7 vs MLA 8. I'd never diminish a K-12 student's grade for a small mistake in citation formatting and most of my friends and colleagues wouldn't either.

How to Randomize Google Forms Response Options

Earlier this week I received an email from a reader who was looking for a way to have all of her students take the same quiz on their Chromebooks, but have the answer options appear in different orders for each student. Google Forms has a built-in mechanism to do that.When you create a quiz question in Google Forms you can choose to have response options appear in a random sequence for each student. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how that option works.

How to Print Grade Reports from Flubaroo

The Flubaroo Add-on for Google Sheets is a powerful tool for quickly grading multiple choice and short answer quizzes created with Google Forms. Flubaroo has been around for years and almost every week people ask me questions about how to use it. One of the great features of Flubaroo is the option to have results automatically graded and sent to your students via email. If your students don't have email addresses, you'll need another way to give them their grades. You can share via Google Drive or you can use the old-fashioned method, hand delivering of grades. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to print grade reports from the Flubaroo Add-on in Google Sheets.


Read this article for an explanation of how using Flubaroo is different from using the quizzes feature in Google Forms.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Google Books Ngram Viewer Overview

The Google Books Ngram Viewer is a search tool that displays when and how often a term appears in books indexed by Google Books. By using the Ngram Viewer you can discover when a term starts to appear in literature, how often a term appears, and when a term loses popularity in literature. In the video embedded below I provide an overview of how to use the Ngram Viewer.


Thanks to Dr. Lynn Burlbaw at Texas A&M University for sharing some of his Ngram Viewer examples with us earlier this summer at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp.

Two Crash Courses on Classic Literature

A few years ago John Green started a Crash Course series on classic literature. The early episodes featured Hamlet, The Great Gatsby, and The Odyssey amongst about a dozen other works. That series is embedded below.


This summer John Green began publishing a new set of Crash Course literature videos. The new series includes videos about Huckleberry Finn, Lord of the Flies, and 100 Years of Solitude. The new series is included in an oddly constructed playlist that for some unclear reason includes videos about physics, the Olympics, and gaming. Sort through the playlist and you'll find the literature lessons.


All of these videos include Green's commentary on the stories along with the summaries of key points in the plots. Much like Cliff Notes, watching these videos is not a replacement for actually reading the stories. You may also want to remind your students that Green's opinions about the stories are just that, opinions.