Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Three Ideas for Encouraging Students to do Research in Digital Archives

Yesterday morning I wrote about the challenge of getting students to use resources like academic databases and digital archives in their research. This morning I received an email from a reader who asked if I could share an example or ideas of how to encourage students to use digital archives in their research. The following are three suggestions that quickly came to my mind. 

Show Them
A simple way to encourage use of academic databases and digital archives is by showing them how to navigate those resources. For many students the obstacle to using academic databases and digital archives is simply the frustration that they experience when “it doesn’t work like Google.”

Challenge Them
A fun and effective way to encourage students to use academic databases and digital archives is to have them solve search challenges that are based upon items found in the digital archive or academic database of your choosing. When it comes to creating search challenges there is no better authority on the topic than Daniel Russell. He is the the author of The Joy of Search and Google’s Senior Research Scientist for Search Quality and User Happiness. His book and corresponding blog, SearchResearch, is full of examples of using interesting images and factoids as prompts for research practice challenges. Included below is an example of a search challenge that I created for students studying local history in Maine.

            The Prompt: Everyone knows that Hannibal Hamlin (Abraham Lincoln’s first Vice President) lived on Paris Hill in Maine. What you might not know is that Paris Hill was the home of another person who participated in a notable first.

        Your challenge has three parts:
  • Identify the significance of the airplane pictured below.
  • What is the connection between the airplane and Paris Hill?
  • Find out what kind of car was driven by the person who represents the connection between the airplane and Paris Hill.
        Hints:
  • Make or find a list of all of the people who flew on this airplane.
  • Utilize resources on the Maine Memory Network website to attempt to identify the type of car driven by the person who represents the connection between the airplane and Paris Hill.

Require Them
A third tactic to encourage students to utilize an academic database or digital archive in their research processes is to make it a requirement in the assignments that you give them. When they produce the bibliography for their research papers and presentations, make it a requirement that at least one or more references are drawn from one of the databases or archives that you’ve listed for them. While this can be an effective method of getting students to use academic databases, it’s not nearly as fun for you or them as solving search challenges. Try the search challenge approach first.


Want the answers? If you're interested in the answers to this challenge, please send me an email and I'll be happy to share them with you. 

Image source: Public Domain image hosted on Wikipedia. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:StateLibQld_1_139254_Landing_the_aircraft,_Southern_Cross_in_Brisbane,_Queensland,_ca._1928.jpg

GitMind - A Collaborative Mind Mapping and Outlining Tool

GitMind is a mind mapping tool that offers some excellent features for teachers and students. GitMind offers more than one hundred templates for teachers and students to use and modify. Some of the templates you'll find in the gallery include essay structure, timelines, book reviews, and study plans. GitMind also lets you create your mind maps and flowcharts from scratch. 

GitMind is a collaborative mind mapping tool. You can invite people to work on your mind maps with you by sending them an email or by sharing a link and private access code. 

My favorite design aspect of GitMind is the option to quickly turn your mind map into a linear, bullet point outline. The best thing is that you can toggle back and forth between the mind map view and the outline view as much as you like without affecting any elements of your mind map's design. 


As you would expect of any good mind mapping tool, GitMind offers plenty of tools for customizing the organization and color scheme of your mind maps. You can make wholesale changes to your mind map's color scheme by choosing a predefined theme. Minor color scheme changes can be made by selecting individual nodes and lines then choosing a different color, line thickness, font type, font color, and font size. 

GitMind can be used in your web browser. Free GitMind Android and iOS apps are also available. 

Applications for Education
GitMind's best feature for teachers and students is the option to quickly switch between mind map views and linear outline views. I've always liked having that option in a mind mapping tool because while some students like seeing the mapped connections between ideas other students prefer to have them listed in bullet points. GitMind satisfies the needs of both types of students.


How Rockets Fly - And DIY Model Rockets

This morning Jeff Bezos is blasting into space on a new rocket designed by his company, Blue Origin. The BBC has a succinct overview of how the rocket is designed to work. For a kid-friendly explanation of how rockets work, turn to SciShow Kids. Last week SciShow Kids released a video titled How Do Rockets Fly? 

Like all SciShow Kids videos, How Do Rockets Fly? offers an easy-to-follow explanation of the basic design and purpose of rockets. I particularly like the comparison of the weight of a rocket to the weight of one hundred elephants. Watch the video here or as embedded below. 


After watching the video about how rockets fly, take a look at the latest SciShow Kids video about how to build paper rockets. The video is based on the directions that NASA provides for making straw rockets and the teacher guide for making stomp rockets

Monday, July 19, 2021

Collect Chat - Turn a Google Form Into a Chatbot

A couple of weeks ago I published a video about how to create your own chatbot with a free tool called Acquainted. This morning I discovered another tool for creating your own chatbots. 

Collect Chat is a free Google Forms add-on that you can use to turn a Google Form into a chatbot. I gave it a try and found that it is very easy to use. With the add-on installed you simply have to open a Google Form then open Collect Chat and choose to convert the form into a chatbot. You can choose to use the chatbot on its own stand-alone page or you can embed it into an existing webpage that you own. Either way, visitors viewing your chatbot will see the same questions as they would if they viewed the Google Form directly. The difference is that the questions appear one at a time and look as though they were typed by a live person. 

Take a look at this little exit ticket chatbot that I made with Collect Chat to see how it works. (Update: on Friday I disabled the exit ticket because it had received a flood of responses and I'd exceeded the limits of Collect Chat's free plan). 

Applications for Education
While Collect Chat itself is easy to use, it would take a bit of planning to make an effective chatbot via Google Forms. If you want your chatbot to actually interact with user input you would need to create a fairly long Google Form that accounts for a variety of responses from users. That said, I can see the potential to create a chatbot to walk users through troubleshooting problems with their computers or to help parents locate important school information in a guided manner. There's also potential to create a chatbot that serves as an interactive test practice. 

To learn more about Google Forms take a look at this collection of Google Forms tutorials that I published last week. 

All About Rubber

Here in Maine we've had more rainy days than sunny days lately. That means we've been wearing our rainboots a lot. Yesterday, as I was trying to convince my daughters to wear their rainboots instead of sneakers my four-year-old asked "what's rubber?" To which I replied that it's a waterproof material used in boots to keep our feet dry. That, of course, prompted her to ask where it comes from. I explained to her that it comes from trees kind of like maple syrup comes from trees. And now she wants us to grow a rubber tree. That prompted another line of questioning about why we can't grow rubber trees in Maine. 

If you have a child in your life who is also curious about where rubber comes from, Maddie Moate has a video for you. In Where Does Rubber Come From? Madddie visits a forest in Thailand to learn how rubber trees are tapped and how the sap is used to make products like rubber boots. 
 



On a related note, here's a short TED-Ed lesson on how the rubber glove was invented.