If you ever get a chance to attend an Alan November seminar--jump at it! The school brought him in for our PG&D day today, and the faculty are VERY fired up and eager to go. It's not that he taught me anything I didn't know (except for one cool app I'll explain in a minute), but that he gave real ideas and examples for how to use Jing and Google Docs and wikis on a daily basis in th classroom.
For instance, designating rotating students as class note-takers in Google Docs, that other students can then add to. It's more useful than doing it in a wiki, because multiple users can access a document at the same time.
Our very innovative Middle School history teacher then commented that he takes the notes from Google Docs, then adds them to the class wiki, so they have a permanent online presence.
I've been talking about this stuff all year, but never managed to excite everyone to this extent. The guy has a real presence! Though I also think it's partly about having everyone together in one place. I work with small groups of 5-6 at a time, so you don't have the cumulative effect of 200 people all excited at once. (she said, in self defense!)
I must admit, to my shame, at first I was feeling a bit huffy and thinking "Harrumph! I knew this already!" Then I realized he was actually doing a great thing...he set people up to get excited about the tools, but didn't go into details about how to actually use them, leaving that to the on-site "techies." I had all sorts of people coming up and asking, "can we..?" and "How do I...?" I don't need to do anything to motivate people--just show them how. Thanks, Alan November!
The new bit I did learn is Google's custom search engine. Do you all know about this and I'm just behind the game? From your Google account, click on the "more" link, then go down to "even more."
In the column on the top right click on "Custom Search" and follow the rest of the steps. This tool allows you to create your own search engine. A bit of a chore putting in all those links, but imagine having your own school search engine with pre-vetted sites. Goodbye, Nettrekker! It would be easy to turn it into a community collaboration, with all teachers and chosen students having access to add exception sites as they find them. Imagine what a resource you'd have in five or ten years.
Individual teachers could make an engine for their class--the AP Science engine or the US History search engine, and you could have one on the library site for the whole school. You choose when you create the engine whether you want it to search only the sites you add, or to search all sites, but give preference to those you add. Personally, I like the former choice for primary grades, the latter for secondary.
I do believe students need to come to grips with evaluating sites, but an engine that gave preferential treatment to a core group of sites would allow for that while still giving students a more rewarding search experience.
I'm even toying with the idea of creating a primary source search engine, as our history department requires students to include seven primary sources in their research papers. Have you ever tried to find seven primary sources on Zulu warriors??? That was my crowning achievement this year!
I wonder if this might also solve my pathfinder dilemma. Teachers and students love them, but I struggle with the idea of providing a list of great sites for the students, who then don't have to search for them themselves. This would come close to guaranteeing them useful search results, while still providing the search experience and practice using those skills.
More to think about! And thank you, Ally Schweig, for bringing him to campus (grin--here's your shout out!)