Tag Archives: research

Google Drive & the Paperless Research Essay!

Even though I am “techy,” I always espouse that it’s never technology all the time. In fact, my classroom is always a hybrid environment. As such, my students write traditional, robust research essays every year. This assignment requires that they engage in sophisticated academic research, build a thesis, and then structure an academic argument. For many of my students (I currently teach 10th grade US History), this is the first research and argumentative essay that they have written. It’s a challenging project. In conjunction with our new roll out of Google Apps for Education, I decided to make this year’s research essay a paperless endeavor. This met several academic and school-wide objectives – building Digital Fluency and digital literacy across curriculum as well as promoting Ransom Everglades’s Greening initiative.

All Work Must be Written Within Google Drive

One of the benefits of drive is that it allows you to import documents from other platforms (such as Microsoft Word) either by converting them to a Google Doc or

Screen Capture of "Revision History"

Screen Capture of “Revision History”

using Drive as Cloud storage. However, this would defeat my intention of better watching how my students’ essays developed. As such, I required that all work be created within Google Drive itself. Students were not permitted to import content from another tool or copy and paste from a word processed document.

I did this because I wanted to watch how my students’ writing evolved throughout the assignment using the “see revision history” tool. This feature allows you to see how the document progressed – when content was added, changed, or otherwise revised. It’s incredibly useful in long-term projects as it not only allows you to keep tabs on your students’ progress, but it allows you to see what changes they made (substantive and minor) throughout the project.

Break it into Steps

I believe that larger projects should be “chunked out” so that students work on the process – focusing on the necessary elements step by step rather than trying to throw everything together all at once. As such, students had to submit to me: A thesis statement, Annotated Bibliography, Detailed Outline, Rough Draft, and Final Draft all through Google Drive.

I explained to them my expectations on each of the assignments and showed them how I would view their process using the track changes feature. I believe in being transparent with my students – I let them know why this process was important.

Peer Review with Comments Rather than Changes

Highlight content and select "make a comment" button to leave comments.

Highlight content and select “make a comment” button to leave comments.

One of the biggest changes for students (and teachers) in revision is that you’re doing it on screen – this means you cannot circle and underline, rather you highlight and comment. Still, it lends to a different focus in the revision process. Some students like to correct spelling and grammar for their peers. However, I find that when developing writing skills, it is always better for the author to make the adjustments and changes themselves. A such, I instruct students that if they noticed a lot of typos, they should leave a comment directing their peer to proofread. If a phrase was awkward, they should leave a comment explaining why the phrase was problematic and suggest that the student rephrase it.

Providing Feedback to Students

One of the best features of Google Drive is that it allows me to leave student comments in a variety of ways. I wrote an article a little while back entitled “Google Drive: A Better Method for Giving Student Feedback.” It highlights the fact that by working in the cloud, students and I can engage in a conversation; the comment process is no longer static. Additionally, it provides both me and the student greater flexibility in the process. Another cool tool that works in conjunction with Google Drive is Kaizena, a cloud based app that allows you to leave voice comments on a student’s a paper.

Watching the Evolution of Writing

The best feature of Google Drive is that, using the track changes tool, I can view the evolution of a student’s work. Overall, the writing process is the most important element of the work. Even if a student’s final product is not up to par, I can look at how often they worked on it, what changes they made, how they addressed their peers’ and my critiques, and overall how their paper evolved over time. Additionally, it provides greater accountability for the students – they know that they cannot just throw the paper together at the last minute, as I can see when content is added.

Engaging in a paperless research essay was a new journey for both me and my students. While the change in context and kinesthetics at time was uncomfortable (I don’t always like reading on a screen and neither do many of my students), there were numerous benefits that outweighed those drawbacks. The primary benefit was that students could work on the project wherever they were – on any computer on campus, on their cell phones while riding the bus to a game, or at home making changes before they turned it in.

I know that my students and I both need to engage further with Drive to feel fully comfortable with this tool (we had to with Word as well, although the 1980’s and 1990’s may seem far away). Still, I’m excited to move forward with a more portable, flexible, and greener assignment.

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5 Ways to Be More Productive in the New Year With Evernote

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 3.26.14 PMIf you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you know that I love Evernote! I’ve written about it several times:

Evernote: A Great Tool for Organizing Teachers & Students

Using Evernote to Go Paperless in the Classroom

Using Evernote for Research

Evernote is an excellent tool to help you organize your projects, ideas, notes, and more. If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to be more organized, then check out these 5 great tips to help you become more organized and productive in the New Year with Evernote.

Google Docs & Research: How-To?

Google Research Pane

Google Research Pane

The last session I am attending is “Google Docs & Research: How-To?” given by Christopher Craft, Ph.D. As I am using Google Drive with my students for an upcoming research project, I’m excited to learn more about the tools available here.

When students are doing research, they sometimes struggle with citing their sources or moving beyond a quick search with Google.com. The Google Docs Research Pane helps to facilitate searching for and citing sources. By going to Tools –> Research, the Research Pane pops up on the right hand side! You can search Google, images, scholar, quotes, and dictionary! By dragging and dropping certain content (e.g. images), not only will the material appear, but a footnote (in MLA, Chicago, or APA format).

Google Image Usage Rights

Google Image Usage Rights

A great element in using the Google Image search is that, when teaching students about copyright and usage rights, you can limit the Google Image search to “free to use or share.” This is key for work that is going to be published online. I highlight the need to address licensing in student projects in my article: “How to Find License Free Content for School Projects.”

Remember that this tool is not perfect. Students may need to fix formatting or bibliography. For example, if you do not want students using footnotes, they will have to revise the document to remove the footnotes and use in text citation. For my students, they would need to revise image citations for full content, such as for a work of art.

Another great tool for sophisticated research is Google Scholar. It is both a stand alone feature as well as a search option on the pane. You can look up academic content and, so long as you have access rights (e.g. via Jstor) you can read and include the citation properly. If you have not yet played with Google Scholar, it’s worth a look. Here’s a good introductory video (it’s 40 minutes so grab a snack!).

Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 3.26.03 PM

Insert Quote

You can also search and input quotes! Not only can you find relevant quotes, but then it will put it in the document and then cite it. Again, it will cite as a website, so if you would like your students to format differently, then be sure to have students revise and edit!

These features also work on a shared format as well. This means that if you have a group of students working on a research project, you can see who added what and when. So is one student doing all the work and the others slacking off? Is Joseph doing research on Jstor but Stephanie is spending all of her time on Wikipedia? I like that this not only lets me see the amount of material students are contributing, but the quality of that research.

Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 3.37.22 PMAnother key feature is that by looking at the revision history, you can look for plagiarism. Using revision history, see if students are adding in chunks of texts or individual words. Using your own judgment, you can then select a section of text and do a quick search. If students create a bunch of citations at one time, then you may want to pull that student aside and ask them how they incorporated their research (Did they carefully revise and add footnotes as they went?) to see if that meshes with how the citation appears in the document. This is also a great tool when you consider  the “document translation” feature. If all content was added at once, the student didn’t translate, they used the tool to do it for them.

There are a few draw backs to using the research pane. For example, there is not a way to seamlessly integrate outside research. If students are using books in your library in addition to web resources, they cannot easily include that in the research pane. Google Books is not currently integrated in the research pane either. They will have to manually input content and material.

Edutopia – Writing in the Digital Age

The latest installment of Edutopia’s Big Thinkers Series highlights the roll of writing in the new Digital Age. There is a great short video that highlights the changing role of writing in the modern world: the writing/editing process, publication (including the rise of self-publication), and collaborative writing and analyses processes.

Explore the Collection at the Rijksmuseum

Johannes Vermeer, c/o of the Rijksmuseum

Johannes Vermeer, c/o of the Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum, the National Dutch Museum, has revamped its website and now provides an amazing new way to explore the museum’s collection.You can look by theme, author, date, special exhibits, and more. Images that are out of copyright are free to download in high resolution! This is a great tool to use for a virtual field trip or examining Dutch Art in high detail.

Be sure to visit the museum’s website and sign up for an account, which allows for greater access to research and downloadable imagery.

Combating Plagiarism on the Digital Frontier

This post, written by Jen Carey, originally appeared on Edudemic.

Plagiarism, defined as the “wrongful appropriation” of another’s words or ideas, is a pervasive problem in schools. Many teachers and administrators believe that the internet has caused an explosion of academic dishonesty (a recent PEW survey of College Presidents would agree). While, most teachers and administrators are familiar with tools like turnitin that can catch plagiarism after the fact, there are some ways that educators can combat plagiarism before it starts!

In the new digital frontier, we need to hold digital literacy at the forefront when teaching students how to use and incorporate material into their work. Today’s students are used to rapid answers to questions via quick searches (again, verified by PEW in “How Teens Do Research”). While this is not necessarily bad, it does mean that as educators we need to change the way we approach research projects in the classroom so that we can teach students to not only do traditional research, but also to effectively use online media and content. By incorporating these strategies, we can start to combat plagiarism before it begins.

3 Strategies for Combating Plagiarism

1. Provide students with meaningful lessons and examples of “real world” plagiarism.

Students need to understand why proper citation and documentation is necessary not only in academic research but in “real life.” When you can show them examples from the real world, they understand this concept better as they make a personal connection to it. Here are some great modern, pop culture cases (there are many others) to help frame the discussion:

Not only do these examples highlight plagiarism, but they also spark interesting conversations about why people want credit for their products and ideas.

2. Make Research Assignments about the process rather than the end product.

As teachers, when we assign a research project, we often focus on the end product: the research essay, presentation, etc. However, students (especially young students) do not automatically know how to conduct meaningful research. Our modern students are used to Googling answers. They have grown accustomed to information being readily available. However, as academics, we know that research isn’t a fast process. It’s slow and deliberate. As a teacher, I need to intentionally slow my students down during this exercise. I do this by breaking down a larger project into more manageable chunks and focusing on the process. Here are some techniques that have worked for me:

  • Give students small practice assignments where they must read, summarize, and properly cite material.
  • Show students what proper citation should look like. Many rely on resources like EasyBib or Bibme to build a bibliography but do not understand what exactly is going into the finished product. Demonstrate to them what should be included in a citation and why. In other words, remove the “but EasyBib said this was right” excuse.
  • Provide students several examples or case studies of material that they must distinguish as: properly summarized and cited, improperly cited, plagiarized, etc. Allow them to identify and explain the problems.
  • During the research process, have students keep a research journal of the work they complete. Ask them to record their sources and write down any thoughts or questions that they brought up.
  • Assign steps throughout the process: a detailed outline, a series of quotations with citations, a bibliography, a summary of their argument, etc.

By focusing on the process and breaking it down into smaller chunks, students will learn to slow down and be more deliberate in research, developing key critical analysis skills.

3. Require that they use online content!

Instead of banning Wikipedia, blogs, or other online content, encourage or even require that students incorporate these materials into their work. For better or worse, students will use material that they find online. Once students gain the analytical skills to assess the credibility of online sources, there is a treasure trove of information to be incorporated. Embrace the potential to teach students how to harness the internet to conduct powerful research.

  • Teach students to search effectively. In his piece “Why kids can’t search,” Clive Thompson recognized that while, “High School and College Students may be ‘digital natives,’… they’re wretched at searching.” Students need to be taught how to use search engines to find legitimate sources and information.
  • Teach students to evaluate online content of all media types (written, encyclopedic, podcasts, video, etc). There are many tools out there for teaching critical analysis of online content, Cal State Chico’s CRAAP test and Turnitin.com’s SEER rubric are both great places to start. You can even use some popular internet hoaxes like the Pacific Northwest tree octopus (Google it and see what you find!!)
  • Don’t shy away from Wikipedia as a source. The majority of high school and college age students will reference Wikipedia in a research project. Even in academia, the attitude towards Wikipedia is changing. Treat it the same way you would a standard Encyclopedia – it’s a good starting point, but not the end of research. EdTechTeacher has a great Webinar “Wikipedia: Bane or Blessing?” that can guide you here.
  • Focus on transliteracy – how should a student evaluate a Wikipedia article vs. a blog vs. a tweet? Do not hold them to one type of source.

Teaching students to do real, meaningful research not only combats plagiarism, it also makes them better students and critical thinkers. These are the 21st century skills that will serve them throughout life. It will also help to limit those conversations we have all had with a child that turns in work that is not their own. By teaching students how to effectively navigate content of all types, we are promoting academic integrity as well as necessary, real world skills.

To learn more about teaching digital literacy, EdTechTeacher is hosting a series of Summer workshops many of which will specifically address online research and education.