Colour me embarrassed…

…and not because of my British spelling!

My school district will be using online textbooks in all of its Social Studies classes starting with this school year.  I’m excited about it, because I think that many of my students will find the materials more user-friendly, especially when you consider that for them, technology is as familiar to them as their first language is.  In fact, one could argue that many of this year’s incoming freshmen are bilingual in technology and English (or Spanish, or Korean or Tagalog, or German, or what have you).  I heard someone refer to our students as digital natives; I would be considered a digital immigrant.  I don’t know who first coined this verbiage, so apologies if it was you (and if so, let me know so I can give you proper credit!).  The terms are apt, I think.  Given how attached my students are to their cell phones, I think that for many of them, technology is beginning to be … hardwired.  So sorry.  Didn’t mean the terrible pun, but it’s out there, and I can’t take it back.

My own personal knowledge of technology grows exponentially every day, not unlike the development of technology (the problem with this is that I will never catch up…something to aim for, though).  There are many teachers in my district who are not at all comfortable with technology.  We’ve been adding technology a little bit at a time over the last 6 years: electronic grade books, attendance, e-mail, laptop carts for student use, LCD projectors and screens as teaching tools.  Many of my colleagues jumped in with both feet, barely testing to see how the water was (quite fine, thank you), whereas other stood shivering in the shallow end, loathe to venture deeper into the technology pool.  We’ve been lucky enough to have access to Smart Boards in our classrooms and laptops for teacher use.

Those of us frolicking in the technology deep end were recruited to be technology pioneers for the district (that was their choice of words), and we’ve been tasked with creating lesson plans that we’ll present to our (possibly hostile?) colleagues at our August in-service (professional development day).  I was tasked with creating a lesson on the Age of Exploration that would fulfill the following criteria:

  1. uses various features of the online text to showcase what it can do
  2. follows the state and district curriculum guidelines
  3. uses additional technology available to enhance the lesson (say, a wiki, or a blog)
  4. isn’t too intimidating for technology-phobes (Luddites, if you will)
Piece of cake!
 (Random aside for a moment: why do we use that phrase to suggest that something is easy?  Who came up with the phrase?  In my opinion, it’s highly unlikely that that person ever actually tried to make cake.  I mean, look at the picture to the left there.  Does that look like it was easy to make???? No, no it doesn’t.)

Right. Where was I?  No, before the cake.

Oh yes, we were in the deep end of the technology pool.

While working on my lesson, I found myself in need of an alternate source of information than the textbook (because here’s the thing, folks, in the end, the textbook is nice to have, but it always has the following:

  – weird stuff thrown in. You’re not sure why it’s there, but clearly, it was something someone thought was important.
  – missing stuff.  You’re not sure why that particular piece of information is missing, but there it is.  Or  rather, there it isn’t.

Off I toddled to my friendly neighborhood Google page to see if I could find a good source for information on Henry Hudson, Jacques Cartier, Christopher Columbus and the rest of the gang.

I found this site and this one.

Go ahead, take a few minutes and look at the two sites.  The first site is great.  What’d ya notice about the second one?

Uh huh.  Yep.

Well, I didn’t notice until I was presenting a draft of the lesson to the other tech pioneers.  What colour do you suppose my face went? (It was because I was rushing. Not excusing, just explaining.)

The cool thing is how great everyone was.  Given the time that we had to look through the lessons, we might have only just looked at the site briefly and then moved on.  It would have been much worse had that stayed in the final version of the lesson plan (which I still have to finish…I am a terrible procrastinator).  But, a couple of people in the room looked a little more at the site (because at first glance it looks authentic and chock full of good stuff.  We even “oohed and aahed” over the maps.  However, if you drill down a little deeper and find that Christopher Columbus … was born in Sydney, Australia in 1951???  We learned that the site was actually created as a tool to teach students that not everything that looks slick has correct information.

Guess what lesson I’ll be using early on in September with my students?  Yep.  This one.

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3 comments on “Colour me embarrassed…

  1. Susie Cordek says:

    Your friendly school librarian is an expert at teaching web evaluation!

  2. ann simon says:

    I think so many students will like on-line text book (and no more naughty words on the pages, either!), and I know college students already love them. BUT – and for me this is a big “but” – when I finally got to college and could underline or (ah, technology) highlight my texts, I found I learned much quicker. The kinesthetic step of physically interacting with the page helped plaster the material in my mind, and I don’t think I’m alone. High school students, of course, are not supposed to write in their text books, but I wonder, in the long run, how this will affect learners. Keep us posted, Ms. Hodgson! (Oh, and tell me how you did that copyright thing on your photo and pass the cake, please.)

  3. Sarcasmom says:

    Good lesson Ms. H.

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