Tech Talk

 

Who knew Twitter could improve students’ writing? That’s one of the things I learned at the Sloan Consortium’s 19th Annual International Conference on Online Learning in Orlando, Florida. This conference specializes in e-learning techniques and technologies and draws more than 2,000 participants each year. 

 

While I was there to present my research on blended education (more about that in a later blog post), I was fortunate enough to attend a few information sessions as well. At any given time there were nearly two-dozen choices, and one that interested me greatly was “Social Media for Teaching and Learning.” This presentation included a host of research-based tips to engage students in learning through the use of social media. While much of the information was based on research at a post-secondary institution, there were universal applications as well, mainly because people of all ages are utilizing social media every day. 

 

One of my favorite ideas is something I plan to use right away. It addresses the issue of varying technology policies at each school district and offers a fun way to improve students’ writing ability. 

 

Read more: Tweeting One's Way to Better Writing

 

Today I want to explore the resources in WCATY’s online resource database, Resource Hoarder (formerly The Lamp). As you’ll recall, Resource Hoarder is a collection of links to trusted, quality educational websites, reference sources, games, trivia, and other useful web tools. It is organized according to the five Modes of Engagement (Human Experience, Identity, Systems, Invention, and Investigation) WCATY uses to design our online Academy classes. Each is based on a distinct way to interpret the world, focuses on the development of certain thinking strategies, and leads to the development of specific, professional “identities.” 

 

For example, the Invention mode (the mode we currently are highlighting in Curious Minds blog posts) emphasizes the kinds of problem solving and creative thinking skills required of those working as designers (e.g., webpage designers, architects, and musicians).   

Read more: Tools for Designers

This week, I want to further explore WCATY’s online resource database, The Lamp. As you’ll recall, The Lamp is a collection of links to trusted, quality educational websites, reference sources, games, trivia, and other useful web tools. It is organized according to the five Modes of Engagement (Human Experience, Identity, Systems, Invention, and Investigation) WCATY uses to design our online Academy classes. Each is based on a distinct way to interpret the world, focuses on the development of certain thinking strategies, and leads to the development of specific, professional “identities.”

 

For example, the Human Experience mode (the mode we currently are highlighting in Curious Minds blog posts) emphasizes the kinds of qualitative and analytical thinking skills required of a historian or linguist.

 

Let’s look at some of the tools featured in The Lamp that are geared toward developing these skills. 

 

1. We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement - A great site looking at many of the smaller components of this key time in history and how they impacted society as a whole, then and now.

Read more: Tools for Historians

 

Do you remember when the only tools available to help teachers develop their lesson plans or classroom activities were textbooks, library books, or other print resources? Oh, how times have changed! In this Internet age, the amount of information to which we teachers have access is mind-boggling. 

 

So, what is the best way to find reliable resources? Which ones are best to use for your situation? Is it OK to use free versions of software or sites that require a download to your device? Some tips:

 

(1) Evaluating the millions of websites out there is a daunting task, but WCATY has developed a new online resource database, The Lamp, to help you get started. Basically, it is a collection of links to trusted, quality educational websites, reference sources, games, trivia, and other useful web tools organized around the five Modes of Engagement (Human Experience, Identity, Systems, Invention, and Investigation) we at WCATY use to design our online Academy classes. When evaluating other resources, ask yourself: Is the author reputable? What is his or her purpose? How recently has the source been updated? Also, never trust a website if its author cannot be verified, unless it is connected to a well-known institution like a college.

 

Read more: Online Resources: Where to Start? WCATY Can Help

Now that I’ve survived my ultra-marathon-like third quarter of the academic year, I have finally been able to find time to reflect on the two conferences at which I recently presented: the Heartland E-Learning Conference at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Oklahoma, and the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) Conference in New Orleans.

Read more: Reaching More Students through Popular Technologies

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