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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Critical Evaluation of Websites

In last nights #edchat much of the focus was on students' ability to evaluate online information. This is a critical media literacy skill.

It is also a critical comprehension skill as more and more students turn to the Internet as their primary source of information.

 I tried to make the point that students do not have the ability, at least the seventh graders I worked with, to evaluate and integrate multiple sources of information.

I promised a few folks I would share a few insights from my dissertation work. What follows is a brief glimpse into a much bigger project.


Part of my dissertation involved doing think-alouds with 10 students selected from high, medium, and low SES schools. They completed one of four internet inquiry tasks:

-What was the turning point of the American Revolution?
-What was the role of women during the American Revolution?
-Is the painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware River historically accurate?
-What was the turning point of the American Revolution?

Three questions focuses on the evaluation of sources:

-Who is the author? Is the author an expert?
-Does the author use convincing evidence?
-How does the author's point of view influence words and images used on the website?

The Responses:

Author Expertise
Credible Evidence
Author POV

Could not identify the author.


-yes because he knew what he was talking about and he used the right words for what he was writing on the blog.

to inform readers that George Washington did really cross the Delaware.
Identified Author

-Yes because he used specific details and great puncuation.
yes because he used great facts and easy to follow words and scenteces.
He infuenced us to read more about the battle of saratoga.
Identified author.

Identified author.

- no he is not because he doesn't know as much as some other people may
yes he did he got me to believe what he wrote.
Identified author.

yes because it tells you facts
it tells you the details of the painting
Could not identify author.

- I think he is because it is a .org and those are pretty helpful. Also of what I know this all sounds right. Another reason is that they have a lot of information that the other websites didn't.
Yes because he talks about every part of the battle. For example during it before it and after it.
- Yes, he shows many pictures and he is not defending one side he is telling it like it is.
Identified author.

- No, because he did have some facts but not all nor the Main facts on the American Revolution. It was very little writing and didn't say anything about the turning points.

No. The class barely gave information. The didn't say anything really important.
The author i think is trying to give us information on the topic, and showing us what his class can do and Learn.
Identified author.

- i Don't know .
Yes, Because s|he give facts. And the other websites say the same thing. so He must have his Facts Correct.
I don't know the point of view, but the way he puts her facts makes it convincing that what he says is true.
Could not identify author. Put in names of historical fgures.

In my opinion the autho seems to know about the American Revolution so I think they use convincing evidence.
Could not identify author.

- no because he wasnt born there
he uses convincing speech
Could not identify author. Uses cited source as author.

- Yes, because Phebe put a lot of information in the paragraphs about each woman who served in the American Revolution also she uses specific dates of when something major happened.

Yes, because she uses specific details, dates, etc,
Phebe takes the point of view she took because she’s sticking up for the women to show they can do way more than people think they can do.
Identified the author.

- I think the author, Jeremy Jones is an expert on the American Revolution because he knows a lot about the 3 major events that started the American Revolution and he gives examples like when each of the events took place and where they took place. That's why I think that the author, Jeremy Jones is an expert on the American Revolution.
Yes, Jeremy Jones uses convincing evidence because since I said in the answer above he uses exact dates when the events took place like some other people don't use dates they just say the year and not the month or day of the year.
The author's point of view does influence the words and images used on the website because his point of view seems to go along the same path as his words and images because you can tell he's against what the 3 major events did to the United States of America and other countries involved in the war by his word choice and by the last sentence or two when he says that he hopes that the world will never see another American Revolution ever again.
Could not identify author. Used political figures.

- they are the owners of a historical park, so, yes
they are experts because they have a whole park full of historical information.
i dont know
Identified the autor.

- hes an education profesional with a passion for social studies
David holds a BA in history and a BS in journalism from the University of Kansas.
i dont know
Identified author but also included author’s title, park ranger, as a n additional author.

- The author is because he wrote a lot and it seams he did a lot of research.

yes and no, the author uses convincing evidence because it looks like he knows what he is talking about and he did not write a lot he could have wrote about the tea party or the the Boston massacre.
Could not identify author.

- yes because the page he is on it covers geography, history and much more.
the author does use convincing evidence because he is on a website that covers geography, language, history, current events and much more.
Identified the author.

- The author is a history teacher. He is an expert.
Yes he uses convincing evidence. He stated that there is not just one turning point that there was many.
He thinks that the war went  not so good at first but then it changed. The authors point is that the war was not easy.
Identified the author.

Yes he says that it was a cold night. Also how the crossing was a sneak attack.
The authors point of view is he wants to have everyone know about this.
Identifies the author.

- It seems like there was alot of people involved in this buisness supplying information on this topic. i think that they have reliabel information and arent quite experts, but are good on this subject
i think it using convincing evidence because the points that they raise about to many people in the boat to keep the boat afloat is good evidence.
the authors point of view is third person because he uses word like they, or he, she, etc. if it were 1st person, he would use words like I
Identifies the author.

- I don think the author is an expert but i'm sure he knows alot about it if he knew 3 causes and could support them.
I thnk he does us convincing evidence because he writes a full paragraph backing up what he thinks the causes are.
His point of view inluenced the words and images because it kin of shows that he knew what was going on with those pictures and words

Video Examples:

In this example the student mistakes the author's title as an additional author. Michael then does not use the author's title, occupation, institutional affiliation to judge the author expertise. He uses the overall quantity of information to judge the author expertise.

In this example the student uses the content to judge the author expertise. Olivia does exhibit the ability to navigate multiple windows, in other words, "read with mouse in hand." She also has some understanding of author point of view.

In this example Ava successfully navigates a page looking for an author. While she does mistake the Governor of Pennsylvania as an author of the website she atleast uses author affiliation to judge author expertise.

In this example Ethan uses syntactic clues to evaluate the source. He comments on the use of punctuation and sentences. I think he is making what Rand Spiro calls "errors of oversimplification." At some point Ethan learned that credible websites are free of grammatical errors. He now applies this to the sources he reads.

Another example of a student using content to judge a website.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Presentation on Common Core and Technology

How the talk works:
1. Define the CCSS standards with technology.
2. Define literacy and technology as intersection of collaborative inquiry, reading comprehension, content construction.
3. Show the Chief Almir video. Highlight how real life literacy to change the world involves technology.
4. Define how different tools align with CCSS.
5. Show the Orbitz video as metaphor to using tech for tech sake. Only use the tech if it enhances your pedagogical goal.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Evernote: Text Complexity and the Gradual Release of Responsibility

Developing a Complex over Text Complexity?

One of the major shifts, and major misconceptions of the common core revolve around the idea of text complexity. This is a shift in mindsets around from choosing texts at an instructional level to choosing texts at a grade level.

Does this mean we need to throw out all of the research on comprehension instruction? No, by focusing on the specific texts, and not just the reader, make the work that has been done in the field of comprehension even more critical.

For example one of the major instructional tasks to address text complexity is to ensure that we are asking text dependent questions. You know the type of questions that require students to use the text to answer..No, not the first review question at the back of a chapter that requires students to find the first bold word in the chapter. A good text dependent question would require stduents to build an inference while using information from the text.

Teachers need to create an environment where students can see this kind of inferencing and discussion around a text going on. This will not be a simple task One area that I think can not be overlooked is the role of the gradual release of responsibility.

Luckily new tools are emerging that will allow us to define, model, faciliate, and participate in ways that support text complexity. My favorite, like many of you, is Evernote. 

Evernote and Text Complexity

Evernote is built for teachers to address text complexity without abandoning the research based practices for teaching comprehension.

Explicit Definition

First evernote allows students to import and annotate a PDF. Students can delve into these texts with a level of interaction that was not possible a decade ago. 

As a teacher you can use evernote to create visual aides to explain explicit defintions of text interactions during direct (but not always synchronous) instruction.


So if you want to assign a classic in your literature class you can go the GutenbergProject, download a Twain novel, save it as a pdf. 
You can then model with students how you answer text dependent questions by finding details in the text and then making an inference. 

Guided Practice
Evernote is not always useful for pdfs. Students  can also snapcapture, and annotate, websites. What text is more complex than those that students build while they are conducting an online inquiry? What text is full of more perspectives and bias than the websites around a contreversial issue? Students can discuss these texts with each other using shared notebooks.


Evernote will also teachers to vary their level of scaffolding for students that will need extra tools to mediate their understanding of a challenging texts. Using annotations and notes teachers can create a text with varying levels of support for students.

The students can then use their notes to answer text dependent questions you share with them using Evernote.


One of the major goals of classroom teachers when addressing text complexity is to create a classroom that celebrates and reinforces what good readers do in specific disciplines. Evernote will open new levels of participation. Using the shared notebooks students can annotate models, read complex texts together, and draw conclusions across multiple texts.

Independent Practice

Evernote is also a great tool for tracking student growth when dealing with text complexity. Teachers can track what students do across multiple time points. This will allow, for example, a teacher to watch how well a student's inferential skills are developing. They may start by making no inferences and drawing solely on personal experiences. Next month the student may make an inference to a text dependant question using explicit information. Finally they may draw their own conclusion using implicit information.


Education is at a crossroad. Yet new standards and new technologies do not have to be on divergent paths. In fact our role as teachers must include showing how the most effective and efficient way to address the Common Core is through the use of Digital Texts and Tools.