Diigo and Feedly and Flipboard- Oh My! Ideas for Teaching Information Literacy

“Awesome”

That is what Evan, one of my Digital Literacy students, said when I showed him and his classmates Flipboard.

Laying the Foundation for Digital Citizenship:

For the past two weeks, my students have been learning how to improve their Internet search skills, critically evaluate websites and curate web resources in order to create a highly personalized online reading experience. We started by watching a video to learn exactly how search works and we then compared a library’s neatly organized and categorized databases to the disorganized web. In an effort to help my students get the most out of their web searches, I showed them Lifehacker’s “Google Tips and Tricks Every Student Should Know.” To assess their learning, my students completed an Effective Search Strategies project, and I also spent several days asking “Googleable” questions. Not surprisingly, my students were able to find the answers within seconds.

Some students conducted their searches on the MACs in my lab, other students used their iPad, a few searched on their iPhones, and one decided to just use Siri. After a few days of my own version of “A Google A Day,” (I asked questions pertaining to the history of modern technology-see the 330 references cited at the bottom of the Facebook Wikipedia entry) I felt confident that not only could my students quickly find the answers to their questions, but they were also savvy enough to discern credible websites that could be included in a works cited list versus bogus sites which wouldn’t be relevant for academic research purposes.

My next goal was to show students how to use social bookmarking using the tool Diigo. I started with this simple video and then demonstrated how to highlight, use sticky notes, tags, and add URL’s to a public Diigo library. For the rest of the semester, whenever my students conduct research for their projects, they will be adding to their Diigo libraries. I want them to get into the habit of doing this now so that for the rest of their high school career and when they go off to college, they will be comfortable using this tool. I want them to be able to show their peers the power of social bookmarking, especially when working on collaborative projects, and how technology can be used to improve organization and productivity. My guess is that my students will emerge as leaders, since many of their classmates may not have had exposure or experience using social bookmarking tools. After tackling Diigo (which my students thought was pretty cool), I moved on to the next two tools: Feedly and Flipboard.

Using both the Feedly and Flipboard iPad apps, (my students were assigned to install each app for homework so they could follow along with me) I demonstrated each tool and showed my students how they can search for content based on keywords, subscribe to the RSS feeds of their favorite blogs and websites to automatically receive updates whenever new content is published, and then ultimately share their favorite content across social networks and/or link to their blogs. I realize this sharing part may not happen right away, but I’m hopeful that over time, my students will start to share links to their favorite articles with their friends and then who knows; maybe more and more students will start using social networks to share what they are interested in and passionate about…not just their latest selfie.

I deliberately showed my students Feedly first. I had a hunch the majority of them would prefer Flipboard because of how visual it is and how it really does resemble a magazine. My hunch was correct. My students lit up when they saw Flipboard, and although it does function very similar to Feedly, my students were really excited by the fact they could create their own magazines and share them with their friends via social networks (maybe that sharing of articles will happen sooner than later)! In fact, the day after I showed my students Flipboard, one of my students created her own magazine with articles about The Bachelor, one of her favorite TV shows. And while a recap of the latest episodes of reality TV are not going to be covered in my curriculum, the fact is, my students now know how to curate resources. They are developing skills to make sense of the internet. Furthermore, my students are becoming more motivated to READ. Before I continue, I must stop for a moment and comment about reading.

Last week, I shared with my students my addiction to reading and learning. It was one of those very real and honest moments that most of us as educators have had with our students. When I told my students I was an addict, and that there was no cure for my addiction, that really got their attention. I really wanted my students to know how important reading is as a foundational skill and how it can help them become better thinkers and learners as they move on from high school, then to college, and eventually into the workplace. I started off by asking my students to guess what I was addicted to. At first they said blogging, but after just a few guesses, they said it, “reading” and “learning.” While I want to publish more on this blog, reading is still something I can’t seem to get enough of. I am continuously learning and growing professionally through everything I read that is shared via my PLN, whether it be through Twitter or Google+ and I truly believe this is making me a better educator. However, my students are right.

I do need to devote more time to blogging. I need to model for my students and practice what I preach. If I expect them to blog 20% of the time, I need to do the same. I also need to build my public Diigo library and curate more content via Flipboard. I adopted Evernote’s Web Clipper for curation, but I think it’s important for my students to see the real-world application of the tools I am asking them to use. When students see their teacher practicing what she preaches, I think they are more apt to believe that the lessons really are practical and useful in real-life. I never want my students to think to themselves, “when am I ever going to use this in real-life?” Being digitally literate is a must-have skill for my students and showing real-life applications of this skill is absolutely critical. So while I think there are some great resources from a variety of educational organizations, I try to develop assessments that are as close to real-life as possible. Plus, and perhaps more importantly, whenever I integrate that real-life component to a lesson or project, I see student motivation, engagement, and achievement move to high levels every time. Now back to the topic at hand, information literacy…

I’ve encouraged my students to use the articles they find online as the basis for future blog posts for the 20% their time projects. They’ve only blogged 3 times so far, but as they gain more experience, I will challenge them to use an article they curated from the web as the basis for a future post. Through this process, students will develop their ability to analyze the key points, details, main ideas, and point of view of the author. They will formulate opinions based on what they read and provide an analysis of the topic. Their vocabulary will expand. Hopefully, they will become more intellectually curious and want to read even more. And this can happen through allowing students more choice when it comes to reading. Ultimately, I believe a love of reading is the foundation of what we talk about all the time in education.

Life long learning

Once students leave my classroom, they will be on their own. My job is to ensure they have the skills to quickly find information, create new knowledge from this information, and add value to the whichever organization they are a part of, or have the skills needed to become an entrepreneur. There are many aspects of digital citizenship that educators should integrate into their curriculum. Any educator who requires students to conduct internet research-and this would likely be K-12 educators of all academic disciplines- should spend some time teaching information, or digital, literacy. As stated by Mike Ribble:

Digital Literacy : process of teaching and learning about technology and the use of technology. 
While schools have made great progress in the area of technology infusion, much remains to be done. A renewed focus must be made on what technologies must be taught as well as how it should be used. New technologies are finding their way into the work place that are not being used in schools (e.g., Videoconferencing, online sharing spaces such as wikis). In addition, workers in many different occupations need immediate information (just-in-time information). This process requires sophisticated searching and processing skills (i.e., information literacy). Learners must be taught how to learn in a digital society. In other words, learners must be taught to learn anything, anytime, anywhere.  Business, military, and medicine are excellent examples of how technology is being used differently in the 21st century. As new technologies emerge, learners need to learn how to use that technology quickly and appropriately.
Digital Citizenship involves educating people in a new way—
these individuals need a high degree of information literacy skills. 

As my students hone their information literacy skills through searching, curating, and reading online resources for their research projects in my class, not only am I meeting the ISTE Standards for students, I am able to fulfill the ELA Common Core State Standards in Reading Informational Texts for grades 9-10 and 11-12. Best of all, I am helping my students develop skills they can apply to any and all courses they will take for the rest of their secondary and post-secondary academic careers.

What strategies are you using to teach information literacy? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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