Monday, February 11, 2013

Tech-ing the High School Research Paper

Writing an effective research paper is an important skill for a high school student for a number of reasons.  Students learn…

1) research skills

2) to cite sources and give credit where credit is due.

3) to analyze information, make an argument, and support the information/argument with sources.

4) to organize their ideas.

5) to write as academics in the field they are studying.
However, too often we ask students to complete the process using the same techniques I was taught in the 80’s.  Students go to the library and get a demonstration of where to find the books on the shelf.  They are allowed to use the Internet (didn’t have that in the 80’s) but are not taught how to do an effective search.  Sources are organized onto note cards and the final paper is turned into the teacher to correct.

I recently completed graduate school from a local university and had to complete one research paper in most of my classes.  However, I could not give you directions to the library and have no idea where it is on campus.  Why?  Because I used the library’s database of information and did effective searching for articles on Google.  Let's teach students to complete research papers using the tools available to us in 2013 from choosing a topic, locating sources, organizing thoughts, publishing their work, and marketing the final product.

Below are steps to the research paper, and how I would "tech" the steps up.

 1. Pick a topic.
                Wallwisher - This is a great site for brainstorming.  Students can post to the wall any idea they have for a topic.  Could be used as whole class or in small group to brainstorm topic ideas.

 2. Find sources, both primary and secondary. 
               SCDiscus - SCDiscus is South Carolina's public library system online and is a free service to all residents of South Carolina.  According to its "About" page, "DISCUS - South Carolina’s Virtual Library is the “information place” for all South Carolinians. DISCUS – which stands for Digital Information for South Carolina USers – provides free access to an electronic library that’s available 24/7."  For users in other states, check with your media specialist to learn what state library resources are available in your state.
                Google Advanced Search - Most students I've observed using Google only go to Google's homepage, type in a search term, and choose one of the top ten results.  However, Google's Advance Search can be very helpful.  To use them, go to Google's homepage, type in a search term, and search for results.  On the right hand side of the page, there will be a gear symbol, and one of the choices is Google Advanced Search.  Some of the great options in advanced search is the ability to search by key words, phrases, domain (.gov, .edu, etc,) and reading level.

                Google Scholar - Google Scholar is an excellent search for engine for your honors and AP level students.  "Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature."  I used this search engine a lot in my graduate studies when articles through the library were insufficient. 
 3. Organize the ideas and sources.
                Symbaloo - I would use one of the online bookmarking sites like Symbaloo. Symbaloo allows you to save links in a matrix, and each link can be color coded and given symbols for better organization. Symbaloo is free, and students under 16 need written consent from a parent to use.

                Livebinders - It is another online service to store all of your ideas. Think of Livebinders as 3-ring notebook with tabs and sections. Students can upload their materials, pdfs, links, word documents, etc to their Livebinders. Livebinders expects its users to be 13. 

                pbworks or wikispaces - With pbworks and wikispaces, students can create different pages for source information including quotes, citations, etc.  With both services, teachers can create accounts for students, so under 13 are welcomed.
4. Organize the research paper.
              Popplet - Popplet is an online web making tool.  Students can use the service to organize their paper and how the ideas will flow.  If it is a group project, other Popplet users can be sent invitations to work together.  Popplet expects its users to be 13.

5.  Publish the research paper.
                Kidblog - In the past, the only person who saw the research paper was the teacher.  Kidblog is a blogging service that is free where a teacher sets up a classroom and has many privacy controls which is great for younger children.  Students publish their research paper as a blog-post and other students, teachers, administrators, parents, and professionals in the field can read and comment on the papers.
               pbworks or wikispaces - In my graduate studies, one professor had us post our research papers to a wiki so others in the class could read our research papers.  On the final exam, questions came from the research papers posted.
6. Market the research paper.
               Twitter and Email - We did not market our research papers in the 80's so this is new.  Share student research papers for others to read, comment, and learn from.  Mitch Resnick, an MIT professor stated, “We wouldn’t consider someone literate if they could read but couldn’t write.  Are we literate if we consume content online, but don’t produce?”

Enjoy "teching up" the research papers.

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