I have always struggled with using search engines with my kiddos. I am always nervous about results being appropriate, at their reading level and authentic. So this “thing” was right up my alley! I was thrilled to learn about the existence of MeL, Michigan eLibrary. This is a free research tool that links you to valid and reliable sources such as eFull text magazines and newspapers and primary source documents. So much more reliable than a google search. I was shocked about some of the misleading sites google pulled up during the demo video about MeL. I am going to add MeL to my symbaloo immediately!
Searching with MeL
MeL has over 40 databases you can use to search. Two that are geared towards elementary students are: e-Library Elementary and Kids InfoBits. I tested out both of these databases. Since Michigan History is a big focus in 3rd grade, I searched for “Michigan fur trade” and “Michigan History” on both databases. I started by using e-Library Elementary. At first, I was really excited because I saw that you can choose what kind of resources you want: newspapers, magazines, books, maps, pictures, audio/video, and transcripts. However, when I searched Michigan fur trade it mostly found books and magazines (no pictures or maps). Also, the third link on the list was to a transcript of an interview with Kid Rock that had NOTHING to do with fur trade in Michigan. e-Library Elementary did have a number representing the reading level of the text, but I wasn’t sure what is corresponded to so I was unable to use it. So that was a little disappointing. I had more success with Kids InfoBits. I found the results to be more user friendly. Not much was located for Michigan fur trade, but I had more success with searching for Michigan History. After scrolling through the results, I was able to locate some texts that would be great for my 3rd graders.
There are so many amazing databases available through MeL besides the ones I mentioned above. For a complete list of ones I think my kiddos would find most useful, click here (just scroll down past my symbaloo)
Evaluating Web Resources
Unfortunately, there are people out there with too much time on their hands creating hoax websites for their own entertainment. It is important as educators that we learn to spot these hoax websites and also teach our students how to recognize one. The Joyce Valenza Criteria for Evaluating Web Resources has given us a way to evaluate web sources to be sure they are a valid source of information. I practiced using the Elementary(basic) version that I would have my kids use, in order to evaluate 2 sites from a list of bogus sites.
The first site I visited is: http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus.
Content = Easy to read and understand, but great for a good laugh because it is completely outlandish! 🙂 There were several working links on the site, some actually linked you to valid resources about octopuses that actually exist. However, other links were to WikiPedia pages (which we know are not dependable because they can be edited by the public) and another link was actually to a page about sasquatch (red flag!). The dates were fairly current. There were octopus related news links posted in April 2014. There was great attention paid to detail. If the idea of a tree octopus wasn’t completely absurd, the site has many things in place to make it look and feel legit.
Authority/Credibility = I truncated the URL to zapatopi.net and could immediately see that this was a site designed for a good laugh. The header reads “Your Source For Conspiracies & Other Diversions.” It also seems to be set up more like a personal blog. When I google the author, a variety of links pop up about his information being “fake” (duh). 🙂
Bias/Purpose = This site is clearly a parody. I believe the author’s purpose is to teach us all that we can’t believe everything we read on the internet.
Usability/design = stellar! This site is so easy to navigate, the links work and it is very organized. It is clean, uncluttered and I noticed no spelling or grammar errors. Obviously, we can’t just rely on usability and design to let us know if the information is valid.
The next site I evaluated is: http://www.google.com/technology/pigeonrank.html
Content = The content is organized and easy to read and understand. However, just like the site above, the content is very far-fetched. Upon searching for a publication date, I found this at the bottom of the site, “Note: This page was posted for April Fool’s Day – 2002.” Not only is it dated, but since it actually states that this is an April Fool’s joke…it makes it a LITTLE easier to spot it as a hoax. 🙂
Authority/Credibility = The truncated URL actually takes you back to Google, obviously a very trusted site. So that does not help me identify this as unreliable.
Bias/Purpose = While linked to the Google Technology page (which is completely legit), this site was created for parody/a joke. The author’s purpose was to have a little fun on April Fool’s Day (and maybe even get a few more people on Google than usual)
Usability/design = Pretty easy to navigate, but a couple of the links no longer worked. I did not notice any spelling or grammar errors.
Next we dive into the world of free citation makers (where were these when I was in High School???). I was astounded by how easy these sites make it to cite an article or website. It even lets you choose the format your professor or teacher prefers. Some free citation makers include: Citation Machine, bibme and EasyBib. I attempted to use Google Scholar to locate an educational topic. I searched for “common core standards” and received a wide range of results. My frustration was that many of the journals/articles it located could not be read unless you signed up and paid for that journal. An abstract was all that was provided. I input several URLs I located from my search into Citation Machine and EasyBib, but every time I tried it was unable to locate crucial information on it’s own, such as the author of the article. After several failed attempts, I came up with the citation below (and this was created after I had to input some of the information manually).
Hiebert, E., & Mesmer, H. A. (2012, June 29). Upping the Ante of Text Complexity in the Common Core State Standards. Upping the Ante of Text Complexity in the Common Core State Standards. Retrieved July 16, 2014, from http://edr.sagepub.com/content/42/1/44.short
I may have been doing something wrong, but it was not as easy as I anticipated it to be. I see this as a useful tool for high school and college students, as well as for myself as I further my education.
CITW and ISTE Standards
Thing 10 supports the ISTE Standard: Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity because using the databases from Mel allows students to access an amazing amount of information that will inspire learning and creativity. I can also use Mel to Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences. By teaching students how to cite their resources correctly by using a citation maker, we are Promoting and Modeling Digital Citizenship and Responsibility. When students use these searching strategies, they will be able to test hypotheses they have generated and draw conclusions from the information.