If you have ever taken a group of middle schoolers to the computer lab, you know it is bright and shiny central. Too many things to distract them from the task at hand ranging from repeated attempts to enter in a misspelled password, to clicking on the wrong link on the webpage, to seeing if MySpace is really blocked like the teacher said it was. Asking them to type in six different web addresses (even if you show a Power Point slide of them in the front of the room) is asking for tons of wasted time. But to only allow one or two sites in the lesson limits the exposure kids have to the web. This is but one of the problems with teaching internet literacy…at least from a Language Arts teacher’s perspective.
I am in the middle of a project on identifying reliable sources on the internet. For one activity I wanted students to look at a group of website to determine if they were reliable and justify their conclusion. Then they were to repeat the activity with a second group of websites. The first group were reliable; the second not so much. This is where the fear of six websites in one lesson came up.
Delicious solved the problem for me. I created a new account just for class. The user name is Ms.Mason (there’s a period and no space, as I repeated many times) if you care to take a look. Rather than tag the sites with descriptive terms, I used “group 1” and “group 2” as tags.
During class, I put the web address and my username/password up and had students log in that way. Then to direct the activity, I instructed them to click on the tags along the side. The tags gave no clue to the reliability ahead of time, and I didn’t have to worry about students telling me the internet wasn’t working when they mistyped the address. Students were quickly able to navigate to where I wanted them to be, thus moving the lesson along smoothy. Tech wasn’t taught; it was used.
While I was giving this lesson, it dawned on me that this would be an awesome way to differentiate reading. I hate printing and making copies never knowing how many I may need of a certain type of text. And if I put a student in the wrong group, I then have to move them around, get them caught up, find the right copy to give them, etc. I could use this account (with regular updating, of course) to set up all kinds of grouping. I could have groups be low/middle/high or fiction/nonfiction or short/long or text/video and then break the class up however I wish. Student A is breezing through his reading, send him to “group 2” with a click of the mouse. While students maybe curious, if you give each group enough to look at, they tend not to wander away. And so what if they do wander…the internet is all about wandering anyway.