Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sophomore Research, Spring Fever & Using Your Noodle

Are you kidding me? Starting the English Sophomore research projects in APRIL! It is the week before vacation. Birds are singing, daffodils are blooming, skirts are shorter, belly buttons are winking, and the soft smacking sound of flip-flops can be heard in the halls of CCHS. Tough competition for the marvels of the research process. However, it really is an amazing process.

Narrowing down topic choice is the first and biggest hurdle for students. Obscure topics can lead to frustrating dead ends, while massive, unrefined topics result in overwhelming information overload. After wrestling the topic to a manageable thesis statement, comes research to support the thesis. Easier than it sounds. Luckily, we have some terrific tools.

NoodleTools is a fantastic resource that provides citation services and note-taking support. (Please note the provided link is to the CCHS Library webpage. Students must access NoodleTools through our page.) The note card feature allows the student to copy and paste a direct quote into one field, put it into his/her own words in another field, and then reflect and write about how this information supports a specific element of the thesis statement in the last field. Much like the old stacks of note cards on the dining room table, the student can create digital clusters of note cards, and move the cards from cluster to cluster. The clusters themselves can be moved, so the notes are very flexible and allows the student to manipulate the data as the research takes shape.

For me though, the "share" feature really makes this indispensable. Teachers create an account on NoodleTools to which students link, enabling the teacher to monitor progress and evaluate notes. Gone are the days of lugging shoe boxes of note cards. If a student is not making progress or is struggling generating notes the teacher can intervene. (In teacher talk this is called a "summative assessment".) I remember last year at this time we had a teacher sending a stream of students to the library for "sources that better supported" their thesis statements. Brilliant! As a librarian, I could then dig into the information needs of this student, and customize the process for reading level and interest. I live for this stuff!

As NoodleTools and the databases are all web-based, students can work anywhere there is an Internet connection. Perfect for vacation travel. Just don't get sunscreen on the keyboard.

Photo credit Flickr Creative Commons:

98/365: free your mind by samantids

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