Monday, August 17, 2009

Research Tools on Steroids - Wow!

It ain't your parents research project any more. New sources and formats for information call for new ways of searching, organizing and managing the research process. These tools are powerful, and they are (mostly) free. They will also blow your socks off.

This nine minute tutorial on Diigo is well worth the time, because Diigo is simply astounding. It helps manage Web content through web highlighting, sticky notes, tags, and sharing functions. Originally designed for professional researchers, it has found a key spot in education. I am switching over to Diigo for my own use. This is a tool that will help every type of learner.

yolink is an information literacy tool that "with a single click, searches through links and electronic documents for multiple terms and relationships and brings the information to you." What does this mean? This (free) browser add-on helps you do a deep web search, and assists the researcher in drilling deeply into his/her search results. This works with basic websites, e-books, pdf's, any web content. Think about your basic search on, let's say, explorers. A Google search will return millions of hits, so you refine it by adding a few more keywords. Now you narrowed your results to tens of thousands of hits. Instead of having to hit each link and look for your information, yolink finds it for you, splitting your screen, searching each page for your keywords and displaying the paragraphs with text including your keyword on the right screen. A students can quickly dig deeply through multiple webpages at a time and mine the web for information more efficiently. yolink also has bookmarking and notation capabilities, and findings can be exported to a citation tool. Which brings us to...

NoodleTools. yolink is working with NoodleTools on a partnership, and when they pen the agreement I will be singing from the rooftop of CCHS. This is not a free service, but CCHS has an account and every student should be using this for citation and note taking. The student is provided a scaffold for the entire research process, and their new outline feature is fantastic. I use this for my own research projects.

Does everything have to be technology based? Absolutely not. The 5 's of note taking remain the same.

The Cornell Note Taking system is ideal for recording lecture notes, and every student should be adept with this. Kids must be able to take notes by hand, and this is a great way to manage that process

1. Record. During the lecture, as many meaningful facts as possible are recorded.

2. Reduce. As soon after class as possible, ideas and facts are concisely summarized in the Recall Column. Summarizing clarifies meanings and relationships, reinforces continuity, and strengthens memory.

3. Recite. Most of the page is covered and the student tries to recall as much of the lecture as possible, using only what has been written in the Recall Column. This procedure helps to transfer the facts and ideas to the long term memory.

4. Reflect. The student's own opinion is distilled from the notes. This also has the effect of training the mind to find and categorize vital information, leading to more efficient memorization.

5. Review. The student reviews the notes briefly but regularly. Because of the highly condensed nature of the notes, the student remembers a significant amount of material.

So, how does a student know which tool to use, and when? Isn't this all overload? I don't think so. We all have many tools we use in managing our daily lives. In this age of abundant information students will require diverse tools to find, evaluate, and manage their information needs. Tools like Diigo, yolink and NoodleTools give students power and control in their learning, and I can't think of anything more exciting than that.

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