Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Information Literacy--Teaching Students in the Digital Age

As educators who advocate the use of technology in education, we have a responsibility to ensuring that we and our students develop not only literacy skills, but Information Literacy skills. On Alan November’s website, November Learning, there is a wealth of information on information literacy, including an Information Literacy Quiz and follow up activities.

This is a great way to find out what skills you have, or to find out what skills students have (probably no younger than middle or high school students). It is very eye opening to see how websites evolve and change over time. The activity on website validation was really thought provoking. It gave great examples of how to sort out facts vs. misinformation. I especially liked using the Wayback Machine at While many websites changes are for the better, it is surprising to see how some websites have changed in order to deceive, including sites funded by White Supremacy groups.
While the dangers of allowing young people access to chat rooms or not supervising their Facebook/My Space pages have been made quite clear, the importance of teaching students that just because it is on the Internet does not make it true is really emphasized by this activity. I encourage all parents, educators, and teens and young adults to go through these activities in order to gain information literacy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Are You Smarter Than A 6th Grader?

Are you smarter than a 6th grader? My 6th grader has just taught me how to create graphs in Excel. In under 5 minutes she quickly and beautifully created a bar graph for her science expo project, showing the absorbency of different animal beddings (very practical applications for this for her goats, chickens, and horses; but that is whole other blog). I am quite excited, as I often want to put graphs into reports and other documents I am creating, but I never quite knew how. For anyone else who is not as smart as a 6th grader, directions for this are as follows:
(courtesy of my daughter’s 6th grade science teacher)

Open Microsoft Excel

  1. A table looking screen will appear with letters across the top row and numbers along the left column. There will be many individual data boxes on the screen.
  2. Enter your data into the empty boxes. Each box gets just one data value.
    You should enter your data into the boxes based on the set up of your data table values.
    Hint: place a particular set of data values into its own letter column. Do not just list all of your data straight down in one column.
  3. Once all your data is entered use your mouse to highlight all of your data.
    Then, click on the Chart Wizard button, which is depicted by a bar graph with three bars of different colors.
  4. A box will appear that will allow you to choose which kind of graph you wish to make.
  5. Click on the Chart Type you wish and then choose specific Sub-Chart Type you wish.
  6. After you have chosen your chart type and sub-chart type, click the Next button.
    A new box will appear that depicts what your data looks like based on the way in which you entered it in Excel.
  7. If you like your graph, then click Next.
  8. If you have more than one set of data, you may wish to click on the Series Tab in order to label each line, bar, etc. that is displayed on your graph.
  9. To do this, click on the first series, Series 1, and provide a name for it in the Name box.
    Then, on the values box, click on the white box and then highlight the data on the excel spreadsheet that you wish to represent that particular series.
    You may do this for however many different data series you wish to have on your graph.
  10. When finished this step, click Next.
  11. Fill in a Chart title, Category(X) axis, and Value (Y)axis in the blank boxes based on your data/experiment.
  12. Then click Next.
  13. Finally, click on the bullet to have the graph displayed “As a new sheet.”
  14. Then click Finish
  15. Remember to SAVE your GRAPH!

Now the point of this blog entry (in addition to explaining how to make a graph in Excel) is to illustrate the simplicity of using the power of technology for digital natives like my daughter. Digital immigrants, like myself and so many teachers of digital natives never use many features of technology, because they are unfamiliar and don’t seem intuitive to us. However, we have to remember that our children and students have cut their teeth on technology we never even dreamed about 10 years ago.