Posts Tagged tools

Mindmapping using

Sample mindmap

Mrs. Armstrong has graciously given me full rein with her English III and Pre-AP English III students as they begin work on what they tell me is their first persuasive research paper they have written since eighth grade. We are basically following my “better research” plan, with a few additional activities. However, we have yet to attend more than two school days in a row since winter break, due to that lovely white stuff that falls from the sky. This means that I am condensing instruction more than ever, so that students have plenty of time to get in there and apply the information literacy skills that I hope they are learning.

One tool that we explored was use of to brainstorm and organize pre-research thoughts. The full lesson plan is below and also highlighted in Part I of my earlier post on better research (see link above). I am happy to report that students were engaged and seemed to see more value in this pre-research/ organizational tool than some of the more traditional brainstorming methods. One key element to success was giving them 10 minutes with each of their three possible topics for an “exploratory glimpse” of their topic. This gave them a chance to add and categorize more information as they built their mindmap than if they had gone at it cold.

I did not have students create accounts, which meant that their only option was to print their mindmap at the end of the block. I did give them the option to create an account if they wanted to save their mindmap to come back to edit. I believe that only 3-4 students out of 115 did so. (I saw those students back on on the following general research days.) One downfall to the tool is that a free account only allows for one mindmap to be saved before being prompted to “upgrade” (which I’m sure involves payment). Modifying and editing their mindmaps just before outlining could be very beneficial, but I believe the exercise of getting their ideas on screen and being able to organize/categorize/etc. was helpful as a pre-research activity.

Here are a few pictures of students at work using, all at various stages of complexity:


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Digital Annotation Using Diigo

We have some great things going on at our school this year in terms of improving reading skills in our students. Active reading is being utilized and especially highlighting and annotation. Sometimes we, as educators, take for granted that our high school students automatically employ higher level skills as they read, but comprehension checks often show that they don’t. So it is great to see our teachers helping students to interact with reading pieces by highlighting, asking probing questions in their annotations via sticky notes, making connections with other knowledge, determining author’s purpose, etc.

Today’s offered lesson plan asks students to do these things with the digital reading that they do rather than just textbooks, in-hand novels, and photocopied articles. Much of the reading that students do in college, in the workforce, and for pleasure is in digital format. They NEED to be able to employ these higher level reading skills when reading in digital format, and we cannot just assume that the skills transfer formats.

Diigo is social bookmarking and annotation tool that grants free educator upgrades. Teachers can set up student accounts (no email address needed for students), group by class, distribute reading pieces, grade student annotations, and facilitate digital classroom discussions over what they read.

Here is a sample article, highlighted and with sticky notes added (what your students would do):

Diigo Sample

Here is what the educator account looks like from the management/administrative end (what you would see as a teacher to manage your student accounts and classes):

Diigo Teacher Sample

Piper teachers, I’d love to team teach with you to help implement this tool successfully in your classroom! Here is a sample lesson that you are welcome to use or modify:

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