Is a Published Source a Good Source? How to Search Through Sources for Good Information

June 9, 2013 at 9:33 pm | Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

(Laurie Townsend)

One of my passions with using printed information from any source is verifying whether I trust the source or not. I hope to instill the questioning of the source to my students. If you want to gain knowledge you need to try and verify your source. The internet is a wonderful resource but depending on what you search for you can find a lot of questionable information. Journal articles and peer reviewed sources usually do not have an intention to deceive. Many news sources and blogs have an agenda that they are pushing. I try to get an idea of the different angles being portrayed because even if I believe the information is faulty I want to know what the sources are saying because some are widely read and believed.

I have several questions that I ask of a source. Who published it and why? Very often websites will list a mission statement on their pages and some have a bio of the author. If they don’t have a bio I look up the author separately to see what I find. I try to find out as much about the website as possible. I look at who owns the media source. The information is fairly easy to find. An example is the Washington Times. They are owned by the Unification Church also referred to as the Moonies.

There are organizations that review news sources for accuracy and rate them.

I want to know if the author has expertise or if they are writing about someone else’s research and if they reporting it properly. Often in online articles the authors include links to the articles that they are referencing. I try to always follow the links. I have found cases where an article refers to a poll and link to it but then they misrepresent the data in the article. I have seen news sources that have a provocative headline with ‘breaking news’ and the linked article is 5 months old. I also question, does the headline represent the story? How old is the information? My economics book from 1978 was discussing whether the DOW would get over 1000 at some point. We now know it is around 15,000. So my economics book would be considered out of date except as maybe an historic reference. There was quite a bit of fear mongering several years ago about the doom and gloom to be expected when it hit 10,000 which did not happen. I try to remove the emotional element from news sources. I prefer to read the information as opposed to watching a video.

Politics has also historically played a significant role in what scientists can publish. This is very important to know when looking at science sources. When AIDS was first appearing the Surgeon General C. Everett Koop struggled against Pres. Reagan to be able to publish public education on the transmission of AIDS. In the time that elapsed a lot of bad information was spread. Under Pres. Bush any scientist that worked for the federal government had to have their publications cleared through the White House. They were often edited for political purposes. Philip A. Cooney who approved the reports on climate change had previously worked in the oil business and went back to that business after working for the White House. The scientists that worked for the federal government were also under a gag order on anything that had to do with climate change. The Climate Change debate has more religious overtones than most people are aware of. Many of the opposing scientists have signed a religious pledge based on creationism.

Religious groups also try to control what is permitted in the curriculum ofPublic schools.

Politics has also had unfortunate effects on the Math world as well. One of the greatest computer scientists Turing was prosecuted for being a homosexual and killed himself. He was a major reason for the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Education has been suppressed at many times in history. Galileo and Newton

were well aware of their precarious position and guarded in their publications. Socrates was sentenced to death. Archimedes was murdered by on invading army. Nate Silver the statistician who predicted the presidential election was criticized for being ‘feminine’. His opponents could attack his math so they attacked his sexuality. Some websites will misrepresent information in a graph or just use the section of the graph that fits their purposes. It is important to try to get to the source of their numbers and information. If they say NASA says something it is important to go to the NASA website to verify it unless a link is provided then just follow the link.

It is important to be aware of what the argument is and the current politics that may control what is published. Currently in Wisconsin a political party is trying to shut down a journalism school . Check the source for an agenda and if they are trying to spreading a particular ideology. It is important to look at many sources and perspectives. It is also important to keep an open mind and be willing to see the changes in the knowledge that we have in the world around us.


Defining what it means to be literate, other than the ability to read and write.

May 20, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Posted in uncategorized | 3 Comments

Post written by Brad Hartstein

As a very pragmatic person I struggle with the idea of Content Literacy. In my field, Technology Education there is an organization of Technology Education teachers nationally (ITEEA) that has been striving to define what it means to be Technologically Literate. In their definition when a student leaves secondary school they should understand and be able to select a multitude of tools and options in a technological world based on effects and optimization characteristics. This is a very broad scope and definition. As Technology Teachers it is our job to prepare our student with the ability to select and use ever changing technologies. Too often in our field Teachers and Administrators assume that this means job preparation. To be clear Job preparation in any form is a vocational education and decidedly not Technology Education.

Professor Woodward, the founder Technology Education (Then Manual Arts) defined the subject as “A social study on the effect of technology on society for all students’ general education” (Woodward, 1889).

So the idea of Technology Literacy is not one of the ability to use every tool, because that would not be an education for all students. The ability to problem solve and understand the uses and selection of tools and resources will make a person Literate in Technology.

With this definition in mind how can I make my students Literate in the subject as well as the literature?  In the Literature for this course, “Teaching Content Area Literacy” by Lane W. Clarke and Kevin D. Besnoy, the authors make it clear that we need to predispose our students to the content and then provide guidance through the readings to strive for that highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy; Synthesize. The nature of Technology Education is one that demands a product, a synthesized creative final piece. It is crucial then that as an educator I provide ample understandings for my students to meet this end. With thick and heavy content readings this becomes a seemingly impossible task.

I have a question for you. As Technology changes so must my curriculums, how can I keep up with accurate and well versed documentation at the proper level when my governing body, New York State Regents Board of Education, does not clearly define what the “proximity band 11” is for technological manuscripts in its ELA standards. It clearly states what types of non-fiction and fiction pieces are reasonable by grade level. How is this defined and how then does it translate to literature of a different sort?

Text Messaging Students: Is it Worth It?

May 20, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Posted in uncategorized | 10 Comments

Post written by Mike Burke

Like most teachers at the secondary level, one of the major issues I face on a daily basis is how to communicate with my students when they are not in the classroom.  There are times when I need to get a message to my students quickly, such as when I decide to change a homework assignment after I assign it.  I have a classroom webpage, but my students rarely check it.  The site is more for parents, and they do not use it very much either.  I needed a way to communicate with my students the way they communicate.  Of course anyone who has spent more than 5 minutes with a teenager knows that their link to the world is their cellular phone.  Students today are completely hooked to their phones, using it to communicate, as a portable music device, as a phone, and more.  Some studies even suggest that a students popularity and status can be linked to their cell phone (Faure & Orthober, 2011).  This year, I came across a website that taught me how to send a text message to a mobile phone using my email.  To do so, you only need the 10 digit phone number and the service provider of the device.  With this information, I began texting my Geometry students through my email.  Because I only sent mass messages (as opposed to texting individual students), and because the messages were sent from my school email, and not from my person phone, I have the full support of my principal.  The students love it.  It has given me the power to let them know about changes in assignments, and remind them about upcoming assessments.  I have found that students often text me as well, asking questions and making comments about class.  Text messaging in education has been a hot topic in research recently.  A 2011 study found that “students emphasized that the text messages helped direct their studies ore efficiently, and as such, contributed to their overall learning experience,” (Richardson, Littrell, Challman, & Stein, 2011).  What do you think?  Do you think teachers should be texting with their students, if done in a professional manner, or do you think the students should be responsible enough to check their email or classroom webpage?

Faure, C. & Orthober, C. (2011).  Using text-messaging in the secondary classroom.            American Secondary Education, 39(2), 55-76.

Richardson, A., Littrell, O., Challman, S., & Stein, P. (2011).  Using text messaging in an      undergraduate nursing course. Journal of Nursing Education, 50(2), 99-104.

Literacy – The Bigger Picture

May 20, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Posted in uncategorized | 4 Comments

Post written by Sam Mueller

For a period after our first weekend’s worth of classes, I was feeling a bit downhearted that I was required to take a course based on something I felt was not intrinsic to my content area. During the course of my physics education, my best experiences came from learning the material from a professor where English was not our primary form of communication. We would have pow-wows in his office, each sitting with our yellow pads in our laps, and through drawings and arrows, equations and numbers I was able to gain an understanding of some very tough concepts. So if I did not need to read or write English, why was it so necessary for me to learn how to teach m students how to do so?

Once I sat down to develop a topic for this post, I started to break down just what I was facing. A good place to start seemed to be coming u with a definition for the topic. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization  (UNESCO) defines literacy as

the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.

Woah, this means that literacy is so much more than I had been giving it credit for. The reading and writing is only like, 15% or what literacy encompasses. Looking back at the office meetings with my professor, every bit of what our minds were meeting over is contained under the title of literacy.

I had always considered Physics to be a bit of an anomaly when it came to the content standards. Of all the sciences, we require less vocabulary, and are more based on general problem solving skills. If you can use 6-7 formulas, and really understand 5-6 concepts, then you should have no problems passing a high school course. So until I started grasping this larger picture for what literacy meant, I didn’t see too much need for it in my classroom at all.  The ability to identify, understand, interpret and create. These four verbs encompass 2 whole standards for high school sciences, (See Standards 6 and 7) not to mention a large portion of Standard 4.  Over the course of this past week, I have to concede that my opinion about whether or not content literacy holds bearing in the classroom has shifted. Yet even though I acknowledge that developing these types of problem solving skills are useful, we have to be careful about what we keep in the forefront of the lessons. How much technology is needed to really get these literacy skills across? Ultimately time is a valuable commodity in the classroom, so what portion of that should be centered around the communication and interpretation of the materials, instead of the materials themselves?

The Use of Technology in the Classroom

May 19, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Posted in uncategorized | 2 Comments

Post written by Max Zeller

There has been a lot of talk about violent video games and how they effect students in the classroom. According to Craig Anderson

 Aggressive behaviour, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, helping behaviour, and physiological arousal. They found significant effects of violent video games on each of these five variables. Exposure to violent video games increases aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, increases arousal, and decreases helping behaviour. There was no evidence of moderator effects. That is, these effects appeared to be about the same for males and females, for youths less than 18 years as well as older participants, and for experimental and correlation studies.

These are statistical studies that clearly show that violent video games could effect the behaviors of our students, but there are other studies that show that what video games do can help teachers keep their students engaged (only focus on the seven dimensions of video games).

Videogames themselves are becoming increasingly sophisticated (e.g., Poole 2000; Provenzo 1991) to the point that the violence simulated in such games as Doom II have been adopted by the military to train marine combat units (Provenzo 2003), who obviously believe in the educational benefits that will result. Video games are excellent teachers along several dimensions

If you focus on the seven dimensions of video games it explains seven ways why video games are good teachers and what we can learn from them. One example is there are always clear objectives in a video game. No matter what the content of a video game is, you always know what the goal is and you receive instant feedback when you succeed at that goal or fail to reach the next level.

The goal of this post is to show there are positives and negatives to any type of technology, especially technology in the classroom. I think if a teacher is well acquainted with the piece of technology, then there are benefits to using it for students. On the other side of the spectrum, in a classroom where the teacher has no idea what they are doing with technology can waste half of the class trying to figure out what they are trying to accomplish. Many believe that the teacher can learn how to use certain aspects of technology with students but I feel that is waste of student time. Any thoughts?

Where was Content Area Literacy when I was growing up?

May 18, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Post written by Steve Coon

The concept of content area literacy is something that is new to me. Throughout all of high school and my undergraduate in environmental science I struggled with important class texts and scientific journal articles. When tackling an intense scientific writing during the latter part of my education, it was assumed inference of general meaning gathered from the way a term was used, or from supporting parts of text was enough to get one with less knowledge of the topic through the material. For me, this was enough disconnect to make some readings next to impossible to accomplish. From experience I can say that as my head was filled with partial bits of incomplete knowledge I became further and further bogged down and certainly no closer to enlightenment of a given topic.

It’s scary to think how many others have struggled like I have. Unable to address my issues due to frustrations, anxiety and the fear of looking ignorant in the eyes of my professors and peers, and with the hope that things will eventually fall into place sooner or later, I continued to struggle through my education. I feel I was failed by the education system from the beginning. While attending public schools in the town of Webster, as a student population grew through the 80’s and 90’s I can remember feeling like a number lost in a crowd, never getting the attention I needed to truly move forward in a subject as teachers averted their attention to more promising students. At that time, lacking the discipline necessary to make myself stick with it, I became less concerned with getting an education and more interested with the social aspects of school. It wasn’t until it was too late, towards the end of my secondary education and into my undergraduate that I realized how much I had shorted myself.

As I enter into grad school, and I am thrown into a class which covers a topic that has always been my downfall, hearing things I have never heard before like “multiple intelligences” realizing that I again am about to try to navigate an area that is grey to me, lacking the proper background one should have, my stomach turns. However I have wanted to enter the education field to help those students who have been in my shoes. Those who know what it’s like to be left behind time and time again as the rest of the class “clicks”. Instead I am putting my fears aside and trying to be excited for the techniques this class will hopefully teach me and help the students I aspire to teach.

While searching the web for info on content area literacy, one site I liked and found easy to navigate was that of TALK (Technology Assisting Literacy Knowledge). This site contains samples of activities along with resources to additional links for many content areas. Another interesting resource I found was at the site Content Reading Strategies that Work.

I appreciated that this sight discusses a graphic novel series called Timeline which is geared toward historical events, however my first thought when introduced to this class was that a comic book or graphic novel would be a great way to introduce science concepts to students in both elementary and secondary school.

So now that I have come clean and let you all in on my fears of this class and the content that I lack, I’m hoping that you may reference me towards anything else out there that will help me gain some background into the education field whether it be other websites, past course material (for you) that I have yet to be introduced to, etc…  Thanks!

Online Education and Tutoring

May 18, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Posted in uncategorized | 4 Comments

Post written by Jodi Iman

Online education vs. standard classroom education at the high school level, which is best for our students, or is it a combination of both? I have always valued the positive effects a classroom community brings for students; however the arguments for the ladder, online education, are beginning to become more appealing to me.

In a study done by Heather Carr, a Doctor of Education student at Seton Hall University claims at Effects of Online Education, in an in-class environment,

geographical location, small school size, large school size, socioeconomic budget restraints and substandard teachers can prevent students from the same preparatory college or career demands….Computer-based instruction may allow equality where educational inequalities presently exist.

It is my belief that there are enough supporting factors that would lead me to come to the conclusion that a combination of both online and in-class interaction is a great option for our students. With all of the responsibilities we have for our students to be able to gain the best education they can, factors such as student-teacher relationships, classroom communities, student’s ability to create their own high school experiences are all factors that come to my mind when thinking of disadvantages of online education. There are, however advantages that have been presented in doing my research, smaller class sizes, higher student motivation, and availability of more courses than may be offered at the school are all reasons why I believe online education to be a valid option for our students.

One aspect, as a mathematics educator I was afraid of was the availability of the one-on-one aspect many students need in order to succeed in mathematics.  A Mathematics Education Blog describes math online tutoring allowing for “one-to-one interaction between the student and the tutor. It is the best tutoring medium for students who are shy about asking questions”. I appreciated the opportunity for greater participation for less verbal students.

With the issues of student-teacher relationships, course availability, one-on-one tutoring, a student’s personal high-school experience, college preparation and an in-classroom community, do you feel an online high school experience or in-class is better? Is it a combination of both? Is online tutoring a positive or negative? Are we losing the connection between the faculty and the students, or creating a new type of community? What factors made you choose your decision?

With Responsibility Comes Action

May 14, 2011 at 11:06 am | Posted in uncategorized | 18 Comments

In the blog post Are all teachers responsible for literacy?, Kelly Seay discusses the shared responsibility for providing literacy instruction to students.   She writes,

When you think about it, all content-area instruction (English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies) utilize literary or informational text in some manner, so students must comprehend specific texts that are unique in linguistics and cognitive features that are not necessarily shared across disciplines.

With the responsibility of developing literacy in the content area comes many challenges for teachers.  The Alliance for Excellent Education states,

Students need to develop advanced literacy skills to comprehend, analyze, and synthesize large quantities of information in today’s world. Since research shows that literacy development is a continuum over one’s lifetime, improving reading skills in early grades cannot be our only goal. All students need the opportunity to develop into proficient readers, writers, and critical thinkers.

The Alliance also goes on to say,

Results from the most recent National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) test indicate that approximately 25 percent of eighth- and twelfth-grade students read at “below basic” levels. In other words, one in four students tested cannot identify the main idea, understand informational passages, or extend ideas in text.

Given your responsibility as a content area teacher as well as the challenges you must face, what ideas do you have to take action?  What have you discovered that other content area teachers are doing to promote literacy in their classrooms?

3 Words

October 23, 2010 at 9:43 am | Posted in uncategorized | 11 Comments

To summarize our work, choose 3 words from our collectively brainstormed list of terms related to content area literacy.  Use your learning and experiences throughout the course to justify your word choices.

motivation, activating background knowledge, vocabulary, application, reading, writing, community, current relevance, usefulness, connections, levels of difficulty, big concepts, gaps, strategies, citizenship, knowledge, wonder, resources, reading materials, comprehending, visualization,  format, word problems, formulas, pre vs. post knowledge, technology, pleasure reading, technical, discussion, “big picture”

Adolescent Content Literacy

October 3, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Posted in uncategorized | 1 Comment

Posted by Vanessa Belisle

Academic literacy instruction for adolescents: A guidance document from the Center on Instruction discusses research-based recommendations for improving academic literacy instruction in English Language Learners, classes with struggling readers, and content areas.  Academic literacy includes the ability to think about the meaning of a text in order to answer questions that require inferring and drawing conclusions.  The meaning of academic literacy also means being able to learn from the text leading to new understandings.  From content-area classes, students should be able to acquire more knowledge and understanding.  Students should be able to correctly respond to complex questions about content-area text’s content and meaning. (Torgesen, 2007)

After the intial period of learning to read, students must be given new skills specific to reading in order to become proficient readers.  This article outlines six areas of skill and knowledge that must continue to grow through adolescence: vocabulary knowledge, higher-level reasoning and thinking skills, cognitive strategies, reading fluency, content knowledge, and motivation and engagement.  Teachers must take time to teach these skills and build their students’ knowledge.  It would be especially helpful it there was an efficient school-level system to ensure that the needs of the students are met.  The school-level system includes elementary, middle, and high school.  With this system teachers would be able to focus on the main skills and knowledge that their students need.  A skilled reading teacher that effectively teaches comprehension strategies with the content-area teachers reinforcing these strategies will enhance the students’ initial learning and its generalization into other settings.  In order to improve literacy in the content-areas, there are five recommendations Torgesen (2007) made for instructional focus and improvement:

“• increasing the amount of explicit instruction in and support for the use of effective comprehension strategies throughout the school day

• increasing the amount and quality of open, sustained discussion of reading content

• setting and maintaining high standards for the level of text, conversation, questions, and vocabulary that are used in discussions and assignments

• increasing the use of a variety of practices to increase motivation and engagement with reading

• increasing the use of specific instructional strategies that lead to greater learning of essential content knowledge by all students” (Torgesen, 2007)

I believe it is important for content-area teachers to incorporate strategies that students learn from their reading teacher because not only does it help students with comprehension but it also helps students to realize that reading is incorporated into every aspect of life.  Teachers must also give students an ample amount of background information before full comprehension can be made.  Reading in the content-areas also allows for students to see that reading entails many different forms that range from reading words to reading equations.  By teaching our students different strategies for before, during, and after reading, they are able to use these strategies to understand any text.

Torgesen, J. K., Houston, D. D., Rissman, L. M., Decker, S. M., Roberts, G., Vaughn, S., Wexler, J. Francis, D. J, Rivera, M. O., Lesaux, N. (2007). Academic literacy instruction for adolescents: A guidance document from the Center on Instruction. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.

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