Learning Activities to Promote Digital Fluency

Paraphrasing vs. Plagiarism Using TurnItIn - Have students do research on a specific topic or person using various online sources. Students should create jot notes of their research, then paraphrase the information to write a mini report. Students’ writing is submitted into the TurnItIn website which scans for similarities on the internet. This software allows students to see see see if their writing is too similar to their research sources. Students have the opportunity to resubmit their work multiple times. This activity allows students to see the difference between paraphrasing information and plagiarising internet sources, and forces students to extract key ideas from web sources instead of copying and pasting large portions of text verbatim.  

Explanation of TurnItIn Activity

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Wikipedia Critique - Wikipedia has become the default starting place for many students in their research. It is important for students to know that the site can be helpful, but that there are often many errors in the articles. In order to develop a keen eye to evaluate Wikipedia articles students will both critique and supplement a Wikipedia article. Students will first select an article on Wikipedia that is relevant to a research project in their course of study. They will then evaluate the article by evaluating the sources used in the article. This will begin with an evaluation of the resources used as sources. Students will then evaluate whether or not the author of the Wikipedia article has properly interpreted the sources used and if the author has omitted important sources relevant to the topic. Students will then offer corrections and amendments to the Wikipedia article.

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Wikipedia ‘Plot your Route’ Game - Choose two arbitrary topics or ideas related to a course. Have students look up the topics on Wikipedia in an effort to find a series of links which connection the two ideas (similar to the concept of Six Degrees of Separation). The goal of the game is to connect the two topics in the the fewest number of links. This exercise encourages curiosity, has students practice skim-scan-scour techniques and requires students to analyze and evaluate information. Most importantly, this exercise trains students to understand the connections between information and how ideas are linked - a vital skill in the twenty-first century.

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Safe Online Surfing - One of the core skills in digital literacy is safe online surfing. To facilitate the skills necessary for online safety, students can work through the activities on the FBI’s Safe Online Surfing Internet Challenge site. THis website features grade specific activities designed for students in grades 3 through 8. Each area contains games, videos, and interactive features that teach students the basics of internet safety. Students should discuss what they learn on the site with their teacher following completion of the activities.

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Evaluating Websites - One of the most important tasks for students working on research projects is evaluating websites. Using the UC Berkley “Evaluating Web Sites” checklist students will evaluate three websites related to their research. They will assess the websites trustworthiness and accuracy. Students will provide specific reasons why a website is trustworthy and accurate and add their evaluation to a class Wiki page for reference by future students. Periodically, teachers can ask students to evaluate the evaluation made by previous students in order to determine if deficiencies in websites have been fixed or if once reputable websites have now become untrustworthy. This activity will remind students of the dynamic nature of the information on the internet.

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Creative Commons Scavenger Hunt - Understanding ethical issues regarding digital content develops thinking habits based on empathy and compassion. Students should know where to find creative commons multimedia material to use in their own projects and give proper credit to authors. In this activity, students are given a list of digital content they must collect. For example, students may need to find a photograph of mountains that can be used for non-commercial purposes or an instrumental song which is copyright-free.

Lesson: Copyright and Creative Commons   Handout: How to find Creative Commons content

Bonus Activity: student create their own Creative Commons label for their own work.

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Concept Mapping with Search Function - Instagrok provides students with a different way to make concept maps. This is a brainstorming/webbing site that allows students to type in a concept and from that, different categories are generated – like a concept map. When you click on something, it adds more info – including links to the internet, it is google based, so it will give the best four options (but you may have to monitor the links).

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Concept Mapping for Civic Mindedness - MindMeister or Popplet are great mind mapping tools which can promote civic mindedness in students by allowing students to develop their voice. It is a safe place for students to have a dialogue and take an active part in issues in their school and wider community. Students can work together to examine and map out decisions made by leaders in their own community, nationally and globally. Students can collaborate on creating thesis and supporting statements for essay writing, collaborate on arguments for debates in the humanities classroom. Students can also collaborate on creating new ideas for alternative ending for characters in a class novel and map out the outcome of these choices or use it in health classes to consider the results of different lifestyle choices.

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Tinkering with Scratch Programming and Makey Makey - Scratch software is graphic programming software designed to introduce users to coding by providing visual coding blocks that can be uniquely assembled and modified. When used in correlation with Makey Makey, an invention kit which turns ordinary objects into touchpads, students as young as second grade can design their own interactive stories, games, or animations. When experimenting with the programming software, students must find errors in lines of code which forces them to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively to solve problems.

Embed this Makey Makey video

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Create and Explore Art Projects - Soda Play is a digital art site designed to allow students to create and explore projects in an open ended way. Students can reflect on their learning as they work by incorporating other tools like taking screenshots of their digital projects which they can then input into Microsoft Word or Google Docs to form the basis of their writing and reflecting work. This process of reflection can help students to work on many skills, make note of their milestones and chart their growth while learning from their failure and successes. Students can learn to collaborate, share their ideas and prepare for presentations.

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Create Word Clouds with Wordle - The Wordle website is a great way for students to brainstorm in small or large groups in the humanities classroom. Students can add words to the wordle from images, paintings, pictures they have examined in art, characters they have read, or presentations they have seen. Together with their classmates students can build and create activities from the wordle ,their is room for scaffolding. Poetry writing can sometimes be difficult for students but with this tool students can brainstorm together to generate ideas or use it as a starting point.  

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Understanding Media Techniques - Media fluency involves students looking critically at media messages and mediums to decode the hidden meanings and bias contained in media. Using Google Slides, students collaboratively research a media technique and create an anchor poster to explain the technique to the rest of the class. These posters can be displayed in the classrooms and turned into cue cards to assist students with future media analysis activities. Deconstructing media messages is vital for students to be able to navigate the digital world and is the first step towards creating effective media pieces themselves.  

Student Examples: Media Technique Posters

Students Analyzing Media Messages

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Evaluating Voices through Invention - An important aspect of digital literacy is determining the proper medium for the message. In order determine how important the medium is, students will work in pairs to invent a product that solves a real world problem. The students will then develop a pitch for potential investors using different ‘voices’ including, but not limited to, video, audio only, print, and soundless presentation (e.g., PowerPoint, Keynote, etc.).  The persuasive power of the pitch will be determined by peer evaluation. In this stage students from other classes will view the pitches in groups in one of the various forms. That is, individual groups will view the pitch in only one form. Individual students will then evaluate each pitch and vote for the best pitch.

The students who created the pitches will then evaluate why a particular medium was more effective than another.

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Artful Storytelling with Storybird - Encourage peer mediation, and develop empathy by allowing peer mediators to work on solving disputes through the Storybird website. Students can recreate ideas through stories and select art work (contributed by many artists) that reflect the emotions they experience when they face difficult situation with their peers or have difficulty expressing their emotions. Students can show through art only or art and words the results of their actions and how it affects others. This is good for creating social stories that help with understanding perspectives. This site can be used to promote peer tutoring and collaboration by pairing students with varying skills level to work on art and humanities project. Students who are good with words can be paired with students who are visual learners to create scenes for stories. It helps to build leadership and gives students a good understanding of role modelling.

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Create a Movie Trailer - In order to be digitally fluent students must be able to evaluate digital media to discern it’s accuracy and helpfulness. A creative way for this to happen is by the creation of a movie trailer. In preparation, students will watch three movie trailers of movies that they have seen in order to determine how the movie trailers accurately depict the film and how they are in some way deceptive about the contents of the movie. Students will then work in groups to think of a movie idea and the best way to entice people to watch the film. This will help students see the ways in which media ‘frames’ issues so that they are attractive to potential viewers, customers, etc. See this website for more information.

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Solve Real-Life Problems Using Digital Posters - Students work collaboratively to design a solution to an authentic issue (e.g. How can we reduce our impact on the environment?) Students create a digital poster and e-brochure to bring awareness to a community or global issue. This topic of the activity could easily be modified to cover the specific content of any course and the choice of medium can differ as well. To complete the task, students must also use information fluency to collect data, navigate collaboration fluency to dream and design a solution, and media fluency to deliver the solution to their peers and the public.

List of possible softwares to create digital posters

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Open-Ended Multimedia Projects - Designing projects for students to express themselves in ways other than simply verbalizing or writing is key to the development of digital fluencies. By keeping projects open-ended, students can draw on their own special talents and abilities to communicate meaning to the audience using technology tools of their choice. Since it is the content and not the use of technology that teachers are required to assess, students can develop technological skills in an area which interests them.

See media form options here. 

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Visit this website for project based learning ideas

to promote the development of digital fluencies.