Sunday, September 30, 2007

A helpful tool or a way to cheat?

There has been some discussion on LM_Net recently about this website: It calls itself a Thesis Builder and Online Outliner and promises it will help students draft a clear thesis statement for your persuasive essay. It then give students a set of directions to use the site.

I currently have 4th and 5th grade students who need to write persuasive essays. So, I took a look at Thesis Builder Online Outliner to see if it would be a useful organization tool to help them with their essays. First, I am not sure it is a good thing for elementary students that cannot type. But, when I worked at the high school I did have students who could have benefited from using this website to organize their essays. Keep in mind that I am not 100% convinced that it is a useful tool yet. I have used it two or three times using various arguments and it seems to give me nonsense back. I tried to put in an argument regarding episode 82 of Cranky Geeks. The geeks argued about bloggers being considered journalists and therefore entitled to protection under shield laws. The guest was Josh Wolf, a blogger who according to the blurb on the website “received the Longest Content-Related Jail Term of any Journalist in U.S. History--For Not Turning Over a Video” to police. I would love to use this podcast to spur a first amendment discussion in a high school government class. But I digress; when I put in the information into Thesis Builder, I got some nonsense back. They took the information I put into the blanks, and jumbled it around. There were double periods in some sentences and in one spot there was a comma at the beginning of a sentence. If students are looking for correct punctuation, and a way to cheat this site will not give it to them. But, if students are stuck for a thesis statement and want to organize and re-organize their thoughts, I think this is a great site. It is no different than giving students graphic organizers to help them plan out their papers. I think it is neat that it is online, it may appeal to those reluctant to use paper graphic organizers. It could be another tool for teachers to introduce to students. I don’t agree with those who think it is cheating because the students have to plug their own ideas into the blanks on the website. At most it helps them organize their thoughts. Oh, now that I am thinking of it, I wonder if the website wants students to put to leave out punctuation in the blank boxes and then it will put the punctuation in itself. I will have to try that next.
Anyway, if you have not listened to the John Dvorak Cranky Geek episode above, listen and then let me know if you think bloggers should be considered journalists… and if Sebastian is correct that journalism schools are a waste of time. It was a very lively discussion and I found myself talking back to my computer!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Apple Tip I just Love...

I am trying to update the Arrowhead Library website and wiki and add pictures. Usually it takes me a long time to open the pictures in PhotoShop or some other program, not to edit the pictures but just to make them smaller for the web and save them on my flash drive to transport to school. A recent Apple Quick Tip of the Week is now saving me a lot of time. All I have to do now is open the picture in Preview and drag the little icon at the top of the Preview bar into an e-mail. The Apple e-mail application then gives me the choice to resize the picture in the e-mail. It does not change the size of the original picture on your hard drive. I can then e-mail the pictures to myself. And, when I am sitting at my school computer updating my website, I can open my e-mail and ta-da… the pictures are there! I can then upload them to the school website. Of course my school district could make it easier for me if they allowed me to update my website from an Apple but that is another story! The pictures in this post are some of the pictures I e-mailed to myself using this tip.