Friday, October 15, 2010

Powerful Free Search Tool - A Must for Researching

This week I have had the pleasure of having YoLink representatives fly to my town and present their free refine search tool plug in. The company taught to all of my 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students, presented at the MAIS-TEC meeting, along with visiting and presenting at other local area schools and school systems. This is a demonstration that all teachers must tap into. If you can't have the representatives come to your school you can ask for them to teach via a webinar.
How they instruct and talk to the students is amazing. The presenters make this tool a child's ah-ha moment. I found many students utilizing the tool immediately after their session. It is a way for all of us to trim out the fluff in our internet searches and as Brennan Igoe said, "have x-ray vision on our search results to sneak a peak at what the links contain." (You use the term having x-ray vision to any group of children and you have their attention.)

I can not thank YoLink, Brennan Igoe, Courtney McConnell, and Joe Pagliocco enough for what they have shared and taught us here. I highly recommend others to do what I have done and study and learn this great free tool. (Thanks YoLink for making it free to us too!)

This post contains my notes from what I learned about YoLink and how to teach this tool to the students. It also contains a few fix features that we had to do at our school.
1) We needed to make sure that we had the most recent plug-in installed.
2) Since we are a Google Apps for Education school using a different domain name that @gmail we had to use the Change Domain Name link found in the pull down menu beside the YoLink toolbar plug-in.
3) Our school filter blocked the YoLink search bar that is embedded in the site from working. We had to allow and to go through.

Here are my notes:
ask kids what issues do they get when they deal with google
- lots of hits - buried information

yolink can help you find the good sites
ask kids if they have read choose your own adventure books. if so did you ever peak to see where your results would lead you?
- YoLink lets you see what the different links given to you in your search results page contain. It is like x-ray vision on the Internet.

YoLink only can search any webpage with text. (PDFs, online books, search engine result pages, websites, etc)

teach students endings of URLs. talk about .com .net .edu and .gov links
- know that edu and gov are more trustworthy.
if you use a .com or .net (etc) then you need to find multiple instances for your site info - cuz lots of stuff not true.
(discuss editing of sites like wikipedia. purchasing your own site via godaddy. show pacific northwest tree octopus - site = hoax)
Show students how to search w/in google by adding site:edu or site:gov to just get those URL pages back = more reliable info or 4me.sweetsearch - for students (K-college and K-8) like a free nettrekker. Preselected, preapproved sites from people who are education based jobs

Demo YoLink tool:
go to google
conduct a search
open yolink plugin
Click Find to rescan google results - extracts paragraphs that brings out keywords goes into each site and searches for the text without having to actually open
hover over results in yolink side - it will show where the link is - click on it and it will open up link in search result window leaving yolink side up

color coding feature - add more terms - each color represents different searched word
can change to bring back paragraphs that contain ALL key words

click find again and goes through more links

YoLink - partnership with others to search & share information

YoLink search results: numbers represent link on the site it is skimming, letters represent paragraph within site.

yellow star - creates a bookmark on your browser - saves cache copy of page - so if internet page changes - search results will be saved on the yolink server. saved page keeps yolink toolbar with keyword highlighted

share icon or alien fingers - web 2.0 features
(if school blocks social sites it is still blocked)
- click easy bib then click citation button

email features sends a link to the cached copy with yolink search results

click google doc link and it pulls out paragraphs you found with link on a doc or if in spreadsheet - each paragraph is in a separate cell

can use with online text books

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reflections on TeachMeet Tennessee

This past Saturday I hosted a TeachMeet in Memphis, TN. I learned so much in this process as it was my first time to put on a conference.

Lesson #1... You can not put on a conference yourself. A team formed in the spring to organize a Memphis TeachMeet but when the date and place was set co hosts were scarce. Decisions were made with a collegue but putting things into action was done solo. It is hard to committee yourself because everyone is busy, crazy busy. But pulling off an event involves team work. I can't be more appreciative to Cathy Kyle and Cindy Brock for stepping up and helping me.

Lesson #2... You can't make a crowd appear. Publicity is a must. Selling the idea of attending a conference that benefits your job is one that is hard to push, especially when you don't get credit for professional development by attending. The date, time, length of event matters. But then you have to get your working friends to buy into it and want to come. Apparently my town is one that likes ideas but the flame tends to poof out at the last minute. This was a strange learning experience to me because I am all excited about my online professional learning environment. I twitter, blog read, podcast feed, etc with others who are apparently on board and enthusiastic about giving of their time to growing professionally too. So it was very hard for me to realize that many, many people weren't as thrilled and as excited as me about a free unconference learning event such as my little TeachMeet TN.

Lesson #3 or really my opinion...I don't think door prizes are needed in TeachMeets. Folks should be going just to learn, network, and be inspired. Conference organizers should not have to dangle a carrot infront of people to coerce them into coming. People should come for the sake of improving their skills for the kids benefits. If you have to have door prizes then you need sponsers. Sponsers are vendors. Teachers (conference attendees) aren't the ones purchasing stuff for their schools and aren't the money buying decision makers for the schools. So vendors at TeachMeet that are selling a product that you have to pay for is silly and awkward.

With my little lessons and my first day off of school for a fall break I had a little idea pop up in my head. If it is the online learning network that gets just as excited as me about learning and growing my skills for the kids then why don't we have a Cyber TeachMeet? Elluminate sessions could work, but might make some folks nervous about being in control of that. So I propose a skyped ustream Cyber TeachMeet. At my little TeachMeet I skyped in @cybraryman1, @ColinTGraham, and @dughall. There sessions were just as fantastic as the presenters in person. It was so simple too! So why not create a CyberTeachMeet by getting other educators to share via skype, I'll project their stuff through Ustream and share it with others. The chat room that goes with Ustream will give the cyber attendees a place to talk, raise questions, etc and I can be their voice to the skyping presenter. What do you think? Interested?