Teacher Tap

Technology and Tools

climbingSome people use weights, mats, balls, climbing gear and other apparatus to facilitate fitness. However it's not the tool that makes the difference in fitness, but how they are used. In the same way, a word processor is useless unless you have something worthwhile to write such as a "thank you" letter to a guest speaker or a grant proposal for a summer project. A database needs content such as information about community leaders. A spreadsheet is empty without meaningful data to analyze such a vacation costs. Anyone can copy words and pictures into a PowerPoint, however the value comes from building a persuasive argument regarding logging in National Forests.

information fluencyInformation Fluency

Information fluency is the ability to apply the skills associated with information literacy, computer literacy and critical thinking to address and solve information problems across disciplines, across academic levels, and across information format structures (Callison).

You might look at this definition and say, "I assign a term paper ensure students are information fluent " However inquiry-based assignments aren't just worksheets, essays, term papers, or research papers. Instead, they ask students to become authentic investigators, researchers, and student information scientists. Students must question and challenge the adequacy of information, develop strong arguments, identify convincing evidence, and draw conclusions based on this evidence.

cabretStudents can easily find papers on the Internet. Eliminate plagiarism with high level assignments. To shift from low level to high level activities, transform learning activities from "copying" to "thinking" activities. Let's say your students are reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. It's easy to copy a book summary or book review, it's more difficult to critique a book review and provide high quality examples of where you agree and disagree. Use websites like BookHive to locate book summaries. For older students, go to Teen Reads. Rather than asking for a character analysis.

Go to Sparknotes and critique the character analysis. Explore other study guides:

Brainstorm ways that these "short cut" websites could be used in positive ways.

Literary Criticism and Critical Review

Try It!
Brainstorm ways to shift a "copy" type activity to a higher level. Ideas:
- Start with a resource/problem, not a topic
- Make a comparison
- Prioritize or rank, then justify
- Critique the work of others


Tools, Spaces, and Information Fluency

As you plan lessons, consider how technology tools help young people access, organize, and communicate information and ideas across content areas.

Interactive Tools

You may have students who have difficulty planning for a writing project. Use a resource like or to help students practice this activity.

ReadWriteThink Interactive tools that might be helpful for students:

Other Tools


An increasing number of teachers are sharing their ideas through blogs. Examine how these teachers are sharing their resources, ideas, and perspectives:

Go to Blogging to learn more about blogs in teaching and learning.

Examine student postings and comments. Which are exemplary? Why? What goes into a quality posting and comment?
Reaction to Abraham Lincoln Posting
Reaction to Thomas Alva Edison Posting
Reaction to Harriet Tubman's Life Posting
AP College English



Go to Wiki World to learn more about wikis in teaching and learning.

Explore examples of Local or state interest (i.e., historical building, location, event, noteworthy person, oral history, Indiana (Historical Theatres of Indiana, Historical Preservation, Hoosier Music, Hoosier Round Barns, Indiana Artists). Do they have the characteristics of a successful wiki? Why or why not?

Try It!
Go to Wikispaces for Teachers. Create a username and password. You can create the wiki later, but you MUST use this page for an "ad-free" wiki.
Go to Favorite Day Trips. Contribute a page on your favorite day trip.

Visual Tools: Collaborative Planning and Concept Mapping

Create a "before" starter for students to get started. Looking for photos to use in projects? Try Teacher Tap: Visual Resources.


Download Audacity. This open source software can be used to record and mix audio.



Embed YouTube, SchoolTube, TeacherTube, or other streaming video into your project. Most of the website provide directions.

Use contest websites for scriptwriting and video production ideas. Adapt the Elevator Moods idea for your own short digital camera assignment.


Use the following links for tools and resources that can be embedded in your wiki projects.

Differentiate with Tool Features

Consider how features of specific tools can be used to promote learning. Ideas:

Try It!
Examine a feature in a word processor, database, spreadsheet, presentation, concept mapping or other tool you haven't used in the past. Think about how this feature might be helpful for particular students. Incorporate this feature into an assignment.

Establish Learning Spaces

In addition to using technology tools, explore ways to get students involved with communication and collaboration through setting up online learning spaces.


Go to Learning Spaces: Discussion Forums for ideas.

Social Networks

Although most people are familiar with adult tools such as MySpace, there are many ways to apply these technologies to family-friendly and educational applications.

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