Tools to Support Students with Their Online Research Assignments

This semester, students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Lizeth Rodriguez

With the advent of technology, digital literacies have facilitated a wider range of possibilities for research papers done by students. With great power, such as the one generated by search engines, comes great responsibility for the students to filter accurate information. When a student is given a topic on a assignment and they decide to search for related material, as soon as they type any keyword in the search engines they may get millions of related websites. For example, I searched for the water cycle on Google, and this generated about 146,000,000 results in 0.22 seconds according to their statistics feedback. Now out of all of these websites that google provided for me, some maybe accurate, but, surprisingly, the first website on the list is from Wikipedia. Although some information on Wikipedia may be correct, for the most part it is not reliable since any one can modify the information independent of their expertise. Teachers can guide the students by providing some guidelines when they search information online.

First, we will look into what is a typical research sequence for many students (Ippolito, Lawrence & Zaller, 2013, p. 119):

Searching in Wikipedia or Google

  • Browsing quickly through websites for ideas and quotes
  • Cutting and pasting information from the Web into one’s own writing without providing proper attribution for it
  • Viewing information as free, accurate, and trustworthy
  • Treating online information as equal to print information

Clines and Cobb suggest the following strategies for students when they research online (Ippolito, Lawrence & Zaller, 2013, p. 119):

  • Checking the purpose of the Web site (for example, the extensions .edu, .org, .gov, .com can often indicate the orientation or purpose of the site)
  • Locating and considering the author’s credentials to establish credibility
  • Looking for recent updates to establish currency or relevancy
  • Examining the visual elements of the site such as links to establish relationships with other sources of information

One approach to website evaluation that has been developed by researchers at Michigan State University is the WWWDOT framework. This framework asks the students to consider a set of six dimensions (Ippolito, Lawrence & Zaller, 2013, p. 119):

  1. Who wrote this, and what credentials do they have?
  2. Why is it written?
  3. When was it written and updated?
  4. Does this help meet my needs?
  5. Organization of website?
  6. To do list for the future.

The teachers can direct the students by providing guidelines when they are searching material online utilizing the above strategies and others they can formulate. For example they can ask them to make sure that the material is dated from five years to present year, a minimum of three professional websites. Teachers can also ask the students to research in their school’s library search engine, and to reference all their material. With practice and dedication, the students will understand the importance of legitimate and accurate research.

Reference: Ippolito, J., Lawrence, J. F. & Zaller, C. (2013). Adolescent literacy in the era of the common core.(pp. 1-285). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Educational Press.



This semester in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature, students were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Gladys Quintanilla

bookshelfIf you asked me three years ago about whether or not I enjoyed reading eBooks on an electronic device I would respond with a strong “NO.” Three years ago I decided to give into the hype and I purchased my first electronic reading device from Barnes and Noble, the Nook.  I really thought that my life as a reader was going to change and that I would have more options, but I was not satisfied. After about a week, my device was quickly ignored and placed on my bookshelf with no electric charge.  Around that time, I was given the opportunity to teach 6th grade reading (I was teaching science three years ago). It took me awhile to become adjusted to my new curriculum and I am still developing as an effective reading teacher.

Why am I sharing this information, you might ask?  I now prefer reading all my favorite novels, magazines, newspapers, etc., on my tablet.  Not only have I become accustomed to reading on my device, but I have been incorporating eBooks in my classroom.  I would like to share the reasons and the advantages of why I think you should love eBooks as much as I do…

1. In the Classroom

Recently, in my classroom I have been incorporating eBooks with a few of my students.  Of course, we must always consider the costs of the devices and the availability of them in our classroom. However, I have recently been looking for grants for extra help to provide electronic resources in class.   One example of how I have incorporated EBooks is with one specific student who refused to pick up a chapter book.  He is an awesome student; however because of his history of failure in reading standardized tests, he is not confident.  I decided to introduce him to a book using my tablet.  He felt very special since I took the time to do that.  He became so excited with the book that he lost the fear of reading chapter books.  Also, the librarian has a few Kindle devices that are available for checkout.  I incorporated these with my Book Club members recently and some of them are saving money to purchase one for the summer.  As educators, we need to foster the love of reading and what better way than to introduce them with technology!

2. Delivered Instantly

EBooks, as soon as you purchase them, are delivered instantly to your electronic device.  Not only do I have my eBooks on my tablet, but I also have them on my iPhone, and when possible I catch up on my reading at the doctor’s office, restaurant, or at the beach, which is my favorite.  So, if you see me on my iphone, I am not always texting!

3. Evolving

EBooks are also constantly evolving with new features. For example, I am currently reading the Divergent Series by Veronica Roth, which I highly recommend, and one of the EBooks has exclusive interviews with the author, videos, and interactive features installed with the purchase of the book.  Not only with fictional novels, but let’s say for example you like to cook, a cookbook might include videos with a chef demonstrating the recipe.

4. Environment Friendly

Obviously, if you purchase eBooks you are contributing to the environment in a positive way.  The publishing companies do not have to spend so much on paper, and book binding.  So, the next time that you visit the bookstore to enjoy a cup of coffee, make sure that you have your device charged and ready for entertainment.


Literacy Instruction with Media Technologies

This semester, students in READ 3325.20B were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By San Juanita Sánchez and Silvia Vela

With the innovation of the internet and new modern technologies, we have all changed the way we live. Educators have begun the implementation of literacy instruction with media technologies. The use of these materials in the classroom brings both positive and not so positive aspects inside the classroom. For example, it is a way that students get in a way “motivated” to want to study literacy but this is a matter that can easily get out of control. As teachers we need to keep in mind that technical issues can always arise and these situations consume valuable learning time.

Not enough knowledge about technology and pedagogy by the teacher can also be a problem in literacy instruction inside a classroom. If the teacher is afraid of these technologies and believes that these media technology literacy instruction does not go hand in hand with her traditional literacy instruction, the literacy learning expectations from a child will be affected. Many times the children becomes mesmerized with the media technology and completely let go of the focus with is literacy learning. There is more to literacy learning that just having children successfully manipulate computer programs. Of course there are helpful programs such as Microsoft, PowerPoint, certain websites, and other programs that truly assist learning (literacy instruction) but as teachers we are whom should focus on what truly assists our students learning and what doesn’t.

In my opinion, I do agree that media technology is helpful in learning and many other aspects in our lives, but also as educators it is important to know how to correctly implement technologies in our classrooms. It is a fact that these tools can motivate student to learn but we need to make sure that they don’t get lost in the idea that media technologies are a “toy” but a tool to assist them in their learning.



This semester in READ 6310, students were asked to contribute one post to our blog.

by I. Martinez

 Magazines remind me of picture books, because like picture books, magazines arouse my curiosity and creativity with their bold, unabashed display of colors and images. And well, magazines are that seemingly noncommittal form of literature that only require that I sit back, relax and soak in the view. It’s sort of like window shopping; I get to survey all of my points of interest before zeroing in on a topic that I want to read about, and maybe later I’ll pursue it at greater depth. Magazines are those beautiful works of art that you find strewn across coffee tables at doctor’s offices that quickly become worn and torn from so much reading and from having some of their pages donated.  And by “donated”, I mean that some of its pages were torn out by a patron who just couldn’t do without a recipe, or a “how-to” solution. Aw, c’mon, ‘fess-up! Haven’t you ever looked guiltily from side to side before quietly tearing out a magazine page and quickly tucking it away in your purse? Yep, most of us have because we can’t bear the thought of saying goodbye to that page(s). Well, good news, you can now create your own magazines and keep them too! And you can even share them without losing pages!

Flipboard, which is an iPad app, and an Android app on Google Play, is my latest rave, and I think it will be yours too, especially if you work with high school students. With this wonderful app, hesitant high school readers can see a whole other side to reading by actively creating their own magazine which they can then share with their classmates through email, or share with the world at large by permitting public viewing, and by the way, if the student becomes a master of magazine production, then other account holders may wish to “subscribe” to his published creations on Flipboard.

Flipboard is a free “build-a-magazine” app with free membership that contains free social media news for its readers. Once you are given an account, you can pick out a few topics that are of interest to you and then simply select articles from within those topics and add them to your magazine, and voila!, you have your own tailored magazine.

Let’s say for example that I decided to create a magazine about books. Well, I could entitle my magazine “A Book Worm’s Corner” then go to the topic “Books” and begin adding individual stand alone articles to my own magazine, or I could also subscribe to one of the magazines listed within “Books”, and pick articles from within those magazines to “cut out” and also add to my own magazine. In my case, I subscribe to “book writers & coffee tea corner” by Danielle Szynkarski, and from it, I can pull out articles, poems, graphics and arrange them into my own magazine. Then I can proceed to search the rest of the literature included within the “Books” topic and add in some reviews of current adult books, and perhaps add in a section about movies based on books, like the LIFE of PI. After that, I can move on to my next interest and create another magazine. I also have the freedom to decide if I want to share my magazines or keep them private.

Currently, the available topics within Flipboard are: News, Business, Tech & Science, Sports, Photos & Design, Arts & Culture, Living, Food & Dining, Travel, Style, Music, Books, and City Guides, plus of course all the created magazines by account members. Of course, teachers should preview all of these topic sections for appropriateness, and may want to exclude one or more sections of the available topics. But, overall, this app is very reader friendly and I think teenagers will spend hours reading the articles as they leaf through and pick out items to include in their tailor-made magazines.

In the classroom, this magazine creation activity could function as an ice breaker at the beginning of the school year, because each magazine would be an original that would reveal the interests of it’s creator. Or, it could also be an assignment of the teacher’s choosing to focus on differing topics, like science or sports, or it could be an ongoing class project whereby the class produces a magazine for the entire school to view each week. That would definitely bring out the “journalist” in many of students, because they would undoubtedly take pride in their contributions to the school’s website. The wonderful thing about Flipboard is that its news and contributions are always new, as are the cover stories.

I also believe that elementary and middle school teachers could make use of this app by creating a monthly magazine for parents and children. It would just take a few quick clicks to create it and send it out by email or by posting it on the teacher’s (school’s) website for easy viewing. Many parents won’t be able to resist leafing through the magazines and discussing the subject matter with their children. Unfortunately, at present, Flipboard does not offer any news or magazines in Spanish, although the company says that they are considering this possibility. If enough people request it, it just might happen. You may also wish to visit their website at:

Literary Sources for Independent Readers

This semester in READ 6309 students explored components of a strong reading program. As part of their work they wrote posts for our blog.

I. Martinez

 In an interview with Dr. Schall on the importance of independent reading, she stated that the practice of independent reading provides readers with the opportunity to practice all the skills that they have learned from the read-alouds, shared reading, and guided reading. In conjunction to this, Dr. Stephan Krashen states that in order to motivate students to read, we must provide them with easy access to different forms of literature.

 In previous blog posts, I have mentioned several apps that can help both the teacher and the students get free downloads of books, but in this blog post I would like to mention apps that make other forms of literature available to students who find it difficult to commit to reading literature in book form. After all, in independent reading, the student should have a choice in what he/she reads, instead of the teacher making that choice for him/her.

For young readers, apps such as Bear and Duck, or BrainPop provide reading material and the supporting audio. Of course, the audio can be muted. For middle school through high school students, the comic app Wormworld is an absolutely beautiful fit. Besides the comic storyline, the app’s developer is also the app’s graphic artist who reaches out to his audience by journaling about his ongoing creations in a very down-to-earth manner. His amazing artwork reflects 300+ hours of work per scene!  

Students interested in history and ancient artifacts may enjoy HistoryMaps, which has maps spanning from the 4th century to the 20th century. Your history buffs may also enjoy the apps Timeline Eons and World’s Fair (Biblion). Timeline Eons places important worldwide events into an easy to navigate timeline, and provides readers with the option to “tap” and read up on more of the highlighted event. For example, one interesting story that appears on this timeline is that of the recent assassination attempt of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani female student who was shot by a Taliban gunman because she advocated female education. The Biblion World’s Fair app is from the New York Public Library and it has stunning black and white photos and articles from the years 1939-1941, before the United States joined the Second World War.

There are also apps that explore science topics from the stars to the ocean deep. The apps Star Walk, and NASA will thrill your stargazers. Both of these apps provide photos with corresponding text. The NASA app even tracks when certain stellar events will happen over the McAllen, Texas sky. For very young readers, the app National Geographic for Young Explorers has a couple of free magazine downloads to teach them about creepy, crawly land animals. The app Creatures of LIGHT from the American Museum of Natural Science has photos of bioluminescent organisms from both land and ocean along with short paragraphs that describe these creatures. Also worthy of mention is the app 3D Medical Images. The photos have little written about them; however, they may just spark the interest of students who are willing to explore a medical phenomenon. Teachers should preview the photos in this app to see if they are age appropriate for their grade level.

Students who are 17 years old may enjoy the app Comics Plus, which has both free and paid subscriptions available from several magazines. If your high school aged 17+ students find it more interesting to read their own creations, they may be interested in the app 99 words. In this app, the student has the choice of writing his/her own story alone or joining another writer in finishing a book. Apps that may appeal to the advanced reader are iTunes U, and JetPack by Purdue University. In these apps, the student can find a multitude of topics listed. A good companion to these apps is TED, which is not per se a reading app, but it presents talks by some of the world’s most interesting people. It is an app that can motivate readers to continue to learn and explore the world around them.

Apps That Complement Guided Reading

This semester in READ 6309 students examined components of a strong reading program. As part of their work, they wrote about these components for this blog.

I. Martinez

 With guided reading, students develop predicting, questioning and the ability to consider what plausible events may transpire in a story. Instead of the usual quizzing of comprehension questions that usually have one correct answer and limit the imagination of readers, guided reading provides an opportunity for students to explore the possibilities contained in a story and its characters. Students learn to predict, test their predictions, and to infer and support their inferences with evidence from the text. This provides several opportunities for the student to become a reader who questions elements of the story, the characters, the author, etc. instead of being a reader who is only allowed to answer the teacher’s questions.

appsA good resource for text that can be used during guided reading is the app named Short Stories. Stories found with this app can be as brief as 2 or 4 pages in length. Likewise, the free apps: Kindle, iBooks, and nook all have free children’s books available for download. Kindle also offers a free sampling of kindle books, for example the book entitled “Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life” by James Patterson offers the first 20 chapters free. Also, Play Books, an app by Google provides free downloads, and like iBooks, it also gives the appearance of an open book with the indented crease in the middle and has the page turning ability. This visual feature is appealing to readers because it creates the illusion that they holding an actual hard copy printed book. These apps are all free resources that provide teachers with a variety of genres that they can use in the classroom.

 In cases where teachers already have a selected text that they would like to cut up into sections, the app QuickReader can be used. QuickReader has a fantastic option called Pasteboard. If you highlight and copy text from Pages (a word processor app) or the app GoodReader, you can immediately open QuickReader and select Pasteboard to find your previously copied text already pasted onto a page. This app also provides the option of Speed Reading. The teacher can set the pace for reading the sections of text from 10 words per minute, which is very, very slow, to a lightning 4000 words per minute. I think this app will help students who have difficultly with tracking words and students who are easily distracted because each word of the text is consecutively highlighted, making it almost impossible for the reader not to follow along. Although the words in this app are highlighted, there is no audio, which is in keeping with the objective of having the students read the text silently and in measured portions. By the way, this app also has the capability of downloading free books from Feedbooks, Baen Books, Project Gutenberg, Smashwords, and the Internet Archive.

Shared Reading for School and Home

This semester in READ 6309, students examined components of a strong reading program. As part of their work, they were required to contribute to this blog.

By I. Martinez

 Shared reading involves the teacher reading a text while the students read along silently. This reading practice supports students’ comprehension, reading fluency and language acquisition. While read-alouds and shared reading both give the students the freedom to activate their schema, imagination, and curiosity, shared reading adds text into the equation to help the students link the spoken word to the written word.

During the shared reading, the teacher’s reading enables the students to hear the natural cadence of a particular poem, or the accentuation of certain phrases of spoken language that carry deeper meaning. For example, the manner in which a person’s pitch rises when asking a question, or the way words are elongated when a character is sad or confessing a transgression, or the rapid rhythm of an apologetic character. The interaction between teacher, student and text creates a classroom atmosphere that is conducive to learning, and equally as important, nurtures the love of reading. As a teacher, I believe that shared reading is crucial for all students, especially second language learners and students with special needs. Shared reading should be done everyday and several times a day, but of course, this cannot always be accomplished. So, what about the time students have at home? After all, reading should not stop at 3:30 p.m. I believe the shared reading experience can be extended into the after-school hours with the help of technology.

photoIf your students are lucky enough to have an iPad or iPhone at home, they can continue to enjoy reading while hearing the text read to them by their teacher. The app Book Creator is a wonderful way to give students this experience. This app allows for text, graphics, video and recordings to be neatly bundled and presented in book form. The classroom teacher can produce multiple books with graphics and his/her recordings of the text being read and then email it to his/her students or the students’ parents to be read in iBooks. Better yet, several teachers can collaborate and create a multitude of texts to be shared universally within a grade level. And, it could also be used for adding additional information, graphics and video to a chapter from a content area text that has proven to be difficult for the students to understand. Additionally, the app can be used as a vehicle for writing a language experience story as a whole class activity, or the students themselves can write their own books and share them with their classmates. Using this iPad app might just do the trick to encourage the most reticent student into producing a masterpiece “What I Did During My Summer Vacation” story infused with rich language, photos, and video. I think this app would work well with elementary through middle school students.

For the upper middle school students and high school students who enjoy an even greater level of sophistication, the mac with OS X Lion Server offers classroom teachers with the ability to produce quality audio podcasts with PowerPoint slides or picture sharp video podcasts with the teacher or classmate as the “podcast movie star,” and background text. The teachers can use GarageBand for the audio portion, PowerPoint or Keynote for slides, iPhoto for graphics, and the iSight camera and iMovie ’11 for the video portion. This in turn can be uploaded to itunes and shared with everyone, or just one classroom. Imagine a deaf education teacher signing a story while the text appears beside him/her so deaf students can simultaneously see the signing and the text, or imagine how a second language, recent immigrant student may be able to finally conquer the English language because of that extra exposure and repetition a podcast can provide. During the school day, the teacher who practices shared reading creates the positive dynamics and enthusiasm necessary for successful reading, and then extends his/her “reach” into the home with the use of technology.