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.


Global Lens Film Series at UTPA

By Readingintheborderlands

UTPArecently announced the schedule for the Global Lens Foreign Film series, which begins November 10. This year the series includes eight films with English subtitles from Asia, Latin American and the Middle East. Screenings are open at no cost to students, faculty, staff and the entire community.

You can find the schedule and information about each film at the UTPA Global Lens website.

La Epoca de Oro: Media Exhibit at MoSTH

By Readingintheborderlands

On September 11, 2011 La Epoca de Oro: The Golden Age of Mexican Cinema in the Rio Grande Valley exhibit opens at the Museum of South Texas History. The museum newsletter gives some background:

In the early 1930s, talking pictures became a global phenomenon, and the Mexican movie industry entered what is now termed the Golden Age of Cinema, or La Epoca de Oro, finding a ready audience for its products in the United States, with its expanding Spanish-speaking population.

Nowhere was that more obvious than in Texas, and expecially the Rio Grande Valley, where there were Hispanic families who had lived in the region for generations, as well as an influx of Mexican workers supporting the burgeoning growth in the area before, during, and after World War II. At one point, more than 30 theaters operated in South Texas, showing nothing but Spanish-language films.

The exhibit will tell the story of these theaters and will display original Mexican movie posters from the 1930s-1960s as well as lobby cards, publicity photos, artifacts, and movie trailers.

On the opening day of the exhibit there will also be a presentation by Rogelio Agransanchez Jr., author of Mexican Movies in the United States: A History of the Films, Theaters and Audiences, 1920-1960.

What the Center for Media Literacy Offers

 There are many professional organizations that can help literacy experts stay  involved in the profession beyond their classroom or school assignment. Students in the spring semester of READ 6325 explored various professional organizations and are sharing what they learned through this blog series.

by Yadira Gonzalez

 The Center for Media Literacy (CML) is a professional organization that provides teachers, researchers, parents, and any individual who is searching for answers about media and the effect it has on everyone, especially children and young people of the 21st century.  You can browse through the available information that the Center for Media Literacy provides at   In order to fully benefit from this media site you can subscribe and become a member for free in a matter of seconds, yet donations are accepted as a funding source.

The focus of CML is to “develop critical thinking and media production skills needed to live fully in the 21st century media culture.”

For more than 30 years CML has promoted media literacy to schools, afterschool programs, libraries, churches, and community centers expressing the importance of adopting media skills in order to function in the media world today.  The Center for Media Literacy contains the following side links, found on the left hand side, offering the public with vast information on how to effectively implement media literacy in “teaching, learning, and in life.”

  • CML MediaLit Kit offers numerous educational approaches that facilitate educators with teaching strategies that can be integrated successfully.  Project SMARTArt is one of the many approaches listed.  This project is offered in schools through a federal grant.  It aids the students to develop and strengthen their thinking process abilities to “access, analyze, evaluate and create information” through the use of “Media, Art, Reading and Technology.”  In addition, it provides educators with a summary of the project, fast facts of who benefits from this program, lessons with activities to implement into the classroom, and photos, as well as, videos of the students actively engaged through the use of media literacy.  It also provides a 42 page case study of how this program has been delivered at the elementary level.
  • The Reading Room is an online center with useful articles, research studies, current news and records of the development of media literacy in the U.S.
  • Media&Values magazine provides the reader with archived Issues 1-63, beginning in the year 1977 and ending in 1993, offering articles on the impact media has morally on citizens worldwide.  In Issue #8 there is an article titled, Stay Tuned…TV Can be Good For You! by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat.  This article mentions how Good television helps the viewer clarify values when having to make a choice when certain situations present, deal with feelings and model right and wrong behavior.
  • The Best Practices link provides an overview of how to effectively integrate media literacy into “teaching, learning and in life.”
  • Professional Development is a link that provides educators with training opportunities through services, resources and suggestions to support the implementation of media literacy.
  • When accessing the Advocacy link you come across a list of organizations that “call for media literacy education.”  One organization is Cable in the Classroom which provides the “teacher, parent, caregiver, or learner” with a number of educational topics.  “Through the internet, cable content is now available for TV, computers, smartphones, and just about any communications device, anytime, anywhere.”
  • Selecting the Consulting and Speaking link, the public is offered with the “who, what, where, when and how” of CML.
  • Clicking on the Store link will take you to products such as DVDs, student books, downloadable material, the MediaLitKit and posters to display media literacy information to educate self, students, and staff.
  • About CML, Site Overview, and FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) links present information, questions, and answers on what citizens worldwide will encounter on the Center for Media Literacy website and media literacy.
  • The Newsletter link provides a monthly newsletter with “research highlights, current events, teaching tips and MediaLit Moments.”  Any individual may benefit by joining the e-mailing list for free, simply supply an e-mail address and voila!
  • The Center for Media Literacy can be contacted by mail, phone, fax and e-mail provided on the Contact Us link.

The Center for Media Literacy organization is rich with information on how to implement media literacy into “teaching, learning and in life.”

90 Second Newbery Film Festival

By readingintheborderlands

Readers! Movie  makers! Movie making readers! It’s time to put your skills to the test. James Kennedy, author of the young adult fantasy The Order of the Odd-Fish, has partnered with the New York Public Library to run a video contest.

There’s a long list of Newbery awards winners and Honor books. Many are great works of literature. Some, not so much. But all of them could certainly be turned into a 90 second video. Check out the first entry (you need to join vimeo to watch it. It’s free!). As a huge Madeleine L’Engle fan, I laughed and laughed at the condensed plot.

Literacy teachers, this could be an awful lot of fun for you and your students. Check out the contest rules at The deadline to submit videos is Sept. 15, 2011.