Traveling the Information Highway with CARS

Most modern educators would agree that integrating the Internet into classroom learning activities is important when planning for today’s digital native students.  However, not everything on the Internet is valuable and worthwhile for students to see or use while working on an academic activity.  Even with the revised Children’s Internet Protection Act (2008) that requires schools and libraries receiving e-rate funding to have filter and monitoring software in place as well as curriculum initiatives designed to educate students on appropriate online behavior and cyber bullying, keeping students safe on the Internet is still a concern (Capital Area Intermediate Unit 15, 2013).  The problem lies in the fact that “students frequently accept as authoritative any information they find on the Internet” (Roblyer and Doering, 2013).  There are considerations and steps teachers can follow to minimize the danger online as well as help students to become savvier Internet users. An important aspect of Internet safety and responsibility is the accessibility of inappropriate content available online to students.

Even with the best school web-filtering websites students will still have a chance of stumbling onto inappropriate content.  Pornographic sites are always a big concern, but the reality of that is students recognize immediately when they are on a pornographic site and that it is inappropriate.  Every classroom, if not school or district, should have a policy in place for reporting such websites so that they can be added to the filtered list.

A more dangerous example of inappropriate content is the use of websites that present highly biased or purposely false information.  Schools and teachers should be presenting students with neutral and factual information and teaching them the necessary skills to become lifelong learners and reasonable arguers.  To do this either the teacher must comprise the list of all Internet resources for the students, which doesn’t really teach the student to be self-sufficient; or the teacher must teach the students to properly evaluate web resources for usefulness and validity.

Publisher McGraw-Hill (2001) describes on their Higher Education website a very useful source evaluation tool by the acronym CARS (Credibility Accuracy Reasonableness Support).  This checklist can be used to assess “the quality of a source,” though the instructions point out that not all sources will meet each criterion they can still be a valuable source.  Teach students to ask questions about their sources.


–       Is the evidence presented sufficient (is there enough)?

–       Are the arguments and information rational?

–       Can a logical conclusion be made from the information presented?


–       Is the information up to date?

–       Is the information specific (not vague)?

–       Is the information unbiased (not emotional or filled with sweeping generalities)?


–       Is the language calm and factual (or is it inflammatory and immature)?

–       Is the information believable (or does the site make exaggerated claims)?

–       Is the information presented with relevance to importance (or does it overstate its importance)?

–       Is the information presented by a neutral party (or is there a conflict of interest)?


–       Does the website present a list of sources?

–       Is there a bibliography or other form of documentation?

–       Is there contact information for the creator/poster?

–       Can the information be verified through other sources?

Teaching students to evaluate their resources before using them on a project or information gathering activity can decrease the dangers of the students absorbing false or fraudulent information.  This evaluation method is a useful life skill that the students can impart into their own passions and interests, not just school projects.  It is better to teach responsible Internet usage than to block the Internet.  There will be no filters on their computers when the students are adults after all.

Resources for more information on evaluating sources online:

EDSITEment –

OWL at Purdue –

YouTube –

Columbia University Library –


Capital Area Intermediate Unit 15 (2013, March 10). CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act). E-rate In Pennsylvania. Retrieved March 24, 2013, from

McGraw-Hill (2001). Source Evaluation Tutor: CARS. McGraw Hill Education: Higher Education. Retrieved March 24, 2013, from

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers.


Tear Down the Garden Walls: Bring Social Media into the Classroom

To access my VoiceThread presentantion click this link (transcript and resources provided):


Filled with misinformation, sexual predators, and explicitly inappropriate content the Internet can be a dangerous place for children.  The fear that many educational entities have for allowing students free-range of this powerful but unpredictable tool is understandable.  However, the idea that that educational institutions can somehow create safe little walled-gardens of Internet access for their students through a controlled and, quite frankly, censored form of the Internet is both socially and educationally irresponsible. 

In today’s modern world, social interconnectivity through virtual technology is the standard.  In December of 2012 Topsfield reported that “one billion people use Facebook” and that “if Facebook was a country, it would be the third-largest in the world.”  Picardo (2010) suggests that “social networking online has rapidly become the principal means of communication for the current generation of teenagers.”  Teaching practices should “reflect these social changes and conform to the needs and expectations of today’s students” (Picardo 2010) instead of blocking access to the Internet and insisting on maintaining past practices of teaching and assessment of students that do not take into account the changing nature of the students themselves. 

It would be more responsible of educational institutions to incorporate social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest into classroom activities and teach students how to utilize these tools for educational purposes and utilize them responsibly than for schools and teachers to ignore them.  With sufficient guidelines and monitoring, “social media can become a valuable and interactive teaching tool” (Osborne 2012) that can be used to “encourage communication and inquisitiveness among students, with the overarching objective of enhancing teaching and learning by improving both teacher-student and student-student communication” (Picardo 2010).

The use of social media does not have to be restrained to a local use within and among the students of one classroom.  The Internet can and should be used to provide students with access to global resources and interactions. Cofino (2009) suggests that “adding a global component is not only possible, but necessary to prepare students for our increasingly connected world.” 

A variety of resources are available online for creating global projects in the classroom:

-ePals is a great resource to help students connect to other students around the world.  It is completely secure with internally monitored e-mail accounts!

-Facebook Groups can be developed to link students with other people interested in similar topics you are discussing in class.  Teachers can create the groups and selectively invite users from global networks or other classrooms to participate or share in discussions and posts.

-Flat Classrooms is a global network used to connect middle and high school classrooms.  This teaching project encourages global collaboration and helps create students who are competitive and globally-minded. 

A commitment by educators to teaching 21st century skills including social media responsibility and global connectivity will ensure a more well-rounded student who can function within the the wall-less plain that is the World Wide Web.  Rather than limiting access to the web, schools should be seeking out Web 2.0 tools to aide them in the classroom.




Cofino, K. (2009, October 4). How To Connect Your Students Globally | always learning [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Osborne, C. (2012, April 2). Ways to use Facebook effectively in class | ZDNet. ZDNet | Technology News, Analysis, Comments and Product Reviews for IT Professionals. Retrieved March 13, 2013, from

Picardo, J. (2010, February 16). Technology and Education | Box of Tricks. Box of Tricks – Technology and Education. Retrieved March 13, 2013, from

Topsfield, J. (2012, December 1). T is for teaching. The Age – Business, World & Breaking News | Melbourne, Australia. Retrieved March 13, 2013, from

Spreadsheets, They Aren’t Just for Math Problems

Spreadsheets, and the software used to create them like Excel (PC) and Numbers (Mac), are a perfect fit for math and science classrooms where many mathematical calculations must be performed and tracked.  Students will gain valuable skills utilizing spreadsheets in these classes.  However, students can also use spreadsheets effectively in Language Arts classes. Len Vacher (2012) explains that any “course that uses tables and graphs is an opportunity for students to become more quantitatively literate” through the use of spreadsheets.

Using spreadsheets for non-mathematical means will push students to gain organizational skills that they can continue to apply outside of the classroom. For example, Sylvia Cini (n.d.) describes on how spreadsheets “may also be used for the production of word tables such as vocabulary lists, word etymology or grammatical elements with explanation.”  If students maintain a single vocabulary document throughout the course of the year, adding a new sheet or page with each new vocabulary unit, they will have a printable vocabulary portfolio at the end of the school year to document their learning.

Spreadsheets can be applied to the Language Arts classroom for the study of literature as well.  Roblyer and Doering (2013) describe how the ability to organize “…data and allow students to perform required descriptive statistical analyses on them” is a key feature of spreadsheets.  Students can track plot events in a timeline, keep track of repetitive uses of imagery or symbolism, or organize lists of characters. This data can be used when writing literary analyses after the reading. 

Spreadsheets are not the normal go-to digital tool in the Language Arts classroom.  However, their utility as tool to track data is really complimentary to many tasks performed in the Language Arts classroom.  Educators would be doing a service to students by enlightening students on the many versatile uses of spreadsheets.



Cini, S. (n.d.). How to Use Spreadsheets in Language Arts | eHow | How to Videos, Articles & More – Discover the expert in you. | Retrieved February 27, 2013, from

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers.

Vacher, L. (2012, June 12). Teaching with Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum. SERC. Retrieved February 27, 2013, from