Saturday, December 11, 2010

Filter Google Search Results by Reading Level

This morning a post on the Free Technology for Teachers blog alerted me to a new Google search feature which will let you filter your search results by reading level. There are three generic levels: Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced.

In the Google web search forum and Google web search help, I didn't find any age/reading level correlations for these categories or information on how the levels are determined. I still think it's a tool worth investigating for many purposes. Educators might narrow down search results when they are looking for websites to recommend to their students. If students are taught to use the tool, it might save them time in web searching by filtering out sites that are likely to be too difficult for them to understand. Even parents might find this a useful tool for helping their kids with homework!

I have been wanting to try out a few different screencasting tools, so I took the opportunity to record a demonstration of how to use the new reading level filter using Screenr. Hopefully the quick demo below will start your wheels turning on how you might leverage this tool to your and your students' advantage. If it sparks any ideas, please share in the comments!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Must Read NY Times Article on Parenting and Cyberbullying

Yesterday the New York Times published the article As Bullies Go Digital, Parents Play Catch-Up. It received a great deal of buzz on Twitter and with good reason - it's one of the best articles on this subject that I've seen, touching on many sides of this complicated issue.

I reshared it on Twitter and also shared it on Facebook and now I'm blogging about it. I hope after reading the article you will also share it with people in your sphere of influence. Including your own children or students.

Interwoven throughout the article is the story of a young teen boy who was bullied by peers who set up a fake Facebook profile in his name and used it to write nasty comments about others. The targeted teen was ostracized at school because others thought he was bullying them. The lengths his mother went to to intervene for him are instructive regarding the complexity of these issues and the necessity for adults to get involved.

Some quotes from the article which stood out to me included:
Cyberbullies themselves resist easy categorization: the anonymity of the Internet gives cover not only to schoolyard-bully types but to victims themselves, who feel they can retaliate without getting caught. But online bullying can be more psychologically savage than schoolyard bullying. The Internet erases inhibitions, with adolescents often going further with slights online than in person.
“I’m not seeing signs that parents are getting more savvy with technology,” said Russell A. Sabella, former president of the American School Counselor Association. “They’re not taking the time and effort to educate themselves, and as a result, they’ve made it another responsibility for schools. But schools didn’t give the kids their cellphones.”
"This is not a “phone,” Dr. Englander told the parents who looked, collectively, shellshocked. What you’ve given your child “is a mobile computer.”
Comments which readers are making on the article are instructive as well.

This is an issue which will not go away any time soon. Parents, educators, and concerned adults need to get informed and stay informed. One of the commentors on the article said something to the effect that we often let adults get away with the excuse that the technology is too overwhelming, yet they are competent to hold down jobs and care for young people. I would agree that the technologies can be complex, but they are not beyond the understanding of adults who prioritize involvement with children under their care. After all, adults do not need to understand the back-end programming of Facebook or cell phone networks to help and guide kids, they just need to know how to use the technology and how others use the technology.

Perhaps the popularity of this article can be a catalyst to get adults involved in guiding our youth in wise use of  the technology which infuses their lives.
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