This curriculum unit can be completed in about 4 weeks. During the 4 week unit, the teacher should start with the basics and end with the specifics. Before getting started, the teacher should administer the “Your ‘Digital Loves’ Inventory” (see Figure 1) to students to get a baseline as to how much the student knows about using their cellphone as a digital resource. This same reading inventory will need to be used at the end of the four weeks to assess students’ academic growth. Let’s begin.
During this week, students will understand how their cell phone can help them academically. Students will take the cell phone inventory (see Figure 1). Cell phone inventory: Students will answer questions about how they use their cellphones and what potential they believe their cellphones have to complete school assignments. The teacher will need to provide time before the lesson begins to give the inventory. This should take about ten minutes to complete.
Figure 1. Cell Phone Inventory will be given as a pre-test and post-test.
Your “Digital Lives” Inventory (Pre-Test)
1.) Do you have a cellphone? If yes, is it a smartphone?
2.) Name 5 ways you use your cellphone for school-related activities.
3.) Name 5 ways you use your cellphone for socially-related activities.
4.) Have you researched a school assignment using your phone?
5.) If yes to question 4, how did you use your phone to research?
6.) Can you identify what “Fake News” is?
7.) How do you identify the difference between a credible source versus an opinion piece?
8.) Can you use articles you find on-line to write a research paper?
9.) How do you choose a grade-appropriate topic using an internet search engine?
10.) What is plagiarism?
11.) Can you identify what a credible source is?
12.) How do you know if you have plagiarized in your paper?
13.) Are credible references important? Why or why not?
14.) What is a bibliography?
15.) Do you know how to write a bibliography?
16.) How are non-fictional writers different from fictional writers?
17.) What are some strategies to use to write a research paper?
18.) How do you organize your sources and what you have read from a source?
19.) Can you use a cellphone to research a paper?
20.) Name 1 thing you want to learn or have learned about using your cellphone to do research.
After the inventory has been completed, the teacher should assess the level of understanding students have of their cell phones. Once the teacher establishes this level, then there should be a whole group discussion on “Analyzing the phone’s ability to find information.” At this time, the teacher should allow the students to take out their cellphones in class to explore their cell phones. Teacher can write on the board the following:
On your phone, you should go to the google.com website.
Under the google.com search engine, type in “Sources to Global Warming”
Read the first article that appears that is not a wikipedia article.
Volunteers can read the articles that appear during their search. After reading the articles the class found interesting, the teacher can discuss with the class problems that arose from their cell phone search. In whole group, students should discuss how the articles are relevant to the topic. Whether or not the article is credible should not be discussed at this time. The following days need to include class practice to have students look up given topics on their phone and finding articles that students find relevant. Students can use their writing journal to record daily class practice. This should be the first week of the unit before having the students venture into their research paper.
Modeling and Exploring
During the second week of the unit, students will begin to explore non-fiction topics that interest them. In week one, students were able to build on a familiar source which is their cell phone. By having students do the daily class practice that you placed on the board, the students now have a solid foundation to build strong research skills. It is important for students to have this time to explore independently using a predetermined topic. Now, the student’s search should be geared towards a topic that interests them to research.
For the student, having a predetermined topic eases the extra step of deciding on a non-fictional topic to have to select among the vast topics. For students to improve their study habits and appreciate the quest of knowledge and learning, the student must begin to take this journey on their own. For fifth grade, the first research paper needs to be an informational research paper. The student must research information that is new to the reader. Students need to read about the latest research. While doing this, students need to keep in mind that sources and researchers are constantly updating their findings. Students will need a day to explore different topics that interest them and their target audience.
Once the student has narrowed his or her topic, then the student needs to form a hypothesis to craft a proposal. I created this checklist based on Storey (2013, pp. 29) for the student to help craft the proposal (11):
Figure 3. Self Guided Checklist for Research is used to help students form a hypothesis.
Self Guided Checklist for Research
Student needs to consider the following questions before beginning research:
1.) What is your topic? Describe it briefly.
2.) What is your hypothesis? Tell which question is driving your research.
3.) What will your readers learn from this project? Will you be bringing new information to light, or will you be interpreting well known facts in a new way?
4.) Why is your project significant or interesting? Discuss the relationship between your project and some broader issue.
5.) What are your main sources? Give a short bibliography.
“Consider the source!”
When you are considering the source, you are deciding whether a source is credible. Once students have chosen a topic to research, the student can now explore online resources to investigate the latest information. The internet has a lot of information that a student needs to distinguish between to determine what is a credible source. A credible source is research that has been completed by a professional researcher, doctor or tainined professional over a period a time to yield particular results. The findings in a credible source are fact based and are not opinion based. “Fake News” is opinion based and is not derived from fact but often time seems plausible. There are many ways for students to ascertain the intention of a source.
Students should always research on their cellphones with the following burning questions in mind:
What are websites that are notable and well researched?
What are the requirements to publishing researched material?
When was the research conducted?
Is the information relevant to my topic?
These burning questions can be helpful to a student in determining the articles validity. For an informational paper, students have a lot of topics to choose from but not a lot of hard copy resources to use as sources.
New Haven Public Schools’ Reading guidelines recommend using Cornell notes. The student should take notes on the information retrieved from sources. This includes the name of the journal, the relevant or new information retrieved, and the page number the information is found. The student needs to take into account how the researched material can be used in their paper, i.e. what part does each source support in their research paper? The student will also need to use the self checklist (see Figure 2) as a guide. The district’s guidelines recommend a minimum of three references. As students review their Cornell notes, they can start to incorporate each source into their first draft.
As Storey stated, it is important to “summarize the source and state why you will be using it in your paper.” (11) As stated during the research process, students should be taking notes as some form. After the research is complete, students will need to organize their notes to draft a flow for their paper. If three references are required, then students should aim to use each source in three separate sections of the body of their paper. The students can also organize their paper based on facts found. For example, if there were four credible sources that all gave similar information, the student could couple the sources in one section. The student should be encouraged to refer to the researcher often in their paper as though the student knows the researcher. The actual research was conducted by the writer of the credible source not the student. The student should remember that the words from your digital library are only borrowed words. The writer is allowing students to use their work. The teacher needs to stress the importance of citing material and emphasizing the importance of authentic work that is not plagiarized.
The students should submit the rough draft to the teacher to receive feedback. Students can make revisions based on the recommendations of the teacher. After the submission of the final draft of the well researched paper, the teacher should have a discussion about the informational writing process using a cellphone instead of the traditional library research. The teacher should administer a post assessment using the cell phone inventory (see Figure 1). Students will take the same test to show what new knowledge they have learned about their cell phones. The teacher needs to use the information from the inventory to measure growth. The inventory can also be used to evaluate the process and a self evaluation of what worked well and what did not work well.
Even though using a cell phone sounds like a “quick fix” for the underprivileged student who does not have access to great resources, there is still no substitute for conventional research. Using a cell phone for research was not meant to replace or downplay the importance of having library resources and an abundance of hard copy material. Unfortunately, the world that many inner city students like New Haven Public School children live in is no longer conventional or traditional. If students want to get ahead in life, they have to be able to use the resources that they have and not be defeated by what they do not have. As an inner city teacher, I receive a limited amount of resources. These resources seem to become less and less every school year. As I have established I have two choices, either I can complain about not having what I need or I can try to think “outside of the box” and make the most of the material and resources that I do have access. Hopefully, my fifth graders will see their cell phones as the greatest research tool that they have to use to be successful students.
Students will give feedback on their experience using their cell phone as a digital library.
- C. Price, “Your Phone is Changing your brain”, in How to Break Up With Your Phone, 51.
- New Haven Public Schools English Language Arts Curriculum for Grades three to five, Reading unit and task outline for unit three, 2012.
- Vossler & Sheidlower, Humor and Information Literacy: Practical Techniques for Library Instruction, 83
- A. Brundage, “Finding your sources”, in Going to the Sources, 35
- W. Storey, “Getting Started” in Writing History, 17
- U.S. Library of Congress at http://catalog.loc.gov
- W. Storey, “Getting Started” in Writing History,18
- W. Storey, “Writing History Faithfully”, in Writing History, 49-50
- J. Burkhardt and M. MacDonald, “Issues of the Information Age” in Teaching Information Literacy: 35 Standards Based Exercises for College Students, 42
- W. Storey, “Getting Started” in Writing History, 17
- W. Storey, “Interpreting Source Materials” in Writing History, 30
- Digital Public Library of America Primary Source Sets
- W. Storey, "Getting Started" inWriting History, 29
- W. Storey, "Interpreting Source Materials" inWriting History, 30