Is MLA Dead?

As part of our Tablet Rollout to Middle School students, all students in grades 6, 7 and 8 have spent a session with our librarian discussing a range of things. Grade 7 and 8 students talked about the need to reference their work, how to create a Works Cited page, and how to use Noodle Tools to create an MLA-approved citation.

I agree whole-heartedly with the skills and ethics involved with referencing:

  • Creating a citation requires students to verify the authenticity and veracity of the source they are using.
  • Including citations is a way of acknowledging the work of others.
  • Citations allow the reader to verify the information that the author is presenting.

When I was in junior high school (we didn’t have no stinkin’ middle schools back then!), my bibliography was my proof to the teacher that I did the research for my essay (which I typed out on a typewriter). Did she go to the library, find the book that I put on my bibliography and check my work? I doubt it. (Actually, I know quite a few students who ‘padded’ their bibliographies to make themselves look smarter!)

Now that we’re 1:1 throughout the Middle School/High School and all the students are paperless (no printing privileges on campus for any student!), don’t hyperlinks make more sense? Yes, we still need to explicitly teach students how to verify the validity of their sources. But aren’t hyperlinks actually a better way of acknowledging the work of others? When used in online writing such as blogs and wikis, the authors of the sites being linked to will be notified that they are being acknowledged. And aren’t hyperlinks a more useful way for the reader to check the information the author is using? A single click and she can see for herself where I got my information from.

Is MLA dead? As I said in an earlier tweet which inspired this post, is MLA  an anachronism whose time has come?

Image Credit:Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition (1911)‘ by Stewart (CC BY)

Roll ’em Out!

After a relaxing summer, it’s been right back into the thick of things at the start of this school year!

As of 3 days ago, our entire Middle School and High School is 1:1! We rolled out tablets to the last two grade levels (grades 6 and 7) on the first day of school and there is no looking back!

A quick recap:

  • In August 2007, about half of the teachers received tablets.
  • In August 2008, all teachers and students in grades 10 and 11 received tablets.
  • In August 2009 all teachers and students in grades 8 – 12 (three new grade levels) received tablets.
  • In August 2010 all teachers and all students in the Middle and High School received tablets. (In additions, students in grade 5 will be receiving tablets as well but that is not my area of responsibility.)

This is a process that has been a long time in the making and I am very excited about it! It’s also kept me quite busy, both to end the year in June and to begin this year.

One of the things that we decided we could improve as a school is giving more support and training to students from the get go. We’ve always done a basic training session and then let the students go straight to class. While this maximizes class time, I also found that many teachers were spending a lot of time teaching the same tech skills in their classes. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, but it was getting in the way of the learning.

So I came up with a plan. All students in Grades 6, 7 and 8 have been on a modified intensive technology curriculum for the first three days of school. Instead of math, science, english or humanities, they have been learning how to use their tablets, learning how to use OneNote 2010, having lessons on cyberbullying and cybersafety (thanks to the CyberSmart.org curriculum!) and having lessons on using NoodleTools and MLA referencing.

It was a bit of a nightmare trying to coordinate the schedules for 9 homerooms (3 at each grade level) but the middle school teachers have been great. I’ve been alternating between helping to deliver lessons, lending support as other teachers deliver lessons and just watching. By all accounts, the students are doing a great job of adapting. Of course, we always knew they would.

Now comes the harder part: getting the teachers to adapt to and implement a new learning environment!

Dr. Michael Thompson at UNIS

Welcome to UNIS!

Dr. Michael Thompson, author of Raising Cane and It’s a Boy!, has been on campus the past few days speaking to staff and students alike. He has a fascinating expert view of children and how to best meet their needs. From his one-hour chat with the entire middle school:

The two things that are always at play in the lives of middle school students: friendship and popularity.

He then asked some students to define friendship. They went around and did a pretty good job of it. When he asked one of our teachers what her definition of friendship is, it was virtually identical. Conclusion: these middle schoolers are capable of adult friendships already.

Defining popularity was much more difficult. Nobody really seemed willing to identify or call out the traits of popularity at UNIS. I wonder why this is?

He’s talking to the high school tomorrow and also holding a special ‘Dad’s Breakfast’ tomorrow morning. I’m already clearing my schedule.

Talking to the Middle School

A Transition to 1:1 in Middle School – Creative Commons

This coming August the Middle School/High School will be fully 1:1. Every student in our Middle School will be receiving a TabletPC for the first time on August 17, 2010. With that in mind, I’ve started thinking about how we can smoothly transition our students into this new environment. What are the important ideas that we need discuss and promote as a school to our students from Day One?

Of course, we’ll need to teach some of the technology operations and concepts: how to use OneNote effectively; how to use Outlook for email and assigned tasks; how to replace the daily planner with an electronic version (probably, once again, using Outlook’s calendars); how to effectively use our school’s SharePoint portal.

I think it is also vitally important to reach some essential agreements – among teachers and stated explicitly to students during that first week – on issues related to the use of technology: cyberbullying, online identity, privacy, digital footprints and copyright. (If there is more that you’d add to this list, I’m all ears! Leave ’em in the comments below.)

I started thinking about a scope and sequence for teaching Creative Commons and copyright to middle school students*:

Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade 8
Creative Commons/ Copyright • Understand the meaning of copyright.

• Understanding and recognizing CC licenses.

• How to find CC licensed work.

• Citing CC licensed work in your own projects.

• It is expected that students attempt to find CC licensed work before copyrighted work.

• All work is to be cited correctly in the body of the work and in the bibiliography (MLA format)

• Explore Fair Use and explain how it can be used in school and at home.

• Students are to use CC licensed work except in the instance in Fair Use.

• Students are able to justify why the feel their use of Copyrighted works falls under Fair Use.

Does this seem reasonable? Are my expectations too low? Too high?

How do you teach Creative Commons at your school? What are the minimum expectations that you put on each grade level?

* – to simplify my life, I’m conveniently ignoring the fact that our grade 5 students will be in a 1:1 environment next year as well. I haven’t included them in my scope and sequence, although I probably should!