Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Teaching Kids Web Research Skills

Dulcinea Media has a lot of ambitions for a little company. And we madly pursue them all at once. And thus we take great pride that all of our initiatives have gelled together in a single endeavor: findingEducation's On This Day Challenge.

Our mission is driven by the fact that most people cannot find online, evaluate, and put to use the critical information they need in their daily lives. This is true even of students, who facilely use the Web for social purposes, but can’t effectively research online. They rely heavily on major search engines, and review only the first few results. They can’t discriminate between a credible resource and a suspect one, can’t locate primary sources and, above all, don’t know how to digest what they’ve learned and communicate it to others.

Our company mission is to help educators change it.

In furtherance of our mission, our first product was findingDulcinea, a content Web site that helps users find credible and comprehensive information online about thousands of subjects. Its most popular feature is "On This Day," which each day details an important event in history, including the preamble and the denouement. In November 2008, I explained the genesis of our On This Day.

The second site we launched was EncontrandoDulcinea, a Spanish language sister site that offers much of the content on findingDulcinea, translated into Spanish. Its traffic has begun to boom in large part due to the popularity of the On This Day feature in Spanish.

The third site we launched was SweetSearch, a custom search engine that is derived from our tens of thousands of hours of work on findingDulcinea. SweetSearch only searches 35,000 Web sites that have been evaluated by our staff. It eliminates results from the junky sites that rank high in other search engines and waste students’ time.

Earlier this month, we introduced findingEducation, a free tool that serves as a meeting place for educators to share insight and outstanding links, assignments and lesson plans with each other and their students. We have seeded the links library with hundreds of links contributed by the teachers and librarians who created findingDulcinea's Web Guides on education topics, and SweetSearch is available to help find other high quality links. Our hope is that teachers from all over the world come to view findingEducation as their community site, one whose continued development they largely direct.

And the endeavor that arises from all of our years of hard work on each of this products is findingEducation's On This Day Challenge. Through this Challenge, students, working individually or in teams, will learn to find and evaluate quality Web sites for online history research, learn how to organize and write a research article about historical events, and gain an appreciation of how historical events have shaped the world.

Drawing on the plethora of material on findingDulcinea, we provide extensive guidance to teachers and students on how to find and evaluate Web resources and organize them into an article about an important historical event. SweetSearch can be used to search all of these resources at once. All articles in the Challenge will be published to the teacher's public page on findingEducation, and a broad range of impressive entries will be highlighted in our newsletter and on findingDulcinea.

The number of early sign-ups to the Challenge has been gratifying, and we eagerly look forward to sharing reports about its progress throughout the school year. We believe that, for students who participate in the Challenge will learn critical life skills of finding online, evaluating, organizing, using and communicating information.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

May their love give us love

Last year, I wrote about how, when I think of 9/11, I choose to remember the love.

The love shown by thousands of rescue workers and ordinary citizens, in NYC, Washington, D.C. and on Flight 93, when they knowingly put their lives at grave risk so that others may live. The love expressed by the many victims who lived for a desperate hour or more after their fate was sealed, and used the last precious minutes of their lives to call loved ones; all that mattered at the end of their lives was the love they created along the way. The loved expressed by victims’ family members, many of whom spent weeks desperately hoping that their loved ones had somehow miraculously been spared. And the love that I witnessed when I emerged from my office building in midtown Manhattan in early afternoon, and indeed throughout America and much of the rest of the world, for months afterward.

And so tomorrow, I will once again think about the manner in which so many people responded to the certain end of their lives by calling their loved ones. Though I hopefully won’t be imperiled myself, I will call or email many of my loved ones that I have been meaning to get back in touch with, and with that small gesture let them know how I feel about them.

I will also recall my Aunt Eileen’s comment to my post about how the heroes of 9/11 and the ensuing months (and indeed years) saved us “from having that day be remembered as one of being simply victims, totally demoralized…. and turned the story into one of great pride in our values as a country and in the bravery and devotion to duty that our people can show.” And I will beam with pride about our values as a country, and how brave and devoted to duty our people can be.

And recalling the timeless words of firefighter Mike Moran, who in October 2001 declared that his brother and his many close friends and crewmates who perished “are not gone, because they are not forgotten,” I will recall all of those ordinary people who lovingly did remarkable things that day so that others may live.

May their love give us love.