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.

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