Integrating Technology with Research and Writing

As a teacher in a 1:1 classroom with Chromebooks, I’m always thinking of ways of integrating technology with research and writing throughout the day and throughout the curriculum.  One way I found to successfully integrate technology is using Google Slides® template that is a research project.  Why a project?  In the Common Core State Standards, third graders learn to conduct short research projects that build knowledge about a topic (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.3.7).

integrating technology California Native Americans Report

There are many more Common Core State Standards that work together with the above standard.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.3.2
    Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.3.2.A
    Introduce a topic and group related information together; include illustrations when useful to aiding comprehension.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.3.2.B
    Develop the topic with facts, definitions, and details.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.3.2.C
    Use linking words and phrases (e.g., also, another, and, more, but) to connect ideas within categories of information.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.3.2.D
    Provide a concluding statement or section.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.6
    With guidance and support from adults, use technology to produce and publish writing (using keyboarding skills) as well as to interact and collaborate with others.

Additionally, those same standards appear in grades 4 and 5 as well (slightly increased in rigor). 

In other words, they need to conduct research on a curricular topic, write in the expository genre to publish it all using technology.Click To Tweet That’s a lot for an 8-year-old to accomplish!  In this post, I explain how integrating technology with research and writing that can be done using Google Slides.

INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY WITH RESEARCH AND WRITING

I created a project that integrates those standards.  As a culmination project for our unit on Native Americans, my students researched three California Indian tribes.  They specifically focused on how the California Indians used the natural resources of the region to survive.

Using Google Slides template for a research project integrating technology

Here’s how we did it.  During the unit, we used our Social Studies text to take notes on how the California Indians used their natural resources.  That was the first step, learning to take notes.  This is important because the students need to learn how to take accurate notes on a specific question or they will just copy down everything in the text without thinking if it is related to the question.

The next step is to simultaneously teach the format of expository writing.  I like to teach it in concert with reading and finding the main idea.  After all, the main idea should be the topic sentence of the paragraph. So as we read, we try to find the main idea and supporting details.

USING OTHER SOURCES TO INTEGRATE RESEARCH

Once students can see the connection between their notes and their writing, it’s time to introduce new sources:  websites and videos.  Again, I explicitly teach students how to take notes or they will waste their time taking unrelated notes or not be able to find notes. This is a strategic way of integrating technology use as a tool for research.

Here are some strategies I taught my students when looking through websites.  First and foremost, the website must be reliable and trustworthy (I took care of that since I was the one who found the websites). Then, scan through the web page for headers, especially those related to our topic of natural resources (foods, shelters, tools, etc.).  If there are no headers, scan for keywords.

Using videos as part of a research project integrating technology

Now, there is a shortcut for scanning for keywords which I did introduce.  On any website, just use the computer’s search function (CTRL-F) to search the page for keywords.  But students should learn to use both headings and keywords to quickly find the information they need.

The next step is taking video notes.  This is something I introduced earlier and we do practice it throughout the curriculum.  Again, you must explicitly teach the students to take notes ONLY on facts that will help answer the question (how did the CA Indians use their natural resources to survive).

Then, of course, there are the technical aspects of taking video notes:  using the play and pause buttons, using the time sliders, using earbuds or headphones, etc.  Teach those once and they’ll be set for the rest of the year.  I supplied my students with links to two videos on each tribe.  I previewed each video to make sure it was appropriate and contained usable information.

HOW ARE THE STUDENT TAKING NOTES?

You might be asking:  where are the students writing down these notes?  Good question.  I didn’t want third graders taking messy notes that were not organized.  So I developed a Note Taker sheet that helps the student with taking notes.  You can download the Note Taker Sheet as a FREEBIE right HERE.

Taking notes is the first task in integrating technology with writing. Without good notes, the research is futile and the written work will show that.Click To Tweet

The first task on the Note Taker Sheet is to write down what information is needed to be researched.  I have the students write this down in the form of a  question:  What natural resources did the California Indians use to survive in their region?

learning to take notes for a research project integrating technology

Then there are three separate boxes for taking notes:  Text Sources, Website Sources, and Video Sources.  We always start with text sources first!  However, it might make sense to start with video sources first if you have students who are reading significantly below grade level or have special education needs or are English Language Learners.

For the print sources, we used our textbook (and I had read aloud many wonderful non-fiction books on California Indians) as well as this very good resource from Sailing Into Second:  California Native Americans.   I gave each student a copy of the three tribes:  Pomo, Mojave, and Chumash.

MODEL INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY WITH RESEARCH AND WRITING

If you want students to do this independently, then you’ll have to model the entire process of integrating technology use for research and writing.  For my class, we did the first tribe, the Pomo, together.  I took them through the entire process of note-taking, paragraph writing, and publishing.  So now every student had an example paragraph published on the first slide:  The Pomo.

Then I let them start on the Mojave Tribe.  They went through the process of researching and note-taking from the print resource, the websites, and the videos.  They had to show me their notes before they began drafting their paragraph.

The drafting is done in their writing journal.  Once they have completed the drafting, they revise on their own first.  Then they work with a partner to revise. Finally, then come to me for a revision conference.  I think it is important for students to get as much feedback and learn to revise.  Students publish their paragraph on the Google Slides template after having a final revision conference with me.  Publishing is the next step in integrating technology with writing.

THE GOOGLE SLIDE TEMPLATE

I created the Google Slides template to share through Google Classroom.  The template had a space for writing the expository text and for four pictures. The slide also had a map of California in which the student had to circle or shade in the region in which the tribe was located.

Most teachers would say to let the students create their own templates. That is an option. But, very few third graders have design layout experience. They also spend (or waste) time on selecting colors, fonts, shapes, etc.Click To Tweet I believe in elementary grades, giving them a template is the same as if I gave them a blank paper template for a report.  With the template given, students spend their time actually focusing on the content rather than the design.

sample slide for a research project integrating technology

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE BUILTIN TECHNOLOGY!

Because Google Slides has a built-in spell checker, students edit on the computer.  My students also have access to grammarly.com and can use that to check for grammar and also spelling.  I think it’s important that students use the Chromebook’s ability to check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation…after all, technology is supposed to help us!

Once typed, the student added pictures (picture of the tribe, picture of food source, picture of shelter, and a picture of a tool.).  The pictures were gathered from using Google Image search.  Selecting appropriate images is also part of integrating technology with research.  My students had already learned to do an image search as well as resize the image.  Check out this post on how I teach my students to use Google Slides.

student sample of a slide for a research project integrating technology

If the student finished the Mojave Tribe, then they started the entire process again for the Chumash tribe: research, write, publish.  We have worked on this project every afternoon (combining our writing block with the content area block) for about two weeks.

SCORING THE PROJECT

Now comes time to score the project!  I informed the students that the entire project would count towards the Social Studies grade and a writing grade.  For Social Studies, I will score each slide for content (enough facts to show how the tribe used their natural resources to survive, the accuracy and appropriateness of the pictures, and showing the location on the map).  Students earn 10 points for Social Studies by including four pictures, a map location, and at least 5 facts.

For writing, I have to use the District Informative Writing Rubric.  It’s not my first choice, but I am required to score writing using district rubrics.  On the rubric, we look at how the student has mastered the genre, the organization and focus, and the conventions.  I score the writing by giving points (using a scale of 1 – 4) for the genre, the organization and focus, and the conventions.  The student can get up to 12 points.  I total up the points and divide by 12 to get a score.

using a rubric to score the writing

Finally, does this process look familiar to you?  It should if you’ve ever administered the SBAC!  The writing performance task on the SBAC is very similar: research, take notes, compose!  This is all done on the Chromebook.  So by integrating technology use throughout the year, then that SBAC performance task will not look so impossible to complete!

CONTINUING THE PROCESS BY INTEGRATING RESEARCH WRITING WITH SCIENCE

My students will continue this process of integrating technology with research and writing.  The next unit was Adaptations and Biomes.  I have developed an Interactive Digital Notebook on Desert Adaptations   It is a Google Slides ready resource in which the students will use their textbook and other print resources, as well as websites and videos to research and learn about desert animal adaptations.

integrating technology with a digital interactive notebook

The culminating task is a slide in which the student will research a desert animal to write a report on how that particular animal has adapted to living in a desert biome. However, this time, the student will write 3 or more expository paragraphs!  There are 13 slides (17 total) for the student to practice integrating research with writing and technology.

This resource is similar to the California Indian Project, but the links to the websites and videos are located on the slide instead of external Google Classroom links.  Each slide is also different from the previous slide because students will be studying a particular aspect of adaptation whereas, the California Indian Project used the same template for each slide but just varied the tribe.

HOW IT WORKS

Students use the Desert Adaptations Digital Notebook as a conduit to research the structural adaptations of desert animals.  Below is a screenshot of the Table of Contents.

integrating technology with a digital interactive notebook

Do your students spend time looking at inappropriate or useless websites?  Are you afraid they’ll stumble upon an inappropriate video on YouTube?  Not to worry!  Each slide has a link to a trusted website and a child appropriate video.  The websites that I chose are geared for students in grades 3 – 5. The websites are also reliable (the site has been around for awhile and has accurate information).  The same with the videos.

The videos have been linked through safeshare.tv which means the students will only see the video and not any other YouTube videos, comments or ads making it safer for students to view.  As a teacher, this is a huge timesaver rather than having to spend hours researching websites and videos for your students to use.  Each slide has directions for the student that explains the task to complete.  The resource comes with an answer key and scoring guide.

MAKE THE SWITCH TO GOOGLE SLIDES DIGITAL NOTEBOOKS

If you are hesitant to make the move to digital resources such as Google Slides, this interactive digital notebook is a great way to start. And you won’t need to design the template! 

As a teacher, all you need to do is assign the digital notebook through Google Classroom. Use the digital notebooks as a pathway to get started with integrating technology with research and writing.Click To Tweet

I’ve even included instructions on how to assign the project in Google Classroom.  You’ll also get instructions on how to take this Google Slides resource to other platforms such as Microsoft One.

integrating technology with a digital interactive notebook on Google Slides

You can use each slide as a follow-up to a lesson or just have the students use the slide to do the research independently.  The teacher scores the project once it is completed turned into you via Google Classroom. The students can also view the interactive digital notebook in presentation mode.  This means they can use it to make an oral presentation which again is a form of integrating technology but with listening and speaking standards.

ADVANTAGES OF USING DIGITAL NOTEBOOKS

Using digital interactive notebooks means that there is no actual cutting and pasting onto paper notebooks, leaving the student to spend more valuable time researching and learning about a topic. Since it is a virtual notebook, the student can use it to study for a test by viewing it at home.   Use photographs and clip art to make the interaction with the notebook more meaningful.  Don’t worry about using up printer ink because it won’t be printed.

Here are some of the Digital Notebooks available now.

Interactive Digital Notebooks! Go Digital Now!

Why are they interactive? Because on some slides students drag and place objects on a slide to complete a task.  Since the projects are digital, you can make changes each year to fit your class.  To add multimedia, you just insert animations, videos (or links), color photographs, charts and more.

MORE ADVANTAGES TO USING DIGITAL NOTEBOOKS

And here’s an added bonus!  Parents can view the presentation anytime from home when the student accesses their Google account. 

I've also used the interactive digital notebooks as part of Open House. The student sits with the parents and shows them on the Chromebook the various interactive digital notebooks we completed throughout the year.Click To Tweet

If you are interested in finding out more about interactive digital notebooks, I’ve written some other blog posts about using them with my students.

Also, take a look at all the Google App resources now available in my store. More and more are being added.

For ideas on how to use Google in the Classroom, follow my Pinterest Boards.

What questions do you have about using Google Slides or using Digital Notebooks?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Don’t Go Yet!

Are you new the 1:1 classroom setting? Then you’ll want to read my Valuable Tips for the 1:1 Classroom.

Check out how I use Google Classroom to present at Back to School Night for Parents.

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If you're wondering how to integrate technology with research and writing, I'll show you how. Read how my students used a Google Slides template to complete a project on California Indians. #twoboysandadad #technology #classroom #elementary #socialstudies #science

As always, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions!