Recently I read a fantastic blog post from one of my great online buddies, Donelle O’Brien – author of her Lifelong Learner 2.0, that I met through my affiliation with the Classroom 2.0 LIVE! show that I co-host. She wrote about this innovative and unique site that is historically based but with a twist! I know it appears to be a long post but it is well worth the read and is rather humorous – I don’t think you will be disappointed!
The blog post featured the website All About Explorers and is designed to help students evaluate information and results when searching on the Internet. The webquests, or treasure hunts, can be differentiated for reading and/or achievement levels that are more challenging for advanced students. According to the website,
All About Explorers was developed by a group of teachers as a means of teaching students about the Internet. Although the Internet can be a tremendous resource for gathering information about a topic, we found that students often did not have the skills to discern useful information from worthless data.
So we set out to develop a series of lessons for elementary age students in which we would demonstrate that just because it is out there for the searching does not mean it is worthwhile.
Because we wanted to make a point about finding useless information even in a site which looked at first to be fairly well put together, all of the Explorer biographies here are fictional. While many of the facts are true or based on truth, many inaccuracies, lies, and even downright absurdity are mixed in indiscriminately. As such, it is important that you do not use this site as a source of reference for your own research!
Any references to outside source materials, however, are quite accurate to the best of our knowledge. Books and other print materials are listed throughout. In most cases these are the references we give to our students when they are looking for reliable information about these explorers. Links to other web sites have also been evaluated for accuracy and usefulness.
Our lesson plans have also been incorporated into this site along with an Explorer WebQuest which we use with our own students to do valid research about these same explorers after showing them the pitfalls of poor planning and searching. In both cases, again, the information we include will be as accurate as possible. All of our lessons have been tested with students in the upper elementary grades.
The two site authors, Gerald Aungst and Lauren Zucker have done an outstanding with this website. I particularly enjoyed this except about John Cabot.
In 1484, John Cabot moved back to England with his wife and eleven sons. This was a great career move for John. He developed his own website and became quite famous for his charts and maps depicting a new route to the Far East. At this time he also introduced his half-brother Richard (whom the family always called “Ringo”) to his best friends, John, Paul, and George. They, too, tried their hands at exploration, but discovered that it was actually a lot of work. They soon gave up this dream and spent the rest of their lives as a troupe of traveling minstrels.
My favorite excepts come from the synopsis of Christopher Columbus.
Columbus knew he had to make this idea of sailing, using a western route, more popular. So, he produced and appeared on infomercials which aired four times daily. Finally, the King and Queen of Spain called his toll-free number and agreed to help Columbus.
He named the native people of the island Indians. The Indians were excited by the newcomers and their gadgets. They especially enjoyed using their cell phones and desktop computers.
Columbus returned to Spain in 1939 and was hailed as a hero. He was known as the first person to walk on American soil. A huge parade was held in his honor. He appeared on Larry King Live and became quite famous around the world.
As you can see the humor element is rampant throughout each of the ‘biographies’ of the explorers. Once students realize that the gadgets of today, television shows and other items evident of today’s society are present in the paragraph they will start to evaluate the information they find on the Internet and begin to ask themselves if the information presented is accurate. There are many great learning opportunities to teach students to be wary of information found on the Internet and to make certain that when researching topics, websites and sources are credible and authentic.
The Explorers website contains templates for conducting the treasure hunts on the explorers, how to evaluate websites, links to factual references about explorers, and the references the authors used to develop the content and website material. The site also lists web articles such as this one in at PhillyBurbs.com that mention their website and it use in classrooms.
I always found this concept difficult to teach to young students and this website makes it very easy to demonstrate these types of research fundamentals in a clear, concise way. Students can compare the content presented on this website to one that is factually accurate and a wealth of learning activities abound to drive home to students the importance of critically thinking about information presented on the Internet as authentic and factual
Thanks Donelle for sharing this website! I had heard about the website but had not explored the Explorers website or the interesting ‘biographical’ account of the explorers until Donelle described it in her blog post.
I was so impressed, and thoroughly entertained, that I sent a request to the website creators and invited them to be our special guest on our show. They accepted and will be joining us on Classroom 2.0 LIVE! on August 8 at 12pm Eastern. Mark your calendar and join us for another exceptional hour of learning, laughing and leading the way into classrooms everywhere.