Connecting with teachers and experts in the education space is an important goal for us at Citelighter. Sure, we believe we’re building great tools that will help students–but who knows more about helping students than those who do just that day after day?
Julia Ebel has been at it not just day after day, but year after year. She’s taught English, ELL, and history for grades five through twelve at various points for public and charter schools, and in Oregon and Arizona, for almost 20 years. She’s now a Technology Training Specialist for the Dysart Unified School District in Arizona.
We asked her to share her thoughts, experience, and expertise on how Citelighter helps students, the role of technology in classrooms, the importance of collaboration, and more that we could all be doing.
Thanks for taking the time to talk, Julia! How did you first come across Citelighter?
The Dysart Unified School District was named a Salute Distict by the National School Board Association. It was a prestigious award that was presented to us because of our innovative use of technology in the classroom. Part of the award required us to host a site visit for educators around the country. While preparing for this visit, I was contacting sponsors and vendors, and met Kevin West through the Phoenix Coyotes. During our first meeting, he mentioned Citelighter, and I was sold immediately.
What about Citelighter’s fact-capturing tool most appeals to you in your capacity as an experienced educator? How do you think it helps students in the research and paper-writing process?
As a high school teacher, I found that one of the most frustrating and difficult parts of teaching research was the actual MLA or APA formats. Each college requires different formats, and it was difficult to keep up with the changes in the formats each year. It is hard enough to teach students how to choose valid information, and how to incorporate their research into an essay format. To add the citation process on top of that led to many blank stares on the faces of even the most intelligent students.
Citelighter makes it all so much easier. It takes away the guessing game of “Do I have the information cited correctly?” It also assists students in forming their paragraphs. They do not have to bother with messy index cards or several pieces of printed paper, which most of them misplaced. All of their information is in one place, and allows the students to focus on their content, instead of spending the bulk of their time trying to search for the author of a website.
What are your thoughts on Citelighter’s Knowledge Card database? Do you have particular ideas on new and different ways that you’d like to see those cards implemented – for example, tailored to teachers’ lesson plans for individual classes?
I really like the idea of Citelighter’s Knowledge Card database. It creates a safe and more manageable database of material for students that is guaranteed to be accurate. I was teaching about Manifest Destiny and the Wild West in American History. I received an entire research paper about Wyatt Earp’s son. Wyatt Earp didn’t have any children. The Knowledge Cards will ensure that students are not finding information that is inaccurate.
These cards also will save them time. I have found that many students spend so much time looking at pictures and video, instead of actually doing valid research. The Knowledge Cards will really assist them in managing their time by limiting the overwhelming amount of information they find on the Internet.
It would be amazing if Knowledge Cards could have Lexile levels so the kids know what reading level the article is. It would also be helpful to tailor Knowledge Cards to particular units, or if the cards were tied somehow to Common Core Standards.
Based on your extensive experience, what are your own thoughts about how technology tools in general can contribute to learning in the classroom? Do you see the education landscape changing significantly over the next 5-10 years as a result of technological impact? Or are you seeing it even sooner?
The new generation of kids do not know the world without technology. Technology tools, therefore, must be incorporated into the classroom. We need to be teaching our students New Century Learning Skills. Teachers cannot revert to what they have done in the past because technology is moving so quickly. If this is not done, students will not be prepared for the workplace.
We are preparing students now for jobs that do not even exist yet, and if technology is not introduced at an early age, the students will struggle in college and in the real world. The education landscape is changing, but it is not changing quickly enough. Technology changes at an incredibly rapid pace, and education does not change at the same pace.
There are still educators and administrators who resist change and want to still teach how they did 25 years ago. The education from the past is not working now, and will not work in the future.
How important is it for companies developing technology products in the education space to stay connected and work collaboratively with educators, and vice versa?
It is extremely important for companies developing technology products to connect with educators. First of all, educators do not have time to research the new technologies all the time, so companies keeping educators informed about new technologies helps immensely. Secondly, with the new development of most states in America transitioning to the Common Core Standards, which will make curriculum more standard across the country, the collaboration of businesses and education is imperative so that developers are familiar with the curriculum, and can create products that will support the Common Core.
Also, businesses seem to develop with the technological trends, and do not necessarily stay as stagnant as education does. Collaboration between business and educators will help to push education into embracing the New Century Learning Skills that we should be teaching our students.
A big thanks to Julia—and to all the other hard-working educators out there who are striving so hard to improve learning for millions of students.
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Citelighter PR Director