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Research & Writing in the Digital Age

Learning Futures Summit


Computers have the potential to make our students much better writers and more critical readers. For sketching out ideas quickly, the pencil may still have an edge, but for crafting carefully refined prose, computers bring a wide array of advantages. Mind maps, or concept maps, of information can lead to breakthroughs in note-taking, studying, and writing. Word processors provide students with an array of editing tools and dictionaries, as well as the ability to track their changes and make comments.

Similarly, the Internet has revolutionized the ways in which we can approach research. Primary sources, and encyclopedia information, are increasingly available on the Web and will become predominantly digitally based in the future. Furthermore, as conventional, print-based text gives way to screen-based "multimodal" communication that can be viewed not only on computers but also through a host of mobile devices, the historian of the 21st century will be as likely to encounter multimedia primary sources as print-based ones.

Online Research Resources

There are plenty of excellent online research resources, guides, and tutorials on the Web, and in print. Here are a select few that you may want to consider before starting your next project.

Read more: Online Research Resources

Finding the Right Search Terms

Too often students come to us and claim they "can’t find anything" on their topic or they "can’t find anything good." Often it is because they do not have a search strategy with appropriate keywords. Last year a student told Tom that she was having difficulty finding sources on the Internet about movies in the 1920s. How could that be? Well, the keyword "movies" is not a particularly effective search keyword for information from the 1920s. People in the 1920s simply did not use the term "movies." Had the student done a little background reading on the 1920s in an encyclopedia before turning to Google, she likely would have come up with better keyword terms and phrases, such as "talking pictures," "talkies," or "silent films." The point is that it is a good idea to do some background reading and develop effective search terms before turning to a search engine.

Read more: Finding the Right Search Terms

Supporting the Process with Mind Mapping & Graphic Organizers

Mindmaps, also called graphic organizers, allow students to manipulate information in a visual, graphical way. Whether students are planning an essay or working to understand a complex topic, mindmaps allow them to work with information in a more flexible and visual manner. Many web-based mindmap tools also provide the ability to collaborate on a single map from any networked computer.

Read more: Supporting the Process with Mind Mapping & Graphic Organizers

Citing the Read-Write Web

The Internet makes millions of images, videos, and audio clips available for students to use in their projects, providing rich examples and evidence. Many of the resources available on the Internet, however, have some form of copyright protection. Under certain circumstances, students and educators can use these resources under the protection of the Fair Use provisions of the 1976 Copyright Law; however, students and educators do not have carte blanche to use these resources in any way they choose. This makes the citation process more in depth than ever before.

Read more: Citing the Read-Write Web

Understanding Copyright and Fair Use

The Internet has developed much faster than intellectual property law, and it can be hard to apply older Copyright Fair Use guidelines to the new world of the Internet. We know it's not always easy to adhere to Fair Use policies, so here are a few simple practices that can help:

Read more: Understanding Copyright and Fair Use

Finding Public Domain Images for Multimedia Projects

Learning Futures Summit


If you are planning to show copyright images within the confines of your classroom then your usage more than likely falls within the scope of educational “fair use.” Mind you, more and more educators are making their (or their students) presentations available online, and this practice raises some important copyright issues. If you make your PowerPoint publicly accessible on the Internet without the express written permission of the authors of the copyrighted images,
then you have most likely infringed on copyright protection.

Read more: Finding Public Domain Images for Multimedia Projects

Understanding Creative Commons Licenses

The Internet makes millions of images, videos, and audio clips available for students to use in their projects, providing rich examples and evidence. Many of the resources available on the Internet, however, have some form of copyright protection. Under certain circumstances, students and educators can use these resources under the protection of the Fair Use provisions of the 1976 Copyright Law; however, students and educators do not have carte blanche to use these resources in any way they choose (below, we discuss some basic principles of this conceptually complex field.)

One strategy as an educator for dealing with the complexities of copyright is to devote time to teaching it and to helping students understand their rights under fair use and the rights of copyright holders. Another strategy is to direct students to photos, music, video and other resources that have been posted online by people who want their work to be reused, remixed, and reinvigorated.

Read more: Understanding Creative Commons Licenses

Spring Webinars

We have an incredible line-up of FREE, live webinars for spring.

  • 4/8 - All Things Google!
  • 4/15 - Leading Change in 1:1 Classrooms
  • 4/24 - Technology in Humanities Classrooms
  • 4/29 - Games Are Good for You!
  • 5/6 - Creation and Collaboration Tools for the BYOD Classroom

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