As a teacher, I try to find ways to teach my students to think critically when they are looking for information online. I am often surprised the skills involved, that I take for granted, when searching for information that is relevant for the task. Wording a search on google is something that I do as second nature and I forget that students need direction on HOW to word a search. For example, the majority of the students try to type in an entire question into google and give up quickly when they don’t get immediate results with the answer. Often, I end up explaining that google is a computer and is looking for every word in the question and in order to “help the computer” narrow the search they have to use only key terms. This is a good exercise for them to learn- identifying key terms. Also, once the search comes up, most struggle with choosing a reputable source and skimming the information for what pertains to their question. These are important skills, and have their place, but something that is intended to be a quick one day research assignment frequently turns into a week long assignment. Enter the Socratic app. This free app is amazing- fun to use, quick response, helpful, a model of how to do a productive online search, and especially time saving. Students hover over a key term in the question, take a picture, and then the app pulls up relevant, reputable websites with definitions, examples, sometimes videos and other interactive links. If students have their own phones or the teacher has a set of ipods/ipads this would work great as a quick research assignment to flip the classroom and have them teach themselves (or each other), as a differentiation tool for struggling students working on any assignment, or gifted students that could benefit from further in-depth information on an assignment. The app helps them recognize key terms and narrows down the search results so they are not so overwhelming. Once students are familiar with using the socratic app in class, they can utilize it at home as well for help on homework assignments.
Speaking of homework, as a parent, this app is a savior. I have my certification in generalist 4-8, high school math, and high school composite science. Even with this background, I still don’t remember every minuscule detail about every subject taught in 5th grade. Just tonight, I was sitting down with my 5th grade son to help him make test corrections on a 5th grade math test. I won’t get on my soap box about effective test questions versus ineffective test questions and standardized test prep practice questions- but needless to say some of the questions were highly detailed, basically trick questions. As I tried to figure out the subtle difference the teacher intended with the question between coordinate and coordinates I whipped out the socratic app and took a pic. My son was intrigued and we instantly had helpful information to help us make the distinction. The tension and frustration in the room quickly dissipated and by the end of the corrections we were positively giddy. Progress had been made with little gnashing of teeth, and most importantly, the concepts were clear to my son and understanding had replaced confused frustration. I can only imagine how helpful this would be to parents that haven’t been in a classroom in 20+ years. As a mother of four children, I foresee a day when I will be overwhelmed with children in need of homework help. I intend to have them all download this app onto their devices and when Mom is busy perhaps they will learn to be self sufficient (what a great life skill) and use this tool to find the information on their own. One can only hope!