Citelighter is an engaging online platform designed to support students as they tackle the much maligned research paper. Students simply sign up, download the Citelighter toolbar, create a project, and then move on to their preferred search engines. As students select articles from the web, the toolbar follows them; when they've found a useful excerpt, students need only highlight it and click Capture. Citelighter saves the citation and automatically creates a bibliography.
Further, students can make accompanying notes for any excerpt they select. At any time, students can click View and see the list of excerpts, notes, and citations. They can also re-order their excerpts as they read; when they're ready, they can export their work to Google Drive, Word, or an email. If students need assistance, Citelighter offers video tutorials, a thorough FAQ, and “Knowledge Cards”-- a limited collection of articles on a variety of topics to help stumped students find a jumping off point.
Citelighter touts itself as a “21st Century Critical Thinking Platform” and rightfully so. With navigation and image-rich design reminiscent of teen-favorites Tumblr and Pinterest, the days of notecard research organization are over -- without compromising the learning process. By gathering research in Citelighter’s cloud, students can easily assess the value of their collected excerpts and organize them in an order that works best. It's an automatically-compiled bibliography that tracks students’ progress while also discouraging plagiarism. The export option makes it quick and easy to create an outline or rough draft.
Overall, in using Citelighter, students should feel a satisfying balance of support and autonomy. That said, the video tutorials, FAQ, and “Knowledge Cards” won't likely be enough to help some struggling readers in locating and selecting credible sources.
To make the most of Citelighter as a research tool, teachers should treat the site as exactly that: one tool among many. Supporting lessons on detecting credible sources, note-taking, and following proper citation format will enhance and deepen students’ experience with the site and with research in general.
One distinguishing feature is the Teacher Tools link. Teachers can sign their entire class up for Citelighter and then, upon launching a project, track students’ progress through Citelighter’s “Cognitive Prints”-- a visual assessment of each student’s use of sources, citations, and time. Teachers can access the Cognitive Prints throughout the course of an assignment, making them a great tool for both formative and summative assessment. Citelighter also offers an option for students to collaborate in a way similar to Google Drive. Teachers can assign team projects with the ability to track every student's participation and learning.
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