Thanks to Charlie A. Roy for pointing me to ChaCha. Chacha is a free resource which allows anyone to do research via mobile phone. I am so excited about this resource because it allows students to connect learning to their everyday lives anytime, anywhere! All you have to do is call ChaCha (toll free number!) at 1-800-2242-242. Then ask a question. I asked "how old was George Washington when he died?" Hang up. In about 30 seconds to 2 minutes you will receive a text message answer. My answer came in 40 seconds, and it was "George Washington died at Mount Vernon on December 14th, 1799 at the age of 67." Wow! Fast and accurate. According to ChaCha, the answers are found by "guides" who have to "pass a test"---which does not mean that each answer is entirely accurate. Keeping this in mind, I still see this resource as an opportunity for learning, below are a few ideas.
Students could use ChaCha in a variety of ways...
1) Research checking
Often with Wikipedia, students are asked to check the accuracy of the information they find at the wiki site. This could also be done with ChaCha. Students could call in to ChaCha and ask a research question about something they are studying (such as a definition of a scientific phenomenon), get the ChaCha answer, then check reliable authoritative resources to see how accurate the definition was.
2) Field Trips
Students on field trips could call in to ChaCha to get more information about a topic they uncover on their field trip.
3) Homework help and Research Papers
Students could use ChaCha to help them find facts and information for their research. Since they receive text message answers they have a record of the research and reference list. Additionally students who do not have Internet access at home, could find this very useful for research (especially research that includes current events and timely information not often found in hardcover encyclopedias).
4) Students could create their own class ChaCha helpline.
Instead of using ChaCha, students could become ChaCha. A different student could be assigned each week/day/month to answer questions that other students call in to them (this could also be used with younger students who call in to the older students for help). When the assigned studnet uncovers the answer, they could text it back to the askee.
By giving students an avenue to get answers to questions in their everyday lives, it allows them to see their cell phone as more than just a social toy.
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