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Updating the Research Process

Our current students will be doing research for the rest of their lives. Today, they look for the best buys on electronics, ways to get around the school’s firewall and Internet filter, or gossip on their favorite sports stars. Many also research more serious topics of special interest to them.  In the future they will be researching mortgage rates, medical conditions, cars, politics, and alternative energy for their homes.  The favorite president or country research project is no longer sufficient to ensure our students gain the life long searching skills they need.

Digital literacy, digital fluency, digital information skills–these terms have replaced the last century’s “research process”.  Today’s students have access to the world via the Internet and they must use additional skills to become savvy researchers.  It is critical that they understand where information is coming from, decide whether or not it is reliable, be able to synthesize ideas from multiple sources, and be expert at gleaning information from text, images, and audio–often presented in a mixed format that is not sequentially organized with bold print titles.

One teacher cannot teach all of these skills on his or her own.  It needs a team effort. The first step for the team is to make the librarian/media specialist and technology integrator your best friends. They possess the knowledge you want to tap into as a team! Bring them cookies, compliment their outfits, and ask to see pictures of their children and/or pets. Most of all welcome them to your common planning time meetings to talk about developing your team approach to digital literacy/fluency/information skills.

Some schools have an over-worked librarian with no time to collaborate with teams, and a tech integrator is simply a figment of someone’s imagination.  If this is your school situation, you are on your own for planning.  Fortunately the same Internet which makes the research process more complex also offers you many resources to use in planning a coordinated approach to digital literacy/fluency/information skills.

The first step is to list the skills you want students to master and then using a school calendar and curriculum guides actually block out when it makes sense to teach specific skills. Decide who on the team will introduce skills and who will reinforce them.  Of course the team also has to figure out how to determine if students have internalized these skills.

Two great places to start the process of planning a team approach to teaching digital literacy/fluency/information skills are the Big 6 websites:

http://www.big6.com/kids/

http://www.big6.com/

These sites will help the team identify those critical skills that must be taught.  Then the you can move on to planning your calendar.  It should be remembered that teaching each skill set does not have to lead to a massive research project; it might be that one group of lessons concentrates on evaluating websites, and then the next lesson (perhaps in a different class) has students practicing these evaluation skills and adding to them. Perhaps the next skill will be note taking with digital resources.

Once you have identified the skills then it is time to block out a tentative team calendar that integrates the teaching of these skills into your existing curriculum work.

Sample Team Digital Fluency Calender

Two keys for making this process work well for you and your students:

  1. Be flexible and supportive; the calendar isn’t engraved in stone, it can change!
  2. Be committed to the process; gently hold one another accountable for teaching and reinforcing the designated skills.

There are many fantastic websites that will help a team plan an effective approach to teaching digital literacy/fluency/information skills.

1. Want to challenge students’ beliefs about their knowledge of the Internet and their searching abilities?

2. Citations in 2011 (It’s much more complex in the digital world, but there are sites that will help out the researcher!)

Citation Machine

3. Essential questions change a regurgitation of facts project to a problem solving and creative thinking event.

4. Need to see the possibilities? Here are some examples of digital projects.

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