This video clip is a bit old, but I still like using it to spark conversation on why we need to teach differently in today’s classrooms. When we have almost instant access to factual information, we shouldn’t be asking students to simply recall those facts. The Teaching Innovation Progression Chart highlights Research and Information Fluency as one of the key strands for student success. In a student-driven classroom, teachers should be modeling strategies to guide student investigation, designing challenges that promote synthesis of resources to address an authentic task, supporting students as they acquire, evaluate, and apply information, and facilitating and formatively assessing authentic tasks where students are engaged in research and using information fluently. In these classrooms, we should see students constructing questions to guide research, selecting the most appropriate digital tools and information sources, assembling and synthesizing information to address authentic tasks, and using tools to powerfully display and interact with information.
Most people think of “research projects” as being a major undertaking. There are definitely places for extensive research, but giving students one-day research opportunities are just as important. Most students have never had to write their own questions to guide research, so this is a great place to start. An easy scaffold is for the teacher to give an overarching question (usually standards-based) and the students write two or three supporting questions that will help focus their research toward the main question.
Giving students opportunities to research isn’t enough…and actually shouldn’t be the first step. Digital Literacy (aka Information Fluency) is one of the nine pillars of Digital Citizenship. We need to teach students how to conduct reliable searches and how to determine if a source is valid. A simple method I often share with students is to “triangulate their data”. I tell them that if they aren’t using a website from a trusted source (ie .edu or .gov) that they have to find the same information on three different sources before they can consider it valid. Common Sense Media also has great resources available for teachers, students, and parents to help increase research and information fluency skills.
Check out this article by Jennifer Wilson, The end of ‘just Google it’: Why students need to be digitally literate, for more great information or share it with a colleague who still just tells students to “google it”.