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Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

After attending the Edutopia webinar, “Education Nation” amidst planning for the beginning of the school year, I was inspired by the idea that there are some classroom techniques and practices that must move from the realm of “nice to know” to “must do.”  As an educator, I have been guilty of learning about new sources and methods, but have failed to completely integrate them into the classroom.  Time has always been an issue.  It has always been easier to fall back on what I’ve used in the past and use what is readily at hand.

But as the school year begins, I think it’s best to review my  lessons and practices of the past school year and employ the  philosophy of Re: Reflect, Reevaluate, and Reinvent.

  • RE – flect: Think about the learning experience of students in my classroom.  Am I challenging and engaging my students?  How many assessments involved more than recall and regurgitation?   How can I best assess their knowledge?
  • RE – evaluate: What classroom projects and practices worked last year, creating an authentic learning experience for my students?  Look at each unit, it’s construct, resources used, and assessment.  Be brutal.  What is worthwhile and worth keeping?  What can be improved?
  • RE – invent: Once the weaknesses in lessons have been pinpointed, I must have the courage to change them.  I have to step out of the box and try something new –use a tool I’ve just learned about, or explore a different dimension of a topic. I’ll do my best to try to engage the students, rather than instruct them.

Now that I’m reinvigorated from the summer, I should have the energy to revise my methods.  That is my goal for this year.

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As I look at Google’s Sidewiki, I am reminded of something I tell my students all the time — more information is not necessarily better information.  Yes, Google has now developed an app to make all webpages wikis; that is, readers can share their insights on posted information in a sidebar.  But do we want all viewers of information to post their “helpful knowledge” relating to a site in a sidebar?  Long ago, there was pure research-quality information, presented by experts in journal or book form that had been edited and verified.  With the advent of the internet, that information became more widely available in digital form.  Now, that information will bear the reflections of all those who look at it.  Think of the ramifications.  Do we need personal reflections on all topics? Do I want or need everyone’s commentary on research?  While I believe strongly in the power of collaborative learning, I also believe on the importance of authoritative information for research.  What qualifications do these contributors to the sidewiki have?  Or does that no longer matter, now that the only requirement  is an interest in the subject?  The information age has morphed into a participation age, where everyone’s an expert, and all contributions are viewed as equally valuable.  But the truth is, they’re not.  And now, we must prepare our students to deal with this new reality, where greater discernment is required to separate  fact from fiction.  Or maybe we should just teach them how to cite random postings from a sidewiki.

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laptopAfter reading Jeff Utecht’s article on the stages of PLN adoption, I realize, embarrassingly enough, that I have only reached Stage 3: Know it All. For those of you not familiar with the post, it is not an egocentric state of mind, but a feeling of total inadequacy.  Once you become involved in discussions online with the myriad of gifted educators, librarians, and technology coordinators, you come to grips with a very depressing reality: you don’t know much of anything, and have very far to go.  This feeling has led me to try to read every tip, try every website, reply to every enlightening post, evaluate and revise my curriculum, and share these new ideas with my faculty.  Needless to say, I’m exhausted.  I can’t sleep, because I’m afraid I might miss a great blog post or the best new resource on the web.  What about that fantastically motivating quotation that was posted at midnight yesterday?  Did I miss a new “10 Best” list? So, I was relieved to read that Stage 4 of PLN Adoption is Perspective.  I’ve actually spent time this past week with my family and friends.  I’ve been working setting up my library for the beginning of school.  I watched television. Am I still drawn to a logged in computer just to check the latest Twitter updates?  Yes.  But like all recovering addicts, I’m taking one step at a time. I think there’s hope for me yet. Stage 5, here I come!

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The library of today

Photograph courtesy of Darlene Fichter, University of Saskatchewan

Once upon a time, a library was a place for quiet place for reading and research, where the librarian easily maintained total control with a “shhh”.  Today, a library is an active place where students are involved in multiple processes with many tools once thought verboten.  They gather information from multiple sources: YouTube, Twitter, Wallwisher, GoogleDocs, Wikis, etc.  These sources were once banned from school use by many Acceptable Use Policies because of horror stories of student misuse.  But today, participation and sharing via these Web 2.0 tools is essential for the full spectrum of learning to take place.  Just think how restrictive a project would be if source information was limited to books and selected websites. 

But it isn’t easy for educators to loosen the reigns of control.  Students’ safety has always been an concern, and rightly so.  This philosophy of student protection resulted in overly protective and limiting AUP’s.  But recently, a member of my PLN sent a quote that I found enlightening.  “Don’t condemn the source of information, but its improper use.”  This made me look at the school AUP again, and begin to consider an alternate approach: one where ethics of information use were stressed, rather than a list of approved and banned sites.  This requires a radical trust by teachers and librarians to allow students to use sites that may have questionable material, for directed research and information sharing.  Students must be given the skills to make the decisions to find the information they need.  That is an integral part of the research process.  By limiting sources, we are also limiting student’s growth.  It’s time for a major leap of faith.

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