Online Research – teaching skills

25 04 2009

Today’s session on how to finesse online research reinforces my belief that technology needs to be integrated and as teachers we have to aware of the pitfalls to teach our students to be critical online researchers.

I thought the Gary Stager exercise to be an excellent way to teach students that planning and using their ‘world knowledge’ are skills that are required whenever they look for information online. Too often our students jump onto the internet without having a clear thought-out plan for their research.

I’ve just completed a research project with my ESL level 2 Science students. Their task required them to plan their research by considering their subject, the purpose of the research and resulting pamphlet, and their audience (what I call taking your writing to the SPA and giving it the treatment to make it read well). My students were required to use a graphic organizer as they refined their research. 

My students each had a biome assigned to them to research after they completed a K-Q (knowledge-question) chart. They then had to start their organizer with the information they wanted to find based on the questions they had about their biome. They really struggled as they wanted to jump straight into research. At each step, they had to check that they were conducting their research with SPA in mind. They had to consider if teenage tourists would be interested in the information they gathered. Thus, students quickly realised that entering ‘desert’ as a search word was too general. They refined their research by considering the words they enter into the search box. Once they had completed their note cards, they then had to start the process of decision-making and selection. We discussed the purpose of pamphlets/brochures. The students had to understand that they had to have a very focused approach to producing their pamphlets and they needed to cut out ‘boring’ information. 

Thus, in the end, I feel that most of the students learnt to think about their scientific language along with their research skills and improved both.