Pudú and friends. by Lizette Greco
We did some research
We went on Google
These were two phrases I used to hear a lot when I was an ICT advisor. It meant the teacher had been doing an internet research lesson, which at best could be a chance for the children to broaden their knowledge around a topic through a series of preselected sites. While at the same time strengthening and honing their research skills.
At worst pupils would come to the Google homepage with the same sense of confusion and boredom, that can occur when faced with a blank page and asked to write a story. I learned quickly from my own lessons and those that I watched that children need prompts and guidance to research. Without these scaffolds and clarity of expectation, the output can be nothing more than cut and paste word documents or print outs of web pages. I remember a display of beautifully crafted leaflets. They had been made in Microsoft Publisher and though they looked very nice, closer inspection revealed that the text in everyone was merely a direct paste from either the BBC or Wikipedia. This is why web-quests gained popularity a few years ago, this technique worked as a sort of information treasure hunt and brought structure and focus to research work.
But real world research does not fit nicely into a linear set of questions as in a web-quest. We look for specific information and discover new questions, meanwhile the answer we seek may not be where we thought and we night need to try another site or page.
It strikes me there are 3 things to get right when using the internet as a text with your class:
1. Do it in a reading Session
Acknowledge that the internet is a giant sprawling hypertext book of information and just like an information book, “a real book” or something from a dire reading scheme – YOU need to scaffold and support the children in crafting strategies for reading it. This means looking at how web pages are put together, discussing navigation, content, authorial intention, the effectiveness of design features as well as decoding and looking at new vocabulary. I have recently taken the step of including more on-screen web-based reading within my supported guided reading sessions, as we can not just assume that proficient technology use means a child can locate and easily extract and summarise information on a website.
2 Learn to search effectively.
I know I need to work on this with my class and I am keen to place context around and use the recent lesson plans from google on more efficient searching.
You can find them here.
3 Value the Output of the Research
By this i simply mean if children have to create a product with the information they find then the engagement and end result is in my experience far better. In recent weeks my year 6 class have been using a selection of pre given sites and a mix of open-ended and more closed questions on our topics such as Michael Morpurgo , The Beatles and The Tolpuddle Martyrs. Their task has been to create a presentation using Key Note on their iPads based on their answers/ findings on the topic.
In order to set this up I created an Iwork account which the children share their work to when finished. Remarkably this has proved most successful when children have been paired on one device rather than having one device each,. At the front of the class I display our Iwork page, where each time a Keynote presentation is completed a thumbnail appears. This adds a gamification element as children are keen to see their work on the board, it also means as a teacher I can click on any piece of work in a mini plenary style and draw out with the class elements for development.
I have been surprised by how successful this method of data mining has become with my class and we now use it routinely when looking at any new topic. The Ipad has added a hook for disengaged and reluctant writers who have been keen to present their work in a form other than graphite and lined A4. I am acutely aware that this is no silver bullet and there is a need to reflect upon the effectiveness of this approach and look at other formats. It is worth looking at the ideas put forward by Simon Haughton on his blog, as he is someone who regularly writes on how pupils might present their internet research.
I’d be keen to know readers thoughts, so as always leave a comment or a tweet.