Teacher Reflections on the Value of Pre-Search and Presentation Zen Style for Student Learning

I’m excited to team up again this month with Deborah Frost, one of the most experienced and talented teachers here at Creekview High School.   Deborah’s 9th Honors/Literature Composition students are in the library for the rest of the month as they inquire into a controversial/hot topic of their choice and craft a persuasive research paper on that topic as well as an oral presentation.  Through trial and error over the years, Deborah and I have learned much together as instructional partners as we’ve reflected long and hard about what has worked and what hasn’t in each collaborative project we’ve endeavored to do with her students.

Last year, Deborah was more than willing to implement two new aspects to the research design we were crafting.  As part of my effort to make a more concentrated effort to frontload the initial connecting, wondering, and investigating stages of inquiry, she agreed to let me build in a larger initial chunk of pre-search time with the students to help them:

1.  gain background knowledge about their controversial/hot topic and determine if that was really the topic they wanted to explore or to see if there were other topics of more interest to them

2.  read more intentionally and thoughtfully to help them begin discerning big ideas from facts

3.  to begin building background knowledge to develop research questions and to determine if the articles really spoke to their information seeking needs

The students worked for approximately six weeks as they researched, submitted research questions, and collaboratively composed a persuasive paper in Google Docs.  The other new component of the learning experience was teaching students skills and concepts associated with the “Presentation Zen” style PowerPoints for a class presentation to compose an oral presentation supported by those visuals that helped tell the narrative of the learning and insights.

Because that design was so rich and successful, we are doing it with this year’s freshmen.  We’ve made a few tweaks to the new and improved pre-search graphic organizer (see below).

We’ll also be incorporating some new search skills to the students as well.  The other new component for the project is the use of EasyBib in place of NoodleTools since EasyBib allows us to more easily create citations for our database articles.   We will once again do the Presentation Zen style presentations, and in April, I’ll blog a few new minor but helpful modifications I’ve come up with this past year to help support the learning curve for the skills associated with that endeavor.  Finally, we’re being flexible with the schedule/timeline of learning activities to be responsive to student needs; while we have a working calendar, we’re letting it be fluid so we can be responsive to the students if they more or less time for a specific skill or learning activity, then we can do that without feeling married to “the calendar”.   I’m appreciative that Deborah Frost is willing to experiment and to be improvisational as needed within the larger framework we’ve co-designed for the students.

I invite you to check out our research guide and to take a few minutes to listen to Deborah’s reflections on the value of pre-search and Presentation Zen style for student learning!

A Conversation for Learning: Media 21 Students Share Their Search Stories and Strategies

Seeing students utilize the information literacy skills you’ve previously taught them in a new context and independently without it being a mandate is probably one of the most joyful experiences as a librarian and teacher.  Take a look at how one of our inquiry groups is growing as budding researchers and demonstrating these skills, dispositions, responsibilities, and self-assessment strategies from the AASL Standards for 21st Century Learners:

  • 1.1.8 Demonstrate mastery of technology tools for accessing information and pursuing inquiry.
  • 1.2.1 Display initiative and engagement by posing questions and investigating the answers beyond the collection of superficial facts.
  • 1.1.9 Collaborate with others to broaden and deepen understanding.
  • 1.2.2 Demonstrate confidence and self-direction by making independent choices in the selection of resources and information.
  • 1.2.7 Display persistence by continuing to pursue information to gain a broad perspective.
  • 1.4.1 Monitor own information-seeking processes for effectiveness and progress, and adapt as necessary.
  • 1.4.2 Use interaction with and feedback from teachers and peers to guide own inquiry process.
  • 3.2.3 Demonstrate teamwork by working productively with others.

Group Reflections on 9th Grade Research: Presearching, Formative Assessment, Research Guides, and More!

Ms. Frost (English teacher), 9th Honors Literature/Composition students, Ms. Hamilton (librarian), Mr. Guyer (librarian intern), and Ms. Johnson (librarian) reflect on the recent research experiences at The Unquiet Library (see the research guide at http://theunquietlibrary.libguides.com/frost-9th. You can see the pre-search graphic organizer (which we have now condensed into a shorter document for future use!) on the research guide.

Project Information Literacy Progress Report “Truth Be Told: How College Students Evaluate and Use Information in the Digital Age”

A must read for librarians and teachers is the latest report from Project Information Literacy at The University of Washington, “Truth Be Told:  How College Students Evaluate and Use Information in the Digital Age.” The paper abstract describes the study:

A report about college students and their information-seeking strategies and research difficulties, including findings from 8,353 survey respondents from college students on 25 campuses distributed across the U.S. in spring of 2010, as part of Project Information Literacy. Respondents reported taking little at face value and were frequent evaluators of Web and library sources used for course work, and to a lesser extent, of Web content for personal use. Most respondents turned to friends and family when asking for help with evaluating information for personal use and instructors when evaluating information for course research. Respondents reported using a repertoire of research techniques—mostly for writing papers—for completing one research assignment to the next, though few respondents reported using Web 2.0 applications for collaborating on assignments. Even though most respondents considered themselves adept at finding and evaluating information, especially when it was retrieved from the Web, students reported difficulties getting started with research assignments and determining the nature and scope of what was required of them. Overall, the findings suggest students use an information-seeking and research strategy driven by efficiency and predictability for managing and controlling all of the information available to them on college campuses, though conducting comprehensive research and learning something new is important to most, along with passing the course and the grade received. Recommendations are included for how campus-wide stakeholders—faculty, librarians, and higher education administrators—can work together to help inform pedagogies for a new century.

Dr. Alison J. Head and Dr. Michael B. Eisenberg identify the seven major findings of this study:

1. Students in the sample took little at face value and reported they were frequent evaluators of information culled from the Web and to a lesser extent, the campus library. More often than anything else, respondents considered whether information was up-todate and current when evaluating Web content (77%) and library materials (67%) for course work.

2. Evaluating information was often a collaborative process—almost two-thirds of the respondents (61%) reportedly turned to friends and/or family members when they needed help and advice with sorting through and evaluating information for personal use. Nearly half of the students in the sample (49%) frequently asked instructors for assistance with assessing the quality of sources for course work—far fewer asked librarians (11%) for assistance.

3. The majority of the sample used routines for completing one research assignment to the next, including writing a thesis statement (58%), adding personal perspective to papers (55%), and developing a working outline (51%). Many techniques were learned in high school and ported to college, according to students we interviewed.

4. Despite their reputation of being avid computer users who are fluent with new technologies, few students in our sample had used a growing number of Web 2.0 applications within the past six months for collaborating on course research assignments and/or managing research tasks.

5. For over three-fourths (84%) of the students surveyed, the most difficult step of the course-related research process was getting started. Defining a topic (66%), narrowing it down (62%), and filtering through irrelevant results (61%) frequently hampered students in the sample, too. Follow-up interviews suggest students lacked the research acumen for framing an inquiry in the digital age where information abounds and intellectual discovery was paradoxically overwhelming for them.

6. Comparatively, students reported having far fewer problems finding information for personal use, though sorting through results for solving an information problem in their daily lives hamstrung more than a third of the students in the sample (41%).

7.  Unsurprisingly, what mattered most to students while they were working on courserelated research assignments was passing the course (99%), finishing the assignment (97%), and getting a good grade (97%). Yet, three-quarters of the sample also reported they considered carrying out comprehensive research of a topic (78%) and learning something new (78%) of importance to them, too.

I plan to study this report in more depth during my week-long Thanksgiving vacation, but I think finding #4 speaks to what we have been trying to do with the Media 21 project.  Overall, it looks like academic libraries are facing some of the same challenges we are in K12 schools in trying to build collaborative partnerships to provide a more authentic and integrated approach to positing research as a tool for learning rather than an isolated event that seems to lack relevance for students.  I’m also thinking it would be meaningful and insightful to replicate this study at the high school level and compare findings.  I’ll blog more about my reflections on this project post-Thanksgiving holidays, but in the meantime, take a look at the report and share your reactions/reflections.

You can see other reports and work from Project Information Literacy by the link beneath the screenshot:

Eight Noteworthy Reads on Information Literacy, Libraries, and New Literacies

I’d like to share eight noteworthy reads that I discovered in the wee small hours of the morning today that have relevance for librarians in all settings as well as classroom teachers.   These three resources are especially meaningful to me as the ideas relate to my daily work, my conceptualization of embedded librarianship, information literacy, new media literacies,  the participation gap, and scholarly research.

Find 1:

“John Palfrey: Rethinking Plagiarism in the Digital Age“:  this interview with John Palfrey co-author of Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives, popped up on my iGoogle desktop via RSS feed from the blog Information Literacy Meets Library 2.0. In this “Smart Talk” from the University of Washington iSchool’s Project Information Literacy, Palfrey discusses students’ conceptualization of plagiarism, what teachers and librarians should consider in addressing the challenges of helping students better understand concepts of plagiarism, and what Palfrey considers the three most important competencies for 21st century learners right now.

In addition, Palfrey addresses the needs for us to continue to find better and new ways of creating effective portals of information (and I would add, helping students ultimately learn how to craft their own):

I think we need to be in the business of using these new rivers of information, adding to them, sharing what we know, and coding – developing, in the sense of writing computer code – new ones that work even better. There’s so much that we know about in libraries and in communities that we are not sharing with other people. The amount of metadata – data about the data – that we have and don’t make use of is staggering. (My colleagues in the Library Lab at Harvard Law School are working on a beta application of this sort, online here:http://librarylab.law.harvard.edu/ that makes this point generally.) And then we should be using and imparting these skills at all the touchpoints we have with students, whether in research consultations, in research classes, or in ordinary classes where we are helping students do research in the context of another topic.

Find 2

The interview with Palfrey led me resource 2,  “The Participation Divide: Content Creation and Sharing in the Digital Age”, a research study by Eszter Hargittai and Gina Walejko.   This research study can be downloaded for free as a PDF and is of interest to anyone who is concerned about the participation gap in regards to information, digital, and new media literacies as outlined by the 2009 Knight Foundation Report on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy as well as Henry Jenkins.  You can read this research study as well as other studies that are of significance to educators and librarians in all settings from the Web Use Project by clicking here.

Find 3

Another research report, “Trust Online: Young Adults’ Evaluation of Web Content” from the Web Use Project.

Find 4

One more research report, “Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in Internet Skills and Uses among Members of the “Net Generation”” from the Web Use Project.

Find 5

A must read is Henry Jenkins’ post, “Towards a New Civic Ecology: Addressing the Grand Challenges“,  on his keynote speech at the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges Conference.  You can watch the video (I so love when conferences record and post these speeches on YouTube) on his blog and listen to him discuss the following challenges and strategies of navigating the current media landscape:

  • Challenge One: Maximize the availability of relevant and credible information
  • Challenge Two: Strengthen the capacity to engage with information
  • Challenge 3: Promote engagement with information

This post and talk is rich in content, but here are some of my favorite take-aways:

“I regularly encourage my own graduate students to start a blog around their research topics. Doing so expands their research networks. “

“The Digital Divide has to do with access to networked communication technologies — with many still relying on schools and public libraries to provide them with access. The Participation Gap has to do with access to skills and competencies (as well as the experiences through which they are acquired). And the Civic Engagement Gap has to do with access to a sense of empowerment and entitlement which allows one to feel like your voice matters when you tap into the new communication networks to share your thoughts. Unfortunately, we’ve wired the classrooms in this country and then disabled the computers; we’ve blocked young people from participating in the new forms of participatory culture; and we’ve taught them that they are not ready to speak in public by sequestering them to walled gardens rather than allowing them to try their voices through public forums.”

Find 6

Another great interview from the SmartTalks series at Project Information Literacy with respected scholar Andrea Lunsford, “Andrea Lunsford: Writing and the Profound Revolution in Access“.   This interview  speaks to the findings of the Stanford Study of Writing (another research study I’m going to delve into with depth) with a focus on the transaction of research and information literacy skills with writing as well as ways of integrating the services and resources of libraries and librarians into the writing and research experiences of college students.

In this interview, Lunsford asserts, …”the profound revolution in access to research materials is affecting everyone, at all grade levels. The question now is who has access to research materials, not only through search engines like Google but through the kinds of databases that school libraries pay for and make accessible to students.”

Find 7

Through my exploration of the Smart Talks interviews, I learned about the latest research project from the University of Washington iSchool and am eager to see the publication of it in November 2010:

During spring 2010, we conducted PIL’s large-scale student survey at 25 U.S. community colleges and universities. The online survey was sent to 112,800 college students, making it one of the largest information literacy surveys ever conducted. Findings will be released in November 2010.

Find 8

The University of Washington iSchool Project Information Literacy has its own YouTube Channel; the video below definitely speaks to the upcoming workshop I’m doing with my Social Studies teachers on restructuring and rethinking research assignments to prevent plagiarism and promote the creation of content and more original critical thinking.

I hope you enjoy these readings and resources that I discovered as a result of one blog post!  This personal research experience reminds me of how much I love having access to so much relevant and significant content for free via the web and that these resources have led me to additional information sources I’ll want to further explore in these spaces as well as research databases I can access through our state virtual library, GALILEO.