I grabbed an early flight so that I could attend the 4th Annual "Edubloggercon" an impromptu un-conference of "educational technology geeks" like me, who love learning and conversation. People were invited to submit ideas for conference topics, such as "Crap Detection and Student Research", "Cognitive Science and Education" and "Students Redefine School."
I began the morning in conversation around "Crap Detection and Student Research." The term "Crap Detection" was coined by Howard Rheingold, who feels that it is a 21st Century Literacy. He has set up a wiki on critical thinking for study of this issue.
Angela Maiers commented that students today struggle with first defining the purpose of their research. They often search only by the topic rather than breaking it down to figure out what they want to find out.
Next, identifying keywords is often dificult for them. Another commented that Google does not present itself as a user friendly tool for elementary students. Media specialists are needed to help students make sense of what they are looking for, and model strategies. Michelle Baldwin suggested giving students age appropriate sites before hand and having them rank which are good resources and which are not.
We used to have worksheets to help evaluate Web sites, but now with self-publishing, a grey area has developed surrounding the validity of information despite the fact that some blogs and wikis have more accurate/up-to-date information than traditional media.
David Warlick commented that students need to care about the research that they are doing, and see the purpose.
Maiers said that people looking at material should be asking 3 questions:
- What is being said?
- Who is sharing the message?
- Why is it worthy of my attention, does it fit my purpose?
She feels that these questions should be developed in students in kindergarten and first grade.
One of the concerns brought up by the group is that critical thinking is not being focussed on in classrooms concerned with making "Adequate Yearly Progress" on standardized tests.
Warlick: "Teachers need to say, "according to this source, they say this" on a daily basis. Sources of Authority such as textbooks are often not accurate, and teachers need to point this out!
Some in the room were concerned that teachers don't have time to do this. Maiers pushed back, and said that simply by changing the wording to, "According to this author, Pluto is no longer a planet because.... Can you find another author who might disagree." By simply adding this phrase, you can introduce critical thinking, engage students at a higher level, and still meet the standards. Others suggested simply adding "Why?" to the script can move students in this direction. Maiers added:
"Great readers ALWAYS read w/the writer in mind & great writers ALWAYS write with/the reader in mind! Do we model that? "
Teaching research should also involve giving students experiences where they are immersed in investigation.
Joyce Valenza suggested "Mashpedia" as a starting place for research. She's from the Philadelphia Area, and said they have banned "reports" from her district! We expect the research to go across the content areas, they evaluate the students citations, and maintain rigor.
We finished the session with a 2 minute turn to your partner on what we had learned. Great start to the conference!