Teaching Research in an Internet Age?

In line with our curriculum’s emphasis on research, the 9/10 history team at my school has been discussing the best way to teach research. We’ve adopted (and adapted) the English Department’s handouts on what constitutes a reliable website and how to take notes on sources and cite research. To these we’ve added a research process flowchart to impress the importance of synthesizing sources and continuous research to fill in gaps. We felt the need to add two components to our modeling of skills: 1) how to construct a search query and scan search engine results pages, and 2) how to find information quickly in books. Why? Our students are great at typing words into Google and clicking the first three links, but they rarely evaluate whether those links are worth clicking on in the first place. They also have trouble when faced with the relative breadth of a book compared to what they can scan on a webpage. Hopefully our approach will address their deficiences. I’m curious as to what other teachers see are the research skills students need in this world of “connectivism” – how important is book-based research? Why require “print” sources when so much print material is duplicated online?

2 thoughts on “Teaching Research in an Internet Age?”

  1. I think this is THE most important skill we can be teaching kids today. Learning how to search, analyze and evaluate sources are critical skills that I feel should be taught any time we have student doing research period!

    I’m excited to see you take this on and in course 2 I’ll be posting some resources to use. One of my favorites right now is agoogleaday.com a great website that asks complicated questions that can’t be answered in a single Google search. Doing something like this as a 10 minute activity everyday in class around questions based on your content I think would be a very good use of class time. Discussing how students found the answer and how they know it’s the right answer is where the learning comes in.

    1. The kids have come back with their first round of sources, and so far it’s going well – only one tried to pass of Wikipedia as a cited source, and another tried to use a WordPress blog. I was surprised to see some of them actually wanting to use a books (!) as their first source – it heartened me to see that print media isn’t completely dead, even for this young generation.

      I’m interested to hear on what other teachers think about the appropriateness of Wikipedia as a source. I tell the kids that I disallow it simply because that’s what universities do – I do this with the disclaimer that Wikipedia really is reasonably accurate. (See: http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2006/11/8296.ars, http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/06/02/study-wikipedia-accurate-but-written-poorly/, http://news.cnet.com/2100-1038_3-5997332.html)

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