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Wednesday
Feb222006

Why do research?

Sleepless in Beijing. The little purple Australian pills only managed to keep me knocked out from about midnight until 4AM here in the People’s Republic. Body thinks it is about 3PM. May as well put the restless mind to some use.

One of the reasons I am here working with the Beijing International School is:

To draft a set of essential agreements to which ISB teachers will adhere as they teach research -- the agreements are to help all teachers to offer developmentally appropriate research experiences to their students. These agreements should include both a philosophical stance that informs student research experiences and assignments. In addition, we want to establish parameters of as well as standards for typical assignments in each division

As I thought about this, the question that keeps coming back to me is “Why exactly do we ask kids to do research in the first place?” Such an elemental question.

I’ll ask that question. I’m guessing I may well get some of the following responses: Do we ask students to do research so that they may…

  • Acquire skills needed in post-secondary schooling (especially the forms and formats of academic research)?
  • Acquire practical, every day survival skills?
  • Acquire content knowledge at a deeper, more profound level?
  • Acquire and engage in higher-order thinking skills?
  • Acquire tools for persuasive communications?
  • Others?

So my follow up questions would be: Are these reasons ever at odds with each other? Do some uses ask for greater emphases on some aspects of the information literacy process than others? Do all uses share any common characteristics? Might all demand questioning on the part of the researcher? Do all kids need all skills?

  • Framing a good question
  • Knowing sources
  • Searching
  • Evaluating/selecting information
  • Synthesizing/organizing information
  • Communicating
  • Evaluating

I am expecting the following questions to come up during the discussion:

  • How has the so-called “information explosion” impacted research? How has technology, especially the Internet?
  • What should students expect from the library and librarian? The classroom teacher?
  • How might this research “essential agreement” related to any academic honor code? What are the cultural implications of asking students to honor intellectual property rights?
  • How is the “Net Generation” different from preceding generations? Has there been a change in student background, ability, or expectations? Is motivation gaining in importance?
  • How important is voice? Is a first person narrative acceptable?
  • Should teachers concentration on formative or summative assessments of research? How can we develop self-assessing students?

This may be easier for ISB for some schools since one common task for which all students will be preparing is the International Baccalaureate’s Extended Essay – a 4,000 word, very traditional research “paper.” (The IB itself is described as "a rigorous pre-university course of studies, leading to examinations, that meets the needs of highly motivated secondary school students between the ages of 16 and 19 years."

We have a whole hour to get this done. My suggestion will be to put whatever draft we manage on a wiki. With ISB’s permission, I’ll share the “essential agreement with you.

Doug Johnson, Consultant
“Leaving people confused at a higher level since 1991.”

Monday
Feb202006

Why librarians should be in charge of educational technology

If you want well and appropriately used educational technology in your school, turn its planning and implementation over to your library media specialists because they have:

pnjeff2.jpg 1. A healthy attitude toward technology. The LMS considers and teaches not just how to use technology, but why and under what circumstances it should be used. (A sexist syllogism: Most librarians are women.  Women have a heathier attitude toward technology than men. Therefore most librarians have a healthy attitude toward technology.)

2. Good teaching skills. Unlike technicians they are more likely to use good pedagogical techniques and have more developed human relations and communication skills. Librarians are understanding and empathetic when technologically related stress occurs in the classroom.

3. An understanding of the use of technology in the information literacy process and its use in fostering higher level thinking skills. We view technology as just one more, extremely powerful tool that can be used by students completing well-designed information literacy projects. Many “technologists” are just now getting this.

4. Experience as skill integrators and collaborators. Integration of research and information literacy projects has been a long-term goal of school library programs, and as a result many LMSs have become excellent collaborators with classroom teaches, successfully strengthening the curriculum with information literacy projects. Librarians know kids, know technology and know what works.

5. Been models for the successful use of technology. The library’s automated library catalogs, circulation systems, electronic reference materials, and student accessible workstations all showed up well before classroom technologies. Teachers rightfully see the LMS as the educator with the most comfort with technology as well, which in turn bolsters their own self-confidence.

6. Provided in-building support. A flexibly scheduled LMS is a real asset to teachers learning to use or integrate technology. The LMS can work with the teacher in the library, lab or classroom. The LMS is available for questions that might otherwise derail a teacher’s application of technology. This as a primary advantage of the LMS as opposed to a classroom teacher having primary responsibility for staff development in technology.

7. A whole school view. Next to the principal, the LMS has the most inclusive view of the school and its resources. The LMS can make recommendations on where technology needs to be placed or upgraded as well as on what departments or teachers may need extra training and support in its use.

8. Concerns about the ethical use of technology. Students will need to have the skills to self-evaluate information; understand online copyright laws and intellectual property issues; and follow the rules of safety and appropriate use of resources. Who but the librarian worries about this stuff?

Your reasons why to turn tech over to librarians? 

Saturday
Feb182006

Art, poetry and technology

It's a thing of beauty when they all come together. From the LWW's 3rd graders...

flowerish.jpg

When a flower loses a petal, my heart beats.

butterflyish.jpg 

When a butterfly flies, I fly with it.