Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Connected Student

My new school is an IB world school, offering a full IB program, elementary through secondary.  Part of what that means for the library is that the 9th/10th graders and 11th/12 graders each have extended (around 4000 words) research projects/papers to write.  I've been working the past week on revising my research approach, with a nod to Buffy Hamilton's Media21 Project, as well as my interview a few months ago with Michelle Luhtala.

Specifically, I want to make social media an embedded part of what students do. I have said before that "digital natives" aren't all that adept at analytical uses of social tools; these will become a key component of the 14 weeks I work directly with the students.  I also want to adapt the Big 6 model, building in some components of Jamie MacKenzie's questioning model.  IB does a great job of pushing beyond standard essay topics into true, exploratory, inquiry-based types of projects.  Students have a difficult time framing good questions, however, so I will build in more instruction on that.

While I wanted them to keep a process blog, the coordinator put a nix on that as too much extra work not directly related to the extended essay, and he has a point; I will watch how it goes this year, though. I think keeping a reflective blog of their thoughts and processes would
  • inform their essay
  • provide them insight into their own learning style/process
  • add positively to their digital footprint
  • be a source for connecting with experts as they create their PLN

I will incorporate the following tools for student use:

iGOOGLE:   Buffy used NetVibes to create student learning portals, but I decided to use iGoogle because it more directly links to each student and the Google apps, while still allowing them to embed resources, RSS feeds and other tools via the gadgets, and to create different tabs/pages by subject.  This allows students to create highly individualized collections of up-to-the minute information.

I'll have them create at least two tabs:  The first will be general organizational info, and their own "fun" stuff: A to-do list, an embedded calendar of due dates, links to important school-related sites, pathfinders, etc.   The second will be their collection of resources, RSS feeds, associated documents, etc.

EVERNOTE:  For gathering online sources, taking notes, sharing bookmarks.

NOODLETOOLS:  For notetaking, citations.

GOOGLE DOCS:  While the nature of the extended essay (each student researches their own topic) doesn't allow for much collaboration, I'll show them the tools, as Google Forms will be useful for students needing to do surveys.    I'll demonstrate the collaborative nature of a Google doc when I have them practice paraphrasing/summarizing as a group.  I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out a way to incorporate Google Docs or wikis into this. If you have any ideas, please post them in the comments!

Obviously, it would be easier for them to share their progress with their advisors if they do all their planning/writing on Google Docs.  I'm not sure if I can ask advisors to create Google accounts just for this.  I am starting to push for the school to adopt Google Apps for Education, but that will take a while.  I'm having a meeting with the head of secondary and the two coordinators, so will definitely bring this up.

RSS FEEDS:  For gathering data, following expert blogs on their topics, etc.  I'm looking into Yahoo Pipes which, as far as I can tell, allows users to aggregate different feeds into one. I'm trying to decide if I want to talk to them about Twitter searches/feeds.  I think I'll do that on an individual basis, depending on their topic and whether I think it would be a valuable resource or not.

One thing I have to be careful about is not overwhelming them with tools.  This seems like a good start, especially for students who have never really had formal training in doing research.

I'm pretty excited about how we have decided to run this, since the entire project is outside their regular course work.  I will offer twice-a-week workshops over a course of 14-15 weeks.  Students will sign up for one of the workshops, and we'll keep track of who attends to ensure they actually get the information.  I can give individual lessons to students who can't fit in otherwise and--you guessed it!--I swear I will create video tutorials on each of the topics to put on the library website.  (I even added that to my goals for this year, so maybe I'll actually do it this year!)

If you have other ideas I could include, I would love to hear them.  Please add them to the comments, or any other comments you have on this plan in general.

As part of this I need to create and/or revamp various handouts.  I will, of course, post those as I go.


  1. Maybe you could use Google Docs for peer editing once the students get into their draft writing. The students can offer each other suggestions on the writing itself, and maybe also share ideas of good websites they have found helpful to their own research that may help the student whose paper they are reviewing.

  2. Hi Megan: Yeah, that was my idea, too, but the school really wants them working independently. I need to work on that mindset! : )

    I did think having them work on paraphrasing/summarizing skills using Google Docs.