Yesterday I had a conversation about real learning and research skills. I was talking to a former high school classmate who did not pursue an education degree. In surprisingly many ways we agree. The successful lifelong learners are not the ones who can memorize and recite trivial facts. In this quickly evolving world, you need to know what you need to learn and how to find it.
We were an early generation of Internet users in high school; we were consumers but not content producers. We turned to the Internet to find info, to chat on AOL, to stream videos (but were smart and paused it to let it buffer for a while), to download music, and to generally be entertained. Nick and I agree that Downingtown did not prepare us for digital research, but quality research and analytical thinking in general. Downingtown High School prepared us to be real world learners and thinkers. We could not pinpoint when it happened or in what class, just that it happened. We didn’t even take the same classes, so it had to be an overarching goal of the school in general. Not everyone graduates with the skill. We are lucky. I can attest that I learned how to learn in high school which made college significantly easier. Nick and I agree that we did not appreciate the academic rigor as students, but we are grateful now.
The topic of digital research is timely because it is the theme of this week’s graduate class that I am teaching. I created a Jog the Web to tell the story of quality research in a digital environment. I don’t know exactly when I learned this, but life has been dramatically easier because digital research comes easily.
The Jog includes search tips for Google and Wolfram Alpha. There are lists for additional search engines and digital research tools. There are tools for citing digital research like EasyBib and Zotero. The last chunk of information presented is on investigating the quality of sources. There are four websites listed that viewers have to determine if they provide good or false information (hint: two are real, two are fake). The series concludes with a reflective blog post by another author about using digital research at the elementary level.
Sometimes I wish people would figure the answer out on their own (which is why I love Let Me Google that for You); but I need to realize that people need efficient search skills. Instead of just presenting the finished find, I should model more digital searches for students or colleagues.