Reflective Searching

Upon initial viewing of this week’s readings and topics, I expected to get insight on some searching strategies I could teach my students.  Although many assignments in my classroom require some researching on the students’ part, I normally don’t spend much time teaching them how to search.  I assume that since the topics they are searching aren’t very deep, searching for the information they need won’t require a lot of skill.  However, after reading the articles and watching the videos this week,  I discovered that even am guilty of some of the common mistakes of the “Google Generation”!

The article titled “Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future” cited the Google Generation as being those who were born after 1993.  Even though I was born a few years before that, I do identify with many of the common traits of those in the Google Generation, especially from before I earned a college degree, when performing research was still pretty new to me.  The same article discussed in depth the short attention span of today’s generation, especially when it comes to having many resources on the same topic.  I can certainly relate.  Even with my graduate courses,  my attention span will not last long enough for me to read several of the assigned articles in one day.  The difference is, that while teens habitually discard much of the information or only read the first couple of pages, I’ve had to train myself to divide the reading material into multiple days.

The resources also discussed the issue of students simply turning to Google search for everything instead of sifting through some of the more academic sites and e-journals.  I agree that there does lie an issue; however, I don’t debunk Google search altogether for information.  It’s just that students don’t have the skills they need to correctly perform a search on Google.  As stated in “How Teens Do Research in the Digital World,” “Speed is their objective, not quality.”  Students commonly perform a Google search by typing in an entire question.  I was even guilty of this during the Google Challenge!  But we’ve got to teach them correct searching methods such as those described in the video “Even better search results: Getting to know the Google Search for Education.”  We’ve got to teach them to think about how the answer might be presented and search for that, rather than searching for their exact wording of a question.

That brings us to the next topic: curating research for them.  I honestly am a little torn on this topic, although I do lean more to the side of curating.  If I provide all the necessary resources for the students to do research on a particular topic, to an extent, am I not depriving them of learning how to find those resources for themselves?  I feel that part of learning how to do “good” research is learning how to sift through the good and the bad, through the credible and non-credible.  I also run the risk of creating a “filter bubble,” curating only the resources I “agree” with, perhaps.  To avoid this, I would have to have some sort of system for “checking” myself to be sure that I’m including all the resources necessary.   At the same time, at what age should students be expected to do this for themselves?  I currently teach ninth grade, where students are at a major transitioning point in learning about research.  I could certainly see the necessity of curating resources at least for the first half of the school year.

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