‘Independent’ research

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Technology is making it all too easy for us to access a multitude of information whenever we want. As teachers, it is up to us to empower students with the skills to conduct meaningful research on their own, with some scaffolding and guidance along the way.

I had firsthand experience with this the other day as I guided my students to use the iMathskids website to collect information for their maths investigation. They were to click on links to lead them to websites about famous Australian landmarks to identify their location and the population of the nearest town. Very few of my students were able to discern which information was important on the website. There were so many titles, subtitles, icons, pages, maps and words in bold that my students had no idea how to find the information they needed.

How do you conduct independent research? I know at my school, many sites are blocked. This requires teachers to create a ‘hotlist’ of suitable sites for students to conduct their research on. Great in theory, but when I am running Genius Hour and I have 25 students wanting to research 25 different topics – creating a hotlist of 10 suitable sites for each of them is not sustainable.

Re-thinking my maths investigation, I was lead to 2 technology tools that I am planning on using this week to help up-skill my students for future independent research. The first one is a website, “Into The Book“. My students have used this site before, both on PC and iPad, and I have found that they are engaged AND learning. In the Student Area, there is a section on ‘Evaluating’ which has a few activities on understanding websites – absolutely perfect for the task my students were required to do last week.

I also came across this blog – A Turn To Learn – which had a fabulous post How to Change the Reading Level of Your Google Search Results. I had no idea that this was even possible! My students are often struggling with how to research topics and questions – what words to write, what words to omit – but this looks like a simple process to teach each and every student in my class. 

How do you encourage and implement independent research? Is it truly independent? Or is it ‘independent’?

What do you think?

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