College and university librarians are concerned about students’ search skills, and no wonder:
At Illinois Wesleyan University, “The majority of students — of all levels — exhibited significant difficulties that ranged across nearly every aspect of the search process,” according to researchers there. They tended to overuse Google and misuse scholarly databases. They preferred simple database searches to other methods of discovery, but generally exhibited “a lack of understanding of search logic” that often foiled their attempts to find good sources.
The librarians quoted here understand most of the key problems, and are especially sharp about “the myth of the digital native” — about which see also this deeply sobering Metafilter thread — but there’s one vital issue they’re neglecting: research databases have the worst user interfaces in the whole world.
Research database UI are truly abysmal, followed closely by the UI of most popular online course management systems, and by the UI for most college and university web sites for course registration and other student management activities.
Yet miraciously the forward facing web sites for most colleges and universities are glitzy and dazzling, precisely because they are seen primarily as a recruiting tool.
So there are two Internets in higher education: there’s the spectacularly slick 2012 Internet students see before they enroll, and there’s the barely usable and archaic throwback to a 1997 Internet that students must endure to interact with the registrar, the library, and their courses throughout the remainder of their college career.
The essence of the modern revolution in education, begun 60-70 years ago with the implications of Piaget’s and Bruner’s research, is to play out an ugly truth (ugly, that is, for naive teachers): students are not blank slates. They bring firm views and beliefs to the table that must be engaged if in-depth understanding is to occur. Why? Many of those conceptions are mistaken: much of modern disciplinary understanding is counter-intuitive to naïve learners. (You can find a great summary of research on misconceptions in science and math, for example, here and here).
Thus taking the time to probe – whether in a class of 200 or around a table with 12 – is the essential instructional move of the successful teacher. It is not time lost but time gained: we won’t have to keep re-teaching and being frustrated by surprisingly poor results on tests of transfer.
“With teachers, true expertise also includes mastery over many areas of knowledge, tools, and domains, and the trajectory from novice to expert requires study, reflection, coaching, and growth. Technology is one tool in a teacher’s toolbox. In this century, a teacher who is not adept at using technology for teaching and learning is not really an expert teacher. They may have many skills and talents and a font of knowledge, but if they cannot effectively weave technology into the process, then they are missing a key component. Any teacher who is “missing” technology, is comparable to a cook who is “missing” knives – technology is a critical tool in effective teaching.”—Technology Transforms Teachers Into Master Chefs of the Classroom (via world-shaker)
We have an interesting tradition here at school. One day each winter we invite all our parents into classes to see what their kids go through every day. It’s not the most authentic experience, because teachers try to plan something that will be interesting for both the students and parents. We have 35 minutes per class on this particular Saturday. I decided to gone experiential ed with today’s classes. In my design class we worked on setting goals for the upcoming project and setting partner pairs who would give feedback to each other. In my Art Foundation class I had them to do an exercise where they needed to arrange paint sample cards as teams. They could use the wall and tape. One group had to organize the colors by hue. The other team had to organize the colors by value. They inevitably run into the opposite problem in each group. In the group that had to arrange based on hue, they find that it’s hard to do that without thinking about value. In the one that is organized by value they find its difficult if they don’t also consider value. They then strategized for how they’ll adjust their method for the next time. In the third class we played a timeline game. I put a bunch of tiles in a row on the ground and have the students stand on them. The rules are that they can’t have more than one person standing on a tile at any time. They’re each given a document from a particular point in Chinese History. Essentially they’re a jumbled timeline and they need to organize themselves. So for the kids it’s a mixed experience because usually when I do those activities there’s no one else watching. When their parents are watching, there’s added anxiety, so it’s an interesting experience, especially when the parrots are simply observers. Next time I want to figure out a way to involve the parents as participants.