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Danny's Inquiry

Look at the life of Danny Callison as he grows up as an information inquirer.

Danny in Elementary School (Grades 4-6): 1956-1959

dannyDanny’s elementary school experience is influenced by:

1. His reluctance to engage in reading skills
2. His brothers as learning mentors
3. A gift from his mother
4. A trip that includes visits to historic sites

Questioning and Exploration

Danny is a very reluctant reader. He would rather explore through hands-on projects and news events presented on the new black and white television his parents purchased in 1957. He lives in a small town in southern Kansas.

cub scoutsSimilar to nearly all children, Danny is curious. He is also active in lots of athletic activities, especially little league baseball, and is a member of the local 4-H and Cub Scouts. His most concentrated efforts to read involve brief descriptions and extensive statistics on hundreds of baseball cards.

older brotherTwo major “information mentors” for Danny are his older brothers. Keith is ten years older and can seeming solve all technical problems. Schematic plans are deciphered as Keith constructs model airplanes and cars, repairs his own car and can create his own plans for building nearly anything. Danny’s oldest brother does not care for literature or an academic-based world, but seems to excel in consuming technical information to solve real-life problems.

Danny’s second older brother is a veracious reader. Norman especially prefers mysteries and dramas. To Danny’s enjoyment, Norman reads to his younger brother on nearly a daily basis. Norman seems to bring characters to life as he reads, often providing his own interpretations of situations and inflections of various voices. Never really “tied to a script”, Danny’s older brother of seven years, tells a story “with gusto” and reads aloud selected details and descriptions from the text. He often uses literary license allowing for more entertaining interpretations.

Few areas of study in elementary school interest Danny. One topic in the fourth grade, local Kansas history, seems not only perplexing, but also personal and therefore of special meaning. Most reading in school is from Basil collections that do not tell a story, but simply repeat similar words. Danny is always placed in the “robin group”, third after the better “blue bird” and “red bird” groups. Such never bothers him as the two better groups are filled with girls.

Kansas FlagIllinois Flag

A family vacation to Illinois, the summer following fourth grade, introduces Danny to the artifacts and stories found at the home of Abraham Lincoln. The trip also involves stops in Lawrence and Pottawatomie. These Kansas communities are locations of conflicts leading to the Civil War. Materials obtained from these historic sites and more books from the public library selected by Norman help to focus on issues and conflicts that seem to Danny to be meaningful to explore.

4HBy the end of the fifth grade and after the many projects available in 4-H and Cubs, one seemed of special interest to Danny. Collecting stories, photos and cartoons into his own newspaper was as near as he could get to the news reports he watched on television. His mother found a unique duplication device based on a gel that would carry ink on its surface from a written master. Up to fifty reproductions could be pulled from the gel base, including the use of different colors using a variety of pens. His mother gave Danny one of these printing plates. The crude device proved to be efficient after Keith made some modifications.

Danny entered the sixth grade with his first “Tip Top Times” newspaper printed and ready for free distribution. On a single page divisions were provided for a cartoon, sports facts, and the coming Kansas Centennial in 1961 (

Not all of Danny’s classmates displayed interest. Those who did were soon contributing their own drawings, poems and stories. Seven more issues were published before the end of the school year. For a small group, the newspaper set the stage for the centennial celebration that was to follow in junior high school.

The time and energy to gather information for these issues involved an exploration of many new topics and lots of additional reading. Almanacs and encyclopedias helped along with lots of material found under Kansas History in the public library vertical file. Among the key terms leading to topics of interest were:

And the burning sports question even in 1960, “Who is Better Mantle or Mays?” (

Mickey MantleWillie Mays

There could be no conclusive argument as both were in the middle of their magnificent careers, however one could certainly compare numbers from what was summarized on their baseball cards.

Assimilation & Inference

As a struggling reader, Danny needed a reason or specific purpose to explore information and read deeper. As an emerging information scientist, he was learning to formulate questions of interest to him and to others. With guidance from others, mostly friends and relatives, he was learning where additional information was housed.

Danny was beginning to apply information to create a story to inform others. Although he was not mature enough to understand the issues behind the historical conflicts that are a part of his home state’s history, he was beginning to touch on these through his readings and discussions. These names and events would be only facts at this stage, but over the next ten years they would become key terms to link to many other sources of information about human conflicts and compromises.


Danny gained some confidence in these early experiences with exploring information sources and assimilating new knowledge. His vocabulary increased, his frequency of reading went up, and the spectrum of documents to explore also increased. The reason, however, was not a grade or chance to move into a higher reading group. The motivation was a product -- a presentation instrument that allowed Danny to not only communicate with classmates, but to also learn through social interaction.

Danny was raised in normal academic environment of his day. His school provided the usual approach to reading instruction of the time. None of the elementary schools in Danny’s hometown housed school libraries and no one had heard of an elementary school librarian. The community did have a good Carnegie Library with the entire basement devoted to materials for children. Danny did participate in the summer reading program, but found the library much more useful when seeking materials to address specific questions. Reading just to be reading was of no interest to him.

Skills. Danny was learning to give focus to inquiry. As new questions are raised the need for new information also emerges. New information and assimilation of knowledge lead to more questions. The newspaper, however, forced some decisions as to selection of information and addressing certain topics. The limited space of the newspaper format, the interest of the readers, and the limitation of the information that was understandable and age appropriate determined the focus and closure on the information inquiry process.

Danny seems to have interest in using information and numbers to build a case or to support an argument. Information can be used to persuade as well as inform. Although Danny as many experiences in front of him to assimilate strategies that influence information selection based on ethics, relevancy and authority, he has established a base for applying information to his communication needs.

Strategies and Scaffolding. Danny was learning to use new sources. Much of this was based on his understanding that he could learn from others. He observed and listened to his brothers, his early learning mentors. He was fortunate to have two siblings who displayed different learning styles, both of which proved useful for him. He has found that he learns best when engaged in an activity with purpose -- something that has tangible and immediate reward.

Realizations. Danny has found that he can learn in a social environment when there are tasks shared among a group. Although he may have interests that are unique to him, he also has interests that are relevant to others. By interacting with his peers, he can learn through leading, sharing and observing.


Information Literacy Standards (Selected from Information Power, AASL, 1998)

Content Standards

Times Have Changed

In the past fifty years, black and white broadcast televisions have been replaced by high definition color, wide-screen televisions with thousands of channels of information. In addition to print newspapers, people have access to news through 24/7 television channels and websites. Computers and high-speed copiers have replaced ditto machines. Although the tools Danny used for accessing information and constructing of his newspaper have evolved, his experience in seeking and organizing ideas would be the same today.

If Danny and his brothers were to visit the Lincoln home and museum today, many more artifacts could be examined through interactive exhibits and primary sources available on display and through the Internet (

In addition, Danny's experience as a reluctant reader and his lack of concern about reading groups is still typical today. However educators are increasingly aware of the need to address the individual needs and interests of children.

Relevant Resources

Gurian, Michael. 2005. The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life. Jossey-Bass. Learn more at the Gurian Institute. Listen to a radio interview of Gurian from the Diane Rehm Show.

Useful links to 4H USA and the project approach to learning they have mastered over the past century are:

Danny in Junior High School (Grades 7-9): 1960-1963

DannyThese important events take place during the junior high school years:

  1. An exciting Presidential campaign is covered nationally on television as is a national tragedy.
  2. Kansas celebrates its statehood Centennial.
  3. Danny enters a secondary school, grades 7 – 12, and it houses a school library, a print shop and a school newspaper.
  4. Instructional media specialists emerge from school teachers.

Questioning and Exploration

Danny enters junior high school at a very exciting time. The 1960 Presidential Campaign involved two candidates who represented to their respective supporters a new beginning for the nation. A fresh start in science, education and human rights all seemed possible in the coming decade.

JKF - LOC Prints and Photographs DivisionThe black and white television in Danny’s home carries detailed news coverage of the nomination conventions and eventually the election results, late into the night. It is fascinating to see numbers posted immediately, analysis offered and results projected.

Three years later, this same medium managed by the same reporters would cover what many believe to be one of the worst days in American history when a young President is shot in Dallas. Information validation and misinformation were managed in real time. Images told more than words and emotions were difficult to hide. It seemed that conflict was ripe to emerge again. Many could only speculate, “if only some small thing had happened differently to change things.” History is not, however, learning how to wish for a different set of events, but learning how to not repeat the same mistakes in the future. That concept, however, Danny would find hard to see as one that was applied by those in national leadership over the next two decades.

1961 is the Kansas Centennial. The local celebration is based on an original pageant. Visiting artists are commissioned to compose music, research and write scripts, and others in the community volunteer to make costumes and sets for the extravaganza at the local fair grounds. The event is a reflection of community creativity. Danny plays in the band, marches in the parade, and portrays a pioneer. Danny is amazed at the number of people who can become involved in such a local community celebration.

American HeritageThe school environment changes for Danny in the 1960s. He enters a junior high school that includes a school library. It is well stocked with a wide variety of materials for all secondary grade levels. Access to resources is encouraged and there are few restrictions for loan of books or periodicals. The entire collection of American Heritage is available for Danny or any other student to read individual volumes without asking for retrieval from back room storage. Danny borrows several each week simply for his reading pleasure. He concentrates on diagrams and maps.

The librarian, Miss Viets, also teaches library skills, lectures in the history classes and directs senior independent study. She encourages reading and information exploration by learning individual student interests and constantly brings new books to the students’ attention. She sponsors several student activities, including student government. Miss Viets is able to find ways to engage students in conversations about their interests, future plans, academic strengths and weaknesses and reading preferences. She chairs curriculum meetings and is widely respected by other teachers. She is clearly an instructional media specialist ahead of her time.

Danny’s combination junior and senior high school also contains vocational education for students from seventh grade to the senior year. Eventually he will attend classes in the emerging technologies of commercial printing as well as courses in journalism. Activities are hands-on and practical. History and literature classes are demanding and supported Danny’s eventual choice to be in college preparatory along with some vocational training classes.

A new reading teacher, Mrs. Wolfe, enters Danny’s school career in junior high school. She stocks her room wall-to-wall with paperbacks and freely loans as many as a student could carry (it seemed). These books covered a wide range of stories, fiction and nonfiction. Biographies and sports stories are plentiful and meet the interests of the many boys in the class. Much of class time involved reading aloud, but a great deal of time was invested in talking about what was read individually at home. Danny and other students wanted to read more in order to have more to say in class. Stories based on historical events and others on different cultures of the world opened interactions in small group literature circles. Discussions were on adventures, places and events not imagined before.

Danny was placed in Mrs. Wolfe’s special reading class for two more years. By his freshman year he was moved to the “advanced” English classes. But the best reward was how Mrs. Wolfe engaged literature of all types with students at all levels. Danny and his classmates were encouraged to debate, oppose, question or defend what was read. Mrs. Wolfe seemed to believe that each student has a personal experience to bring to any reading and that text did not become meaningful until there was an attempt to assimilate the text with the experience. Assimilation did not always mean acceptance. Many times meaning came from rejection of the text, and telling why.

New questions began to form at this stage of Danny’s schooling. Questions he would not have considered earlier and questions he was not certain he should raise.

It seems that people in different cultures share the same hopes and dreams. Why does there continue to be conflict and why can’t humans show more tolerance toward each other?

McLuhanSuch questions for an adolescent are not unusual. They illustrate the mixed transition from personal emotional questions to an emerging awareness that there is a world outside of self.

As a student “information scientist” Danny is beginning to raise questions concerning the ways information in a mass media society define how personalities and events are perceived. Although not to the stage of grasping the concept, he is starting to wonder if information presented transforms reality as much as is may not represent reality to begin with. Emerging telecommunication mass media can place Danny in the middle of an historical event as it happens. This brings conflict and confusion from the wider world into the home. Which is real? What is real? When is it real? In short, and in line with a creative take on emerging communications of the mid-1960s from Marshall McLuhan ( ), “The medium is the message.”

Assimilation & Inference

Danny has become immersed in different cultures and new adventures through the expanding literature introduced to him by his new reading teacher. He is encouraged to explore many information formats not available to him before. Danny has access to a vast array of reading resources, fact and fiction, in formats appealing to his age group. Magazines and paperback books abound. He is invited to explore these materials at a time of historic change and emerging turmoil. He is an adolescent in a quickly changing world of electronic and visual communication that often expects him to consider events and opinions he is not mature enough to handle. Assimilation is often difficult. Inference is often wrong.

Danny demonstrates assimilation of new information through his essays, small group discussions, posters and displays. Favorite books are clustered around themes or challenging questions that do not have clear answers, if any answers at all. Other books are classified to match cultures, biographies, and adventures. Questions and answers are more clearly illustrated through drawings, photographs, and brief written descriptions of different cultural beliefs or various achievements of popular personalities. With today’s technologies, Danny would be able to illustrate these information associations through software for mind mapping and webbing.


Danny is moving through normal adolescent changes and is beginning to have a wider perception on the events of the world. Some of this change is because he is maturing and some is because the world is being delivered faster and more graphically than ever before because of new electronic mass communications. In many ways, as good as the new educational environment is for Danny, schools are also caught up in the extensive communications revolution.

Skills. Danny has improved his reading capacity as he consumes several books a month and freely engages in reading circle discussions. He explores resources in the school library and borrows magazines and books for reading pleasure as well as for completion of assignments. He is learning more and more about current events and politics as represented over television. What is portrayed on television does not often match the principles for government and behavior described in textbooks in school.

Scaffolding. Danny seeks out recommendations from his teacher and school librarian for new books and other resources that fit his interests. From time to time he seeks to understand connections between current events and the historical events he hears about in class and reads about in books selected from the school library. It is frustrating, because many events, current and historical, seem unclear and unfair.

Realization. There is a great deal of information to consume, but in school and out of school. There actually are some teachers who will help you. Dealing with the frustrations of the greater world is not something that should consume Danny’s time. Summer baseball and winter basketball offer activities that are more organized and predictable. At least at the end of the game a decision has been made.


Information Literary Standards (Selected from Information Power, AASL, 1998)

Content Standards

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning – Content Knowledge

Developing Education Standards

Times Have Changed

With the advent of the Internet, it's much easier today for a student like Danny to explore alternative perspectives. However with this access comes an increasing need for skills in analysis and evaluation.

An example of exploring conflict in American History with perspectives from five different cultures for the student to read, compare and contrast, and predict outcome can be found at Raid on Deerfield: the Many Stories of 1704 (

Relevant Resources

EDSITEment offers a treasure trove for teachers, students, and parents searching for high-quality material on the Internet in the subject areas of literature and language arts, foreign languages, art and culture, and history and social studies.

Library of Congress: Learn (
Dozens of teacher, created, classroom tested lesson plans, on topics from U.S. history to civics to literature.

Danny in Senior High School (Grades 10-12): 1964-1966

These important events take place during the senior high school years:

  1. Danny is placed in a role of responsibility as editor of the school newspaper.
  2. Danny begins to explore “real life” communication of information through radio broadcasting.
  3. Academic status for Danny is enhanced by the opportunity to apply information decision-making skills and communication skills through speech, drama and debate.
  4. Instructional media specialists emerge from real world work.

Questioning and Exploration

typingDanny moves through several roles in his school. He is now editor for the local school newspaper. Through that position he contributes an editorial each issue. Much of his writing has been too typical and predictable on “school spirit” and “teens should get involved in community action.” He has found, however, that gathering student opinion through surveys and interviews opens a new way to broaden the perspectives he can report and comment on in his regular column. Most student opinion supports the “status quo”, but a few are beginning to speak out on the war in Vietnam, civil rights for Negroes, and something about equal opportunity for women. More and more students have also described drugs as being more than beer and cigarettes.

Organization of student opinion opens new formats for writing. Instead of essay, Danny can plot student responses by showing a range of opinions and the proportion of the student population various opinions seem to represent. Thus in a chart, the 60% who supported the current military action in Vietnam would get that much space, with 30% of the space given to comments that were indifferent, and only 10% to those who opposed or questioned President Johnson’s actions. Very unique, insightful or irreverent quotations receive bold type or run in their own box. Students who seem to hold an especially strong opinion are approached to elaborate on their views in an editorial.

Cartoons also become a format for illustrating differing view-points. This way a visual point – counterpoint can be shown. Combined with the surveys and editorials, a wide spectrum of opinions can be represented across several pages. A few displays, especially illustrating equal rights for Black students, lead to tense discussions with the school principal. Integrated dances and dating are not yet tolerated.

Following style convention taught in English classes, facts would carry the proper citation to the original source. As a student “information scientist”, Danny also employs the process of identifying the sources that are accepted as most authoritative based on frequent use, credentials of the author or agency, and evidence of a history of providing acceptable data. These decisions are guided by the journalism teacher, Mr. Lawrence, an instructional media specialist in his own right.

In addition to writing for the school newspaper, Danny continued his work in the school print shop. Here he learns from Mr. Garrets the basic techniques in managing movable type and off-set printing. Danny and all others at the time could not image the meaning of “movable type” in the use of personal computers forty years later.

Danny also invested time in debate and other forensic activities such as spontaneous speeches and group discussions. Effective note-gathering skills were necessary to be successful in debate. Predefined resolutions give focus, but there is a constant need to locate convincing evidence and counter evidence. Cases and plans in support of or rejection of the resolution are developed on evidence that has to be understandable as well as convincing. Statistics, charts, summaries of authoritative opinions have to be concise, meaningful, clearly to the point and understood by judges who may have not heard of the issues in any manner prior to the actual debate.

While debate allowed for some advanced planning and time to select the best evidence, extemporaneous speeches forced skimming and selection of information quickly. Facts had to be gleaned and organized from limited sources in order to speak on a topic drawn blindly just twenty minutes earlier.

The group discussion format calls for a demonstration of understanding comments contributed by all group members and finding from that a path that is most likely to address the needs and desires of most of those involved. Success in both environments demonstrate the student’s abilities to deal with information processing on short notice as well as the ability to listen for reason, build consensus and even summarize a plan for action.

The best facility for practice of the full array of forensic activities was the school library media center. Information resources, conference rooms were all available to support practice and feedback. Two decades later, affordable and portable video tape units would make it possible for any school media center to provide an added degree of enhancement for students to review their performance in argumentation and presentation.

New questions that confront Danny at this time in his information literacy and inquiry development are:

Senior Projects became an exit experience for all students regardless of their intention to attend college, enter the service, go into the business, or enter the vocational job market following graduation. Miss Viets, the school librarian, thinking and working on the higher levels as instructional media specialist, coordinates the preparation and presentation of the projects for nearly 100 seniors each year.

The purpose was to allow each senior time and space to present what they believed to be representation of their finest achievement in their secondary school career. Participation in athletics and other activities, awards and various products completed could be offered. Essays, speeches, dramatic readings, portions of plays, art work, even furniture completed in wood working shop could be displayed in a grand celebration representing student accomplishments. Some students also presented items representing community service, their first job, a hobby, church work and other forms of constructive activity outside of school.

A group of teachers provided feedback on their impressions of each display and give such personally to each student. There were no grades, ribbons or other awards presented. Displays were titled so that the student would add that descriptor by his or her name in the graduation program. Danny’s was “Communication to Resolve Conflicts,” and it included essays, editorials and speeches dealing with the use of group discussion to address differences found in several school issues.

Danny was also able to display, as did most other students, examples of projects from his vocational training classes in printing. His experiences in debate, journalism, printing press operation and local radio broadcasting all allowed him a rich understanding of mass communication from many different aspects.

Danny’s questioning has become more precise and probing. In order to address issues directly, questions must result in defining terms in a common understanding. Debate and discussion fail unless the participants have agreement on what everyone means by the key terms used. Plans that might address problems or change the current situation must be questioned for true need, reasonable resource cost, and likely advantages compared to the status quo.

Assimilation & Inference

Based on his experiences in journalism, forensics, and interest in athletics, Danny gains the opportunity to write and broadcast news and sports for a local radio station. Information management skills apply in a variety of areas on the job. Concise and factual delivery is essential for news summaries. Reading skills improve with the pressure to deliver clearly and with authority. Interview methods were useful for gaining information from community leaders as well as coaches. The best human information sources are identified by their relevance to issues or events and their abilities to voice information succinctly.

Elaboration skills from debate and group discussions help to build the ability to extend commentary in sportscasts and full game play-by-play. Professional announcers, and the radio station owner Mr. Courtney, serve to mentor Danny and help him refine these skills. These mentors are different instructional media specialists. They had a specific product to communicate and to be information literate in the broadcast business meant that Danny had to grasp the means to persuade and sell when necessary.


Danny has found he is more likely to grow in successful application of information inquiry skills when he is placed in authentic learning situations, especially “on the job.” He remains very amateur in many aspects of information selection, focus and delivery. He is not of an age that he can move easily into situations where more adult announcers can go for community interviews. However, he has learned the basics of communication in a variety of formats, print and electronic, for his day.

Danny receives guidance from many different role models including siblings, teachers and now those who supervise him on the job. Each is an instructional media specialist in that they guide him to information, help him find value in the information, and give him feedback on his performance in use of the information.

Skills. Danny can identify issues quickly and determine a path to acquire evidence through reviewing documents, conducting interviews, and considering logical arguments. He can summarize evidence in the form of notes, charts, tables and other means to convey data in an understandable manner.

Strategies. Danny has applied many strategies for information inquiry as offered by his teachers and now with professionals in broadcasting. He finds that he is developing his own style and concentrates most on the interview techniques that give his reporting unique perspectives for both news and sports.

Realizations. Danny is learning that there are a few coaches and players who will give the most concise statements that also have relevance and in some cases “color.” A combination of authoritativeness and humor seem to play the best to his audiences.


Information Literacy Standards (Selected from Information Power, AASL, 1998)

Content Standards

Times Have Changed

Ten years after Danny graduated, the Senior Projects centered on the 1976 USA Bicentennial. A new school library media specialist, Mr. Printz and a new art teacher, Ms. Miller, coordinated many special projects based on oral histories. A select group of seniors worked in teams to gather recorded interviews of community leaders and other local personalities. Slides were taken of those interviewed and slides were copied from photo albums and other documents. The visuals were synchronized with toned tape recordings edited by the students into ten minute programs. Students in art classes provided additional graphics and illustrations as needed.

Mr. Printz based his oral history projects on the ideas of Elliot Wigginton and the Foxfire projects in the Southern Appalachians. High school students had gained national fame because of their documentation of local culture and heritage. The ideas from Sometimes a Shining Moment, an award-winning book by Wigginton, inspired many teachers across the nation.

In addition, art students developed special exhibits based on the literature they had read their junior and senior years. “If a picture can be worth a thousand words,” according to Ms. Miller, “then a thousand words can generate a new visual idea.” Eventually Ms. Miller used her instructional media specialist skills as an art teacher to expand student multimedia projects into annual cultural fairs.

Twenty years after Danny graduated, another instructional media specialist, Mr. Dean the chair of the English department, coordinated the Senior Projects as Career Planning Portfolios. He also added a select group of community members and members of the previous graduating class to the groups providing feedback and reflection on the student projects. New areas for demonstrating skills included mock job interviewing.

Forty years after Danny graduated, individual electronic portfolios based on multimedia collections are today expected for each senior. An important aspect that can be captured through the multimedia format for the portfolio is that students can display in more detail the processes involved in completion of a project, rather than just the end product itself. Resources used to support the content of an essay, acquire ideas for design and construction of a piece of furniture, or charting the advantages and disadvantages of various colleges could be described.

The steps involved in planning and producing an interview, a play, or implementing community service could be illustrated for quick access and easy storage. The student’s analysis abilities are clear from the explanations of processes. Synthesis skills are clearly evident based on the decisions of what to include in the final product.

Video screens and computer monitors have become common for the senior displays. And the celebration continues after graduation as the electronic portfolios remain available online.

Extending across six decades, the Senior Project experiences have served to validate student accomplishments. The projects allow for display of various talents and what some suggest represent different aspects of intelligence. SAT exams are not ignored because of this emphasis on multiple learning styles. But standardized exams are viewed as only one of many measures of student achievement. Thus, no senior is left behind.

Relevant Resources

Gardner, Howard. (1983) Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Basicbooks.

McKenzie, Jamie. (2005) Learning to Question, to Wonder, to Learn. FNO Press.

Miller, Lynda, Theresa Hammett Steinlage, and Mike Printz. (1993). Cultural Cobblestones: Teaching Cultural Diversity. Libraries Unlimited.

Wigginton, Elliot. (1972) The Foxfire Book: Hog Dressing, Log Cabin Building, Mountain Crafts and Foods, Planting by the Signs, Snake Lore, Hunting Tales, Faith Healing, Moonshining. Anchor.

Wigginton, Elliot. (1986) Sometimes a Shining Moment. Anchor.

Relevant Websites

Choices Program (
CHOICES engages secondary level students in international issues and contributes to a renewal of civic engagement among young people in the United States.

Problem-Based Social Science (
Problem Based Economics and Problem Based Government are student-relevant, highly participatory ways to teach social studies content and concepts.

Danny in College: 1966-1970

  1. There is a focus on history as well as communication – new and serious questions lead to doubting national leaders.
  2. There are emerging conflicts nationally that suddenly become very local and personal.
  3. Reading, media and information management become ways to teach others.
  4. Some inquiry becomes introverted to satisfy personal questions only – still wondering after all these years.

Questioning and Exploration

Questions and issues that were once academic exercises become very personal.

These are difficult questions, and not as easily addressed as those involving facts and definitions. Answers are multiple and may be more or less relevant depending on various factors and situations. Danny’s satisfaction with possible answers will also depend on his own perception of the situation and his personal viewpoint at that time.


Danny lives in a time of political unrest and uncertainty for his country as well as uncertainty for his future. Questions that impact his decisions for his personal future are mixed with concern for his country’s future. Emotion threatens to disrupt a logical process for seeking information to address these concerns.

Exploration of information may involve a long trail linking books, newspapers, news reports, and conversations over time – years, rather than a few weeks or a semester as in grade school and secondary school. These complex questions will need to be examined through reading and reflection on several events and personalities and related to similar events and personalities in history. Clear answers may never come. Additional questions are always likely with each new source explored.

Danny explores the news extensively. He continues to work in radio broadcasting throughout his college years. He consumes reports from national wire services first hand as well as a constant monitoring of local and national news over radio and television.

Assimilation & Inference

Assimilation of new information will not always be clear. Acceptance or rejection of information can easily be based on personal bias as emotion can close the mind to consideration of a wide spectrum of view points. Selection of information resources may also become overly bias as it is normal behavior to read, listen to, or view sources that tend to agree with one’s current viewpoint. To move outside of a comfortable information environment can be threatening, frustrating and time consuming. But if Danny is to demonstrate mature information inquiry skills, he will need to be open to all information sources.

Discrimination is used, however, to select sources which are relevant and/or authoritative. He will give time to information presented by those he may not agree with, but who are clearly personalities relevant to the issue at hand. He does not care for General William Westmoreland or Secretary of Defense William McNamara, for example, but will listen to details from them in interviews and press conferences concerning the conflict in Vietnam.

Maintaining this willingness to listen to various view points is very difficult, and Danny will often refuse to give reasonable attention to sources that conflict with his own ideas. Assimilation and inference are difficult for the novice to manage because they may not understand how to be open and tolerant. Experience and emotion can be factors that prevent the more mature learner from maintaining reasonable consideration of new information.


Thinking globally and acting locally becomes one of several mottos of the day that help to organize and focus Danny’s information consumption. Realistically, it is unlikely his exploration of information, assimilation of knowledge and inferences for actions will have any global impact. But he can influence things locally.

Danny can contribute on a national basis by supporting those people and those actions he deems correct through donation of money, time to support local protest or awareness, and writing or speaking in local forums. His information inquiry skills will be valuable to help him identify information needs and relevant sources that will support his actions.

Skills. Danny has learned how to access materials that will, when placed together, represent a wide spectrum of view points on a controversial issue. He understands how to identify issues and to summarize them in terms that focus on problems and potential resolutions. He knows how to work with groups, to delegate and share responsibilities and to collaborate in order to achieve resolution of problems. Information inquiry is a process that cam satisfy professional as well as personal information needs.

Strategies and Scaffolding. Danny seeks involvement in situations were his may help resolve conflicts and create plans for improving situations. In college he served on student and community relations committees. As a high school history teacher, he served as a representative of the teacher union. During his career in higher education he has served on long-range planning committees for universities, professional associations, as well as local churches and community agencies. With each experience he has refined strategies. He has learned to adapt to different audience needs and expectations.

Realizations. Danny can teach others the limitations and potential abuse of power that can result from unquestioned delivery of information through the mass media and political manipulation. These issues remain of interest to him in his academic career and his personal reading. Group discussion, debate and conflict resolution are information management skills he can apply to local situations. He can take logical steps to confront conflicts and resolve them through discussions, compromise and finding joint benefit in shared resolutions. Such can be accomplished in his work, his community and his family.


Information Literacy Standards (Selected from Information Power, AASL, 1998)

* Seeks sources representing a variety of contexts, disciplines, and cultures and evaluates their usefulness for resolving an information problem or question.
* Evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of various creative presentations of information.
* Reads avidly and evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the literature used.
* Judges the quality of one’s own information products and solutions related to topics of personal interest.
* Integrates one’s own previous knowledge with information from a variety of sources to create new meaning.
* Judges and supports judgments of the degree of inaccuracy, bias, or misleading information in information sources and products.
* Judges the accuracy, relevance, and completeness of sources and information in relation to a range of topics and information problems.

Content Standards

Times Have Changed

Topics. Over the past four decades, Danny has focused his reading on books and other resources that inform him of new perspectives on the history of America. Many times these are materials that open a new line of consideration, but a common thread is how conflict resolution or failure to find resolution impacted events in American History. His reading interests have been wide and varied in some ways, but remain focused on local and American history. Biographies are often the most enjoyable format, especially concerning historical personalities who have had to face conflict resolution and have become prominent in history because of their unlikely successes or common human failures.

Although times have changed and the sources of information have expanded through technology, issues of conflict and resolution continue.

Technology Tools. Although paper and pencil can be great tools for visualizing thoughts, today's technology tools would be useful in helping Danny in visualize his thinking, data organization, and results. For example, Inspiration software can be used to create a question exploration ring.

Click the image below to view a template for a Question Exploration Ring in Inspiration.

question exploration ring

Relevant Resources

Highly recommended from the hundreds of books Danny has read on conflict and communication in American history:

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