Teacher Tap

Information, Technology and Lifestyle

yogaHow can you make information and technology a seamless part of the teaching and learning environment? Just like a fitness program, it needs to become part of your lifestyle rather than an "extra."

Instead of adding a separate "technology" heading in a lesson that says you're "using the Internet" or "using a digital camera," work toward a focus on timely, authentic learning environments with the philosophy that the Internet is a great source of current events information and the digital camera is a wonderful tool for recording real-world experiences.

Many traditional assignments involve three simple steps: a teacher-generated question, a search for THE answer, and a final product containing THE answer. For example, what are the causes of the Civil War?, let's look it up in Wikipedia and create a PowerPoint presentation with bullet points copied from Wikipedia. Technology is often a quick way to find an answer or an after-thought to the lesson assignment involving a Google search and typing a paper.

information fluencyInformation inquiry involves the processes of searching for information and applying information to answer questions we raise personally and questions that are addressed to us. Techniques for gaining meaningful information may involve reading, listening, viewing, observing, interviewing, surveying, testing and more.

Meaningful information application comes from analysis of information need, analysis of information gained, and synthesis of information to address the need in the most efficient and effective manner possible. The five interactive components of information inquiry are (Callison): questioning, exploring, assimilation, inference, and reflection.

The FIT Flywheel

Like an exercise program, a mental workout involves a warmup, deep thinking, and cooldown. A quality workout involves your mind and your body. While yoga is a great example in the physical fitness realm, information inquiry represents the mental fitness area.

Spoked flywheelAs you analyze your lessons, think about a flywheel, a rotating disk that can store kinetic energy. It's momentum can be used to shift directions or move to new levels.

Unlike a cycle where you come back to the beginning, an inquiry flywheel encourages thinkers to move toward deeper understandings and new directions. Although you may revisit the original questions, your thoughts evolve as you assimilate information.

Let's explore the FIT flywheel: Warmup, Deep Thinking, Cooldown Flywheel.

Warmup Flywheel

leavesInvolve children in learning by placing them in the center of the inquiry. Get them involved with questioning and exploration, building momentum with each round.

Use books, websites, audio, and video to jumpstart a project. Help them categorize questions and associate their questions with those posed by the standards, textbooks, and adults.

Deep Thinking Flywheel

As students dig deeper in a cycle of questioning and exploration, they assimilate the information they find and draw inferences. This leads to more questions and exploration. Finally, students begin thinking about ways to synthesize and share their ideas.

Cooldown Flywheel

As students wind-down their inquiry, they reflect on their experience. What comes next?

wsInfuse Information Skills

For students to make effective use of online resources, they need information and communication skills. Explore some of the following skill areas:

Explore activities that focus on information skills development:

What skills do students need to successfully use Internet resources? Select one of the areas above to explore in-depth. Design an activity that requires students to practice this skill within the context of a very specific content-area standard or learning outcome. For example, you might select 3 online articles for student to read, evaluate, and compare.

Design High-Level Assignments - Assumption, Evidence, and Conclusion

Left for DeadCollecting evidence can take years. The book Left for Dead by Pete Nelson is a great example of the patience it takes in a quest for truth and justice. Explore the USS Indianapolis and USS Indianapolis Museum website for more information.

Check out the USS Indianapolis Project.

As you select resources, think about how students will use the information. Design inquiry-based activities that engage students in asking questions, making assumptions, identifying evidence, making inferences, and drawing conclusions. Consider the following questions:

Let's say you and your class are reading A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly or An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. Both books explore a 1906 murder in the Adirondacks of northern New York. The books will stimulate many questions about the time period and the historical events portrayed in the book. Was there really a murder? Were there really love letters? Internet provides a great tool to quickly quench the thirst for information about the actual event. For example, you can read the court case and love letters online. You can view photographs of the real people. Donnelly's website even has other information.

Design a project that asks students to make assumptions, collect evidence, and draw conclusions. Don't start with a traditional topic. Instead, look for starters such as articles, historical fiction, and movies.

Transform Classrooms Assignments

Traditional Approach

In some ways, classroom assignments haven't changed in nearly a century. Students are assigned a topic or questions. In the past, they went to go to the library shelf to find World Book Encyclopedia. Today, they search Wikipedia or google the topic. In the old days, they'd copy excerpts by hand. Today, students simply pull down the Edit menu and choose Copy. Finally they turn in the project to their teacher for a grade. This activity doesn't take much time, but it also doesn't excite students or address the standards.

Explore "snapshots" of inquirers at work. Start with Dr. Lamb's Good Night and Good Luck example. Then, explore Jamal's experience. Find others at Snapshots.

Let's explore other "snapshots" of projects that stimulate thinking, encourage imagination, and promote transfer of learning to new situations. Comic Life software was used for creating these examples and is available for Mac and Windows (soon) from Plasq. Be sure to check out the educator buy program. Click on each of the images below to see the full-page version.


You may say that these types of projects take more time. However think about the time spent reteaching concepts that students don't "get" the first time. How many times in the curriculum to we teach the life cycle? What if we could build on each experience promoting a spiral of learning?

Inquiry-based Learning and WebQuests

Go to WebQuests.org to learn about this inquiry-based approach to learning.

Do a search for WebQuests in your subject area using the WebQuest.org Search area. Also, explore Literature-based WebQuests. How do WebQuests reflect the "lifestyle" philosophy?

Life-long Learning

Combining information, technology, and inquiry as a regular part of the teaching and learning process contributes to a passion for learning.

Inquiry Starters for Pre-teens and Teens

Look for authentic investigations that connect to teen interests. Which resources do you believe and why? How can you learn more through testing and collecting evidence? How do you make a decision? How do you debate an issue? How do you ensure that your information is accurate and timely? Is Pluto a planet? Are the glaciers melting?

Think about topics, resources, and technologies that could be used to facilitate authentic learning experiences.

Think about products that are motivating to young people such as Graphic Novels.

Exuberance: Passion for Life and Learning

The stresses of teaching have caught up with many educators and student interest in school is at an all-time low. How do we transform our schools into motivating learning environments were educators are passionate about teaching and young people excited about learning?

Use the Visual Thesaurus to look up "exuberant, " passion," and "enthusiasm".

exuberanceIn Exuberance: The Passion for Life, Kay Redfield Jamison explores how exuberance fuels our most important creative and scientific achievements. She states that "by its pleasures, exberance lures us from our common places and quieter moods; and - after the victory, the harvest, the discovery of a new idea or an unfamiliar place - it gives ascendant reason to venture forth all over again. Delight is its own reward, adventure its own pleasure." (p. 4).

What are the traits of an exuberant person? Are you exuberant?

"Science, like the arts, is rooted in the desire to understand and then create; society requires that this desire be transferred to succeeding generations. It is teachers who convey it, especially the exuberant ones." (p. 229)

What do you see as your most important role as educator?

"To teach well, I heard early and often, is to make a difference. To teach unusually well is to create magic. It is a magic often rooted in exuberance. Great teachers infect others with their delight in ideas, and such joy, as we have seen - whether it is sparked by teaching or through play, by music, or during the course of an experiment - alerts and intensifies the brain, making it a more teeming and generative place. Intense emotion also makes it more likely that experience will be etched into memory...To teach is to show, and to show persuasively demands an active and enthusiastic guide." (p. 226-227)

What do you do with students that’s magical? What are the characteristics of this environment?


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