Archive for November, 2012

Search and Research

Posted: November 30, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,
look downstairs into stairwell whirl

photo by Quapan used under creative commons license

So, I’ve been thinking about the difference between searching and researching since I attended an ADVIS tech retreat with Marc Prensky on Wednesday. One of the things he said, and that I and many others in attendance then tweeted, was:

Kids need to know the difference between search and research.

I was talking about this with a colleague at my school the next day. We talked about how quickly many students say, “there’s nothing here” in regards to an online source. Many times it seems students say this before the page has even loaded. As the adult in the room here, it is time to say, “um, have you read any of the words here?” or something to that effect. Less snarky would probably be appropriate.

What we then talked about was that perhaps the students are not really aware of when and how to switch between these two modes of online behavior. Some people love the hunt, the search. It’s exciting to collect all that stuff. They would prefer to search and gather all day long. The reading and digesting of the results, not so appealing to them.

Others, may prefer to sit with that first result and read it start to finish before moving on. This group might spend time on a mediocre source because it came up first and they are in research mode when searching is more appropriate.

How to help kids understand when and how to do both?

Well, I think that being very explicit and naming and explaining these 2 modes of working is a great place to start. So in fifth grade, just to pick a random grade, I would certainly explain these 2 terms and spend a few minutes talking about what it would look like in various settings.

  • Is a dog fetching a ball search or research?
  • What about Trick or Treating?
  • What about examining your candy after trick or treating and trading with your friends or siblings?
  • Maybe have kids make a quick (really quick, 2 minutes quick) skit of what each might look like in our classroom

Once we were good on that, I think a few minutes working on a T-chart of the uses and benefits of each would be in order. I’d also probably ask people to freeze mid-work a time or two and identify which they were doing, search or research.

I’m not guaranteeing any of this would solve the problems of students not wanting to take the time to read carefully. If I could solve that problem, that would be a great gift to society. I do think that being able to name the behavior has to come first.

Does this issue arise in your school or classroom?

So, I haven’t been thinking about EdCamps recently. Then, a few Saturday mornings ago I hopped on Twitter for a few minutes and saw this:

3 EdCamps going on in one morning! What am I doing at home?

Well, it is Saturday and my family does feel that it is appropriate for me not to work 7 days a week, and I would agree. And yet, it’s been awhile since I have been to an EdCamp. I’ve been to EdCamp Philly, Social Studies, NYC, NTcamp, and a NJTeacherMeet, some multiple times. They are always long days and it’s not as if every session is mind-blowing. But, if that were the case, my head would have exploded in the first session, and I would have to go sit in some dark room to collect myself.

I’ve had a bit of a break from EdCamps by virtue of some scheduling conflicts. Now, I’m ready to dive back into the fray. In particular what I am missing is all that enthusiasm and excitement about experimentation and the willingness to get into “what if” conversations. I always leave feeling recharged. After the hurricanes and nor’easters, it’s time for something that doesn’t involve natural disasters on a weekend.

So, I headed over to the EdCamp wiki and found my next, nearest EdCamp. Looks like December 1 in NJ is the next one for me. North Brunswick here I come.

I am quietly setting a goal to harass some colleagues until they agree to go convince 1 maybe 2 colleagues who haven’t been to an EdCamp before to go with me. I’ve only got several a few day. . .Can I do it?

If you’ve been to EdCamps, how would you sell them to those who are hesitant?

So, I’ve been thinking about professional development. One of the things I credit my participation in professional development through PLP for doing for me is reconnecting me to my profession by reconnecting me to professional development that works for my schedule. I am not opposed to going to conferences (I have written about the value I find in them, and I’ve also written about how I just want a day to think about all the information I’ve gotten at those conferences, here), it’s just not convenient to attend them all the time. Yet, I could always use some professional developing.I mean really, couldn’t we all? I don’t think I’m alone here. What I learned in my first year with PLP, oh so many years ago now, was the value and ease of connecting through social networks, both nings and Twitter. I developed a PLN (Personal Learning Network).

One of the many things I have learned about through my PLN lately is the Global Education Conference that is going on right now. (If you are an educator of any kind, seriously follow the link now. I dare you not to find something of interest to you.) I honestly can’t remember where I first heard about it– someone’s blog, an email I got as a member of a ning, or twitter. Anyway, I have listened to several sessions at this point. But, since it’s a global and virtual conference, there are sessions literally around the clock. This is super teacher-friendly and Wendy-friendly. My personal kids are still young, so they actually notice when I get home, and I notice because I pay the babysitter. I also feel that once I am home, I should pay some attention to them. My kids and I are in agreement on this, mostly. Therefore, that “right after work time” is not a good one for me to be in a class or webinar. Instead, for me after 8pm is a handy time, as long as I don’t have to leave my house. My backside and my couch have a serious thing for each other that is very hard to break up. I have tried.

Global Education Conference to the rescue! It’s 8pm, dinner had been made and eaten, kids in bed, time for some learning. I even got off the couch. . . and into the tub. I got out my Mr. Bubble, turned on the hot water, and set my computer on a chair near by. I logged into the Backboard Elluminate session and then listened and watched as I reclined in the bubbles.


(Nail polish notes: cobalt blue color, by Scotch Naturals, is not only a great color IMO, it is also chemical free!)

Balance beam

Photo by Ian Bailey-Mortimer used under creative commons license.

So, I’ve been thinking about being new. And, off-balance. This has nothing to do with the fact that I continue to wear heels more often than might be recommended.

It’s been a while since I’ve been really new at something, a job kind of something. I’ve been a teacher for a long time now. I’ve taught in public school and independent school, and I began my teaching life as a home-school teacher. I started classroom teaching in the Chicago Public School system (CPS) where I frequently changed grades. But, even if I was moved to a new grade, I was still teaching kids math and social studies, and language arts, and science. When I moved to an independent school it was a big shift in many ways. Yet, I was still teaching kids math and social studies, and language arts.

Now, I find myself in a totally new position– one that I actively sought out and was thrilled to get. And, I am trying to find my balance. The last time I was this new at a job was my first year at CPS. (Well, that and when my daughter was born, but that is a more private affair.) Challenging does not even begin to describe my first semester, ok my first year, in Chicago. There were probably  more than a few teachers and students who thought this girl will not last. There might have been a few family members who hoped I would move on quickly too.

As I continue to get my sea legs (which, I hope are the long, lean kind that stay in shape by themselves) I am reminded of many of those early days in Chicago. As much as I was not, and still am not, a perfect teacher (or anything else) I did get a lot better. I established myself as a dedicated and effective teacher who knew and supported her students. Ultimately, I earned the respect of the community. A parent once told me, as a compliment, “you know, you don’t look like you could keep those kids inline, but I told people you know what you’re doing.” I stopped having to work so hard at the basics of crowd control and got to spend my time and energy on being a good teacher. I worked really hard to get that teacher vibe thing; some people just have it. They walk into a room and kids are quiet, no matter what. I wasn’t born with that. I found some here and there over the years, but it was never totally easy. I am proud of a lot of the work I ultimately did  in my years with CPS.

Now years later, I find myself back in beginner mode. I have high standards for myself and am not interested in doing what I will officially refer to a “slack-ass” job. Since I can’t buy, beg, or steal anyone else’s experience, I guess I will just keep doing my best and gaining my own experience.

I’ll keep you posted.

So, I’ve been thinking about this and that these past few days.

Hurricane Sandy blew through the area and not only flooded basements and roads, knocked out power, and downed tress, she canceled school for 2 days. I am so lucky that my family and I were not severely impacted. Therefore, I did not have any urgent, life threatening things to do. Instead, I made bread, read with my kids, wrote some real letters (I still do this because I love stationery and can’t justify buying it if I don’t use what I have), and generally stayed home with my husband and kids. And, I got a chance to think about some of the big things I need to figure out at school.

A bit of background: I am a firm believer in letting ideas roll around in my head, thinking about them in a sneaky way. I believe in and count on being inspired by disparate ideas. This has traditionally worked for me. I’m a collector of ideas, images, thoughts. All that raw material in there lets me generate ideas. They might not all be good ideas, but I count on coming up with a lot of them so that I can pick through and find the good ones. Again, it’s a strategy that has worked well for me in the past.

I say this because I think I have been having a hard time making time to do this “laid back thinking” now that I am not in the classroom. My day used to have a very set structure. I had a schedule that for the most part I could count on. During my non-teaching period(s) I could do work or not. I like to be ready in advance so I have to say I did not always use my “free” periods for preparation in the traditional sense. I used to feel a little guilty about that, but honestly, it just meant that I had to do things at other times, so it’s on me. Anyway, I am thinking differently about it now.

Now, I am thinking that I did exactly what I needed to do with those little bits of “free” time (I say “free” because it’s hardly free, but that’s a different post). What I did was change-up what I was doing to give myself that change or break or relief that I needed. That pause is what allows me to do my sneaky thinking. Just like the students, I need times of interaction and then times of reflection. Too much of either one does not work for me.

However, now I find that my schedule is not something that I can count on for structure. I may have long stretches of meetings or long stretches of me, myself, and I in my office. I have those horrible weird amounts of time between things that teachers hate. I have meetings I get “invited to” for later in the same day; so, I may come in with one plan of how the day will go only to have to shift entirely. Fine, I’m flexible. I like working with people and collaborating. The chance to work with adults was a one of the many appealing things about this job. But, when do I think?  What if I am invited to a meeting at a time that I had not blocked off, but had put aside to use for some quality ruminating? Can I say no to something? I am still trying to work this out. But after the weekend with my hurricane-imposed think time, I realize that I have to work harder to create a plan to the day that works for both the thinking and doing of my job.

At the moment, I am contemplating putting blocks on my calendar that are “walk and think” times. Now that I also do not have recess duty, I think I could probably use a little more outside time.

Any other ideas would be welcome.