My second grade classroom is currently filled with rather traditional science resources such as, charts, diagrams, flip-books, and picture books about the life cycle of a butterfly. As I teach early elementary students (second grade), I am usually the “medium” between scientific information and my students. More specifically, I play the roles of scientific guide along with literacy coach or translator, as their reading ability is still at an early stage of development.
In every science unit I strive to incorporate a variety of age-appropriate literature and hands-on and real-world experiences for my students in order to encourage and set the stage for true scientific observation, research, and inquiry. I was fortunate to have access to such resources and to even have found several Monarch caterpillars to house and watch transform into a butterfly. I feel extremely lucky to have come across a real-world experience that we could have right in our classroom, as this is not always the case. So far, I feel that my students have had ample resources and learning experiences in this unit of study.
To my dismay, my students rarely use the Internet to investigate or explore science topics, as it is a resource that presents even more challenges and obstacles, in regards to age-appropriate material and skills, then more traditional forms of gathering and learning information. Occasionally, I will navigate through a site with my students while displaying it on a projection screen. This has often been a neat experience, but I feel that it quickly poses questions about active engagement since students seem to loose interest quickly if they are not the ones “doing” it.
“ If a person has only a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail. Adding new tools to the carpenter's toolkit changes the way the carpenter looks at the world….Overall, these new tools provide an opportunity for students (and others) to move beyond the centralized mindset, suggesting an expanded set of models and metaphors for making sense of the world” ( Resnick, 1995).
Although Mitchel Resnick goes into great detail about computation skills and moving beyond a centralized mindset in New Paradigms for Computing, New Paradigms for Thinking , I think his main idea is very powerful to the field of teaching. Not only does it directly motivate and relate to this Inquiry Project, but I think it is the central idea for the education and its modern outlook.
I am forever looking for new ways to present information, for student investigation and experimentation, and for new motivational avenues. I think that technology resources are a fantastic tool to do all of the above. The Internet itself offers seemingly endless variety of opportunities to expand, enrich, and explore the world around us. Unfortunately such technologies are not always easy to learn, teach, and incorporate in meaningful ways. I am excited to gain many powerful insights that result from this project.
The principals denoted by Mitchell Resnick will be the driving force behind my quest for technology integration while the insights gained from this project will highlight a starting point along a pathway to educational expansion.
1. Although we were fortunate to have found several Monarch caterpillars to observe throughout their life cycle, such real-life and critical experiences are not always readily available. Therefore, I am very interested in finding other resources (i.e. the Internet) that can offer very similar experiences through virtual simulations, videos, and relevant information for my students to experience. As my students have already done a great deal of learning about the life cycle of a butterfly, I found this inquiry project to be the perfect time to introduce and incorporate the Internet as another learning resource.
2. I am extremely interested in providing Internet experiences that my students can navigate and explore on their own. As such experiences are very new to my students, I thought that including the Internet as a tool for gathering even more information about butterfly life cycles would be an exciting experience. I thought their existing knowledge of the topic would be a good base to build from and would make for a less confusing, frustrating, and overwhelming experience, in comparison to using the Internet to gather all new information. Furthermore, I thought their base knowledge would be helpful in comparing Internet sites and determining the quality of information presented on each site.
3. I am very eager to gain insight on the subject of age-appropriate Internet experiences. As many team members have acknowledged and discussed, it seems to be a big challenge to have students, especially young students, use the Internet. Also, we have discussed the ideas of teaching evaluative skills at a young age, possibly when students are learning to use the Internet, as a means of avoiding many issues, such as plagiarism, time allocations, ineffective searching, inability to evaluate and analyze information, etc. Therefore, I am truly interested in finding out how my young students react to and manage this Internet experience.
4. Finally, I was interested in the connected and underlying topic of preferred learning models and experiences.
Do my students know what the Internet has to offer, regarding research and virtual experiences for educational purposes?
Do my students have enough Internet experience and navigating capabilities to explore different sites on their own?
When given three (3) websites, will my students be able to navigate to each site and fully explore it?
Will my students be able to read and understand the information presented on each site?
Will my students fully navigate through each site, or will they only access the most readily available information?
Will my students be easily distracted by artwork, animation, and/or sound effects, while overlooking the other information on the site?
Are my students aware that sites can differ in accuracy, currency, authorship, and point of view?
How well will my students be able to critically evaluate and compare the sites for quality and accuracy?
As the teacher, will I be able to find three (3) sites that will be age-appropriate and content specific?
In the end, I hope to gain several insights about how young students view, navigate, explore, and use the Internet in order enhance their understanding of a given topic. I also hope to give my students an “eye-opening” experience in regards to the Internet as a tool for learning as well as the need for evaluation of Internet materials. I would like this experience to be the start of many Internet excursions in which my students build interest, comfort, capability, and basic analytical skills in using the Internet for educational purposes.
I predict that my students will have extremely limited knowledge about the possibilities and experiences offered by the Internet.
I do not think that many, if any, of my students will be able to use and navigate the Internet on their own.
I think that few of my students will be able to correctly address, Navigate, and/or fully explore sites, even when the sites are provided to them.
I think that my students occasionally use a computer to type a story or to play a game, but may rarely experience the Internet. If and when they do use the Internet, I think they may be observing a parent searching or surfing for directions, movie time, emailing, or for banking. Therefore, I am expecting my students to be aware of several possible Internet experiences, but few that are geared for students or for educational purposes. Furthermore, I am expecting that all of my students will have extreme difficulty in correctly addressing and navigating the Internet on their own, even when I give them three sites to visit.
I predict that nearly half of my class has the reading ability to truly comprehend the information provided, even when I chose sites that are as close to age-appropriate as I could find.
I am very aware of my students’ reading abilities and I think that the advanced readers will be able to read and comprehend most of the materials. I also think they will be most willing to read all of the information, as it will not be so challenging for them. On the other hand, the students who are struggling readers, and even the on-grade level readers, will have trouble reading all of the information and comprehending it. It will be challenging for them and I envision them being discouraged and frustrated, prompting them to skip a lot of the written material. Unfortunately, the written material is usually where all of the rich information, examples, and connections are embedded.
I foresee my students overlooking most of the information on each site due to enticing visuals and animations and an inability or lack of interest for exploring the entire site.
This seems to be an obvious situation, especially for young students. Who doesn’t like visuals? My students are so easily enticed by neat visuals, animation, and colorful displays. It doesn’t seem to take much to divert their attention from written text (especially if it is difficult text to read). Therefore, I think visual distractions will play a big part in my students’ attempts to fully explore a site and to be able to evaluate its quality.
I do not expect my students to be aware of Internet issues such as authorship, currency, etc. or even a need for evaluative measures.
With a great deal of guidance, I think my students will be able to analyze and evaluate a site, on a very basic level.
As novice Internet users, I do not think my students will even be aware of the possible hazards and complications that could come with Internet usage. Also, at the young age of seven, the students have yet been exposed to a wide range of resources to use in comparison or for evaluative measures. Therefore, I think such an idea will be very eye-opening, but challenging for my students.
I am honestly worried about the efficiency of my search and preparation for this experience.
I am rather shamefully a , “Google reliant.” I will have to really explore different engines and my efficiency with searching Google in order to find the age-appropriate material that I am looking for. I have always found it difficult to search for sites that are really informational and yet geared toward early elementary users. Therefore, I am a little apprehensive about finding three appropriate sources under reasonable time constraints.
Inquiry Plan How efficiently and effectively can young students use the Internet as a tool for learning?
I plan to investigate the questions for inquiry (listed above) along with the overarching question of, “How efficiently and
effectively can young students use the Internet as a resource and tool for learning?” I plan to explore these issues in the following
Pre-Inquiry Interview and Survey : During a whole-group discussion, I surveyed the students to display the range of Internet-related experience across the student population. I then asked several probing questions in response and in addition to several survey questions to gain more insights about my students’ prior knowledge and skill development in regards to using the Internet.
Experience #1 : Whole group and individual exploration of three (3) Internet sites about the life cycle of a butterfly. I will introduce the activity and begin by giving students the responsibility for accessing each of the three sites, intervening if necessary to guide and assist those with inadequate internet skills. (Option: if necessary, I will give websites set into links to assist some/all students if they struggle to access sites on their own)
www.evansonart.com/monarch --select “Fun” icon, then select, “Monarch Mania” link
Mid-Inquiry Interview : What did you like about the site? What didn’t you like about the site? Was it easy for you to read and to understand? Do you think it is a good, an okay, or a not-so-good site to learn about butterflies and their life cycle? Why? (repeat for all three sites)
Inquiry Plan— Continued - How efficiently and effectively can young students use the Internet as a resource and tool for learning?
Experience #2 : Whole group have a discussion about the credibility and accuracy of Internet information. Together we will take a closer look at each site, learning use very basic forms of analysis to evaluate sites for quality.
Mid-Inquiry Survey : What site do you think was the best site to learn about the butterflies and their life cycle? (Vote for site 1,2,or 3)
Follow-Up Lesson: Students will visit a fourth site and practice using very basic analytical skills to evaluate its quality, in regards to being a good site to learn about butterflies and their life cycles.
Culminating Discussion and Comparison : Whole group discussion about recent Internet experience. What was interesting and surprising? What was difficult? What was boring? What was exciting? What have you learned?
Whole group discussion and comparison about quality internet sites. Discussion topic was, “If our class created a website about butterflies and their life cycle, do you think it would be a good, okay, or not-so-good site for other learners to explore?”
Patterns in Data-- Pre-Inquiry Interview and Survey
The pre-interview and survey consisted of the following questions and results:
How many of you can access the Internet at home? (not just use a computer, but use the Internet)
18/19 students have Internet access from their home
What is on the Internet? What can you do while using the Internet?
Student #1: “Webkinz, I love Webkinz” (a pet shop game) and information about things.”
Student #2: “Different Websites” When asked to explain: “like where you can buy things or find out things”
Student #3: “You can find out times for a movie or an air plane, or a train”
Student #4: “FunBrain and Webkinz”
Student #5: “You can get letters from friends” (meaning emails)
When using the Internet, do you know how to find or search for information about butterflies by yourself? Explain.
Student #1: “Type in ‘butterflies.com or caterpillar.com’…pretty much anything then a .com”
Student #2: “You can put butterflies on the ‘favorites’ then click on it.”
Student #3: “Put in ‘lifecycle.com’ and then click.”
Student #4: “Go to Google, Gogle, Googley or something like that, or YouWho”…I asked, “Then what do you do?”, she replied, “Umm, go onto the Internet?”
Student #5: “My mom always goes to Information.com…yeah, that is a real place!”
Do you think all information that you can find on the Internet is good and true information? How do you know?
All students responded, YES--Many couldn’t explain their answer.
Student #1: “They probably wouldn’t just guess and put it on the Internet…yeah, they probably wouldn’t do that.”
Do you think information that you read in books is good and true information? How do you know?
All students responded, YES
Student #1: “Well if it says non-fiction then we know it is true. Authors usually do some research and someone else usually reads it to make sure it sounds good and that it is true.”
Do you think information that you learn from activities and experiments is good and true information? How do you know?
All students responded, YES
Student #1: “We are watching it so we will know exactly how….I mean you are watching the real thing so you know it will be true.”
What do you think is the best way to learn about butterflies and their life cycle? -- Please vote only once. Your choices are using books, the Internet, or through activities and experiments. Resource Preferences
This experience took place in a laptop computer lab, each student had their own computer and I had a computer that was linked to a large projection screen for whole group viewing purposes.
During this experience, students were to visit three (3) different websites that I had previously chosen. I displayed each web address on a large projection screen and let the students try to access them (I had another webpage ready with links to each site in case the latter proved to be too difficult).
Launching the experience :
No students were able to correctly accesses the internet and the website without assistance. They were able to complete this task by selecting the links that I had provided.
3 students knew how to access the internet and where to type in the web address, yet floundered when it came to correctly typing the address.
Most students knew how to access the internet, but became confused as to how or where to type the web address. Some were typing in the Google Search tool bar, others were just typing it incorrectly, and a few just didn’t know what to do next .
Site #1 : www.mesquiteisd.org/imovie/monarchbutterfly.htm
This site is very basic in its design and was created by a classroom that had live video footage of each stage of a Monarch caterpillar’s life cycle. The site offered very few facts, but the videos were very neat to watch.
Observations: Upon arrival at this site, most students did not seem impressed, but when they clicked on the video icons, I heard a lot of, “wow,” “oooohhhh,” etc. Most students watched each video multiple times. This site was very easy for the students to explore.
12/19 students rated this site as “great” for learning about butterflies and their life cycles
Student Response: “When I say the caterpillar, it looked great and awesome….it was what happened to our caterpillars over the weekend!”
Student Response: “We could watch the films of how they go all the way to a butterfly.”
Site #2 : www.zoomwhales.com/subjects/butterfly/species/Monarch
This site is very kid-friendly in regards to its read-ability and its ease in navigation. It offers numerous pages about butterfly-related facts, each section clearly labeled. Visiting other pages required students to click “back” and to click on another heading. Most, if not all of my students should have been able to read the information provided. There were far fewer pictures and diagrams, but a wealth of information.
Observations: Students were instantly a little reluctant with this site. Many knew how to use the “back button”, but often clicked it too many times and then needed help returning to the site. Other students had never used the back button before. I noticed that very few students spent enough time in any section to read all of the information that was presented. It seemed that they were almost skimming the entire site. Many students visited several sections of the site, others seemed to get frustrated by the “back” button and just stayed on a select few sections.
4/19 rated this site as “great” for learning about butterflies and their life cycle.
Student Response: “It is okay because it was telling me about the parts of a butterfly and a caterpillar, but it was a little boring.”
Student Response: “Where do I click to see a video?...are there videos on this site?”
Student Response: “It just isn’t very good at all….it is hard to find things”
Student Response: “It was great because it had tons and tons of information.”
Site #3: www.evansonart.com /monarch --select “Fun” icon, then select, “Monarch Mania” link
This site is very eye-catching as its background is black and offers numerous vividly colored, real-life pictures of each stage of the life cycle. This site was created by a family that had a butterfly garden project. Most of the information given is of their observations and happenings, some of which happen to be very factual. However, rather then a informational page, it is more of a first-hand account of the life cycle of a butterfly.
Observations: Students were instantly interested in this site, which was evident through their verbal reactions when the page was displayed. This site was easy for the students to explore because it did not have any different links/sections. They only needed to scroll down the page to continue exploring. The information was at an intermediate reading level, which many of my students were able to read and comprehend. However, the information is not written in a informational tone, but more of a commentary on a first-hand experience; a style of writing that my students are not accustom to.
16/19 students rated this as a “great” site to learn about butterflies and their life cycle.
Student Response: “I really like this one, it has cool picture facts, told us a lot about the life cycle, and was fun to look at.”
Student Response: “It had a lot of information and a little too much writing for me to read.”
The purpose of Experience #2 was to introduce several basic Internet evaluative skills and practice using them on the three sites that were explored in Experience #1. This will be a whole group discussion and open-practice, as these are all new skills for the students.
Largely focused on the core issues discussed in Evaluating Information Found on the Internet such as,.” There are no filters. Because anyone can write a Web page, documents of the widest range of quality, written by authors of the widest range of authority, are available on an even playing field…. it is necessary to develop skills to evaluate what you find.” (Kirk, 1996)
Discussion : Is everything on the Internet good and true information?
*All students had previously responded, “Yes” to this question.
I introduced the idea that anyone can create and post a website….even our class could do this. There isn’t anyone that tells you if your website is good, true, or okay for the Internet, so every site can be put on the Internet very easily. In fact, you don’t have to be an author, or a scientist, or a doctor, or have even studies something that you write about. (here I gave several “crazy” examples of possible websites that would not be true, but that could exist on the internet)
Lesson: How can you tell if a website is good and has true information?
Since these skills are unknown to the young learners, I chose to focus on very basic principals of authorship and accuracy (Kirk, 1996).
I briefly introduced the ideas of authorship and accuracy as a way to evaluate internet resources. We discussed who might me a good “author” for a website about butterflies and how we could compare the information with what we have learned from other sources to determine accuracy. (again, having to keep these skills to a very basic level)
Applying new skills to previously-viewed websites .
Together, we revisited the three websites from Experience #1 and evaluated them on the principals of authorship and accuracy.
Site #1 : Students determined that the author was an elementary school class that had a video camera on their class project. They also quickly reported that the video was accurate, but that there were not any facts or written material to evaluate. Conclusion: it wasn’t a bad site because it did have a real, yet virtual, account of the life cycle. Therefore, the video was good information, but the rest of the site offered little to no other supportive material. Therefore, it wasn’t a bad site, but could have been a lot better.
Site #2 : Students could tell that the information written was very factual and with my help could see that it was compiled from many different non-fiction books and authors. Furthermore, all of the information was the same as we had learned from other sources. Therefore, we concluded that even though the site had a lot of reading and few pictures, it had a lot of very good information.
Site #3 : Students had difficulty looking past the vibrant photos, but with guidance, we found that the site was made by an artist and her family, who happened to have a butterfly garden. The information was a true account of what they observed, but may not have been completely accurate. Also, after bring attention to the style of the writing, the students were at least willing to look further into its accuracy.
Patterns in Data—Follow-Up Lesson & Culminating Discussion
The Follow-up Lesson was designed to give students the opportunity to practice their new evaluative skills when viewing a fourth site. I thought this would also give me many insights on their abilities to applied this newly acquired knowledge. I new these skills, and even the ideas behind it, were a little advanced for the students, but I thought they could demonstrate such skills with a little guidance.
Site #4: www.monarchbutterflyusa.com/MBUSA.htm
This site offers several different sections for learning about butterflies and their life cycle. It is decorated with animated icons and accompanied by an upbeat song. The site describes facts in very simple, unscientific terms that do not fully describe the real facts or the stages of the life cycle. An example is the “Wiggle Jiggle Dance” that refers to the caterpillar forming the Chrysalis, but it never describes that or even says what stage it is in.
In visiting this site, the students were instantly attracted to the moving caterpillar that was dancing and advertising, “Don’t miss the Wiggle Jiggle Dance…Click Here”. I was trying to introduce the different sections that website had to offer, but the students only repeatedly interrupted asking to see the Wiggle Jiggle Dance.
In viewing the Wiggle Jiggle Dance, the students were giggling and imitating the short clip on the screen. Two students did notice that there wasn’t any informational text written about the Wiggle Jiggle Dance, even to tell what it was referring to. After a brief discussion, students understood that there was a lack of information and that the video wasn’t nearly as good as on the previous site. However, the students really couldn’t get past the temping Wiggle Jiggle Dance. In fact, they sang and danced it throughout the day. Overall, it is an kid-alluring site that offers little scientific information.
As far as practicing evaluative skills, I would say that they students need many more lessons on this topic. They are still way too enthralled with visuals, sound effects, and “cute” attractions that they nearly overlook all other content.
Culminating Discussion : In an effort to gain more insight into their evaluative skills, I chose to move away from the distracting Wiggle Jiggle Dance and into a more personalized topic for discussion.
We then discussed the idea of, “If our class was to make a website about this topic, do you think it would be a good site with true information?”
This topic gave me more insight. After discussing several viewpoints, most of the class ended with the idea that our site would be good because we have seen some of the stages actually happen. However, our site would not be so good in regards to factual information and experience. Student concluding response: “We haven’t learned everything about butterflies YET .”
After gathering a variety of information from activities, interviews, discussions, and surveys, I have noticed several patterns in the data that I have collected. They are as follows:
Most young students do not have enough experience using the Internet to complete tasks on their own. On this note, they are very eager to explore the Internet but are easily frustrated by their inability to do so.
Nearly all of the students were instantly distracted, entertained, and amazed by vibrant colors, pictures, videos, animation, and/or interactive elements.
The above distractions nearly obstructed their view and their efforts to gain information and to explore the site entirely.
With a lot of guidance and support, the students were very excited and interested in using the Internet as a tool for learning.
All students were oblivious to the idea that some information on the Internet could be distorted, untrue, or containing misconceptions. No students were aware that anyone could make and post a webpage on the internet.
All students were new to the idea of evaluating Internet information for accuracy and authorship, both of which proved to be difficult tasks for my students.
All of my students will need many more lessons on using the Internet for even the simplest task of typing a web address and accessing a website.
Throughout the many facets of this project, I have gained many insights and have formed several new questions for inquiry.
NEW IDEAS :
Students are clearly interested and motivated to use the Internet as a tool for learning, even though they lack the skills to do so.
Students are pretty quick to learn and rarely have reservations about using a new tool.
Students also recognize that the Internet is a very expansive tool and that it can offer many pathways to discover and enrichment. (i.e. seeing what our caterpillars did to get to the next stage, which did not happen during school hours)
Creating webquest-type activities may make it easier for my students to learn basic Internet skills. They need to have a lot of structured and guided experiences to build their independence and skills for using the Internet.
Would increased general computer use/knowledge help in internet skill too? Will the increased us in Word, KidPix, etc. help with basic computer skills that can easily be applied to the Internet?
How much time can I afford to use in developing these skills? This is a question that I don’t want to be a factor, but I truly cannot ignore it.. Not only does teaching the skills take time, but using newly learned skills will be time-consuming as well. Every teacher has to admit that time is a big consideration in regards to planning activities and projects. I am just not sure I can afford to use so much time teaching the skills before the students can even complete an activity.
Will my students need a related assignment focused on accuntability? Even though my students don’t have the skills to wonder/surf the web, they are already showing signs of distraction when researching on the Internet. If I had more structured activities that had a strong connection to accountability, would it help to curb distractibiltiy?
As Mitchel Resnick points out, “Educators are increasingly interested in providing students with computational tools that support exploration and experimentation. But designing such tools (and designing contexts for using such tools) is easier said than done. Doing it well requires intertwining many different threads of thought….One thread involves an understanding of the learner:…A second thread in the design fabric involves an understanding of domain knowledge…. A third thread involves an understanding of computational ideas and paradigms” (Resnick 1995).
All in all, I think there are a lot of educators that are interested in incorporating technology, especially the Internet, into their classrooms. I am definitely one of those educators that are in search of how, when, and where to implement technology into my teaching. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as finding a non-fiction book about butterflies or even as finding a Monarch caterpillar to house in the classroom. As Mitchel Resnick emphasizes, it is much more difficult then it seems.
However, I am truly making advancements in understanding the “threads” that are needed to efficiently and effectively incorporate technology into my classroom learning environment. I am eagerly looking forward to making progress in this process and as I mentioned before, the principals denoted by Mitchell Resnick will be the driving force behind my quest for technology integration while the insights gained from this project will highlight a starting point along a pathway to educational expansion.