I am going to help facilitate students with the internet searching of trebuchets (picture to the right)
The class is an Applied Technology class in an inner-city school where the majority of the students are immigrants or are from immigrant families. They will use the information that they gather to help them create their own trebuchet for a competition.
Side Note: The picture is of a trebuchet at Chateau des Baux, France. The picture is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trebuchet
The students will have trouble starting their search. I say this because I think that the students will have a problems spelling “trebuchet” to begin with. Also, some of the students are immigrants and their comprehension of English can be lacking.
The students will not stray far from the one of the major search engines and their initial search. I do not think that the majority of students have the internet and that their exposure to it has been limited.
Focus will be an issue. The class is fairly large and the amount of sites could make it difficult for the students to find what they want.
When it comes to evaluating the websites, the students will be exegetical. An exegetical internet searcher and reader is described in the article Credibility of the Web: Why We Need Dialectical Reading by Bertram C. Bruce. Essentially the exegetical searcher and reader assign superior merit to the internet and that is how I believe the students will see the sites that they visit.
The plan was to spend a couple of class periods to do the search. The total time would equal 2-2.5 hours.
Due to lack of computers, I will break the class into 6 groups. There will be a group leader that will be in charge of their group and with the search. I will also explain what they are to search for and why.
I will observe how the students initiate the search. I am envisioning issues of getting started in that the students will not be able to find anything initially. So I will then help facilitate to help get them started in the right direction.
Once the students get going on their search I will continue to observe and facilitate their search to see where they go. I will also ask them questions along the way to find out what they are thinking as they search.
I will also have them fill out a type of questionnaire that will have them write down which sites they visited and have them evaluate the website that they went to.
To the right is an example of the questionnaire that I used.
To help assess the learning that the students experienced, each group will build there own trebuchet and have a competition. This will take a bit of time to complete. Plagiarism, I thought, would not be an issue until I read the article by Michael Bugeja. He mentions that plagiarism can include copying an invention and a lot of my students were drawing down plans off of the site verbatim. So I was concerned but then I read the article by Michael Freedman. One point he states is, “The key point is that the lesson plan is never really duplicated and, therefore, is not plagiarized.” (Freedman, Michael. A Tale of Plagiarism and a New Paradigm. Phi Delta Kappan v85 n7 p545. 2004). The point I am getting at is that the students will not be able to duplicate exactly what the plans call for and will have to make adjustments where needed. So the chances of students plagiarizing the plans they got from their searches are very slim.
Right from the beginning of the search the students all had trouble spelling trebuchet. I let them try to figure it out on their own. The students tried to spell ‘trebuchet’ and then they would ask me if that was right. Some examples of what they came up with as the spelling was ‘trevache’, ‘trevashie’, ‘trebache’, and ‘trevachie’. This happened as many as nine times for some students. The search engine that they were using was able to eventually recognize what the students were trying to spell. But I had to point it out to the students. One student though figured it quickly enough to where I did not have to help him at all.
Another interesting thing was that despite having the issues spelling ‘trebuchet’, the students were not discouraged but thought it was rather entertaining.
All of the students did not stray far from their initial search. Most used Google as their search engine, which was the default search engine at the school.
The picture on the left is an example of one of the websites that they visited. It was the first website that was on their search.
When I observed the students as they intently looked at this site, I was a quite surprised. This showed to me that the students evaluated sites differently than I would have. This site was more of a commercial site but the students basically used the site to give them ideas of how they were going to build their trebuchet. So even though the site was trying to sell them something, the students learned the basic structure of a trebuchet.
Pictures were definitely one of the biggest factors for the students in determining whether or not a site was good. It didn’t matter whether or not the site was a commercial one. If the students could get ideas on what to do, they usually thought that it was a good site. Students consistently said on the questionnaire that a website was good because it had a lot of pictures.
Most of the students did not get past the first page of search results. Even a few did not get past the first five results. The questionnaire was a good gauge on how many websites were visited. The amount varied from two sites visited to eight sites visited. One website had plans for building a trebuchet. A few of the students that got to this website, spent a lot of time drawing out the plans on paper. I asked whether or not they understood the drawings and they told me that they did.
It seemed that very few of the students looked at the text. Some said that they read some of the text on the website but most of the time was spent looking at pictures to see if they could figure out how trebuchets actually worked. One website (to the left) was a game that was popular with a few of the students. I took it upon myself to explain the game and how the trebuchet worked so that they would actually learn and not just click away wildly at the game buttons .
Another student did find some video on people actually launching the trebuchet. That was popular among his group.
After reviewing all of the questionnaires, it seems that from my observations that text information did not seem that important was incorrect. The students consistently mentioned that if a website did not have enough information that it was not a good website. To me the information was text information that would be needed to explain some of the pictures that were on these sites.
I wonder how big of a language barrier there actually was. The students all seemed to understand basic English and when asked if they understood what the site was saying, they always said yes. I also say this due to the fact that the students showed some difficulties in spelling trebuchet. I think that interviewing afterwards would help figure this out.
One question that came up for me is why the students did not try to narrow down their search results. The results were over 11 million yet they did not even seem phased. They went about their business. Next time I would probably want to spend a little time explaining how to narrow down results or how to determine a website is reliable sot that they are not so exegetical like said previously.
Since these groups are actually going to build their own trebuchets, which could take a while, I think I need to come up with a better way of testing how much the students are actually learning. The questionnaire did help but I do not know how much thought was actually put into answering it.
I thought focus was going to be a problem with the students but they proved me wrong. All the students proved to be very focused throughout the searching time. I hope that it was due to the fact that they were interested in trebuchets and that there was going to be a competition.
One more thing that I might find interesting is finding out how much the students would have trusted me. I ask this because during the start the students were always asking me if they had spelled ‘trebuchet’ correctly. I was thinking, “How long the students would have looked at the sites that came up after typing words like ‘trevashie’ or words like it if I had told them that their spelling was correct?”
Overall, I would say that the project was a success. I learned that some time should definitely be devoted to teaching the students how to search more productively even though they appeared to have learned quite a bit. There are a few things that could be adjusted like finding a different way to assess more quickly how much the students learned. I think that interviewing would also be a nice addition to help gauge how much the students learned.