Sunday, August 14, 2011

Online Inquiry: A New Plan

Online Inquiry:  A New Plan
            Reflecting upon the last eight weeks has ignited my passion to better understand the complexities of using Web 2.0 technology.  This journey has enhanced my understanding of the Internet and the empowering possibilities it has for my students.  Prior to our investigation of information literacy and online inquiry, I understood online research skills to mirror those used in traditional textbook inquiry.  As proposed by Eagleton and Dobler, (2007) researching on the web requires additional skills to navigate through the plethora of information available.  To access and effectively use information from the Web, students must be taught to adapt to the faster pace of online research.  They must be able to switch between the variations in the text features and structures of each website while concurrently analyzing it for reliability, truthfulness and suitability (Eagleton and Dobler, 2007).  The innumerable resources available on the Web add another layer of complexity to online research.  Until my investigation of the Martin Luther King  ( ) website and  the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus ( ), I never  realized the importance of teaching our students to be critical consumers of information (Eagleton and Dobler, 2007).  This includes teaching them to recognize bias, how to balance information with other sources to validate truthfulness, and  most  important,  how the information  learned  relates to the world around them. 
            Toward this goal, the QUEST model will be an instrumental component in every curricular area of my future instruction.  Acknowledging the importance of engaging my students in authentic learning experiences, I will actively pursue ways to transform my instruction into online inquiry.  As most teachers recognize, presenting lessons that are organized, presented sequentially, and scaffolded (when needed) are essential to the success of any lesson.   The QUEST model of internet inquiry provides a built in structure for students  and teachers to follow.  It dictates that students cycle through the steps to complete their inquiry, but encourages them to revisit any step when their findings are inconclusive or unsatisfactory (Eagleton and Dobler, 2007) Students learn to formulate “deep thinking” questions that they investigate and that often   lead to additional questions that contribute to their learning.  They are taught how to search for information and evaluate resources they find for suitability, reliability, and truthfulness.   Next, they practice identifying important information and combining it with their own thinking relying on their prior knowledge and experience.  In the transformation stage students learn to communicate what they have learned through a final product.  Demonstrating and helping students to practice using this structured and well defined model will not be my biggest challenge.  However, acting as a facilitator, rather than the deliverer of information ,will be an adjustment.  I plan to conduct research along with my students modeling the steps and providing prompts to help them engage in their own self reflection as they proceed through their inquiry (Eagleton and Dobler, 2007 ).
            In order to enhance the online inquiry experience for my students and prepare them for their connected futures online (Richardson, 2009),  I am going to implement at least one inquiry project in which my class collaborates with another classroom outside of my school  (Richardson, 2009).  We will begin by procuring pen pals through SchoolMail.  The exchange will begin with a collaborative effort between the teachers to teach cyber etiquette, internet  responsibility,  and the various parts of an  e-mail.   Students will then be paired up between the two classes and begin introductory e-mail exchanges.  As the year progresses, the teachers will collaborate to direct the conversations and use of internet tools to be more standards based and content oriented.  . In the  last third of the school year, the pen pal pairs will engage in an inquiry project that they have mutually agreed upon and that has been approved by the teachers.  It will culminate in a selected product that will be presented to both classrooms at the end of the year (Demski, 2008).
            Students entering the 21st century workforce will need to be self-directed, self-motivated, lifelong learners (Richardson, 2009).  My new and enhanced understanding of the potential for learning through online inquiry requires my immediate attention.    As I await the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, I look forward to the opportunity and challenge of incorporating the new litereacies and online inquiry into my curriculum.  This new plan will play a significant role in preparing students with the skills they need to be self-directed, self-motivated, lifelong learners (Richardson, 2007)

Eagleton, M. B., & Dobler, E. (2007). Reading the web: Strategies for internet inquiry. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Demski, J. (2008, November). E-palling around. THE Journal, 35(11), 18–19.
Richardson, W. (2009, March). Becoming network-wise. Educational Leadership, 66(6), 26–31.

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