Friday, January 11, 2013

Tis the Season...

For research that is.

I know there are a lot of you thinking about research lately. I wanted to take some time to highlight some of the resources available.

MMSD, henceforth knows as The District, is moving towards a particular research model that you should start getting familiar with. Its called The Big 6 for later elementary, and The Super 3 for early elementary. I have created a Research Process page on the Schenk Portal to highlight these models. I would suggest taking a look before beginning a major research project with your students.

The first step of the Big 6 model is task definition which is what this post will focus on.  In its most simple form task definition is simply asking the research question. Task Definition defines the information problem and identifies information needed to complete the task.  Defining the information and identifying sources go hand and hand.

It can be frustrating to come up with a great research question and then be confronted with either an information avalanche or desert. It can be even more frustrating to be confronted with this problem late in the research process. Identifying available information sources should be part of the process of defining an information problem or research question.

Tools of the Trade

Library Catalog: This should be your first stop if it is at Schenk or the Public Library. You can search and see what books are available for student research. You can receive information like Lexile Level that can determine if a particular book is appropriate for a specific student. If you create Resource Lists they can include not only books but websites and related content. With advanced notice this is something I am more than willing to assist you with.  The Library Catalog also has curated websites on a variety of topics appropriate for students. I would highly suggest using this interface for your web-based research.

Safe Searching: I have created a Safe Searching page that I would suggest using if you are going to search in the wild. It offers a Google safe search, Wikipedia safe search, and a safe image search. What these searches do is apply safe searching filters from any browser. I would suggest using this page rather than your default Google search.

Links 4 Kids: Use our databases. In the school market non-fiction content will be released in databases and eBooks over traditional print books. This year I have noticed countless non-fiction titles being sold as an eBook but having no print version available. For younger students we have four modules in Pebble Go which should serve as the foundation for any research project. If you are a 3-5 teacher and  have not checked out TrueFlix there is a wealth of material that gets at the complexity piece of Common Core. All the books, like Pebble Go, have a read a loud option so students can access complex non-fiction even if they are reading at a lower reading level.

Culture Grams: If you are doing any research on states, countries, flags, or geography you should become very familiar with this resource. This District resource should be utilized more than it currently is.

Britannica: This is a District resource that also has a wealth of content. The search box on the Links 4 Kids not only searches the encyclopedia but various magazines, videos, and photos. You typically have access to all EBSCO content available to every Wisconsin school. Searchasurus is another great research resource. It is a curated search that allows you to filter by lexile level. If a student had a lexile level of 500-800 the results they receive could be limited to that range.


Physical books are just one component of a research program. Much of newer content is going straight to digital format skipping the print market entirely. One teacher coming in and checking out mammal books could wide out most of Schenk's collection. As a result databases, eBooks, and online content must play a stronger role in research than in the past.

Computer Lab: Time is very limited. You have access to the Q2 printer (please no color). All of the resources mentioned are available. Earphones can help limit distractions. 

Netbooks: This is what I'd use for whole class research. All of the resources mentioned should work. Garret is in the process of getting the printer working with the netbooks. Most of our resources are flash based so will not work with the iPads but will with the netbooks.  

iPads: The Destiny app will allow you to search for books and access curated websites. This is the primary way I'd use the iPad for research. As a teacher you could use the app to find books in the LMC, and add related websites to a resource list.  Pebble Go and TrueFlix will NOT work with the iPads. IPads have access to Google Drive so 4/5 students could use it for typing up reports.