Internet research is a key component to many technology-based projects. Without facts, students cannot create quality reports, travel advertisements, or presentations. However, Internet research that is not well-managed wastes instructional time. When this happens, teachers risk running out of classes to complete the task or having students lose interest because the project has dragged on for too long.
Internet Research is Time Consuming
If you have been following this thread on the TechnoKids blog you know that I am currently teaching the technology project TechnoEnvironment to a group of middle school students. Today was the second class scheduled for Internet research. Since last class was cancelled due to a school trip, I was happy to have the students back in the computer lab. Unfortunately, there were several students away at a soccer tournament, posing yet another challenge to completing this portion of the technology project in a timely fashion.
I had a dilemma. There was only one more Internet research class left and the schedule could not be adjusted. The technology project must be complete before Winter Break. Since I require a certain number of classes to complete the postcard, poster, and pamphlet I cannot add another Internet research class. However, the publications cannot be created without quality facts.
I devised the following plan. Since the classroom teacher takes the students to the computer lab once a week to do keyboarding I requested that this class time be used by students to continue their Internet research. Thankfully, the classroom teacher agreed. One extra class! However, that alone would not solve my problem. Instead, I used a combination of teaching strategies that would help to manage the instructional time in the computer lab to make sure that none of it was wasted. Refer to the list below. Maybe some of the Internet research tips will work for you.
12 Tips for Internet Research
- Be Realistic: If you are planning to complete a technology-based project that has a research component, be realistic about how much time the research will take. You may think that your students can complete the work in one or two classes, but I always find that the realities of the school environment such as assemblies, sporting events, school trips, and illness get in the way of the best made plans. Instead, when designing your schedule provide several classes for research.
- Review Internet Research Basics: If your students do not have the basic skills to conduct Internet research then you need to teach these essential skills. You are much better off to schedule a class to introduce online research strategies, than just hope that your students will pick them up as they go along. In the end the instructional time scheduled will prevent students from wasting time looking for facts.
- Generate Specific Search Terms: Keywords matter. They make the difference between finding facts quickly or scrolling through a list of unrelated sites. It is a good idea to generate a list of possible search terms to help students locate their facts quicker.
- Bookmark Sites: Instructional time is too valuable to waste on poor quality websites. In advance of the class, bookmark high-quality websites. This will make sure that the time your students spend researching a topic is not wasted. If you are worried that this will prevent your students from acquiring Internet research skills, set the requirement that facts must come from one bookmarked site and one site found by the student.
- Set Time Limits: It is easy to lose track of time when conducting Internet research. Often students will click around looking for the PERFECT site. Or, students become so involved in reading interesting facts about the topic, that they forget what information they need to find. For these reasons, it is a good idea to set a time limit for finding a particular fact and restrict the number of classes allocated for research. This will encourage your students to stay focused.
- Track Progress: Everyone likes to check things off a “to do” list. Create a checklist of facts that students need to find. This will allow them to keep track of their progress. It will also help you to know if students are using their class time wisely and whether they need assistance locating information.
- Traditional Sources of Information: I know that it is computer class and you want everything to be done using technology, however do not dismiss the value of traditional sources of information. Encyclopedias and books offer an excellent starting point for Internet research. They provide students with inspiration when selecting a topic, background knowledge, and are a great backup if a computer crashes. It is always a good idea to have some traditional sources available.
- Generate Questions: Students need to know what they are looking for on the Internet. One way to keep them focused is to generate a list of questions related to their topic. Now they can spend their time researching to discover the answers.
- Organize Research using Headings: Have your students create a research organizer that has headings related to the topic. When students find a fact they must place it under the appropriate heading. This method of data collection will help students realize the information they still need to collect and areas where they already have enough information.
- Quantify Number of Facts: To help students manage their time it is a good idea to quantify the number of facts required for each research heading. This helps to guide the research because students know that once they have collected that piece of information they need to move onto the next heading.
- Monitor the Monitors: The best way to keep your students focused and on-task is to monitor their progress. Glance around the room frequently at the computer monitors to see what your students are doing. If you see a student frequently returning to the search results page, research sheet that is empty, or the student constantly changing their keyword to another topic, then you need to provide assistance.
- Search for Facts First: The Google Images gallery is mesmerizing. Looking at pictures is way more fun than collecting facts about a topic. For this reason, encourage your students to locate their facts first. Afterwards, they can gather images. If you are worried that your students will find the perfect picture while researching and they will forget where they found it, you can have them save images as they go along. However, the picture must be on a web page. They may not use the Google Images gallery until their research is complete.
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- Celebrate Success!