by Ryan Schaaf
Learning is a process. Sometimes it’s messy, disorganized, and chaotic. In some cases this is favorable and will promote tenacity and perseverance, making the learner’s journey that much more enlightening.
On the other hand, the web is an imperfect place. The sheer volume of available information is incomprehensible. By the end of 2013, the number of indexed web pages reached over 1.68 billion. This statistic doesn’t include the invisible web; the web pages unindexed by major search engines is estimated to be 10 times larger than the number of indexed ones. That’s a conservative estimate of over 10 billion web pages! Imagine learners (especially younger ones) trying to find what they are looking for in this sea of information overload.
The web searching process can also be an exercise in futility and struggle. Entering a search term such as ‘Pixie’ can produce results involving a rock band, candy, a hairstyle, or a dress when in actuality the inquiry was searching for a fairy-like creature like Peter Pan’s companion.
There still remains more concern for the learner: The search engine bounces back nonsensical results, inappropriate content, outdated materials, or misinformation. Research fluency is an absolute imperative, but for young learners developing reading, writing, math, and critical thinking skills essential for today and tomorrow, time may be a valuable luxury they don’t have for practicing effective research skills during every learning experience.
As teachers, or better yet facilitators, we can help all learners on their quest for information by paving the way for them, so to speak.
Facilitators can locate the web resources their learners will benefit from, list the hyperlinks in a logical or sequential order and have learners use them to acquire the knowledge for themselves. The list of links subsequently becomes a map for the learner to explore and examine. The facilitator is taking the guesswork away from the learner and the search process by providing pre-screened quality content for them to mentally explore and ingest.