The Internet is a swelling ocean of information, and navigating through its steady flow can often be challenging. This is certainly true for a student who is not information fluent, so what are some smart online research strategies? Luckily this question falls within the realm of Information Fluency, which involves the 5As process:
- Asking the right questions
- Acquiring the knowledge
- Analyzing the content for relevancy and credibility
- Applying the knowledge to our use
- Assessing the effectiveness of our message
You’ll find this is one of the 10 shifts of practice of future-focused learning, and with good reason. Think about how we used to search for information, and how it happens now. How much has changed since that time? Even more importantly, how will things continue to change? These exponential changes are the reason why knowing productive online research strategies can have great benefit to learners. After all, we’re talking about skills they can apply in school and in life equally.
With that said, here are some solid Information Fluency-oriented online research strategies for your learners. They can use them whenever they are navigating the Internet for information and data. These are also terrific knowledge-building approaches for any project students are tackling in school and beyond.
This involves compiling a list of critical questions about what knowledge or data is being sought. The key is to ask meaningful and purposeful questions, because that’s how you get the most useful answers.
Recommended Strategy: Your learners may know what it is they are researching, but do they fully understand the driving question? If they’re unclear about the destination, they might waste an enormous amount of time surfing the Web and getting nowhere. Worse, they could go down the wrong alley.
At this point, if they are given a driving question or if they formulate one themselves, they can ask it in different ways. For example, try rephrasing the question from different points of view. Whatever approach they take, ensure they fully understand your question and reword it in such a way that will be found easily on the Internet. Often a search of the question word-for-word won’t yield the results they want.
Accessing information is no longer as easy as going to a card catalog and getting a book or other paper-based resource. This stage involves accessing and collecting informational materials from the most appropriate digital and non-digital sources.
Recommended Strategy: Students can use a bookmarking tool like Digg or Delicious for this which also allows them to highlight Web text for further reading. They could also copy and paste URLs into a Google Docs template in a section reserved specifically for online sources. If you have budding bloggers in your class, give them this Solution Fluency Blog Template we created for optimizing their blog posts.
At this stage, it isn’t necessary to read collected articles in depth yet. Just take a quick cursory glance for relevancy, and gather them into a list for later. Don’t forget a brief note on the gist of the article, who wrote it, etc.
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With all the raw data collected the next steps are authenticating, organizing, and arranging it all. This stage also involves ascertaining whether information is true or not, and distinguishing the good from the bad.
Recommended Strategy: First, students should begin with this article on analyzing websites for reliability. Afterwards they can start to really examine website resources up close using what they’ve learned. Encourage them to listen and watch any videos rather than just skimming them. This is where the skills of Media Fluency come in handy.
Additionally, have them take time to internalize what an article is trying to say, who wrote it, and why. Gradually they’ll begin to ask themselves if they disagree or agree, and begin thinking more critically about what they’re reading. This actually might be the area of Information Fluency that learners will spend most of their time in.
Once data is collected and verified, and a solution is created, the knowledge must then be practically applied within the context of the original purpose for the information quest.
Recommended Strategy: Instruct students to close all sources so they don’t see them, and not to copy and paste. Instead, encourage them to write using their own words. They should strive to get as much down as they possibly can, saying what they need to say. Afterward, the next steps are for them to go back and reread their sources. In doing so they can pinpoint where ideas came from and how they were able to expand or develop them on their own.
The final stage is about thoroughly and critically revisiting both the product and the process. This involves discussions about how the problem-solving journey could have been more efficient, and how the solution created could be applied to challenges of a similar nature.
Recommended Strategy: When it comes to proofreading, you can certainly proofread yourself. However, learners should always get a trusted partner or friend to read it. Ask them to be honest and constructive, and give them “red pen” freedom to comment on the finished product.
Online research strategies go hand in hand with Information Fluency. Doing it well and efficiently requires the savvy to examine our sources for reliability and credibility, then processing the information into a well-oiled project. Giving credit to the sources that we use and collaborating for the finalization of our project round out the process for putting our online research to good use.