I had an epiphany. OK, maybe a little itsy teeny epiphany, but an epiphany nonetheless.
I blogged about being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information that I felt coming at me. In the comments, Jeff Merrell likened it to a firehose and offered me some really good advice. In fact, his really good advice collided with my most recent classroom practice, and that’s what provided the flash of insight.
My sophomores (honors students, for what it’s worth) are doing a research paper right now. Let’s call it a research project that ends in a paper, because really, the paper is just the end result of a process. Anyway, I wanted to give them a way to manage their information and their ideas to really focus on what they decide is essential. In keeping with my belief in the importance of student choice, I gave them broad subject areas, but they were then to choose a topic, do some high-level, introductory reading, and then develop a “just right” research question to focus their research as they moved into the note-taking phase.
A simple idea, and not overly ground-breaking.
But, it has broken ground for these kids. Student after student has told me how well their research is going with a question instead of a topic to guide them. They’ve wrestled with their questions: some were too broad, and needed to be narrowed. Some were so narrow as to be untenable. But overall, this whole research question thing has worked wonders.
So, when Jeff wrote of a friend’s advice “that the best way to make the firehose seem less like a firehose is to have a question in mind. It helps you focus and pick out things that are relevant. And ignore the rest of the stream,” it was like that crazy cliched lightning bolt. This research question that worked so well with my sophomores was the very thing that was going to help me survive and thrive in ETMOOC.
Since then, I’ve had some questions running around my head, and I hope I’ll be able to make headway on at least some them over the next two months that ETMOOC is officially in session. I’m sure that this list will morph as I progress, but starting out, this is what’s rattling around in my head:
- What are some best practices for integrating tech into an English classroom?
- How do teachers deal with access to tech (and lack thereof)?
- Can I write grants for tech? How?
- What are the expectations for my students’ digital literacy when they graduate? How can I get them there?
- How does tech tie into the core standards?
- Is ISTE’s NETS something I should pay attention to?
- Is there value in pursuing advanced education in ed-tech?