Wednesday, September 17, 2014

High School Research

Shortly after arriving at Professional Children's School, I was told that my predecessor had, years earlier, proposed a research class in the high school and that the administration would like me to see it through. I know many of us are constantly struggling to get more class time and having my administration ask for an additional research class to be part of a curriculum was very exciting and affirming for me. And so, I spent a year researching, meeting with departments, and figuring out how best to teach such a class. Research and Information Literacy is now a required course that I've taught three times's entirely online.

I teach middle school research classes twice a week and having that experience was definitely a good jumping off point for figuring out what to include. As those course are scaffolded, I planned to build upon them for this one. In the high school, there are some teachers who bring their classes into the library at the beginning of a research paper to have me do an overview of the library, plus how to use databases, plus how to write a bibliography, plus how to write a research paper…in 20 minutes. This gave me an idea of what teachers expected, as did helping kids throughout the year. After I had spent some time researching literacy standards and coming up with a framework, I spoke with each department and asked what they were looking for in a class such as this. Their answers affirmed what I had already found and also helped to bring them into the process. Due to scheduling, as well as giving students a unique opportunity, the decision was made early to build this as an online course.

So how do you create an online class? Several years ago, I took an online course from Bank Street (Beyond Google and Wikipedia) and two summers ago I took the Google MOOC (Power Searching with Google), but those had been my only experiences. I’ve  been using Moodle for all of my middle school classes, so was experienced with putting my classroom content online. Additionally, I regularly use forums, Socrativementormob, and blogs in my face to face teaching. However, just to be on the safe side (and to be super meta), I took an online course about online courses from the Online School for Girls. It was a great experience and definitely gave me a lot to think about. I would highly recommend consciously being a student in an online course before teaching online.
I have pulled from all of these places and have created a course in which each weekly lesson has a reading of some sort, a video of myself briefly teaching a concept, and collaborative work. I'm using the text Writing a Research Paper as well as our school’s own research guide. Each time I teach this, I've changed it up a bit to make sure that it's relevant to the students. In addition to research, this course is also teaching them skills related to independent study, time management, digital citizenship, and collaboration.
During the spring semester, one of my 10th graders used a paper that he had received a B- on to work from. With feedback from his peers, myself, and going through the process from the beginning, he was able to re-submit his paper and receive an A. His teacher sent him an email saying "What a difference! This is a much better paper, especially in its technical formatting - it looks professional, very much like a paper written by a (soon to be!) junior in a high school with high standards. Bravo. Thank you for your hard work, and I thank Ms. Roeder for her guidance. I am delighted!" This was a very exciting email to receive, but it also sparked a partnership with this history teacher going forward and we are going to make sure our courses dovetail each other. I think partnering with teachers is essential and it's easier once you can show them proof that what you're doing works.
Below is the slideshow from a presentation I did this year at Teaching With Technology. It shares some of my challenges, as well as the tools that I'm using. 

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