Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Panning for Gold: Unpacking ISTE Standard for Students #3 "Knowledge Constructor"

"Knowledge Constructor: Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others." (ISTE Student Standard #3)

We as educators have a responsibility to equip all students for success. Technology often alleviates so much of the burdens and angst in the education process. We have to show students how to look for good resources, where to look for good resources, and beyond that, how to cite them appropriately. The ease of closeness of information has opened the door quickly for learning and access but we have to intentionally respond likewise. We cannot drag our feet as educators in helping our students understand what it means to be a knowledge constructor. We must prepare students to see technology as a tool and not just an overwhelming struggle for educational purposes.

This post is about teaching students the skills of becoming quality researchers. This includes discerning between good and bad digital resources. I think if we are honest with ourselves, we can all say we have fallen for "fake news" at some point. It isn't easy to spot and sometimes context clues are lacking. The same often holds true when doing research. We start teaching research skills in second grade. A website has been created that takes the students directly to some curated sites about Native Americans. I talk to them about clicking off webpages, double checking URLs, and that the word "search" is in RESEARCH. It's not a matter of opening a page, reading a few sentences, and writing down answers. They must pan through the fake gold to get to the good stuff! We talk about evidence to support evidence and not taking everything they see on the internet as the truth. I tell them if they can't find information on another source to support what they have learned then they need to look at the information through a much more critical eye. At that point, they are released to find the good stuff.

Teaching students to become quality knowledge constructors can happen with a small amount of technology in the classroom as well. The goal is to have students critically think about the information presented to them. I think this comes naturally for today's middle school student that is constantly connected. One of my coworkers (who happens to be the mom of teens) told me that we have a group of middle school students that would "fact check" teachers while they were teaching. Now mind you, these teachers didn't know they were being fact-checked (which is a whole different issue), but I wonder how often these students found something that contradicted what they were learning in class? Bigger yet, I wonder how often they brought it to the teacher's attention? Bigger still, I wonder how often a teacher could look beyond being called out and turn it into a teachable moment on knowledge construction?

Have you ever watched an assembly line? I think of knowledge constructor skills somewhat like the fryer line in our family's donut shop. There is a big vat of ooey gooey dough that is so heavy and hard to manage. To try something with that big vat is so overwhelming, so little by little we drop smaller amounts of all that ooey gooey goodness down into the fryer. They are cooked on one side, flipped, cooked on the other side, conveyed across the line to drain, covered with icing, and then patiently waiting to be devoured at the end of the line. The same thing happens with information. Our job is to help students sort through all the ooey gooey information, find a nugget of potential truth, run it through our critical eye, and turn it into something that is worthy being devoured by others- true knowledge!

Possible ways to lead students to become knowledge constructors in no tech, low tech, and high tech environments:
     ISTE Standard #3                     No Tech                         Low Tech                       High Tech


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