I’m sitting here at Monroe Elementary School in St. Charles, Missouri for a METC pre-conference session on finding and evaluating internet information.

Carl Heine from the Illinois Math and Science Academy is leading us viele-modelthrough today’s discussion and he’s using the academy’s 21st Century Information Fluency site.

Carl introduces the idea of digital natives using Prensky’s stuff but he adds a bit about search tools.

They’re not speaking the same language as the tools they are trying to use.

Hadn’t really thought about that perspective before. Is Google really not good enough for 21st century learners?

Not necessarily. Carl is basically saying that we haven’t trained our kids to speak the language of 21st century searchers. He says 21st century learners, our kids, don’t do the following things very well:

  • Turn a question into a query
  • Choose the right database
  • Recognize relevant information
  • Find and use better search terms
  • Verify the credibility of information they find

So . . . we need to be very deliberate in working with our kids to understand not only how search tools work but how to ask better questions. It’s all part of our job as teachers. The problem that I see in schools is that many teachers do not seem to think these types of skills are important.

It’s not tested. I don’t have time for it.

Carl cites some of his research that documents how 21st century skills like these impact student learning. So . . . what to do? Get better at it ourselves so that we can teach our kids.  And . . . realizing how important these skills truly are to student success.

For this to happen, there will need to be a pretty big conceptual shift in the brains of teachers and administrators. Maybe the multiplication table is just not that important anymore. Maybe learning the major lakes of the United States could be replaced by something more useful . . . effective evaluation skills, perhaps?

Throughout the morning, we went through a few exercises to help us understand effective search and evaluation strategies. A bit of review but the IMSA people have put together some pretty useful tools for us to use. Have kids try some of the Keyword Challenges, Search Challenges and Evaluation Challenges to start.