“Mom, why is the sky blue?” my young son asked. Throughout their lives, I’ve encouraged my sons to ask questions about the world and to pursue the answers. Today was different, however. Rather than my usual response of, “Let’s ask Google,” I handed the iPhone to my son and answered, “Ask Siri.”
Tools like Google, Apple Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and other information-gathering gadgets and apps have terraformed our world in such a way that knowledge is instantly accessible through our fingertips and with our voices. Recently, my husband finished our basement drywall by watching YouTube videos. When my sons got stuck on their homework, they emailed their teacher, referred to Google, or went to homework sites on the Internet for help. We use the Internet to find information and connect to people from across the globe (much like you are doing right now, as you are reading this).
Without the Internet, we go to libraries to read books or turn to our personal networks of people to find the information we need. For example, I still call my mom for cooking advice, and I go to professional conferences to share and be inspired by everyone’s ideas. Whether done online and/or in-person, information seeking, or resourcing, is a critical aspect of how we naturally learn.
In this blog, I’ll give you an overview of the stages of resourcing before I share ways that you can leverage this in your classroom to create personal learning opportunities for your students.
The Stages of Resourcing
We know that deep, meaningful learning happens when we can apply the information that we’ve gathered toward some sort of problem or question that we are trying to pursue. Think about the last time you did an Internet search and why you did it (and what you did with the information that you found). The act of resourcing involves several stages:
- Identifying the need for information – When we encounter a question or problem, we first apply our own knowledge to find the answers. This is not only logical but efficient. However, if the problem or question is beyond our expertise or knowledge, we have to go to other sources.
- Information-hunting – This stage is very personalized. What you hunt for and use is heavily dependent upon who you are, what you already know, your access to resources, and what the situation needs. For example, when it comes to cooking, I ask my mom. When I have specific questions about how to write or design curricula, I turn to my Facebook social groups. When it comes to figuring out how to edit a video, I turn to YouTube videos, WikiHow, TechSmith blogs, and weblinks gleaned from Google. On the other hand, a close friend of mine uses FoodNetwork (instead of his mom) to find cooking inspiration and answers. Teachers go to all kinds of places for information; some go to fellow teachers in their professional learning communities while others use resources provided by their districts. My point being that information hunting is not one-size-fits-all for everyone or every situation.
- Evaluation of information hunt – During and after the information-hunting process, we determine whether this information is reliable, trustworthy, and whether it is relevant. If it isn’t, we continue the hunt.
- Synthesis and application of information – At the end of the hunt, we process and synthesize the information we’ve gathered in order to apply it to the question or problem.
- Repeat as necessary – If the application isn’t satisfactory, we start the information hunt, evaluation, synthesis, and application again until the question is answered, the problem is solved, or we’ve given up on finding an answer.
Here’s an example of how this process works: My husband wanted to update and change the light switches in our house. He went to Lowes and bought the light switches. At home, he turned off the electricity, pulled out our light switch, and realized that he was not familiar with the circuitry. So, my husband took out the instructions that came with the new switches, read them, applied them, and realized that the switch still didn’t work. Next, he looked at several videos on YouTube. He also called his dad to have him weigh in on the problem (and verify the information found in the videos). Although it took several videos and a call to dad to find the right solution, we now have working, updated switches in our house — and no one was electrocuted!
Notice the kinds of 21st-century skills that you need in this process:
- Problem-solving, media literacy, digital citizenship, communication, information literacy, inquiry – You have to know where to go to find the relevant (and reliable) information you need and evaluate it.
- Critical thinking, creativity, and innovation – You must evaluate this information in relation to your problem/question, synthesize it, and apply it.
We find information in different forms, such as video (YouTube), text (books and manuals), diagrams, and conversation. Once we have the information, we translate it, synthesize it, and apply it to fit toward our specific problems. Moving information from one mode to another involves additional highly cognitive skill sets!
How To Apply Resourcing To A Classroom Setting
By providing opportunities for resourcing in the classroom, you’re giving students lots of practice with these skills. How then, do we translate the information in our blog (see what I did there) to the classroom? Classroom resourcing involves giving your students frequent access to an information buffet rather than a one-course meal. Here’s what I mean by that:
In the classroom, the teacher is the source of knowledge, and she controls (and evaluates) the information that she gives to her students. This is like serving everyone a plate of macaroni and cheese, and nothing else. However, we crave diversity in our meals, and not everyone likes mac and cheese. If you’ve ever looked at a buffet, you’ll notice people come away with different kinds of things (depending on their tastes and appetites), and no two plates look the same. The more choices you give, the more unique peoples’ plates will be.
In learning, it is no different. To activate resourcing, we build an information buffet to offer students a variety of sources where they can pull information. For instance, if you are doing a unit or activity about different climates or weather patterns in the world, students could access books about weather, study maps that show the earth’s hydrosphere and atmosphere, go to the National Weather Service site, Skype with classrooms in other countries about their weather, and read articles.
Ideas To Help Build Your Information Buffets:
- Leverage other students’ experiences through the engagement stage of the 5Es, and through multiple opportunities for students to communicate and learn from each other (see Talk Resource tools for ideas).
- Use multiple websites that contain information embedded in different forms, such as animations, videos, voice recordings, interviews, text, interactive games, etc. Better yet, teach your kids how to use a kid-safe search engine to find the information that they need.
- Refer kids to books to find information. One of my favorite things to do is to use reference books, like Ultimate Bugopedia, First Space Encyclopedia, and Smithsonian’s Ultimate Visual Guide to Everything on Earth. This is a powerful and contextual way to teach students how to use the table of contents and index for their information hunting.
- Use experiences as sources for information. Have kids go outside, experiment, go on a field trip, interview people, talk to family members and friends, survey other students, etc. to find the information they need.
You can use this buffet in several ways. Start with the “try this” approach, where you have kids try a little of this and that — they go to the Internet, people, books, and experiences to pull together the info they need. You’ll need to scaffold these experiences in the beginning — especially if students are used to coming to you for the answers. When your students are a little more experienced, split them up into groups, where some go to the Internet, others use the book, etc. Have students pull information from these different sources, then have them come together to share, evaluate, and synthesize what they’ve found.
Finally, leave the research open-ended. This is similar to telling kids to grab a plate and get what they want at the buffet — give students a choice of where they go for information hunting. Then afterward, have kids come together to share and discuss the information they’ve found with each other. Resourcing using this technique allows students to personalize their own learning because they are going to the sources of information that appeal to them at a given moment.
To incorporate resourcing into a lesson or activity, ask yourself these questions: Are there opportunities to provide my students with access to multiple sources of information? If so, what are these different sources of information, and how do my students access them?
Another thing to note is that how and when we teach resourcing is dependent upon what you want your students to do and learn. For instance, when I’m teaching my son how to drive, it’s a very bad idea to have him refer to Siri for the answer. I use the “Please, if you value our lives, do exactly what I’m telling you to do!” approach since inquiry driving isn’t all that popular and I’ve no desire to live that adventurously!
While it is true that some of our learning involves watching, repeating, and practicing what others do, this emulate-repeat model leaves little space for students to do their own resourcing; let alone think about, synthesize, reflect, or apply the information that they’ve gathered. When students are given opportunities to find knowledge on their own, they practice valuable skills that they will use throughout their lives. Creating an environment where kids have opportunities to resource the information they need to solve a problem, answer a question, or learn about a new subject personalizes learning and starts them on the path to becoming motivated, self-directed learners.