One of my takeaway moments from Mark Treadwell's day earlier this week is the point that we (teachers and the curriculum we are employed to deliver) often expect students to take on concepts and skills that they are not developmentally ready for. We are so focussed on doing more sooner that whether the kids are actually ready for it or not is a secondary question.
Here's an example. Treadwell proposes that in the Year 5 -7 year levels (10 - 13 year olds) that effectively searching the web in the name of "research" is a skill that the majority of these students are not developmentally ready for. Instead, he proposes that smaller groups of pre-picked websites are a more manageable way for students to develop their critical literacy skills. Considering that the vast majority of teachers that I know struggle to use Google in any more than a superficial manner, I'm beginning to warm to this perspective. It would certainly explain why some of the projects that I've overseen with students are just mere collections of assembled digital slabs - as Mark pointed out, it makes cut'n'paste the easiest way to achieve results.
I was all for students following their own choices thinking that the web provides for the variety of source material to provide a quality overview of their chosen topic. But the reality is that many students rarely use more than a handful of sites, usually whatever is on top of their initial Google search and the result is regurgitation, not understanding. Plus 30 kids working on their individual themes means no-one else to discuss things with, no-one else to push and challenge understanding or to even ensure that the information passes muster. Just because the talented kids can construct something useful and informative does not mean it is an effective way to equip kids with effective web skills.
But what I'm interested in is your point of view. Is Google a tool to be embraced with students of all ages or do we take a more scaffolded approach to helping their develop their search and evaluation skills? I'm really torn between my instincts that want to empower kids as soon as possible and the other possibility proposed by Mark's overall picture of the "21st Century Learner" that also reminds us that we don't just keep shovelling in extra stuff for the students to take on board without working out how to make it manageable or to jettison some practices that just aren't needed any more. Please, help me to make sense of this. Where do you sit in this picture or am I missing something that is obvious?