Students apply critical thinking to understand how the information they gathered relates to their essential questions. They must be able to reason, to weigh the value of what they have found, and to draw conclusions. In “Teaching Students to Think in the Digital Environment: Digital Literacy and Digital Inquiry,” Barbara Stripling tells us the key to this process is a student’s ability “to look for patterns and relationships among ideas as they build organizational frameworks and form their own opinions” (Stripling). We can help to cultivate this ability in our students by creating an inquiry-based classroom. Teachers can provide students with an essential question to guide inquiry and the opportunity to discover patterns and relationships from the information they gather. This process allows students to apply their learning to form a new opinion or develop a new understanding. The ability to apply information is a skill reflected in the Ohio Learning Standards. Applying information includes integrating information presented in different formats and analyzing two or more texts presenting conflicting information on the same topic. As teachers create opportunities for students to recognize patterns and organize information among a variety of sources and conflicting information, we empower students to open the door to new understandings and perspectives.
With a new understanding, students can apply what they have learned about the topic of their inquiry to create something new. Stripling adds that the digital environment presents a challenge; information is disorganized, making the application of information and new ideas difficult. Teachers can support students as they apply the information they gathered during the inquiry process through the use of graphic organizers. Graphic organizers support students as they organize information, apply their learning, and delegate tasks when working in a group.
Essential questions are the key to helping students stay focused during the inquiry process. Too much information on the internet can make it difficult for students to connect what they have gathered if they haven't used an essential question to guide them.
Each student might approach how to answer this essential question differently. Teachers can decide if they prefer that all students practice one pattern of organization in order to align with a unit goal. As students become more confident in their abilities, consider allowing students to choose the pattern of organization they think will best support the project they intend to create.
Correctly Citing Sources and Plagiarism
As students prepare to apply their learning by creating a new product, citing sources correctly is an important step. In “Top 10 Reasons Why Students Plagiarize and What Teachers Can Do About It”, Michelle Navarre Cleary summarizes that because our students are accustomed to a collaborative learning environment where information is freely accessible, the decision to cite or not to cite can be difficult. Cleary suggests that teachers discuss with students misconceptions about citing information.
Let INFOhio help you facilitate that discussion with resources in R4S: Module 4: Putting it together. Included in the learning module, you will find the INFOhio Citation Guide with videos and resources about plagiarism and how to avoid it. Use the video "What is plagiarism and how to avoid it?" to bust plagiarism myths and misunderstandings.
After the discussion, challenge your students to show you what they know about plagiarism with this short quiz.
Although not without its challenges, engaging our students in inquiry-based learning will allow them to form a new opinion or a new understanding of their topic. Stripling reminds us that inquiry-based learning is a process that, “should result in new understandings for learners, but not final answers.” It is a perspective that challenges both teachers and students; a challenge met through an inquiry-based classroom. By driving instruction around an essential question, we empower students to recognize patterns that emerge from the information they gather. Patterns and information that students can then apply their learning and arrive at a new opinion or understanding about the topic. Through the inquiry process, students practice and master the skills to become independent learners that can apply information gathered from a digital environment.
How do you support your students as they apply information during the inquiry process? Follow us on social media and share, tweet, and post how #INFOhioWorks for your students!
Information inquiry models and Applying Information
Stripling Model of Inquiry—Connect—Connect to self, previous knowledge; Gain background and context. Construct: Construct new understandings connected to previous knowledge; Draw conclusions about questions and hypotheses.
Mary Rowland is a Professional Instructional Specialist with INFOhio. A former high school English teacher with 14 years teaching experience, Mary is an accomplished leader who facilitated professional development in her previous district on integrating web-based tools into the classroom, Google Apps for Education, and writing across the curriculum. During her career, Mary mentored student teachers and served on both the district and building leadership committees. She has earned a BA in English, an MS in Education: Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, and is a Google Certified Educator Level 2. Mary is passionate about supporting INFOhio’s mission to help Ohio’s educators integrate the tools and resources to strengthen education for Ohio’s students.