February 20

Gone Fishing – Quality Web Searching for Student Projects

Many teachers have experienced the frustration of assigning a topic for a research project, then giving students a block of time in the computer lab, only to discover at the end of the class period that the students spent most of their time looking at sites that were off topic, or otherwise useless. Chances are that if a teacher sent her students off on an internet search with so little guidance, she uses the same methods, and wastes her own time in similar fashion. It is likely that this teacher and her students began with a basic Google search, which is much like tossing a worm into the ocean to catch a fish.

The tech savvy teacher knows that the best educational websites have already been collected by others and are organized by topic, grade level, or content standards, and take the time-wasting guesswork out of this fishing expedition.Gone Fishing

It is likely too, that in this class there were a few students who were able to sort through the endless hit or miss websites to come up with the valuable resources that they needed. In the planning stages of this research assignment, the teacher needs to use differentiated instruction strategies. For example, on his Educational Web Resource pages, John Kuglin has linked to ikeepbookmarks.

With this bookmarking tool, the teacher can select several on-target sites in advance and put them in a folder. The student who is working on the fist levels of Blooms levels of cognitive understanding can remain focused on finding the facts that they need and are able to comprehend. The students who are working at the upper levels can begin with this folder and then seek out additional sites to analyze and synthesize the information that they discover. This group of students would investigate Bernie Dodge’s “Four Nets for Better Web Searching.”

Tomlinson advises that the differentiated classroom promote on-task behavior (37). With the best of intentions, the teacher can assign the research topic of alternative fuels. She thinks this is specific and will serve to focus her students on bio-fuels, wind power and such. But within seconds, someone will find race car fuel, then Dale Earnhardt’s home page, then call out to his friends, and they all run to see the crash photos, and then more time is wasted getting everyone back on task. This lost time has a negative impact on learning.

In a better scenario, the teacher directs her students to one of the many links that she discovered on Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators. The environmental science page lists specific topics in science that link to further sites—all on topic. For optimal gains in learning, the teacher has separated the sites she plans to use according to the choices that the students have made and their level of understanding. Each student or student group would find their target sites in a folder, bookmarked especially to suit their needs. She can tell her students the same thing that I tell mine, “I only get you for 180 days; we don’t have time to go fishing on the internet.”

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Posted February 20, 2009 by Deborah Kerwood in category Technology

About the Author

Currently I am an intervention specialist for grades 9-12 in a small, rural school district. I created a learning center during my first five years. Then I taught for two years in Cairo, Egypt. Now, I am back in my first classroom, and the learning center continues to grow. In addition to the students who have individual education plans, I serve students who are at risk of failing or dropping out. I have focused my professional development studies on educational technology and phonics instruction.

8 thoughts on “Gone Fishing – Quality Web Searching for Student Projects

    1. Deborah Kerwood (Post author)

      Thank you so much for your comment. First I had learn where to get an rss button, then I moved it to the top to make it easy to find. I really appreciate your help on this. And, LOVE the shoes! -DK

  1. Deborah Kerwood (Post author)

    Thank you Matt,

    I tried to use Google Groups for a student project a while back and found it complicated. For blogging on education topics edublog is super, easy to use and has real people for help – two things I really need!

    Best Wishes,


  2. Matt Haskell

    Great job with the blog. I tried a google blog but couldn’t post my information very well. I love the fact its web based and teachers can interact. Awesome!!!!

  3. Deborah Kerwood (Post author)

    Thanks Angie! I like the way that webpage lays out the idea of differentiated instruction succinctly and clearly. I will add it to the links page as well.



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