Learning from Mistakes

This really should be a permanent series of this blog – mainly so I remember these past mistakes and don’t repeat them (and if others can benefit, all the greater).

I almost titled this piece “The World Isn’t Flat”, but that might have had the effect of demeaning my students through comparison with others, and I promised myself when I started this that I would never post anything negative about my students. I think people will be able to make their own conclusion on the flatness questions, though.

But anyways – the mistake: Today was scheduled to be my big “How to evaluate information on the Internet” lesson – one that I feel is probably the most important one I teach each year for reasons that are obvious to those who frequent the edublogs. It’s the first lesson I’ve got the chance to teach for a third time, so I’m finally feeling pretty good about it – both in terms of my delivery, my ability to help the students understand its importance, and the learning that results from it. It’s the lesson I always use to kick off the first research project of the year. But the problem is that the lesson is meant to be a case of “unlearning”. It assumes certain habits amongst students that I’m trying to unteach. In this case I assume that students, when looking for information online, just go to Google or Yahoo! and type something in and start clicking on search results. Even more basic, it assumes that students have a clue as to what to type into a search box to get results. I don’t mean meaningful results. I mean any results.

However, in many, if not most, cases in my first period class, there weren’t habits to be unlearned. For many, this was probably the first time students were asked to do historical research online. The first class of this unit (which I haphazardly put together for the subsequent periods in the day) is about where to begin the search. I shouldn’t have been unteaching anything. I should have simply started with how to go a good search, and then tomorrow, added in the part about evaluating the information we find.

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