Thinking about the process of research

For the past 10 days I’ve been reading, viewing, listening and participating in presentations and discussions for the YSL Online Conference 2, putting so many new ideas into my brain that I hardly know where to begin to sort out my own thoughts and responses.

One thing that just occurred to me is an analogy for how efficiently students work through the research process. As I was in my kitchen making a cup of tea at the time, the image that presented itself to me was a diagram of the workflow triangle used to help design useful kitchens. That triangle represents the arrangement of and distance between the fridge, stove and preparation areas. The easier it is to move between these areas the more efficient the ‘workflow’ in that kitchen.

Students need an environment that supports the development of an efficient workflow in their research tasks. They need easy access to information storage (the fridge), to select and organise information (preparation) and to put it all together to present a new product (stove). Each of these requires a combination of knowledge, skills and tools, and the way to ensure that our students have all three is by designing a learning environment that supports the acquisition of knowledge, the development of skills, and the application of tools.

I now want to think about my library and my library programs in terms of this analogy:

(Click image for better image of published Webspiration document)

Each group of knowledge, skills and tools needs to be considered in the learning environment I create; all will be more successfully taught in combination with each other, with a minimum of steps between each area.

I hope that this analogy was not too laboured – I’m thinking aloud here, working my way through the idea to see whether it gives insight or confusion…

Sooooo unbeliveably busy!

First week of term + first week on conference equals = whimpering to self in office as yet another email/phonecall/humble student in need of help appears to nip away another five minutes…

I am finding the conversations on and about the conference stimulating, and the presentations are giving me much food for thought. I still haven’t caught up with #3, because I simply have not had one whole hour free anywhere.

Number 4 (or was it 5?) looks like I should view it on a big screen to enjoy all the YouTube stuff – should also provide some great links for sharing with staff who are looking for ways to introduce YouTube into their resources.

I have set up a YSL2 feed from del.icio.us, which I will add to the sidebar given five minutes (somewhere, anywhere!) to do so. I’ve also got a twitter widget on both my home and work computers, so I can keep up with messages durig the day – it is proving to be useful, and not tooooo distracting. If I’m too busy, I just ignore it!

This afternoon I have to add a couple of items to my wiki, as it is my turn today (gulp!). I hope that conference participants find some useful ideas on information literacy activities using web 2.0.

Time to Write, Time to Think

I’ve been doing plenty of thinking recently, but not a lot of writing.
Driving to and from work, putting away books, doing housework – these all help the thinking processes, beacuse they are times when I am free to reflect. It is making the time to write that is hard… this post is a case in point – it has been in the drafts folder for two weeks! (there are others in there too, explaining how it comes to be two months since my last published post!)

Recent thoughts have centred on boys’ reading, information literacy, ICT competencies, integrating the library with the classroom curriculum, fluidity, flexibility…

All of these will come into play during the upcoming Your School Library Online Conference – I am presenting a paper on how I seek to introduce and implement web2.0 techonologies in my school library program.

I sat down this week and used Webspiration to help me organise my thoughts; I really like using mind-mapping tools to create order out of the swirling mess of ideas and information that races around inside my skull when I’m trying to pull a project together. As a high school and uni student I used to plan out assignments with lots of different coloured pens, as a classroom teacher I used to write each activity or section on the board in a different colour, giving both me and my students an easy way to describe progress “has everyone finished the blue? Who’s up to the purple already?”. I love having a colourfuI, visually informative way of organising ideas, thoughts and information.

Planning my presentation

It’s quite a while since I joyfully discovered Inspiration and Kidspiration software, and was completely charmed by the way even struggling students could produce a clear diagram of the life cycle of a duck (for instance), unhindered by the difficulties they had with handwriting. Now we have Webspiration, which is in beta release and currently free, and I am dazzled all over again! So far I have not tried the collaborative facility, where you can invite other people to work on your document, but I have tried the web-publishing, which worked quite well. I foresee some collaborative mind-mapping fun in my future, and definitely in my teaching!

Loquacious am I

I sent an email to my boss the other day, which I began by writing ‘Treat this as me thinking out loud’… I was contemplating why I felt it so necessary to write out my thoughts and email them to someone who is so very very busy – I know she wants my input and ideas, and is always happy to discuss new things/old things, but why did I need to send those ideas that way?

I’ve decided that it is a symptom of my personal thinking processes, as is my well-deserved reputation for being rather talkative. I tend to collect lots of information and ideas on a topic and float them around in my head, and then work out my understanding and analysis and new ideas by putting it all into words. The words aren’t there in fully formed sentences in my head – the act of fitting the right words to the shapes of my thoughts helps me to define my conclusions to myself.

This can be somewhat unfortunate for the poor soul enduring yet another ear-bashing as I work out how best to deal with student X or to fix problem Y.

Do you know what is odd about this habit of mine? I can’t use a diary as my sounding board. I need the feeling of speaking to another person – I need that bounce-back of someone else’s rephrasing or reply.

This learning style may be helpful in being a reflective teacher who thinks about their own practice, but what about in the classroom? Now I have to think about how to prevent my personal preference for oodles of verbiage from interfering with my student’s boyish preference for direct and specific instruction that gets to the point and gives them a clear goal with no distracting tangential asides.

The long haul begins….

Actual reading of books

For my holiday reading I brought home The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zaf√≥n. Although I haven’t touched the second, this week I have been reading The Book Thief, and really enjoying it. Tyring to explain it to my curious son, I said that this book is set in Nazi Germany, is narrated by Death, and is about a fairly ordinary little girl who is fostered out to a poor family and who steals books from time to time, and that despite all these points, it is not depressing.

Reading this book has reminded me of how satisfying it is to be absorbed by a tale, to live inside the words. So much of my reading now is snatches of info on computer screens, or flicking through the newspaper, or a chapter of a novel at (the children’s) bedtime. This reminds me that there was an article I read last year about how the internet is changing our reading habits. When I googled it (as you do) I discovered a Wikipeida article that turned out to be even more interesting than my recollection of the original article. Apparently the article sparked a furious debate across the blogosphere and intellectual fora, wherein journalists, writers, critics, educators and neuroscientists posited theories and some evidence (mostly anecdotal, due to the newness of the alleged phenomenon) on whether or not spending more time online in a hypertextual reading environment rewires our reading circuits so that sitting down to concentrate on a single piece of prose becomes harder and harder to do. I’m not quite ready to put forth my own opinion yet; I think that perhaps we haven’t quite identified all of the factors, because changes in the way that we timetable our lives, for instance, have an impact on how much uninterrupted time we have to devote to sustained reading, which is a social and cultural influence rather than exclusively technological.

hmm. I’ll have to think about this one. Once I’ve read my emails.

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