Chelsey KolpinBeyond Google: Teaching research in a 1:1 high school

When honors history students at Grinnell High School began their research for a Civil Rights Symposium, teacher librarian Chelsey Kolpin helped them get off to a good start.  

Former Grinnell teacher Dan Covino planned the spring 2015 symposium as part of his goal to provide challenging, authentic learning experiences.  Student groups were to research a relevant issue they found interesting (such as religion and corporate law, criminal justice and racial relations, or unionization and collective bargaining) and make a presentation to a panel of community members in Grinnell, a rural, college town in Iowa.

Covino enlisted Kolpin to model effective research strategies. The students had access to a variety of information through their one-to-one laptops and could even use the Grinnell College library.   But to maximize their time and ensure they were finding accurate information, they needed some direction. Covino explained, “Most students with little or no research experience don't know where to begin and often resort to Google searches for lack of alternatives.”

Kolpin selected digital resources that would be more useful and relevant than what students could find through a general Google search.  She identified reliable, high-quality websites that would provide strong research and analysis on the issues such as the Pew Research Center, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, and the American Bar Association. She pointed students to resources available through the high school library such as e-books and the SIRS Issues Researcher database, a collection of background information, opinions and articles selected specifically for students researching current issues.  

She also taught students how to use digital literacy skills to get the most of each resource.  She explained how Boolean searches work  and modeled effective searching on the Grinnell College library databases. Covino said, “Collaborating with Chelsey always helps my teaching, especially watching her model for students how to access materials.”

Instead of floundering through biased sources and irrelevant database results, students were able to quickly find reliable, relevant resources.  They then analyzed the issues and developed  presentations on why their topic should be considered a civil rights issue. Their presentations were well received by community panelists including Dr. Raynard Kington, President of Grinnell College, the Hon. Brent Appel, Iowa Supreme Court Justice, college professors, and others.

This project is just one example of the collaboration that both Covino and Kolpin find critical to good teaching.  Covino is now studying civic engagement and cross-campus collaborations as part of a master’s program at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. 

Kolpin, a 2013 graduate of the UNI School Library Studies MA program, continues to collaborate with classroom teachers and support student learning at Grinnell High School. In addition to supporting in-depth research, she also inspires personalized learning and reading every day in the library.  In order to help students find books more quickly, she recently rearranged the fiction section of the library by genres.   She is also creating a Makerspace in the library funded by grants from Grinnell College and the local education association.  The Makerspace has a variety of tools and supplies, including lego robotics, circuits, and art supplies, to promote creativity and STEM learning.


Leveling the digital playing field 

A few years ago teacher librarian Deb Temperly noticed significant discrepancies in the technology skills of her students at Bettendorf Middle School.  Although her school does not have a one-to-one laptop program, students were expected to conduct online research and complete digital projects with minimal instruction. Not all of the 1,100 plus students had the skills to do so. Temperly and classroom teacher Connie Jeschke addressed these issues in a presentation at the Iowa Technology and Education Connection (ITEC) Conference.  Read more.



The ABCDs of research

To help students develop digital literacy skills and evaluate online sources, Dr. Karla Krueger has developed the ABCD model.  The model, which stands for Authority, Bias, Coverage, and Date, offers a tool for developing and practicing the critical skill of evaluating online information. Karla Krueger, an assistant professor of School Library Studies at University of Northern Iowa, described the model in an article titled “Evaluating Information with ABCD (Authority, Bias, Coverage, and Date)” and published in School Library Monthly in September/October 2013.  The article includes an introductory handout for upper elementary and middle school students as well as a more advanced handout for middle school and high school. Read more.


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