Student Curators Present to a Global Audience

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Guest Blog Post by Scott Hicke, 9th Grade Science (2010-11), currently 8th Grade Science (2011-12)

In the spring trimester, 2011, our Seattle Academy 9th grade lab science students explored sustainable solutions to local and global energy consumption.  In order to present the complex current and background information on renewable technologies (solar, geothermal, wind, tidal, and biomass), it was clear that final presentations on PowerPoint would not sustain the interest of either the presenters or the listeners.  We searched for a more dynamic solution.

To capture the abundance of information available requires a presentation medium that is dynamic, in-progress, collaborative, and representative of our students’ potential to evaluate websites critically.  Our Librarian Kathy made us all editors on the platform LibGuides and this provided the perfect solution for each class to make their own well-researched, collaborative and “authoritative” guides to renewable energy.

With the perfect tool in hand,­ students became curators, combing through the thousands of websites on renewable energy.  The final product was a highly-visual guide – with tabs – containing text, videos, hyperlinks, animations, and even feedback boxes, all of which allowed other readers to learn by studying a reliable set of web resources. In some guides twitter feed widgets are updating minute by minute, which demonstrates how some information on the web is now “flowing” rather than sitting still in a “collection”. No longer is searching the only technique needed to conduct research. We can now train information to find us and update itself using rss feeds (really simple syndication technologies). See a twitter widget on this page.

See examples below. The home page of each guide was created by teachers Scott Hicke and Mercy Adetoye. Student teams were each assigned one topic tab:

These guides are now available to hundreds of college and university librarians and students throughout the world through the LibGuides Community site.  Our students will soon be responsible to meet our society’s needs in such a way that future generations will be able to meet their needs.  We wanted students to understand their work was important enough to share beyond the classroom.

More About the Process

Using a guide to science resources each group designed their guide to meet four critical standards:

      • does the guide present a balance of social, environmental and economic impacts of their energy technology?
      • do the links present real data and graphs to support any claims?
      • is the proposed evidence credible?
      • will readers really know how this energy works, and whether it could eventually work for them in the long run?

After a week of research and design, each class evaluated the other five classes’ guides within their area of expertise (solar A-block evaluated all 5 other solar guides; geothermal E-block evaluated all 5 other geothermal guides; etc.).  Students took another day to incorporate changes suggested by their peers.

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Students Create the Quiz

Finally, all classes took about two class periods to study all the guides and design their own quiz which became an “open guides” test.

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Drawback to PowerPoint for current ever-changing information

Student power point presentations send a certain message: visible information (text, videos and pictures) can be bullet-pointed and organized to move that information primarily through a one-way exchange, leaving time for questions at the end.

But what if information needs to be used in a different way?  What if an issue like renewable energy has to be reevaluated again and again over time?  What if, in reality, scientists’ and businesspersons’ and politicians’ and other citizens’ hard work and thought could – and should – be shared with a wider community?

Different messages require different media.  When information exchange needs to be fluid, the end product’s final resting place need not be the student group’s laptop, or perhaps an upload to Moodle for assessment by the teacher but not by other students.  Our students respected the work that went into their own guides, as well as those constructed by their peers.  They were able to notice and respond to different “styles” of different classes.  Our students made their research on renewable energy “performative,” and in doing so, continue to share to a community much wider than Seattle Academy.

* Graphic quote from Axelletess of ScoopIt

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