Sunday, November 1, 2009

Reflection on Supporting Literacy and Online Inquiry in the Classroom

Fluency no longer strictly refers to paper, pencil and books. Being literate in today’s information-abundant society means integrating literacy and digital culture. David Warlick (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009) explains how new literacies change regularly as technology opens new possibilities for communication and information. This has a direct impact in the classroom as we seek to prepare students for the new literacies that will ultimately define their future. Continually changing information technologies provides unparalleled opportunities for teachers to design and create rich learning experiences for their students. The goal of education is no longer that of simply feeding students content, but to teach students how to learn if we plan to provide them with the futures they deserve.

The students sitting in our classrooms today will be the ones who will shape the future of society and determine the dynamics of the Information Age. They will also be the ones developing advances in technology to meet the needs of the world they live in. If our mission as educators is to have our students become productive participants in society, we must embrace the Information Age. A student’s ability to navigate in a technological society will be a determining factor for their success in life. Kuhlthau, Maniotes, & Caspari (2007) ask, “How do we educate our students to meet the demand for high levels of literacy in the technological workplace?” (p.1). The authors go on to say that the key for “meeting these challenges is developing student competence in learning in information-laden environments and for finding meaning from a variety of sources of information.”

My initial reaction to the thought of teaching the higher-level new literacy skills to third grade students was that it would be an ambitious undertaking. Teaching students that are still working on increasing their reading fluency and comprehension skills to identifying appropriate sources of written material, verifying the accuracy of information, and then applying that information to appropriate learning tasks would be an extremely challenging task.

The most interesting revelation I had regarding teaching new literacies skills to my students is that they really can acquire new literacies skills such as identifying, analyzing, summarizing and synthesizing information from the Internet with appropriate modeling, scaffold instruction, guided practice, and thoughtful feedback. By the time I had finished designing my online inquiry-based unit plan for this course, I thought to myself, my students really can do this. It’s just going to take baby steps. I have learned that the greatest motivator for students is the opportunity for them to personalize their learning, engage in the discovery process and creatively express their understanding. Students get excited, and this excitement translates into success.

Due to this course, I am excited about combining cooperative learning and new literacies this year by making content relevant to students’ lives and create opportunities for students to interact with each other in project based learning. In order to create collaborative opportunities for student-centered knowledge development and provide purposeful learning experiences, I will be developing online inquiry based learning projects. According to Eagleton & Dobler (2007), “Working in groups of three or four can help children improve their communication skills, design more creative solutions to problems, and gain a sense of what it is like to manage real problems in the workplace (p.12).

This course has confirmed my commitment toward teaching the new literacies to my students. To meet this aspiration, a professional development goal I would like to pursue is to increase participation in educational partnerships within the local community. During this course, I was immediately drawn to the collaborative project at the University of Maryland's Human-Computer Interaction Lab. Kidsteam is a partnership between the university and local schools that pairs students with researchers, who then work together to design new technologies for children (

According to Partnership for 21st Century Skills, “teachers can create a 21st century context for learning by: making content relevant to students’ lives, bringing the world into the classroom, taking students out into the world, and creating opportunities for students to interact with each other, with teachers and with other knowledgeable adults in authentic learning experiences (p. 12). There are two excellent opportunities for educational partnerships right in our own backyard. The first is California State University Long Beach, which is conveniently located across the street. I would like to pursue a partnership between my students and possibly both the industrial design department and the computer science department. The second partnership would be with the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, which would align perfectly with third grade science curriculum. Students would have the opportunity to work collaboratively with experts in the field on real life, hands on, problem solving experiences.


Eagleton, M. B., & Dobler, E. (2007). Reading the Web: Strategies for Internet inquiry. New York: The Guilford Press.

Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2007). Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century. Westport: Libraries Unlimited.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009). Program One. Skills For The Future [Motion picture]. Supporting Information Literacy and Online Inquiry in the Classroom. Baltimore: Author.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (n.d.). A report and mile guide for 21st century skills.

Washington DC: Author. Retrieved from

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