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February 26, 2013 / glencoyote

21st Century Research Skills

So you think you are ready to teach your students 21st century research skills? Let’s see.

Do you understand Wikipedia? Do you use it and do you have a user account? Have you read the About page and the Wikipedia: Researching with Wikipedia page? Have you gotten over all vestiges of that feeling that it is evil to use Wikipedia? Can you share with your students what an amazing creation, living community, and example of the power of digital tools Wikipedia is, while retaining enough of your equilibrium to advise of its limitations? Have you watched the video of Peruvian kids? Bottom line: it is the 6th most visited site on the internet, it is a prime example of the wiki model and of the “cognitive surplus” that drives much of what is great about the internet, and it is the most comprehensive and most widely used encyclopedia ever created.

What about Twitter? Do you still think it is only useful for letting your friends know when you’ve gotten out of the shower? Are you using it as part of managing your personal learning network? Do you have lists and do you follow interesting people who are sharing insights and resources about the subjects you care most about? As always, Clay Shirky can help you figure it out. To understand how research has been turned on its head – and how twitter has become essential – watch Nolan Markham. Have you participated in #pblchat or #edchat or #engchat or any of the many #chats?

What about RSS feeds? Do you use Google Reader, Feedly, or some other feed reader? Can you turn people on to critical resources in your area of interest or expertise? Do you use Zite or Flipboard to turn your reader (and other social media) into a personalized magazine? Fundamentally, RSS is critical to the filtering skills we need to teach to the rising generation of digital researchers (or as Austin Kleon puts it, “forget research, just search”).

What about googling? Don’t forget Google’s own learning tools. But you still get a gazillion choices so you definitely need crap detection. How do we teach our students to evaluate web sites? Are we systematic in this way, or this? And don’t forget whois.net.

Where do you turn to stay current? How about Teen Learning 2.0? For insight into the research that is shaping our understanding of this digital learning process check out the DML Research Hub. To check your attitude try the future of learning manifesto.

Now you don’t need to know the difference between the internet and the world wide web to benefit from digital tools but your students might deepen their grasp if they can understand the internet as a physical reality. And www becomes more interesting when students are reminded that this barely 20 year old revolution is tracking their lifetimes, which is easy to do with Peer 1’s Map of the Internet. Of course, a little http, html, and url will help them understand the magic of hyperlinks.

If you really want to teach 21st century research skills read The Influencing Machine and help me figure out how to teach with it. Along with Shirky’s vision of democracy transformed, The Influencing Machine announces the arrival of point of view not as technologically induced splintering but rather as multivariate voices in cacophonous pursuit of  democratic harmony.

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