I always strive for quality work. Producing quality work, however, involves stepping out of my safety zone and challenging myself. But it also involves time. In the case of research, the process of producing quality work can be quite laborious.
My 4th and 5th grade students are currently researching Fort Caroline (the first and rather short-lived French fort in the U.S. located here in Jacksonville, Florida) and the Lost Colony of Roanoke, respectively. To organize our research, we are using Diigo, a powerful social bookmarking tool. I’ve created a Diigo Group for each class via an educator’s account. Within each group, students are collaboratively collecting websites on the topics and annotating them using Diigo’s highlighting and sticky note tools.
So while the process seems pretty straightforward, it is actually quite messy. I’ve now spent two 50-minute sessions with each class searching, collecting, and annotating. Students are finding that they have to closely read each web page, evaluate it for its merit, and then offer a quality annotation. This last step is hard.
Before beginning the actual search process, we came up with a definition of Quality Annotations. I’ve compiled it as a quick reference sheet and then added annotation starters.
With each class, we’ve looked at the web pages collected and the annotations added. Students clearly love Diigo’s highlighting feature and are good about not simply highlighting large sections of text. But they do need to work on their annotations! Too many of them simply say “informative” or “descriptive”.
While the above are not representative of quality work, students are capable as shown in the following examples:
So the big question is: How do you ensure quality work? In this case, how do I get my students to read text or examine an image closely, evaluate the information provided, and then offer a quality annotation that contributes to the class collaborative research?
My plan is to begin our next session with something we should have done before starting our research: Brainstorming research questions. What do we want to know? Then, each student will edit their “My Library” (Diigo terminology for bookmarked web pages etc.) and evaluate their work according to the following criteria:
- Does the web page / image provide important information that answers my research question?
- Did I highlight the important information?
- Did I add a quality annotation?
- Are all my research questions answered, or do I need to search for more information?