working with information…

David Warlick  tells a story of a job he used to do at a factory which has now been replaced with a computer.

One thing that has happened to information, that should be impacting what and how we teach, is that information has become the raw material with which people work.  We mine it, we work it, fashioning it into an information product that will be valuable to other people, and then express it in some compelling way.  It may be a story, a report, a song, or a design.  It may be a piece of computer code, or a sales pitch for a new marketing or distribution technique….

We still teach too much as if information is the end product.  We teach it, you learn it, we test it.  Instead, we need to present information as a raw material.  You access it, and then you do something with it, that adds value in some way.  You construct your own knowledge.

His comments remind me of a commentary in Edweek(which is free this week!)on the concept of flow, which one of our teachers, Bill Martin, introduced to me.   Edweek describes Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept as:

The psychological process that describes how people balance skill, interest, and challenge.  Flow explains how the mind rises to challenges—how people can become “lost” in an activity that fully engages them.

The article goes on to say that the types of activities that seem to create flow for students are interdisciplinary opportunities, extracurriculars, and I would add, research projects.

When I think of research projects that really engage students, they create a situation where the student is considering the topic outside of the class period–they are looking for connections in their daily lives, and really using that “raw data” that David Warlick was talking about as a way to make connections and make their learning personal, rather than rehashing  information.

My observations over the years are that students seem to really engage when doing research if they are asked to dig deeper–for example, to compare unlike ideas, to create something new, to link two fields of interest, or to bring in outside information.    It’s exciting when you see students bring in an article they read outside of school that relates to what they are researching, or ask their parents about it, or have that “aha” moment about finding some really significant piece of information.

Pondering these articles leads me to ask how can we better help students engage and make those connections during our research projects?  

Can we write assignments so they ask students to do something with “raw data?”  And how can we create authentic questions that engage students at a deeper level?   Food for thought…

One thought on “working with information…

  1. Thanks to Will Richardson ( for referring to this update to Bloom’s taxonomy.

    This site includes a revision of the model, and interestingly, “Creating” has been placed at the top of the new model.

    There is also a very helpful pie diagram of how to create assignments to fit the different levels.

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