Creating Critical Curators Through Knowledge Constructing

What meaningful learning experiences can teachers help guide students through in order for them to feel empowered as critical curators?

ISTE Student Standard 3: Knowledge Constructor
Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.

3a - Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits
3b - Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources
3c - Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions
3d - Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.

This standard sparked many questions and wonders about how I could help my students achieve them. I was immediately drawn to 3d, specifically the idea of “exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions”. This sounded great! Pair that thinking with making meaningful learning experiences and you’ve got yourself a project that the students would love to be engaged in! But how to start? What scaffolds need to be in place? What is the end result that I am looking for? Why do I even want my students to do this? 

Well, as Matt Miller says “if everyone consumed and no one created, the internet wouldn’t exist” (2019). We need to get our students to switch their mindset from one of pure consumption to one of curation. So how do we do that? If we truly want our students to be “actively exploring real-world issues” we have to get them to start asking questions. Students aren’t used to this active piece of education, many have gone their entire education in a passive state of student. 

*Continuum of Choice TM by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey, retrieved at http://kathleenmcclaskey.com/choice/*

As Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey have illustrated above, we must give students choice in order for them to become true learners. 

I started by researching how to get students to start asking questions… but not just any questions, hard ones! Ones that do not have an immediate answer when you plug them into a search engine. 

I found an amazing resource from the Interaction Design Foundation, written by Rio Friis Dam and Yu Siang Teo: 5 Stages in the Design Thinking Process. In the article, they discuss the different stages and purposes of the design thinking process. The design thinking process is a methodology that enables the educator to help guide students through a process of solving a problem by first using empathy to understand the effect user’s point of view. Once they understand how the affected person is feeling, they define what the problem is and start to create ideas that could better the solution. They create a prototype and then test it. This process is not a linear one, but one that can jump from step to step or back track. It was a great resource to help get me started! 

I want to have my students feel empowered in their learning by brainstorming their own research ideas. This design thinking model can be the perfect kickstart for my students to start identifying problems and questions that they can begin with.

Once my students have a question or concern, what is their next step? How can I help guide them? How can I help them become future ready? Matt Miller created a summary to help prepare students for the workforce. Five easy changes can be made in the classroom to help make our students more “future-ready”:

Establish a Culture of Creativity – by embracing creativity and empowerment of students in the classroom you can help them to feel confident asking and searching for answers to questions that they find around them

Pursue Success Through Collaboration – encourage collaboration! Students should work together to come up with answers to problems that they see around them. They can also help one another reflect on their thinking, potential solutions and team up to look for improvements in their solutions

Seize Opportunities Everywhere — Online and in Real Life – students have opinions, likes and dislikes… use them in your classroom to spark engagement and interest for any topic. If you are able to include students’ ideas and interests into lessons, they will come to understand that they can seize opportunities in all lessons!

Focus on Creating Instead of Consuming – the key to the future is for students to be comfortable being creators instead of only consumers. Students should be able to choose ways in which they demonstrate their learning, that exhibits their personal learning styles. 

Lead by Example Using your Voice – help guide students to share their voice! Students can share their ideas, thinking, and work so easily in this tech age – be the educator to help them introduce their work to the world. 

This article was such an encouragement. Although I felt that my students were far off from having the skills to be learner-driven, Miller shows that some easy changes like integrating student ideas and talents into lessons can help them experiment with asking and answering questions. Also, problem solving and searching for solutions to things that interest you, can absolutely lead to meaningful learning experiences. What a great step towards students becoming curators. 

Now we have a framework for the types of questions students should be asking, and using design thinking, and one method of searching for answers or solutions. During my research, I also read about Genius Hour. I have heard of this concept before and it was always intriguing to me. I am so glad that I looked into it more! 

Jen Shneider wrote a wonderful article, “How Genius Hour Helps Kids Connect What They’re Learning in School to Their Future Goals”, that speaks to the point that in our modern day classroom, we have students that are not interested in learning. There is a disconnect between what students view as important or necessary for their upcoming adulthood. To help mend the gap of education and adult practicality, Shneider started implementing “Genius Hour”. She goes on to state that there are three rules for this practice: 

  1. Students must start with an essential question that cannot be answered with a simple Google search.
  2. Students must research their question using reputable websites, interviews, and/or print resources.
  3. Students must create something. Their product may be digital, physical or service-oriented. 

Shneider states that the projects are not graded, are open ended, and are meant to empower students to seek out answers to things that they are invested in. Through Genius Hour, Shneider’s students were not only able to discover hidden passions and future career paths, but started to become invested in their learning. 

The last rule that Shneider speaks to is what reeled me in to the idea of Genius Hour. I had been searching for a meaningful learning experience for my students that will push them to their potential in critical curation. Genius Hour is perfect! The first rule also plays into students becoming a piece of the social justice puzzle by being able to think of a problem that is around them and using Genius Hour as a framework, along with design thinking, to come up with practical solutions… finishing with an all encompassing creation. 

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