Online Research and Media Skills…and Elementary School

Last week I had the privilege of presenting to some of our students on possible uses of new and digital literacies in an Elementary school. I presented an initial PPT describing the changing nature of literacy, which ultimately led into an instructional model I have been developing along with my colleague Greg McVerry.

The gist of the talk focuses on how the Common Core are obviously very important, but given their importance, teachers will now once again ignore authentic and effective uses of new and digital literacies in their classrooms. Additionally, the CCSS is woefully inadequate in representing the varied digital texts and tools our teachers and students could/should be working with in their classrooms.

The PPT wraps up with the Online Research and Media Skills (ORMS) model that Greg and I developed. The model focuses on three elements…and it is suggested that if you have work that is representative of these three elements, then you can say that you have authentically and effectively embedded technology into your lessons. The elements are:

  • Online Collaborative Inquiry-A group of local or global learners who arrive at a common outcome via multiple pathways of knowledge.
  • Online Content Construction- A process by which students construct and redesign knowledge by actively encoding and decoding meaning through the use of ever shifting multimodal tools.
  • Online Reading Comprehension- The skills, strategies, practices, and dispositions students need to locate, evaluate, and synthesize information during problem based inquiry tasks.
I provide a couple examples in the PPT as to how to do this…but one student wisely called me on the carpet about how to make this happen in the Elementary classroom. The remainder of this post is possible examples of how this could happen…I welcome other ideas you may have.
Online Collaborative Inquiry: To have students collaboratively searching online and coming to a common base of knowledge, I would suggest first providing them with a scaffolded search tool using Google Custom Search. After students have used the custom search engine a couple times…I would have them construct their own search engine. The teacher could have students compile a list of websites (2-3) they could use to answer an inquiry problem…for example facts from the 50 States. These websites would be compiled by the teacher to provide a new resource for students to use in coming years.
Online Content Construction: Over the past couple of years I’ve partnered up with Greg and Sue Ringler-Pet at NCTE to present poetry, and multimodal content construction opportunities. It is a blast of a session as we start off with traditional text based poetry…and work our way into online, digital, and multimodal works. We don’t mention “technology” in the title at all, and it helps as we get to work with people that normally wouldn’t engage in work such as this. Bringing this back to the matter at hand, the other day I was watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with Jax, and a piece came on titled “A Poem is..” In this work, they basically create a mash-up by taking clips from Disney movies, and adding in text and narration from a poem. It really is a sharp production and helps students think about possible ways to extend their own thinking about poetry, or multimodal design. I think teachers and students in an Elementary classroom could construct materials just like the ones produced by Disney using Flip video cameras, cell phones, or hand drawn pictures and a scanner. These materials can be added into VoicethreadAnimoto, or your favorite video editing software. Ultimately they can be posted to an online site, or saved on a computer in the classroom to be viewed or projected on a screen.

Online Reading Comprehension: As a possible way to have students work to build their online reading comprehension skills, I would foresee two possible venues. The first would be using picture books in the classroom and discussing text, meaning, and possible design cues developed through placement of content on a page. I am working on materials to better describe this possible process and should have a more concrete example in the next week. The second possibility would be to print out webpages to have students read in class. I would suggest printing out a page of search engine results and having students actively read the webpage and teach them how to read the various pieces of information the results page presents. What does the title tell you? What does the URL and .com, .edu, .org tell you? What does the brief description tell you? What link would you click on if you wanted to…find a map of Oklahoma? What do you think you would see if you clicked on this link? How would we revise our keywords to get a better search result?


I would also suggest printing out a webpage and teaching students how to skim and scan the webpage to obtain information. Teach them what they need to read…and what can be ignored. Where should they look for the important parts of the page…and how to look for more information or links to other pages. These can all be done on printed out pages to hand out to students. Doing this while not on a computer saves us from the challenge of making sure all students are on the same “page.”
Hopefully this gives a better example of possible ways to bring the ORMS model into the Elementary classroom. Of course, the biggest concern is to make sure that our use of these texts and tools is authentic and effective. The other important factor is the student learning objectives for the class and whether or not your activity really is improved through the use of these technological texts and tools. You don’t want to use a cool new tool in your classroom…just because you can…

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