Guided Inquiry – ongoing thoughts

On nswtl listserv this week, some teacher librarians raised the question of “Creative Commons” sections of photo gallery sites, such as Flickr and Google Images, and how they are usually blocked to our students by the DEC firewall because there’s simply no way to police the images and ensure that students won’t be exposed to unsavoury images during a lesson. I’d already been milling some ideas in my head and thought I’d transfer them to here as well.

It’s important to keep child protection in mind with ICT. Parents will not tolerate students discovering inappropriate digital images during lesson time, and an open search through Creative Commons may well bring that situation to a head. And too often. My interpretation of “responsible downloading” of images in the K-6 environment is: I use Flickr and Google Image sites with K-6 students to model the search on the IWB, or to a small group clustered around a monitor screen, and we search under my teacher-level username and password. Preferably, I test the searches beforehand.

Even then, I once had a class of Stage 1s discover, during an innocent (and pre-tested) image search on “cats”, an unexpected photograph of a startled cat pencil-sharper, with a pencil in its bottom. It caused great hilarity on the day, but it was a reminder that even a well-rehearsed search can go wrong – because new images are added to Flickr and Google Images every minute of the day. And my search-gone-wrong could have been so much worse.

Guided Inquiry (ie. Ross J Todd & Carol Kuhlthau) would say that any assignment which leaves students no option but to breach copyright is a poorly developed assignment in the first place. Not too much deep knowledge will be evident in a student’s supposedly-original production that features only cut ‘n’ paste text from websites and/or stolen, uncredited images from Google. The situation really isn’t that different since hideous “projects on cardboard” were invented way back in the 60s? (Earlier?) In those days, students used to cut images out of the school’s encyclopedias – and then photocopiers were invented and suddenly students were able to colour over b/w images they stole and somehow make it all better.

If the research question is designed correctly, it can’t be answered by stock text and images. The researched material also needs to be marked and approved by the teacher before final products are created, by which time any plagiarism opportunities should have been eliminated or made redundant (or avoided in the first place).

The students who tend to use the Internet responsibly aren’t likely to plagiarise unless their assignments stymie them into doing so. I’m deep into Guided Inquiry with Stages 2 and 3 at the moment and, as their storyboards and oral presentations take shape, there won’t be anyone feeling the need to steal other people’s information. If anyone does decide they need a particular existing image, then we’ll do a modelled search and find the right one in Creative Commons – under my username and password.

It’s hard going, but it’s working! Guided Inquiry Endangered animals (Stage 3 science & technology).

One thought on “Guided Inquiry – ongoing thoughts

  1. A teacher librarian later asked about how to cope with the firewall.

    I suggested: Why can’t each group of students do a mini lesson with you, under your username and password, where you harvest all the brainstormed Creative Commons pics and credits they think they might require, and put them in a file where they can access them when making their slideshows? Build up a picture bank the same way you’d build up a word bank in a brainstorm before a writing lesson. There are also computer disks of copyright free graphics and images that don’t require student passwords.

    We still need to put the emphasis on what can be done and not always wishing we could do something the DEC firewall prevents. When I did my first wiki project with Kindergarten in 2007, pbwiki, now PBWorks was (and still is) blocked for students’ level usernames and passwords. We never let that bother us. The students and I did much of our work off-line and when we did add things to the live wiki, it was the group of students clustered around a set of three computer monitors, and set to my username and password. A wonderful happenstance was that we could use the left and right screens to refresh the page we’d changed on the cetre screen, and the students worked out aloud, together, how the updated messages had travelled to the pbwiki server (in the USA?) and back again at amazing speed. The students also went home and modelled Google searches for their parents, to find our wiki on their home computers. These were Kindergarten students.

    Had I gone with wishing we could do something the DET firewall prevents, I’d have simply unrolled the butcher’s paper I’d originally planned to use (before some PD presenters had challenged me to try wikis and blogs before the year was out).

    Re harvesting of Creative Commons pics from Flickr, it used to be you could just drag the Flickr images to the desktop, but if you try that now you get the whole web page. Now, maybe there’s an easier way, or some computers can do it differently, but when we were making our NZ Earthquake Appeal slideshow, I did the searching as a modelled whole-class or small-group lesson. Usually, I enter my search term, select “The Commons” from the pull-down menu, and click “Enter”. I select the image I like, then pull down the little arrow called “More ways to share”. This gives the unique HTML code to retrieve that image. I cut and paste the code (and also the stated preferred copyright details, to credit the creator/owner as specified), put them in a Word document, and keep adding more pics and associated credits to the document. Save it. Then I “View” the html file through the browser and pull off each of the images to my desktop (or the IWB).

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