While this may be the case in young people’s social networking, gaming and the like, it is not necessarily the case in their academic lives.

In fact, when it comes to using technology for academic tasks, it appears that lots of students display all the hallmarks of a novice.

For example, when I look at how students go about internet-based research for schoolwork tasks, it is not uncommon to find them using poor search terms and struggling to identify quality websites or information for a given task.

The teacher’s mission therefore, is to help move them from novice to expert. This is where “load reduction instruction (LRI)” comes in (edhq.co/2sZqvcR). LRI is a recently proposed instructional approach that is specifically aimed at moving students from novice to expert.

LRI initially involves explicit instruction. Then, at the appropriate point in learning, LRI also involves less structured approaches such as guided discovery and independent learning.

One LRI approach to improving students’ internet-based research skills is as follows:

STEP 1: GENERATING SEARCH TERMS

  • Teacher identifies a small number of quality search terms for a given schoolwork task
  • Teacher explains to the class why these search terms are quality terms for the task Class discussion on what and why other search terms would be useful (or not useful)
  • Students asked to practice generating their own search terms and assess the websites they lead to

STEP 2: IDENTIFYING QUALITY WEBSITES

  • Teacher identifies a small number of quality websites for a given schoolwork task
  • Teacher explains to the class why these websites are quality sites for the task
  • Class discussion on what and why other websites are useful (or not useful)
  • Students asked to practice identifying quality websites using quality search terms

STEP 3: LOCATING QUALITY INFORMATION ON A WEBSITE

  • Using quality search terms and quality websites, teacher demonstrates how to locate relevant information on a website for a given schoolwork task
  • Teacher explains to the class why this information is relevant to the task (and why other information on the site is not)
  • Class discussion on what and why information on a website is useful (or not useful)
  • Students asked to practice identifying quality information on another website

STEP 4: APPLYING WEBSITE INFORMATION TO SCHOOLWORK

  • Using the relevant information identified on the quality website, teacher demonstrates how this information is transferred or applied to a given schoolwork task
  • Teacher explains to the class why this information is transferred/applied in this way
  • Class discussion on other ways website information can be transferred/applied in a schoolwork task
  • Students asked to practice transferring/applying information from another website

STEP 5: INDEPENDENT APPLICATION OF INTERNET-BASED RESEARCH

  • Students are assigned a specific research task and asked to apply their skills in:
  • generating search terms
  •  identifying quality websites
  • extracting relevant information from these websites applying this information to the research task

When students are explicitly taught how to engage in quality internet-based research and provided with opportunities to practice (and given feedback as needed), they are then in a strong position to independently apply these skills and explore new ways to harness their technological know-how. They will have moved from digital native to digital student.