Education Opinion

In an Age of Information, Let’s Teach Students Better Research Skills

May 10, 2018 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

We’re in the car driving home, and my fourteen year old son and his best friend are in the back seat, engaged in their usual sports banter. “Did you know Jake Peavy is legally blind?” my son asks his friend, Henry. “What?” says Henry. “A pitcher can’t be blind! You’re making that up.”

But my son is insistent. “No,” he says. “He is legally blind. I’m not making it up.” He pulls out his phone and types “Jake Peavy blind” into the search bar and starts reading an ESPN article aloud. Henry laughs and asks, “What the heck does that even mean? I mean, can you be illegally blind?” Another quick search and they are both hovering over the device, reading the definition of “legally blind.”

These two boys, along with most every other kid across the country, are growing up with search engines in their back pockets, integrating research into their day-to-day conversations, proving their points and investigating where they are more curious. But this is not just a generational thing--we are all living this lifestyle. With all-the-time digital access to news, sports, weather, and entertainment, we have evolved, seemingly overnight, into a research culture, where answers to our questions are literally at our fingertips. Daily conversations with family, friends, and colleagues often result in looking up information or pulling up previously read articles as reference. Even our youngest students know they can look information up when they need or want it. While our plugged-in habits come with a certain level of concern, they also make our reality extremely exciting: we are standing in the moment when research has become a way of life.

The research nerd in me loves this! But like most things wonderful, our research-drenched culture does come with some grave, possible dangers. Our students are living in a world where politicians scream, “Fake news!” at reports they don’t like; foreign governments create actual fake news that bounces off the walls and gains momentum in our echo chambers; and much journalism seamlessly blends the genres of reporting and commenting. If our students do not learn how to assess the information they read for credibility, question an author’s motive, or synthesize what they read, we are at risk of breeding ignorance in an uninformed populace.

This gift of research at our fingertips could be instrumental in the progression of creative, innovative thinking, catapulting us into a future of critical thinking, or it could be our greatest downfall, plunging us into a realm of irresponsibility. Teaching students how to research today is no longer about academia. It’s an act of citizenship.

This blog post is an abridged excerpt from Miller’s new book, It’s a Matter of Fact: Teaching Students Research Skills in Today’s Information-Packed World, available from Routledge Publishing.

Angie Miller is a 7-12 English teacher and school librarian in Meredith, NH who is currently teaching abroad in Costa Rica. The 2011 NH Teacher of the Year and the recipient of the 2017 NH Outstanding Library Program of the Year, Angie is a TED speaker, National Geographic teacher fellow, and freelance writer who writes for her blog, and is a regular contributor to sites like EdWeek, Education Post, Knowledge Quest, and the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet. Angie leads professional development for teachers around the country, speaking to audiences, and advocating for fundamental teacher leadership through. Her book, It’s A Matter of Fact: Teaching Students Research Skills in Today’s Information-Packed World, published by Routledge, is now on shelves and addresses the importance of information literacy in today’s media-drenched world.

Image courtesy of Angie Miller.

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Teacher-Leader Voices are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Special Education Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table - Special Education: Proven Interventions for Academic Success
Special education should be a launchpad, not a label. Join the conversation on how schools can better support ALL students.
Special Education K-12 Essentials Forum Innovative Approaches to Special Education
Join this free virtual event to explore innovations in the evolving landscape of special education.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
STEM Fusion: Empowering K-12 Education through Interdisciplinary Integration
Join our webinar to learn how integrating STEM with other subjects can revolutionize K-12 education & prepare students for the future.
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: May 29, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: May 8, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: April 17, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: March 20, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read