For the final Monday of the school year, we ambitiously took our Grade 11 students off timetable to spend a day helping them looking more deeply at their Extended Essay. They have all begun defining research questions and conducting preliminary research in the last couple of months.
Our Extended Essay coordinator Joe Jasina, outlined the aims of the day to upskill students in academic honesty, referencing techniques, ways to source information, digital skills and academic writing so they can begin next term confidently and complete their writing. The session began with all 330 students looking at academic honesty and then later splitting into three sets of mini-workshops led by our Teacher Librarian Kurt Wittig and subject specialists. (see detailed overview) We finished the afternoon with a 90 min writing fest to get students progressing with their writing and a good test of our wifi network.
The day highlighted a couple of interesting things to me. Firstly, our students are super passionate about their topics and many of them truly engage with them in deep and profound ways. Asking High School students to write 4,000 words to critically explore an issue of personal interest seems like an immense challenge, but have always see it as the most interesting and distinct part of the IB Diploma.Secondly, despite our best efforts our student’s digital and information literacy skills need a lot of work !! Over the last five years since introducing laptops for every student we have perhaps left too much of this skill development to chance.
Essential digital and information literacy skills
I see the following as some really essential skills for our students and at the moment we still have a long way to go.
- Sourcing academic journals from electronic databases
- Digitally annotating PDFs with highlights and comments
- Utalising online citations tools effectively such as RefMe to collate references
- Quoting, paraphrasing and summarising skills
- Formatting and word processing tools (Headings, Table of Contents etc)
- Using Turnitin Originality reports as feedback on quality of referencing.
Along with my other Digital Literacy Coach we introduced some suggested digital workflows which are covered below. I have always felt technology can really enhance and quality of student research when used to help organise and scaffold their thinking. Tools like RefMe are immensely powerful in helping students track secondary research and should help them throughout university.
I also ran sessions looking more deeply at primary and secondary research in Economics. After looking through the past Extended Essay reports from the IB, you can highlight some important points to students.
It is the second time we have run the session at Dover Campus after a few successful similar days at our other campus. I think students really valued the chance to get their head around the topic and as they say
a job begun is a job half done
Bring on the summer vacation.