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Monday, December 01, 2008

Kids Search

It's surprising how much I learn by watching my kids (now 13, 11 and 8) go through school today. I've mentioned before the experience of the Ten Year Old Wikipedia Update and also my questioning of Cursive Writing. The most recent aha is the learning associated with kids search behavior.

My recent experience was my son's write-up of his science assignment around oobleck. I didn't know it at the time, but upon consulting the define: operator (based on my son's suggestion) in Google:
Oobleck is a popular name used to refer to a stiff mixture of corn starch and water (1 part water to 1.5-2 parts corn starch) often used as a ...
First learning for me was that my son has transitioned away from any use of a paper dictionary to using the define: operator. Various teachers have banned the use of this approach (along with banning any citation of Wikipedia). But, they've not banned citing qualified sources found through those sources. So, for my kids search has become the starting point for a lot and they know that define: and Wikipedia provide starting points. And, please don't try to convince them of the value of the various dictionaries that are within arms reach of the computer. After all, then they can't copy-and-paste both the definition and the citation.

Back to his write-up. As I tried to help him, one of the questions was basically why did oobleck turn into a solid under pressure. I really didn't know the answer. After some Google searching we found that it was caused by basically squeezing the water out leaving a solid.

Along the way, he also found this great video that he provide to his teacher showing people running on oobleck and that they sink if they stop. Since, their experiments were with small amounts, this was really cool to see.


The upsycho said...

Never heard of oobleck, but here in the UK, there is a TV programme called Brainiac: science abuse in which one presenter demonstrated that it was possible to walk on instant custard, which is made using corn starch.

Tony Karrer said...

Great video Karyn!

V Yonkers said...

To extend your observations, do you find that your children don't edit anything they type after it has been printed?

They will do a great job of finding the information, even doing a pretty good job of synthesizing the information. However, once that paper is printed out, it is as if it cannot be changed.

Tony Karrer said...

Virginia - left to their own devices, I suspect they wouldn't modify anything that's been printed (because it implies done in their mind). But we often require them to print it out so we can provide corrections, edits, suggestions on paper.

The problem I have is that once I sit there and edit on the computer, then I get myself into writing specific words and phrases. I feel it's better to circle things on paper and force them to go back.

No idea if this is common.

Anonymous said...


I have found that my kids are also very reluctant to go back and change something after it is printed, especially if they consider it the final version. To get around that, we make sure they know that the first print out is always a draft. If it doesn't have to change, great. Otherwise, be prepared to make the corrections.

Like Tony, I like to be able to mark up the paper. (Believe it or not, they still teach the "old style" editing marks but don't accept any of the "track changes" methods from apps like Word.)

Of course, I almost never (and I mean never) print anything anymore. I don't even have a printer connected to my main computer. If I need to print something, I put it on a flash drive and take it downstairs. (I'm still working on a networked printer ;-)

V Yonkers said...

This is what I thought was interesting. My husband and I will always print out something and mark it up on the paper. I make my kids print it out and mark up their paper, but it is a major battle. "I already proof read it." "Oh, so you WANT to misspell the title!"

My theory is that they only see print in text books which they are not allowed to change, and the printed papers (which they feel they can only change up to the point that they print it out). I also get, "It's alright if there's one or two mistakes."

Anonymous said...

I thought this post was interesting, especially the statement about Wikipedia. I had heard that K-12 teachers were not allowing Wikipedia. I also have heard Wikipedia called unreliable.

That is why I found college interesting. My professors often cite Wikipedia. One even required a paper to include one Wikipedia citing. What a difference in philosophies.

Anonymous said...

I thought I was up on technology until I saw my 10 y/o niece simultaneously use my laptop for MySpace and text people on her cell phone.

Tony Karrer said...

I hear you on that.