Students' research skills need a refresh after COVID.

4 tools to help students build post-COVID research skills

Tools that help students brush up on “hard” skills like research while helping build “soft” skills should be integrated into instruction when possible

As an educator with 21 years of experience in teaching and learning, I have had the opportunity to work with students of differing abilities and learning backgrounds. During a typical school year, meeting the varied needs of my students makes for an extremely rewarding, but challenging job. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the needs of students tenfold, maximizing both the rewards and challenges of my role as an educator. 

As the world begins to shift in the evolving post-pandemic environment, it’s clear that much has changed. In my opinion, K-12 education has seen tremendous changes whose impacts we will be assessing and addressing for years to come. 

However, as educators begin to consider how to evolve education to meet the needs of our students today and in the future, we have before us the enormous task of shoring up students’ academic skills that may have eroded during the “emergency teaching” era.

As a Language Arts teacher, I’ve found that one of the skills my students need to improve is their basic research skills. Student media literacy, citing their sources, and communicating their results are all critical research skills my students need to brush up on.

The good news is that there are a host of edtech resources to support this. Here are some of the resources my colleagues and I are using to support students as they improve their research skills in a changing education landscape: 

Edpuzzle is an excellent resource that helps students learn the basics of almost any topic. I find this program to be helpful because I can assign a group of students via Google Classroom videos to watch and take notes on. If I want, I can even include an assessment to see if students are absorbing the information within the lessons. One excellent features of this resource is that I can take videos and adapt them by embedding my own questions or audio. Then, once I assign the content, I can see who watched the video. In addition, students can re-watch the video as many times as they need at their own pace, which allows them to learn information they might have missed. 

Wonderopolisis another fantastic website that lets students explore things they are interested in. In their research, students are always asking questions. With Wonderoplis, students can search a bank of over 130,000 questions in over 2,800 topics. This content is aligned to  Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the STEM Educational Quality Framework, and Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. Students can also put in their own questions that will be added to the Wonderopolis wonder bank, which helps them learn how knowledge is built and accumulated. 

Discovery Educationis a K-12 multi-disciplinary platform containing over 200,000 digital assets including videos, podcasts, reading passages, interactives and more. Discovery Education is a wonderful tool because its resources have not only been vetted by educational professionals but are also aligned to state standards. While teachers can also use this website to assign different videos or channels for students to use in their research, the Discovery Education platform also includes the Studio tool which is a perfect resource with which students can present their findings. Finally, Discovery Education resources include citations, which help students in preparing their Work Cited pages. 

In New Hampshire, Discovery Education’s resources are provided at no cost to school systems through our Department of Education. Discovery Education has similar arrangements in several other states, so be sure to check with your school administrators on availability in your district. 

Citefast and CiteThisForMe  are two citation creation websites that help students create their bibliography or works cited pages. Each of them contains multiple citation formats, such as MLA, APA, Harvard, and Chicago. They provide style guides, as well as FAQ sections to aid in citations. CiteThisForMe also contains information about the credibility of sources, which can be a great help to both students and teachers. 

Using these resources and others, my students have improved their overall research skills, but also the breadth and authenticity of their research. These resources have also improved their “4 C” skills—Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity.  

During the height of pandemic-fueled school closures, it was the 4C skills that helped educators find the work arounds that allowed us to maintain students’ continuity of learning. I believe that if we find tools that help students brush up on “hard” skills like research while helping build “soft” skills, we should take advantage of those resources and find even more ways to integrate them into instruction. 

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