25 September 2011

Cogitating on Metacognition

In my last post, I mentioned that I'm trying to reinvent the 1-hour conference presentation so that it elevates the ideas for the bulk of the session and then rolls around in the mud at the end. I don't know that I can do this for all of my presentations. Sometimes, you just have to get down and dirty with information. The new hotness of a presentation is focusing on the edtech standards related to information literacy. There are four, and they more or less mimic a basic research/inquiry process: asking questions/planning for research, searching for and organizing information, selecting valid information and following copyright, and then sharing/reflecting on the product.

At first, I was thinking about using the transition from analog to digital methods/tools as the backbone of the discussion. We've gone from card catalogs, encyclopedias, and notecards to Google Scholar, Wikipedia, and OneNote. My hunch is that many of us (adults) don't do our work in an either/or state. Sure, I use the computer for many tasks and products, but I am a huge fan of paper and my Palamino Blackwing pencils. I have tried several apps and software options, but I haven't found a replacement for my paper planner (yet). However, I am certainly not ready to turn Luddite and give up my laptop and smartphone.

The more I pondered the language in the standards, the more I started to wonder if the "hidden" goal is really building metacognition. Don't get me wrong, learning to ask a good question is a fine skill to engender. But how you know it's a good question? Now you're getting somewhere. Now you can start to build your bullshit detector for the world at large. Add on the other components in the information literacy part of the standards and you start to wonder if a populace which has a healthy dose of skepticism is possible.

This train of thought has me building a very different presentation. It's not that I don't think the analog/digital discussion isn't important in its own way. This is a wrenching transition we're making. And as much as I might shake my head now when a school tech person tells me a story of having to teach someone that they could change the font in a Word document, I remember when I was at that point in the learning curve, too. I'm not someone who buys the whole "digital native" thing. Heck, I was born into a world with tools, too, but that doesn't make me a finish carpenter or engineer. Thinking about our own pathways and helping others would make for a fabulous discussion with the librarians I'll be presenting to.

But I want to go farther. I think there are ideas lurking even deeper...the things we really want to talk about. Can I do that in a one-hour session? Probably not, but it's a start. I've been looking through my old files to see if I have any additional resources to offer. I have two old handouts (authors unknown) that might fit the bill. The first one has 12 Learning to Learn Skills. The other is about Teaching Students to Think about Their Thinking. Both are intended for a teacher audience. They include considerations for building metacognitive skills in students. They are not, however, "how to" guides. And looking around, there really isn't much out there which resembles such a thing. While I don't expect a magic recipe for metacognition, we also can't expect students to develop their abilities in this area unless we can provide some support and feedback. Maybe the best I can do for now is use my presentation to help us discover and communicate our own strategies.

Do you have methods for supporting metacognition in the classroom or with your peers? What do they look like?

1 comment:

quantumprogress said...

I have a slightly more all-encompassing view of metacognition. I'm working in my physics class to develop a metacognition curriculum that focuses on topics like Dweck's Growth Mindset, how Lecutre isn't optimal for learning, sleep, what it means to fall in love with learning, and how one can change the world—you know, the easy stuff. :) You can see a lot of what I've done here: Metacognition curriculum.