Scaffolding student searches … how much is too much?

Image obtained from http://enterprisecollab.files.wordpress.com/2008/01/google-and-apple.jpg

I recently gave my preservice teachers an assignment where they designed an activity that had students using Internet resources. This project was based on two premises:

  1. If teachers are going to have students using the Internet to find information, they should already know themselves what kind of information is available on the the topic, and
  2. Teachers need to consider how they deliver these websites to students.

I know some people will disagree with me on this, but I approached this concept from the perspective that a tech-savvy teacher should try to maximize the amount of time students are engaged with the information that is relevant to their topic and minimize the amount of time they sit at the computer looking for stuff. I presented this project under the general theme of “scaffolding.” It’s a term that gets thrown around by a lot of teacher ed. professors, yet most of the preservice teachers I have talked with don’t know how to actually operationalize this term. I mean, they can tell me what scaffolding is, but they don’t recognize it when they see it in action and they don’t know how to do it themselves. So, the scaffolding in this case was both constraining the set of resources given to the students and developing a strategy for delivering that set of resources to students.

Rather than letting the preservice teachers develop their own delivery method for the resources they selected, I gave them 3 options (yes, more scaffolding). Their choices were TrackStar, LiveBinders and Google Custom Search. Giving them a limited set of options to choose from gave us a good opportunity to talk about which tools would be most appropriate for different ages of learners and different types of media (text, video, simulations, etc.)

Overall, my students did a pretty nice job on this assignment, but it has me wondering if there are other ways to talk about helping students develop their information literacy. I approach this problem from the teacher perspective without going into too much detail about the students. How do you address information literacy and/or scaffolding with your preservice teachers?