As I'm taking an online class this summer, I was thinking about new ways to teach research. My students seem to have lost their natural curiosity about life around them, so it's been difficult to get them to find interesting subjects they'd want to research.

In the past I'd ask them to write down at least five questions that they'd always wanted answered or that they were curious about. These turned out some interesting questions, but some of them were just silly (e.g. "Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near," etc.) or unanswerable (e.g. "What is the meaning of life?"). I helped them analyze their questions and asked if it would be something they could research in the library. This helped a bit, but for some it curbed their enthusiasm.

During my class, we've been reading several interesting case studies such as information about where the refrigerator got its hum; when the horse was introduced to Native Americans and how they adapted them to their needs; and why 'Kindergarten' was invented. I thought that these would be interesting questions for students to research. They would be different than the typical topics like abortion, global warming, gun control, yada, yada, yada...

My plan is to create a list of questions such as these and have my students conduct in-class research. I'll have them first work in small groups searching for the information on the Web. They will find that the answers are difficult to find and that some sources have different information than others and they'll need to decide how to resolve it.

This is as far as I've thought about the logistics, but my hope is that it will spark some curiosity in them and they'll really want to find the answers so they'll struggle through the frustrating and interesting research process.

I'll keep you updated!
Ms. B.