Editor’s Note: Experts are constantly telling teachers
that they need to integrate technology more effectively
into instruction. But teachers themselves—drawing
on their understanding of their students, their curriculum, and good pedagogy—are the ones who need
to make decisions about how to use technology in
their own classrooms.
That’s why we’re delighted to welcome a new columnist, Catlin Tucker, who is both a master teacher
and a leader in technology integration. Catlin teaches
9th and 10th grade English language arts at Windsor
High School in Sonoma County, California. She is
a presenter, professional developer, and the author
of numerous books and articles on technology use
in education. In this column, Catlin will share practical, replicable strategies she uses in her classroom
to harness the power of technology for meaningful
ach year when I take
students into the
computer lab for the
first time, I’m amazed by
how little they know about
research. They don’t know
how to articulate a research
question. They don’t know
how to complete a well-
executed search. And they
don’t know how to evaluate
the credibility of online
resources. This boils down
to students with limitless information at their
fingertips but no way to sift through or make sense
of it all. That’s both scary and wasteful.
The language of the Common Core State Standards makes it clear that asking questions to fuel
research is crucial to college and career readiness.
The word research appears 80 times in the English
language arts section of the standards.
In the elementary grades, the teacher typi-
Diving Below the Surface
cally determines the questions that students will
research. As students progress through school,
I’m not surprised that the Common Core stan-
dards wait until 8th grade to begin requiring stu-
dents to articulate their own research questions.
Developing a complex question is challenging, so
it makes sense that students would need to build
up to this higher-level task. Asking good questions
is a hard skill to master. But it’s absolutely nec-
essary to lifelong learning.
My 9th grade students and I spend time talking
about the difference between on-the-surface ques-
tions and below-the-surface questions. I love the
way students describe these
different types of questions.
Students will often explain
that on-the-surface ques-
tions are “basic,” “have one
right answer,” and “are used
when you don’t understand
surface questions, in con-
trast, are “complex,” “can
be answered in different
ways,” and “are used to find
out how people think or feel
about complex topics.”
Before we dive into a large-scale research project
centered on a complex question of their own
design, I get my students accustomed to asking
under-the-surface questions by requiring them
to write a strong discussion question each night.
On a Google Form that I created and embedded
in my class website, students fill in their name,
class period, e-mail, and one dynamic, complex
question that could fuel a discussion or research
assignment. They can ask a question about the text
we’re reading or about an issue related to the text.
THE TECHY TEACHER
Asking good questions
is a hard skill to master.
But it’s absolutely
More Than a Google Search