“I can’t believe that. He’s a pretty well-known musician, very influential in Jazz.”
“I know, but I haven’t been able to find any books about him.”
“Have you looked for books on Jazz and then looked in the index for his name.”
There was a strange look on his face, as he nodded, “R-r-r-i-g-h-t.” It was like a light bulb went off, a recognition of “I should have remembered that.” We found a book on jazz I had in the room, looked up Oliver in the index, and found lots of references in the text to him and his music, including a few chunky references of many consecutive pages. Now GR is a smart young man, quite bright, in fact. He’s no slacker when it comes to hunkering down and producing work. I know for a fact that my colleagues in the 6th and 7th grades have shown kids how to use an index before. This has not been the first time he has been exposed to this technique of locating information.
So what is going on? Are the habits of googling so powerful and persuasive that students can only perform the narrow specific search and have lost the knack to drill down into a printed source? Does this translate into only looking for books that are about the specific topic? Or perhaps, only for books that have the topic in the title? Does using an index take greater patience or creativity? (Actually I much prefer it, rather than opening up dozens of websites before I find a decent one.)
Exploring in a book is to find oneself awash in context. (I find this part of research the most compelling.) There is information all around and interwoven through one’s topic. Exploring on the internet can be to investigate without this “nesting,” sometimes without a frame of reference, isolated. Perhaps this is why students have a hard time making pieces fit together, understanding the connection and relationships between people and events and ideas, firmly grasping cause and effect.
GR is pretty happy now. I caught him near the end of the day and asked him if he was able to gather the resources he needed. “I have tons of information now. I just forgot in which pockets to look for it.”