Tuesday, October 18, 2011


You should know, before I start this story, that I have a very serious People Magazine addiction. Major. Now, here's the story...

The family and I were sitting at Five Guys, having yummy burgers and fries on a Sunday afternoon. My son, age 7, wants to be a pop star like Justin Bieber, so the Biebs is one of his heroes. (Hey, it could be worse.)

My MIL was talking to Ashton about Justin Bieber. He mentioned that Selena Gomez is his girlfriend. My MIL looked taken aback, and she asked, "How do you know that?" He just shrugged and pointed at me. He said, "I learned it from Mom. She does research."

I laughed SO HARD that I thought I was going to choke! He knows that every now and then (okay, honestly probably more than that), I like to catch up on my celeb gossip on the computer. And once in a while, he'll come over and say, "Who's that?" and I'll tell him what I feel is appropriate for a 7-year-old to know. (My favorite was when he was aghast at the picture of Lady Gaga in the meat dress. "WHO would do something like that? That is DISGUSTING.")

The funniest thing to me was that he called it research! It's just a guilty pleasure, a time-waster. But then, the teacher in me started to think. Is it research?

Right now, I'm planning an expository writing unit, complete with a final research project. In my quest to keep in mind the needs of 21st century learners, perhaps I need to broaden my view of "research."

Let's think about it. What are kids looking at on the Internet? Things that interest them, right? Maybe for a few of them, it's Bieber. For some, it's skateboarding tricks. Others are looking at YouTube videos (Lord help us all), downloading music from iTunes, or watching upcoming movie trailers.

As our students do that, though, they're READING. To LEARN something new. They are building on their prior knowledge of their interests, learning something new, thereby broadening that knowledge base. Later, on the bus, the playground, or in a text message, they are sharing what they've learned with other kids. That's research, isn't it?

So, perhaps my love of celebrity gossip and the time I devote to learning more about it isn't useful research. But I like it, and I'm using a lot of the research steps when I check up on Jennifer, George, Kim, Kate, Brad... er... well, you know. I'm thinking about ways I can use the kids' interests to help our culminating research project be even more meaningful. I have a lot of ideas floating around in my head tonight, but nothing down on paper just yet. I'm excited to get started!

And to think, this all started with my 7-year-old's hysterically serious declaration about mommy's "research!"