Thursday, September 29, 2005

Webbing/Wiggling

As I've been working through the information I've found so far, I've noticed that it's difficult to stay focused on the questions at hand. I've been wandering off to look at bed and breakfasts and other accomodations and also spending quite a bit of time learning Italian phrases. Both of these things will be helpful and necessary before the trip, but they aren't really part of my inquiry project. I really should return the books on accomodations that I got from the library until a later time and not get distracted from the point here, which is the "travel with children" part. It's easy to see how students would get distracted and lost in all the information they have found at this stage. It's definitely happening to me. I think this is where I would introduce a reception scaffold like those mentioned at eduscapes [http://eduscapes.com/info/topic71d.htm]. I am going to try a concept map to see if it can help me stay on track. As Callison points out in Key Words, Concepts and Methods for Information Age Instruction, concept maps help the learner to "focus on those points and relationships that are most important." That's exactly what I need right now. :)

I've also been experiencing the recursion part of this process. Although I have located a large number of travel guides, only a few of them have any specific information about traveling with children or choosing/modifying activities to make the the trip more child-friendly. So, I have gone back to the search stage (webbing) to look for different sources. An internet search for family travel sites turned up a couple of good finds, including Travel for Kids [http://www.travelforkids.com/Funtodo/Italy/italy.htm] and Kids Europe [http://www.kidseurope.com/Resources.htm]. Among the recommendations found on these pages were some kid-specific travel guides that I am going to pick up. One that seems to be mentioned a lot is Italy with Kids, so I went to Amazon to look at it. Once there, I was led to other similar books. So now I have a list of new sources to look at, including:

--Italy with Kids
--Take Your Kids to Europe
--Fodor's Around Rome with Kids

This experience of re-focusing and re-searching has led me to believe that there is a lot of truth to and value in Jamie McKenzie's Research Cycle approach. As he says, "[B]ecause students are actively revising and rethinking their research questions and plans throughout the process, they are forced to cycle back repeatedly through the stages...so that the more skill they develop, the less linear the process." [http://questioning.org/rcycle.html]

Another idea that has emerged from my web searching is that there are many great kids books out there on Italian history and art. I am going to make a list of the books that I think will interest Liam and help get him ready for the trip. Especially interesting to me are the books that may help with the art angle, such as The Renaissance Art Book .

So, I'm going to continue my web-searching, check out the new travel guides, and work on a concept map. I'll check back soon. :)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

more Wondering/Webbing

I want to revisit Wondering in a little more detail. Here is a list of some questions I have been asking myself that are implied in my larger questions, but not stated specifically:

1) I wonder what Liam would list as his top 10 "must see" sites or "must do" activities in Italy.

2) For that matter, what is my top 10? I should prioritize in case the trip length has to be shortened (I'm hoping for three weeks, but that may be overly optimistic...)

3) Can I get my husband, Bill, to make a top 10 list at all? He's usually a pretty easy-going "whatever you want" kind of person.

4) I wonder what I can do to get Liam more interested in art museums. I think he would really like the connection between art and history/mythology if I could get him over the "art bores me" stage.

So, the focus of this project is going to be balancing. Getting enough information, both from outside sources and from my family, to plan a trip that will be wonderful for all of us. Since it's pretty easy for me to plan a trip that is pleasing to myself, I guess in a way the balancing will consist of adding a kid-friendly, Liam-specific tilt to everything.

After doing some initial reading (skim and scan, skim and scan!), I am already getting some good bits of information. Here are the guidebooks I am looking at (all from the Monroe County Public Library).

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From Rick Steves (my favorite):

Italy 2002
Florence 2002
Rome 2002
Europe 101: History and Art for the Traveler
Mona Winks: Self-Guided Tours of Europe's Top Art Museums
Best European City Walks & Museums 2005

From Lonely Planet: Walking in Italy

From the Henry Holt Walks series:

FlorenceWalks by Anne Holler
RomeWalks by Anya Shetterly

From the Sierra Club Natural Traveler: Wild Italy by Tim Jepson

From Rough Guide: The Rough Guide to Italy

Karen Brown's Italy: Charming Bed & Breakfasts

Lodging in Italy's Monastaries by Eileen Barish

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First, I browsed the table of contents and indexes of these books to see if they featured sections on travel with children. All of the books seem to agree that Italians love children and will show it; smoke-filled rooms are unavoidable; the heat in summer makes napping at mid-day and staying up late almost mandatory. Liam is going to love the up late part.

I'm making a list of the suggestions found in the "travel with kids" sections of these guides. I'm definitely sorting through the information based on age; some ideas for little kids won't interest him at all. I'm also filtering based on what I know he likes. For example, if there is armor or weaponry on display, we're there! I'm going to make a website with a list or chart of the places that sound promising and post the link here soon.

I'm running all the good prospects by Liam and he is getting very excited about the planning. He came to pick me up from a class the other night carrying Steve's Italy 2002. He read it all through our stop for ice cream, starting from page one, and got really fascinated by the concept of exchange rates. *laugh*

More soon...web resources and leads to chase down.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Wondering/Webbing

I think I covered the Wondering in my last post (see the four questions I raised).

As for Webbing, I have been working on a search strategy. I expect travel guides to be a major part of my research and I would like to find some that are specifically focused on traveling with kids. I know from past experience that I find Rick Steves' [http://www.ricksteves.com] travel guides to be helpful, so I will probably start with those and branch out. More specifically, I want travel guides on Rome, walking tours, things to do outdoors, and ruins, ruins, ruins (for Liam).

Next up, websites. I am going to try both Google and the travel directory on Yahoo! For Google, I will probably start with a search like travel* AND Italy AND (kid* OR famil* OR child*) and browse from there.

Another source that I would like to explore is a good travel magazine. I'm not sure which one yet, but I'm hoping I'll come across some recommendations in the guide books or online. If not, I'll do an internet or database search (maybe Inspire has some non-academic magazines indexed?)

Also from previous experience, I know to look for national and regional tourism boards. They were very helpful in planning our trip to Ireland in 1999. [Ireland photos] I plan to look for them online, but I will also send away for printed brochures, because often you can get more information in a packet than is available on the website.

A good museum guide would be helpful. I don't know much about art history, so I will enjoy the museums more if I know the significance of what I'm looking at. I think the same will be true for Liam. If they are just a bunch of old pictures, he won't care, but if I can get him interested in the subjects or the artists in some kind of historical perspective, it might make museum time much less boring for him and more peaceful for me.

Lastly, I would like to find a good, child-centered phrase book of Italian for travelers. I think it will be very helpful for Liam (and me) to learn at least a little Italian before we go. I think he will feel less intimidated by the language barrier if he can order his own gelato or ask how to find the bathroom. I have also heard that in the countryside it is less common to find English speakers, and I would like to spend a large portion of our time outside of the cities.

So, the first thing I am going to do is consult the Monroe County Public Library's online catalog to see what they have in their travel section. I might also browse Amazon.com to see what they have, but I'll wait to buy any guidebooks until right before we go, so I can get the latest edition. Then, I'll do my internet searching.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

More watching

After further contemplating the idea of a project on the rise of Italian ports and the Renaissance, I came to the conclusion that I had assigned myself a traditional research essay. *laugh* So, I scrapped everything and went back to the beginning, looking for something that was actually meaningful to me. I came back to traveling in Italy with my family. I did some web-crawling on "travel with kids" type sites, read a bit about Rome in my son's Encyclopedia of the Ancient World and Mythology of the World, and started getting some idea of what it was I really wanted to know. Here's what I came up with:

--How do I plan a trip that is both fun and educational for myself, my husband, and our (soon, OMG) pre-teen son?

--How do I balance the interests of the adults with the interests and tolerance level of the kid?

--How can I make the "educational" parts more interesting for him?

--What can we do together before the trip to make the experience more rewarding?

(Just in case you're wondering, Liam is foaming at the mouth to get to Rome and see as many ruins and sites of bloody gladiator battles as he can get his hands on. Anything relating to mythology, empire, conquest, etc. is very cool. In fact, he's been asking to go to Greece and Rome since he was about five. However, art museums and fine Tuscan wine are going to try his patience.)

Feeling less than confident about whether I was hitting even close to the mark with this, I emailed Annette who was very reassuring. So, it looks like I have a topic I can enjoy and I will hopefully get some information I will really use. Yeah, I can definitely relate to Kuhlthau's "dip in confidence" now. :)

Monday, September 05, 2005

Watching

So, brainstorming some topics for the personal inquiry project... I have toyed around with many ideas, including:

-- hybrid car technology (I just bought a Civic Hybrid, and not a moment too soon!)

--becoming an ex-patriot (my husband and I frequently discuss moving to another country someday, and I was intrigued by the role of ex-pat voters in the last presidential election)

--the effectiveness of Green Sea Turtle protection efforts in Hawai'i (they sure seemed to be thriving when I visited Kona in June)



However, the topic I keep coming back to is Italy. I am planning to take a trip with my family to Italy and Greece in the summer of 2007 to celebrate finishing my masters program and, hopefully, having a new job as an elementary media specialist. At first, I was considering researching where exactly I would like to visit, how much it is going to cost, where we would stay, the sights I want to see, etc. But, all of this seemed to be very related to personal preference and was not lending itself well to research questions. So I think I am going to focus more on the history of Italy, specifically the rise of trading cities such as Florence and Venice and their role in the Renaissance.

It really helped when I took a look at the 6th grade Social Studies standards. The history standards 6.1.9 and 6.1.10 in particular helped me focus the topic. I think this focus will help me relate this subject to curriculum, but it will also give me some good background information to guide my travel planning. And already knowing something about the historical context of these cities means I will more fully appreciate what I'll be seeing. :)

So, after some frustration, I'm feeling pretty good about my topic and excited to start learning!