Saturday, October 01, 2005

More Wiggling and Weaving

I'm back with some new insights. I spent a couple of quality hours in Borders with Fodor's Around Rome with Kids, Take Your Kids to Europe, and Italy with Kids. They were all helpful to varying degrees. I didn't use any formal evaluation checklist, but I did consider several factors in weighing the relative merit of all of my sources. These include authority, currency, and whether it was really focused on kids (how helpful it was to my specific inquiry). As Callison suggests, I have been determining "[w]hat are the best sources in terms of access, authority, and age-appropriateness for me to use in addressing my information needs." [1]

I found Fodor's Around Rome with Kids to be the most useful of the three for specific recommendations of activities for kids. The other two books were more general travel guides (they also contained lodging and restaurant information, got a bit bogged down in describing the museums from an adult perspective, etc.) However, Take Your Kids to Europe does have several very helpful introductory chapters on topics like involving kids in planning; how to prioritize sightseeing; collaborative family decision making and giving the kids some control over the itinerary; and how to make art museums more interesting for children.

Honestly, I would suggest skimming these books and taking some notes, and then buying Rick Steves' guides. He gives much more specific information on the sites and the lodgings, restaurants, etc. I enjoy his writing style, which is very funny and sarcastic. He has two kids who travel with him to Europe (and specifically Italy) every single summer, so he includes a lot of details that kids will find interesting. He really seems like a big kid himself. He is well-respected for his travel knowledge, and his books are updated every year (more often online). For older kids (~ middle school), I would just hand them a copy of Europe 101: History and Art for the Traveler. He really makes it enjoyable.

I have been looking back at Kuhlthau's ISP model, and I can say that I am definitely experiencing the emotions she mentions in Step 5 - Information Collection. My interest level has really gone up since I actually started finding concrete examples of how to plan a good "kid-trip". It becomes more fun than work when you start see the fruits of your labor. There is still that nagging realization that there is so much left to do, however, especially with the deadline on this project looming. It's a strange mix of high interest and the urge to be done with it all. *grin* It's also very difficult not to focus too much on the end result. I am really having to restrain myself from using all my energy on the product instead of the process. It just goes to show how differently I've been conditioned in my studies. The product has always been the most important part!

Also like ISP, this is the stage where I have been taking lots of notes. I think it is a bit strange that Kuhlthau does not specifically mention a stage for organizing, synthesizing, or applying what one has learned. She skips right from collecting information to "search closure" and summary searches, and then to presenting. I suppose she is implying that the organizing and synthesis is going on during the collection stage, but it seems like that process is worth acknowledging explicitly. [2]

Even though the Big6 model considers organization of information and presentation to both be contained within the Synthesis category, at least they do mention a stage where some processing of information is going on. [3]


I did find a lot of good tips and suggested activities from the three kid-centered books. I spent a lot of time nodding and saying "that makes sense" to ideas like letting the kids make the sightseeing or restaurant decisions once in a while. Especially for older kids, I think giving them some control and acknowledging their preferences could make a big difference. Another one that seems like it should be obvious but could easily be forgotten is to give the kids some time each day for physical activity and noisy behavior. I feel like these are things I already knew, but might not have put into practice, at least not in a thoughtful and consistent way.

A lot of the sightseeing suggestions I am coming across will really help my family specifically, because Liam is already interested in the history and ruins, but knowing which parts to focus on and which we can skip will help with time management and avoiding burnout. Like the author of Take Your Kids to Europe mentioned, if you see every castle along the way, after a few even the "best" castle is just another castle to the kids. I could probably see every church in Rome, but I know that Bill and Liam won't stand for that, so I'll chose a few that are most likely to be fun for everyone, like San Clemente where we can actually climb down four layers of history in the church's foundations. (Liam will especially like the 2nd century Mithraic temple (mystery cult) that is the third layer down, because it is pre-Christian. He really identifies with the Roman mythology and is a little bitter that Christianity has either co-opted or replaced most of the pagan religious sites. That's going to be another of my challenges on this trip, to get him to appreciate the beauty and historical importance of the Christian artifacts, and to understand that what he is lamenting is often more about power structures than religion. But that's a lot for a pre-teen to get his mind around, and I digress...)

I'm organizing the suggestions into lists, categorizing them into general travel tips, and then specific ideas for each region. I've been discussing what I've found with my family. I also told them that I expect them both to come up with a prioritized list of things they must see on our trip. The final itinerary is going to have to be a family project. I'm also building a list of books to read before we go. We probably won't read them all, but we've got almost two years, so you never know. :) I've made a concept map to help keep me on track and away from the very time consuming search for where to sleep and other such tangents.

----Sources Cited----

[1] Callison, Daniel. "Key Words, Concepts and Methods for Information Age Instruction: A Guide to Teaching Information Inquiry," p. 108

[2] Humbolt State University. "Kuhlthau's Model of the Stages of the Information Process." Accessed October 1, 2005.

[3]The Big6 Associates. "What is the Big6." Accessed October 1, 2005.]


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