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What's the Story? 

Making the world a better place for gifted kids, one yarn at a time.


Dusty Hail, Curiosity, and the Searching Bug 



It was the grainy residue left behind from the hail that had caught everyone’s attention. Why would there be grit left all over the ground after the hailstones had melted?

 What had started out more like dirt, was now a collection of fine minerals strewn all over the deck, similar to sand. Predictions flew. Perhaps it was remnants of ash in the air from a volcanic eruption elsewhere in the globe, sand from the Australian desserts, or grains uplifted from a tornado or waterspout closer to home, or ... could there perhaps be cloud seeding experiments going on somewhere? Curiosity abounded! I simply had to go home and search the internet for further clues.

But where to start? It was like a treasure hunt, but I didn’t have the first clue as to how I should begin, or even what the clues might look like so I could recognise them when I found them.

To begin, I really needed to understand the process of how to go about searching online effectively - after all, while I was curious, I didn’t have all night to hunt! Kathleen Guinee developed the following diagram to represent just this.

If I was to follow this, it was soon apparent I needed a research question to begin! But how do I create a research question?




After a bit of contemplation, I finally settled for, “What is the connection between sand deposits and hail?” I didn’t know of any website relating to hail so this just left me the option of searching and Google was my choice of search engine. Following on from this in the flowchart is “construct search string”. Visions of lengths of finger-knitted wool filled my head. But I was pretty sure this wasn’t what the author meant! Turns out it’s really just the technical term for the keywords we use and how we use “modifiers” with these, like AND or OR, to search.

Brainstorming time! My first keywords were “hail” and “debris”. Looking through the results which popped up, there really wasn’t anything remotely near the topic I was after, so I tinkered around, trying out synonyms of these terms until the search results returned something worthy of interest to follow. That’s the “analyze search results” on the flowchart in case you are wondering, leading into “visit site” and the natural progression to “evaluate site”. Needless to say, when I opened up some of the websites, often the content was irrelevant, and in some cases, the source credibility was too low, even if at this stage I was still only looking for keywords to deepen my probing. This was important to me as I didn’t want to waste time following a useless path!

As I delved in among the websites, new ideas emerged, providing new keywords to try and in some cases, new hyperlinks to follow. It turned out that this process was a great way to get some topic-specific terminology (language of the discipline*), and once I began using this in my search strings it was evident that I was finally onto some interesting and pertinent information that would help me to answer my question, or at least make a more informed hypothesis*. I was beginning to get excited!

But I hit another hurdle. How was I going to store my notes, website, and videos so I could refer back to them easily? After all, I still needed to share what I found out with the others who were equally as curious as I!

All I can say, is thanks for technology (and thanks to the teacher who shared the following great tip with me!). Although to be fair, pencil and paper could do the trick too, it just might take a bit longer to set up. But back to the technology. Google Docs is a great platform to set up a table to store your information*, for example:


If you are watching a video, you might prefer to use the free online application called VideoAnt. You upload the YouTube link and then as you watch the video, you can pause at any stage to write a note (a process called annotation). It’s easy to look back through your notes and the app remembers exactly how far through the video you were watching when you wrote it so you can easily refer back if needed.



Bringing all my ideas together in a way that wasn’t jumbled was the next quest. After all, my friends didn’t want a book about why there was grit left on the ground after the hail; they wanted a brief summary. Which is why I used this great online inquiry tool to complete the steps in the research flowchart. In this, I could “synthesize the material” and “cite the sources” ready for my “output” - which was probably going to be a quick email out to my curious friends to share what I found out ... but also find out what they had learned through their own searching. I was hanging out to hear what they had discovered!

Are you curious too? If so, have a crack at the process outlined here for effective searching, and share your findings in the comments or with friends and family. You might even like to invite them to do the same. If you have some ideas on how we could try and work out where the grit might have come from in the world, that would be awesome to hear too!!

Happy searching!!!


If you would like to explore more about supporting gifted learners with the development of their research skills you might like to start here. Research skills are important for all learners, but gifted learners may need access to tools and strategies at an earlier age to allow them to engage with advanced content and processes.

* language of the discipline, details, trends, predictions, multiple perspectives, and unanswered questions are all components of the Depth and Complexity framework.


'What's the Story?' is a new blog section which is being written for the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education, with posts being added regularly. The purpose of this space is to share musings and anecdotes relating to giftedness and gifted education to provide a form of information and support for those living with and/or teaching gifted learners. Please do share them along.


We would love to hear from you.  Grab a cuppa and share your story in the comments.

What's the Story? Making the world a better place for gifted kids, one yarn at a time.


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Please note that the views expressed in these blogs are those of the author and not necessarily representative of the views of the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education.


Image credits: Hail Covered Table by Alan Levine is licensed under Public Domain.


Dusty Hail, Curiosity, and the Searching Bug

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