Archive for October, 2010

Better Research Part II- Sources

A week ago, regional college professors and librarians met with high school librarians for a “College Readiness Dialog” at which they discussed what areas of literacy that incoming college freshmen are lacking. I was not able to attend, but area librarian Becca Munson reported on her blog that these were emphasized as areas of weakness:

– Awareness of multiple citation formats (MLA vs. APA, etc)

– Being required to use ‘scholarly journal’ articles rather than general web sources

– Incorporating research into a paper logically and seamlessly, rather than just pasting web text together

Very timely information, I think.

High school students are very good at convincing us (ok-maybe just me) that we ask too much of them. And they are not wrong. In their eyes, we can ask more of them than they are accustomed to. But that is what learning is. We need to demand more- students will never grow unless we ask them to stretch. They do need to be using more scholarly sources. They do need to be able to analyze their research and synthesize it in to their own projects/papers. They do need to cite correctly- every time.

Our students’ future college professors are begging us to require these things!

In that spirit, I am posting possible lesson plans and activities on the second part of ‘Better Research’ on The Search & Sources.  As always, I would love to work with you and your students the next time they do any research, whether small or large scale; send me an email and we can plan something great! (Possible ideas below)



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Better Powerpoint and Better Research

This week I worked with a couple of Piper teachers and their students on two topics: evaluating online sources/citation (Zoology) and creating better Powerpoint slides (Oral Communications). Thanks go to Mr. Reed and Mrs. Deneault for sharing their students and class time with me! In case any other teachers might want to incorporate these ‘media literacy’ lessons into their plans, I’ve posted them here for perusal. Shoot me an email if you would like me to work with your students on these topics or any other!

First: Evaluating Online Sources and Citation, originally for Zoology. Obviously, you are missing my auditory track and teaching with this slideshow, but you get the idea:

Second: Better Powerpoint Slides, originally for Oral Communications:
(Lesson plan below the slideshow)

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Better Research- Part I: Defining needs

This post marks the first of a three part segment on improving student research. It is easy and awfully tempting to hand students a laptop and tell them to use their favorite search engine to find information on whatever topic. They are masters at navigating the internet, right? Wrong. Research shows that though young people appear to cruise Google with ease,

Scott McLeod's Flickr Photostream

Just last week, as a student in an Advanced Placement course sat staring at his Google screen, he expressed some frustration at not being able to find good information on “his topic.”

“Okay,” I asked him. “What is your topic?”
“I’m not really sure yet” he responded.

Not only was he unsure of the topic of his research paper, it was evident that he didn’t have an articulated purpose for the mysterious information that he was looking for. This is common, and why the first part of 3 research lessons caters to “Defining Information Needs.” Though this step of the research process is tempting to skip because it is so easy to just jump in and begin searching, students end up with much better products when a little time is taken to first articulate needs.

The Big 6 model defines two steps related to this process:
1. Task Definition
1.1 Define the information problem
1.2 Identify information needed

2. Information Seeking Strategies
2.1 Determine all possible sources
2.2 Select best sources

Below is a possible lesson plan to help students to define their information needs. Schedule some time in the library at the beginning of your next research project and let me know when I can work with your students!



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Why information studies should be a course at every school.

One of my biggest frustrations in moving from the classroom to the library is that I no longer have the ability to craft a full curriculum but rather have to dole out media and information studies piecemeal, with a lesson here with this teacher and a lesson there with that teacher. It is incredibly difficult to ensure that students receive adequate instruction on information literacy skills and ethics.

New technology has opened up doors of access and analysis the likes of which most current practicing educators never experienced in their own education. But with that comes a learning curve and new facets to social responsibility that I believe have not caught up with the technology. Many researchers are looking at the differences between how people interact face-to-face as opposed to online, be it in anonymous or pseudo-anonymous arenas.

The apparent suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi is one of so many instances in which young adults don’t think through the consequences of their actions with technology. His roommate used a webcam to broadcast Tyler making out with another student and advertised the broadcast on Twitter. Tyler’s roommate surely did not anticipate the devastating impact that his actions caused. Gossip used to be word-of-mouth and ephemeral. Technology has changed the gossip/bullying/whatever-you-want-to-call-it game profoundly and students just do not have any opportunities to thoughtfully explore issues of technology and ethics (whether this type of issue or issues of digital footprints, copyright/ownership/authorship, etc). This isn’t about “internet safety.” This is about more than simply technology and safety.

Most schools leave information and media literacy to the librarian, who is forced into teaching it in snippets here and there because very few have the staffing too be able to teach in course format. With the complexity of issues surrounding technology, and the degree to which technology is a vital part of students’ future professional and personal lives, shouldn’t more schools offer information studies in cohesive course format?

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