We spent considerable time talking about information literacy or research and inquiry skills It’s not just the English teachers or the communication teacher’s responsibility to teach and evaluate information literacy skills…research and inquiry skills are in all curriculum documents at all grade levels. This is a really big problem area, and since you are all from a variety of subject areas, I’m going to go into a bit of detail on this topic…I’m going to share with you what I shared with secondary teachers at our meetings, and what I share with many of your teacher-librarians when I liaise with them at the conferences, and what I present at t-l AQ courses.
It’s like math…it’s hard to find the unknown when it’s in the first box! If there are 4 candies in each package, and I open them and find there are 12 candies altogether, how many packages do I have? We need to encourage our secondary school students to think critically about their research before they start typing words into Google.
We teach the skills required to be information literate when we teach students how to conduct research to solve their information problems. And, I don’t just mean skills like how to use a search engine, how to use Boolean Logic and wildcards, how to cite their sources accurately…I am talking about things like the points of view they need to consider in their research. Elementary and secondary students are good at thinking about the point of view presented in information or prose…you have students write from the perspective of Scout in to kill a mockingbird, or to write from the perspective on the creatures in James and the giant peach . But, when students come to college and need to do research, they aren’t good at identifying which points of view they need to include in their research, and how they find information from each point of view…from the government’s, the lobbyist’s, the corporate world’s, the researcher’s, the general public’s…. They need to think about the points of view they need to research and address, and know how to use the tools to access information published by each of these points of view…natural language searches in google to find government websites with databases; subject searches with Boolean Logic and wildcards in periodical indexes to find scholarly journal articles; and keyword searching in catalogues and newspaper databases to find books and current articles. They need to know about databases, so they understand that complex detailed precise searches are great for googling for government documents, but horrible for searching for scholarly research in databases. It’s like the new math… We know that it’s not enough to teach student the mathematical operations, we need to make sure they have operational sense …teach them how to use the operations to solve problems. And, we need to present problems in all different ways…not just 3 x 4 = 12, sometimes we need to put the unknown as box x 4 = 12…this makes students reflect on the ways operations are connected, makes them think flexibly about numbers…and that’s what we want them to do with information. We don’t always want them to find information about…we want them to conduct a lit review…so they consider all points of view…and then make sure they know how to find the information for each point of view using the appropriate tools.
If they had information sense, if they were information literate, they wouldn’t ask questions like this. This student is stuck at step one of the research process. He needs to narrow his research question… What about the impact of technology on society? In a particular geographical area? In a specific time period? What kind of technology? Which society? How do you get students through the first step on the research process? Consider that part of the research process (arguably the most crucial and poorly done one) is where they go And what they do there. Students should use the following resources available on their school’s library website to first understand better their topic and then to frame the question that will direct any further research.
Eastdale’s Online Library
A reference book like an encyclopedia. Let them explore a real print encyclopedia, so they understand what’s in one, and why it’s a useful resource. Then, they can use the online versions. This is a page that is available on your school library site. Almost all of you have access to the same resources at your board. The icons with a “KO” are knowledge Ontario databases that you MAY access from your school’s website or your local public library’s website. Of course, college and university students can access them from their school’s library website…If you can’t find them on your school’s or board’s website, visit the local public library’s website, and access them there. Knowledge Ontario is like OSAPAC…but it’s information database, not tools and courseware. Again, students need to know which resources to choose, based on their information need. The Cdn Encyclopedia, Groliers and World Book are all excellent general encyclopedias for elementary students to use to get an overview of their topic…
Now that students have reviewed some of the resources and the topical information available to them, students need to frame a narrowly focused question to direct their research. For example: Students in a Grade 12 History class have been asked to research Canadian Legislation written to deal with Religious freedoms. This topic is enormous and so if they simply did a real language search on Google of this topic the results would be cumbersome and imprecise. So a simple exercise in the framing phase is to insert what, who, where, when, why as they attempt to create a more specific question or search parameter. For instance: Canadian (where) Legislation (what) passed into law (what) in recognition of increase in Muslim population (why, who) since 1960 (what). Now if students were to type this search as a Google search the results would be for lack of a better word “overwhelming” and lacking in specificity.
3700 results may not seem like a great deal of hits but remember another key component of research is reliability and credibility of source materials. Using Google to “ surf the web” with a search like the one above brings you to sites you do not have time to peruse much less study and take notes from. So two things are incorrect here or at least they could be done better: 1) the search although apparently specific enough allows for Google and engines like it to find sites that have found one or more of the words in the search string 2)
Is he planning to look for scholarly journal articles on the Crips? Is he going to find journal articles on the Crips? How else could he meet this assignment requirement? He’ll probably need to re-think his research plan and look for articles on youth gangs that he can generalize or use to compare to the Crips?
At college and university, profs often want students to learn about information in a subject discipline, or to explore resources beyond google…so they often include an evaluation requirement about the types of information sources that must be used… If students don’t’ know what kind of information is in these resources, where to find them, and how to construct an effective search strategy for each type of database (a library catalogue, a periodical index, an internet search engine)…they’re sunk!
Most students don’t think about the type of information that they’ll find in books, in articles, on websites…they’ll look in books for EVERYTHING, then articles for EVERYTHING… They input their overall topic (crips) into the search box on the catalogue, the periodical index, the internet search engine, and press enter. This is not a good research method. You find way too much on the Internet, and nothing in the book catalogue.
There are parameters for using websites. Currency, coverage, etc.
Students don’t know how the difference between natural language searching, which they use with google, and keyword searching, which is what they need to start with when they use databases like library catalogues and periodical indexes.
Natural language searching, keyword searching, Boolean logic, wildcards…the kind of information to expect to find in books, periodicals, and other sources…these are the “skills”…but if you don’t know how to use them correctly, you don’t have the “sense”.
Again, if you don’t know what’s available, it’s hard to find stuff on a lot of library websites…you need to know what kind of information that you want (books, magazines, journals), what kind of database to use to find that information (library catalogue, periodical index, or general database…) So get the database descriptions…encourage your teacher-librarians to organize the databases…reference books (encyclopedias, atlases…) Articles (magazines, journals) Newspaper databases Big general everything databases…and for these ones, watch out! Make sure students read the citations so they know what they find in the database, and then cite it appropriately.
Like I mentioned, require your students to justify WHY they think the sources they used are good… This is SOOOOOOOOOO important!!! In fact, I would encourage you to have your students write a draft outline, and submit a list of the five or six sources they plan to use in their research…and WHY… BEFORE they start writing their paper or doing their powerpoint or whatever. Require them to use a newspaper article…and then explain what type of info for their assignment would come from a newspaper… Require them to use a magazine article…and explain what type of info… Require them to use a reference book, a book…a government website…and explain what type of information they expect find for their assignment from each source… Ask your students to defend why they’ve selected the sources they’ve selected. Ask your students which point of views they’ve represented in their research, and which ones they haven’t? Ask them to evaluate the shortfalls of their research? This is information “sense”.
Entice students to use databases by showing them the special features that are available to make their life easier… Gifts from the database fairies… Get your kids using the tools of the databases…
Two years ago, my colleague Dr. Sharon Loverock and I surveyed UOIT teacher candidates to see if they felt they had the skills to teach and assess the research and inquiry skills in the curriculum. Many of these students were recent university grads…who all considered themselves to be computer literate and able to conduct research effectively and efficiently.
I’m doing a research paper on the Crips, a youth gang in Toronto. I have to use three scholarly journal articles, published in the last two years. I can’t find ANY journal articles on the Crips! Can you help me?
Current research Your topic provincial CDN laws about your topic In the news… federal definitions statistical information historical, Background info Newspaper database Gov’t website E-stat – gov’t website/database book book Milestones