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Teaching the Ten Steps to Better Web Research

  1. Teaching the Ten Steps to Better Web Research By Mark E. Moran & Shannon A. Firth Dulcinea Media
  2. Links to studies & articles discussed are at the end of this presentation and at
  3. Dulcinea Media provides free content & tools that help educators teach students how to use the Internet effectively. More about us and our products: Check out SweetSearch, A Search Engine for Students Sign-up for our free daily newsletter: Follow us on Twitter: @findingDulcinea & @findingEdu
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  7. Our generation
  8. Their generation
  9. So, are “digital natives” experts at effectively finding information on the web, evaluating it and putting it to use?
  10. “Digital natives are extraordinarily sophisticated and strangely narrow.”1
  11. • After a year long information literacy program, most fifth grade students continued to rely entirely on Google and “never questioned the reliability of the websites they accessed.” 2 -- Vrije University Netherlands
  12.  Even when high school students found a good source...
  13. ... they did not recognize it and instead launched a new search.
  14.  “Students’ high level of browsing… at the expense of thinking about information need, planning for strategies and evaluating obtained information.” 3 -- Shu Hsien L. Chen (2003)
  15. • “Electronic media can “overwhelm youth with information that they may not have the skills or experience to evaluate.” And literacy skills overlap with safety skills. 4 -- Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, March 2010
  16. • Students without access to librarians teaching Web research skills show up at college “beyond hope”….”they have learned to ‘get by’ with Google.”5 -- University College London
  17.  “[S]tudents’ level of faith in their search engine of choice is so high that they do not feel the need to verify for themselves who authored the pages they view or what their qualifications might be.” 6 -- Eszter Hargittai, et al Northwestern University Int’l J. of Communications 4 (2010) College Students in 2010
  18. • Not one of the 600 college students surveyed "could give an adequate conceptual definition of how Google returns results….the word ‘magic’ came up a lot.” 7 --ERIAL study (Illinois)
  19. In 2010 Dulcinea Media Surveyed 300 middle school and high school students in New York. 8 In 2010 Dulcinea Media Surveyed 300 middle school and high school students in New York. 8
  20. How do you begin your search? • Almost half of middle school students chose “I type a question.”
  21. If a search doesn’t give you good results...
  22. I think real hard.
  23. I focus on the encyclopedia.
  24. II punch thepunch the screen.screen. Just kidding, LOLJust kidding, LOL..
  25. How do you decide if an online article is a good source to use for a school report?
  26. If it has the information I need, then it’s good for me. If it sounds good, I know it’s right, and it has good vocab.
  27. “I don’t know. I just go with it.”
  28. How often do you check the author of an article?
  29. • About 2/3 of students say they “rarely or never” check the author of an article.
  30. “It doesn’t really matter who wrote it.”..”
  31. How often do you check to see when an article was written or last updated?
  32. • Half of high school students and about 3/4 of middle school students say they “rarely or never” check the date of an article.
  33. I can’t find it.
  34. In Conclusion…. A majority of students:  don’t know how to form a sound search query;  don’t have a strategy for dealing with poor results;  can’t articulate how they know content is credible;  don’t check the author or date of an article.
  35. Students’ Primary “Strategy” ... wildly firing random terms into a search box, and hoping they’ll get lucky.
  36. Why Teach Web Research? “[T]he [b]illions spent to wire schools and universities is of little use unless students know how to retrieve useful information from the oceans of sludge on the Web.”9 -- Geoffrey Nunberg, Professor UC Berkeley School of Information
  37. “Participation Gap”  Students with support are finding ways to thrive in complex digital information environment. 10
  38. A “New Divide”  Students with access to librarians teaching Web research skills “take prize of better grades” in college.5
  39. An Informed Internet Citizenry “[I]nitiatives that help educate people in this domain – whether in formal or informal settings – could play an important role in achieving an informed Internet citizenry.”6 ---Eszter Hargittai, et al
  40. Improving Internet skills starts with educators
  41.  Emerging research indicates that many teachers do not have the necessary skills to navigate the Internet. -- Barbara Combes, Professor, Edith Cowan University, Australia
  42. “Students see educators modeling an effective research process and learn from it.” -Colette Cassinelli librarian/ technology teacher Portland, OR
  43.  Parents, teachers, librarians & friends need to play a role in scaffolding a learning environment. 10 -- John Palfrey, Co-director, Berkman Center, Sept 2010.
  44.  Those without access to web research training show up at college “beyond hope”….with an “ingrained coping behaviour”… “they have learned to ‘get by’ with Google.”5 -- University College London
  45. There is No Quick Fix  Effective web research skills cannot be learned in a week, a semester, or a year.
  46. Not Integrated into Curriculum  Research skills often are taught only by librarians are not always reinforced by classroom teachers.
  47.  “[L]leaving information literacy to librarians alone suggests a failure to understand the scope of the problem.”9 -- Geoffrey Nunberg
  48.  Web research skills must be taught throughout primary school years to break the “culture of use” currently seen in this generation of users. -- Barbara Combes
  49. A New Approach?  Educators must teach broad concepts and strategies, not how to use specific tools. -- Authors of ERIAL study
  50. “Use better interfaces and more sophisticated indexing methods to nudge students, incrementally, toward competence.” 7 - Casper Grathwohl Oxford University Press
  51.  "Unless we can demonstrate some measurable payoff to searching, students aren’t going to do it.” 7 - Lisa Rose-Wiles, Librarian Seton Hall University
  52. A New Approach? “We have shown the importance of looking at the whole process of information seeking and content evaluation from the first decision about which search engine or Web site to consult initially to the final stage of settling on a page with the sought-after content.”7 ---Eszter Hargittai, et al Northwestern University Int’l J. of Communications 4 (2010)
  53. A New Approach to Web Research • Teach Ten Steps for Better Web Research.
  54. How Do Effective Researchers Behave? • Start general with several keywords • Try new combinations in a systemic manner • Use more precise, or even natural language. • Look well beyond the first few results, and return often to favorite, reliable sites.
  55. Step 1: Where to Search • The Internet may not be the best place to start; databases may help you find what you’re seeking far faster.
  56. Step 1: Where to Search • Don’t count on search engines to do all the work for you. Ask a librarian or teacher to recommend individual sites. • Use student-friendly tools for aggregating your own favorite sites. e.g. Symbaloo or Diigo.
  57. Step 1: Where to Search • Give students a list of 10 sites. • Students must select and defend their sources before they start writing. -Michelle Baldwin -Teacher, Anastasis Academy
  58. Step 1: Where to Search – Learn from Others
  59. Step 2: Try Several Search Engines • Suggest a two-week “Google Holiday” to lessen dependency. • Introduce meta-search engines (eg. Zuula). More about search engines:
  61. Step 2: Try Several Search Engines….. • SweetSearch searches 35,000 websites that research experts have evaluated and approved. • SweetSearch4Me features sites for emerging learners. •We created these, yet don’t use them exclusively– we use the full range of resources.
  62. Step 3: Dig deep for the best results • Many websites rank high for reasons unrelated to the quality of their content. • Professionals and academics don’t “optimize” their content for search engines, so it usually does not appear at the top. • Don’t stop at the first page!!
  63. Step 3: Dig deep…. • Google and other search engines optimize their results for adults, who want to know “what happened today.” •Google continually strives to deliver “fresher” results. • For school research, “fresher” is not usually better.
  64. Step 3: Dig deep…. • With Yolink users can browse search results in context without opening them. • Integrated into SweetSearch, Yolink can be used on other sites through a browser add-on. •SweetSearch = “better indexing,” Yolink = “better interface” suggested by Oxford University Press.
  65. Step 4: Think Before You Search “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” - Yogi Berra
  66. Students should rewrite assignments in their own words. Next, students should write out the questions they want their research to answer. -Angela Maiers, - Digital Literacy expert Step 4: Think Before You Search
  67. Step 4: Think Before You Search  Writing questions helps students explore the topic from different angles.
  68. Step 4: Think Before You Search Writing questions helps students focus in on the area of interest to them.
  69. Step 4: Think Before You Search Thorough questions let students know when their research is complete–when their questions have been answered.
  70. Questions --> Good Search Terms  Extract keywords from your questions. Pair main keywords serially with lesser keywords.  Choose nouns instead of verbs.
  71. Take a bottoms up approachTake a bottoms up approach..
  72. Cover the Whole Field  Use 2 or 3 keywords;  in many combinations;  important words first;  adjust incrementally;  cover the “whole field.”
  73. Search Engines, Not Answer Machines The goal:  Provide keywords in the search box  that help you find documents  that are helpful to your research.
  74. Match Words in Search Box to Words on the Page “Imagine your dream document. What words would the author of that document definitely include?” -Joyce Valenza Never Ending Search School Library Journal
  75. Teach students not to expect magic “answers.”
  76. Instead, help them find relevant and authoritative resources from which they can extract their own answers.
  77. Step 5: Make Search Engines Work for You • Connectors AND and OR can be moderately effective. • Quotation marks are a critical tool students should know when to use. • But advanced search options are the best way to mandate or exclude certain words.
  78. Step 5: Make Search Engines Work for You • Learn the AROUND function. • Search “Kennedy" AROUND(10) “moon” and the top results will be ones in which Kennedy appears within ten words of moon. •NOTE: both search terms must be in quotes, AROUND must be capitalized, and the number must be in parentheses.
  79. Step 5: Make Search Engines Work for You • As you search, add new keywords. • Avoid “looping” by documenting your search with a bookmarking tool, or keep a written record.
  80. Step 6: Don’t Believe Everything You Read Students should think like a detective. •A dose of healthy skepticism is required. •Information is only as good as its source. • No single element determines credibility. •ALWAYS verify critical information with several sources.
  81. Step 7: Find Primary Sources •Think of primary sources such as photos, diaries and newspapers as “eyewitness accounts” – which are generally more reliable than second-hand information. More:
  82. Step 7: Looking at the Original Source? • If you suspect a site may not be the original source of information, google a key phrase. • If the phrase appears on another site, evaluate the credibility of that site. More:
  83. Step 8: Who Published the Article? • Do editors or experts review the information? Is it thorough? • Do the author and publisher have a well- established reputation? Search their names in a search engine.
  84. Step 8: Who Published the Article? • If the site does not provide the name of the publisher and its editors you cannot rely on it. • Even if it “looks good or sounds good.”
  85. Step 8: Who Published the Article? • See 10 Reasons Why Students Can’t Cite Wikipedia. More:
  86. Step 8: Who Published the Article? • Assessing the top level domain (.com. .gov, .org, .edu) is not as useful as commonly believed. • Be wary of sites containing words like "free/discount/best/your/Web.” • Be critical of sites where advertisements blend with content.
  87. Step 9: Why Was the Article Written? • Always ask, “why did the writer write this?” • Is the site trying to sell you something? • Does the site have any social or political biases? Eg. is not a neutral source for information on U.S. Presidents.
  88. Step 9: Why Was the Article Written? • Many websites that appear to offer valid information but were created for another purpose.  •More:
  89. Step 10: When was information written or last revised? • Determine when an article was published or last updated. • If you can’t, then confirm the currency of the information elsewhere. • Use a news search engine, add the current year as a search term, or Advanced Search Options to restrict dates (imperfect). More:
  90. The End? Yes, but it’s only the beginning of our efforts to help educators teach students how to use the Web effectively. In Fall 2013, Mark Moran and Angela Maier will release their co-authored book, “Digital Literacy: Lessons for Leaders and Learners.” Sign-up for our newsletter to be kept updated on our progress.
  91. Works Cited: 1. Born Digital 2. Els Kuiper, Monique Volman and Jan Terwel. “Students' use of Web literacy skills and strategies: searching, reading and evaluating Web information.” Information Research: Vol. 13, No.3, (September, 2008. 3. Shu-Hsien L. Chen. “Searching the Online Catalog and the World Wide Web.” Journal of Educational Media & Library Sciences, 41 1 (September 2003) 29-43 4. On “Empowering Parents and Protecting Children in an Evolving Media landscape” Berkman Center for Internet & Society. February 24, 2010. 5. UCL. “Information behavior of the researcher of the future”: 11 January 2008. 6. Eszter Hargittai etal, “Trust Online: Young Adults’ Evaluation of Web Content,” International Journal of Communications 4 (2010), 468-494, 1932-8036/20100468 (cont’d)
  92. Works Cited: 7. Steve Kolowich, Searching for Better Research Habits, Inside Higher Ed, September 29, 2010 8. Mark E. Moran and Shannon Firth, “A Study of Students Online Behavior,” March 2010. 9. Geoffrey Nunberg, “Teaching Students to Swim in the Online Sea,” The New York Times, February 13, 2005. 10. Project Information Literacy Smart Talk, no. 3, John Palfrey, "Rethinking Plagiarism in the Digital Age?" September 1, 2010. 11. Media Post: Google Research Focuses on Search Failures, September 21, 2010
  93. Dulcinea Media Links: Survey: SweetSearch 10 Steps: Yolink: Primary Sources: Original Source? Can’t Cite Wikipedia: Who? Why? When?

Editor's Notes

  1. But can they search the Web PHOTO
  2. They choose keywords wisely. They start generally and refine keywords systematically, adding new keywords they discover.