Friday, April 6, 2007

More Ideas on the Presentation

I wrote those notes a two night ago, and since then I have talked with a few instructional librarians who teach college freshmen. They were preparing to teach, and somehow an appropriate moment popped up in which I asked if it were a good idea to show students how to truncate their search terms in a one-shot session for freshmen. One of the two immediately said this was not such a great idea, but that's her take on things. The sense I get is that these librarians, among others, have worked quite a bit with college students enough to know that college students do not know nearly as much as we think they do. On the one hand this seems pessimistic, but on the other hand they are more experienced.
I like to think that freshmen could benefit from being told or shown how to truncate terms in a database search. Recently, I did a search on college humor in the MLA International Bibliography, and I was wondering how a search with truncation might work. Perhaps if I were to use college life, college li*, college student*, college liv*, etc. they would return different results. Well, typing in college li* returns over 1300 results and none seem particularly relevant to college life. An advanced search yielded 71 hits that appeared much more relevant: college AND li* AND humor. The first result is "Knock, Knock. Who's Not There." College Humor. Anyway, I got carried away talking about searching.

This morning it seemed like it would be good to use a simple, yet effective active learning strategy. One of the things librarians try to help students with is thinking about search terms. Often students think of only one or two terms related to their topics that can help them find the articles or the books they need for a given assignment. Students may enjoy a short group assignment using posters and Post-it notes. Each group would receive one or two terms such as "college humor" and then they would need to write synonyms on the Post-it notes. Therefore, they could come up with other options such as: academic, comedy, comic, jokes, funny, school, university, classroom, dorm, practical jokes, etc. Then they could test out some of these terms in the database and report back to the class. This sounds like fun and might differentiate my presentation from others' presentations in a positive way if it were carried out properly.

What other active learning strategies might be good in a library instructional session?

Preparing for a teaching presentation

P: to instruct and persuade
Topic: library catalog, two databases, and utilizing the library and the librarian
Issue: How can I find articles and books to help me write my paper for this English class?
Claim: The library catalog and librarians can help you find resources more quickly than if you were to just wander the stacks. Learn a few nifty tools today, and you will find things more quickly that will help you become smarter faster.
Show how to use the catalog = 13-15 minutes.
Show how to use Academic Search Elite = 11-12 minutes.
à ISU uses Academic Search Premier
Demonstrate how to use the MLA bibliography = 11-13 minutes.
à ISU has MLA International Bibliography
Total: 35-40
What should I show about the catalog?
What do students need to know about most?
How will students learn to use the catalog and databases the best?
How will students remember what I have told them?
How much repetition needs to take place in an activity like this?
What should I include in the handout?
Should I include active learning techniques?
Should I ask for feedback after the instructional session?
  • Read the “Search Tips” page on the ISU web site.
  • Read the Eisenberg articles.
  • Practice the instructional session.
  • Spend about half an hour on this presentation each day.
  • Work on this presentation for an hour or two this Saturday.
  • Practice doing various searches you would like to show students.
  • Think about what a freshman needs to know.
Thoughts on MLA Bibliography:
n Talk about truncation.
n Talk about narrowing a search: a search for “iraq” yielded more than 2000 results even when it limited it to articles since 2002. “iraq and bush” narrowed it down to 76 records. There are three tabs in this database. What are the other two tabs for?
n Show them the subject headings off to the right. This can be wonderful in pointing you to find articles you need but didn’t match the terms you entered. Some of the descriptors actually broaden the search, so combine terms and see if that helps to narrow the field down. Using the terms “rhetoric and composition” and “bush, george w” brought up 13 articles. The results bring back like four tabs or more. Students may be grateful to know that there are peer-reviewed journals. You probably need to explain what a peer-reviewed article is.
n Think about synonyms.
Should I talk about peer-reviewed journal articles? I think that I should, because they need to know about this if they do not already. Make sure that you repeat this, otherwise it may not sink in. Make it clear and simple = Peer-reviewed articles means that they are more authoritative and can be trusted more for their scholarly contributions. Peer-reviewed means that professors read and critique other professors’ writings before they get published.
I like the idea of searching for something that is not terribly serious, since students might fall asleep with a subject they do not find appealing. I think the same goes for librarians. I just searched MLA for “humor and teaching” and the descriptors helped me refine the search with the following terms “humor and teaching approaches” = 16 results.