Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Polldaddy Survey Sharing and Experience

Polldaddy has been a useful tool for me in the library instruction classroom.  It gives me a better sense for what the students know and understand.  This offers me a bit more confidence as I teach them.  I am able to correct errors and provide useful feedback.  Hopefully, student have learned a bit more as a result of this tool.

Polldaddy makes it easy to share polls and surveys.  They let you share surveys and polls with hyperlinks, emails, Twitter buttons, Facebook buttons, iPad apps, and even QR codes.  If you are interested in some of the questions created for students, take a look at this English 1102 Follow Up Survey

The QR code for this same survey looks like this:
Please take the survey.
 Have you used polling software in presentation or instruction settings?  Do you use it in social media, such as on Facebook or Twitter?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

YouTube Videos to Prompt Information-Literacy Conversations

Yesterday I started reading Bill Badke's book Research Strategies: Finding Your Way Through the Information Fog.  His style is relaxed and a bit casual, which seems to be aimed just right for his audience of undergraduate students.  It seems that I alternate between being a little annoyed and actually enjoying what he writes.  Naturally, considering that this is the fourth edition, he has some things worth saying about information literacy.

Like other articles in library- or information-focused publications, it includes many links, and I am tempted to search them all out to see them.  At the conclusion of a section on the Web 2.0 concept he writes: "If you want to see visions of the information world of the future, try these YouTube videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xj8ZadKgdC0 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY5hBd8_Q-E&feature=related" (16).  These videos are titled "Prometeus - The Media Revolution" and "Prometeus - The Media Revolution part 2."

What will the information world look like in five or ten years?  Which issues will arise?  They talk about copyright issues, digital versus traditional forms of information, and the virtual world.  The narrator speaks as one in the future might when talking about the past.  In fact, it is a future avatar character.  Anyway, these could be good videos to spark discussion in an information-literacy classroom.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Boolean Search Strategies - Videos

Some students learn more from videos.  In library land there are many educational videos to help students develop better search strategies.  In my delicious account I have tagged several Boolean operator videos.  Many of these I have watched more than once, and occasionally I have shown them in library instruction sessions.  Here's a direct link to a video I just learned about, which was developed by the Kansas University Libraries titled "Effective Searching."  It has a more text in it than images, but it seems to explain the basic strategy without wasting the viewers time.

If you have taught basic library instruction it might not hurt to show a video, especially if you have a tendency to explain the concept too quickly, thinking everyone must already know it.  This information continues to be new and useful to novice researchers.  Boolean operators still remain important elements of effective search strategies, particularly in database searching.

One of our library pages discusses Boolean logic, including useful images.  Titled "Boolean Searching in Library Databases and on the Web" it explains how it works, provides examples, and visually demonstrates the concepts with Venn diagrams.

Below are a few more visual examples of how Boolean operators work or can be entered in searches.  This first example is a Venn diagram:
Circles colored red represent the kinds of results retrieved from such a search.

Library catalog interface showing a Keyword Boolean search with AND plus the OR operators.
 Today I also discovered a Boolean search tutorial created by the Colorado State University Libraries simply titled "Boolean Searching."  It is not a video, so individuals need to advance from slide to slide, but the flash component keeps it from being bare and boring.  From an educational standpoint, it assesses student learning to check for comprehension of principles taught.  Certainly, it is not fancy, but I like it and think it is less obnoxious and more professional than several of the videos I have seen on the topic.  The user has complete control over the speed of the tutorial, which I would think they appreciate. 

Their "Advance Boolean Searching" tutorial follows the same pattern, only it goes into greater specificity on Boolean searching.  These two tutorials do not take long to complete, and it seems that they could easily be completed within a library workshop.

For brevity, this "Boolean Logic" tutorial takes the cake.  It is only 27 seconds.  During that short time frame it quickly introduces George Boole, then it displays Venn diagrams that illustrate how AND, OR, and NOT work.  Finally, it extends an invitation to talk with a University of Illinois librarian if you want to learn more.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Miniture Golf and Vanishing Breed Shirt

Miniature Golf in the Library.  ISU's Eli M. Oboler Library
Last weekend we hosted a miniature golf event in the library.  It seemed that not as many people came to the event.  We may need to do better at advertising our event and inviting people personally or via Facebook to the event.  Proceeds of the event go to our book budget account.  This event is sponsored by our Friends of the Oboler Library group, which is commonly known as FOOLs.  It's a fun name and one with meaning behind it as well, referencing the fools in medieval times that often spoke the truth in the presence of the king--the only one who could do so without negative consequences.

Those who volunteered could wear and keep a free shirt with the phrase "Save a Vanishing Breed."  The image of a reader with a book appears on the shirt.  Personally, I do not like this, because I think that there are many readers today--that reading is not a rare event in modern society.  However, I am a librarian surrounded by readers.  As a previous experience in a library workshop attests, it may not be so uncommon for a half of any group of college freshmen to have never looked up a book in a library before, which supports the argument that fewer and fewer individuals may be reading extensively.

Question 10 of a recent survey I gave to another class indicates that many college students struggle reading scholarly research, even in upper division courses.  I should look this up, but I remember seeing somewhere that an educational organization or some association identified reading as the most important skill of the 21st century.  It is a fundamental skill.

Polldaddy Results for English Composition Workshop in the Library

In a recent library workshop, only half of the students said they had ever looked a book up in a library catalog.  Five of the 14 polled, said they check out library books all of the time.  This workshop was for a group of English 1101 students, and most of them are traditional freshmen. 

When asked if they had ever used a database to look for articles before, 69% said they had never done this.  My perception is that once undergraduate students learn how to find articles, that is all they use.  They like the ease of access; they can conduct research in their pajamas at home.  Unfortunately, it seems that no matter what happens in the library instruction room, some students will still go back to Google for all of their research needs.  As a librarian, I think of Google research for academic sources to be a clumsy tool.  Perhaps I am overly enamored with the slick look of the EBSCOhost databases; we have Academic Search Complete as our default database on our home page (See the Quick Articles tab.)  It does provide quick and easy acces to scholarly sources.  The features in their interface make it easier to narrow results down to something useful--a set of understandable results.

The short survey I created for the English 1101 class gave me sense for who I was working with.  Being able to see the results in real time (I just had to refresh the results in Polldaddy periodically).  Of the 13 that answered the question, only two said they had already received library instruction of some sort.  Sometimes it is nice to be the first librarian to have contact with a class.

I like to ask what students want to learn.  This seems to get them thinking about their responsibility to pay attention and participate, at least I hope it does.  Plus, it gives me an idea what they think is important for them to get out of the day's instruction.  More than one student expressed interest in finding a book or learning about cool books that we have.

Considering that an English 1101 class may have a lot of students in which this may be their first time in a college library, I ask them if they have ever found a book on the library shelves before.  Seven out of 13 confessed that they had never done this before.  This knowledge justifies my idea that we need to let everyone in the class have this opportunity, so I can make it a priority for the class.  Success with this one activity may increase their confidence, willingness to listen, and learning in the class. 

As a student and a person, I like when teachers seek to understand me and my level of understanding.  The learning experience improves when the teaching is directed to meet the immediate needs of the students.  One of the biggest challenges, then, is to teach so that those with the lowest level of understanding learn something without being frustrated, and those with the highest level of understanding take away something new without being bored the entire time.  This is tough.  Seeking input or feedback with a survey or poll at the beginning of class may be a good way to gauge the kinds of participants in the class.  The anonymous gathering of information, via the online survey systems, can prevent students from being put on the spot. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Annotated Bibliography, Evaluating Websites, and Sports Law

Many college freshmen do not understand what an annotated bibliography is.  Mary George provides a definition in her book The Elements of Library Research: What Every Student Needs to Know:
A list of sources that includes a brief summary of each, which may be descriptive, critical, or both.  Faculty may request that students submit an annotated bibliography during the library research process as a way to tell what sources students have discovered and how they expect to use them.  Scholars sometimes publish extensive annotated bibliographies on a topic, either as long journal articles or as whole books.  See also abstract; review; survey article. (166)
For many freshmen it sounds like some big scary thing, but once they understand that it is just a Works Cited or References page with a short paragraph or two describing and evaluting each source, then it makes more sense. 

At the end of the course I taught last semester, I had a day in which we evaluated websites, worked on doing this in groups, and discussed the final project, or the annotated bibliography.  The outline has been posted to my ACAD 1199 webpage.  When evaluating sources or websites I still think that the CRAAP Test provides a good list of criteria to consider.  However, in the end, it seems the most important criteria is whether or not a source is relevant or not.  Will it support my argument or not?

A couple of weeks ago, I taught a physical education class to upper division students.  The class focuses on disabilities, and students are required to give a report on a single disability or someone with a disability.  A colleague of mine helped me teach the class.  She taught the students about the health science resources, and I talked about basic search strategies and the sports sciences resources. 

My colleague created a wiki page with the title of the course: PE 4494.  I went back to look at the page, and she had updated it.  Interestingly enough at the bottom of the page a note appears telling how many times the page has been viewed: "This page has been accessed 1,785 times."  This was interesting.  It appears that many have seen this page.  It does have useful resources for anyone needing to look up information on disabilities.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Analyzing Library Skills Survey Results

Following are the questions included in a recent survey designed for a class that met in the Library for instruction.
  1. How do you keep the related terms grouped together in a search statement? Results
  2. What will a truncation or wildcard symbol do?  Results
  3. Which Boolean operator reduces the number of results the more times it is used between search terms?  Results
  4. Which Boolean operator will typically return the largest set of results?  Results
  5. When you need to find the full text of an article for which you already have the full citation, which tool works the best?  Results
  6. Have you had library instruction before?  Results
  7. Do you understand the assignment for this class? Results
  8. Which of these databases have you used? Results
  9. Have you chosen a disability to research for the assignment in this class? If so, which one? Results
  10. What one thing would you like to learn today?  Results
For several of the responses it appears that a good number chose the correct answer, but the majority did not answer it right.  Ten out of 18 seem to know that parentheses keep related words grouped together in a search statement.  Only seven understand that a truncation code (the asterisk in most databases *) will help find variations on a word. 

Question 3 provided two correct answers, so I should have thought through that a bit more.  Both the Boolean operators AND and NOT will continue to reduce your results.  If I did this again, I would delete the operator NOT from the list of possible choices.

Eight correctly chose OR as the operator that brings back more results, while nine chose AND.  Only five selected the A-Z Journal List as the place to go to find the full text of an article.  This is one of the least understood research tools on our campus, so it is no wonder.  We need to do better at instructing students on its use.  Ten students chose the library catalog as the place to go for the full text, two chose Google or Google Scholar, and one said their smart phone. 

Fifteen stated that they had received library instruction before, though 11 said it was a long time ago.  One claimed that he/she could teach the class, because he/she had attended so many times.  This is the person that I need to involve in teaching the class.  How can I do that?  I need to get the students to teach each other.

Admittedly, I goofed on the database question, not making it possible for them to select more than one database, so this was not as accurate as it should have been.  Still, it gives me a sense for which databases they know.

I wish I had looked at the answers for question #9 and searched the topic(s) they entered in the survey.  Indubitably, this is a learning experience for me.  They wanted learn more about Down Syndrome, Asperger's Syndrome, and prominent persons like athletes with disabilies.

Photo found on Aspergers and the Alien blog written by Amy Murphy.
Following are the comments provided when asked what they wanted to learn in the class:
  • I would like to learn more about notable figures who have down syndrome
  • how to find articles that are to the point
  • Find reliable and easy to read sources
  • find articles on Downs
  • I would like to find an athlete that i would like to report on
  • i would like to learn how these data bases can help me find valid information quickly and effectively.
It strikes as interesting that bullet points two and three speak to the challenge of finding reliable, credible, and scholarly sources that are easy to read or understand.  It seems that many of today's college students really struggle reading the peer-reviewed articles.  This is something I encountered during the one-credit course I taught last semester.  In fact, one of my colleagues has begun to conduct some research on the reading levels of college students.  Well, this is a hard thing to gauge, so she has gathered their bibliographies that are attached to actual research papers and calculated the reading levels of the articles they cite.  I'm uncertain whether or not she includes the grades they receive on the paper, which might offer clues on their comprehension of the cited sources, but it seems she has not as that may conflict with policies governing research subjects. 

Anyway, reading abilities, or the lack thereof, do inhibit many college students from succeeding in higher education.

Young Girl Reading by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot. Photo by Cliff1066 on Flickr.com.