Monday, February 23, 2015

Still a Challenge

not enough time
Here's a challenge: According to a recent survey by ImagineEasy, an online citation and research management platform that includes EasyBib, school libraries are addressing information literacy in ways that are consistent with colleges having to train incoming student in digital researching.

Learning to search efficiently in several databases, evaluate the information and cite it are not difficult skills. Yet most students aren't up to the task when they arrive at college. Here's why:

The following profile of K-12 schools emerges from the 1,100+ responses to the survey:
  • 37% of K-12 schools offer one shot sessions in researching
  • 23% offer a combination of approaches
  • 12% offer nothing
  • 9% are currently developing curriculum
  • 0% offer a course
  • (apparently the rest didn't answer the question)
"One shot" instruction is the norm. I've heard numerous participants at workshops in information fluency describe this model: you get the students for 45 minutes and need to teach them to use the library and related tools. Not an effective model for teaching how to formulate a research question, how to turn that into a query, know which database(s) to search and what to do with the results. Students are left to learn that on their own, armed with experience using Google.

When asked how confident students feel about their search skills, they tend to overrate their abilities (confidence is higher than demonstrated proficiency). source: Teaching Information Fluency Most of this self-perception probably comes from being self-taught and a steady diet of easy Internet searches. Teachers are also susceptible to thinking more of their abilities than is deserved. When encountering a challenging search problem, they get as frustrated as students.

One of the reasons we developed search challenges on the site is that they can be used as short instructional segments during class time or assigned outside of class time. The challenges are harder than most things students search for and focus on strategies and techniques that come in handy when performing research tasks. To get a flavor of some Challenges, visit this tutorials page.

Finding time during school is still a challenge. It hasn't become any easier and that's not going to change soon. One option to developing a new curriculum from scratch, meeting with students for one-shot sessions or doing nothing is to find ways to reward students for solving search challenges. You can run contests. You can use free search challenges from our site as the content. If interested, we can offer digital badges as an affordable package.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Incentivizing Information Literacy

Should you reward students who locate information, evaluate it and cite it properly?

Clatsop Community College in Astoria, OR is doing just that. With money funded by coffee donations, the library is offering cash prizes to research projects that demonstrate:
  • The proper use of in-text citations
  • The variety of sources
  • The reference page or works cited page
  • The evaluation of sources, and
  • The incorporation of sources into the paper
Visit the contest page

In what ways can you incentivize information literacy (fluency)? Would badges work for your students? At 21cif we are exploring the use of digital badges for solving a variety of search, evaluation and citation challenges. We're continuing to focus on discrete skills that lead to synthesis and a completed research paper.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How well do students evaluate online information?

As students continue to grow up online, are they getting any at discerning the credibility of the information they read? Are schools having an impact on students' information literacy?

A recent study by Donald Leu at the University of Connecticut indicates "no."

From the article:

" is important to observe that students in both districts performed at a low level during these online research and comprehension tasks. West Town students were able to respond correctly to ORCA items only about half of the time and East Town students only about 25% of the time. This represents very low mean levels of proficiency with online research and comprehension, and it raises an important concern about student preparedness for learning from online information at the seventh-grade level." source, page 53

The ORCA (Online Reading Comprehension Assessment) measured four clusters of skills that experts typically associate with information literacy (new literacies): locate, evaluate, synthesize and communicate. (It should be be noted that Information Fluency project focuses on the first two of these.) 

Two research performance tasks were given to 256 middle school students, namely, “How Do Energy Drinks Affect Heart Health?” and “Can Chihuahua Dogs Cure Asthma?" The combined results for the tasks are shown below--Means and (SD). The first column is West Town school, the second is East Town school (both are fictitious names). West Town is characterized as more affluent.

In terms of Locate and Evaluate skills, students with economic advantages demonstrated proficiency slightly better than 50% and 25%, respectively. Economically disadvantaged students achieved significantly lower marks. This reveals a digital divide between students based on economic advantage, but also shows that students persist in their inability critically to evaluate information found online.

The article is definitely worth reading and places these proficiencies in the context of reading online, which must not be overlooked in helping students locate, evaluate, synthesize and communicate digital information. Read more here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lies Around the World

It's always good to have lies online labeled. But most aren't.

Here's a website that showcases a number of Internet lies from what could normally be considered reputable sources. The content just doesn't stand up to fact checking. Looking at an author's reputation is not sufficient to determine credibility in these cases.

If you are looking for some good examples to use with students on how to fact check, pick a couple from the list.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Change of Ownership

A group of frustrated students prompted a teacher to write:

I have struggled mightily to find a Publisher for  Nothing I can find is accepted as the correct answer by the website.  My students are very frustrated as well.  Please advise how to find this information and also where to go for an answer key.

This makes a better--but harder--search than the original (found here under Who Owns It?:
Here's my response:
I'm glad you wrote. Better than being frustrated! There's a lesson for students in this: when you can't find the information you want, try a different source--in this case you went to the author. Well done.

You probably found the right information. I just did the search and the store seems to have changed hands.  It used to be owned by a family. Now it's owned by a larger business. Here are the results from a domain name registry search using GoDaddy:  (this provides more detail than a search)

Registry Domain ID: 3379187_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN
Registrar WHOIS Server:
Registrar URL:
Update Date: 2014-12-05 18:15:04
Creation Date: 1998-02-27 00:00:00
Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2018-02-26 00:00:00
Registrar:, LLC
Registrar IANA ID: 146
Registrar Abuse Contact Email:
Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +1.480-624-2505
Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited
Domain Status: clientUpdateProhibited
Domain Status: clientRenewProhibited
Domain Status: clientDeleteProhibited
Registry Registrant ID:
Registrant Name: John De Marco
Registrant Organization: Brandshopper, LP
Registrant Street: PO Box 20211
Registrant City: Lehigh Valley
Registrant State/Province: Pennsylvania
Registrant Postal Code: 18002
Registrant Country: United States
Registrant Phone: +1.6108375940
Registrant Phone Ext:
Registrant Fax:
Registrant Fax Ext:
Registrant Email:

Aha, A new owner--I'll have to update the answer key!
If you go back a couple of years and look at the same site using, your students will see a different address for the store:  Students could use to determine when the store changed ownership (it changed sometime this year).  It's also possible to find information about the change of ownership by querying 
wingsupply change ownership
Aren't you glad you asked?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Information Fluency Doesn't Stop With Retrieval

Looking for a hallmark case of consuming unreliable information?

The company that NYC hired to clean up the ebola-infected apartment of a Dr. there turned out to be a scam. Here's a sample article from the Daily News:

Once information is obtained, by retrieval, observation, word of mouth, etc., it's very tempting to treat it as reliable. In this case, the company's Chief Safety Officer surrounded himself with media to make it appear he was trustworthy.

It always pays to fact check.

How about googling the Chief Safety Officer's name and the name of the company?  Had someone queried

sal pane biorecovery

before the problems finally became public there wouldn't be a long history of the company. Yet Mr. Pane made the following claim: "For the past 27 years the company’s been around..."

The red flag that prompted suspicion came when officials identified Mr. Pane as a convicted felon. Another red flag: The company appears to have been in existence for 16 years.

Can you find more?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Searching Myth Exposed (again)

It's not true: growing up digital makes one an effective digital searcher.

We've stated this before in our book, Teaching Information Fluency, and now it comes from another source: Google.

Here's an article covering Dan Russell's (senior researcher at Google) talk at Strathclyde University:

The solution starts with teachers.

Research needs to be included in the curriculum.

"Knowing how to frame a question, pose a query, how to interpret the texts you find, how to organize and use the information you discover are all critical parts of being literate...."