Friday, November 15, 2019

Another Unimpressive Performance by US 8th Graders

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The latest results from the 2018 International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS) Web Report were published recently. Among the takeaways:

Two competency domains were tested:
  • CIL - Computer and Information Literacy 
  • CT - Computational Thinking
The results of CIL have a direct bearing on Information Fluency, the ability to find digital information efficiently, evaluate it effectively and use it ethically. Here's an excerpt from the results overview:
In the United States, female 8th-grade students outperformed their male peers in CIL, but male 8th-grade students outperformed female students in CT. Also, U.S. 8th-grade students with 2 or more computers at home performed better in both CIL and CT than their U.S. peers with fewer computers. Among U.S. 8th-grade students, 72 percent reported using the Internet to do research every school day or at least once a week, and 65 percent reported teaching themselves how to find information on the Internet.  source
It's the last finding that is noteworthy from an Information Fluency perspective. Two out of three students teach themselves how to search. That being said, it's remarkable the US average is above the world average, the US ranking #5, following Denmark, Moscow, Republic of Korea and Finland.

From our studies, the process of learning how to search for the majority of US students involves trial and error: entering keywords in a search engine (usually Google) and seeing if the results match expectations. While some search engines are getting better at interpreting whole language sentences or phrases used as queries, that remains a common practice. In fact, the better the machines become, the less apparent it becomes that full sentences isn't an effective way to find relevant information. It must be kept in mind that many sophisticated search engines still do business the old way: literal keywords. What works in Google doesn't work in all search engines, especially specialized ones. Therefore, constant exposure to Google and other semantic search engines, reduces trial and error learning. The results are just there.

And because relevant results seem to show up, they must be good, right? If 65% of US students teach themselves to search, one can only wonder what the percentage of students who teach themselves to evaluate information might be.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Searching in the Now

Inspired by California Wildfires, the Fall 2019 edition of the Full Circle Kit is now available.

One of the problems with searching the Internet is retrieving information that is too old to be useful. This is the case with ongoing natural disasters like the Kincade fire in Sonoma County. How do you stay current on changing conditions when, driven by gale-force winds, a lot can happen in just a few minutes?

The feature article reviews problems with old information online and how to find reliable real-time sources. There are many times having the freshest information possible doesn't matter. But when it's a matter of life and death, accessing the latest news can be crucial.

Other resources in this Kit include a Curriculum Connections group activity for students to compare the currency of information sources, an Internet Search Challenge on the Stock Market real time quotes and a Quiz for assessing students' grasp of necessary competencies.

Full Circle Fall 2019

The feature article is available without a subscription. The full Kit requires an annual membership. An individual membership is $20; a school license is $249.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

US students fall short in 'fake news' digital literacy tasks

Finnish sources recently shared the results of a study at an international school in which students "significantly outperformed U.S. students on tasks which measure digital literacy in social media and online news." source

The study suggests the differences are due to the way the Finnish curricula facilitates students' critical thinking skills, compared to the US.  In the Finnish International Baccalaureate school, critical thinking skills are taught explicitly in dedicated courses as well as the more traditional core subjects. In the US, critical thinking instruction occurs implicitly into subject coursework. For example, a course called Theory of Knowledge is aimed at developing critical thinking skills. Other courses extend this development in subject matter areas.

One takeaway from this study is the benefits to students who receive explicit instruction in critical thinking throughout the curriculum. Stanford University researchers, upon whose work this research is based, has labeled US students' abilities to discern fake news 'dismaying' and 'bleak.' 

Programs for facilitating critical thinking, when it comes to fake news, are available on sites such as Information Fluency. What is needed is the will of educational leaders to dedicate space in curriculum and instruction to their application.

Here are just a few of the resources that are available around which to design a course or embed in traditional subject matter:

15 Challenges (includes 8 Challenges on Investigative Searching/Thinking)
WSI (Website Investigator)
Author Tutorial (Investigative Searching/Thinking)
Publisher Tutorial
Bias Tutorial
Freshness Tutorial

The results of the study may be found in the April 2019 Journal of Research in International Education.

Introducing the 15 Challenges

Confused by where or how to get started on the path to Information Fluency?

Introducing the 15 Challenges, a new portal to Information Fluency. By completing these fifteen challenges, users are introduced to essential digital searching and evaluation tasks that include:

  • browsing
  • truncation
  • effective keyword queries
  • basic operators
  • finding better keywords in snippets
  • database selection
  • evaluating an author
  • evaluating a publisher
  • detecting bias
  • checking online reputation
  • fact checking
  • freshness checking
  • creating proper citations
Try it for yourself here:

Read more about the 15 Challenges in the Spring 2019 Full Circle Resource Kit

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Winter 2019 Full Circle Kit

The winter 2019 Full Circle Kit is now available online,

This quarter the topic is helping know where to look--database mining. This is different than data mining in that the process relies on student thinking to select relevant information, as opposed to software and algorithms that detect patterns in massive amounts of data.

If you find yourself creating search lists for your students, you need to read this article.

In addition to the feature article (viewable without a subscription), there is also a guide to curricular integration and assessment (with a subscription).

If you know a database you recommend students mine for information, post your suggestion here along with the type of assignment (e.g., history research paper). We'll gladly add your recommendations to the Feature article and credit you.

Winter 2019 Full Circle Kit

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Author Detective

Introducing the third revision in our series of Investigative Searching tutorials: AUTHOR.

No need to rely on the old Flash files any longer. There are 11 challenges in this set, from finding the name of an author to evaluating the author's credibility.

Get started here:

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Publisher Detective

Just released: Publisher Detective

Try it for free for a limited time. Nine exercises to help searchers track down and evaluate publishers of online information. Helps in the hunt for credible news.

This replaces the flash version archived on our site.