Thursday, October 23, 2014

More Study Welcome

Last week a group of moderate Democrat legislators signed a letter directed to the head of the National Academy of Sciences to study "digital literacy among pre-kindergarten through high school students and the types of digital education programs that are being deployed in schools." source

Among the notable points:
  • 2013: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) finds that American young adults ranked near the bottom for using digital skills to solve problems, including skills to acquire and evaluate information;
  • Appropriate policies and measures need to be put in place to tackle this disparity through pre-K to Grade 12 education programs;
  • Five aspects of digital literacy are highlighted for study:
    • define skills and abilities that comprise 'digital literacy'
    • summarize current levels of digital literacy across grades, ethnicity, SES and location
    • characterize the range of program currently available to help students in preK-12
    • review and synthesize research on effectiveness of digital education programs
    • recommend federal, state and local policies to reduce gaps in abilities and educational offerings
More study, especially from the top, is welcome and overdue. Without policies, gaps will persist. Hopefully best practices in digital information literacy will become more widespread as a result.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Five Surprises regarding Information Literacy

EBSCO just published its "surprising" findings regarding college students' information literacy, or as I like to call it, information fluency competencies. This is an indication of what research skills students are taught (or not) in high school and what sticks.

Surprise 1: Grade Nine Bootcamp is the one that sticks. A positive correlation was found between what and how students are taught about research in their freshman year of high school and how they conducted research in college. Ninth grade is viewed as a "critical period" for training.

Surprise 2:  Lazy doesn't mean Slothful.  Students value and practice efficient practices--there's only so much time for research.

Surprise 3: Wikipedia--The Open Secret.  Even though professors warn against using it, students typically depend on Wikipedia anyway.

Surprise 4: When I need Help I ask my Friend.  They tend not to ask a librarian even though they are aware that librarians are available to help. If their friend remembers anything from ninth grade bootcamp, all the better.

Surprise 5: The Calculations that go into Evaluating Results. Student seldom go beyond the first page of Google results and use the bold keywords as a test to whether they should invest time skimming an abstract.

Not-so Surprising Conclusions:
  1. Students are comfortable with technology, but are by no means expert searchers.
  2. Students need significant support to perform college-level research
Read the complete article here:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Email Spam

source: photobucket
Information Fluency applies to more than academic research.

Here's an example of a spam email that could trip up an unsuspecting friend, especially if the circumstances were right.

I happen to know that my friend Fred is not currently in the Philippines. But if I didn't know that or, worse yet, knew that he was visiting there, I might be less skeptical and more willing to help.

Here's the email, which I assume has been going around the Internet for some time:

Good Morning,

I really hope you get this fast. I could not inform anyone about our trip, because it was impromptu. we had to be in Philippines for Tour. The program was successful, but our journey has turned sour. we misplaced our wallet and cell phone on our way back to the hotel we lodge in after we went for sight seeing. The wallet contained all the valuables we had. Now, our Luggage is in custody of the hotel management pending when we make payment. all we have left are just our Passports. I am sorry if i am inconveniencing you, but i have only very few people to run to now. i will be indeed very grateful if i can get a short term loan from you ($2,600). this will enable me sort our hotel bills and get my sorry self back home. I will really appreciate whatever you can afford in assisting me with. I promise to refund it in full as soon as I return. let me know if you can be of any assistance. Please, let me know soonest.

All hopes on you


Interestingly, Fred is the type of person who would sign Peace. This could be a coincidence, but the day is coming when spammers who know something about us, including if we're on a trip, will certainly take advantage of that information.

The conclusive investigative technique I used to verify that this was not the Fred I know (who uses better grammar than this) was to compare the email addresses.  The From email was in fact Fred's. The Reply to was not, but eerily close: an additional letter had been added to the name, as in this example:

original:   close copy:

It pays to check email addresses.

If you have examples to share (even with other solutions), post them here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A New Framework for Fluency?

This article caught my eye today:

Reimagining Information Literacy Competencies 
Posted On July 29, 2014

'The task force was charged with updating the information literacy competency standards for higher education “so that they reflect the current thinking on such things as the creation and dissemination of knowledge, the changing global higher education and learning environment, the shift from information literacy to information fluency, and the expanding definition of information literacy to include multiple literacies, e.g., transliteracy, media literacy, digital literacy, etc.”'

Full article

The higher education community has always been at the forefront of the information "literacy" movement. This new thinking represents new challenges for high schools, middle schools and elementary schools to redefine how they prepare students for college and personally motivated research.

One wonders if it will renew interest in information preparedness in primary and secondary schools, and how.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Finding a Publication Date

Here's a common problem: You find a resource online that you want to cite, but the publication date is missing.

The case in question here is this article by Joseph Renzulli: A Practical System for Identifying Gifted and Talented Students.

The article references a number of studies and articles from the 1980's. How recent is the article itself?

It's not a hard problem to solve. Normally, start on the page itself and if clues don't reveal themselves, truncate the URL to see if there's a directory with date information, or try Page Info to see when the page was last updated. Upon investigation, there doesn't immediately seem to be a listing of articles on the site and the last update for this page was in 2013. This doesn't seem that accurate since the article is mostly about older findings.

So one investigation technique is to query Google (or another database) with the title of the article.

Try it and see what date you find.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Finding a File Not Found

Seeing this result is a pretty common Internet experience:

I came across one today as I was doing research on entrepreneurship for a chapter I am writing for a National Association of Gifted Children handbook. The claim is made that the number of college-level courses in entrepreneurship has increased by a factor of 20 since the 1980's. I'd like to cite the original source, but when I click the link in the article to the pdf the article author included, I get the 404 Error.

Rarely, if ever, is this a dead end. As I told participants in a workshop last week, there's almost always a way to find the information. The first place to start is at the source. Look around the original site, in this case it's the Kaufmann Foundation, for clues to the whereabouts of the "not found" information.

The missing file is this: eship-ed-comes-of-age_report.pdf

Staying close to the source, see if you can find the report.  Post your solution to Comments.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

WSI: Web Site Investigator
Dennis O'Connor is having students in his online course at the University of Wisconsin-Stout work through the activities in Web Site Investigator. We updated this package recently and it has proven to be an effective way for students to teach themselves effective Web evaluation skills.

It's well-known (from ours and other's research*) that students spend little time evaluating the information they retrieve from the Web.

For this reason, we created a detective game that incorporates information evaluation as the forensics activity. WSI: Web Site Investigator features four Web sites where students look for evidence that the information is credible or suspect:
  • The Air Car (a car that runs on air)
  • New Zealand Golf Cross (a golf game played with an elliptical ball)
  • The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus (an endangered cephalopod found in trees)
  • Sorting Hat Personality Test (an online questionnaire that determines your Hogwarts house)
The WSI package provides a background article on each site and a link to the online site itself. Also included in the package are eight self-paced tutorials on investigative techniques that may be used to determine if the sites are bonafide or bogus:
In addition, there is an Evaluation Wizard for each of the four sites that investigators may use to file a case report to turn in if the package is used as part of a course. Dennis has his students complete and submit a Case Report on one of the sites selected by the student. For the Case Report, each student examines three aspects from the bulleted list above in order to back up a claim that the site is trustworthy or not. The deeper the investigation goes, the more interesting the discoveries--it's actually fun.  The objective is that students understand how investigative techniques may be used and start to question the veracity of EVERYTHING they find online. You can't tell if information can be trusted without investigation.

Try it out for yourself!

* The reader is directed to our new book Teaching Information Fluency for more information on student's lack of evaluation skills.