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.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Teaching Information Fluency


A year ago Dennis and I were contacted by Scarecrow Press to write a book based on the materials and understanding on our website, The result of the collaboration is a guide to embedding information fluency instruction into mainstream courses--chiefly middle school and high school.

The chapters include dozens of internet search challenge examples, including a whole chapter analyzing, one of our favorite Virgil Wong sites, plus evaluations of the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, the Harry Potter Sorting Hat Personality Test, and much more. The appendix can be used as a guide to creating mini lessons for instruction that reinforces Common Core Language Arts Standards while teaching valuable digital research skills.

Teaching Information Fluency is available on

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Citation Challenges

Tracking down missing information for a citation can be frustrating. Even though citation styles like MLA, Chicago and APA make allowances for missing information (e.g., no author, no date), many times all the information is available.
Tracking down elusive information takes some practice, careful scanning and investigative searching techniques.
For this reason, we created the Citation Challenge and Citation Assessment activities.

Citation Challenge offers three challenges of increasing complexity.
  • The first level requires players to identify what information satisfies citation requirements. For example, what is the Author's name, the date of publication, the publisher, the Web page, etc.
  • Level two is a live Internet search to locate information on an article on a NASA site. The player must locate the name of the author, date, etc. by scanning and browsing.
  • Level three is another live search that awards extra points for inputting the missing information in MLA style.
  • The whole package is an interactive companion to the Citation MicroModule on the site.
The Citation Assessment offers four levels of difficulty from beginner to advanced. The beginning levels require finding information on a web page with no further searching. The advanced levels require tracking down the original source of the information, using truncation to navigate to directories and metadata to determine last modified dates. Each level has two live searches. Players get a percentage score at the end and can print the results to hand in. We don't recommend using these activities as the basis for a grade. However, they do make good benchmarks for demonstrating skills and progress.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

White House Browsing Challenge

Since most of the Search Challenges on 21cif require using a search engine, it was time to create a browsing challenge.

Email Challenge

What makes browsing challenging is keeping keywords in mind that you are searching for and skimming for links that are relevant. In this case, the challenge is to find the URL of the page where you can write an email to the President.

The challenge starts at the home page of the White House. From there the solution is three clicks (actually four if you count the anti-spam control feature). This shouldn't take a careful reader more than a couple of minutes, which is how the timer is set.

Browsing presents novice searchers with problems. It's easy to click on useless links and get lost. One of the most challenging assessment tasks a couple years ago on Information Researcher 4.0 was a browsing task where the answer was only two clicks away. I was surprised how many students and parents couldn't find their way.

Fortunately, browsing can be accomplished using multiple routes. Some are longer; the goal is to be efficient, taking as little time as possible.

This is a good activity to see what keywords students have in mind for finding a way to write to the President. In this challenge, students can find a form to use to write to the President. Interestingly, the email address of the White House is elusive!