Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Information Forensics goes to School

Yesterday, Dennis O'Connor and I presented "Information Forensics goes to School" at the NECC conference in Washington, D.C.*

We talked about how the investigative aspects of information fluency, which constitutes part of the missing curriculum at most schools, cuts across all subject matters, 21st Century Skills as well as ethics. The ability to track down and evaluate information about authors, publishers, publication dates, content and references is vital to research in any subject. The techniques used to locate and evaluate such information is integral to ICT literacy and the ability to cite information is definitely an aspect of ethics in scholarship. It's deplorable that the task of helping students develop these skills and attitudes is most often left to the school librarian. The entire faculty should share this responsibility.

We didn't actually rant that much during the session, but it needs to be said.

We also introduced a new resource being used by nearly 1,000 students at the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University this summer: Investigative Searching 20/10. This is a performance-based assessment and training package designed using Moodle and an array of Websites we created specifically for the purpose of diagnosing students' skills. The focus is on investigative searching and evaluation.

The results are as we predicted: even the most gifted students in middle school and high school, on average, cannot locate critical online information and evaluate it. Without someone to show them effective techniques, they browse hoping to stumble upon information that may be helpful to identify an author, a publisher, the date of publication, etc. Couple this with students' general "need for speed"--which contributes to important information being overlooked--and you have a recipe for failure and poor research.

Following a pretest which requires students to demonstrate techniques like querying and truncation, a series of self-paced tutorials steps through 5 main techniques, each followed by a mastery check activity. The 6-8 hour experience is capped off with a posttest of items comparable to the pretest. Students, on average, improve 15 to 20 percentage points. Not bad for a few hours work. The improvement would be even greater with continued use.

Sound like something you could use?

We are offering educators a chance to experience this package starting July 7. You may enroll up to July 28. We'll leave this section just for educators open for 4 weeks, although it takes less than a week to complete it. Our hope is that you will mine it and discover ways to use it with students as part of a systematic approach to online research or as part of an instructional unit. The full preview is available for a modest fee ($25); 8 CPDUs are awarded for completion.

To learn more about Investigative Searching 20/10, visit this link. (log in as guest)

From the tutorial on finding the author, here's a taste of what you'll get.

Find the first and last name of the author whose initials appear at the bottom of this article:

As you will discover from the associated tutorials, there are several ways you might try to solve this: browsing, querying and truncation. One of these is the most effective given the circumstances. See if you can do it.

*Our NECC presentation was recorded for anyone interested who wasn't there--I'll post the link when Apple publishes it.

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