Sunday, May 9, 2010

Poop for Power

My Call for Reviewers was a little too successful last week. Before I knew it, 50 people had applied and I only needed 15. In case you went to the website site to apply and it was already taken down, my apologies. Everyone who applied was well-qualified. It was a painful selection process--I hated to turn anyone away.

So here's a glimpse of one of the items that was originally developed for Information Investigator 2.0 that didn't quite make it (because it was too hard).

First, a little about Information Investigator. Part of the package consist of a pretest and posttest designed to measure information fluency, in particular, investigative competencies.  Those competencies include knowledge and skills to use techniques like truncation, browsing, skimming, querying, special operators, etc., to help determine the credibility of information.

The pretest consists of 10 performance items. The posttest has 10 different items, measuring the same sets of skills. It's hard to guess the answers, and as a result, students tend to score in the 45-55% range on the pretest. After training, scores go up by about 15 points on average.

Here's one of the performance items that I developed but didn't use for the posttest. I felt it was too challenging. But it's a good challenge for this blog, nonetheless--one that really brings out the reference librarian in a person.

The back story is related to the use of animal waste to produce energy. There are lots of examples: L'Oreal powering a cosmetics plant with cow manure, the Dutch recycling chicken waste to power nearly 100,000 homes, and then there are some stories that seem a little harder to believe.

One of these is a story dating back to 2006 about San Francisco exploring the possibility of turning dog poop into methane to power households in that city. Here's a sample news report about it. The people of San Francisco have a lot of dogs. Dogs produce a lot of waste. Waste can be turned into methane. Did they ever do it? 

The challenge is:  
Fact check to see if San Francisco is using dog poop for power in 2010.  

Rather than just make it a yes or no question, here are some possibilities (multiple choice):

1. This is a hoax. There is no evidence that San Francisco ever considered using dog poop as a power source. 

2. This was never more than a proposal. Development never started. 

3. San Francisco has not yet started the program but still plans to do so.  

4. San Francisco started to collect dog poop for methane but later discontinued the practice.

5. San Francisco continues to use dog poop as a power source today. 

What do you conclude?  (If you live in San Francisco, this might be easier)

No comments: