Monday, February 23, 2015

Still a Challenge

not enough time
Here's a challenge: According to a recent survey by ImagineEasy, an online citation and research management platform that includes EasyBib, school libraries are addressing information literacy in ways that are consistent with colleges having to train incoming student in digital researching.

Learning to search efficiently in several databases, evaluate the information and cite it are not difficult skills. Yet most students aren't up to the task when they arrive at college. Here's why:

The following profile of K-12 schools emerges from the 1,100+ responses to the survey:
  • 37% of K-12 schools offer one shot sessions in researching
  • 23% offer a combination of approaches
  • 12% offer nothing
  • 9% are currently developing curriculum
  • 0% offer a course
  • (apparently the rest didn't answer the question)
"One shot" instruction is the norm. I've heard numerous participants at workshops in information fluency describe this model: you get the students for 45 minutes and need to teach them to use the library and related tools. Not an effective model for teaching how to formulate a research question, how to turn that into a query, know which database(s) to search and what to do with the results. Students are left to learn that on their own, armed with experience using Google.

When asked how confident students feel about their search skills, they tend to overrate their abilities (confidence is higher than demonstrated proficiency). source: Teaching Information Fluency Most of this self-perception probably comes from being self-taught and a steady diet of easy Internet searches. Teachers are also susceptible to thinking more of their abilities than is deserved. When encountering a challenging search problem, they get as frustrated as students.

One of the reasons we developed search challenges on the site is that they can be used as short instructional segments during class time or assigned outside of class time. The challenges are harder than most things students search for and focus on strategies and techniques that come in handy when performing research tasks. To get a flavor of some Challenges, visit this tutorials page.

Finding time during school is still a challenge. It hasn't become any easier and that's not going to change soon. One option to developing a new curriculum from scratch, meeting with students for one-shot sessions or doing nothing is to find ways to reward students for solving search challenges. You can run contests. You can use free search challenges from our site as the content. If interested, we can offer digital badges as an affordable package.

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