Recently in Information Literacy Category

Writing and First Year Writing Instructor Orientations

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It was a busy week of orientation. I wanted to share all of the various PPTs and handouts. Please use as needed.

Monday, August 30-Library Tools for Teaching

Wednesday, September 1--New FYW instructors

Project Information Literacy: Frustrations

Friday, September 3--All FYW instructors

Study Like a Scholar:

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to discuss how the Libraries can support your teaching (or research)!
Walter Library 239

Article on research

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Writing a Paper? Try These 7 Research Tips
February 10, 2010 05:39 PM ET | Lynn F. Jacobs, Jeremy S. Hyman

Once in a while you get hit with it: the 15- to 25-page research paper, also called the term paper or semester project. This is your chance to join the community of the 20 percent or so of college professors who are actually doing research. How do they do it? And how can you? Have a look at our seven best tips for doing research like a professor:

1. Start from where you are.
2. Think E.
3. Discover WorldCat.
4. Learn the shortcuts.
5. Use the resources that live and breathe.
6. Learn about ILL.
7. Look for "gateway" sources.

PRCs available for spring

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PRC_ad_UGVL.jpgDo you have a student who need extra help with research? Do you have any students who complain they can't find any sources? Do some of your students bibliographies not meet your expectations? Please talk to your students about the Peer Research Consultants (PRC) program. The program's goal is to support FYW students as they do library research and find sources to use in their writing. Your students can sit down one-on-one and get personalized research help on their topics. The PRCs build on skills learned in the Unravel the Library workshops.

New for spring:

*Evening drop-in hours available Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays with daily drop-in hours Monday-Friday in Wilson Library, Walter Library, and Appleby Hall.
*Students can get a certificate to show they have worked with the PRCs. This can be useful for giving points or extra credit.
*Like last semester, the PRCs are available for class visits and/or we can send you fliers for class distribution.

How many students were seen in fall?

*The PRCs met with over 60 students in fall semester-this exceeded our estimates for this new program.
*Over 60% of students were in WRIT 1301 and 3% from WRIT 1201
*In general, students met with PRCs for over 30 minutes for in-depth guidance

What did students have to say about the PRCs?
Here are some quotes from students this fall:

*"She was very helpful when I was looking for specific information on the library website. She explained the website very well and gave excellent tips!"
*"He was very helpful in helping me figure out what I wanted to write my paper on and where I could find the sources. Afterwards I was able to understand my paper."
*"Approachable advising that assisted me with furthering my research goals; very useful."

How do students find out about the PRCs?

*From you--their class instructors. Over 50% of the students heard about the program from FYW instructors.

For more information visit: The PRCs are also linked from the Undergraduate Virtual Library (

Selecting a topic...
This used to be one of the steps in the research process that I would breeze over--mention that students should select a topic they are interested in and then go right into keywords and finding sources. A couple of weeks ago I co-lead a session on research and writing and I have now been rethinking this attitude.

I realize there are many challenges in picking a topic--especially for first year students or those new to a discipline:
--might not know enough background information
--might not know how to identify or narrow a topic by different facets of a topic
--don't want to spend time researching a dumb topic (but don't know it might be dumb until they do searching)
--don't know any good journals or authors on the topic
--topic selection is very personal and reflects on them (FY students often want to make "safe" choices) to the other students in the class

If I was asked to do a paper on an engineering topic or on greek history (two things I don't know much about) it would be very difficult. Certainly harder when you add in procrastination.

One idea is to create research communitites. Group students based on their initial topic or even assign broad topic areas (e.g. higher education, sports, history, local issues, gender issues, etc.). Ask this group to collaborate on their preliminary research--maybe create a group concept map [learn more] on the broad topic. Ask them to help narrow their topics and connect those in the concept map.

Later on this research community can share how they are doing research and where are they successful finding sources.

This ideas recreates the same research communities that most faculty and instructors are involved in. Your peers and other sholars form both a formal and informal community--we take this for granted.

Are you involved with a research community? What do you gain from it? How can you recreate such things in your class?

Help your students research their way to an A!

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prc_graphic.jpgWe are pleased to announce the availability of the Peer Research Consultants. Please encourage your students to drop in for one-on-one help with their research. Students can get help narrowing a topic, finding articles and books, selecting academic sources, evaluating and more. The PRCs are familiar with the Unravel workshops and will help build on the skills learned in these sessions. The PRCs are focused on teaching students as they help them with their research questions.

For Fall 2009, during our pilot phase, we are concentrating on supporting First Year Writing (all of the PRCs have completed WRIT 1301 with a grade of B or higher), SEAM (Student Excellence in Academics and Multiculturalism) and as part of MCAE's Academic Resources.

Fall 2009 Walk-in Hours:
Monday: 10:30 to 1:30 (Walter Library-SMART Commons)

Tuesday: 1:30 to 4:30 (Wilson Library-SMART Commons)

Wednesday: 1:30 to 3:00 (Walter Library-SMART Commons)
1:30 to 2:30 (MCAE in Appleby Hall)

Thursday: 12:00 to 2:00 (MCAE in Appleby Hall)

Friday: 1:30 to 4:00 (Wilson Library-SMART Commons)
1:30 to 4:30 (Walter Library-SMART Commons)

Students can drop in during walk-in hours without an appointment. If students would like to make an appointment they can be arranged directly with our consultants. For more information and to meet our consultants go to the PRC website: or blog:

If you are interested in print flyers, please let us know ( or and we will send enough for your class through campus mail. The PRCs are also available for short class visits (around 5 minutes) to promote their services--If you are interested, let us know ( or and we can schedule.

This program was developed in partnership with the University Libraries, MCAE: Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence and the SMART Learning Commons.

more than google

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Information literacy more than just Googling

Sharon Weiner, the recently appointed W. Wayne Booker Endowed Chair in Information Literacy for Purdue Libraries, is the vice president of the National Forum on Information Literacy. Here, Weiner answers questions about her position and the importance of information literacy beyond the basic Google search....

Q: What can a reference librarian do that I can't do on Google?

A: They know about more sophisticated strategies to find information and more efficient ways to find information than Google and teach you. They can teach you to evaluate those sources you find on Google and get better, more accurate results.

Here is a recording of a workshop with Dr. Scott Slattery, University Counseling and Consulting Services, Noro Andriamanalina, Ph.D., Director of Academic and Professional Development--The Graduate School and Office of Postdoctoral Affairs and myself. It was recorded a couple of weeks ago to an audience of 140 students.
Please let me know if you have questions.


View in a larger player:


- - - - - - -

Every day, we are inundated with vast amounts of information. A 24-hour news cycle and thousands of global television and radio networks, coupled with an immense array of online resources, have challenged our long-held perceptions of information management. Rather than merely possessing data, we must also learn the skills necessary to acquire, collate, and evaluate information for any situation. This new type of literacy also requires competency with communication
technologies, including computers and mobile devices that can help in our day-to-day decisionmaking. National Information Literacy Awareness Month highlights the need for all Americans to be adept in the skills necessary to effectively navigate the Information Age.

Though we may know how to find the information we need, we must also know how to evaluate it. Over the past decade, we have seen a crisis of authenticity emerge. We now live in a world where anyone can publish an opinion or perspective, whether true or not, and have that opinion amplified within the information marketplace. At the same time, Americans have unprecedented access to the diverse and independent sources of information, as well as institutions such as libraries and universities, that can help separate truth from fiction and signal from noise.

Our Nation's educators and institutions of learning must be aware of -- and adjust to -- these new realities. In addition to the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic, it is equally important that our students are given the tools required to take advantage of the information available to them. The ability to seek, find, and decipher information can be applied to countless life decisions, whether financial, medical, educational, or technical.

This month, we dedicate ourselves to increasing information literacy awareness so that all citizens understand its vital importance. An informed and educated citizenry is essential to the functioning of our modern democratic society, and I encourage educational and community institutions across the country to help Americans find and evaluate the information they seek, in all its forms.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 2009 as National Information Literacy Awareness Month. I call upon the people of the United States to recognize the important role information plays in our daily lives, and appreciate the need for a greater understanding of its impact.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.

Living with too much information?

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We would all agree that we live in an Information Age. In fact it is a Too-Much Information Age. How are our skills for dealing with information going to need to change? And what skills do we need to be teaching students to deal with this?

Should we be teaching social media? Should we be teaching Twitter Literacies? Should we be teaching students to dip into the flow of information or how to be an information nomad?

Here are a couple things from Howard Rheingold who teaches Participatory Media/Collective Action at UC Berkeley's School of Information, Digital Journalism at Stanford University.

Social Media Classroom:

Here is a 40 minute presentation on teaching 21st century literacies. He talks about changes he made to his college courses.

Howard Rheingold's 21st century literacies:

* Attention- knowing how to focus and how to divide your attention without losing the ability to concentrate. It's more than multitasking; it's learning how to exercise attention.
* Participation- particularly the more constructive modes of participation that are useful to others
* Collaboration- being ready to organize together, and enable a collective response to emerge
* Critical consumption-aka "crap detection" the ability to spot bad info from good.
* Network awareness- the combination of reputation, social capital, "presentation of self" and other sensitivity to individual positioning within the network collective.

Literacies = skills + community

Now I just have to find some time to read more....

Peer Research Consultants

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I included this information in a post last week but it was so important that I have decided to include it in its own post...

Peer Research Consultants (Pilot) Program **NEW**
The University Libraries, Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence (MCAE), and SMART Learning Commons have come together to pilot a program of providing peer tutors for students on library and academic research--specifically First Year Writing students. PRCs have completed WRIT 1301 and will receive extensive training in library research, information literacy, tutoring and cultural competencies. We have hired three students for Fall and they will be available for one-on-one appointments and drop-ins in early October at the SMART Learning Commons and MCAE. I will send more information about times and locations soon. PRC can help students with:
--Selecting and narrowing a topic
--Finding Books and articles
--Finding scholarly articles
--Evaluating sources
--Basic citation creation

More information coming soon....

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walter_study2.jpgA group I am chairing within the Libraries, the Information Literacy Collaborative, is pleased to announce that we will be working with a group from this year's cohort of the President's Emerging Leader's (PEL) program (

As part of the PEL program, participants work on a project designed to address essential strategic questions facing the University. Project proposals are submitted from across the University, and our project, "Teaching 21st Century Literacies Through the University Libraries to Support the Undergraduate Experience" was selected.

Here is some background

Are our students prepared to live and work as digital citizens in the Knowledge Age? Are our students prepared to be lifelong learners? There is a set of skills that cross disciplines and departments on campus, often referred to as 21st century literacies. It includes:
• Information literacy (ability to find, evaluate, organize and use information to inform and solve problems)
• Media literacy (ability to question, analyze, interpret, evaluate, and create media messages)
• Visual literacy (ability to understand and produce visual messages)
• Digital literacy (ability to use digital technology, communications tools or networks to locate, evaluate use and create information)
• Statistical literacy (ability to analyze and understand data to produce meaningful information)
These skills are vital to academic and professional success. They help students adapt and thrive in the changing landscape of information, media and technology on the road of lifelong learning. They need to be taught and reinforced throughout a student's life at the University both within and outside of the classroom.

more coming soon...

Assignment: Baloney Detection Kit

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Have student watch the following:

  1. How reliable is the source of the claim?
  2. Does teh wources make similar claims?
  3. Has the claims been verified by somebody else?
  4. Does this fit with the way the world works?
  5. Has anyone tried to disprove the claim?
  6. Where does the preponderance of evidence point?
  7. Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?
  8. Is the claimant providing positive evidence?
  9. Does the new theory account for as many phenomena as the old theory?
  10. Are personal beliefs driving the claim?

Then have students create a class Baloney Detection Kit--basically criteria for evaluating information and evidence they use in the class. Post this in the class site and ask students to find two sources (one credible, one not so credible or one website and one newspaper, or one .org and .gov) and apply the detection kit.


Do you use Wikipedia? Do your students? Do you trust the information? Do your students? Do you know how Wikipedia works? Do you students? Have them do research on Wikipedia to understand more of how the entries get created and edited. I have read about many examples of students becoming Wikipedia editors--this might be especially useful in Sci/Tech writing.

Wikipedia to Limit Changes to Articles on People
New York Times
Published: August 24, 2009

"The change is part of a growing realization on the part of Wikipedia's leaders that as the site grows more influential, they must transform its embrace-the-chaos culture into something more mature and dependable.

Roughly 60 million Americans visit Wikipedia every month. It is the first reference point for many Web inquiries -- not least because its pages often lead the search results on Google, Yahoo and Bing. Since Michael Jackson died on June 25, for example, the Wikipedia article about him has been viewed more than 30 million times, with 6 million of those in the first 24 hours....

Foundation officials intend to put the system into effect first with articles about living people because those pieces are ripe for vandalism and because malicious information within them can be devastating to those individuals....

Wikipedians have been fanatical about providing sources for facts, with teams of editors adding the label "citation needed" to any sentence without a footnote.

"We have really become part of the infrastructure of how people get information," Mr. Wales said. "There is a serious responsibility we have."

Read more:

First Year Writing and the Library

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Here are some highlights from a draft report on FYW and the Library:

  • After piloting Unravel the Library 2: Finding Scholarly Articles online tutorial in late spring and summer 2008, we rolled out the session in fall. We used Moodle to administer the quiz in both the Face-to-Face and online environments.
  • Overall, in 2008-09 we increased the number of students we taught with the Unravels series by about 30%.
  • We saw good acceptance for the online modules: about 50% of students that completed Unravel 2 took the online version.
  • The average quiz scores in Unravel 2 were between 85% and 87% overall. We define a score of 80% and above as successful thus student learning was achieved in both the face-to-face and online sessions.
  • We need to increase tracking of who is completing the Unravel the Library workshops to better assess how well we are reaching First Year Writing students.

Read the entire report here: FYW_Library_Report_Fall08_Spring09_2.doc


desperately information-illiterate

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"The debate over how we read, perpetuated largely by media insiders, is starting to seem like little more than a distraction from the real problem: We have access to more information than ever, yet we do not know what to do with it. We are desperately information-illiterate."

"Information literacy is a liberal arts graduation requirement at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College, which makes the school a rarity, says Thomas Eland, coordinator of its information studies program."

"These students are really bright people, and when you push them to critically analyze the sources, they just don't know," Eland explains. "It's amazing how much people just take in, and really don't have the tools to critically unpack it, to understand the structures of media production and whose interests are being promoted. . . . It tells me a lot about why the public can be manipulated at so many different levels by advertisers and politicians."

"Eland believes that media literacy should be a high school requirement, which seems like a no-brainer--10 or 20 years ago, even. For now, it seems that burden is being shouldered by school librarians, which would be a more promising scenario if they weren't often among the first heads on districts' budgetary chopping blocks."

Read more:

new media literacies

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What skills do we need to teach students to be both consumers and producers? Seems like the perfect intersection of information literacy and writing:

  • judgement
  • appropriation
  • play to problem solve
  • transmedia navigation
  • collective intelligence
  • visualization
  • multitasking

How are your Crap Detection skills?

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detector.jpgA little more on evalulation...this blog post gives good tips with a humorous edge:

"The first thing we all need to know about information online is how to detect crap, a technical term I use for information tainted by ignorance, inept communication, or deliberate deception. Learning to be a critical consumer of Webinfo is not rocket science. It's not even algebra. Becoming acquainted with the fundamentals of web credibility testing is easier than learning the multiplication tables. The hard part, as always, is the exercise of flabby think-for-yourself muscles."

"To me, the issue of information literacy could be even more important than the health or education of some individuals. Fundamental aspects of democracy, economic production, the discovery and use of knowledge might be at stake."

Overall, a great opinion piece with both engaging examples and actionable tips..

image credit:

No more librarians in school libraries?

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seattletimes.jpgFrom the Seattle Times:
"Bellevue School District's decision to eliminate all of its high-school and middle-school library programs is a scorched-earth policy it will soon regret, writes Michael Eisenberg, dean emeritus of the University of Washington's Information School. Research skills are critical to student success in the 21st century."

"...But information literacy and research skills don't teach themselves. Librarians do it. They collaborate with classroom teachers to ensure such skills are woven through the curriculum. They also build rich collections and services in their physical and online libraries. They're also the only educators specifically trained to teach information and technology skills."

Scary times, scary times...

Search strategies in Plain English

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If you aren't familiar with Commoncraft, get ready for a short, easily-understandable explanation. They started with Web 2.0 tools and have expanded. Here is a great explanation for searching for web sites.

So how can we rif on this for explaining library searching?

Certainly this is not "new" but this video may help start a discussion in class about these issues...

--and how the frustrations can be avoided or minimized. How can we minimize student's frustration with research? Is there a certain amount of frustration that you have to go through? What are students failure points?

Executive Order from California

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I am afraid I do not know much history of how this came to be but I can certainly support the intent of the order (if only California wasn't in such a debt crisis some of these might have had more of a change for increased funding)..but it certainly looks good on official executive order paper...

WHEREAS ICT Digital Literacy is defined as using digital technology, communications tools and/or networks to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, create and communicate information in order to function in a knowledge-based economy and society; and

WHEREAS Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) Digital Literacy is a defining component of California's competitiveness for a knowledge-based economy and is growing in importance to attract capital investment that will generate higher quality jobs; and

WHEREAS a California ICT Digital Literacy Policy would support a framework and continuum of digital literacy skills, benchmarking, and metrics consistent with globally accepted standards, and would ensure accountability for assessing progress and success; and

WHEREAS ICT Digital Literacy skills are vital to California's ability to compete successfully in a global information and knowledge economy; and


Poor use of Wikipedia strikes again

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wikipedia_logo.jpg"HOW EASY is it for a 22-year-old, overly curious sociology student from UCD to influence the national press around the world? Quite easy is the short answer."

Basically this student added a fake quote to a Wikipedia entry on a person who had just died. The quote make its way to obits and stories around the world--seemingly no one bothered to check before printing it. It seems user generated content is part of the information world--what critical thinking skills are needed to cope?

Read more:

an interesting article in the Chronicle:

Not Enough Time in the Library by Todd Gilman

*"While college students may be computer-literate, they are not, as a rule, research-literate. And there's a huge difference between the two."

*"Students do not come to college armed with those skills, nor are they likely to be acquired without guidance. Yet students desperately need such skills if they hope to function effectively in our information-driven economy. As Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams opine in The Craft of Research: The "vast majority of students will have careers in which, if they do not do their own research, they will have to evaluate and depend on the research of others. We know of no way to prepare for that responsibility better than to do research of one's own." "

*"Faculty members in Yale's English department clearly recognize the growing importance of research education: They have just agreed to increase fivefold the number of undergraduates who will attend library sessions as an integral part of their introductory writing and literature courses (from 350 to roughly 1,900)."

*Reinforce the lesson with an assignment. Devise a for-credit assignment that echoes what you and the librarian have shown the students....You might also incorporate a component that challenges students to evaluate the quality of information they find, such as comparing the top results returned by a keyword search in Google with those returned in Academic Search Premier with the peer-reviewed box checked. Which results are more authoritative, and how can students tell?"

What do you think?

Do your students use Wikipedia?

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Do you think your students use Wikipedia? Do you tell them not to use Wikipedia? Do you talk to them about how to use it correctly?

What do you think?

Student confessions to librarians

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confessional.jpg This article from Inside HigherEd written by Mary George, a librarian at Princeton, contains a couple of jewels which we librarians here all the time at the reference desks--from students at all levels first year to grad student and all disciplines from engineering to the humanities. Here are a few of my favorites:
* I’m confused about the difference between a primary and a secondary source.
* I’m afraid I’ll be cheating if I take references from someone else’s bibliography.
* This journal/magazine isn’t digitized, so I guess we don’t have it and I can’t get it.

I also like the questions George starts the story with:
* When professors assign a library project to undergraduates, just what do they expect students to learn from the research part of the experience?
* What do professors think students are doing to come up with the sources in their papers?
* If there is a discrepancy between pedagogical intent and actual student research behavior, how do faculty members address it?
* Or do they care, especially since they may not spot a student’s research problem until the end of a course and may well not see that student again?
* Does the end of a well-written, well-supported argument justify whatever means a student uses to acquire sources?"

These sort of real life confessions should help to convince instructors both in first year writing and across campus the need to teach, re-teach and reinforce research skills.

Did you Know 3.0 for 2008 - Newly Revised Edition Created by Karl Fisch, and modified by Scott McLeod; Globalization & The Information Age (Shift Happens:

It was even adapted by Sony BMG at an executive meeting they held in Rome this year.

kids.jpg It can be tempting but problematic to make assumptions of the web and researching skills students have. Like everything else they vary from student to student depending on where they went to elementary, middle or high school, if there is a computer at home, if they are first generation college students and many other factors. This is a good article on a best case situation of a motivated, trained school librarian but many students continue to need these same skills reinforced here at the University.

In Web Age, Library Job Gets Update
Published: February 16, 2009-New York Times
School librarians are increasingly teaching digital skills, but they often become the first casualties of budget crunches.

Here at the U
The University Libraries are much larger and vast (15th largest library system in the country) than anything students have used before. It can be challenging to apply the skills they learned earlier to this new library system. We offer many resources and services to integrate the library more fully into your courses. Talk to your students about their skills level, pay special attention to the quality of sources they are citing and please let us know how we can help--that is what we are here for!

Workshop on Designing Research Assignments

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Please join us for Designing Effective Library Research Assignments

Do your students have trouble selecting appropriate sources? Do they too often rely on Google and Wikipedia? Learn strategies to design engaging library research assignments. Discuss assumptions faculty make about students skills and challenges students face when using the library.

Time: Monday, January 12, 2009 11:30 AM -- 12:30 PM
Location: Walter Library Room 314
Available Seats: 14
To register go to: or feel free to drop in.

Thinking skills

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Here is a mini blog round up from a few blogs I have been following. Here are some of the quotes that jumped out at me as I read:

1. From an interview with Dame Lynn Brindley, Director of the British Library....
"We did a recent study on the information behaviour of the Google generation, which came out with some high - level messages. This generation who've never known life before the internet, who are our readers of the future of course, have mostly great technology skills but have quite patchy information skills - because they use the search engines a lot, they bounce around, they go very broad, they struggle to go deep. They don't have critical research skills to enable them to critique what they're finding. We're doing some major thought leadership on this. This reinterpretation of what are the skills necessary in this new environment is a very big theme and of big importance for the future role of professional librarians.

But it's not what we used to call user education. It is a much bigger theme of media literacy and critical thinking skills - not just trusting what Google gets you."


2. This is a post about search engine optimization and the need for Librarians to learn more about it, use it and then teach about it.
"And some more: do academic courses set people up for life outside? Irrespective of whether they do or not, does the library serve students on those courses well within the context of their course? Does the library provide students with skills they will be able to use when they leave the campus and go back to the real world and live with Google. (?Back to?? Hah - I wonder how much traffic on HEI networks is launched by people clicking on links from pages that sit on the domain?) Should libraries help students pass their courses, or give them skills that are useful after graduation? Are those skills the same skills? Or are they different skills (and if so, are they compatible with the course related skills?)?"

3. This is a blog which quotes a book chapter by LeRoy Hay entitled “Thinking Skills for the Information Age? in an ACSD book entitled Developing Minds A Resource Book for Teaching Thinking:
"In the industrial-age model of education, all students were expected to master the ability to recall and comprehend information. In recent years, we have added the expectation that students should be able to apply information to problem solving. But mastery of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation skills has been, and for the most part remains, the focus of learning for only the best and brightest. that must change if most of our students are going to be information service workers in the future.

No longer can we rely on a small segment of our population with college degrees to be the thinkers of society. The creme de la creme of our students leave our schools better educated than ever before, with the high-level thinking skills that will serve them well in the information age. The problem is that there isn’t enough cream in the graduating crop to meet the rapidly growing need for information workers. so the real challenge lies with the students in the middle. How can we improve their thinking skills so that they are prepared to succeed in the information-based society of the third millennium?"


My Bookmarks

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Do you have a social bookmark site set up? It is a the same as the bookmarks on your web browser except it is web based so it travels with you.

If you want to learn more about my professional interests (Information Literacy) and site I have saved, please take a look:

I am happy to help you set up your own social bookmarking site (it doesn't have to be social, either). To learn more take a look at the Social Bookmarking in Plain English.