Monday, September 28, 2009

Google to Teach Library Search Techniques?

I am contemplating using this kind of thing as exercise or demo for my next batch of "Introduction to Searching" workshops (as well as for a self-paced information literacy tutorial we are revamping.

One of the connections I seek to make when teaching is the importance of early search strategy steps such as gathering a list of keywords and combining them in such a way that you get relevant results. In other words, "making the sale" to students to invest some time and thought into brainstorming/crafting a useful search strategy/search strings. I never use the term "Boolean," but I do talk about basic search techniques such as AND, OR, double quotes, etc.

Below are some screen shots of results from Google and ProQuest showing the differences between typing a whole search topic or sentence into a search box (which a lot of our students do) versus ones that have been more properly formatted so that a search tool will understand what you are looking for and hopefully give you more relevant results:

Google search 1 (unformatted): 3.9 million results

Google search 2 (formatted): 17,200 results

Library Database search 1 (unformatted): 14 results

Library database search 2 (formatted): 160 results:

The complexity arises in the contradiction that an unformatted Google search gets you way too many results, while an unformatted library database search will sometimes get you too few (if any) results or too many (i.e., EBSCO will default to their SmartText search if none are found). I'm not sure if taking the time to show these differences will make it more confusing or less for students as to why they should format their searches, especially since more and more vendors are making it possible to put in entire sentences and at least get some results...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Digest of Recent Useful Links for Library Instruction

Just a quickie list of some recent links from my Diigo account of tools/sites I think have some real or potential use for teacher librarians and or for library instruction:

Friday, September 18, 2009

Recording of Instructional Session

I recently did three in-person 50 minute instructional sessions for incoming BA nursing students and (without telling me until I arrived), one of those sessions was recorded and put into a fairly slick streaming media presentation format using Accordant. The side panel only includes rough screen shots, but next time I want to do a live screencast to go alongside video of me teaching. The room I was given was also not ideal: a tiny conference room with a giant, unmovable table in the middle, so the video angle isn't great (note: this may not work on some FireFox browsers without a plug-in, but works in IE just fine):

I cringe looking at myself in these kinds of things, and the last session I did went much smoother, but this turned out ok I guess.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Reading Habits Meme

Picked up via the Opinions of a Wolf blog, a reading habits meme:

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?

Not usually. Although I do enjoy sipping a beer or a glass of wine while reading sometimes.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of
writing in books horrify you?
The idea doesn't horrify me, but I tend not to do it simply because I like to lend books out to others and my own preference is to come at a story (whether book, movie, etc.) with a blank slate, with no foreknowledge of the details or detailed opinions from others on it.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?
I have a few random objects I use, such as an Animatrix patch I got somewhere, a joker playing card, and I think an old monopoly $100 bill somewhere...

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?
I prefer fiction (science fiction, comics and graphic novels specifically), but delve into classic and modern fiction or interesting non-fiction on occasion.

Hard copy or audiobooks?
Hard copy. When listening, I prefer loud, fast music and doing something else (like driving or housework or working out).

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you
able to put a book down at any point
I read every night before bed so I can put a book down at any point. I suspect though that most, like me, prefer to stop at chapter ends.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?
I used to do this a lot more, but nowadays I can usually get a meaning from the context.

What are you currently reading?
The Diamond Age: Neal Stephenson

Ultra: The Luna Brothers

What is the last book you bought?
Ultra: The Luna Brothers

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can
you read more than one at a time?
I usually have one novel, one graphic novel and one comic going at the same time, but rarely have more than one of each going at any one time. If I'm reading something that isn't grabbing me enough I just put it aside for another time and move onto the next one from my "on deck" shelf.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?
My fave place is on a hot sunny day (or morning) at the beach or at a quiet park.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?
Doesn't matter to me as long as they have compelling stories, although to me there are few series that can stay fresh and compelling after more than a couple titles.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?
Neal Stephenson and William Gibson I recommend all the time, even to non sci-fi fans because their stuff is just that good. Watership Down is my fave title of all time and something that everyone should read as an adult.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)
I organize by author last name, although I separate out (mostly due to space) my "on deck," reference, poetry, science fiction and graphic novel collections into their own shelves.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Use of Analogy in Instruction

I got to thinking about my use of analogies for library instruction recently; as a way to relate info lit concepts to student experiences. I need to do this more often (another way ACRL Immersion had an effect on me).

Here are two I use, in brief (keep in mind I teach adult learners, so the analogies reflect that):
  1. Information evaluation is skill you already possess. E.g: How many of you go grocery shopping? When buying milk or a piece of meat, what do you look at before buying? Expiration date, brand, price, nutrition information, right? No one really had to teach you that skill. You just don't want to end up with spoiled food. Same thing applies to information. You just need to think a little more deliberately about it at first and then you'll start doing it naturally and make sure you don't include any rotten or spoiled pieces of information in your paper! (handout related to this)
  2. Research requires planning and adaptation. If you've ever put together or even attended a dinner party, birthday party, shower, or wedding, you probably know that at least in part, a failed party was due to poor or non-existent planning, or perhaps too rigid a plan, right? If some thought wasn't put into what supplies and entertainment and floor planning was needed, or if some flexibility wasn't intentionally built into a party plan, allowing for things to change if needed, disaster can easily follow. The same thing applies to doing a research assignment. Your professors can spot a poorly planned paper from a mile away and your grade will often reflect that. So I'm here to tell you, start thinking strategically about your research assignments in advance. What information do you need? When can I devote time to doing that research? But also think of doing research as a loose plan that can and often does need adjustment. If your original research topic or thesis doesn't fit what you're finding when you start searching and reading the literature, think about adapting your topic. If your search strategy isn't finding any relevant information, think about adapting your search strategy. Am I using the most effective search terms? Have I combined those terms in a way the tool I'm using can understand?

What analogies do you use?