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Teachers Teaching Teachers #67 - August 15, 2007 It's time to walk the talk!

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  • Length: 44:49 minutes (20.52 MB)
  • Format: MP3 Mono 44kHz 64Kbps (CBR)
Karen Janowski quoted Brian Crosby from his blog title, "learning is messy' and Cathy from South Carolina, suggests that we "muddy the waters." Are you willing to get messy with us?

Sylvia Norton, from Maine's MARVEL, says "I think we spend a lot of time talking about quality information but not always walking the talk when it comes to expectations in student work and what we accept without question"

Are you wiling to take that step this year and dip your own toes in the water? Here's your homework:

Find you own state's database collection (paid for by your taxes!). As Cathy said, these are your "free search tools." Who doesn't like a great bargain? You may go to your school library site or you may go to your public library site if you don't have a direct link already in your own bookmarks. You may need a public library card number or some other state identification number.

Now, think of something you are wondering about. Is it your aunt's newly diagnosed illness, is it a question about Iraq, is it the history of a neighborhood fixture, is it something about a book you've been reading this summer? Search in these state funded free resources and see what you find. If you can, we'd love you to do the same search in some other places too, maybe Google, maybe findarticles.com, maybe Wikipedia...

PLEASE share your results. The only way we can continue to learn is by using what Worldbridges.net calls "open source learning" where we all add to the body of knowledge and share, after all this is Teachers Teaching Teachers!

Add a New Note to our Google Notebook that lists your state, your urls used, the names of the databases you used, your search request and most importantly your results and reactions !!

Come back next week, same time, same place and let's see what we can collectively learn. Let's all get messy this week!

Google Notebook for August 22, 2007 Teachers Teaching Teachers:
http://www.google.com/notebook/#b=BDQOrSwoQsJqSocci

Now for some show notes and thoughts:

Where should our students be starting?

Cheryl from Maine says: I would love our school librarians to use Marvel first and not answer kids questions in Google until they have done a Marvel search!
Kevin from Florida says: " I do think there is value in students 'starting out' in wikipeida to get the juices flowing....."
Troy from Michigan discovered that one FindArticles search had 1/3 of the links on the first page requiring money to open them. "One concern with Find Articles -- to what extent does that site represent the full range of periodicals and journals available? Moreover, what about the advertisements that are present on that site?"

If we are encouraging students to blog for voice, action and sometimes response, isn't it important that we teach them to arm themselves with accurate and reliable information as a starting point?

Courtney from GALILEO in Georgia says, "... facts and past research - databases; someone's first-hand perspective - blog postings

LindaN also made an important point, "I think it depends on the depth of background knowledge the kids have on a topic."

Sylvia from MARVEL in Maine, reminds us, "I've never had a parent show up for a parent conference because they were worried that their kid didn't pass information literacy."
Later Sylvia also noted, "I do see adults every day who do not know how to find and use good accurate information as part of their daily problem solving."

What do you think? We want to especially thank Joyce Valenza and everyone else who is helping to bring this important topic to the blogosphere and the attention of teachers and librarians and vendors!

Here are the links from the text chat in time order:
Library Terms That Users Understand
http://www.jkup.net/terms.html
Google Notebook link for Teachers Teaching Teachers notebook for Aug. 8 and Aug. 15 discussions
http://www.google.com/notebook/#b=BDQOrSwoQk93r3cMi
Joyce Valenza's students explain it - Databases are Different!
http://springfieldvideo.edublogs.org/2007/03/01/databases-are-different/
Texas State Databases
http://www.texshare.edu/
Georgia Public Library Service
http://www.georgialibraries.org/lib/galileo.html
Public look at the Google Teachers Teaching Teachers notebook
http://www.google.com/notebook/public/07807265150553936842/BDQOrSwoQk93r...
Direct link to GALILEO, Georgia State Databases
http://www.galileo.usg.edu
Scholarly vs. Popular vs. Trade vs. Primary Sources from Springfield Township High School Virtual Library- an amazing resource!
http://www.sdst.org/shs/library/scholarly.html
Brian Crosby's blog, a fourth grade teacher at Agnes Risley School in Sparks, Nevada.
http://www.learningismessy.com/blog/
Wesley Fryer's blog
http://www.speedofcreativity.org/
A trail is a collection of web pages, assembled and annotated by any Trailfire member, on just about anything under the sun.
http://trailfire.com
Joyce Valenza's blog NeverEndingSearch on School Library Journal
http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/blog/1340000334.html
Lee Baber's blog
http://web.mac.com/lbaber/iWeb/LeeBaber/Blog/Blog.html
Courtney's list of state funded virtual libraries
http://del.icio.us/cmcgough/statevirtuallibraries


Comments

Are state library research databases worth the effort?

This month, over at Teachers Teaching Teachers, Susan Ettenheim, Lee Baber and others are looking into how and why to use state library research databases, and they have given us a homework assignment:
Find you own states database collection (paid for by your taxes!).... Now, think of something you are wondering about. Is it your aunts newly diagnosed illness, is it a question about Iraq, is it the history of a neighborhood fixture, is it something about a book youve been reading this summer? Search in these state funded free resources and see what you find. If you can, wed love you to do the same search in some other places too, maybe Google, maybe findarticles.com, maybe Wikipedia...
Its time to walk the talk! TTT67 - August 15, 2007 Here's the results of dipping my toes into the New York Online Virtual Electronic Library (NOVELNY). These are just my first impressions, and they leave me wondering whether a more careful study has ever been done than the one here that we are doing for oursleves. Has anyone ever more carefully studied and described the differences one finds between searching in publically available sources, and these protected databases? Last month I used the the keyword "relationships" to show how to set up subscription alerts for on-going searches in Google Blogs, Google News, EveryZing (audio), and FindArticles. By using the same word to do a NOVELNY databases search, perhaps I can compare resusts. On the search page, I choose "Full-text articles only," then I ask for a search in "All Resources," and I do a search for the the keyword, "relationships." This gives me almost 45,000 hits in 14 databases.
1   EBSCO Animals     
65   Funk & Wagnall's New World Encyclopedia     
949   General Science Collection     
15   Health & Wellness Resource Center     
326   Primary Search     
225   TOPICSearch     
15687   MasterFILE Select     
170   Business & Company Resource Center     
24142   Custom Newspaper Database     
62   Informe Revistas en Espanol - Spanish     
2058   New York State Newspapers     
1194   National Newspaper Index     
10   Twayne Authors Series     
43   Gale Virtual Reference Library (All)     
After changing the display mode to "Relevancy-ranked," I begin to scan through the 188 results that appear on the first page. Each result has a subset of bibliographic information, such as: Title, Author, Journal, Source, Date of Publication, Number of Pages, Number of Words, Pages, and Database. Many also contain a description that provides an abstract, summarizing the article. In the first fifty (English language) results there is a considerable variety of sources.
6 Encyclopedia Entries:
Encyclopedia of Animals Funk & Wagnall's New World Encyclopedia (2) Gale Encyclopedia of Childhood and Adolescense (2) Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine

10 General Audience Magazine Articles:
Girls' Life (3) National Review People Science News Time (2) Women's Health (2)
1 Government Publication:
FDCH Congressional Testimony
8 Journal or Professional Magazine Articles:
American Journal of Public Health Annals of Internal Medicine Audio Biology Essential Drugs Monitor Horticulture International Journal of Morphology Journal of Latin American Studies Northeastern Naturalist

25 Local and National News Items:
Albany Times Union (Albany, NY) (4) La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, WI) Los Angeles Times (2) Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, VA) The Christian Science Monitor The Guardian (London, England) (3) The New York Times (5) The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY) (2) The Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ) The Wall Street Journal Eastern Edition (4) Winnepeg Free Press
It's true that I could have limited my search by choosing more keywords (e.g. adding "family" to "relationships") or by selecting fewer of the available databases, but part of my purpose here is to see what is available, and I think the more general, open search serves the blogger well. The variety of sources that seem to be available through NOVELNY -- low-brow/high-brow, popular/professional, conservative/liberal, primary sources/secondary sources, current/historical, news items/encyclopedia articles, chaff/wheat -- is something to celebrate!  This list of sources also begins to answer some of my questions about whether or not these databases give our students access to materials that they wouldn't be able to get any other way. For me, databases start with three strikes against them:
  • they aren't easy to access
  • sources from them can't be collected in an RSS reader (EBSCOhost seems to be an interesting exception, but how do you become a member of EBSCO?)
  • links to sources found in a database won't work for the general reader.
Given these problems, what makes library databases worth the effort? The answer is usually that databases contain many more high quality resources than is available on the general web, or even that databases have sources in them that are in some way different in kind. Perhaps, but my initial uses of NOVELNY suggest that what gets indexed there is as topsy-turvy a mosaic (to mix a few metaphors) of resources as anywhere. This is not to say that that research databases are not valuable. They do expand the range of sources available to students, but I'm not finding that they are a significantly special resource. My brief experience with searching databases using NOVELNY suggeststo me that the metaphor of an open container is rather apt. I started thinking about these matters a couple of weeks ago when toward the end of Teachers Teaching Teachers #66 - 08.08.07 (Play at 42 min. 18 secs.), Susan posed a "big question":
What really are these databases? ... They must have some purpose. Are they really just more information or are they really some different kind of information? And just as we're really anxious to include video in our resources now and audio in our resources... Maybe instead of thinking of these [databases] as just more, maybe we need to think of them as a little treasure and something a little different that need a little tender encouraging too.
Courtney McGough, a GALILEO database specialist from Georgia responded that she has tried to clarify for students what databases are by calling them "containers with really good stuff in it." Although this would seem to agree with my initial findings here -- that databases are important, but not unique genres of information -- Courtney later clarified:
In answer to the question about whether the content of the databases is "more content" or a "diferent kind of content," I was making the point that databases are more content that is known to be quality content -- content that has been peer-reviewed, edited, and/or fact-checked. Students have difficulty distinguishing between online content that can be found through search engines such as Google and content that is located in research databases -- in the "hidden web" or "deep web." In trying to help them understand the difference, I have compared databases to a container that holds quality information that they can use in their research. By contrast, although there is a great deal of good information freely available on the open Internet (and therefore can be found by search engines), it is often more difficult to locate reliable sources as anyone can post anything on the Internet. Many databases include articles from books and journals that are peer-reviewed or edited in some way. Databases have clear citations for each book chapter, magazine article, newspaper article, journal article, dissertation, etc. However, items in a Google search can come from anyones blog, a news aggregator, an online discussion forum, a non-profit organization, a for-profit organization, or anything that anyone can put online. There are varying degrees of expert knowledge and editorial control in any of these sources.
Weblogs & Wikis & Feeds, Oh My!: Databases and Research Courtney had a lot more to say, and I've returned to her response on my blog several times, and I learn something new with each reading. But I worry that Courtney, like many librarians and database specialists, has created an unnecessary distinction here between general online content and that which can be found in research databases. I think we have to be careful about how we value some content over other content. One we've learned over the past several years is that "peer-reviewed, edited, and/or fact-checked" does not equal quality.  On blogs, wikis, and podcasts, we are all peer-reviewers, editors and fact-checkers. Although I would agree with Courtney's point that a Google search can bring up sources with "varying degrees of expert knowledge and editorial control," my search in NOVELNY gave me an equivilent mix of expert knowledge and editorial policy. I think it's confusing to suggest to students that what they find in a database is more reliable than what they find in a Google search. In both places the search results are just the beginning of lessons to be learned about how to identify bias, reliability, purpose... of any source, no matter where it was found. I don't have time here to go into a more careful analysis of the differences between a Gale Encyclopedia entry and one found on Wikipedia. I'm not sure which one would be more useful to which student at a particular moment, but I know which one is easier to access, link to, and therefore become part of accountable discourse on a blog in a social network. And most of what came up for me on the NOVELNY search seems available to me on the open Web. Oh... there's so much more! I think we can have both blogs, wikis, podcasts, videos... AND databases. When we see the quality that can be found in all of these places, perhaps we can begin to make better distinctions and help students to identify what makes different sources of information important to them.

 



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