Saturday, September 17, 2011

Wisdom to the Wise (Information Literacy)….

The much anticipated Information Literacy session observation arrived at last.  And what a great class to begin with...the Education Research class.  I finally understand why “Ed Research” makes even the brave tremble.  Of course, those courageous graduate students who are approaching the end of their degree program could not have a better captain steering the way into Thesis Land than the one who teaches this course.  The professor who leads this course is a very talented intellectual who always seems to be up for a challenge.  Not only does he challenge himself, but he challenges his students, and the librarians who assist by providing an Information Literacy session.

The Reference Librarian’s feat was to complement this clever professor by serving up a hearty helping of information that related to searching the library catalog, databases, and other resources.  After the librarian demonstrated a few databases and how to search the online library catalog, the graduate students bravely tackled an in-class assignment that could bring mind-numbing pain to the best of us.  The students valiantly searched for the answer to their assigned questions.  Some needed help with this quest and a few were able to single-handedly solve their individual puzzles.

Through this activity the students learned the research process.  They were encouraged to keep a research log for writing down components of the questions they try to answer.  In this log, students are to record the steps they take, the search engine(s) or database(s) they use, the places their searches take them and the information they find, so they do not unnecessarily travel back down a dead-end with future searches or so they can retrace their steps if necessary in order to replicate a search.  During this session the students learned that even if Wikepedia or Google provide part or all of an answer, the research must back up their findings with more scholarly research.  One way to do this in Wikepedia is to scroll to the bottom of an article and follow the list of resources used by the author.  In many instances, this act will provide good, solid research.

As a result of this observed Information Literacy session, I learned several interesting things.  In the context of researching something specific, Mississippi College’s Dr. Miller said, “don’t start until you’ve thought about it.”  He urged his students to be “efficient, effective, and ethical researchers.”  He also stated that “all good research begins with questions.”  He elaborated on this statement by explaining that there are two main types of questions: Informative (the “what” or “when”) and Interpretive (“questions to create or assign meaning”).  His main thrust of requiring students to participate in the evening’s assigned research activity was to make them feel a sense of need.  He didn’t want the students to sit through a lecture that would just “roll over them.”

In addition to all that I learned from the professor of the Education Research class, I learned a little about using keywords to search the online library catalog.  I learned that it is usually a good thing to use more than one keyword with “and” separating different keywords or sets of related keywords.  This will narrow the search results.  I also learned that a keyword search looks for results in the title, table of contents (if one exists), and subject headings within the bibliographic record.

Since there is still much to learn about Information Literacy (IL), I will continue to observe other IL sessions and will include some of my findings in future blog posts.  Hopefully, this will be the start of a bright future in regards to Information Literacy.

Until next time...

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