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Search Engines: What are 21st Century Literacy Skills?




A Question
of Ethics:

A parent comes up to the public reference desk librarian with a junior high school student's school assignment in hand. The assignment asks the student to do library research and write up the results. The parent is without her child and requests that the librarian do everything on the research list so that she may bring the research home to her child. What should the librarian do? Would your answer change if the student were there with the parent?"

Answer: BJ Hampton
I'd start with some background "reference interview" questions:
  1. "What's the time frame for the project?"
  2. "Are there any directions as to the resources to be used for the project?"
  3. "Does your child have access to a computer at home or at school?"
  4. If parent answers no, establish whether child has set up necessary permission (library card, etc.) to use the library's public computers (if you have them available) and advise as to how to secure this access.
  5. Explain why it is important for you to interview the student: to clarify the assignment; to provide the student with information literacy skills that will be needed for the rest of his/her academic career and as lifetime knowledge skills; and to ensure that the student will be able to back up the answers found and be prepared for class and test questions that relate to the research process.
  6. Depending on answer to #1, offer remote reference consultation with student (telephone, IM, e-mail) using electronic resources available; if time and availability permit, offer face-to-face reference consultation with student. Offer to assist parent in locating & checking out circulating items which child has selected during consultation if child is unable to come to library.
  7. If parent insists that child can't do assignment and that someone must do it for him/her, it doesn't matter what reason parent gives, since it puts you in an inappropriate adversarial position if you undertake to be judge and jury of the "reason": child is sick/disabled; child has to attend practice for sports team/academic competition/dramatic presentation/musical performance; child is overwhelmed with homework demands from various teachers; child is out of town to visit non-custodial parent/sick grandmother/Disneyworld; child is ring bearer/flower girl for wedding; child's favorite TV show is on tonight; etc.
  8. Assuming parent so insists, I'd start by empathizing, saying something like "I can understand why a parent would want to 'help' the child with the assignment. As a librarian, though, it's important for me to communicate directly with the researcher so that I can meet my own standards for high-quality professional reference service. Can you suggest any way I could discuss this assignment with the child (see #6, above)? If not, and you want to do this research for your child, then I can work with you to find the materials you want.
  9. Suppose parent then says something like "Oh, I can't spend so much time on this project. I'll just come back and pick up whatever you've got for me at the desk in a couple of hours." Then my response would be "It sounds like what you're looking for is a private research contractor. I can't do that kind of work while I'm employed here at the library, but I can help you find the names of some of the companies that could do the entire assignment for you. I've got to warn you though, it can get rather expensive. You could save a lot of money by doing the research directly, and you seem to have a good handle on the problem already."
  10. Suppose parent says "Well what am I paying taxes for if you won't do this research for me." Then my response would be "I'm sorry you're dissatisfied with this library policy. Perhaps you'd like to make a suggestion to the library board about hiring librarians to do that sort of work. There's an e-mail link for the board on our website.

FIRST THING - The OLD WAY and Now ---> The NET WAY
Cal State and a number of other colleges are working with ETS to create a test to evaluate Internet intelligence, measuring whether students can locate and verify reliable on-line information and whether they know how to properly use and credit the material."
Educational Testing Service (ETS),
the nonprofit organization responsible for the SAT, GRE, GMAT, and other standardized tests, has announced a new test, the Information & Communications Technology (ICT) Literacy Assessment. Using a series of scenarios and tasks, the ICT Literacy Assessment is designed to measure a student's "ability to use critical-thinking skills to solve problems within a technological environment."
"Colleges Look to Test Internet IQ"
MSNBC, 7/15/05

Learn Effective Ways to Search

Where should I start! How do I begin? How should I think this through?

You have to answer . .
** Who - is this a person?
** What - is this a place, a company, a thing (like computers), a country?
** When - How Current does your information need to be?
How Recently - days, months, past years, historical, ancient time?
-- Where should I look for this?

Kinds of Media:

-- all visual things like art, designs, logos, maps, photographs, videos.
-- all sound stuff like music, sounds, speeches
-- all text stuff like an almanac, dictionary, data, encyclopedia, full-text documents, quotations, statistical data, thesaurus.

Learning the research method, develop skills necessary to teach students how to ethically and effectively use library sources, both print and non print.

Web sites have different ways of giving information. There are many ways to go depending how it makes sense to you. Nothing is right or wrong, all that matters is getting there. There's a report in the December 2004 issue of Library Journal on a debate "Googlizers vs. Resistors: Librarian's Role in a Googlized World" held at the Pennsylvania Library Association's annual conference.



Google search operators
A real smartypants person (like a librarian) who is familiar with how to ask questions in search engine lingo can show you how to use a search engine that will let you include words in your search phrase. Yes, you can search by a phrase and you can also use "an", "to", "be", "new", or "not" in your search phrase if you know how.
Then some engines will let you search by using natural language, like how you talk and ask stuff in real life to real people. Then there is learning to use a computer language called "boolean" that can help you ask questions.

How To View Any Profile On LinkedIn
How to view the full public profile without a premium account. Don't start with LinkedIn. Instead, use Google and include LinkedIn in your search.
View the Cached Profile
Mouse over the search result, you will get a chevron to the right of the result. Mouse over the chevron and you will see a preview of the page and a link to view the cached version of the page. The cached page is your ticket. This is the profile Google sees and indexes. Click to view the cached version, and viola, you will see the full public profile.


The problems with search engine technology


1) People do not think in search terms.

You must first understand how a search engine expects to interact with you. This means knowing how to create a query boolean language technology. Every single search technology uses a slightly different version of boolean. So, you need to be familiar with the abstract keyword language of boolean, and all the ways to implement the boolean language on each search engine.

2) Results are not answers you still need to determine that "correct is better."

3) Your needs are at the end of the thought process

We (as users) cannot interact with the search technology in any meaningful way hoping to narrow down the number of results - which often approach the millions - until we can get that one set of results which may or may not contain the information we have requested :-(

David Kearns, former CEO of the Xerox Corporation, defines "uneducated" as "not knowing how to keep on learning." "Research tells us that we now have 100% new information every five years. If that trend continues, students who are in grades one through three will graduate during a time where, in some technological fields, there will be new information every 38 days. That could mean that the information they learned this month may be outdated two months from now! Learn how to learn!

Guide to Online Research


"How Much Information." School of Inormation Management & Systems. 2000. Regents of the University of California. 13 March, 2001.
The world produces between 1 and 2 exabytes of unique information per year, which is roughly 250 megabytes for every man, woman, and child on earth. An exabyte is a billion gigabytes, or 1018 bytes. Printed documents of all kinds comprise only .003% of the total. Magnetic storage is by far the largest medium for storing information and is the most rapidly growing, with shipped hard drive capacity doubling every year. Magnetic storage is rapidly becoming the universal medium for information storage.