Friday, September 30, 2011

Try This (#5): Threads

Yes, I do start with Google but instead of staying with initial websites, I follow the threads of expertise.  When you start reading about the topic I try to identify expertise: authors, speakers, institutions, homepages, educators, reviewers -- who speak from a place of authority.  Check the ABOUT button on any website you find to see who the person or group is and by what authority they speak.

Example: I searched for advise about how to take an online class.  My search turned up lots of places trying to sell me something.  But I also found wikihow - describes itself as a wikipedia of how to stuff.  I found librarian written how-to guides called LibGuides and then search it to find one from Pittsburg State.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Art of Finding & Learning (#4): All About People

It is all about people.  If you have a question, ask the right question of the right person, and you will be on the road toward an answer.  Of course, we all have difficulty asking the right question.  We have to be honest enough about our intentions and clear enough about the issue to ask the right question.   Or we have to be open enough to ask someone else what they think the right question is.  We have to find the right person (the one that knows the answer) - so asking our family and friends might help, but it might not.  Of course, what I am getting at is the fact that we can, in fact, find the right person but they are "speaking to us" on a webpage, on a blog, writing in the newspaper or in a magazine.  It is surprising how many times someone has asked me a question and the easiest way to the answer is to call someone.  Often we hold back when we think of calling someone at a college, think tank, government agency, or company - but sometimes they are more than happy to help.

It is about the dialogue - the conversation that we need to have within ourselves and with others (or the surrogate in print or online) to find the answer.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Trends (#3): Tacit Dimension

Tacit dimension of knowledge is the what we have learned from experience and from our interactions with all the circumstances in life.  It can be said that this dimension is referred to as common knowledge, what we assume others know, or the unsaid.  The major paradigm shift today is that we interact with the world to learn.  In the book, "A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change" (by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown), the authors describe this new environment.

We have moved from the seeking task as limited or discrete (I ask a question and then I find the answer) to a continuous learning process where I seek answers and continually discover.  The twenty-first century has shifted to the tacit dimension of knowledge where we learn by doing, watching, and experiencing.  Try the book - its a insightful view of the sea changes we live in, especially in the educational arena.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Art of Finding & Learning (#3): Spectrum of Emotions

We can be everything from simply puzzled, to somewhat confused, to completely stymied.  Yes, there is a whole range of emotions that face us when we try to find answers.  Sometimes the emotions are strong, but the task at hand is (in the cool, calm light of day) not that important.  Sometimes something I can't find or can't figure out just bugs me and I admit, I spend a lot of time on it.  There are moments that I:

1. Clearly decide that I need information and set aside the time to do it.
2. Figure I will just go on gut instinct or intuition.
3. Attach the problem immediately so I don't feel so uncertain or anxious.

Noticing how we are feeling and what we are assuming can really help us save time, energy, and effort.  Do we need to make a tough decision, are curious and want to browse, or are we avoiding the facts because we fear the answer?  Think about it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Art of Finding & Learning (#2): Seeking Patience

If you really value what you are trying to find out, then patience is key.  On the one hand, we do have instant information - weather, stock prices, sports scores, and on the other hand we have answers to our questions.
The approach you take and the attitude you have in seeking answers will impact the results.  Certainly one of the key ones I see is patience.  If you value the answer, then spend the time.

A college student delayed seeking scholarships, expecting that it would be easy to apply and easy to find something.  He missed some deadlines and then failed to find a really great scholarship because he did not use one particular database.  An overweight man seeking weight loss ignored the advice of his doctors and listened to the advise of friends who pulled up bogus information on the web.  This resulted in him becoming quite ill.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Trends (#2): Google Searches

Very interesting stats in two places.  One is Domain Tools a site that tracks the number of active and defunct websites.  Current number of active websites: 133,124,135.  That's a lot of possible hits.

The other site is Google Trends, which shows interesting tallies for the most used search word(s) in any given period.  You can compare websites to see which is being visited or searched for the most.  So, if you curious about what others are curious about - you can find and reseach all about it at Google Trends.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why the Crisis? (#2)

We do have a crisis - in too much confidence.  In contrast to students in the 1980's, only 1% of today's students procrastinate on their research paper because of fear of failure (in contrast to 50% in a 1984 study).  Students moving from K-12 schools to higher education come in with misplaced self-confidence in their knowledge of sources and searching.  This data comes from the work of Project Information Literacy (Univ of Washington) which concluded: "Students have an 'illusion of immediacy' since there are so many resources online, leading students to misjudge how much time is truly needed to complete a course-related research assignment" (Lessons Learned, 12/1/2009).

I think many of us have a disconnect between the answers (their value to us) and how much time we think we should spend on searching.  What do you think?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Try This (#4): Narrowing the search

One of the people I interviewed for a job at my library mentioned this as an approach taken in library instruction - to help students focus their research.  The example is candy.

a. Level 1 = If you really only want to find any candy store, to stop at the first one you find, and order something - then search: "candy."  But whatever resource you use (yellow page website; RefUSA), you might come up with a lot of sites.

b. Level 2 = If, though, you want a certain kind of candy (I don't know anyone that truly likes all candies), the you would want to narrow it down to words such as "chocolates" or "hard candies."  In other words, you would choose a category or class of candies.  Use the quotes to search a phrase, i.e. "milk chocolate."

c. Level 3 = But really, most of us want something specific, either for ourselves or others.  For example, we should choose which kind of hard candies we want.  This is the search that is most rewarding and most difficult.  You might have to "shop around" a bit to find exactly what you want to search for.

If you would up with a desire for butterscotch hard candies, then you would search using several words, such as "butterscotch hard candies smooth 'old fashioned'" - note that it is string of four words and 1 phrase.  You might want to include words such as "retail" or the phrase, "free shipping."

So the student given the topic of global warming, would choose Level 3 and create a search strategy that would help him/her save time and get great results.  The key point is to focus your attention and include all that you want to search.  So instead of starting with "global warming" as the search phrase, you might enter:

    ["greenhouse gases" "polar bears" arctic melting ice flows protect wildlife] - yes, that is a lot for a first search, but if I do this in Google, then the first site I find is a wonderful one from Nature Canada (note: more on what online resource to choose later - very important).

With our aim of writing a five to ten page paper, this topic would excite me and be of interest to the professor or others in the class.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why the Crisis? (#1)

A loss for words --
As reported in various outlets, despite the power of Google - most search efforts are meager.  What do I mean?  The more words or phrases used, the more intersections of ideas are requested of the Google search engine.  If you need just background, type in the word "flowers" or "roses."  But if you are really searching for specific answers, then type in several words: "climbing roses peak hot weather pruning fertilizer" and one of the first sites that comes up is a very useful FAQ at Aggie Horticulture from Texas A&M University.

Survey results: Among all searches done in all search engines in the U.S. in August 2011, the number of words entered into the search box were:

1 word search = 25.3% of all search engine searches in the U.S.
2 words = 24.1%
3 words = 19.5%
I usually use at least 6 words (but only 4.2% of others do the same).
source: Experian Hitwise

Save yourself time & find higher quality sites: use more words and use Advanced Search.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Art of Finding & Learning (#1): Google vs. Non-Google Worlds

Did you ever wonder why Google has only one search box?  You say, "why no - doesn't it work easiest that way?"  Although secret, the algorithm that Google scientists use simply trolls through the mass of sites -every word and every site.  But NOT really -- here are the key facts:
1. No search engine, not even Google, indexes all Internet websites.
2. Even Google does not index every page, screen, or word in a website that it indexes.
3. Given its new policies on advertising, some sites are offered some placement options.
4. Google treats every word equally - in other words, the searcher (that's you) is the one that determines whether or not the results are good.  Google can't read your mind and you are not asking Google a question.  You are simply searching for words.
5. Google does not charge you - right?  That means that the pop-ups and little ads are its means to revenues.

So, what about what's missing from above and/or what if I am missing something?

1. For sites that contain data, articles, pictures etc. that have value and people pay for - these will not be found in a Google search.  You would have to subscribe or belong to an institution that subscribes.
2. All of the public library databases, college library databases, institutional archives etc. are NOT included in Google.
3. Many sites contain sets of data stored in a database that requires you to do a second search, to use its search engine on its page in order to find and use the data.  This is sometimes referred to as the grey web.  It is not in the open, free area of Google, but is is not locked behind doors as is the pay-per-view stuff mentioned above.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Try This (#3): Fact Checkers

Lots of dubious claims are being made in politics & business.  If you question the facts - good!  We need to be aware of the"channels" we trust.  There are a number of fact checking sites that can help you uncover the truth (i.e. reality).  These sites cover a range of perspectives.  As with other searches - use a tripart approach.  Take your original source and find 2-3 others that verify the same details.

I have noticed that even local papers are adding "Truth-o-Meters" ( / Star Ledger).

Try these:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Trend (#1): Transforming Education

Must read book:
Thomas, Douglas and John Seely Brown.  A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change.  New York: CreateSpace, 2011.
Concerned about the schools and teachers?  This book provides some exciting (and positive!) views on effective ways to reach and motivate our young learners.  It merges technologies and interactive learning approaches for some exciting possibilities.    

In some ways, this book parallels the discussion in the library profession about information fluency and the need for users to own the set of skills and attitudes they need to navigate the avalanche of information at their fingertips. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Manage Your News

Becoming a resourceful person -- truly the one skill that is demand everywhere.  We are all pressured to juggle many tasks and constantly master what's new.   Either as a student or employee this means keeping up with the latest.  Fortunately, there are tools that can be used either to track an issue for the short term (while I am on a project or for a class) or the longer term.

One of my top picks is Google Reader - where you can create "feeds" from websites, blogs, and library resources.  You create a search strategy and it runs for you.  In essence you create your own personalized magazine or newspaper, which frees you up to read and learn rather than constantly have to search.

It is free!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Try this (#2): Ctrl Find

Wherever you are on a page - either website or document - you can use the CTRL/F combo of keys to open up a pop-up that allows you to search for a word(s).  This is great way to save time.  Works in .pdf documents too.  So don't waste time scrolling, just use the ctrl/find short-cut.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Try This (#1): Advanced Search in Google

The very first tip is - use the Advanced Search option when searching in Google.  It used to be right there but now you just click on the little wheel (options) in the far upper right corner and click "Advanced search."  Most likely you can figure out the rest. 
a - Click the plus sign next to "Date, usage rights..." to see all of the options.
b- Most important are "Date:" (how recent the page is) and "Where you keywords show up."
This will really improve your results.

Launching the latest help - those trying to FIND and LEARN

Working on the best paths to help others FIND and LEARN - yes there are some fascinating new perspectives in the fields of education and information literacy.  With over 30 years experience as a teacher, researcher, and librarian - now is the time to speak.  The ways forward in this difficult world require no less.