Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Critical Inquiry Skills

Librarians are having heated discussions about what skills users need these days.  We are well past the basic - find a book, know how to cite your sources...  Users are enthralled with sources found using Google but successful seeking demands evaluating.  These blog postings have pointed out some of the search strategies you need to find targeted results on your topic.  The skills in effective searching will save you time and effort.  But not unless what you find is valuable.  The more abundant the information sources, the greater the possibility that you will find too much or what you find will not be valuable (i.e. reliable or timely).

So here comes 'critical inquiry skills,' as noted by Meredith Farkas in her article, "Information Literacy 2.0: Critical inquiry in the age of social media." (American Libraries, Nov./Dec, 2011, p.32).  She suggests that the whole premise for how we 'teach library' change to: "what we know is less important than what we can find."  Given the social web, we define 'what we can find' also as networking with friends or site buddies, etc.  We need to evaluate what we find and also be referred to quality materials through these networks.  Interesting?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Edublog 2011 nominations

These are some of my nominations:
§  Best individual blog
§  Best new blog
§  Best ed tech / resource sharing blog  --
§  Best teacher blog
§  Best librarian / library blog
§  Best free web tool
§  Best educational use of audio / video / visual / podcast
§  Best educational wiki
§  Best educational use of a social network  European Association of Distance Teaching Universities
§  Lifetime achievement

Remember or Retrieve

The technology tools we are using are changing what and how we remember.  It still helps to remember a few key phone numbers.  However, by carrying around your cellphone and using it to click twice to find and call person you want -- eliminates the need to remember and or completely eases the problems with retrieval.  We can pay bills in this easy manner and maintain our checkbook.  If you think of these as information tools as well as communication tools, then you could seek out solutions for the other tasks you have.  You might take advantage of the calendar and events alert function in your cellphone or computer.  I have prioritized these areas in my life and then have tackled them one by one.  The real hurdle is the mechanism to invoke the tool and to load in the data - but the savings in remembering and retrieval are on-going.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Art of Finding & Learning (#14): Frame It

Many of us try to explain our question in terms of our need.  That might work.  Sometimes you need to frame your question for others.  This is especially true if those 'others' are the writers and editors for a book, an online database, or e-book.  What you look for then must be translated into the framework from which they are operating.

Example:  I am looking for job and career information for my major in criminal justice.  If I use the Occupational Outlook Handbook, I need to translate my college major into the right job categories - not look under 'criminal justice.'  I would have have to find and use, for example, one of the following: Police Officers, Detectives, Probation Officers, etc.  If I was majoring in psychology and wanted to work in the criminal justice area, one job is called Correctional Treatment Specialists - a case worker in the jail.  By using the index and search box within OOH, I purposely ferret out these terms, read their descriptions, and see which one applies to me.  Then I can continue with gathering the information I need on salary, educational requirements, job outlook data, etc.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Art of Finding & Learning (#13): Question King

People often say to me, "you ask good questions."  I've certainly had lots of practice.  And I enjoy it.  The key to starting any search is posing the right question.  The basic lesson for any beginning librarian who wants to work on the reference desk is how to find out what the user really wants.  People often start off with questions that sidestep the key issues.

Example: Someone asks for a directory of lawyers.  You tell them that there are different directories depending on the type of law practice and the jurisdiction they practice in.  After a few more questions, you find out that what they are really looking to do is divorce their spouse.  Not an easy issue to discuss.  So the questions then come around much more to the laws in NJ and the different ways that one can file for divorce, many of which can be done without lawyers.  And in fact, if both parties are amicable, it can be done in a no-fault method.  So the question about finding a lawyer wasn't really the question.  The question was really "tell me about the steps to take and the possible approaches to filing for divorce in NJ.".

So whether it is due to awkwardness or uncertainty, it  is not always easy to come up with the question that directly hits on the issues you need answered.  It helps to write down your topic - create a mind map or list the key issues you must get answered.  Oftentimes, the real question(s) will emerge.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Art of Finding & Learning (#12): Know What You Don't

For any topic, it is very helpful to figure out what you don't know.  What I don't know may help direct my efforts toward what I do want to know.  The other word for this effort is context.  For any search new or old, I always repeat a context search.  Yes, I use Wikipedia and other library databases similar to it, such as Encyclopedia Britannica Online.  I look at the large article databases, such as EBSCO's Academic Search Premier and use their thesaurus (list of Subject Terms).  I look for my key concept or its synonyms.  And then I see how it fits in the hierarchy.  Such as:

I entered the browse term: gourds and it directed me to the broader term Cucurbitaceae and the subsets under it.  So now I have what I assume are the the biological terms that I would need to use to search more precisely.  Obviously, I don't know about genus and species information for this wonderful decorative fruit but I could learn.  If I wanted to correctly identify one type of gourd and find information stored by that method, I would profit by using the scientific terms.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Need to Decide

Something very important to finding & learning in the new work that profiles: limits to willpower, decision making fatigue, and fallacies of intuition.  In the fast pace of life and in the barrage of media, there are pitfalls to the more considered  pace of the book-only yesteryear.  It is quite possible that any simple explanation of steps or pointing out of resources, will only fail.  If we need to decide, then we should really weigh the risks.  Not only are information fluency and media literacy important to know about, but the skills may now be essential.

Is the evidence all around us?  Do we see extremism and the black & white thinking taking hold because of the stress and difficulty or rationale decision-making?  You decide.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Art of Finding & Learning (#11): Think About It

New book out by Daniel Kahneman, trainer for the Israeli army.  It is called Thinking, Fast and Slow.  It reports on new findings about decision-making research done in the fields of cognitive and social psychology.  Good case studies and examples are given.  It challenges the assumption that people are generally rational and their thinking is normally sound.  Researchers documented systematic errors in the thinking of normal people and traced these errors to the design of our brains (“the machinery of cognition”) rather than to the corruption of thought by emotion. This research suggest many things to all of us as we find and learn.  It suggests caution on quick judgments.  It suggests caution on resting with media coverage of the issues.  

 ·         “People tend to assess the relative importance of issues by the ease with which they are retrieved from memory – and this is largely determined by the extent of coverage in the media.”  
·         “Judgment heuristics are quite useful, but sometimes lead to severe and systematic errors.”  Heuristic is a simple procedure used to find adequate answers to difficult questions. 
·         “The psychology of accurate intuition involves no magic…but is nothing more and nothing less than recognition (after long hours of practice).”

Friday, November 4, 2011

Why the Crisis? (#5): Information Literacy

American Libraries Magazine published an article called "Information Literacy 2.0: Critical Inquiry in the Age of Social Media." (11//2011,  I agree with their focus on the challenging skills we need to navigate information these days.  Information literacy is the ability to find, use, and evaluate information in solving a problem.  Comments on how the world has changed:

"These days, what you know is almost less important than what you can find out."
"...the problem is not finding information, but determining which information is worth relying upon."
"Keeping up and being able to find the latest information is an important skill that requires not only good search skills, but also good networking skills."
"I have a large group of friends with diverse knowledge whom I can rely on when I find my own knowledge is insufficient..."
"Finding out today requires a set of skills that are very different from what most libraries focus on."

Take a look and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Trends (#6): Personal Learning Networks

Educational institutions struggle with how to engage students better and improve results.  Some of the discussion focuses on how to encourage self-directed learning.  If someone becomes motivated to succeed, they then want to learn.  With traditional teaching methods dominating our schools, individual students must take charge of their own learning.

One of the tools they have in doing so is "personal learning networks."  This is defined as your own set of books, media sources, and collection of websites -yes - but also fellow students or colleagues, mentors, and librarians.  The book by Anya Kamenetz, called DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education (2010) will help you understand this dynamic arena.  Many exciting avenues to explore -- the book has a list of websites to visit.