Sunday, August 1, 2010

Searching..searching..the processes involved for educators and students

Web Searching for “Information Literacy” and Web searching for children’s content with a view to Session One at Site School

After reading Maureen Henninger’s The Hidden Web: Finding Quality Information on the Net – chapters 6 & 8, I was armed with new knowledge such as: Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky Feature” button uses link analysis that may deduce the most relevant document if you are searching for a document whose title you know. It introduced me to a new search engine from France called Exalead in which you can use Boolean and proximity queries. It made me aware of the Australian context search engine

Exercise 1: to utilize search engines on the web for the term: “information literacy.”

I used the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button on Google and was directed to Wikipedia definitions.

This was the definition offered:

Several conceptions and definitions of information literacy have become prevalent. For example, one conception defines information literacy in terms of a set of competencies that an informed citizen of an information society ought to possess to participate intelligently and actively in that society (from Wikipedia page).

The American Library Association's (ALA) Presidential Committee on Information Literacy, Final Report states, "To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information" (ALA 1989).

I wasn’t expecting to be directed to Wikipedia so I reverted back to Google and used the “more” option which took me to “Scholar” and more suitable material was found. I noticed that the “even more” button took me to Web 2.0 applications such as “Picasa”, offered “e-mail alerts” and how to find blogs of interest.

“Scholar’s” first hit was “The Seven Faces of Information Literacy” by C Bruce 1997 and I read about the 7 steps to “Wisdom” when understanding information literacy.

Other hits included an interesting article by JJ Shapiro and SK Hughes entitled “Information Literacy as a liberal art” where the authors reflect on historical turning points in human history such as the Enlightenment period of the 18th century where thinkers began to confront the relationship between scientific progress and the emergence of a free society.

This snippet outlines their premise:

Jeremy Shapiro & Shelley Hughes (1996) define information literacy as "A new liberal art that extends from knowing how to use computers and access information to critical reflection on the nature of information itself, its technical infrastructure and its social, cultural, and philosophical context and impact." (from p6)

I can see that the digital revolution as a critical time where information literacy is paramount to conquering the complexities of a powerful technology. I would suggest that this technology is all consuming, addictive in some cases and that it does have the capacity of enslave us therefore powerful technology requires powerful thinking.

Exercise 2: To use children’s search engines to find information on the topic of: “Life in the Past 1900’s and Local History.”

I decided to do this because I wanted to simulate what kinds of sites come up when the students search for this topic. It is problematic in that many of the sites have American history, advertising, distracting videos that would easily cause students to go off track.

For example: and "one key" are cited as student friendly resources but came up with hundreds of American history sites. We required Australian local historical sites. eg.

Search Results

You searched for: life in the 1900s

Results on the Web

Results 1 - 9 of 222

1. Ancestors in the Americas: OverviewAncestors Americas: Overview Ancestors Americas Series Overview Ancestors America is designed as first major television series to offer general

So I attempted to go for Australian content on but it was littered with advertisements and property guides such as the example below:

Results returned for jamboree(6622) heights(223546) history(2719857) in(-1) 1900(107699) s(-1) - searchtime=185mS, [32262990 Australian pages indexed]

Did you mean, jamboree heights history in w s

Beechworth Accommodation for hotel, motel, bed and breakfast, self contained and caravan parks ommodation.htm

Water Tanks Melbourne, RainWater Tanks, Garden Pumps, Water Features and More Water Tanks - Water Tanks and Pumps :: Garden Pump -and-pumps/pumps-and-water-tanks/tank2tank-pump-brass-connect ion-kit

After wading through the advertising, I found the second site (see above: which did have relevant and 'kid friendly' material on Australian history including the Turrbal Aboriginal Traditional Owners of Brisbane site with one page of useful information, a PBS kids site with a TV documentary series of The 1900’s House and some accompanying information pages on technology of the 1900’s.

Searching for local content and historically relevant information will need to be scaffolded with direct website references as in Kuhlthau's (2007) ISP model: "Locate, Evaluate and Use" p. 80.

For the searching exercise and for the sake of guided inquiry I will enable them to random search on The Learning Place or Google using the Wonder wheel option. We will discuss what happened and how to narrow down searching to suit the purpose of the discoveries about the subject matter of “Life in the Past and the Local Area.”

This will be an interesting exercise which does require monitoring, as I did come across advertising, marketing videos and commercials.

I am glad that I did a test drive of searching from the student’s perspective as in the "co-learner" ideal expressed in Callison, D & Preddy, L (2006) p.4, so that I can offer tips and go through some of the pages with the kids to see if they can guess what the link would be about eg. Advertising, real estate, a government website etc..

Callison, D & Preddy, L (2006) merge the terms coined by Kuhlthau C (2007) into "information inquiry" where meaningful questions are posed to activate the higher order thinking skills and then identify and prioritize "usefulness of resources" (p.3). The challenge to educators is to harness this process and to bring inquiry into the learning environment.

1 comment:

  1. First off, you must have had a ball dressing up! Next I need to try Google's I'm feeling lucky (In some ways I keep thinking of Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry - Are you feeling lucky punk!)
    I also relate to Callison & Preddy and see myself very much as a co-learner, and one of my biggest challenges is selecting and finding the right resources.