Can you say information overload?! Wowie! I am once again feeling a bit overwhelmed with the role of being a teacher-librarian! I am trying to remind myself that there will be a learning curve, and eventually this will be second nature, and thinking back to this moment will be funny, at least I am hoping.
Theme Three included an abundance of information on a variety of reference materials found both in house and online. While I felt familiar with many of the items discussed on some level (even if just surface level), there was also a lot to take in. I really appreciated the sharing of online resources that were throughout this theme, not only did they provide context for the information provided, but I can see sharing many of them with my students.
1.) When it comes to utilizing, or selecting resources of any kind critical thinking is a major prerequisite! As researchers, and educators we constantly need to be evaluating the information we receive and reevaluating as time goes on. Once a resource has been deemed appropriate for one’s school use it is the TL’s job to continue to ask questions: Why am I using or recommending this resource? How does it meet the needs of the students who will be using it? What are the biases? How will it help students reach their learning outcomes? Just because something passes the test in September, doesn’t mean a year later it will still hold the same value, and therefore we need to constantly be engaged with the materials and looking at them objectively to determine if they still command the respect and honour of holding a place in our learning commons.
2.) Maybe Wikipedia isn’t so bad! If students have the skills to perform research and discern between quality resources and ones which lack credibility then Wikipedia shouldn’t threaten the learning process. I love Chris Harris’ point in the article Can We Make Peace with Wikipedia,
“To be quite frank, continually bad-mouthing Wikipedia to the very people who use it—successfully—makes us look a bit daft.”
Harris is absolutely right, we need to get with the times instead of fearing the worst, if we educate our students then maybe we can help them avoid the very things we hold against Wikipedia.
3.) Starting at square one has never been more clear. There should be an entire unit of lessons devoted to completing research before the research process even begins! So often we as teachers put the cart before the bull and set students off on research without giving them the fundamental tools to actually perform that research. I often do an introduction to researching that is about 2-3 lessons, but in reality I’m not sure that is really enough. Students depend on their skills to use Google, however to truly understand how to research a specific topic effectively that will not be enough. Being familiar with middle school teachers I feel so often we assume students have been taught some of these foundational skills, and in most cases they haven’t. We can’t always depend on last year’s teacher to have done the work, and therefore we must structure the appropriate amount of time into fully preparing our students in the research process, after all these skills will be ones they use for a long time to come.
Did you know that Google has actually worked along side Google Certified Teachers, and their Search Engine team to develop lessons to help teachers teach the skills of utilizing Google in their search engines for the best results? I just stumbled across this in my journey to find a better starting point and boy am I glad I did! Click the picture below to explore their lessons now, or copy and past the link at the bottom of the page.
Something I still feel a bit conflicted about is whether digital encyclopedias and databases trump hard copy ones? Students prefer online access, information is updated more frequently, and can be accessed by multiple users at once, from multiple locations. However, what would the loss of presence do to the rest of the hard copy resources?
Harris, C. (2007, June 1). Can We Make Peace with Wikipedia? Retrieved August 19, 2015.