Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Approaches to web searching, and teaching it

Today there is an "Information Literacy Symposium" at the Lifelong Learning Conference.
Currently Sylvia Edwards and Lynn McAllister are talking about the modules they have developed building on Sylvia's research into undergraduate experiences of web searching. The presentation began by giving a summary of this. The experiences were
- Information searching seen as looking for a needle in a haystack.
- Information searching seen as finding a way through a maze.
- Information searching is seen as using the tools as a filter.
- Information searching is seen as panning for gold.

She has described this research in a website: If you click the link to the Flash animation you will go to a site that includes animations that portray each category - if your computer does Flash, do explore this area (the link is in the middle of the paragraph of the site's home page).
Sylvia went on to describe variation theory - which regular blog readers will remember is an approach I am taking with our new Education for Information Literacy module. You are helping students understand by designing learning which brings out the differences in different approaches to (in this case) web searching (in my case, teaching information literacy).

Lynn took over to describe the online modules (ROSS:Reflective Online Searching Skills) that are based on Sylvia's work, developing students in all of the "lenses" on web searching. The module is also based around a cycle of action and reflection. ROSS "was developed as an online learning tool to help students develop their skill and knowledge in online searching." Last year it was embedded in two first year units, in Science Faculty and in the IT faculty. The latter is a 3rd year module, with coursework assessment. They work on an information consultant's report as one of their assessments, and they work through ROSS whilst they are doing this. Ross starts with a video of a client interview (helping students identify client information needs).

Adapting ROSS to the Environmental Science programme involved quite a lot of change, bearing in mind the lecturer's preferences, the students' learning styles etc. There is less text and are fewer activities. It includes a communication area, as the student expressed a need for this. This ROSS was based on the "dead fsh" problem, and there was then a version for Engineering, similar to Environmental Science, but with a problem about bridge construction.

Student feedback indicated students liked being led through, they thought there ws still too much text. They also wanted the work to be assessed (i.e. wanting direct reward for doing it rather than seeing how it will help them in getting better marks elsewhere). If you want more information, there is a Publications section on Sylvia's website, as noted above, and there is a paper here.
Photo by Sheila Webber: Dawn, Yeppoon, Australia, June 2008.

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