Tweet Redux

July 16th, 2014 llcowell Posted in uncategorized | No Comments »


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A Guide to Critical Reading: After You’ve Read

July 1st, 2014 llcowell Posted in uncategorized | No Comments »

Now that you’ve taken the time to read it, make sure you keep it usable.

  • Write a short review of the source.  This will help you to remember the key points and arguments later on.
  • Be sure to include an evaluation that highlights both if and how this source will be useful to you.
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A Guide to Critical Reading: While You Read

June 30th, 2014 llcowell Posted in uncategorized | No Comments »

Okay, so you’ve decided this is a good source for  your purposes.  What now?  Reading an informational text isn’t quite like reading a novel.  Taking notes and marking important ideas is key to both evaluating and using the information you find.  While you’re reading, make note of  the following:

What arguments were made?   Does the author have a thesis?  An agenda or product he or she would like you to buy into?  Does this affect his ability to accurately and fairly argue points?

What evidence is provided?  Consider the sources used by the author.  Are they credible?  Make note of the facts.  Do these line up with facts you’ve found in other sources or are they incomplete or flawed?  Evaluate the relevance of the evidence to the argument.  Does the evidence prove the argument or simply lead to it?  Are conclusions logical?  Could other interpretations lead to different conclusions?

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A Guide to Critical Reading: Before You Read

June 29th, 2014 llcowell Posted in reading | No Comments »

Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack?”  In today’s information saturated world, doing research often feels like this.  Overwhelming!  Where do  you begin?

Many students simply give up looking and choose the first thing they see:  the first website on a Google results list, the first article to present itself in a database search, the first book they find in the library.   Does this practice promise good information?  Not always.  But, for sure, you can’t read it all!

But let’s look at it in another way.  With so many sources to choose from, why waste your time reading one if it’s not a good source.  Pre-evaluating your sources can save you time! Start by asking yourself…

Does this source provide new information or insights?
Does it offer anything I don’t already know?

  • Read a summary!  Look for it on the back of a book or inside the front cover.  Locate an abstract of a journal article you find online.  Read an online review of a reference  source.
  • Scan the table of contents.  What does it reveal about the topics covered in the source?  Does it highlight the direction the author is going?

Are the author and publisher credible?

Google the author, editor, and publishers names (one at a time, in quotes).  Look for indications of expertise (education, employer, professional affiliation).  Do you see references to this or other works by the author.  What criticisms or endorsements are made?  Whose making them?

Is the source current?

  • Check out the copyright date (inside title page) and ask yourself:  Is information published on this date likely to be accurate or relevant  today?  Historical facts and literary texts generally remain reliable for long periods of time, while scientific and technical information , as well as social commentary become quickly dated.
  • Check the title for time limiting words like “recent,” “future,” “modern.”  Does that title make sense when considering  the copyright date?  Do you really want to use that 1999 article about the “recent” advances in stem-cell research for a paper you’re writing in 2013?

Does the source have a bibliography?
If it’s a book, is there an index?

A bibliography indicates research (which you can cross-check), while an index provides usability (a feature often included in well-researched titles).

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Collaboratively evaluate websites!

May 12th, 2014 llcowell Posted in literacy | No Comments »

Check out Bounce! This online tool lets users look at the elements of any webpage and make comments, highlight a specific area, and share with others. Consider the potential of this in your classroom.  Collaboratively evaluate information encountered, modeling critical thinking.

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New information paths

March 13th, 2014 llcowell Posted in uncategorized | No Comments »

It’s all too easy, as teacher or as librarian, to compartmentalize information sources by medium. Just 15 short years ago, the web still in it’s adolescence, we actively taught to compare mediums, emphasizing the superior reliability of print sources.  But as the web has matured and grown, and as digital technologies have emerged and been embraced by traditional publishers, professionals need to not only allow but also encourage our students to examine new mediums for information.  The LibGuide,  Exploring New and Alternative Sources of Information, offers students a variety of mediums to explore, along with specific tips for evaluating credibility based on author and research behind information, rather than simply on the medium itself.

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Teaching Word Choice in the Library

December 7th, 2013 llcowell Posted in uncategorized | No Comments »

Check out Eloquent Silence, posted last Saturday on Shaun Usher’s Lists of Note. This is a beautiful example of the complexity and art of word choice that more students need to have time learning and practicing. There was a time when, as library media specialists, we regularly taught the thesaurus, helping students to navigate through keywords and indices. Search engines have diminished shortened the navigational learning curve, and generally we’ve tucked little lessons on specific resource types into our archives, rarely pulling them out within the scope of teaching information research. I wonder, though, if we are missing an opportunity here.  Teaching students word choice is more than a writing skill.  Focusing in on synonyms and antonyms–those thesaurus skills–broaden’s their search scope.  Teaches them that in a largely unorganized and certainly uncataloged web of open information, different contributors will classifiy and refer to a topic in a myraid of ways.  Being able to identify related keywords may be all the difference there is between finding some information and finding the best information.

Below are a few online thesaurus worth our time considering…how can we incorporate these into our lessons?

  • Have students cut-and-paste in text from a found resource into the VocabGrabber in order to expand their search to related subjects. Cut and paste text into this tool and it generates an analysis that includes a useful list of vocabulary along with how those words are used in context.  Select a word on the list and a snapshot of that word will pop up in the Visual Thesaurus, along with definitions and sample uses.
  • Help students understand how choice of keyword can drive (and even bias) research by using WordNet, a scholarly
    “lexical database for the English language.” Word Net groups words into sets of synonyms  along with short, general definitions, enabling text analysis and artificial intelligence applications by professional researchers. However, the resulting dictionary and thesaurus are more intuitive for many users.  Two projects stemming from the research will be helpful to your students:

Snappy Words
Based on WordNet, Snappy Words is a free online visual dictionary/thesaurus that clearly and visually denotes ALOT of information about the word and it’s association to other words.

Also built on Wordnet, WordVis is meant “for exploring synonyms in a flexible web of words & meanings.

  • Encourage students to explore language more widely by providing ways for them to connect the slang they encounter outside of school to a broader vocabulary.   “The Double-tongued Dictionary records undocumented or under-documented words from the fringes of English, with a focus on slang, jargon, and new words. This site strives to record terms and expressions that are absent from, or are poorly covered in, mainstream dictionaries.”
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Learning Revisited

November 13th, 2013 llcowell Posted in digital publishing | No Comments »

History of the English Language was my favorite undergraduate course.  Being uni-lingual has it’s frustrations.  Studying the evolution of my own language taught me to respect the interconnected nature of communication and has ultimately led me to champion World Language studies in the high school library (complete with immersion support in the library!). That in mind, this video is just plain fun.

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It’s 1984 again!

October 19th, 2013 llcowell Posted in HistoryRemix | No Comments »

Popular science recently reported on mini-GPS trackers available.  The accompanying (non-professionally produced) advertisement encourages the consumer to put the device to use as a means of safeguarding loved ones.  Disturbing in a free world.  A review captology (the use of computers as persuasive technology) is in order, if not a re-read of Orwell’s 1984.

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Using questions to guide your research…

September 30th, 2013 llcowell Posted in uncategorized | No Comments »

Consider this…

topic + search  facts = report

The ideas and information are not yours.  You are simply reporting out  factual information. You may learn something new, but you are simply reproducing what you find.

  • Who invented the helicopter?
  • What are the symptoms of post-tramatic stress syndrome?
  • When was the cell phone first introduced to the public?
  • Where can hand guns be used for hunting?
  • How were helicopters used in Vietnam?

Then consider this…

problem + inquiry  investigation = research

The nature of your inquiry depends on the question(s) asked.  The question asked will suggest personal connections and generate unique answers.

  • Who is the most powerful man in America?
  • Which treatments for cancer are the most humane?
  • When should youth be allowed to vote in federal elections?
  • What is the effect of technology on teen literacy?
  • How do athletics impact student achievement?

When doing research, students need to consider more!  Teach questioning as the core of information literacy.


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