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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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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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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You Do the Fact Check!

September 24th, 2013 llcowell Posted in literacy, uncategorized No Comments »


Open your mind!
Each of us approach news from a point-of-view that has been formed by our backgrounds and our experiences.  Naturally, we are attracted to those stories that support the way we already perceive the world. You’ll need to make a conscious effort to look at things “from the other side.”
Ask lots of questions!
This is just as important when we are listening to arguements that we tend to agree with , as it is when we listen to those with which we tend to disagree.

  • What is the reporter’s political bias?
  • What is interviewee’s political position?
  • Who is paying for the message?
  • Does the story present alternate points-of-view? How are these characterized?
  • Does the interviewer present an arguement? Is the story editorial?


Cross-check the facts!
Are there sources or statistics cited?  Are these verifiable?  Look up “facts” that are used to support any arguement.  Are these consistently reported across sources, both conservative and liberal. If not, they may be spin.  Look for agreed upon information. Ask yourself, can this information be checked against public record?
Consider the source.  
Do the authors or speakers have known or suspected biases. This can bring credibility into question. Don’t be afraid to think for yourself!

Learn more here!

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I’m Reading a Book! Enjoy!

July 5th, 2013 llcowell Posted in uncategorized No Comments »

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Recognizing Bias on the Run

May 27th, 2013 llcowell Posted in uncategorized No Comments »

Bias presents itself in all media, including the news.  News is, after all, generated and consumed by individuals operating with in the larger systems of “mass media” and “the public.”  Today’s students need to be armed not only with this understanding, but also with some quick indicators that alert them to information that is likely more opinion than fact.

  • first person point-of-view that personalizes comments with words like “I” or We”
  • superlatives, such as “always,” “never,” “must”
  • belief statements that include “I believe” or “I think”
  • inflammatory language designed to anger or excite.
  • judgement statements that attack rather than report
    • accusations that use words like “they” or “you”
    • overuse of qualifying adjectives and adverbs
  • solution suggestions using words like “could,” should,” “must”
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Stream it…

May 18th, 2013 llcowell Posted in uncategorized No Comments »

Students reading Slaughterhouse Five. Several need audio support. Online streaming files are an interesting option, assuming internet connectivity. This selection is from the Internet Archives Community Audio collection.  Listen here:

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