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Incorporating Google Ads into Information Literacy Instruction

Google_2015_logo.svg

According to an article by The Verge’s James Vincent, many teens can’t tell the difference between ads and search results in Google. He reports that researchers at UK’s telecoms watchdog Ofcom discovered that approximately only 33% of 12-15 year olds and 20% of children between the ages of 8-11 were able to tell the difference between Google advertisements and search results. This article comes at a time where privacy issues are coming to the forefront of many online discussions (Greenwald, 2014; Henry, 2012; Valdes, 2015) and librarians are working hard to ensure that students are properly informed during their online research.

As librarians are now well aware of, growing up in the digital age doesn’t guarantee research savvy. Additionally, many students have an over-inflated perception of their search abilities leading to mistakes when it comes to academic research (Georgas, 2014). Google and many other companies use advertisements that are designed to look very similar to organic content (which includes the “promoted” posts that Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook implement in users’ social media feeds). What was fascinating to me is that while I have never had a problem bypassing Google Ads, organic search results are not as easily differentiated between by the iGen and millennial generations.

The aforementioned Verge article got me thinking about the next generation of academic library users and how they will be needing additional instruction when it comes to academic research. Also, even though the article is does not report data on undergraduate (and graduate) students, I think ad word instruction would also benefit them. Below are a few ideas of how to incorporate Google ad instruction into your information literacy sessions:

  • Point it out- Demonstrate how a search might include ads at the top of one’s search results list. You can also do this with social media platforms.

google ads vs search

  • Discuss how Google AdWords work– Understanding how and why certain links appear at the top of the page might help users understand the difference more intuitively. This Forbes article might be helpful. It also might open the door for a broader discussion about how online behavior is tracked by companies in order to better advertise to users (I like to use this Ghostery video when addressing this topic).
  • Compare database and Google searching– While many proprietary academic databases don’t have the same user experience that Google has, their search result rankings are more trustworthy.

These are just a few basic ideas. If you have any to share I’d love to hear about them!

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Using Infographic Design to Make Common Core Connections

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Image credit: Wesley Fryer

In a recent article in Phi Delta Kappan, Moeller discusses the use of visual thinking strategies to “strengthen students’ communication and critical thinking skills and creativity” (2013). Visual literacy, data visualization, and design thinking are buzzwords in the education rhetoric and are becoming more popular in the classroom partly because of the accessibility of visual creation tools. No longer is robust illustration limited to graphic designers, analytics experts, and lucrative enterprises. Many tools for visual creation are freely available, making them a useful and cost effective instructional tool.

One popular visual that is popping up all over the Web are information graphics, or infographics. Infographics are visual representations of data and are intended to make complex information more understandable by enabling to viewer to graphically view trends, patterns, percentages, etc. These handy little illustrations are not only fun to look at, but are tools with which to teach foundational English literacy and mathematical concepts. Infographic design can help teach students how to properly find sources on the Internet and creatively amalgamate them into a graphic that helps others understand intricate information as well as discover new knowledge of their own.

While infographics are not new on the education scene, new tools for creating infographic are. In the last three years, infographic generators such as Piktochart, Easel.ly, Visual.ly, and Infogr.am were created. In addition, social media outlets such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr streamline image sharing, allowing for wider infographic dissemination. Educators can capitalize on the popularity of infographics and easy to use  infographic generators to teach valuable literacy skills that are aligned with the Common Core in a fun and interesting way. Here are a few ideas:

Common Core Infographic Activities

1)     Social/Environmental Issue Infographic

Many infographics are used to represent and explain a problem. Assign each student with a social issue, require them to analyze quantitative information (such as census data), and create an infographic that visually represents the problem (and maybe proposed solution). After the infographic is completed have students analyze and critique each other’s creations. One great example is Justin Beegel’s Crude Awakening, which depicts the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill.

Standard Connections: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.7

2)     Compare/Contrast Infographic

Ask students to analyze a topic, such as Walt Disney, using both a print resource and an infographic and have them answer questions based on each medium: Is the information easier to understand in print or via infographic? What are the pros and cons of using these different formats? Does the information vary greatly? Then have students create an infographic that analyzes the differences between these mediums. Electronic Health Records vs. Traditional Paper Records is a good example of a compare and contrast infographic: http://www.hitconsultant.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/quest_infographic_v3.jpg

Standard Connections: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.7

3)     Interactive Infographic

Ask students to create an interactive infographic and present it to the class. The infographic will require organization and development that combines both visual, technical, and textual writing skills. If used with an infographic generator, interactive components can be added such as video, interactive data visualizations (which includes hovering your mouse over the data for more information), audio, and animation. This will also require knowledge of web publishing and digital image files. Additionally you could incorporate instruction on programming language concepts required to make the infographic interactive (i.e. Flash and HTML5). Flash and HTML5 can help students understand why certain interactive components don’t work on iOS devices and static image files. The infographic, 13 Reasons Why your Brain Craves Infographics, is a useful reference for a project like this as well as a good example of an animated infographic.

 Standard Connections: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL9-10.5 & 11-12.5

Infographics are also great for collaborative activities. Assign a group of students an infographic project using Piktochart (or another infographic generator). Require each student to work on one portion of the infographic (with Piktochart this is particularly easy because the infographic is divided into “blocks”). Require students to utilize hyperlinks, embed video and images, and implement attractive color schemes.

Standard Connections: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.6, 9-10.6, & 11-12.6

4)     Statistics & Probability Infographic

One awesome aspect of infographic design is the data visualizations that can be added to them. All the high school statistics standards fall directly in-line with the charts, graphs, plots, etc that can be created for an infographic. Infographic generators, such as Piktochart, have a built in chart feature that allows you to input statistical data. For more advanced features and functions the program allows you to import data from excel files. Once calculations have been made, the data can be interpreted and discussed in the infographic to further comprehension and provide another dimension of learning and understanding.

These are just a few ways infogrpahics can be incorporated into the common core. Do you use infographics in your classes? If so, please share in the comments!

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Creating a Flipped Video for Your IL Class? Make it Like a Vsauce Video

This semester I proposed to several professors in the English department an embedded librarian program. I was super stoked when they accepted my proposal. It basically just consists of two required information literacy (IL) sessions focused on specific search strategies and topic creation.

To prepare for these sessions I combed listservs, websites, journal articles, and good ol’ paper books to find ideas on teaching IL in a way that’s engaging to students. One method I thought that sounded awesome was flipping the classroom. Flipping the classroom is the hot topic right now in library and education fields and can be done in several ways. One popular way is to have students watch a video outside of class so you can work on the active or “homework” portion inside the class. In regards to IL some of these video topics could include topic selection, keyword and subject searching, evaluating websites, figuring out the difference between scholarly and popular, etc.

So with my instructional method in mind I tasked my intern with curating a list of interesting IL videos that I could use in my classes. She commented that many videos had useful information but were pretty boring. I thought “surely this can’t be so!” But when I reviewed the videos on her list and did my own searching she was right! I couldn’t believe how incredibly boring these videos were. I thought “yeah there is awesome info here but not even I want to listen to this hackneyed explanation of why database searching is more effective than Google searching.”

I started to consider what I think makes an engaging video and my first thought was Vsauce. I am a huge fan of Michael Stevens’, better known as Vsauce, YouTube channel. He creates videos based on science about simple topics and makes them incredibly fascinating. He explains everything from why we kiss to why we get bored. Here is a list of why I think his videos are so engaging and fun to watch:

  • Interesting topics (ex: Where Do Deleted Files Go, Are We Ready for Aliens)
  • Enthusiastic, quick narration- so many of the IL videos I reviewed had a narrator that I couldn’t see and who spoke suuuper slowly…
  • Simple but relevant animation- I don’t want to sit on the computer and have an avatar speak to me, nor do I want to watch a series of static images.
  • Real life examples

IL might not be a sexy topic like physics or engineering but there’s a reason why Vsauce has close to 5,000,000 viewers. I suggest we take a page from his book and create videos like his. My goal for 2014 is to create my own IL videos for instruction. If you’re interested in creating your own here’s a list of some other great channels you can take notes from. If video creation isn’t you’re style you could also incorporate these into your flipped classes to teach topic selection, critical thinking, etc:

Here’s one of my favorite Vsauce vids:

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Use TED-Ed to Flip Your IL Sessions

TEDEd

Last week I attended the Texas Library Association’s 2013 annual library conference. My head was spinning with all the innovative fresh ideas that were shared! One awesome session I attended was Flipped Classroom: Supporting New Educational Models. The session consisted of a panel of 6 educators who shared their experience flipping their classroom. While it was primarily aimed at teachers and school librarians many ideas were shared that could crossover into the IL session. Ok, so I’ll start by explaining what a flipped classroom is:

Definition

A flipped classroom involves providing materiel before class (usually in the form of a video or a podcast) that the students need to read/watch/listen to and then taking class time for hands on activities. With flipped teaching teachers can spend less time lecturing and more time on interacting with students. Flipped learning allows you to spend your valuable class time on discussion and critical thinking.

TEDEd

One great thing about flipped teaching is that the instructor doesn’t have to make the videos themselves (although they definitely can!), they can choose from a myriad of educational videos that are already out there in cyberspace. One resource that was shared was TedEd. If your familiar with TED already you know what a valuable resource it is. TED-Ed teams up educators and animators to create TED-Ed Videos- exceptional educational videos for your classroom. Here’s a video explaining what it is and how it works:

TED-Ed carefully curates their video library so you don’t have to sift through a bunch of junk to get what you want.

  • On the homepage if you click on Find&Flip 
  • Search for “information literacy” or whatever you want your lesson plan to be and choose the video you would like to use
  • Click Flip This Video and add your own questions, notes, and resources to customize it for your students
  • You can also search Best Flips to find user nominated lessons as well as search by subject or series

And there you have it! Fantastic lessons and great animation that can be customized for your IL sessions. Couldn’t be any easier than that!

Tips/Resources

Here are just a few tips that I learned during the session

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Using Hashtags to Teach Subject Headings

CaptureOne of the hardest concepts, that I have found, for students to grasp and actually utilize are subject headings. Because students don’t regularly employ them in their day to day life they tend to be cast aside for a comfortable natural language search technique. I show students how useful subject headings can be when searching in the library’s catalog and throughout various databases, but they still don’t use them when it comes to conducting research on their own. While mulling around ideas of how to teach this concept in a more efficient manner, a little light bulb went off in my head…hashtags! Hashtags are a concept that students already understand and implement and are a great way to teach about subject headings. Here are a few exercises that I have come up with:

  1. Objective: Show how hashtags and subject headings can help one find more information on a specific topic
    • Example: Click on a trending hashtag on twitter (located in the left column) and explore the various tweets on that topic.
    • Take that same topic and search it in a database.
      • Show the database subject heading for that specific topic and click on it to show the database resources on that topic.
    • Exercise: Have the students pick a hashtag of their choice and list the top 3 Twitter/Pinterest/Facebook results for that hashtag.
      • Have them use that same hashtag and search it in a few library databases and find the most relevant subject heading. Then have them expand/click on the subject heading and list the top 3 results they get in each database.
  2. Objective: Show how hashtags about the same subject but with different lettering can result in a different (and limited) set of results
    • Example: #napomo, #natpomo, #natpoetrymonth, #nationalpoetrymonth
    • All of the hashtags above are about National Poetry Month but they all lead to a different set of results!
    • You could then introduce how subject headings work and discuss that through the use of a “controlled vocabulary” subject headings are required to be worded in a specific way so the researcher will have a more comprehensive list of results.
    • Exercise: Have students come up with their own controlled vocabulary for hashtags. You could also have them explain why they used each hashtag (ex: shorter lettering makes it more conducive for Twitter use)

These are just a few ideas, but I think they could be really useful. Since students already understand the concept of hashtags this takes a lot of the “lecture” part out and allows more focus on activities and engagement.

Update 2/11/2016: I wrote an article for Computers in Libraries about my further experiments with hashtag IL instruction. Check it out if you’d like to learn more!

Alfonzo, P. (2014). Using Twitter hashtags for information literacy instruction. Computers in Libraries, 34(7), 19-22.

Resources for Teaching Critical Thinking to Teens in a Juvenile Detention Center

I have recently agreed to teach information literacy and writing skills to teens at a local juvenile detention center. As a librarian at an academic university, teaching teens is a totally new prospect to me. So to help tackle this challenging prospect I reached out to the education faculty at my university as well as the Information Literacy Instruction listserv. Listed below are the awesome suggestions and resources that were recommended to me:

Suggested Activities

  • Debate
  • Ebonics exercise- students volunteer slang terms to research in the OED, Academic Search Complete, etc

Resources for Finding Activities 

  • MadLibs: 

http://www.funbrain.com/brain/ReadingBrain/ReadingBrain.html

  • Story Starters:

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/story-starters/

  • Jeopardy (addressess antonyms, synonyms, prefixes, suffixes, etc.)

http://www.eslgamesworld.com/members/games/ClassroomGames/Quizshow/Word%20Building%20Game%20Intermediate/index.html

  • Spelling and voc. practice: (may be too easy):

http://www.spellingcity.com/

  • Resources for literacy lesson plans and activities (Reading Rockets is a good source as well):

http://www.readwritethink.org/

http://www.superteacherworksheets.com/

Associations

The Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies interest groups

Articles

This is just a start to the list of awesome recommendations that I have received. I will keep you updated on any additions. Also if you have any suggestions please comment below!