Incorporating Google Ads into Information Literacy Instruction


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!


5 Universities Killing It On Snapchat

Snapchat_LogoI am becoming convinced that Snapchat should become a library social media staple. Being a “cusper” (on the tail end of the millennial generation) I might not be as in-tune with what’s fresh in social as my younger counterparts, but the numbers don’t lie. Smith, from DMR, reports that Snapchat not only touts 100 million daily active users, but a demographic that comprises of 77% college students. In addition, Smith states that 71% are 34 years old or younger and 45% are between the ages of 18 and 24 years old. Since so many users are the age of traditional college students, I think this makes Snapchat worth the time/money investment for libraries.

Among the throng of brands proliferating Snapchat, I have not noticed a large number of academic libraries using the platform. Moreover I was also unable to find a substantive quantity of higher education institutions in general using Snapchat. However, I did come across a few gems in the postsecondary realm that really understood how to leverage this social tool. Listed below are the aforementioned institutions. I suggest that libraries follow them and monitor how they engage students online for inspiration, before delving into their own snapping endeavors. With features like Snapchat Stories, Live, and Discover, Snapchat is becoming more conducive for student engagement.

Before I list the exemplar universities, I wanted to share two content themes that arose during my Snapchat perusal, Campus Life and Media Reuse/Sharing. Campus Life involves promoting events on campus, taking users on “video tours” of departments or popular restaurants, and generally just communicating what it’s like to go to that university. Media Reuse/Sharing consists of universities sharing student photos/videos on Snapchat or other social media venues such as Facebook or Twitter. Users on social media generally love it when an institution will share their content and it allows the university to use it as organic promotional content. Ok…without further ado, here’s my list!

1) University of Michigan

Username: UofMichigan– I would have to say that this account is probably my favorite. UMich has one of the oldest university Snapchat accounts and the social team really knows how to leverage all types of media. In their Snapchat Stories they incorporate video, music, funny online clips, doodles, hashtags, and pictures. It’s clear that they know who their target audience is, and they are great at embedding themselves into the everyday activities of undergrads. Their current story on the freshman move in checklist and #selfie contest are prime examples of this.

2) MIT

Username: mitstudents – Most of the content I have seen from MIT centers on the “around campus” vibe. What makes their account fun to follow is the fact that they don’t display easy to access campus information, but rather provide you with a behind the scenes peek of what goes on at MIT. It serves as a sort of unofficial campus guide.

3) Colorado State University

Username: ColoradoStateU – Over the summer CSU initiated a #stateofsummer hashtag Snapchat contest. They encouraged students to share their summer pictures on social media for a chance to win a prize. This is a great example of utilizing user generated content to promote the university. Below is one contestant’s post that was shared on Twitter. You can see how students’ activities in the state where CSU is located, serve as a way to engage CSU’s current audience as well as advertise to prospective students.

4) Princeton University

Username: princeton_u – Princeton has caught on to their students’ social sharing tendencies. They not only share snaps on Snapchat but have a designated Facebook photo album entitled Snapchat Saturday. The album’s description reads “Featuring the week’s most fun and creative snaps to Princeton_U!” and promotes user content that exudes school pride.

5) Duke University

Username: @dukestudents – I attended Hootsuite’s webinar, Social Media in Education: Tips from 3 Pros, and got to hear some of the awesome social media efforts that are going on at Duke University. One platform they have found to be highly successful is Snapchat. They use it for outreach and to showcase student life at Duke. The snaps they post are funny and engaging and they have made great use of Snapchat Stories. If you have time I highly recommend you listen to the webinar.

Honorable Mentions

University of Nebraska- Lincoln

Username: unlincoln – Most of the content I’ve seen from UNL comprises of campus activities. Free events such as #Gradfest and Service Learning Fair are communicated from their account. It is a useful resource for students looking for interesting activities, but not highly engaging which is why they didn’t make the cut.

ucsf-snapchatUniversity of California San Francisco

Username: USFCA

Other Universities with Sanpchat Accounts

There are more and more universities joining Snapchat on a regular basis. Listed below are some that I have found interesting.

Chico State University – Username: chico.state

Coastal Carolina University – Username: CCUChanticleers

Eastern Kentucky University – Username: ekustories

Eastern Washington University – Username: ewuathletics

Illinois State University – Username: illinoisstate

Kent State University – Username: KentStateU

Liberty University – Username: sparkyflames

Mount Aloysius College- Username: MountAloysius

Northern Michigan University – Username: NorthernMichU

Northwestern University – NorthwesternADM

Shepherd University- SUstudents

University of Houston – Username: uhouston

University of Kansas -Username: jayhawks

University of New Hampshire -Username: UNHStudents

University of Minnesota: Morris- SCummorris

University of Washington – Username: uwstudentlife

Valparaiso University- valparaisou

West Virginia University – Username: westvirginiau

Wichita State- Username: goshockers

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania- Username: whartonschool

Let me know if you have any you want me to add to the list! I think that these trailblazers are perfect for some inspiration as you attempt your own Snapchat engagement.


Another Conference Organizer to Avoid: Global Academic Network

Here’s a useful article by Jeffrey Beall, author of Scholarly Open Access, and expert on predatory journals and, apparently now, predatory conference organizers. You can read about my experience with a predatory journal in my previous post Beware of Predatory Journals.

Resources for Finding a Graduate Summer Research Position

I wrote this for the University of Denver’s Office of Graduate Studies. I think it has some useful info to share with your graduate students. If you have any additional resources that should be included please let me know. 🙂 Resources for Finding a Graduate Summer Research Position

Promote Your Library Using Mark Zuckerburg’s Worldwide Book Club

facebook likeFacebook’s Mark Zuckerburg launched the New Year by announcing a challenge: “to read a new book every other week — with an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories, and technologies.” His announcement has currently garnered 119,199 likes and 5,502 comments.


Since then he has created a Facebook group entitled “A Year of Books” that will serve as the platform for an international book club where Facebook users will read his selected book every two weeks and discuss it. The group currently has 147,651 likes. His first selection “The End of Power” has already sold out on Amazon according to Business Insider’s Madeline Stone.

I think this provides an awesome opportunity for libraries to jump into the New Year! With so many libraries now offering free online books (I’ve already checked and my library offers The End of Power online) it’s a great way to showcase our collections, facilitate spaces for book club meetings, and contribute ourselves. Maybe libraries can offer a Facebook book club space this year where your patrons can discuss the current literature selection.

What are your ideas for participating in A Year of Books?

Using Infographic Design to Make Common Core Connections

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,,, and 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:

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!

Top 20 Library & Information Science Publications According to Google Metrics

Just wanted to let you all know that Google Scholar recently released their 2014 Metrics. Google lists the top 20 library science publications based on h5-index. Coming in at number one is the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology with an h5-index of 56. The h5-index is the h-index for articles published in the last 5 complete years. Usually the h-index is used to measure a specific author’s impact, but  Google Scholar has applied this measurement to journals as well (most databases use the Journal Impact Factor). Google measures the h-index of a publication by determining “the largest number h such that at least h articles in that publication were cited at least h times each. ” For example a journal with six articles that have been cited 20, 15, 11, 10, 9, and 8 will have an h-index of 6. Here are a few data visualizations I made and a reading list for more info about Google Scholar’s metrics.

h5 index


h5 index_h5 median

 Reading List