Inspiration, Innovation & Information for school libraries and learning.
It claims to provide searchers with the most relevant results from a list of credible sources and to make it much easier for them to find primary sources. SweetSearch excludes spam sites, and Wikipedia almost never shows up in results.
SweetSearch has an integrated tool that highlights keywords, showing where the term is used and in what context, so that students can quickly scan a search results page and easily determine which results will be most helpful.
Results can be saved to a Google Doc (with the link included), EasyBib’s citation generator, or a social bookmarking service. So students not only can find what they are looking for very quickly, but they can be sharing it with other students within moments.
I tried a number of New Zealand key words and phrases with good results, and I found it helpful that I was able to filter by date to narrow my results.
“Our digikids may have the ICT technical skills but they possess limited online information and critical evaluation skills and teachers don’t have strategies to teach these skills. “ These were the findings of a just published New Zealand study undertaken by Judine Ladbrook and Elizabeth Probert.
School librarians will find this research extremely relevant useful as the context of the research is the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum’s vision statement that young people will be, “confident, connected, actively involved and lifelong learners. Ludbrook and Probert describe the lifelong learner as “literate, critical thinkers who actively seek, use and create knowledge.” These are the attributes of an information literate person.
Their research involved three large Auckland secondary schools and began with 188 year 10 students and from those students 22 of the most active, experienced and skilled at using ICT and at seeking information on line were selected for the research.
The students undertook focus group discussions and surveys about how they used information from the internet and how the teachers helped them with the skills involved.
All 16 students used Google as their only search engine. The strategy for choosing a site was to enter the first listed site and they never went beyond the third listed site! Many students based their judgments of site trustworthiness on how the site looked. It was trustworthy if “it’s nicely presented, it’s not just white background, black writing” because that “shows a professionalism” and “it doesn’t have the adverts or pop ups.” Nearly all of the students felt that a internet site was accurate if it was well laid out and divided into chunks with sub-headings as this lent itself to accuracy and if it “sounded convincing it probably was true.”
The students’ strategy for using the information did not involve any synthesising but simple cutting and pasting. When they were asked to research using more than one source students 75% of the students used strategies such as putting in sites that they hadn’t used but which had come up on their initial Google search.
The students suggested that the prior knowledge work would enable them to judge information more accurately. The students did suggest that if teachers gave them several URLs, a couple of articles or chapters in books from which to choose information, and also built their prior knowledge, then they would be unable to plagiarise because teachers would know their information sources and also it would stop them from adding false references.
One of the key themes that emerged from the research was how little teachers helped students develop their research skills. Most of the students stated that little help had been given to them. There was often an assumption by their teachers that research skills had already been taught before students reached secondary school.
Some students got given a list of helpful sites but only a few were given some minimal help to research on the internet. None of them were given help to use books to research, apart from being taken to the library.
The authors suggest teachers conduct diagnostic work to see what students can do in the area of information literacy and in using online resources, and use this information to make pedagogical decisions for addressing the gaps.
With the advent of the new e-Learning Planning Framework in schools, enabling “students to be successful citizens in a digital world” the deliberate teaching of information literacy skills is even more crucial.
Ladbrook, J. & Probert, E. (2011), Information skills and critical literacy:
Where are our digikids at with online searching and are their teachers helping?
Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 27(1), 105-121.
Love it, hate it, use it or abuse it. This January saw Wikipedia celebrating its 10th anniversary. Ten years! Where’d that go?
Onward and upwards apparently. While world attention is currently focused on Wikileaks, Wikipedia’s impressive credentials continue to rise and shine; its one of the top five most visited sites, it has around 17 million articles, these are written in over 250 languages. In fact there’s probably a Wikipedia article about its 10th anniversary, (there is, I just checked).
Wikipedia’s success has also spawned many other imitators. There’s Conservapedia, http://www.conservapedia.com/Main_Page the conservative Christian alternative and
Uncyclopedia http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page the irreverent “content free” alternative. If you’re bored, both have interesting things to say about evolution, global warming and homosexuality…
Marc Weiser, a scientist at Xerox once said the best technology is invisible and that can also be applied to Wikipedia, and Google. Constant and automatic use has embedded them into our online lives so they become ubiquitous, and thus invisible. Thanks to Wikipedia it’s so quick and easy to find information online from Pokemon card games to Ptolemy.
The real question is the quality of that information and importantly (for our students) what do you do with that information? As many have noted Wikipedia represents one way to begin the enquiry journey but its not an end in itself. Similarly though you have to question any assignment or project that can easily be answered using a cut and paste from Wikipedia.
Anyway happy 10 years Wikipedia. You’ve reshaped the information landscape, you’re (still) free and you represent an extraordinary collaboration of human endeavour and good faith.
For those interested Here’s a clever infographic exploration of Wikipedia’s history narrated by Jimmy Wales, one of its co-founders.
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