Daily Archives: April 4, 2008

Community Colleges & Info Lit

Hey, wow. I’m part of a growing trend. According the Chronicle of Higher Edumacation, information literacy is becoming a larger part of instruction for community college students.

Such courses are designed to help students find, communicate, and critically evaluate online information. The average percentage increase in the number of these classes offered from the fall semester of 2006 to the fall semester of 2007 was 38.1 percent, according to the survey.

I know, I know – the article is over a week old. I been busy!

Anyhoo, I tend to agree with Kate, who commented on the article:

Stretched local school budgets have led to the elimination of K-12 school library professionals in many states. This shortfall in access to information literacy instruction in pre-college education settings will impact college instruction demands for many years.

Yet even if K-12 students received the info-lit instruction they deserve, there would still be plenty of need for community colleges (and other higher educational institutions) to make info-lit mandatory. Information technology continues to diversify through constant innovation, industry trends, and improvement in user accessibility and options. These changes may seem really nifty to information professionals like me and my colleagues, but they are not as intuitive as their designers believe, nor are they suitable to all styles of learning and research. Moreover, this diversity has offered students a range of choices far beyond their expertise. That’s where we library nerds come in.

And I should add, I don’t think we can stress enough responsible and ethical information practice. I mean, forget Jayson Blair or Margaret Seltzer. Judith Miller, anyone?

Playing With News Trends

So the Shiny Librarian gets me hip to infodoodads, which means I learn about all kindsa nifty sites, widgets and whatnot to play with, including silobreaker, a news and information gathering portal that will replace whatever love I have for googlenews, especially because it offers this addictive little toy: News Trends.

News Trends is a search engine that graphs media attention trends on a given subject. For fun, I thought I would compare media coverage for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Britney Spears, and Lindsay Lohan over the past 12 months. I’m cynical. I think Spears and Lohan will trounce Obama and Clinton. After all, neither Clinton nor Obama have flashed their genitals at paparazzi, at least not in the time period in which this data has been gathered.

I am wrong.

Well, wrong about media attention, not genitalia exposure. It turns out the media finds Obama and Clinton far more interesting than Spears and Lohan. I realize I am setting the bar pretty low, but I am happily surprised.

What’s really cool about silobreaker in general and this graph generating tool in particular is that it offers some handy research tools students can use for class projects. No, the shit ain’t peer-reviewed, and you might want to issue the usual caveats about research methodology (for instance, the developers claim to use “relational analysis” but do not explain how that is actually designed in their search algorithms.) But I think it’s a good introduction to research for beginners, a way to get them thinking about information, how to display it visually, and how to manipulate it. It may also stimulate them to draw unusual connections. Or, as in my case, subvert a priori assumptions.