Posted to…oh gosh, I don’t remember, one of the many, many list servs I’m on, was a link to Truth be Told: How College Students Evaluate and Use Information in a Digital Age. It is a fascinating study. What struck me was that nothing much has actually changed.
OK, yes, students are seeking information online BUT their first resource is still family/friends. This has always been true. The “phone a friend” option has been popular since Hector was a pup (as an old friend used to say). If you look down to the core of the information seeking behavior, the root is the same. The places have changed but the way we start hasn’t. We ask someone we think will know and move along from there.
I remember when I first learned about Usenet and BITNET (remember them? Oh Lord, I am old). I remember going to one of the computer science professors and asking for instructions on how to use them and being told “there is none”. What? There were no instructions on how to use this incredible resource? This was in the days before Mosiac, back when we used “archie” or “veronica” to “gopher” things. It was incomprehensible to me that no instructions or manual existed but it was true. It was trial and error and everyone learned on their own.
Did you notice? I went to a live person to try to find out how to use something…My information seeking was to find someone…
Yesterday I conducted a very unofficial and hugely informal user test to see how the young ones search. I explained to my subject that there were no wrong answers, I just wanted to see and learn how non-professionals search. I’m way too far removed from the experience; as with cataloging I cannot help but know the path to follow. The following is what happened [note I am not naming names because that makes it seem so much more official]
Subject was (and is, I suppose) a recent college graduate. I provided a topic and asked “please find two peer reviewed articles and one book that you might use as a source as if you were writing a paper on the impact of Jimmy Carter’s presidency”. I asked “please go to your library website to start the search”.
Subject went to unnamed university library website, logged in [yay still worked after graduating!] and put in search terms. What search terms? Subject typed “jimmy carter impact” in the search box provided. No Boolean, no truncation. Subject did not use any of the limiters available (such as ‘limit to peer reviewed’). Results were quickly scanned. Anything of interest went into a new browser window to review. At one point subject stumbled on google scholar and asked “WHERE HAS THIS BEEN THE LAST FOUR YEARS?” I explained the history, basically been around since 2004. Groans met my explanation, subject noted “knowing this would have been very useful!”.
I watched the subject go outside the library website for each item of interest. Subject took any citation of interest (actually, just the title) to the open web to find it. Once found, subject scanned the content quickly to see if it would answer her “impact of jimmy carter’s presidency”. Subject never varied search terms nor used any other tool on the library site.
I asked “what does peer reviewed mean?” Subject noted this meant “a scholarly article”. Uhm, yeah, sort of …
I asked “if you had to cite an article found in APA style, how would you do it?” . Subject went to a new browser window and opened the Purdue OWL site, explaining this was the site used since high school.
As we finished, I showed the subject the features on the unnamed university library site where the limiters, citation builder, etc. all reside. I noted these are all within the areas the search began but were skipped/ignored. I further explained that all the full text that had been ‘discovered’ on the open web were due to the library purchase – because the subject logged in to the library website, the proxy took effect and full text was found. Subject was astonished and wondered why this was not shown to students. I asked if they had any library instruction – “well in one class we were shown JSTOR”. I asked why the library site was not used more, subject said “I’ve just always done it like this”.
Now, is this typical? I have no idea. I just asked one person to do this and had no formal method of testing. It does make me wonder though and and pushes me to the belief that library instruction needs to be part of the school experience – from kindergarten on up really, with new bits and parts each year to build upon, like we do with grammar, math, etc…
Mike Rowe, I’ve loved you for a very long time. I love how you glory the non-glamorous. Love how you speak out for the unspoken (careers, that is). I could not possibly agree with you more on the beauty of skilled labor*; on the idea that college is NOT for everyone; on the thought that blue collar is not inherently less but is, in fact, much much more.
Now I find that you are rocking my thirst for knowledge. My need for info – bites. My desire for your voice to stream erudite in my ear. I haven’t been so happy since I found Mental Floss!
Check out the new The Way I Heard It for mini-bits of Rowe knowledge. I only presume he is working with a professional to ensure the facts are checked and double checked before each episode is recorded. If not, I know a whole bevy of librarians who’d be happy to help –
Psst, learn more about the trades and options available at Mike Rowe Works by going to your local library. We carry tons of information on every possible trade … and if we don’t have it there, we can get it for you. NO CHARGE!
*Funny! Wikipedia notes ‘skilled labor’ as not just the trades & getting your hands dirty but also notes computer skills, accountants, etc. … skill is skill is skill. And labor is key in every job.
Online training, online demos, online EVERYTHING! It is cheaper and more cost effective, very true. But the success of such an event really comes down to the following:
All three need to work together in a weird sort of synchronicity. The most vibrate presentation can be ruined by a dull speaker. The best speaker can be stymied by bad materials. The audience can ruin or enhance the whole experience.
Presenters – practice if you have never presented in an online environment (WebEx, Connect, GotoMeeting, etc). Heck, practice if you are using a different program than usual, each one has neato cool stuff with different ways to use them. Gather your friends and have them log in. Record and listen to yourself. Ensure you know the program – how do you import slides, go to live websites, type text for the audience to see, etc. Become familiar with the tools and tricks of the world you will inhabit.
Material – evaluate both the type of presentation and the audience before developing your materials. Are you training or giving a sales/marketing pitch? Different approaches and materials will be needed. Also, check your online environment to ensure a smooth use of whatever you wish to use – does the system interact well with Prezi or does it freeze? Is there a preferred browser for websites? Find out before you spent time creating your presentation.
Audience – the key to everything. Who is going to be there? What do they expect? Is it a really big group? Is there a”live audience” with an online audience? Let’s spend some time here, mmkay?
With a mixed audience (live and online), the presenter needs to aware of the invisible audience. That microphone the techies so lovingly setup for you? It is really necessary for the online audience to hear you – even if the live audience can hear you just fine when you walk 20 feet away from the microphone. Be sure to engage the online group as well as the live folk, check the chat, repeat questions given in the live event into the microphone for the online audience.
Do you use a laser pointer? Great! You do realize the online audience has no idea you are pointing to anything, right? They cannot see the fancy cat toy burning a hole into the screen, so use your words to explain what you are doing.
In an online-only environment, the non-reaction and non-feedback can befuddle a presenter used to hearing or seeing reactions. The presenter is generally alone in front of a computer, speaking into a headset and hoping the audience is hearing and engaging but the only way to know is if the audience types in chat, uses the online environment tools to clap or raise hands – worse is not knowing until the session ends and the evaluations are read (be sure to read these, it will help you present better in the future).
A great way to throw the presenter off-stride and to ensure the wrath of the rest of the audience is to keep the audience microphones live – ensuring all ambient noises echo thru the headsets and computer speakers across the land. It is wonderful to be able to ask questions in an online event. It is great to be able to speak rather than type into chat (although chat is really my fav). However. The dogs barking, the doorbells ringing, the potato chip crunching, and the general static sound of several microphones will distract the audience from whatever the presenter is presenting. The best presenter with an awesome presentation will fail when the audience cannot hear.
Hands up – how many have attended a session online where one of the audience members puts the session on hold and everyone in the room is overcome with hold music? Please tell me that wasn’t you. BTW, Presenters, when someone puts you on hold they cannot hear you ask, repeatedly, “will whoever put us on hold please take us off hold”? But is it pretty funny that you say it so many times… it’s right up there with “If you can’t hear me, please let me know”. Both statements I have heard from multiple online presenters in a variety of sessions. It never gets old. No. Really. Never.
Be the best you can be – learn to mute, practice before, learn your environment as well as your material. Now, go succeed!
Ever search random ideas, things or thoughts? Do it then watch the “ads” appear! A friend was over, we wondered if we could make pigs in a blanket without buying canned dough (you can) … now my “ads” all feature recipes, blankets, hot dog brand names, and (my favorite) actual piglets in blankets.
I did a blog a while back about cyber-stalking advertisements and it still amuses me how fun it can be. And now many major telecommunications groups (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) are planning to or are already selling your particular search history to others. Theoretically the “individual identification” is removed. Uh huh. Sure it is. No one could possible track me down … right Target?
Dangerously cool! And awesome! And, a little scary sometimes.
Show of hands, how many of you go to MedlinePlus (or your other favorite consumer health site) when you ‘suddenly’ develop a symptom and figure it must be The Start of Something Awful? Say, perhaps, your feet are a wee bit swollen. Obviously something is wrong. It could not possibly be the 3 hour flight, a week of eating junky food followed by a 10 hour drive home. Certainly you now have Something Serious.
Off you go to look up Edema (psst, that is doctor-ese for ‘swollen feet’). In looking at the list of suspects, it’s obvious. You have kidney disease. Or maybe heart failure. After reviewing all the possibilities you come to the inescapable conclusion. Too much salt.
Hmm. Now to find how to get rid of it. You need a Diuretic. Being a new-age kind of person (and not wanting to pay to see a real doctor, plus the drug side affects look really icky), you head over to that other wealth of information, Goohoo (google/yahoo) to find some natural cures.
The Professional Librarian in you knows that Goohoo results are not always, well, truthful. So, using your ninja like research skills you quickly suss out that Dandelion is a pretty good choice. But … since it is not regulated, it is risky to just pick up any old dandelion pill.
Wait! What’s that? Watermelon and cucumber are natural diuretics? And they are on sale? And you love both?
On and off I have been working on a post about technology. I love new technology, am fascinated with the possibilities but at the same time I want to know how it will effect (and affect) things.
Remember the old PDA? The first run of these basically were just electronic address books – and the stylus was rather difficult to use (especially for those of us with less than stellar handwriting). I liked the idea but preferred my old handwritten, scribbled on, little black book. I still do use that little black book (especially for physical addresses of friends/family) but I also my phone’s ability to retain phone numbers. Works for me but it does mean I can no longer remember phone numbers since I no longer dial from memory.
Then there is the downloadable music of today. I’m told downloadable is replacing compact disc (which replaced the LP and cassettee…not entirely and not across the world). This frustrates me. I love music and dislike the idea that I can only get some things by purchasing and downloading. Well, except when you go to see live music of not-so-well-known bands. CD sales is where they can make their money, gigs don’t pay very much and CD (and tshirt and keychain, etc.) sales is where they can make some $$$.
Oh! And books. Books are going away, d’ya know? Yes! It is said that no longer will we have paper, we will be a paperless society (I’ll pause here for your laughter as you look around your office). Instead of purchasing a book or grabbing one from the library, you will purchase and download books to a device. Seems very much like ‘renting’ to me – especially when Big Brother can reach across and delete from my device (referring to the Kindle/1984 phenomena – and ain’t it a kick what book that happened to? Cue Rod Sterling).
I like owning a physical copy. Yes, it takes space but when my computer crashes and my hard drive backup is corrupt…I still have my CD and I can read by candlelight if power dies. I wish I had taken my own advice on physical copy when my phone decided I no longer needed to have any friends or contacts – which happened right after my computer decided to kick the bucket thus killing my phone backup.
Then, of course, is the issue of access. I have ranted and ranted about this. NOT everyone can afford an MP3 player. What? They’re really cheap? Uh huh, so is milk but many still need food stamps or WIC. Oh! You’ll give everyone a player? Sweet. Now, how do they get the music to put on the ‘free’ player? Ah! Simply download it…on what? Can’t download in a public library. Can’t download when you do not own a computer OR have internet access. Oh and let’s not forget the cost of electricity and/or batteries. It ain’t cheap. Then there is the learning curve on how to do this…rant rant rant.
Wow – go off subject much? Yes. Yes I do. Point being technology is great, it really is but let us not forget everyone else. Let’s not build a society of information-rich and information-poor. Libraries can help fill this niche needed to provide all this wonderful technology to the masses. And they do – quietly and without fanfare, libraries are out there helping people get what they need to succeed (as well as entertain).
*disclaimer, I do use downloads. I have downloaded music and books and all sorts of neato cool things. And I love it. But I do also love my physical copies for things I want to go over and over and over and over… I am not anti-technology. I am, though, pro-options.