I’ve been doing an evaluation exercise with many of my English 151 classes for the last couple of years. It works pretty well, and I’ve had several instructors request that I repeat it again for their future classes. Many of my colleagues have been asked about this exercise, so I thought I would put it down it writing.
First, a little background on our English 151 library sessions. We generally get to see each section of English 151 for a 2-3 hour period, usually during the middle of the 10-week quarter. We teach them how to use the online catalog, how to search for articles, a little about navigating our website, and usually a little about evaluation. The English classes are our best bet in getting most of the first-year students familiar with the library. Many students won’t ever have another library instruction session in their college career, but rather than try to teach them everything they could possibly know about the library, we try to address more general themes. One of those themes is evaluating sources, and we all tend to teach this a little differently. Here is one of the more successful exercises that I use to teach evaluation. If you have any questions or if anything isn’t clear, please post a comment and I’ll try to answer as best as I can.
1. I play the following YouTube video for the class. It takes about seven minutes.
2. While the video is playing, I take notes on a whiteboard at the front of the class. Basically I am writing down things the people say in the video that really stick out at me, things that I might want to question. If you listen to the video, you’ll get the idea of the type of things that might raise a flag.
Notes on the whiteboard
3. After the video is over, I ask the class what they thought of the video, and this usually generates some conversation. If no one talks, I’ve got the notes on the whiteboard at the front of the class. I’ll mention things like the “Luke Skywalker meets…..” comment, or ask them about what things the panel may have said that may cause them to be less credible. I also ask them about the supposed “expert” on the panel, and ask what makes her credible.
4. With the expert, I like to point out that she had not played the game that she was criticizing at all. I also mention that the anchorwoman did not allow the real expert, the game journalist, to speak much at all. We then talk about all the other panelists, and discuss what gives them the authority to talk about the game. As an example, the anchorwoman “went on the internet” to do research, one panelist questioned “what happened to the days of Atari and PacMan” and that she felt “old”, and another panelist compared games to Playboy Magazine.
5. In examining the clip, I like to specifically focus on one of the expert’s points about game statistics. She alleges that teenagers are the majority of game players. However, if you check the Entertainment Software Association’s website, you’ll see that the average gamer is actually 35 years old. The expert also mentions a “new study out of the University of Maryland,” but I try to point out that there are numerous studies about video games, and nearly all of them contradict each other. If you want to find a study that says video games make you kill people, then you can find that pretty easily. If you want to find a study that says video games will make you smarter and a better team player, entire books have been written on those topics as well. The point is to look critically at these studies and find other information that strengthens and weakens the argument.
6. I then point to this blog post on Joystiq about the Fox News/Mass Effect controversy. I explain to them what happened in a nutshell. First, Fox News aired the video shown above, then someone (most likely an angry gamer) copied the video and uploaded it to YouTube. (FYI, more than one video was posted). Next, multiple gaming blogs embedded the video(s) on their pages, whereby millions of gamers saw the video and became enraged. Not content to just sit on their hands, many of these gamers went to Amazon.com and rated the expert’s book (which happened to be promoted during the video segment on Fox). Amazon actually removed over 400 negative reviews of the book, but most of them said something like <paraphrase>”after never actually reading the book, I can tell you that this book is an utter piece of garbage and the author has no idea what she is talking about.” I can say this because, since I haven’t read the book, I am still an authority on the subject.”</paraphrase> The expert later apologized publicly via the New York Times, but I don’t think Fox News ever ran a retraction of the story.
7. The entire exercise, including watching the video and discussion, generally takes no longer than 15 minutes. More than 15 minutes, and I find myself belaboring the point too much and their minds start to drift. If you use this, try to keep it fresh and lively, engage the students for a few minutes, then move on to the next thing on your agenda. I usually do the exercise after they we have had time for hands-on work and they have found a few articles or books. It’s a good way to bring the class focus back together after the hands-on individual activities.
So what’s the point?
The point of the exercise is to demonstrate to the students that evaluation of information goes beyond telling the difference between popular and scholarly articles. This exercise shows them that they should look at things critically, regardless of whether they are doing academic research, watching the news, buying a new camera, or trying to decide which movie to go see. Even in real life outside of academia, we are required to make choices about the information that we ingest and digest. Even when information is fed to us via Fox News, CNN, the New York Times, our professors, or our mothers, it’s important to understand and look for bias and misinformation. I get better with the exercise the more I do it, and by the conversation it starts with the students, I believe it really is effective at making my point.
I hope that this is useful to someone and that if people use it, they’ll make it better. If you try it and it works, please let me know. I’d love to hear what worked, what didn’t, and what changes you made to make the exercise better.
I’m also curious what other librarians and teachers are doing, as I’m always looking for new ways to be more effective in the classroom. Have you seen something that really worked, or have you tried something that really made the point of evaluation clear to the students? If so, I’d love to hear about it.
Today I did a count of my videos, and discovered that I created 27 business research videos and 21 library-related videos (like the ones I post on this blog) in 2009. My business research videos were viewed over 2600 times, and the more general library videos have been viewed over 4200 times. Most of my videos took less than an hour to produce, from start to finish, so the return on investment is quite huge. It’s good to know that something that takes so little effort to put together is getting used so frequently. For me, web video offers a great way to reach my users.
I’m in the process of putting together a series of blog posts on how I use and create web video, including services, tools, and more. Hopefully librarians and others will find the information useful. Look for the posts coming soon. In the meantime, if you have any questions about web video, please leave a comment.
Because it’s growing by leaps and bounds, that’s why!
“The number of unique viewers of online video<a href=”http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/total-viewers-of-online-video-increased-5-year-over-year/”> increased 5.2% year-over-year according to The Nielsen Company</a>, from 137.4 million unique viewers in January 2009 to 142.7 million in January 2010.”? I’d like to think that a few of my videos that I created in the last year have contributed to a growth in that number.
Yesterday I did a count of my videos,and discovered that I? created 27 business research videos and 21 library-related videos in 2009. My business research videos were viewed over 2600 times, and the more general library videos have been viewed over 4200 times. Most of my videos took less than an hour to produce, from start to finish, so the return on investment is quite huge.? It’s good to know that something that takes so little effort to put together is getting used so frequently.? For me, web video offers a great way to reach my users.
This is a video that I put together last week to address a complaint that a faculty member had with her students’ research. The students were finding one particular resource and overusing and over-citing it in their projects. To address her concern, I put together this video and posted it all over my Business Blog, Biz Wiki, and I even listed it in the course management system. I could tell via my blog hits and the stats on Blip.TV that the video was viewed by quite a few students after they got the message through the class email system. (I’m embedding YouTube here to avoid confusing the hit count, but I generally use Blip.TV as my primary method of distributing video.)
The video only took me about 30 minutes to put together, using my Flip Mino camera and Camstudio to record the screen. I wrote the script out the night before on the back of an envelope while waiting for a pizza to cook in the oven. The script was basically just an outline that explained what I wanted to talk about and in what order. The entire video is just 3 separate clips, all shot with one take for each clip. I trimmed and joined the 3 clips in Windows Movie Maker. The entire project was done before a 9 a.m., including uploading, encoding, and distributing to Blip.TV. I deleted junk email and made coffee while the video rendered on my computer, so I was able to do other things while working on the project. The video is not perfect, but I don’t think it has to be to get the job done. I also think the video is a bit more persuasive than if I had just sent all of the students an email.
What are your thoughts? Are you using video in a really cool way? I’d love to learn what others are doing.
Over the past couple of months I have received numerous calls about the Biz Wiki. The callers, emailers, and IMers all have something in common: they all own a business or work at a business whose name or contact information is incorrect on the Biz Wiki. I even got a call recently from some lady in Mississippi who kept getting calls at her home because people thought she was in the recycling business. All of these people said they got their information from the Biz Wiki. Actually, the did get their information from a biz wiki, but it was not The Biz Wiki. I don’t have information about individual companies in the Biz Wiki, as it is a site meant to promote useful business research sources. The other wiki is a collection of company names, addresses, and other information. (I’m not going to link to the other wiki here out of spite, as I don’t want to increase it’s page rankings. Google it if you want to see it. The address has something like bizwiki and .com in it. 😉 ) While the idea of using a wiki as a company directory is a good one, it’s not so good if a lot of the content is just plain wrong. Wrong information is irritating, as are the frequent phone calls requesting that I fix the inaccuracies. Folks are even more irritated when I very politely tell them they’ve got the wrong wiki, but a little visual literacy could have saved them a phone call.
If we compare the two sites, they are not very similar at all, save for the words “biz” and “wiki.” I seriously wish I had trademarked the name.
The cheap Biz Wiki knockoff
The original Biz Wiki
Folks are likely finding me by searching for Biz Wiki, and then they see a guy named “Chad” with lots of different ways to contact him. They’re good at Googling, or so they think, and they think they’ve found the root of all the misinformation about their company. Unfortunately, their sleuthing isn’t good enough, as somehow they can’t figure out that the two sites (see screenshots above) are not similar at all. A quick look at the two sites ought to alert them that something is different with my contact information page and the other web site. A simple look at the address bar would tell folks that the sites are in two different locations, but perhaps they don’t know to look in the address bar. The people are kind of miffed when I p0litely tell them that I’m not the guy responsible for that site and I cannot correct the information there. Many of them ask who I should contact, but the contact information of the other site is very sparse (a email form with no contact info whatsoever).
These are basic skills that librarians teach in information literacy and library instruction sessions. We teach our students how to look for authority in a website, how to look at the address (edu, gov, org, com, etc.) , look for the author information, and even to look at the design. Hopefully the things we’re teaching them are sticking, so they’ll be a bit more saavy consumers of web information. While the phone calls and email about the other biz wiki are a bit annoying, they do lend evidence to the fact that librarians are still important in the education process. My theory is that the folks who called me never had a library instruction class in college, or perhaps they’re the one’s who didn’t listen very well. I know I’ll be a bit more deliberate in my libray instruction sessions from now on, and hopefully I’ll save some poor chap some phone calls down the road.