Latest news from the Virtual Training Suite

November 12th, 2010

Here is a round-up of news items about information literacy, e-learning and the Virtual Training Suite as picked out by @VTStutorials on Twitter.

  1. RT @MakeUseOf Create Your Own Personal Learning Environment Using SymbalooEDU
  2. RT: @HEAcademy: We’ve launched a major new guidance report on student plagiarism today. Read the full report here.
  3. Why do students use Wikipedia? In their own words … from Project Information Literacy
  4. RT @resourceshelf Universities May be Failing to Sufficiently Teach Basic Research Skills
  5. When did search become research?
  6. Reading: Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in Internet Skills and Uses among Members of the “Net Generation”
  7. RT @universityboy How to read around a subject:
  8. RT @mashable Twitter Increases Student Engagement
  9. Students expectations of technology
November 9th, 2010

Typing a few keywords into Google isn’t research, yet the words search and research are often bandied about as though they were interchangeable – but is this a new problem? Surprisingly, no.

The notion that the word research is used when we really mean search, is a topic that I’ve meant to look into for quite a while. It’s something that I feel a tad guilty about, after all we use the tagline – Developing Internet research skills – for the Virtual Training Suite.

I set out to do a bit of preliminary Internet searching expecting to be swamped by news stories chastising students for being too reliant on Google or Wikipedia and opinion pieces saying that the Internet is making us stupid or enhancing our brains in ways that we can’t even imagine.

Instead, I was drawn to an article on PubMed Central from the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association – When does search become research? by Edith Dernehl, read at the 43d Annual Meeting of the Medical Library Association at Ann Arbor, Michigan, May 29 … in 1941.

She starts by neatly outlining the problem, in terms that ring true nearly 70 years later.

“Research has as its object the exploration of uncharted fields, while search leads only into domains previously explored. We all know that many a search wrongly assumes the name of research, when the work reported has hardly shown evidence of even a thorough survey of a subject, and has no trace of the original thought so essential to any project dignified by the name research.”

But the student or academic should be just as careful as the commentator in their choice of words to describe their work.

“No matter in what field he chooses to work, he must bring originality of thought or of approach to the task. Without these attributes or without new truth, his work can at best be called a library search and should never be classed as research work.”

However, the librarian must treat the searcher and researcher equally.

“One of the qualities most necessary for a librarian, therefore, is vision; she must show judgment, guided by imagination, in her decisions, and she must cultivate an understanding for the needs of the searcher and the researcher alike.”

She concludes by saying that:

“A search will often be rewarded with useful information; if not, then even a small problem, solved by a live intelligence, may well be called a bit of research well done.”

Suitably chastised that there really isn’t anything new under the sun, I’ve discovered that search became conflated with research at least as far back as 1941 and probably a lot earlier! And perhaps I won’t feel so bad about saying research when I mean search – as it’s clearly not something that has come about purely since the invention of the Internet.

November 3rd, 2010

Two recent studies looking at student attitudes to technology have found similar themes, despite being conducted on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2010 is the annual survey of US undergraduate students that looks at their ownership, use and perceptions of technology both inside and outside the classroom.

Student Perspectives on Technology – demand, perceptions and training needs is a report from the NUS undertaken as part of the HEFCE Online Learning Task Force. It took a more qualitative approach using consultation events, online discussions and an online survey of FE students.

So what did they discover …

Searching skills

Both studies show that students think that they are good online searchers.

88.6% agree that they were effective online researchers. (NUS / HEFCE)

Eight out of ten (81%) students considered themselves expert or very skilled in searching the Internet effectively and efficiently. (ECAR)

Information literacy training

However, both studies also reveal that students have concerns about how to use the information they find online for academic purposes.

There was a common request for more skills training, particularly around how to effectively research and reference reliable online resources in the NUS / HEFCE study.

Student ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of online information and understand ethical / legal issues was lower than their assessment of how effective they are in searching the Internet in the ECAR study.

Amount of technology used in teaching

Both studies show that students are cautious about the amount of technology used in teaching and prefer a blended approach of technological and traditional teaching methods.

The NUS / HEFCE study shows that students prefer a choice in how they learn and that opinions are fundamentally divided over e-learning. It was recognised that not every area of study needed e-learning and that is would be more effective if it was an option, not an obligation.

The ECAR study has consistently found that students only want a “moderate” amount of technology in their courses, although the definition of what a moderate amount is, is probably very different now than it was five years ago.

Other issues

Perhaps the most important findings to bear in mind, come at the end of the ECAR study which concludes that “many student technology adoption patterns are surprisingly stable,” but that “there is no stereotypical student when it comes to technology”.

October 26th, 2010

Is there still a place for Women’s Studies in the world of coalition politics, Strictly Come Dancing and WAGS?  A quick survey of postgraduate courses in the UK, on showed that 39 universities do indeed have courses.  Titles range from Women, Culture and Society, to Women’s History and even the wonderfully named The Menopause and Beyond. But do students need help with finding information on Women’s Studies? Feedback which the Virtual Training Suite receives from librarians and educators tells us that there still  is a need for information literacy help for students.

A new version of the Virtual Training Suite’s Internet for Women’s Studies was released this summer, offering good advice, a list of fascinating websites for academic research, and scenarios of students using the Internet for research, such as  – ‘Can Virginia Woolf, modernist writer,  be classed as a feminist? ‘   It shows how educational materials, primary sources,  library catalogues, blogs and news sites can provide quality materials for learning about Women’s Studies.  For example, The Women’s Library in London (part of London Met University) has valuable collections about the Suffragist Movement, women’s employment, oral history and female emigration.  Other interesting websites in the tutorial include The F-Word – an online forum for feminists now, and Wikigender from the OECD which tracks progress of gender equality in the OECD countries.  Media websites include Radio 4’s Women’s Hour which has its own website with podcasts.  YouTube is also worth a look, in its EDU Women and Gender section, where there are currently about two thousand video clips on women’s health, leadership and more.

For the more rebellious, the Pink Stinks website looks at gender stereotyping and encourages discussion. And according to online sources, such as  Frassanito (2008), in the journal Child’s Nervous System,  vol 24, pp881-882, ‘Pink and blue: the color of gender’, there is evidence that in the early twentieth  century, boys in North America were often dressed in pink and girls in blue. Probably pink became more of a girl’s colour from the 1940s onwards.

October 21st, 2010

Xpert Attribution is a new tool from the University of Nottingham that can help you credit your sources when using images, audio and video.

Much attention has been focused on citation and plagiarism advice about the correct use of textual material, but it is increasingly important to do the same when working with other types of media.

The tool searches open media (images, sound and video) from Flickr and Wikimedia and aims to automatically attribute the appropriate license.

Find out more about how to find, evaluate and use images, audio and video in this series of Virtual Training Suite tutorials produced in partnership with JISC Digital Media.

Internet for audio resources
Internet for image searching
Internet for video & moving images