Sunday, February 3, 2013

Going beyond "the Google"

Are our students in love with the Google search? Yes.
But because so many of our teachers see the value in introducing students to the advantages of using trustworthy, subject-indexed and (mostly) full-text subscription databases, we have significant use of these high quality, Iowa AEA Online and Grant Wood AEA sponsored resources. .

I recently studied the 2011-2012 usage statistics for all the districts in the Grant Wood Area Education Agency to get a sense of where we stood in comparison to other districts and was pleasantly surprised to see that although we aren't leading the pack and there is room for growth, we were averaging about 3,300 hits a day last year.

The data is somewhat crude. Because we use IP authentication and not separate building logins, grade level use of resources can't be parsed out. Who is using Soundzabound so much for royalty free audio? I hope it is being used by K-12 for multimedia projects.

When I show students Britannica and talk about our online encyclopedia, I sometimes ask them about that super popular "pedia" web site that shows up in the top ranks of Google searches. It is a great opportunity to discuss the difference between them. I'm not anti-Wikipedia at all, but I do believe that it is necessary to use other sources as well and Britannica is an excellent choice, with value added content like images, videos, primary source documents and hand-picked web sites. I'm glad to see our students are taking advantage of it.
EbscoHost continues to be one of our most popular sources for magazine articles, although Gale and SIRS made a good showing too. Many SCSD teachers require citations from database research and that helps give students some search experience. The use of databases will not be optional at the college level.

The numbers only tell part of the story though. Collecting hits is one thing - understanding how databases work, why they are important, designing search strategies, understanding Boolean search logic - that is something completely different and something much harder. 

I'm here to help. While I'm happy to give students the "overview" presentation, what is really most effective is meeting with them one on one to work through the process of a successful search. That might mean scheduling myself to embed in the classroom for one or two days, something I love doing. Don't hesitate to ask.

If you are interested in seeing the full study, it  can be found at "Use of Databases by GWAEA Districts".