Monthly Archives: May 2010

Practice, Practice, Practice

The semester is drawing to a close at my college and students in the information literacy course that I’m teaching are deep into their work on their final projects. I’m taking a breath before the grading begins and already starting to reflect on the semester: what worked well, what didn’t, what I’ll tweak over the summer and what I can use again in the fall.

One thing has been apparent since my students turned in their annotated bibliographies last month. To put it bluntly: their sources are awesome. Each of them has found solid information on their research topics from a wide variety of sources including scholarly books and articles, conference proceedings, academic websites, specialized reference materials, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and other internet sources. I can honestly say that it was a delightful experience to read their bibliographies.

The students chose topics of interest to them which definitely seems to have helped them embrace the research process. But I think that the main reason they were able to find such excellent sources is time. We had time over the course of the semester to explore where information comes from; how and by whom it’s produced and distributed; how to search for, find, and evaluate it. We also spent time discussing when to use different kinds of information, for example, when it’s appropriate to use a journalistic source and when it’s better to find something scholarly. Like the old joke about Carnegie Hall, this semester my students had time to practice.

I don’t know that I’ve emerged on the other side of this assignment believing that credit-bearing courses are the one and only best way to teach information literacy, but my experiences this semester have certainly been eye-opening. It’s not that taking one course magically creates information literate students — as with English Composition courses and writing, this is just the beginning. But I do feel that the students have built a solid foundation that will serve them well as their information competencies continue to develop over the rest of their time in college and, I hope, throughout their lives.

Realistically, it would be difficult at my college to require an information literacy course of all students; there just aren’t enough available credits in most degree programs. So another thing I’ll be thinking on over the summer is how to port some of the successful strategies I used during the course over to the one-shot sessions that still represent most of the library and information literacy instruction we provide. And I’m hopeful that strategies from both kinds of instruction can continue to evolve and inform each other.

Washington Post Improves Its Higher Ed Coverage

When I last wrote about newspapers that are at the top of my list for best higher education reporting I did mention the Washington Post. However I noted that “The Post has been a consistent performer over the years although I have noticed a decline in the number of higher education articles being reported in the last year or so.” The Post was certainly trailing behind a number of other papers.

That seems to have changed over the last few months. The Washington Post has definitely strengthen their coverage of higher education – although there is a not-quite-unexpected focus on the DC region. Two new blog/columns are helping the Post pack a punch. Daniel DeVise’s blog “College Inc.” is about the business of higher education – and I like that – but I think you’ll like it too even if business isn’t your thing. College Inc. is just solid reporting and commentary on new developments in higher education. And you’ll probably like the variety of the coverage over at Campus Overload, Jennifer Johnson’s blog covering life on campus. Both bloggers do a good job of picking up on new reports about higher education.

You can find all of the higher education news from a dedicated page on the Washington Post website.