Sunday, November 18, 2007

Information Literacy = Big6?

More preaching to the choir... librarians love research models... assessment is another issue... should there be a grade for library class?

In chapter 7 of Steven Mills’s Using the Internet for Active Teaching and Learning, the author indicates that problem solving needs a process. I agree, students work more efficiently when they are given a set of steps to follow in the research process. The chapter is titled “Using the Internet for Information Problem Solving” and Mills first defines problem-based learning as active learning with realistic problems for students to solve based on curriculum content. “Problem based learning always begins with the curriculum; the real-world problem must be related to a curriculum topic” (133). Mills goes on to describe briefly three Information Problem Solving Models: InfoSavvy, The Research Cycle, and The Big6. What he leaves out is almost as significant as what he puts in… what about ISearch, Pathways to Knowledge, the Stripling and Pitts REACTS ten step model, and FLIP It by New Jersey’s Alice Yucht? Mills goes on to describe Big6 in greater detail proclaiming it the best model for research on the web. I don’t necessarily disagree but even if it were not the best, it is the best marketed and provides the best teacher support via their Big6 Website. So, with those credentials alone Big6 is the best known research model. Don’t get me wrong, I love Big6, I use Big6. Mike Eisenberg is an Orangman! Ok, so in the picture at the top on the right he is a penguin. What I am saying is that if Mike Eisenberg would dress up like a penguin, as he did at the AASL convention in Reno in early November, to promote the newest Big6 book is it any wonder the processing model is so popular with librarians? I do not think the other processing models are as well know because of marketing and what Mills calls the Matthew effect back in Chapter 5. The Matthew effect was touted by sociologist Robert Merton in the late 60’s, it is the “phenomenon of allocating more credit or recognition for scientific work to well-known scientists” (105). I am not saying Eisenberg and Berkowitz are not the greatest but I am saying some of the other research process models deserve at least a look. The biggest reason I like ISearch is its research journaling component (it is also much better for special education students in my opinion). The main reason I like REACTS is because it is an acronym and I can remember it better. The reason I like FLIP It is because it is simple. So, what is keeping me from using these other models? Not as much support and hardly any web-presence, and yes, it is all about the marketing. Eisenberg and Berkowitz are great at marketing their product. Besides, the Big6 is flexible enough that I can add an ISearch like journaling aspect to it without much problem. So, in my library we use Big6 but we have a research journal tucked behind our Big6 checklist and every day during the research process my students journal these 3 questions: What went right today? What went wrong today? Where do I go from here? Back to my fellow Orangemen penguin… Mike Eisenberg was dressed as a penguin at AASL to promote the latest Big6 book, for elementary research. The Big6 breaks down into the Super3 for the youngest elementary students. The new book is called: The Super3 : information skills for young learners. If Eisenberg is willing to make a penguin of himself, there must be something to this Super3! Again, it is all about marketing!

In chapter 7 Mills also describes what he calls a toolkit builder: Noodle Tools. I think Noodle Tools is a great way to keep students organized during the research process. I also agree that Noodle Tools is an excellent resource for students in school districts that can afford it. And, by afford I mean those that want to take another bite out of an already overstretched library budget. What I do instead is use the parts of the Noodle website that are free. Noodle Tools is out to make money, so very little is free but NoodleBib Express is excellent for students just entering the research process and just learning how to do Works Cited pages. The librarians in my district have decided to use the terms Works Cited rather than Bibliography because Bibliography indicates print sources, books, while our students are so clearly using less books, and more online resources, so Works Cited fits much better.
Finally, Mills gets to my least favorite subject, assessment. He makes a good argument for authentic assessments with rubrics. I just have a hard time giving students grades in the library. While I am all for self-evaluation, I would rather the product and the student’s reflections on their process and outcomes be allowed to stand on their own without having to add my assessment. My assessment is when students work hard on a project and complete it to the best of their ability that is reward enough, everyone gets an A. However, we don’t live in perfect library land, so I am glad that Mills includes a mini tutorial on how to use RubiStar to create assessment rubrics at the end of the chapter.

Mills, S. C. (2006). Using the Internet for active teaching and learning. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson.


Unknown said...

Hi Janice,
A bit of a screed there on the marketing of Big6 Skills. All in all, probably an accurate assessment as to why that info literacy model rose to the top of the pile. Clearly, your training has introduced you to a wider array of models than Mills presents. Yet, so long as an Instructional Technology Specialist can offer her colleagues *a* usable model to share with learners, the task is accomplished. What you make available is a much larger menu from which to choose. Your colleagues and their students will be the clear winnersSG

Congerjan said...

I do agree, I went a little overboard but when I saw the penguin suit I lost it! Perhaps I need to go to one of those conventions and see how librarians let down their hair so I won't be so long winded and dreary? Actually, I guess I am a little bitter because there are better products out there but no one knows about them.