This past week the two Freshman Academy/English I classes were in the library for me to teach the students a few research skills. Tuesday was spent familiarizing them with subscription databases – in particular DISCUS our states virtual library. Wednesday was spent teaching them web evaluation skills and Thursday was spent learning how to find and use print resources. After each lesson, students had to use the appropriate resource to find the answers to questions. For example, using the web find the top grossing movie of 1999; using subscription databases, list three reasons why teenagers take up smoking. For each answer they had to cite their sources using basic MLA documentation.
For print resources, the second question asked: “In what year did Mark Twain publish Tom Sawyer?” Before turning them loose to find the answers to their scavenger hunt, the students were told they could only use the Card Catalog and the books on the shelves. Of course, most of the students weren’t listening when I told them that the card catalog wasn’t going to provide them with the answers. The card catalog would only tell them where they could find books on the topics. When one group of girls got to the Twain question, they looked up Tom Sawyer and it gave them the the book info, but didn’t answer the question. One of the girls asked “What do we do now?” to which I replied “Find the book.” The girls all gave me incredulous looks and the one who asked what to do blurted “You mean I have to go get the book?” I patiently answered (fighting the urge to laugh), “Yes, you have to get up from the computer, walk to the shelves, find the book, pull it down, open it up, and scan the introduction to find the answer.” After a moment of silence, to which they all were staring at me like I was crazy, another girl asked “Why can’t we just use Google?” Picture me holding my head. The teacher came to my aid and reminded the students the purpose of today’s lesson was to learn how to use BOOKS not the Internet. Still muttering to themselves about how stupid this assignment was, they went in search of the book.
What the students didn’t realize is that despite the fact that they “know” how to use the Internet/Google, they answered more of the scavenger hunt questions on the print exercise than they did on the Internet exercise. Not because they couldn’t necessarily find the answers using the Internet, but because documenting their sources (finding the citation information) in the books was easier than finding the citation information for the web sites. On the web evaluation scavenger hunt, most of the students only completed two of the five questions…and most had incomplete citation information. On the print scavenger hunt, the students averaged answering 3.5 of the 5 questions in the 20 minutes or so they had to work on the scavenger hunt.
Flickr Photo Credit: “No Internet” by Graciolli