In the spirit of a dear Abby who doesn’t have all the answers (but gets the power of social networking):
I wanted to share an email I received from a couple of high school librarians somewhere in Georgia (with a remarkable website!). They asked to remain anonymous.
It is a challenge enough to sell our databases to our students, but how do you deal with that mindset with teachers who also do not buy into the value of databases as information sources? We have access to about 15 great databases (many of the same ones that you do) in addition to many more through GALILEO here; we create pathfinder pages to direct the kids to the “good stuff”; we also use non-database research sources to complement the databases. Yet we have many teachers here who will not even come to the library (they just turn their kids loose on Google even after we have done pathfinder pages with them), or who say it is too hard for the kids to find information there (even though, as far as we can tell, they HAVE successfully found what they needed).
We are at our wits end here as to strategies for getting our teachers on board . . .
I don’t think our friends from Georgia are alone. In fact, after you read this post, go back and listen to the EdTechTalk from August on the topic of teachers and databases.
Here are some of my ideas and strategies. They’re not 100% and they may not work in every school culture. Please comment with your own!
- I am surprised that so many young teachers I meet get through their own pre-service research without ever discovering a database. Some I meet reveal that they Googled through their undergrad research. That’s okay, I suppose if they used it to discover quality content. At the beginning of each school year I am lucky to be granted a full day with new teachers to discuss our research culture, our resources, our expectations. I suspect our administrators are happy that I can fill a day with this stuff.
- We have an eighth grade unit on evaluation that we’ve placed in the social studies curriculum. I present this PowerPoint on evaluating sources (I know, it needs a makeover), and I show a bit of the film I worked on for Schlessinger Video.
- I volunteer to assess students’ preliminary works cited pages for major papers and projects. This takes some of the work and onus off the classroom teacher and promotes my efforts as an instructional partner. Students know my expectations are high, that they include use of databases, and they are a little afraid of my scrutiny.
- We have to work with teachers to ensure their project rubrics include use of quality sources in general. When it makes sense, the rubrics should include use of relevant databases.
- We need to do better database marketing. My students did a film for me last year and I did a Voicethread I’d love folks to contribute to. But having seen many new streaming video strategies I want to make a better one this year. Imagine if we could create some in the far more clever style of CommonCraft. I still want to create a LibraryTube for us to share our best video efforts.
- We need widgets/gadgets so that teachers and students can pull the databases they most need into their iGoogle pages. Vendors, are you listening.
- We need an affordable federated search (to search across all our online resources–search tools, OPAC, databases). This federated search should not cost as much as a database itself. It should not force us to make further budget sacrifices. It should understand the idiosyncratic nature of the many databases we own. It should make it easier for teachers and students to discover the beauty of databases.
- We need to de-crimilalize use of Google in libraries. Sometimes we act like the research Gestapo in our scrutiny of search behavior. Google works. Google rocks. And yes, we can all use it better.
- We need to do a better job describing our resources. No teacher (or kid) knows what EBSCO is or what individual databases live it its large suite. Our pathfinders must bust these tools out of their traps and describe them in teacher- and kid-friendly language.
My friends in Georgia already use some of these strategies. Let’s help each other with some comments, new ideas, new resources for promotion! Friends, please share.