Today I’m giving a presentation at Internet Librarian International about my research into how teens and pre-teens search the web for information. They seem to take a much more visual approach to reading information narrative than I do. A significant proportion browse through picture search to discover the text around images This obviously has big implications for how school librarians approach the job of helping them search better for the things they really need to know. Should we adapt our strategies to focus on helping them enhance their browsing techniques rather than trying to impose our way of doing it through developing advanced key-wording skills?
During the last week of term I sent an email link for a Surveymonkey questionnaire I had created to all our Years 7-8 (11-12 year olds). I’m interested in finding out about visual search but began by asking which search engine students preferred to use. They were given a choice of answers of Google, Bing, Safari, Don’t Know, Don’t mind and Other (please say). 47 of 176 students participated and a staggering 92% preferred Google. There were 2 “Other” replies which turned out to be Google Chrome! As our school browser is IE8 with a default Bing setting this is quite suprising. Even more interesting is the fact that when asked to explain why they chose a particular search engine 37 of them bothered to answer and gave very coherent and specific reasons for their choice. I’ve made a wordle of their comments omitting the words “because”, “use” and the names of specific search engines.
The students gave marked emotional responses for their use of Google compared with other search engines. One stated “Bing annoys me” and another “Google Chrome is faster, wicked, better, legendary, amazing and spectacular”!
I had a great opportunity today to talk to about 20 NQT’s about how the school library can help support their teaching and learning as well as their own “Continuing Professional Development”. In preparation for the session I asked my School Librarian Network on Twitter what they would like me to say. I got some great replies and with the help of a brilliant tool called Storify I have managed to create a slideshow of the conversation between these valued Librarians in my “Personal Learning Network”.
My congratulations to MicroLibrarian Systems for creating an iPhone app that allows students mobile access to our Library Catalogue on Eclipse.net. I’m so excited because, not only is it a mobile app, it is a great, user-orientated, well designed app which I will give a 5 star rating! Go to the top of the class MLS Not only does it replicate the fantastically dynamic desktop experience students already have in school but it adds some. Users can check out their current loans, search for titles and authors, reserve titles they would like to read and look at a review of the recommended book of the week. It is really quick to open (in a wifi environment) as it allows automatic log in after the first visit. Best of all is the opportunity for students to rate titles and add their own reviews for books they are reading. What a great tool.
I have spent this last week putting together a draft AUP (acceptable use policy) for students using their own handheld devices in the classroom which will be considered by our senior teachers next half-term. I had a great starting point with a list of ideas from Year 10 ICT students who made their suggestions as to how their phones and tablets could be used to enhance their learning. This UNESCO briefing also made me realise how important it is to teach students to use mobile apps in education as a preparation for the future world of work.
But my mind has been blown away this afternoon by a video made by students at Longfield Academy. All 1400 students and the staff are using iPads and feeling very positive about the experience.
Over the summer we have purchased an iPad2 for the library and I have had great fun investigating the mobile apps (applications) available for education. I have purchased some outstanding ones produced by “traditional” book publishers now entering the e-book market e.g The T S Eliot Wasteland app which at 1gb takes up rather a lot of space on a 16gb device but provides an annotated text, the original manuscript, six poets reading the poem and many video interviews. It is ideal for the A’Level or undergraduate English Literature student studying the poem.
I have also discovered some great educational games which I have downloaded to the library iPad. e.g Virulent is a fabulous game to explain the biological principles of how viruses spread disease.
However the Library iPad can only really be a “consumer” device because it is a shared resource for the school. Mobile apps work best when they can be personalised by individuals and used for creative purposes.
A good example of what I mean is found in the ConkerTree science project and the leafwatch app produced by the Universities of Bristol and Hull. The app helps scientists plot the progress of the newly arrived leaf mining moth across the UK and anyone with a smartphone can participate. It is very simple to use and harnesses the photo taking and GPS (location services) capacities of an 3g Internet enabled phone.
I had a go myself in Sydney Gardens yesterday. The app shows a picture of the damage caused by a leaf mining moth and compares this with the damage caused by fungi so it is easy to identify which is which. Sure enough I found some leaves with the telltale white and brown patches between the veins and although they were a bit high up I was able to capture an image, rate the damage on a scale of 1-5 and my phone noted the GPS co-ordinates of the tree. Amazing. You can find out more about the project here. What a brilliant ready-made opportunity for schools to co-operate with university scientific research.
I’m sure the Library iPad will be enjoyed and well used by students to read newspapers, watch TED talks and extend their educational experience in school. But I’m also going to download all the educational apps that can be used for “productivity” and to create things. I’m hoping this will allow teachers in my school to see what they could be harnessing to add to the many ways they already use to develop a love of their subject amongst their students.