Choosing Quick Hits Over the Card Catalog


Steven Bell writes:Here is a story I think every
librarian should read on student use of the
Internet for research. It\'s at The NY TImes

This is an intersting story to say the least. Filled with
quotes to make a point, and few facts, the author leads
us to believe kids hate libraries. The \"card catalog\" is
cited as an example of how students are \" more
comfortable sifting through hyperlinks than they are
flipping through a card catalog. \" Don\'t most
schools use an OPAC now?

\"Sam still prefers doing research with his
Hewlett-Packard PC to looking up information at the
library. \"I\'d much rather be online,\" he said. The library,
he added, is \"a tenser atmosphere.\" More from the NYTimes

A team of
researchers led by Prof. Eliot Soloway at the University
of Michigan\'s School of Education recently studied the
way students approach Web searches. \"Kids think
there is one answer, and they look for the Web site with
that answer,\" said Professor Soloway, who does both
computer science and education research. \"We try to
explain that they have to get information from multiple
Web sites. We tell them to ask open, deep, interesting
questions. For example, \'How many moons does
Jupiter have?\' is not an interesting question. But \'What
makes a volcano stop erupting?\' is.\"

The Michigan project has developed tools to help
students with their searches. \"We found that students
would use a big search engine like Infoseek or Yahoo,
and then get an overwhelming number of responses,\"
said Barry Fishman, an assistant professor of
educational technology at Michigan. \"They would react
by either saying, \'O.K., I found a lot of answers -- I\'ll take
the first couple,\' or they would be so overwhelmed with
too many hits and wouldn\'t know how to refine the

One tool developed at Michigan is Artemis (named for
the goddess of the hunt), which is being used in a
half-dozen school districts around the country. Artemis,
which is designed for science-related searches, has a
built-in dictionary and thesaurus because researchers
noticed that students often misspelled search terms
and did not know synonyms for the terms they were
searching for. For example, many students know what
photosynthesis is, but in the age of computer spelling
checkers, they do not know how to write it. Artemis also
lets students look at their past searches and lets them
recommend sites to other students.

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