Monday, July 20, 2009

Information Forensics Goes to School

For class on Monday night, instead of driving to Dominican, I attended a virtual class. I chose to view a recorded session titled Information Forensics Goes to School presented by Dennis O'Connor and Carl Heine at the 2009 ISTE conference in Washington, DC. You can view it at

I learned so much about research and the evaluation of web sites that I hardly know where to begin! I think the first important thing that stuck in my mind is that there are things about technology and the internet that the digital generation doesn't know. Mainly, how to decide if web sites are credible or not. O'Connor and Heine quoted several studies in which gifted seventh and eighth graders were sent to these, or similar hoax sites: and but they never figured out that it was a hoax. Students must learn proven techniques for searching and evaluating, or what these two men call: Investigative Searching. The process of searching and evaluating should be done together.

During Information Forensics goes to School, O'Connor and Heine say that students of the "digital generation" don't know how to turn questions into queries, know where to go to find information, find relevant results, decided on quality, and use information ethically. Here's where librarians and teachers must step in and teach.

A statistic that really stood out for me was that often, when using a key word search, there are at least four other words/synonyms that you could also be using to search. When those key terms are not used, you are potentially missing 80% of the information available!

Careful reading is essential. Kids tend to read things quickly. O'Connor and Heine content that the faster you read, the more errors you will make. Based on my classroom experience, I concur.

There are many ways of searching for information. The first is called querying. You can use keywords, strings (a section of text or a phrase), databases, and links to find information and evaluate the site. Did you know you can find out who has links to a particular page? I didn't! You can go to a search engine (they recommend and type in links: then the entire URL address. So, if you wanted to see who had links to the Rose School web page, you could type in links: and see a list of sites that had a link to the Rose School home page.

Another way of searching is by browsing. O'Connor and Heine compared it to the hot and cold game where you get "hotter" if you're getting closer to what you want, and colder if you're farther away. This is not a particularly effective way to search or evaluate a website.

Another way to find out more is by truncation. I've done this before, I just didn't know what it was called. Say someone gives you a long complicated website address like You looked at it, but couldn't figure out who the author of the site was. You could truncate, or cut off, the ending part of a website to get to home page and perhaps find a publisher or author. In this case, would lead you to the home page which should identify the author. (Of course, I'm realizing I never put my real name on this site as the author, though I did put an email address....)

A final way to search/evaluate is to look for page information about a site. I couldn't find out when the page was last updated the way O'Connor and Heine were able to show in the video. Maybe it's just a Mac thing. There is probably a PC way to do it, but I haven't figured that out yet.

A few more comments that really stuck with me: (paraphrased from the video)
  • We've created a lot of tools that make it easy for kids to copy/paste information, but we've also created a lot of tools to allow students to cite their sources as well.
  • Look beyond the obvious.
  • These skills are critical for all content areas.

I look forward to spending a lot of time at the website 21st Century Information Fluency From the description and the little I saw on the video, it will be a valuable resource!

Last thought: I watched this hour long presentation online. It took me much longer, though, because several times I paused the video and went and looked at the sites the presenters were talking about. While it took more time, I liked using this method of learning because I was using the information even as I was learning it.


  1. Hi Pam! I really liked this presentation, too. I posted a comment on their blog where the video was embedded and got a response from Dennis O'Connor - I love the people you can "meet" through blogs. I took away all of these concrete ideas, too - I was taking notes frantically once I realized how full of usable suggestions the presentation contained. I also paused and tried some of their tips and tricks. What I find most amazing of all is that there resources, on the most part, are free to librarians and teachers. I find that so refreshing to find yet another resource out there that is high quality, relevant and useful, but that isn't in the game to make a ton of money.

  2. I saw your comment on his website. It was neat to see someone I knew make a comment on a "real" blog! (Not that ours aren't real, but, you know what I mean.)

    Have you checked out Free Technology for Teachers? It's at

  3. This is sort of a virtual class with optional virtual lab built in. These search hints may even be useful to non-students and non-librarians (I won't name names). But then again, we're all really students and teachers forever, even if it isn't our profession. I learn stuff from my kids every day, and I like to think they learn stuff from me.. But I also find then when I'm searching for solutions (in the IT world), it is very handy that you are usually already sitting at or near the question prompting subject :D