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If a student wants information on “cougars”, what sort of results will an Internet search engine return? That’s the example that Amy Faye Fin, formerly of Bowling Green State University, uses in her classrooms to introduce concepts of information literacy. “What will we find if search for ‘cougar’ in Google?” she asks the class. “We find the pop-culture phenomenon of women dating younger men, TV shows, encyclopedia articles on Wikipedia, pictures of animals, YouTube videos. What kind of results will we get if we try that same ‘cougar’ search in Summon?”

During our recent webinar series on information literacy, the presenters described how they use the knowledge that students bring to the university to their advantage. As Amy stated, “The Summon service creates great opportunities to scaffold the knowledge that students bring to the table. By pointing out the similarities with other tools students may use -- for example, Google -- and building connections between what works and what doesn’t when students use a search engine , we can build on the native knowledge that students already bring to the classroom.”

“I point out the features that Summon has in common with most databases, that are not in Google, to stress the value-add of library resources. I emphasize the limiters in Summon search results, such as content type, date limiters, including or excluding subject terms, the ability to save items to folder, to format citations, to export to our bibliographic manager, and to email the search results. It’s easy to refer back to these features to remind students and faculty to find and use them, both in Summon and in the subject databases.”

Stefanie Buck of Oregon State University noted the impact of this approach, sharing the results of a survey of librarian perceptions that matched her own observations.  “There is something of a shift taking place,” she reported. “Students are learning important search skills that they can transfer to any tool they use. More instruction time is being spent on keywords, evaluating sources, broadening and narrowing the search, differentiating between scholarly and popular journals. There is more focus on higher-level information literacy skills.”

Amy agrees. “Although we see a shift in instructional strategies and objectives, using Summon offers greater opportunity to teach those transferable skills and research concepts such as the information cycle, and quickly build on the knowledge that students already have. I tell the faculty, ‘This is something your students can use, they can use it today. It will get them results.’ Even though we’re beginning research in Summon, Summon will recommend and guide users toward specialized collections.  It is promoting our resources and databases in a way that our library catalog is not able to do. It’s recommending resources. It will take students to databases. “

In fact, one theme that echoed throughout the webinar series is that the Summon service doesn’t make the databases tools obsolete. In fact, it allows them to be more relevant than ever. We’ll cover that next time.

If you’re interested in hearing from the presenters themselves, all webinars in the series are available for on demand viewing.  Also, register now for the upcoming sessions with librarians from the University of Denver and Wake Forest University.  We’re sure you’ll want to hear from these speakers about their unique perspectives on the topic of information literacy and the Summon service.

04 Mar 2013 | Posted by Eddie Neuwirth

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