Share Your Teaching Tool Kit:
Best Practices in Library Instruction

Topic: Teaching Searching Skills Without a Computer Classroom

About twenty people discussed different strategies and techniques for teaching without a computer classroom. Many of the ideas discussed are useful even to those with a computer classroom, and who knows, maybe one day your classroom will be renovated and you, too, will be looking for ideas! Listed below are the suggestions offered by members of the group:

General tips for teaching:

  • Ask faculty what the goals and objectives of the assignment/library session are what do you want your students to accomplish?
  • Get student and faculty feedback: What was the most surprising thing you learned? What will you take away from this session?
  • Give out your business cards.
  • If course has electronic reserves, put a pathfinder on reserve with the class.
  • Video yourself.
  • Visit other libraries/librarians teaching classes.

Tips for Teaching Aspects of Computer Searching Without a Computer Classroom:

  • General discussion of how to keep students engaged. You must be an actor in the class, use humor, get them active, physically moving around if possible.
  • To evaluate Web sites: print out pages from different Web sites and have the students apply evaluative criteria to them. Bring fake/hoax pages and quality pages.
  • Give the students a selection of topics. Have them go to the blackboard/whiteboard and write down keywords (KWs) and the way the words would be entered into the computer (using Booleans, etc.). Have the class discuss the topics/search phrases.
  • Similar to the suggestion above: Write down a topic and have the whole class analyze together keywords and search phrases. Then each student does her own topic KWs and search phrases. Use the students searches in a demo. Discuss what works and what doesnít. We discussed the benefit of trying searches that donít workó a learning opportunity for the whole class.
  • Important to engage them in their own topics the actual topics they will have to research or some contemporary example.
  • Put the students in groups. Give them a one-page article and have them identify key concepts, then pick KWs and search for similar articles (move them to the Reference Room).
  • Meet with education faculty on campus for active learning ideas.
  • When demonstrating a database, use the professor's name as the author search.
  • Do a Web instruction module instead and donít even meet with the students. Have them submit answers online.
  • One person mentioned having better control of the class without a lab.
  • Have students take turns typing in the demo searches for the class.
  • One person mentioned a good video for getting teaching tips. It was designed for teaching science but the tips are universal. ìIt's fairly short, but worthwhile. The video is: "Thinking Together: Collaborative Learning in Science." Cambridge, MA: Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University, 1992.
  • Booleans: use a "human boolean" example: All students wearing sweatshirts stand up. And all students wearing sneakers stand up. Etc. Redo with OR so they see the difference.
  • Another boolean idea: make an animated short about boolean operators.
  • Make a Web page for the class so they have something to go back to.
  • For very large classes, do a demo and then have them do an exercise in pairs.
  • Problem of advanced students mixed in with beginning students. Pair them up with each other and make the advanced students the tutors.

Of course suggestions came up for teaching with a computer classroom, too!

  • Put the students in pairs and have them search a variety of databases. Have them present to the class and compare results.
  • Have students search for different Web resources, scholarly & general, and make a Web site of their own.
  • To help them learn the components of a record/citation have them search for articles, identify citation elements,and then create a database (like FileMakerPro) with the citation components of the articles.

Submitted by Joan Campbell

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