Academic journal article Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research

The "I'm Feeling Lucky Syndrome": Teacher-Candidates' Knowledge of Web Searching Strategies

Academic journal article Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research

The "I'm Feeling Lucky Syndrome": Teacher-Candidates' Knowledge of Web Searching Strategies

Article excerpt

Abstract

The need for web literacy has become increasingly important with the exponential growth of learning materials on the web that are freely accessible to educators. Teachers need the skills to locate these tools and also the ability to teach their students web search strategies and evaluation of websites so they can effectively explore the web by themselves. This study examined the web searching strategies of 253 teachers-in-training using both a survey (247 participants) and live screen capture with think-aloud audio recording (6 participants). The results present a picture of the strategic, syntactic, and evaluative search abilities of these students that librarians and faculty can use to plan how instruction can target information skill deficits in university student populations.

Project Background

The need for teacher web literacy has become increasingly important with the exponential growth of freely accessible learning materials on the web. Practical web search tips are readily available in professional development journals for teachers such as the frequently cited article by Holly Gunn, Become a Google power user. Associations and organizations provide a wealth of interesting online resources including access to text and/or visual primary sources; video and audio files; interactive tutorials, games, and puzzles; webquests; and digital learning object repositories. Teachers need the skills to locate these tools on the web and also the ability to teach their students web search and evaluation strategies so that students can effectively explore the web by themselves. Conversely, Google's "I'm Feeling Lucky" button suggests that a single query can be answered by a single website and epitomizes the notion that web searching is easy. The physical design of a single box on a blank page reinforces the idea that a few words can retrieve specific information. This is actually the converse of what happens in practice. Satisfactory results may be found quickly when topics are straightforward. For complex ideas, however, the single search box masks the depth and abundance of information that is potentially accessible. It creates the illusion that deep thinking is not necessary to penetrate the expression of sophisticated ideas. The reality of web searching is that far more skill is needed for narrowly focused returns.

This study examined specific web search strategies of pre-service teachers and was prompted by research results from local, national, and international studies on information finding techniques. A previous survey of Queen's University teacher-candidates' information literacy knowledge by Lee, Reed, and Laverty (2) revealed their heavy reliance on the web for both professional development and teaching resources. Furthermore, these students prefer to search Google for learning materials rather than pursue the professional resources indexed in academic databases. The pre-service teachers who participated in this study are required to have an undergraduate degree for acceptance into the Bachelor of Education program (B. Ed.) and are granted a teaching certificate upon completion of the program.

Users of all ages prefer Google because searching the library is an emotionally frustrating experience that is very difficult when you are looking for something you do not know about (Markey 3-5). Reliance on the Internet for school and university assignments is confirmed in a range of studies that have looked at the information-seeking habits of school students through to pre-service teachers (Colaric, Fine, and Hofmann; Environics Research Group; Graham & Metaxas; Levin and Arafeh; Lorenzen; OCLC). In a study of undergraduate web search behavior, students preferred Internet sources for their schoolwork, rated themselves as confident users of search engines, yet had considerable difficulty recognizing trustworthy information and distinguishing between advertising and fact (Graham and Metaxas 72-75). …

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