Students frequently report that their English teacher says, "don't use the Internet or encyclopedias" for research. Sometimes I have to fight my mouth to prevent yelling and screaming at the absurdity of this limitation. This kind of of thinking is outdated. Sometimes I translate the teacher's comments to, "Don't use unreliable web sites. The Internet is just a way of communicating." Using the Internet for communication is the way we share scholarly knowledge.
Sometimes the students ask to see the scholarly journals. When I tell them they are online, they act surprised. They repeat the claim that they are not allowed to use the Internet. I tell searching data bases for articles is the way we do research today. Since the library changes so rapidly, we encourage teachers to visit the library and collaborate with us. Sometimes I wonder if the English teachers have visited not just our campus library, but any library since the day they graduated with their last degree. Teachers need to make sure their information is current. If they did not keep up with changes in the interpretation of the copyright law they would not know that a ruling made last summer effects how one may use video clips in the classroom.
Last week a newly hired English teacher did come to speak with the librarians. He wanted to give his students an assignment to help them learn to use the library -- music to our ears. I gave him advice and a link to the library introduction PowerPoint presentation. Last night he stopped by to thank us for our help. We have an ally and partner. I wish others would follow his example. [Note: As I was revising this article, another English stopped by and talked about research and library resources.]
The librarians here have been collecting questions and comments that amuse us. Here are a few --
1) My professor said not to use the Internet.
2) My professor said not to use any encyclopedias.
3) Does the library have [insert title of a book]? (They have no idea of how to even find the catalog.)
4) Can I photocopy? or Where is the photocopy machine? (The library has a huge sign pointing to the copy center.)
5) I can only use books. (When they are searching a current topic, frequently no one has written a whole book on the topic.)
6) No one told me when the book was due. (It is our routine to remind them of the date or time due due for reserve books.)
In an attempt to teach students how to evaluate web sites they are told to use sites with the upper level domains EDU, ORG, or GOV. They are told this is an indication of reliability. WRONG! The domain does not indicate anything. Anyone can get any domain. While usually EDU is means a college or university. Anyone attached to the institution can post pages to their individual web sites without anyone reviewing them. Anyone can post reliable or not reliable information. The information may be current or not.
Users need to be able to understand the bias of the web page creator. A business is going to post the best information about their business on their site. They will want to have the correct information for names and contacts. Their news releases and product information on their web site will present a favorable point or view. If you want product reviews or critical information about the company, then you will need to look elsewhere.
Blogs, press releases, news articles, scholarly articles and other materials published on the web need to be evaluated as any print materials. They may be valuable, worthless or something in between. Even this blog has a bias. I try to present information that is accurate, but it is still mostly my ideas and opinions. I tell students they need to triangulate sources and use their sehel (common sense) to figure out what is reliable and what is not. If the ideas presented don't agree with each other, the student needs to figure out what is true and what is mistaken. If they can't tell, ask for help from a teacher, librarian or other reliable source.
Assume nothing. Check to make sure you are up-to-date so that obsolete or out-dated information or practices are not shared or promulgated.
Notes: Links to changes in the interpretation of Copyright Law. These are interpretations, not changes to the text of the law.
Library of Congress Copyright Office www.copyright.gov
Exemption to prohibition on circumvention of copyright protection systems for access control technologies
Entry of the exemption in the Federal Register of Aug. 6, 2010