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Instructional Inspirations: Issue # 3 October 2009

This guide identifies a variety of activities, online tools, web 2.0 technologies and videos to enhance information literacy instruction.

October 2009


Web Evaluation Carousel - Kelly Lambert from Phoenix has developed a fabulous technique to use in classrooms that don't have computers. It gets the students engaged by using their current knowledge to help teach each other about evaluating websites. You can read about her entire process below.

Teaching with Analogies - We all use analogies to help students understand the concepts that we are teaching. Danielle Carlock from Scottsdale has rounded up some useful analogies from fellow librarians both inside and outside of Maricopa. Have some fun talking about swimming pools, car models, and shopping to bring information literacy concepts to life for your students. Find these analogies below.

Web Evaluation Carousel
By Kelly Lambert, PC

This strategy is used in web evaluation classes but could easily be adapted for other topics.  Before the session begins, I set up flip chart paper around the room at different 5 stations. This should be hung on a wall or at least have the ability to be held up for the entire class to see. Each station gets 4-5 markers (one for each group member). Each station should also be a different color (station 1 is green markers, station 2 is blue markers, etc.)  Each station will have a question or topic written at the top of the flip chart paper regarding web evaluation, search engines, or the Internet in general. Here are some questions that I use:
•    Things that indicate a website is a quality source or 'good' website
•    Things that indicate a website is not-so-good or a 'bad' website.
•    List websites you have used in the past that are quality sources
•    Ways you can find out more information about the author of a website
•    What Google apps have you used or are at least aware of. – and-  When using search engines (ex Google) what are some search strategies that can help make your searches better? (I usually have both of these questions at the same station because they are short.)

At the beginning of the session, I let the students know that we will be talking about the web and web evaluation and that I want to find out what they already know. I also let them know that they are going to be teaching each other what they know about the web. Students count off 1-5, each number going to one of the stations.  I give the instructions that each group will have 2 minutes to write as much as you know about the topic/question on the paper at their station. After 2 minutes, they will rotate clockwise around the room to the next station. They will then have 2 minutes to read what the first group contributed to the topic and add to it as much as they can. They will do this until they get all the way around the room and back to their original question. They will need to bring the markers that they have at their original station with them so that we know what group contributed to each topic. I also encourage them that if the answer they were thinking of has already been written, put a checkmark next to it. If an answer that has been given seems questionable, put a question mark next to it. I have heard this strategy of walking around the room to different learning stations being called ‘Gallery Walk’ or ‘Carousel.’  I use a timer at to keep time.

The groups arrive back at their original station. I then give the instruction that in their groups they need to discuss the answers added to the topic by their peers and determine what the 2 most important things are or summarize the information. They will then share this with the group. This sharing is a great opportunity for teachable moments based on things shared by the group or items that appear under their topic. I have a list of links to websites ready that I can use to drive certain points home that are being discussed. This sharing portion generates great discussions and allows me to get deeper in the topics that I have been able to using previous teaching methods for these sessions.  In one session students had included and as good websites to use. Others had put question marks next to these. The students defending their inclusion of these sites said that if they were trying to find out more information about a person like where they live or work, this would be a good site. How can you argue with that! In another session a student offered that they have done medical research and have seen multiple websites with the exact same paragraph. The paragraph had obviously been lifted from another source but credit was not given. I rarely get to this gem about evaluating content in my previous classes and this was wonderful.

I play it by ear to wrap up the session depending on what we have or have not covered in the sharing and discussion portion. I make sure that at some point I show a website that  allows me to talk about authorship and content review (usually WebM) and Wikipedia (both great aspects like wikipedians’ and locked pages and why some feel it is a questionable source). I follow this up with a brief discussion on how search engines work and using searching techniques with Google. This can all be done in a 50 minute class period or easily stretched to a 75 minute session.

This exercise works well for several reasons. Students are able to share what they already know and build on their current knowledge. They also get to learn from each other. This activity gets them out of their seats and thinking. Working in groups like this gives them a chance to interact socially with their peers, which helps them build relationships in the class. Every single person in the class is participating! Most importantly, it’s actually fun!

Useful Analogies for your Next Class

Databases and the Internet
Help students grasp the differences between library databases and the internet through this marvelous analogy used by Marsha Ballard at SCC:  “The internet is like the ocean: It has shifting boundaries. Sometimes there are things in it you can’t even see. It has some really good things in it, but it also has trash, and hidden surprises (reefs and rocks) . Sometimes the current pulls you out somewhere you had no intention of going. You’re not always sure what will happen. Databases are like swimming pools. They have set boundaries, and someone controls what’s being put into the pool.  Someone keeps the pool clean. It has markers so you know how deep it is, and you can see to the bottom.  You have more control over where you’re going.”

Another good analogy for comparing databases and the internet was found on the website of James White Library, Andrews University <> and was attributed to listserv posting made by Monica Norem:
“In a database, you have clearly stated signage (controlled vocabulary) in a reputable department store pointing you to desired and related merchandise and within the department, where items are kept in some sort of order. There are buyers that select quality merchandise from noted designers and vendors (periodical articles, almanacs, etc.) from which their customers can choose. On the flip side, at the garage sale (Web) you may find items grouped by category (subject guides - e.g., InfoSurf, Argus Clearinghouse, etc. and specialized search engines - e.g., FindLaw, Excite News Search) on the various tables, but the merchandise is more likely to be of varying quality at the garage sale: discards, bric-a-brac, and some useful gems if you pick through the stacks of stuff on the tables (general search engine results).”

Databases and Vendors
Galadriel Chilton, on Far Off Librarian, Musings of an Academic Librarian, available at <> posted an analogy useful for helping students understand databases and vendors.  Basically the idea is that there are many different automobile models (Ranger, Explorer, Expedition) made by one company (Ford). Similarly, there are many different databases (Academic Search Premier, Business Source Premier) offered by the same vendor (Ebsco).

Call Numbers and Collections
Students often have difficulty discerning the difference between a call number and a collection and fail to understand the importance of recording both before setting out to look for a book. This analogy was found on the website of James White Library, Andrews University <> and was attributed to a listserv posting made by Laura Ewald:
“Call numbers are like street addresses. For example, Ref. PN1564 .A21 1997 without the “Ref” is like having a street address without the city name. We know the shelf location, but the not the collection it is in. Without the PN, it is like knowing the city and house number, but not the street. Reinforce by asking students how many cities have a 620 Main Street?”