One of the things I really do appreciate in my school is the willingness of our English teachers to recognise the skill set of Teacher-Librarians. Over the last few weeks my staff and I have worked closely with Year 11 and 12 teachers and students, and have shared information about how best to utilise Library online resources and the internet to help them with research on a current issue for VCE Oral Presentations.
Today I ran a session with our Yr 10 students to help them begin a persuasive essay task. We covered similar ground to that run through with the Year 11 and 12 students in recent weeks, and I’m hoping it will hold them in good stead as they tackle the research needed to formulate a strong argument for a persuasive essay. I thought I’d run through some of the things I covered, and hope some of you out there might find it useful.
1. Echo online - newspaper indexes and media issues outlines.
This is a truly invaluable resource for Victorian students. A Victorian school subscription to the Echo Education Services site is $355.00. In my opinion, it’s the best $355.00 we spend all year. I’m not sure if other States use it too, but the work done here in the media issues outlines part of the database is extraordinary. The lady who does the work is a VCE English teacher, and she trawls the daily newspapers looking for what might be the current issues that a VCE English student would want to explore for their oral presentation or language analysis task. When she’s identified an issue, she puts together an outline that includes background information, arguments for, arguments against and further implications. She also provides pages of web links and documents and links to the newspaper articles she has used to provide her outlines of whatever the issue in question is. It’s incredibly helpful, particularly for those students who just can’t figure out how you would go about analysing an issue. It gives them an entry point and the confidence they need to explore the source material to form conclusions for themselves.
The other part of this database is the newspaper index. Students can enter their search term and results are provided for relevant articles published in our daily papers. These results aren’t hyperlinked; the students would either have to source the original print copy or search a newspaper database to find the article. I point my students to Newsbank.
2. Newsbank This is a database where students can search Australian newspapers. They have to be conscious of the search terms they use, and often need to refine their search to pull in the content they need. One of the disadvantages of the site is that it provides the text of the articles only. None of the pictorial detail that often accompanies a newspaper article is available, and the text can look pretty dry to a 15 year old. We made a decision this year to stop archiving 6 months of back issues of newspapers, largely because we have noticed a decline in the demand for use, the fact that it involves a large amount of dedicated staff time doing this work, and the understanding that our move into a new building meant we were looking towards the future of collection development rather than what we could see as a process from the past. For this reason, we have subscribed to digital archives (true to print eg: as they appear in the printed version of the paper) of daily newspapers.
3. Digital subscriptions to newspapers (true to print eg: as they appear in the printed version of the paper). We have a 5 user concurrent subscription to ‘The Age’ archive and a license for 50 users to access the ‘Herald-Sun‘ and ‘The Australian‘. They come at considerable cost, and it’s not easy for students to get access. We have to share the common user name and password to all staff and students for the 5 user concurrent license to ‘The Age’. This means 5 users at a time can access the site and another user will have to wait until someone logs out to get access. With the 50 user license for the Herald Sun, we have to register individual emails to each license. This means we have had to use staff emails, and we share these with students with the common password so they can get access. It isn’t ideal. I don’t think our newspaper industry has really got their act together at this stage to accomodate the needs of schools. As more schools take up options like this I’m hoping they will come up with a more user friendly method to gain access.
4. The Age Education Resource Centre Every week, in its Monday edition, The Age publishes ‘Issues in the News‘. They analyse a current issue and write their copy for a secondary school audience. It’s a great resource, and contains links to source material used to compile their summation. You can access their archive of issues they have covered
5. Google News – One of the reasons many of our students are not accessing print newspapers is because they are searching for newspaper content online through Google. I always find it interesting that students are surprised to realise a search engine like Google has many parts, and they need to look to the toolbar at the top of the screen to find these options. They seem to have eyes only for the search box in the centre of the screen! We’ve been introducing our students to Google News and showing them that they can search for newspaper articles from other countries to assist them in gaining perspectives from other cultures. We’ve also focused on the advanced search function and showing students how they can narrow a search using some of the parameters there.
6. Google Realtime search I suspect many people are unaware of Google’s Realtime search option. You can use Realtime search to do exactly what it says – search in real time. What you are accessing are Twitter feeds about the search term you’ve entered. The great thing about Twitter is that many people are sharing links about topics that are issues in the news. It’s there where you will find up to date (real time!) coverage of an event. For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, it can be the most invaluable source of information. If you don’t have an account and a network of fabulous contacts, then this is a good option for trying to find out what people are saying and sharing about topics of interest to you. Try it for yourself and see what I mean.
7. TED: ideas worth spreading Many of our students are required to put together oral presentations for their English course of study. I’ve read many times that speaking in public is one of the highest ranked fears of many people. You can often tell that as you watch some students sweat it out beforehand and stumble through oral presentations. They need to see people speaking in front of audiences and take note of effective techniques that can hold the interest of a group of people. The TED site is the perfect vehicle for getting students to analyse what makes for an effective presentation. The bonus is, the talks are so interesting and inspiring, they are bound to learn many other things in the process. I used the start of Eli Pariser’s talk about the ‘filter bubble’ and it certainly sparked a lot of interest. Students are concerned about what big corporations like Google are doing with their data, and many students asked how his name was spelt so they could watch this presentation in full after class.
I’m happy to report, this presentation was met with a round of applause from the students, on more than one occasion. Issues research can be daunting for many a student, and they value being shown a way forward. If you have other resources you use that you find helpful for student use, please leave a comment and extend the learning for all of us. : )