28 February 2008

Wikipedia: Where Does It Belong?

As I am spending more time in the classroom this semester during my day job as Information Literacy Librarian at the College, I am constantly dealing with the question of Wikipedia, the encyclopedia anyone can edit. As part of my starting the Information Literacy program with students, I ask them if they have been told that they can't use Wikipedia. Invariably, they say yes. Then I ask them why they think that is. Invariably, they say that it is because anyone can edit it. Because professors think it is unreliable. Because professors, wrongly they say, think it isn't worthwhile.

Students get pretty riled up about it.

The reason I don't want students to use Wikipedia is not because anyone can edit it. As a matter of fact, the more time I spend on Wikipedia, the more articles I read, the more changes I track, the more I learn about the technology, the more I believe in the democratization of information, the more I think that an encyclopedia anyone can edit is cool. Very cool.

But I still don't want students to use Wikipedia for their academic research papers. I don't want students to use any encyclopedias as a resource of an academic research paper. Encyclopedias, I tell students, are starting places. They are a great place to familiarize yourself with a topic, to identify keywords, key events, key issues, key players. But going to a summarization of a topic and its issues is not research. Why are they here? They are here to do dig deeper into what they learn in encyclopedia entries, electronic or print, edited by anyone or by the elite. You, or your parents, aren't paying all this money for you to look stuff up in an encyclopedia and call it a day.

Students are here to hone their critical thinking, writing, reading, and analytical skills. In my course on Society and Technology, we have been talking a lot about how everyday people use the internet everyday. Students have been discussing how there are many skills that we expect people to just have. Knowing how to pick which electronic resources to use is one of them. As you well know, I think there is more to it than that. I think students need to be taught to differentiate and discern what makes some sources, especially electronic ones, worth while.

Part of that process asks them to think about what their goals are for their research. What do they expect the information they need for their work (or play) to look like? What do they expect it to do? I have been doing a lot of activities with students on these questions and it has been working very well. The students buy into a list of expectations that they create. They are willing to think differently when we start talking about goal they have, rather than goals or expectations their teachers have.

Much like Kim Leeder points out in this post from the ACRLblog, a few years ago I took a different tack on Wikipedia. But it has changed and so have I. I think Wikipedia will continue to improve and continue to flourish, especially if Aaron Swartz gets his way and connects the Open Library with Wikipedia. But that's another, and forthcoming, post.

So where does Wikipedia belong in the research process: as a place to start it. But it is just that: a starting place. It does not belong on a Works Cited page. But it can surely be a useful resource in figuring out what does.

18 February 2008

We Are Hiring!

My Library is looking for a new librarian! And it is an exciting, new position: Emerging Technologies Librarian. So so cool. Here is the posting:
Job Description:
Champlain College seeks an enthusiastic, collegial, and service-oriented Librarian to serve as an integral member of a team providing high quality academic library services in an innovative setting. The position will play a lead role in expanding the Library's outreach through thoughtful and effective use of emerging technologies.

Design, create, and maintain internet-based library services for online, distance and residential students, including web-based tools, real-time interactive tools, and similar functions; coordinate the planning, development, implementation and support of online library technologies, systems and services; keep current in the latest developments in library technology, web-based support, and other emerging technologies; share new technologies within the Library and beyond; share in reference, collection development, instruction, and other public services.

The successful candidate will show creativity, initiative, and flexibility, and will work collaboratively within the library, on campus, and in the profession. We seek a team player who will contribute to a technologically dynamic organization and help shape the future of a growing college library.

Masters degree in library science or related field from an ALA-accredited program; demonstrated interpersonal and communication skills; ability to work effectively with students, faculty and staff; plan projects, manage a variety of responsibilities, and apply new technologies to library operations; familiarity and experience with emerging technologies for synchronous and asynchronous library service delivery; and demonstrated expertise in web design and website maintenance. Applications are welcomed from experienced professionals as well as recent graduates.

If you or anyone you know is interested in applying, please upload your resumes/cv at www.champlain.edu/hr.

06 February 2008

Super Tuesday, otherwise known as Super Tech Tuesday

I don't own a television. More than five years ago, we sold our TV when moving from across the country and then, as now, I didn't see the point in putting money into buying a new one primarily because there was never anything on. Of course there are moments when we wish we had one. Every summer we wish we could watch the Tour de France. Jon wishes he could watch the Super Bowl at home. And I miss Jeopardy.

With election season upon us, I have been thinking about getting a TV. Over the weekend, we were away for a night at a hotel that had a television and we enjoyed a two hour replay of the California Democratic Debates. While most Americans complain about the saturation of ads and election coverage, it is very exciting and engaging for us when we catch snippets of it. And of course, for the Sheck, fascinating from a technology point of view.

This was especially true yesterday, Super Tuesday. Before I go any further here, let me say openly that I am supporting Barack Obama. And admittedly, I have been relatively impressed by his use of 2.0 technology in the campaign. This article in the Times mentions how many young people flock to his Facebook group. The Facebook page I belong to has 4,185 members and there are other sites to choose from.

And of course there is the use of YouTube. Without a TV, I watched most the debates on YouTube and am grateful for the opportunity. The venerable Elaine Young also got me into candidates' stump speeches on YouTube. Kudos to Hillary, on that front. But there is also the people's use of it, not just the candidates. For example, if I search "Obama" in YouTube, I get 74,400 hits! CRAZY! AWESOME! WOW! ObamaGirl is all over the place and I love the enthusiasm but the more than a million views of the Yes We Can video is what really takes hold of my heart, both for the content (I do indeed believe!) but also for the use of YouTube to mark social change:

While this is not really grassroots in that it is famous people with other famous people, it is still an aggressive use of 2.0 to find people where they are and with what they want to share a message.

But let's also think about the establishment for a minute. While I manned the ref desk late last night, I was kept in the loop by blogs at the New York Times. There is something exciting about major news outlets tauting the value and prominence of blogs to contribute to "all the news that's fit to print".

So, where does that leave the Sheck in her deliberations on television. As this post as made clear to me: what do I need one for? I've got 2.0.