Good enough?


How do students choose their sources?   After finishing the video I created about “authority of sources” I have come to the conclusion one thing I’d like to know more about is how students make those choices, so I can include their thoughts in the video as well.

So I’ve been talking to students when they’ve been in the library and asking them about how they choose sources on our student blog, so I can eventually include that.

I struggle sometimes when a class comes in with “convincing” even the teachers not to  have students just “google” every topic, much less convincing the students.   We all know Google can be very effective as can Wikipedia, obviously, for a first crack at a project.  

(Many of our teachers do ask students to include book sources, or allow Wikipedia as background but not as a source, or only allow one online encyclopedia, etc., so they are trying to get students to explore a variety of sources.)

Digging Deeper  

However, at our campus, since most of our students are college bound, I also feel that it’s important that they are aware of databases and the deeper web.  They may rarely “walk into” a college library because they’ll be using the online databases from their dorm rooms, most likely, if they discover them.  I feel it’s important as librarians that we make sure students discover them, despite all the downsides, like the more difficult entry way, the fact that selection of sources may be required, etc.  

I do understand that we need to, as Doug Johnson says, work with the students we have, so I  think it’s important to understand how they approach this and how we can scaffold what they are doing.

For example, can’t we work with them on how to use Wikipedia more effectively(checking the background discussions on their topic?) or how to use Google’s more advanced searching when needed?

I’ve put together a beginning collection of tips on a wiki I created for a summer district workshop “Google versus the databases” to try to get at that scaffolding.

And on her blog, The WebFooted Book Lady ponders what is good enough for our students? 

“In my job as a teacher librarian I ask myself the “Is this information good enough?” question all the time. Is the activity, or skill the student is practicing more important than the validity of the actual data they are using?”

She goes on:

“The real question should be ‘Are we giving our students the skills to become discerning, ethical users of information?’ Is what we are teaching them good enough?”

Joyce Valenza asked this question at NECC as well.

Do we want our students to be getting what is “good enough”? Or do we want them to push past the obvious, dig deep, think, question and choose what is best in their fields?   After all, they will be our presidents, legislators, and CEO’s. 

Question is–Do we want leaders who settle for “good enough”?

Image credit:

5 thoughts on “Good enough?

  1. Sometimes “good enough” is the proper choice. If I want to the weather for tomorrow, I do a quick check on a single website and that’s good enough. However, if I’m planning to go sailing, I need more than that. I’d need to find out wind, POP, temperatures and conditions at specific times, etc.

    I agree that we need to know how to go deeper but also when. Teachers are too often offended by students who submit work and comment that it’s good enough. Largely this is because they don’t see value to dig deeper. It’s our job to give them reason to dig deeper. Challenging questions, engaging activities, personal connections should prompt us to dig deeper.

    My point is “good enough” is not always bad.

  2. It’s encouraging to see that as librarians we are not alone in asking ourselves these questions. (BTW, I’m not sure that I would be inclined to purchase the product in the picture based on the text! What are they actually trying to say? There’s a lesson in there somewhere I think.)
    In some areas it comes down to what resources any given school district/board is able to fund. I envy the lavish selection of online databases some schools have access to. So I guess I might echo Doug Johnson but say we have to work with what resources we have as well.
    I’ll be following this thread in your blog with great interest. Thanks!

  3. Dean, I agree. Part of what I tried to do in the summer workshop was talk about “when” to use which, and I think that’s a discussion we need to continue to have with students. I also agree we need to challenge them to dig deeper and to investigate thoroughly. The design of an assignment has a lot to do with that as well. If the students are asked a lot, they will give a lot. And of course it depends on the purpose of their assignment–sometimes all that is needed is a quick answer, and sometimes something more is required.

    I think the concern is that often, even though more is required, we aren’t challenging students to go that extra mile. We’re accepting sources that are “good enough” and not being intellectually rigorous with our own expectations, if that makes sense?

    Lesley, Thanks for the comment…and by the way, the image is from “The Simpsons,” so it’s definitely satirical 😉

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