Today’s post will be about something I love to use. That is, technology. I am an avid user and teacher of the stuff. Sharing some new tick, be it with a database, mobile app or desktop app is one of the key aspects of my job. As librarians, we need to be fluent with technology. After all, we teach students the concepts behind databases, web interfaces and working with file structures.
There are some great tools out there, which interact with other apps. (Zotero being one such option. ) Being an iPad campus, my institution has purchased a notability license for our students. This is a nifty little app that works with cloud storage to allow PDF annotation. As a librarian, I view this as an opportunity to teach students how to interact with file structures, save PDF’s, import them into the app and annotate them.
These types of apps and tools require a student to really understand file structures and user interfaces. They need to understand that a PDF is more common for scholarly articles, whereas a word document is better suited for a working document. An understanding of common UI elements is also required. The larger concept here is transliteracy.
Translitearcy, for those who do not know is “… concerned with mapping meaning across different media and not with developing particular literacies about various media. It is not about learning text literacy and visual literacy and digital literacy in isolation from one another but about the interaction among all these literacies” (Ipri, 2010).
This is not an easy thing to teach. Students need to draw concepts between interfaces and develop and intuition for graphical user interfaces (GUI). I believe most librarians are transliterate. The nature of our jobs require use to interact with different interfaces, to get desired outcomes. Students are often lost in new interfaces and require a guiding hand.
Transliteracy is far too large of a literacy to teach in a single library session. It is something that is developed over time. They need experience interacting with lots of GUIs. In my sessions, I have developed a simple technique to get across a basic translitearcy concept.
The interfaces of EBSCOhost and ProQuest are not all that different. Sure, they use different color styles and somewhat different wording, but they both send you to a PDF. They both offer you the ability to refine your search with boolean operators. There is even a way to refine your search based on peer-reviewed status.
In class, I have the students find one article in EBSCO and ProQuest. Usually I leave 5-10 minutes each. If the articles they can find are related to a paper they are required to write, that is all the better. Once the time is complete, I ask which was their favorite. Most of the time, the class is split down the middle.
After that, I bring up EBSCO and ProQuest on the same screen. I point out how both interfaces have that three search box interface. I mention the boolean operator drop downs. They are shown how to refine the searches with the peer-reviewed/scholarly article check boxes and how to refine the searches by timeframe.
By showing them the common elements in each database, they are learning (hopefully) to look for familiar interfaces. In much the same way you or I would look for a left facing arrow to go back, I am hoping they are learning to use the drop down menu in either database to refine their search with boolean operators.