Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wikimindmap and Wikirage

Research Buzz is one of the blogs I track to keep up with the new, weird, or even possibly useful, sites on the web. Two items appeared this week one of which is under the "possibly useful" category; the other is more on the weird part of the continuum.

One of the hardest things for any student researcher to do is to find a focus when doing a library paper. Faculty sometimes fail to realize that students have not yet found their interests, their passion. Nothing is more fun for an academic than to hunt and find overlooked or new info on a subject with which they are intimately familiar. They already have a built in skeleton on which to place the new bit.

What happens when a student is assigned a paper in a course about which they only have some rudimentary conceptual framework, if that. They flounder; they doubt; they despair; sometimes they plagiarize. (At least that's the part the librarians see.) I think that anything that will help students find a focus and think about ways to narrow an idea into a workable, researchable, and maybe even interesting, subject is worth mention. Sometime ago I mentioned EBSCO's visual search as one way for a student to find focus. Now someone has found a way to mine Wikipedia for broader, narrower and related concepts. It's called Wikimindmap (http://www.wikimindmap.org/). Here's the "About." Try some general topic like "advertising" and play with the ways one can use it to brainstorm a concept.

The other app is Wikirage--a website that compiles a list of the most edited Wikipedia entries. Like those sites that rate the most frequently accessed or emailed websites, it tracks the Zeitgeist of the hour, the day, the month.

While exploring these sites I also ran across this webpage: Ten Things You Should Know About Wikipedia. Number 6 should probably be on every syllabus.

"#6 We do not expect you to trust us.

It is in the nature of an ever-changing work like Wikipedia that, while some articles are of the highest quality of scholarship, others are admittedly complete rubbish. We are fully aware of this. We work hard to keep the ratio of the greatest to the worst as high as possible, of course, and to find helpful ways to tell you in what state an article currently is. Even at its best, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, with all the limitations that entails. It is not a primary source. We ask you not to criticize Wikipedia indiscriminately for its content model but to use it with an informed understanding of what it is and what it isn't. Also, as some articles may contain errors, please do not use Wikipedia to make critical decisions."

Monday, August 27, 2007

Friday, August 24, 2007

Academic Kvetch Site

Kvetch is not quite the right word, but it is lovely! This website listed by Marylaine Block this week is every reference librarian's dream/nightmare. Submissions by libs and academics of books and authors NOT TO USE. Wonder: can one write a book containing all the bad information you need to forget? And what about libel and revenge, not unknown in the academic universe.

Bad Sources - Making Light
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/009280.html
Attention reference librarians: Teresa Neilsen-Hayden invites submissions for reference works scholarly or reference works "so bad that you must never, ever cite them, lest you be cruelly mocked by your fellows." It's a question worth thinking about, and there are many responses here, though librarians will probably discount those that offer no explanations for the selection.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Plagiarism is Easy; Being Original Not So

Hoke Robinson argued on The Humanist Forum:

A single fraudulent grade could in practice make the difference; a series of them certainly could. In this case some other, presumably honest student who would otherwise have gotten the scholarship, admission or job has been wronged. And the higher the level, the greater the wrong, from the plagiarized intro-course essay to the term paper to a masters and doctoral dissertation. The misrepresentation gets you on the bench, and somewhere in the end, in the dark, somebody falls off.


Taken from an excellent webpage called "ACADEMIC PLAGIARISM DEFINED" by Professor Irving Hexham. U. of Calgary.

Now, at the beginning of the semester, is a good time for faculty and students to talk about plagiarism. This website also gives lots of examples of original, plagiarized and properly cited information.

I've also got a site "Plagiarism--A Guide for Instructors" that might be useful for deciding why, when and how plagiarism affects both students and faculty. The University licenses a utility called Turnitin to help detect plagiarism. It's an instrument, sometimes a useful tool, for detection, but does it teach students to think or does it just challenge them to defeat the instrument. The best strategy for both students and instructors is to head it off; design assignments that can't be plagiarized. Takes time, takes thought, takes attention. Being original is hard--on both sides of the desk.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Library Exploration

OK. OK. I know that taking a library tour seems pretty lame. Don't think of it as a tour. Think of it as an opportunity to see where the best conversations in the world take place. There are people in those books yelling at each other about what is true and what isn't--across time and across geography. Love letters too. Sometimes the oldest arguments and love letters are the most interesting. This is really the biggest cocktail party in the world going on this building. To appreciate it you just have to find the intimate conversations and arguments that interest you. Often there is a knock-down drag-out fight going on in current periodicals. If you think that learning is boring, you just haven't found the fight you should be in. Take a tour. See what we have. Browse the stacks. Cruise the hundreds of encyclopedias in Reference. Check out a dvd. Here's the schedule. Surely you are free during one of these.
Tour Schedule
http://www.southalabama.edu/univlib/sauer/opentours07.html

Friday, August 17, 2007

Wikis and RSS in Plain English

The perfect tutorials--short, great examples, fun.


YouTube - Wikis in Plain English 3 min. 52 seconds

YouTube - RSS in Plain English 3.5 minutes

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

InfoMania - Information Overload

Ironically I am contemplating the results of this research article on the effects of information overload on "knowledge workers" as I sit at my desk waiting for the beep that indicates I have a new email in my inbox. Though the article couches its results in terms of loss of productivity--the way everything seems to be measured in the media these days--it makes some great points that I realize apply to most academics. We are the ultimate "knowledge workers." We think that those of us who eschew email are old-fashioned. We watch our students text messaging, instant messaging, using Facebook and MySpace and who knows what other communication methods invented yesterday. Maybe it is time to step back and look at our own brains on constant, instant and often irrelevant communication.

Try this research article in First Monday.

Infomania: Why We Wan’t Afford to Ignore It Any Longer
by Nathan Zeldes, David Sward, and Sigal Louchheim
http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue12_8/zeldes/index.html

The creative thinking process requires long stretches of uninterrupted time, to study books, articles and online resources, and to process information, sorting it mentally and generating insight. These activities take time as well as mental concentration, which builds up slowly and can easily be lost.

Field research demonstrates that restoring daily segments of contiguous “Quiet Time” can have a major effect of increasing productivity in development teams [21], [22]. Additional research shows a correlation between a fragmented work mode and reduced creativity [23].

In the past, such thinking time was core to the work paradigm. Newton got hit by that apple because he was sitting under a tree. Sitting and contemplating the world (what we now call “doing nothing”) was an expected part of a scientist’s routine. More recently, say ten years ago, employees could still expect to do some thinking – if no other way, after 5 PM, during the weekend, or by hiding in a conference room.

Today, the only time we can think is when the flight attendant orders us to close our notebooks prior to landing. At any other time – 24x7 – we’re accessible to beeping, alerting, attention–grabbing devices and software tools. We are expected to respond to them instantly. One perspective is that technology channels our thinking to multiple, mostly trivial problems instead of focusing on a few important ones where we can create real value.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Couple of Sites for Weekend Browsing

From Marylaine Block's weekly post:


"What Book Got You Hooked?

http://www2.firstbook.org/whatbook/top50.php
FirstBook, which gives away books to children, asked people to tell them
what book got them hooked on reading. "Over 100,000 people responded.
These are the Top 50 books that got YOU hooked!" No doubt everybody's
answers would be different, which makes this a great topic for
discussions and exhibits in your library."

"Smithsonian: Art and Design
http://www.si.edu/Art_and_Design/
A good place to sample or immerse yourself in the Smithsonian's
outstanding research and collections on design. Browse by type of design
(architecture, graphic arts, industrial design, stamps, letters and
coins, etc.), or by regions and cultures. Irresistible sample displays
from each category (lighthouse postcards, American lunchboxes, Asian
games, etc.) are available from the main page. Click on Ask Joan of Art
to have information specialists at the American Art Museum answer your
questions."

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Top 100 Tools for Learning

Here's a UK list, gathered from other lists, enumerating the most valued tools useful for educating students. It's interesting that the "written word" meaning words on paper only made it to 49. Guess students don't need "real" books much anymore, much less tools like library catalogs and databases--not mentioned at all.

What were the Brits thinking???

Top 100 Tools for Learning
http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/recommended/top100.html

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Newsmap--a news junkie's dream

I stashed this url in an email and just resurrected it while cleaning my desktop. Newsmap is a visual representation of the most recent stories from Google news aggregator by country and color-coded to 7 main topics and recency.

"Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. . . . Its objective is to simply demonstrate visually the relationships between data and the unseen patterns in news media. It is not thought to display an unbiased view of the news; on the contrary, it is thought to ironically accentuate the bias of it."

How refreshing--to admit bias!


Newsmap http://www.marumushi.com/apps/newsmap/newsmap.cfm