Module #4
Activity #1 Questions:

How do you currently compare, contrast and differentiate when searching for information on the web? How might you change your search strategy methods to include the DIF model when working with students or adult learners?

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Jodi Rupnow's Response:
When I currently search for information on the web to use with my students (both my little and big ones), I am always looking to make sure the information is current, appropriate and user friendly. I find myself "spoonfeeding" the information and resources much of the time. After looking at the DIF model, I now realize that I have to focus more on how my students can best get to the information themselves, decide on the validity and quality of the information, and ethically use the information they find. While 7 year olds still need more guidance and modeling with all of this, they too need to gain digital literacy fluency just as they need to build their fluency as read print. Bascially, this model takes what I have been doing one step further.

Laurie Sloma's response:
Currently, when I need to look up something on the internet I start with Google. Sometimes I know specifically where to find a reliable source, such as for a health question I start with WebMD or the Mayo Clinic site. When I first started reading the list about DIF I wasn't sure that I was up to speed on what they were talking about. But then I realized that I do know how to search for information and use reliable sources. I think that is one of the toughest aspects about digital information, making sure the author/publisher is reliable. An idea that caught my attention and that I will focus on with my students is "demonstrate focus to avoid distraction." There is so much information out there it's easy to go off on a tangent while following all of the links. I will also continually remind my students when they are doing a search to "translate a natural language question" and then "determine if the information addresses the natural language question." I think this will help them to stay on task and avoid floundering in all of the data.

The one thing I questioned myself on was "understand the organization of digital information." I have never been formally taught the organization of digital information. Is there something that I am missing? Will we be formally taught this as we continue this module?

Jen Doucette's response:

As a high school English teacher, the DIF model is something we strive to achieve through our research unit; however, we are fighting an uphill battle. We want students to be knowledgeable about the validity of sources while achieving this in an efficient manner. Often we ban Google at first to show students how to peruse databases that our school allows, yet truly, in their own time students are constantly on Google. One of my goals this year with the 9th grade research paper was to instruct on the databases, but then take a day of research that is merely on Google and discuss how they found the best results. As mentioned in the model, the students need to create effective keywords in an effort to guide solid searching. This is a method we spend a lot of time on. I also like how the DIF model talks about the ethical use of the information gained. We are constantly on websites accessing pictures or information, and often, students take them without giving the site any sort of credit. Using correct citations is becoming more important than ever in our digital age. Thanks for sharing this model. I had never seen that before.

Deb Figueroa's response:
Depending on the level I teach and the time allotted, I try to teach expedient research practices. For some classes, I may provide the links for them; in other classes, I may have students begin with a query and find their own sites during the process. I have had students compare resources. For example, my sophomores would explore a big-ticket item they would like to purchase and they would all read a review in Consumer Report as well as the advertisement from both the brand they liked and a competitor's brand. I am pleased to see that this type of research is a valuable 21st century skill.

What I haven't done in the past is explained the process that spiders and crawlers use to gather web pages to include on search engines. There were some great links and explanations on the DIF site that I will use in future classes. One tactic I have used in the past is to create a scavenger hunt for kids that includes a set of questions they have to answer about the research process, usually the citation portion, but I could create one for searching and include valuable resources for them to reference.

The great part is sharing this information with teachers at all levels and all disciplines. With such a vast amount of information available on the net, our 21st century kids need to be exposed to as much research experience as possible. When students come for help in our Writing Center, their biggest roadblock is finding the information assigned by teachers, whether it is a current event article for science or social studies class or completing the first leg of a research paper for an English class. I know that I mistakenly assume that kids know how to gather information from the web; however, as I work with these students, those who are not well versed will struggle and get behind in the process. Therefore, the DIF model has great explanations and links that is worthwhile sharing with other colleagues.

Amy Heesen’s response:

The main search engine I use to look up information is Google. From there I look at the type of information given in the summary but I also look at the web address. One main point I was taught was to find the section on the site that states when it was updated and by who or what company. I use this information to define the reliability of the source and the information. If I am unable to find it or trust its credentials, I keep looking.
My strategies are a beginning of the DIF model and it is important to teach students that the pictures and words on websites is the work of someone. It is the student's job to give credit where it is due but also find information that is tangible and not someone's opinion. In these times it is difficult to go through all the information available but the DIF model is a great way to pick and choose the correct information and make sense of the wide world of technology and digital information.

Julie Skelton:
When I search information I use to use Yahoo! all the time, it was just recently that I started relying on Google. I am not sure why I always searched in this way, but I guess that is just what I did! I learned during my action research for my Master's program in a quick hurry how many not credible websites really are out there. With that said, I have been practicing several of those searching techniques and asking myself those questions for awhile now. When my students search at school they have to use our search engine, Destiny. They may not "free search" on the Internet. I have to admit though, I often will go to their computer go to Google or Yahoo! and search what they are looking for due to the limited capabilities of Destiny.

John Handsaker:
First, how did I find information on the Web. My previous search strategies were very simple, if I couldn’t find the information I was looking for by posing a question using Google or Yahoo I would use the Advance search to add more descriptors. This process may or may not yield acceptable results. After viewing the results I would read the summary of each promising item to see if I wanted to continue, in other words I was doing speculative searching using the same flowchart as depicted on the web page authored by Dr. Carl Heine, “Speculative and Investigative Searching.”
As mentioned in the article this type of search can be very time consuming and yield minimal results. Trying to find out if the information had any creditability usually rests on, where was it published and was the author known to be creditable. If it is only published on the internet does the web site have creditability, such as, Cnet, Znet and a number of other zines.

Question 2
I don’t mean to be so clinical in answering the question about how I would change what I teach as a search strategy by including the DIF model by listing the item I learned. The DIF model is real eye opener. I would just like to share some of the important topics I gleaned from reading and listening to the 21st Century Info Fluency site. Investigative searching is a far better search strategy.
a. Using Google and Yahoo can still be successful, but using the search box strategy will provide better results.
b. Use different search engines, that access other databases, such as or, but if is not web page is no longer available go to “WayBackMachine” to search
c. Who are the experts – look them up using keywords like Database, archive, history, or information with subject matter keywords.
d. New operators can be used, double quotes around words, a minus sign for unwanted words, and ~ are used in most cases. Older databases may still use the boolean search operators.
e. 5 things to do: Verify credibility of information, choose better keywords, read all info before moving on, choose the right database, query not question
f. Relevance and relationship of keywords
g. Use of a subject index or site map, although there may be some drawbacks the researcher should be aware.
h. Use a set of standards to evaluate the information, ie. Guide for Educators by Kathy Schrock
i. Ethics, check for information citations for quoted materials.

Rhonda Stucky:
Most often I Google it. Years ago I often had to include descriptors like quotation marks, +, or – to narrow searches. In the last couple years, though, I’ve noticed that that has been less necessary as search engines improve. I still revert to that if my searches are coming up empty.

I’m helping put together a Middle School unit for teaching students how to research on the internet so this topic has been on my mind lately. These are some ideas:
What information am I looking for?
Teach students how to choose keywords related to their search topic.

Where will I find the information?
Teach students about the various types of search engines.

How will I get there?
Teach students how to refine their searches using advanced search options or search descriptors.

How good is the information?
Teach students to decide if websites are credible using tools such as
Kathy Schrock’s Critical Evaluation Surveys.
How will I ethically use the information?
Teach students how to properly cite online resources and define the consequences for plagiarism.