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Thing #8 – Databases & Search Tools

May 6, 2012

This is such a timely module for me.  May 1st was the deadline to turn in our database requests to Questar SLS, and I was planning to change a few of our selections.  Throughout the course of the year, I trialed Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context, and it was very useful for several projects that were done this year.  My faculty gave me a lot of positive feedback, and we ended up adding the database in January.  In looking at databases for next year, I took a look at Gale American History and Biography in Context.  After again getting positive feedback from faculty, we ended up adding those. 

Also, I am working with our 7th grade classes on a joint report with ELA, science, and math.  The students have to select a famous scientist or mathematician, find two sources to research them, and do a five minute presentation as their chosen scientist.  It should be a fun project!  We used the biography section of Facts on File Science Online to help the students choose their scientist, so that was an easy first source.  But because I don’t have a biography database right now, finding a credible resource for all the students was a bit of a challenge.  This is also the type of class that you can’t really set loose on Google (although a few will try), and any kind of research requires a good amount of structure. 

I now have two great resources to teach them for their second source – SweetSearch and InstaGrok.  I had not heard of either of them, and they are both great resources.  I have had fun modelling a search for my students, and I’m not quite sure which one I like better.  With its simple, Google-like interface, SweetSearch is a nice alternative for kids who just want a simple search box and a list of results.  InstaGrok is so visual, I’m thinking that it will really appeal to this age group.  I’m not sure which one I’ll use, I want the teacher to weigh in on that, but I’m really glad to have some alternatives to Google. 

As a side note, I was at the SSL Conference in Binghamton this past Friday.  I heard Joyce Valenza’s keynote presentation and also attended her workshop on curation.  The sheer amount of different tools that she uses in her library is quite amazing, and very inspiring. 

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