November 22, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

SLJ Reviews Information Literacy Courseware ResearchReady

Even after being in this business for over 20 years, it seems I’m still a hopeless library and information science geek. I learned this anew in the process of reviewing ResearchReady courseware from ImagineEasy Solutions, when I found myself giddily addicted to finishing the program’s research skills lessons. There are currently six ResearchReady courses with between three and six lessons in each—enough for an average student to spend about 3 1/2 hours to complete—and I breathlessly took them all, pausing only long enough to print with pride my Certificates of Completion. (And I capitalize those leading Cs intentionally; these documents are very special to me.)

Think I’m just a pathetic old librarian desperately in need of a new hobby? I challenge you to sign up for a free trial and not get hooked. This is unusually good courseware and real head-candy for infogeeks like me. In fact, it’s just about everything we try and teach condensed into a single convenient, Web-based and tablet-friendly can.

A pair of line-drawn cartoon characters lead students through the lessons in a way that’s breezy without being cheesy. One is an earnest ResearchReady student named Scott, the other an information-illiterate owl named Bubo who thinks he knows it all. Together, they cover topics like the differences between primary and secondary sources and between popular and scholarly ones. They talk about how search engines work, what “The Invisible Web” is and how research databases are different. They send students out to real-world sources and ask them to evaluate their purpose, usefulness, and credibility. They devote a solid chunk of time to covering Wikipedia in particular, and do so in a thorough and even-handed way, discussing its strengths and weaknesses, and teaching students to tap the history and references sections to evaluate Wikipedia articles on a case-by-case basis. Of course, learning to properly cite sources in order to provide evidence and avoid plagiarism is also stressed. In short, ResearchReady systematically covers all the research-related Common Core standards that school librarians and ELA teachers lie awake at night wondering how on Earth to address.

Launched in January 2012 and still in beta, ResearchReady features quickly evolving course management tools for tracking individual and class progress and understanding, plus it allows teachers to add, remove, or adjust lesson content. ResearchReady can be used in its entirety as linear courseware, or librarians and teachers can have their classes pop in randomly to reinforce just the skills they’ll need to undertake a given research task.

As mentioned, I’ve been a school librarian for a while now, and I once believed that I could cover an entire information literacy curriculum simply by co-teaching library research projects on a catch-as-catch-can basis. I’ve long since realized that I can’t reliably do that. That’s why I recommend ResearchReady as a practical prerequisite to provide high school students with a foundation of instruction and practice that imparts the knowledge and skills they’ll need to conduct effective and ethical, college-level research.

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