For educators, online libraries offer a haven of respectability in the search for accurate and appropriate Internet resources. Virtual libraries present their own challenges, however. Locating and choosing the best library sites for students can be a daunting task! Where does a teacher begin? Included: A dozen online library sites that are reliable, predictable, and eminently usable!
English politician Herbert Samuel called the library "thought in cold storage." If his words are true, online libraries are thought in the refrigerator, allowing users instant access to information from a single source without the hassle of searching miles of separate stacks! More and more, brick and mortar libraries are taking their offerings online, expanding their reach beyond their own schools, neighborhoods, or cities to the global community.
For educators, online libraries offer a haven of respectability in the search for accurate and appropriate Internet resources for classroom use. Unlimited by physical space, however, virtual libraries present their own challenges. Locating and choosing the best library sites for students can be a daunting task -- so many resources, so little time! Where does a teacher begin?
Abilock, the director of the technology, library, curriculum department and the curriculum coordinator at the Nueva School in Hillsborough, California, also is the editor of Knowledge Quest, the journal of the American Association of School Librarians. Her Web page, Choose the Best Search for Your Information Needs, breaks down information needs and matches them to the online resources that will provide the best results.
When selecting resources, Abilock suggests, teachers should think of the Web site as a virtual librarian. "Ask yourself 'If I was going to collaborate with a librarian to find the very best resource for my teaching and for my students' learning, what kind of help would I want?'"
To aid beginners in their search for libraries of online information, Abilock created Developing Depth of Research: Invisible Web Databases. From books, magazines, and newspapers to photographs, works of art, primary documents, and statistics, Abilock's site directs users to specialized resources in every subject area.
Abilock advocates a "good enough" approach to searching -- one that targets specific informational needs and locates resources that will supply those needs without inundating the user with more than is desired. "Deciding how to use library Web sites depends on what you want to accomplish," she explains. "Are you asking kids to quickly find accurate factual information? Are you asking them to investigate a controversial topic? Do you want to teach history with complexity and richness, using primary source documents?" The purpose of the instruction determines the resources kids should use.
For primary source documents, Abilock recommends American Memory from the Library of Congress. The site contains 7 million digital items from more than 100 historical collections. In addition, the site's Learning Page helps teachers use those primary sources by providing tips and tricks, lessons, and activities.
The Librarians' Index to the Internet is another of Abilock's favorite resources. The clearly organized and searchable subject directory of more than 9,000 Internet resources chosen by librarians "is my first stop when I need to find background information or stimulate my thinking," says Abilock. The site's motto is "Information You Can Trust."
"Blue Web'n, from Pacific Bell's Knowledge Explorer Network, is an outstanding resource for K-12 projects," Abilock adds. "It allows users to see what others have designed to get kids thinking and acting in an investigative, inquiry-oriented way." Blue Web'n, a searchable database, contains about 1,000 outstanding Internet learning sites, grouped by subject area, audience, and type.
Article by Cara Bafile
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