Yesterday we launched the new platform for our professional discussion group, Discussions About Resources and Teaching (DART), formerly known as RIOT. Motivated by feedback and transitions within the department, this change better reflects our current structure and goals as a community of practice. Thank you to everyone who participated in kicking off DART!
Our topic for discussion was teaching with web-scale discovery tools like scoUT. To gather different perspectives, participants were invited to read one of three articles beforehand:
“Teaching Outside the Box: ARL Librarians’ Integration of the ‘One Box’ into Student Instruction” College & Research Libraries
“Beyond Simple, Easy, and Fast: Reflections on Teaching Summon” College & Research Libraries News
“Teaching ‘Format as Process’ in an Era of Web-Scale Discovery” Reference Services Review
We began with a round robin to share how, or in what capacity, people are using or not using our discovery tool scoUT. Perhaps not surprisingly, there was a broad and varied spectrum of responses. Some people actively use it as a teaching tool in classes, while others mention it briefly, do not teach with it at all, or find themselves engaging with it more on the reference desk than during instruction sessions. People mentioned using it for developing topics; searching by citation; refining vague reference requests; finding book reviews; and locating material on obscure subjects or with very specific search phrases only found in full-text. Also, it seems that few people actually call the tool scoUT when talking about it with students, referring to it instead with names like the “all tab” search; “main library” search; or the “big box” search.
Interestingly, some of the features discussed that make scoUT useful are also what can make it challenging. For example, it is helpful in retrieving sources that cover obscure, specific or seemingly unrelated topics because it searches and crawls across so many things. Yet that also means that it often returns a deluge of results, which people expressed can be difficult or overwhelming to deal with.
After the round robin, much of our discussion stemmed from the third article, which explored the concept of teaching format as process and how web-scale discovery tools factor into this approach. When searching online, sources become decontextualized; content is separated from its package and so visual indicators cannot necessarily be relied upon. Guiding students to consider the creation process inherent in different source types can help foster the development of higher-level critical thinking and evaluation skills. A tool like scoUT, that requires sifting through a large number of different, and at times random, source types, presents an authentic opportunity to discuss and hone these skills. However, this depth and engagement takes time, and can be difficult to address in a one-shot instruction session.
There was also a general consensus that whether or not we are teaching scoUT directly, students are going to use it. Not only is it the first, obvious search box on the website, but it also has that familiar Google-like quality that will draw students toward it. So if they are going to use it anyway, it only makes sense for us to think about how we can teach them to do so in a discerning and productive manner that will serve them even outside of school.
It was great to hear at the end of the discussion that several people felt interested and inspired to find new ways to incorporate scoUT into their teaching practice. Thanks again for an insightful and engaging first DART!
Do you have an article or topic you would like to bring to DART? Feel free to contact Elise Nacca with any ideas and feedback!
Kulp, C., McCain, C., & Scrivener, L. (2014). Teaching outside the box: ARL librarians’ integration of the “one-box” into student instruction. College & Research Libraries, 75(3), 298-308. doi:10.5860/crl12-430
Cardwell, C., Lux, V., & Snyder, R. J. (2012). Beyond simple, easy, and fast: Reflections on teaching summon. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.
Seeber, K. P. (2015). Teaching “format as a process” in an era of web-scale discovery. Reference Services Review, 43(1), 19-30. doi:10.1108/RSR-07-2014-0023