Section 5. Information literacy and reflective learning The action research spiral - Observe

5.2. Focus groups 1. Goals

5.3.5. Information seeking in daily live

Also talking about their daily live, students demonstrated that search engines are the favourite tool for seeking information. I asked them to make some examples of their recent searches.


Giacinto: Well, just a few minutes ago I searched Google for a rock concert. I wrote the name of the group and then I found their official site. Here there are dates and places of concerts…..

Fabrizio: There is really everything, you can find the trains, films, concerts, sport news...

you know, a friend of mine buys and sells things on the Internet.

I also tried to understand if students really found it easy to use effectively the Web as an information source and their answers appeared less uncritical than I expected.

Caio: It is simple if you know exactly what you are looking for.

Two students in the same group reported an example of a searching experience. The other students appeared interested and asked explications.

Mario: I was looking for something about the Cecenia trouble. I searched Cecenia in Google. I did not find what I was interested in….

Teacher: So, what did you do?

Mario: I had only found something about the geography, you know, information about the place. I was interested in the problem with the terrorism and the relationships with Russia.

I browsed two or three pages, but I did not succeed. Then I wrote Cecenia terrorism and finally I found some Websites. However, this was not what I was looking for, I needed something different, I mean, an explanation…. I was trying to understand why all that had started….I did not find that.

The second student told a similar experience about the problem of Chernobyl

Caio: This was at the secondary school. I needed something about the Chernobyl disaster, I mean the sequence of events. I used Google, but I found only something about current initiatives of solidarity or other information about the problem of Chernobyl today. I was seeking for the history. Perhaps there was something, but I did not find it, perhaps because I usually browse only the first one or two pages……

Most students expressed the same opinion; sometimes Google does not provide the expected results. It may be helpful, but not in all cases. However, students often attributed their failure to the lack of “patience”. Perhaps, if they had browsed more than one or two pages of Google results, they would have found what was needed.

Another lively discussion emerged just on this topic: what is it needed, to succeed in searching Google?

Students’ answers were absolutely unexpected to me:

You need to be patient and browse much more pages of results.

You need to be luck, it is a matter of luck

The problem is that you need more time, while I usually lose my temper and give up

Nobody expressed the concepts of skills, experience, thinking, reasoning, learning and similar.

5.3.6. Facing failure

From the debate around Google, another interesting topic emerged. Students started to compare their reactions to failure when searching the Internet and to discuss possible ways to cope with this.

Caterina: When you cannot find what you are looking for, this is really disappointing. I feel angry, I cannot accept that. I know somewhere there is what I am looking for ….why is it so difficult to find it?

Paolo: I try again and again….

Teacher: What do you mean when you say that you try again and again? What do you do?

Paolo: I change the word….I try some other words…..

None named instructions, help pages or the advanced search, nor anybody stated they changed information source. “Asking somebody for help” seemed the privileged strategy.

I ask some friends of mine

My boyfriend usually helps me in searching.

I ask my mates: Where did you find that?

During an individual interview, a students told me that when she cannot find what she is searching, she asks for help a friend of hers, who is studying information technology engineering:

Teacher : And what does your “IT friend” usually do to succeed?

Flavia: Well, you know, he usually finds the right word…

Teacher: Do you think this requires IT skills?

Flavia: Actually, it doesn’t, this isn’t a problem of technology …probably it depends from something else …..uhm, perhaps experience?

Some students also expressed their frustration towards Internet searching

Viviana: I try and try again and if I don’t manage to find what I need, I get mad and I lose my temper. Why isn’t this working? Where is the problem?

Agata: I get angry and give up everything…then, after a few hours I try again, I don’t accept that I can fail, so I try again…it is so frustrating….

92 5.3.7. The invisible library

Students’ use of the library appears as a basic, very traditional one. The library is perceived as a quite place, where to study and borrow textbooks. Only three students stated to be able to use the on-line library catalogue, while the availability of electronic journals and databases appeared totally unknown.

Rinaldo: I am used to borrow textbooks. If I need to find books I ask the librarian. I don’t know how to use the catalogue. I usually browse the shelves or ask the librarian

Only two students stated they were used to go to the public library, mainly for having a quite place to study. The library is not considered as a gateway to information. Students did not connect their information problems with library resources, and they did not name the librarian as a person whom they usually ask for help.

It seems that students perceive the library and on-line available information as two different, separated worlds. Library is for books to be borrowed. The Internet, with its incredible amount of information is something completely different, which has nothing to do with the library and that requires, to be effectively used: patience, luck, perhaps experience.

In document Information Literacy and Reflective Learning An action research experience at the University of Parma (Page 101-104)