Especially JCE: March 2016

Is the cover of the March 2016 issue (see photo) of the Journal of Chemical Education a familiar scene? It is to me. I’ve spent many hours surrounded by shelves full of books and journals, in all of their papery goodness. Paper was the mainstay of my undergraduate searches in the chemistry library, although computer searches (to lead me to paper) also played a role. Since then, the landscape has changed dramatically, with far-reaching effects on both students and educators.

This month’s special issue puts the focus on that chemical information and information literacy landscape, with “perspectives, practices, and programs of potential use to educators and librarians in higher education and high school,” (p 401) as Grace Baysinger’s editorial (full text freely available) states.

Information Literacy Needs

Exploring the Information Literacy Needs and Values of High School Chemistry Teachers begins with a definition of information literacy (IL), the “set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate and use effectively the needed information” (p 406). Are you “information literate”? Are your students? What role can chemistry educators play in helping their students to become information literate? How can educators be prepared for this role?

Zane and Tucci are interested in the answers to all of these questions. Their article describes the first steps in their quest to improve the IL component of a seminar connected to their college’s chemistry department, based on the needs of high school chemistry teachers. They surveyed members of the American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT) and New England Association of Chemistry Teachers (NEACT). The article’s figures summarize teacher responses related to the priority of IL in the chemistry curriculum, the use of specific IL skills in their curriculum, difficulties in implementing IL, and the types of information sources used by their students. From the results, many participants already include components of IL in their chemistry curriculum, although the main difficulty (can you guess?) is lack of time.

The authors conclude that more information is needed, including more input from chemistry teachers, particularly in IL instruction that is already being used. Do you integrate IL into your classroom already? What insights can you offer to others? 


Information Literacy Skills: Wikipedia Activity

Survey results from the Zane and Tucci article above show that websites are the top information source used by students in the chemistry curriculum. It’s probably safe to say that Wikipedia pops up as one of those websites from time to time. In Improving Information Literacy Skills through Learning To Use and Edit Wikipedia: A Chemistry Perspective, Walker and Li discuss facets of the resource: its chemistry content, how students can use it effectively, and how it can be a benefit to developing information literacy skills.

I like their recommendations for how Wikipedia can be useful, such as using it as an easy-to-understand first overall read on a topic, “an excellent way for a beginner to quickly see connections and the bigger picture” (p 511) and as a possible resource for identifying key papers for a topic, based on the Wikipedia article citations.

The second half of their article focuses on using Wikipedia as part of an editing project for students. Full involvement in the activity is intensive and is aimed at undergraduate and graduate levels, usually with support from librarians. However, the authors make suggestions for how a project with a smaller scope could also be implemented, which could be of use in the high school classroom. These include adding a small part to an existing article, adding citations, adding images, editing short sections, and correcting mistakes in existing articles. They suggest an instructor first learn about how the Wikipedia editing community works and to experience editing an article themselves.

What has your experience been with students using (or not using?) Wikipedia in the classroom?

For the entire issue, see Mary Saecker’s JCE 93.03—March Issue Highlights.


What are your thoughts on the March 2016 issue? If you see an article that sparks your interest, please share! You can comment on this post, or if you’d like to contribute an article or “Pick” of your own, submit a request to contribute, explaining you’d like to contribute to the Especially JCE column. Questions? Contact us using the XChange’s contact form.

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