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Classroom Socratic Seminars: Teaching the Art of Dialogue

Statue of Socrates in Trinity College Library

Statue of Socrates in Trinity College Library (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International/(c) Bar Harel, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Information literacy skills are integral to today’s rising students for many reasons, including tendencies toward information overload and the trend of fake news.

The gathering of information begins with a need or desire for an answer to a question. Perhaps that question is posed by a teacher or by the student herself. The next course of action in schools these days is usually to consult a website, or perhaps a book. Information literacy skills support students in navigating this process of finding answers.

But once students are equipped with these vital research skills and find answers to questions, what is the next step toward understanding and integrating the information they find?

Another way to ask that question might be this: How can we turn information gathering into wisdom?

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”—Socrates

Socrates prized questioning over information gathering. He valued the qualities of critical thinking and engagement with a topic. He believed in creating a learning atmosphere of cooperation, dialogue, listening, and further questioning—cornerstones of the Socratic method, and foundations of the Socratic seminar.

Socrates believed that collecting and memorizing information provided little opportunity for true learning. And as learning was best nurtured in a social atmosphere, the lone activity of research provided little support for critical thinking and comprehension.

Navigating and bridging the educational essentials of research and the art of critical thinking may be a challenging journey.

The Socratic seminar is one way to help connect these two elements of a successful classroom.

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”—Socrates

The Socratic seminar provides students with a forum to ask questions and exchange ideas with their peers on a specific topic, event, or piece of literature. Students come prepared to engage in discussion with fellow students, having read assigned materials, conducted appropriate research, made personal connections, and formulated questions to bring to the seminar.

The teacher becomes the seminar’s facilitator, keeping the students on topic and asking open-ended questions when necessary. The goal is to allow students to practice the art of true dialogue. Emphasis is placed on the value of listening and respecting everyone’s questions and opinions. Socratic seminars are not debates; rather, they are cooperative conversations geared toward critical thinking and discovery.

Interested in learning more about this teaching and learning tool? Check out this Socratic Seminar Strategy Guide and this Seminar Discussion Rubric, and select from these Socratic seminar lesson plans on literary texts, immigration, and human gene editing.

“I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.”—Socrates

How to Identify Fake News in 10 Steps

Fake news is a problem. Information illiteracy is an even bigger problem. A Stanford University study released last November found that most students could not identify fake news because they lacked basic information literacy skills. The good news? We are finally having a national conversation on the importance of teaching information literacy, which teachers and librarians have been talking about for years.

Unfortunately, a recent ProQuest survey found that only 25% of librarians thought their library adequately supported information literacy instruction. Thankfully, there are information literacy resources available on the web. Damon Brown’s TED-ED video “How to Choose Your News” offers a quick, student-friendly introduction to information and media literacy. ProQuest’s editable guided research worksheet “How to Identify Fake News in 10 Steps” helps students become skeptical news consumers.

Want more resources? See eLibrary’s new comprehensive Research Topic on Fake News.

ProQuest Guided Research products equip students to learn information literacy skills. Free trials are available.

Fake News & the Importance of Information Literacy

 “If you have a society where people can’t agree on basic facts,
how do you have a functioning democracy?”
Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron

ProQuest recently surveyed 217 librarians from university, community college, high school and public libraries in North America for their views and insights on information literacy. While 83% of librarians surveyed agree that information literacy affects college graduation rates and 97% believe that it contributes to success in the workforce, only 21% think that their users recognize information literacy’s effect on lifelong success, and 44% believe that their library does not support information literacy instruction as much as it should. Read a report on the full results of ProQuest’s 2016 Information Literacy Survey.

 What Is Fake News?

Although there are many definitions of fake news, the main characteristic is that it is created with an intent to deceive or mislead. Many fake news items are either largely or completely fictitious, and deliberately so. These stories imitate the look and style of real news articles, and they are published on sites designed to imitate established newspaper websites or political blogs, often with closely-related, similar or slightly misspelled domain names.

Melissa Zimdars, an associate professor of communication and media at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, compiled a list of websites that either purposely publish false information or are otherwise entirely unreliable. She tags the sites by category–false, misleading, unreliable, clickbait, satire, bias, hate, conspiracy theories, junk science, or sometimes a combination of several categories.

How Does Fake News Spread?

Most web publishers define their success by the amount of traffic their sites receive. They use this information to attract and bill advertisers based on the numbers of “clicks” or “hits” their site generates. Sometimes, the factual information or foundation of the article is not as important as the number of page views, because these can be used to generate more revenue from potential advertisers.

News sharing has become popular because people affirm their identities and affiliations by posting links to articles that reflect and support their own existing opinions and beliefs, and fake news stories are often strongly biased. Sometimes a story that was intended as satire circulates as factual information, or false information can originate when regular people who are misinformed post on social media sites. Web site owners can also pay a fee to have their site’s search results shown in top placement on the results page of different search engines.

Sharing fake news articles pushes them higher up in search result pages, causing others to come across them quickly and trust the content. This is supported by a study conducted at Northwestern University, where 102 college students went online to answer questions about topics relevant to them. How did the students assess the credibility of online content? When using a search engine, many students clicked on the first search result. They ignored the sponsoring organization and the article’s author, blindly trusting the search engine to put the most reliable results first.

Why Is Fake News Harmful?

Prior to the internet age, people relied on information in printed form–newspapers, magazines, journals, books, encyclopedias–or they watched the nightly television news. Doing any type of extensive research usually required a trip to the library to find the resources needed. The internet and social media have made it far easier for powerful entities to directly and quickly spread false or misleading information far and wide. One of the most troubling and dangerous aspects of fake news is the prevalence of private groups pushing their own agendas under the appearance of seemingly unbiased news.

An analysis by the digital media powerhouse BuzzFeed News found that top fake election news stories generated more total engagement on Facebook during the final three months of the 2016 presidential election campaign than reports from 19 major news outlets (including the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC News) combined.

The recent rise in fake news sites underscores the importance of teaching students independent research and critical thinking skills. It’s not enough to tell them to only use the school’s databases–they must learn how to evaluate the sources they find in the collective media sphere, including both print and digital sources. In its position statement on media literacy, the National Council for the Social Studies, an organization that supports social studies education in U.S. K-12 and higher education, argues that it’s important that students be able to “ask key questions, compare competing claims, assess credibility, and reflect on one’s own process of reasoning,” whether they are reading a printed book, a newspaper article or a Facebook post.

Are your students equipped with the information literacy skills to identify fake news? ProQuest Guided Research products equip students to learn information literacy skills. Free trials are available.

Training for Your ProQuest Resources

Libraries see surge in e-book demandDon’t forget that ProQuest provides free training.  Our Training and Consulting Partners team is available at any time to meet with you via a privately scheduled webinar.  Just email us to make an inquiry.  We also provide regularly scheduled public webinars.  You can contact our team to discuss your questions about ProQuest resources, and we are also happy to focus privately scheduled sessions on topic areas of particular interest to you. 

This is just one of the many benefits you derive from licensure to your ProQuest resources!

 

Adding an A to STEM…Full STEAM Ahead!

STEAM Quote

As professionals in the field of education, we all know the term STEM. This is a movement that exposes students to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. It promotes the teaching of these disciplines’ theories and content with a hands-on learning approach. The goal is not only to provide students with a deep, multidisciplinary understanding but to foster understanding of STEM concepts in the real world.

If a letter were added to the STEM acronym, what would the best choice be? In this video, Harvard University education professor Howard Gardner has a definitive answer: “I have no hesitation in saying we need to add the letter A….An education devoid of arts…is an empty, half-brain kind of education.”

To the point.

In that same video, Yale Child Study Center lecturer Erika Christakis isolates perhaps the core reason that adding the Arts to STEM education is so important: “The arts hav[e] something really essential to say about the human condition, just as science does.”

Let’s First Look at STEM.

We are humans living in a rapidly developing society. In no point in recorded human history has there been as many innovative technologies bringing people together. The disciplines represented in STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math—are integral to the technologies we use every day—and the tools we will use tomorrow. As stated in the State Idaho Department of Education’s What Is STEM Education?, “Math is the language; Science and Engineering are the processes for thinking; all this leads to Innovation.”

Young people—students—have known no other world. It is in all of our best interest to teach, encourage, and support them in a STEM environment.

So Why STEAM?: Arts and the Human Condition

Knowing and understanding the significance of STEM in our schools may not, at first glance, lead us to recognize the significance of adding an A to this multidisciplinary approach to education.

So we must ask: Exactly what do the arts add to our lives?

Consider what the arts encompass. Music, painting, sculpting, theater, literature, architecture, fashion, and so much more. Just as new technologies bring us together and help create our shared experiences, the arts span time to connect us with each other and ourselves. Consider briefly Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. How many people have viewed this painting across the centuries and have been moved by its beauty and brilliance? Across time and cultures, Mona Lisa created a shared, communal experience that impacted 16th-century viewers in much the same way is it does today.  An encounter that becomes both a personal and shared experience.

In fact, at the foundation of all artistic endeavors are creativity, personal experience, and shared experience. It is the same with newfound technologies. Why is this important? Consider what Mae Jemison—an astronaut, doctor, art collector, and dancer—had to say on the topic in this transcript of her 2009 TED Talk on teaching arts and science:

“The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin, even, or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather they’re manifestations of the same thing….The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity. It’s our attempt as humans to build an understanding of the universe, the world around us….[S]cience provides an understanding of a universal experience, and arts provides a universal understanding of a personal experience.”

STEAM in Action

Creativity, personal experience, and shared experience are evident in stories and videos of STEAM in action. When creative writing is incorporated as the A in this Science of Superheroes Lesson, students are able to make connections between the science of flight—which was the STEM component of the lesson—and creating a superhero character and story, which was the A component of the lesson. The video highlights the many layers of involvement and collaboration STEAM can engender.

Math concepts, such as number lines, counting, and fractions, are merged seamlessly with interactive theater play in Staging STEM, a video that also conveys the joy students attain when engaging in STEAM activities. The personal and shared experiences, generated by both personal and communal creativity, become essential to and integrated with the learning experience.

Education should be exciting, engaging, uplifting, and inspiring…and it should provide an outlet for creativity and both personal and shared experiences. The multidisciplinary STEAM educational model certainly is an approach worth exploring.

Explore more about STEM and STEAM in this infographic from the University of Florida:

STEAM, not just STEM Education Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

Education Using Ebooks

Ebook Central 10

Ebooks are a great way for teachers and students to put together technology with essential knowledge and skills. ProQuest provides a number of ways to put ebooks to good use in the classroom. The all-new ProQuest Ebook Central provides your library with every possible access option from purchasing your ebook collection directly to providing set loan days over a year, or to simply subscribing to unlimited use of large amounts of key content, just like you would your favorite reference database. Resources in ProQuest Ebook Central support all types of classroom instruction as well, including STEM, History, Literature, Math, Language Arts, Education, Psychology, Science, Religion, and more. And, with ProQuest’s Ebook Central, students may mark and annotate key parts of the text of any book, or download to any device.

Learn all about ProQuest Ebook Central, or any of our other extensive ProQuest resource collections by joining the ProQuest Training and Consulting team in a free public webinar. If we haven’t listed the class you’re interested in, just contact us and we’ll be happy to make arrangements to meet with you directly.

ProQuest eLibrary Science: Man in Space

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Learn about the many exciting and incredible things we’ve learned from our outreach into space, both manned and unmanned.  We’ve overcome and dealt with major challenges, obstacles, and tragedies like the loss of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia, the Apollo 13 mission, and the required space repairs of the Hubble Telescope and our very first space station, Skylab.  We’ve also seen great success walking on the moon, and with our space probes deep into our own solar system and beyond, as well as our Mars rovers.  We’ve done a lot and come through a lot, and yet we haven’t even scratched the surface.  Is there a career waiting for you in space?  Maybe in one of the other areas of science?  If you think so, or if you just like to learn interesting facts and theories about our world and worlds beyond, you can find all kinds of information in ProQuest eLibrary Science. ProQuest eLibrary Science will introduce you to topics in health, biology, earth science, mathematics, physical sciences, technology, science projects, and much, much more!

Learn all about ProQuest eLibrary Science, or any of our other extensive ProQuest resource collections by joining the ProQuest Training and Consulting team in a free public webinar. If we haven’t listed the class you’re interested in, just contact us and we’ll be happy to make arrangements to meet with you directly.

ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Learning from History

HNPG2016

What was the federal budget deficit in 1970? 1980? 1990? How about the trade deficit? How did Americans view foreign policy in the 1950’s or 1960’s — or how about even the 1870’s? How did we handle immigration policy in the early years of the nation compared to today? These are all great questions to think about and explore, and through exploring what people were saying and thinking in various years in the past we can often learn something about our own challenges today, where we may have improved, and also where we may need to improve. ProQuest Historical Newspapers Graphical Edition provides this opportunity. You can look at topics from slavery to the 21st century, and from the Reagan era to the Industrial Age, and you can gain first-hand insights on how we handled our problems then, and from there gain ideas about how we can handle problems today — or even avoid them. History can be a great teacher!

Learn all about ProQuest Historical Newspapers Graphical Edition, or any of our other extensive ProQuest resource collections by joining the ProQuest Training and Consulting team in a free public webinar. If we haven’t listed the class you’re interested in, just contact us and we’ll be happy to make arrangements to meet with you directly.

Monthly Theme — ProQuest History Study Center

HSC1ProQuest History Study Center provides over 500 complete Study Units on major events of world history, bringing together primary sources, multi-media, biographical content, journal articles, maps, and reference.  Included are document-based questions, presidential documents, documents on American history, speeches, documents on British history, and selections from historical newspapers.  One feature, designed to help engage students in historic study, is the “monthly theme.”  Each month, History Study Center provides a theme page on an historical topic of interest.  This theme provides selected text, excerpts, and images, along with active links to key content and sample documents.  Check out this month’s theme, “The American Civil War”, or look at next month’s theme, “Railroads and Transport History”, or any other month of the year.

Learn all about ProQuest History Study Center or any of our extensive ProQuest resource collections by joining the ProQuest Training and Consulting team in a free public webinar.  If you aren’t able to find a class posted for the resource that interests you, contact us and we’ll be happy to make arrangements to meet with you directly.

A New Center for Knowledge

Ebook Central 10

ProQuest’s new Ebook Central provides many new avenues for learning to your school library. This all-new ebook resource that expands upon ProQuest’s ebrary resource provides easy searching, reading, downloading, organizing, and sharing of key ebook content on an extensive range of subjects. How you access the content is up to you as well. You have options to buy books outright, let usage determine your purchases, provide short term loans, and much more. Ebook Central is an opportunity to help expand the reach of your library, and thus substantially increase its benefit to both students and faculty.

Learn all about ProQuest Ebook Central as well as any of our other exceptional ProQuest resources for schools, public libraries, and colleges.  You may register and join a public webinar.  If we are not currently listing a class of interest, you are welcome to contact us and we would be happy to make arrangements directly with you.

 

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