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Info Literacy Investigation Weather Task

Page history last edited by bradyx 12 years ago



Information Seeking Activities – Weather Task




The whole information seeking activity was introduced and participants were encouraged to name all of the resources available to them in a study centre. This introduction made them aware they had access to books, journals, newspapers, computers and the study centre team for guidance if they needed it.


In this task we were interested to explore whether learners would turn directly to Google or would they think to visit and search within more formal sources such as the met office, the environment agency or similar to find information about the weather. We were also interested to see what kinds of sources they would accept their answer from as this information is very specific and usually monitored directly by agencies such as the Met Office. We wanted to see if they would they check in any other sources or just accept the first answer on any website or source. We were very keen in this task to see if the use of Google has changed the way they would look for data. Prior to Google, agencies such as the Met Office would have most likely been the first contact for such specific information. Has this changed now with Google being the first source rather than the formal agencies themselves?




The activity offered some interesting results.


The Question:


Task: What was the average rainfall in Wales in August 2010?


We measured the use by looking at weather they searched for the question in Google or searched for the Met Office first and then searched deeper. Those who searched for the Met Office or similar were those categorised as ‘Google Abbreviated’. Some learners did both but we were keen to find out the level of those who took their answers from a more credible weather site against those who relied on Google to find a site with an answer.


Fig: 1.1 Google exact in comparison to Google Abbreviated or double checking across multiple sources.






There is an interesting inverted pattern of those abbreviating their questions to search for an answer and those with a different strategy or willing to change their search terms to search deeper.


In red (Fig 1.1) you can see that those who searched multiple sources to compare an answer is worryingly very few. With the exception of the A-Level result there is 0% - 10% of cross checking of different sources going on. This coincides with findings from other tasks in this study.



Most participants did visit and then search many of the formal agencies associated with monitoring the weather (Fig 1.2). Again if we exclude the results from the A-Level group, this is under 30%


Fig: 1.2 – Frequency of visiting formal weather agency websites





Fig: 1.3 – Answer types




The answer distribution between gaining an answer from a source associated with formal weather agencies and an answer from any website that offers one is interesting. The vast majority of groups did offer their answer from sources such as the Met Office, Environment Agency, BBC weather archives, however this is not overwhelming over those answers gained from other sites, in this case Wikipedia was heavily used to source an answer.



Excluding the A-Level result those who answered from an associated formal weather source was approximately 15% - 35%. The average for those accessing the answer from any random site was on average 25%.


There were many who did not find or offer an answer to this question however these participants were included in our study as this was primarily about investigating search techniques.





This study indicates to some extent that the searching to gain information from traditional sources was under 30% on average, but the reliance on putting the exact question into Google was at its highest over 70%. This certainly does suggest that the way our learners search for information is different. It seems to be primarily governed by copying questions into Google as a first point of contact rather than searching for the associated agencies we know would hold that information. Google it seems has become the gateway to source immediate information.


This could alternatively indicate that learners are not necessarily aware of agencies such as the met office, however as they did answer by a small majority from those types of sources we would suggest this may not the case. However as this was only on average only 10% above the answers sources from elsewhere so it could indicate a lack of awareness and may need addressing.


This study did not expose any suggestion that search techniques improved with age or level of study but did highlight that more direct copy and paste is happening at the School, L1 and L2 ranges indicating that early intervention is necessary before these habits are engrained in their future learning and education. The only outstanding feature of these results was the A-Level group who seemed to be more aware of the need to check answers. They searched mainly by ‘Met Office’ as their search term rather than copy and pate the exact question. They cross checked their answers more than other groups and by far were the highest to use the Met Office or other formal agencies for their answer. It should be noted that none of the A-Level students were studying subjects that were associated with the weather or similar to cause this difference in results.


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