March 03, 2017

News in a Post-Truth Era

Credible or click-bait? News literacy? Checking facts? "Fake News"? which is, at best, just false or at worst a lie.

How can you tell what's credible and what isn't? This needs to be taught, effectively and without bias. But how? The audience is ... middle- and high-schoolers. College students. Even adults!

I'm gathering the best articles and lesson plans and adding them to a guide I created:

It includes resources for evaluating news sources (I love you,!), lesson plans, and fact-checking websites. I'm tweaking a great checklist on evaluating news sites based on Evaluating news sites: Credible or Clickbait? by Candice Benjes-Small. Sooner or later, I'm going to add my favorite articles on the topic.

For now, I'll list some of them here:

I've been pondering this quite a bit lately and am speaking on the topic of teaching news literacy to a few different audiences. First to the North Carolina Scholastic Media Association advisors, then to a group of SILS and MEJO students at UNC on March 31, and to the Society or Professional Journalists Region 2 conference April 8 at Elon University.

Do you have a favorite resource for teaching how to evaluate news credibility? Do share!

January 17, 2017

Flipping the Information Literacy Classroom

I'm switched up my teaching and am using a flipped classroom model to teach four sections of Advertising and Public Relations Research at UNC's School of Media & Journalism.

Their class task is to find secondary research on their client or brand in order to create a SWOT analysis. Working in small teams, students must identify their client's Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats using any resources available to articulate these elements.

After I found the amazing graphics information literacy textbook Information Now: A Graphic Guide to Student Research by Matt Upson, C. Michael Hall, and Kevin Cannon (which I wrote about last year), I decided to try flipping this session. I ask the faculty to have their students read several pages from the chapter "Journals & Databases" before class.

I paired that reading with I readings of  four pre-selected articles on a "Brand in the News." They read a scholarly article, a trade article, a popular magazine article, and a SWOT analysis - which I pre-selected from my trio of databases. Check out the list of articles on my library portal for the class (aka LibGuide).

When they get to class, we talk about each of these journal types based on their reading of the Information Now chapter and of the four articles. This takes about 15 minutes. Since they've already looked at EBSCO for the four articles, my demo on how to search EBSCO is relatively quick, so I quickly break them into their teams to research their client in the three databases. They get about 30 minutes to do their own searching, and then we talk about what they found and any search problems that cropped up along the way.

This is in contrast to the old way, where I went into class and talked about the difference between scholarly, trade, and popular magazine articles. I'd bring in examples of each periodical and ask the students to articulate items such as the audience, writing style, use of graphics, and authors for each source type. These sessions were productive and I felt that students really understood the difference in article types. I'd then spend about 10 minutes showing them how to search Academic Search Premier, Business Source Premier, and Communication & Mass Media Complete to find these articles.

While students learned the difference in article types, they didn't really get a good sense of how to search -- at least, not in my anecdotal assessment.

The new method teaches these sophomores & juniors the difference in article types just as effectively as before, with samples from their own discipline -- and for the most part, they learn this before I get into the classroom. That frees me to have them focus on their searching for scholarly, trade, and popular publications in their teams.

The faculty like this approach and have been very willing to give the students the assignment prior to class. I'm heading into my second semester teaching this way and look forward to the results.

January 03, 2017

Great CogSci podcast called @hiddenbrain

I'm so glad to report that there is a good cognitive science podcast in the U.S.: Hidden Brain, hosted by NPR reporter Shankar Vedantam and available on NPR and wherever podcasts can be found.

The Dec. 13, 2016 episode, We're More Alike Than Different, Thanks To Peer Pressure's Relentless Influence features an interview with Penn marketing professor Jonah Berger and combines two of my interests: cognitive science and advertising / marketing.
Berger says we tend to be pretty good at recognizing how social influence and peer pressure affect other people's choices. But we're not so good at recognizing those forces in our own decision-making.
It's a great episode, and if you like cognitive science, I highly recommend Hidden Brain.

This makes a great compliment to Australia's outstanding cognitive science podcast, All in the Mind, which I've written about before.

September 12, 2016

Teaching Topics

I'm revising my instructional methods yet again this semester: I'm asking students to answer questions in advance of our time together. These questions typically relate to the assignment or mimic what the students would do in Real Life.

For instance, I asked the graduate students to find what we librarians call "known items" -- articles on a topic similar to one they will be researching on their own. The prompt indicates that the articles were assigned by a professor or were articles that they themselves found while reading a book assigned for class. I carefully chose the three article / types they needed to find:
  1. The first was easy to find on Mr. Google, whether on- or off-campus.
  2. The second was easy to find if the students used the library site I made for their class (i.e., if they used a library database)
  3. The third was only available as an Interlibrary Loan, through the library site I made for their class.
Their second scenario requires them to develop good search terms for that topic in a library database.

When I'm in the class with them, we leapfrog from these questions -- and the challenges they raise -- directly into doing searches in library resources. I am moderately confident that this method is increasing student engagement with the library instruction session... will need to do a bit of assessment to determine if that is the case.

You can see the prompts and the library site I prepared for one of these classes at
Stephanie teaching a PR class, Fall 2015

June 03, 2016

Information Now! "Graphic Textbook" for Info. Literacy

Book cover
Information Now: A Graphic Guide to Student Research by Matt Upson, C. Michael Hall, and Kevin Cannon is a terrific addition to the tools I use to teach students how to do online research.

I love it for two reasons:
  1. It's graphic, cute, and trendy ...
  2. It's accurate, thorough, and humorous.
Here are some specifics of what I love about the book:
  • The librarian uses chairs to illustrate why subject headings can be helpful -- adding that chairs are also seats, and are within the category of "furniture."
  • Chairs, p. 34
  • She illustrates Boolean operators with Venn diagrams, by talking about a search for Pirates (no, not the Pittsburgh Pirates), ships (no, not a UPS truck), and history: 
History of Pirate Ships, p. 46
  • There's a whole chapter devoted to journals & databases, and I've used the 7-page discussion of popular, trade, and scholarly journals in classes with good results.
Journals, p. 55
  • The chapter on searching the web (including Wikipedia) is followed by a chapter on evaluating sources. The librarian offers the usual (to librarians) questions about authority, purpose, accuracy, relevance, and objectivity. Here's an illustration of a persuasive site:
    Persuasion, p. 86

  • The book concludes with a chapter on Using Information Ethically, which covers plagiarism and citations, as well as how to quote or paraphrase what you've read.
Paraphrasing, p. 92
I've used it with undergraduates in one-shot sessions -- asking them to read a chapter or two before class, and then discussing the content in class. I've also taught the book in an introductory reference class at UNC's School of Information and Library Science. Finally, I've had my student workers read chapters of the book as part of their training on what a library does -- so they can better help their fellow students from behind the reference desk. I will definitely continue all of these.

If you teach anyone to search for information, I recommend using this book as a supplement to instruction. It's terrific!

Bonus: the book succeeds at being relatively inclusive in its graphics (although the librarian does reflect the majority of U.S. librarians in her look and gender).
People Reading, p. 56

I must raise an ethical question of my own: is it ok for me to use so many photos of graphics used in the book? Chicago University Press can answer the question ... but in my defense, I...
  • took photos with my phone (i.e., lower quality) 
  • blurred out some of the text.
  • only used a tiny handful of graphics
AND since the illustrations are what make the book so great, no review would be complete without at least a few selected images.

May 24, 2016

More Photos

I've been busy taking photographs lately, so am spending less time immersed in cognitive science.
Check out some of my photos on Flickr or Instagram (same photos, different platform)

October 22, 2015

Make it Matter @ #NCLA15

I've been very involved in the North Carolina Library Association 61st Biennial Conference, and I've been able to collaborate with my colleagues and students at UNC's School of Media & Journalism as part of that involvement.

I served as chair of the publicity committee, which involved all aspects of promotion for the conference. To start with, I asked two MEJO design students to create the conference logo, which was used on all of our material and on our conference bags:

Thanks, Katie King & Camille Romac-Gullo!

Katie King also designed our program and pre-conference brochure, and both look terrific.

I've also worked to promote the conference on social media and other methods -- and filled in content for the pre-conference brochure. Fortunately, my awesome colleague April Everett from the Rowan County Public Library filled in all the content for the final program. Follow the conference tweets at #ncla15.

At the conference, I collaborated with two colleagues from the Durham County Library to present a three-hour pre-conference session discussing the use of social media in libraries.  We primarily talked about using Twitter and Facebook (DurhamCountyLib is awesome on Twitter), and we covered issues such as content, social media clients, and control & coordination of the accounts. We also talked about social media policies, visibility, and analytics -- and we ended with a brief discussion of the other social media tools we use.

We created a guide with notes and links from the session: Social Media Hacks: Tips & Conversation for Enhancing Social Media Use in Libraries - and we had a great time talking to academic and public library colleagues across the state about using social media.

Finally, I had a poster session presenting results of my research with MEJO professor Jim Hefner: Does Forcing Students to Ask for Help Work? Assessing the Effect of REQUIRING Term Paper Consults The short answer is: YES, forcing students to ask for library help does work. See my earlier post Requiring Students to Meet with a Librarian for more details of that research.
Stephanie discusses the results with Brigitte Blanton, director of Greensboro Public Library.

It's been a great conference, and I'm thrilled to incorporate so much of my daily work into the association and the conference.

August 19, 2015

AP Videos - free! online!

The Associated Press has just uploaded "one million minutes of historical footage" to YouTube! It's an impressive collection.  Check it out on YouTube, or read their July 2015 press release AP makes one million minutes of historical footage available on YouTube; they say there will be over 550,000 videos from 1895 to present.

If you're a librarian or a search geek, however, you might want to head on over to the AP Archive page at which offers more search and browsing options. The search box is decent, permitting quotes and Boolean operators. The Advanced search pulldown, right next to the search box lets you search by date or decade, and also lets you specific color, aspect ratio, and original source.

The "Compilations" section offers pre-selected content on several subjects, such as
I discovered a challenge with dates on YouTube, which is troubling, because those are so important in searching for past events.

On YouTube, the dates range from unclear to actually wrong. I've seen some videos that say "published on July XX, 2015" which could be true. But I've seen videos about the death of Princess Diana (for example), that also say "published on July XX, 2015."  This could be true, if they are saying that the video was published to YouTube on that date. But it's impossible to find the video's original date - aired or shot - on YouTube.

The archive site is much better on date display. A story about the Ferguson police chief has a "Date: 08/10/2014 05:18 PM" field. Presumably, that's the date that the video was aired, which was also presumably close to the date that it was shot.

It's much easier to share / reuse AP videos on YouTube, since they use the usual share and embed options. Here's a video of Panda Awareness Week in 20102 (tho' I don't know when in 2012):

I found a neat video of the Macy's Day Parade on Nov. 24, 1966, but I cannot easily share it. I emailed it to myself and have the link: but it would be nice to be able to embed that too.

Still, for free, this is pretty awesome.

August 08, 2015

Fresh Cooked Edamame

As I was perusing the gorgeous displays at the Durham Farmer's Market today, I lingered at Piedmont Biofarm ... and discovered some fresh edamame. I've made it before, but this time I decided to research recipes to see if I could recreate the yummy experience of the edamame at Dashi.

This wasn't Dashi's, but it was QUITE DELICIOUS!

I couldn't find one, so I made up one, which I'll gladly reproduce and source here.

Stephanie’s Fresh Edamame
  • Sprinkle edamame generously with salt, rub vigorously, and let stand 15 minutes.
  • Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil, add the beans and boil over high heat for 5 to 6 minutes.
  • Don't cover the pot or the beans will lose their bright green color.
Drain cooked edamame in a colander and pat dry.

In same pot … heat:
  • Teaspoon of sesame seeds for 30 seconds, then add: 
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) or sesame oil
  • 2 cubes frozen garlic (or 2 teaspoons if you use fresh; I used Trader Joe's frozen for this quick meal)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper paste (or equal measure of your favorite red pepper flakes
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • Smidge of fresh ginger
Cook for ~3 minutes

Add edamame to the sauce and toss; heat until edamame is warm

First part (i.e., tossing the edamame with salt & letting it sit for 15 minutes)
c.1997, M.S. Milliken & S. Feniger, all rights reserved, at
Read more at:

Second Part adapted from:
Chili Garlic Edamame Recipe | Cooking with Coley

June 25, 2015

Podcast from @ProPublica, or, how news sausage is made

My new favorite podcast is from online news outlet ProPublica.

The official blurb about it is:

The ProPublica Podcast is a weekly program featuring interviews with reporters about the latest investigations published by ProPublica.

I love the interviews with reporters, most of whom write for ProPublica. But they also interview reporters covering stories for other news organizations. These interviews are on all topics, though health reporter Charlie Ornstein has interviewed a lot of reporters recently. His podcasts include:

Meet the Reporter Behind That Bogus Chocolate Study (Ornstein talks with John Bohannon about his reporting of a fake scientific study about the health value of chocolate; June 8, 2015)
Inside an HIV Epidemic (Ornstein talks with WTHR's Bob Segall about southeast Indiana's recent HIV outbreak; June 1, 2015)
MuckReads Podcast: When Diet Drugs Harm Instead of Help (April 27, 2015)

The New York Times two-part story on conditions for nail salon workers was a both health story and a long-term investigative piece; ProPublica reporters Lois Beckett and Marian Wang spoke with Times reporter Sarah Maslin Nir in Behind the Scenes of Your Mani-Pedi (May 26, 2015).

If you like investigative journalism, or if you're interested in any of these topics, the ProPublica podcast is excellent listening.