“Where is the ‘quick cite?’ ” is a refrain I often hear when some of my middle division students are searching for information on websites. While the repetition of this question might lead to mild annoyance; underneath it all, I experience a bit of librarian glee because I know the circumstances that lead students to this question. The reason our students repeatedly look and ask for the “quick cite” is because they are well trained to use library databases in conjunction with Noodletools. Students learn early that databases are not only a reservoir of credible sources, but that they provide formatted citation information, a “quick cite,” ready for an easy grab as prompted by Noodletools. At Berkeley Preparatory School we have an array of databases that the library hosts for students. There is buy-in from our administrators and consistent reinforcement from our teachers to use the library databases and digital resources. So when students venture outside these resources on the open internet they are confronted with the reality that most websites do not have a nicely formatted citation ready for import into their Noodletools work area. They are horrified that they must enter each discrete piece of citation detail for each website. The trials and tribulations of our digital natives led me to observe that they struggle to find the source information from websites to complete a proper citation.
In devising a lesson I wanted to build skill development in recognizing the parts of a website source, but in a tangible way to engage students. I wanted to avoid “the stand deliver” method in which I talk at them and their eyes glaze over. So I made magnetized arrows of the parts of a citation. Since we are a school that uses Noodletools, I showed them how the fields in the Noodletools source citation maker match the arrows I had created. I find it is important to explicitly show them how concepts line up or match between systems and approaches and not assume it will translate naturally for students. I reminded students where they can find all the pieces of information to give proper credit, and how Noodletools helps guide that collection of data for websites when they are searching in environments outside our databases.
Then I modeled searching on websites in which I had chosen a topic similar to the ones they were researching. Students were looking for current articles to prepare an argument to defend. I used the arrows and lined them up on the board pointing to where citation information is on a webpage. After a few fields I even asked students where I should place them. Then on the next website projected I handed out the arrows to students, so they had to get up and move to the board to apply it themselves. Then we checked it as a whole class and discussed patterns we noticed with websites, i.e.,how sometimes there was only a copyright date and no day and month data. We also commented on corporate and institutional authors when there was no individual author. Then another website was projected and another group of students visited the board to interact with the webpage. The students enjoyed moving around and using the arrows to demonstrate their understanding. I found I could get quick feedback of how much a class understood where this information resides on a webpage.
Then students were researching independently on websites. Students still raised their hands to get help finding where the information for a citation was, but I found they were seeking confirmation more than needing me to point it out. I could refer back to the examples we used earlier and ask them questions to help them answer their own questions. Students learned that there is rarely a “quick cite” when they are using websites, but they demonstrated more confidence in completing a “slow cite.” I felt better knowing that my students could navigate and credit sources more accurately regardless of the environment in which they were seeking.