Friday, January 29, 2010

Fun with Bibliographies!

"How is this possible?" you think. Doing bibliographic citation correctly is quite possibly the most detail-ridden, hard to remember, big-picture useless skill learned in school. It will not make anybody more money in their next lives (the ones after high school) nor get them a date to the Bash. But in the past few weeks I have loved seeing students' faces light up in joy over a beautifully displayed MLA-formatted bibliography.

The magic word is NoodleBib. Last fall the library subscribed to the online research helper, and I've been preaching its merits ever since. Many students had already been using free online services to create their "Works Cited" or "Sources Used" pages -- EasyBib is one, BibMe is another. There is also a free version of NoodleBib.

The paid subscriber version is superior to the free versions, though, in that students create personal accounts so they can save their citations to edit, add to and print in the future. Plus, subscription NoodleBib includes note-taking and organization capabilities, a way to make an outline of your research, "virtual" notecards that can be tagged, sorted and moved around into subject piles -- it brings back memories of doing exactly this with stacks of real index cards, back in the olden times when I was in college. At 3 am, in the science center. Existentialism, was it? or the Spanish Civil War? Doesn't matter which paper -- with NoodleBib students can create and work on multiple projects, keeping all the citation and notes in separate lists. Individual lists can be shared online with the course teacher, who can track and comment on the student's research process well before the final product is due.

On Monday, both sections of Cullen's 10th grade American History classes came in for a library work day. I had done a full period presentation to his upper level classes last fall, when they were working on their French Revolution research, but for this class time was short. Cullen couldn't give both an "information" day and a "hands-on" day, so we came up with a solution that worked, both in theory and in execution. They came to the library, and while some students looked for sources and others worked with Cullen, I worked at the computer station with small groups of 4-6 students at a time. We went step-by-step through setting up a NoodleBib account and entering a citation and annotation, required for the assignment due in 2 days. Talk about "urgent need to know."

At the final step, "save as Word document,", those faces lit up. A perfectly formatted, alphabetized and printable bibliography. Truly a thing of beauty.

"This is SO cool!"

"This is awesome!"

I love my job.

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