25 October 2009

Reading professional publications for Early Years

Last Friday, we had a very good session with the first year of 2+2 Early Years. We shared what publications/resources we read in order to develop our knowledge, stay in touch with the profession and get a competitive advantage (e.g. in developing the career). That's what we read, watch, listen and subscribe to:

There was a general feeling that the patters of reading and information discovery have changed since the beginning of the course (and it was only four weeks ago!), e.g. more time is spent on reading quality texts and quality newspapers; more documentaries and topical TV programmes are watched; however, reading and watching TV for pleasure is also present as good professionals have to stay in touch with reality in its diversity, as well as being able to retreat - when necessary - into comforting books and TV.

Sounds fantastic!

19 October 2009

Primary v. secondary sources

Some time ago I pointed out to the second year 2+2 Early Years students that a literature review should be concered with the secondary sources rather than primary ones. Please see short and helpful explanations about their differences: http://library.uwsp.edu/guides/webtutorials/primary.htm and http://www.libraries.iub.edu/index.php?pageId=1483.

However, thinking about application of those definitions to Early Years, it seems to me that it may not always be clear what sources are primary and which are secondary.For example, is the BECTA's report a primary or secondary source? (Probably yes, as such reports normally refer to what has been learned previously and conclusions are drawn for formulating recommendations, rules and policies.) Should a government policy document be analysed as part of a literature review? (Probably not if it does not explain on what knowledge those prescriptions are being founded. Essays and dissertations are more appropriate forms for discussing those documents.)

No doubts that almost anything can be mentioned in a literature review, e.g. to illustrate discrepancies in a policy with what researchers and practitioners were saying. However, the fact of those discrepancies is probably less interesting for a literature review. The problem of those discrepancies should be discussed in other parts of a research paper.

Therefore, the writings which constitute "scholarly literature" (those texts which explore, test, analyse etc. facts, statements and conclusions) should be regarded as the focal point of a literature review.

12 October 2009

Google first things

Last Friday we spoke with the first year 2+2 students about Google and using it for research. Here are several links and dome comments from that session.

Google advises to start searching with as few words as possible; then use a link "Search within results" in the bottom of the results page to narrow down your search. Put inverted commas (i.e. "") around the search phrase if you want Google to search for the phrase as you typed it (e.g. "Every child matters" which is the title of the policy document). For Google's own advice how to use it, see http://www.google.com/support/websearch/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=134479

Note a radio button "Pages from the UK" just below the search box; very often it is very helpful to limit the result to only British websites, e.g. when researching the state of education, health system etc. in this country and nowhere else.

Use Advanced search (a link next to the search bar) to be more specific, e.g. search only for documents in a particular format, like PDF. Advanced search is very easy to use, but it is extremely powerful for doing research.

Note also a link "definition" just above the search results on the right side of the screen. It is a kind of dictionary, encyclopaedia and thesaurus at the same time. Well worth of using for quick enquiries.

Google Scholar (scholar.google.co.uk) searches only for what Google believes to be academic quality content. Most often these will be articles from peer-reviewed journals. Many of them are not available free of charge, but before giving up, check all the links under "all x versions" where x is the number of places a particular article has been published. Sometimes you'll find a free version. Before searching in Google Scholar, login into your Warwick system - the university may subscribe to some resources you'll find there; then you'll get free access to those texts.

Google Books (books.google.com) is another great place to find resources for research. Look for e-books on limited preview - you'll see large chunks of very useful books free of charge. E-books are great as you can search within them - a full text search.

11 October 2009

A good place to keep all your online videos together

Try http://vodpod.com - it's a good place to keep all your online videos (e.g. from YouTube) together and have access to them from any computer with internet access.

06 October 2009

Delicious bookmarks

It's a terrible crime to send anybody a list of blog URLs in a Word file! :)

Delicious.com is a beautiful tool to keep all your bookmarks together and share them with the world. It allows to hide those bookmarks which you'd prefer people not to see; you can assign tags, bundle them, create lists and collections, like this one - http://delicious.com/nwhc/bundle:ChildStudies

It's green, ethical, kind and everything - to keep bookmarks online and share them, I think.

Turn on your iPod and learn

Some of you have already seen this article the link to which I posted on Facebook last week. It is good, it is cautious not to make overtly bold statements. The idea is quite basic, actually: the more ways of accessing information we use, the more likely we are to be able to assimilate it. The idea of podcasts is not new. I just came back from seeing a friend of mine in one of the Welsh universities; all the lectures there are vodcasted (taped on video and uploaded on the equivalent of our Moodle). The conclusion: each of us should play with as many toys as possible to find those which appeal to us the most; and do not be afraid to start using new ones time to time leaving behind some old ones.