Exploring entropy theory to build information literacy

Playbill for Arcadia by Tom Stoppard

This first-year seminar studied entropy theory through various media including visits to the Art Museum, studying Tom Stoppard's play "Arcadia", and exploring how library databases sort and filter information. 

Professor Dylan Shepardson of Mathematics and Statistics chose to use a library instruction session to introduce his fall 2015 first-year seminar students to a selection of library resources and to their Library, Information and Technology Services (LITS) liaison, Mary Glackin, while also illustrating the breadth and diversity of information entropy. The library session fostered a discussion of how the mathematical and physical theories of entropy, that form the basis of the course, describe and underlie information retrieval in library databases. The classroom session provided students with a hands-on introduction to several library databases, gave them an opportunity to develop an understanding of the differing results produced by identical searches in different resources, and offered the chance to explain those new insights to their classmates.

The classroom exercise guided teams of students through a highly structured database search in several databases. Students reviewed for the entire class the results of their searches and their evaluation of the practicality and usefulness of each tool. The students used a shared Google Document to record the results of their searches and their observations. As evidenced by the student comments in the screenshot of the Google Document below, the students’ peer teaching presentations included sophisticated and insightful comments about the strengths, weaknesses, practicality, and usefulness of the search engines they explored.

DB Compar.png

 This comparative database search exercise has been redesigned by several RIS liaisons to meet a variety of faculty learning goals.

 In addition to developing the library instruction session, further collaboration between Shepherdson and Glackin included discussing course goals, sharing the evolving syllabus, creating an online library research guide, and suggesting appropriate texts for inclusion in the course.

Interested in trying something like this with your students? Contact your LITS Liaison.