Thursday, May 27, 2010

Assessing Library Instruction

As a librarian I belong to the American Library Association (ALA). The organization makes it easier to connect with other individuals in the profession. While many think of librarians in the generic sense, each librarian fills a different role within the library. For example, the Eli M. Oboler Library has only one electronic resources librarian, though she also has reference, instruction, and collection development duties. (Yes, variety remains one of the positive aspects of librarianship.)

So what do you do if you have a question or problem that none of your immediate colleagues can answer? Well, that's part of the beauty of ALA. Many others in similar positions around the country (even the world) willingly share their expertise with fellow, like-minded librarians. Last week I wanted to know how to assess my colleagues and their library instruction, so I sent out an email to other instruction librarians, including many coordinators of instruction.

The Association of College and Research Librarians (ACRL) manages a number of listservs. One of these, the information literacy and instruction listserv (ili-l), devotes itself to instruction and info-lit issues. We talk about teaching in libraries, developing information-literacy skills, and so forth. A fair number of librarians responded to my question about assessing library instruction, so I created a Google Site to summarize their responses.

With so many libraries scattered throughout the country, ALA is huge, and so is ACRL. Library school seems like a good time to consider which nook within the larger library umbrella you wish to make a name for yourself. More and more young librarians seem to be entering the academic libraries as instruction and reference librarians. ACRL's Instruction Section can be quite supportive of instruction librarians, depending on your level of involvement.

If you are searching for academic library reference and instruction job positions the ili-l listserv frequently sends out job postings. To learn how to sign up for the listserv/discussion list, go to this link.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Using Technology in the Information-Literacy Classroom

Last week I found a link to Adam Bellow's "Library 2.0 Presentation." I discovered many new technology websites and was motivated to explore some that I had only heard about. He shared this presentation in New York in the month of February if I remember correctly.

So many search engines exist out there, and sometimes it can be enlightening for individuals to learn about a few alternatives to the super popular Google. They have evolved and become fancier with visual results, though some of them appear to be more for fun than for searching. Take a look at some of the following:
  • RedZ: Shows thumbnail images of half a dozen websites, so you can preview the source before you select it.

  • Search Cube: Images related to your search appear in a cube.

  • DoodleBuzz: Enter search terms, then doodle with your mouse. Results appear along the line you draw for an interesting visual map, though it does not seem to let you click on a title and jump to that website. I suppose that if you can save one of these visual search results it might go well with a report or presentation.

  • WolframAlpha: Computational Knowledge Enginge: Of all the new search engines I looked at this one got me the most excited. While it did not have fun pictures culled from Flickr (see Tag Galaxy), it did display one single page (read clean and uncluttered here) with a list of factual information about the item in question. The site includes examples of questions or queries, so it focuses on answering mathematical problems, but it does provide general information also. Examples: how many teaspoons in a cup, distance to the sun, height of Mount Fuji, facts about Pocatello, number of acres in a square mile, December 7, 1941 (tells you day of the week, phase of the moon, day of the year, and more about that specific date), etc.

    On their About page they describe their goals: "Wolfram|Alpha's long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. We aim to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything."

  • Tag Galaxy: Narrow down image results by clicking on planets. When you want to view results, select the sun/star around which the planets/satellites revolve. These images are pulled from the popular photo sharing site,

The following sites are not so much search engines, but Web2.0 sites that invite participation or creativity:

  • Trailfire: This site allows you to create a pathfinder or a "trail" as they call it to important sites on the web.

  • It allows you to save sites in a visual manner and create your own online desktop with tabs if you wish.

  • Animoto: Create a video with your own images or film clips, then add text and music to spice up the video.

  • Flixtime: Lets you create and customize videos from your own photos and videos.

  • Glogster: Design, create, and publish your own digital poster.

  • Screentoaster: Record a screencast. Share and stream videos. Record what you are doing on the internet.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

More screencasting software available

Patrick Griffis wrote an article that highlights a few free screencasting software that would be helpful for librarians who create quick tutorials. First he talks about Jing, which I have discussed in a previous post. Then he introduces Trailfire, Wink, and Slideshare. These all offer ways of sharing screenshots or presentations, and possibly even adding audio at the same time.

Take a look at them, and let me know what you think of them.

Graffis, Patrick. "Building Pathfinders with Free Screen Capture Tools." Information Technology and Libraries 28.4 (December 2009): 189-90.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Retaining the Learning

Do you ever worry that students do not remember the things they learned or should have learned in the library instruction classroom? Students tend to forget the instruction, especially if they do not apply it immediately and/or a few times on their own shortly afterward. Eric Frierson, from the University of Texas at Arlington, address this issue in an article titled: "Unforgettable Instruction: Designing Learning Experiences that Stick."

He argues this for learning to stay with the student, there need to be connections of the content to their own daily lives. "Our ability to recall is directly linked to how well that concept is connected with other concepts in our minds" (8). This makes a lot of sense. It reminds of an analogy or comparison another librarian at Utah Valley University uses. He compares database searching to fishing. Sometimes you have to try different baits to get the fish you want. Likewise, in doing research, we need to try different things and be patient. We may not find exactly what we want on our first cast.

In his article, Frierson suggests that librarians try using the ESP Game. At the beginning of a library instruction session, this might be particularly helpful in getting students to connect their own experience with the library experience. The ESP Game uploads a digital photograph (perhaps from Flickr) and asks that you enter words that describe that photo. Another person on the internet looks at the photo simultaneously and enters descriptors as well. When each of you enter the same word, you get points, and you move on to the next photo.

Designers of the game have thrown in a few wrinkles to make the game more challenging. Occasionally, the photo appears with a few taboo words that you may not enter, so you have to guess what your partner is thinking besides some of the most obvious words, which are prohibited. Frierson asks students to "shout out words for me to type. Inevitably, we'll get stuck on a picture--they'll be calling out word after word, but we'll be unable to move forward because we can't figure out what our partner is typing and match his description before he indicates he wants to 'pass' on the picture. This is a frustrating experience for students!" (9).

From this point, Frierson asks the question: "Why weren't we able to move forward?" An interesting discussion ensues, but Frierson asserts that students "answer in a variety of ways, tapping into their prior knowledge" (9). If someone lives in a different country, perhaps they use different words (truck vs. lorry or apartment vs. flat). Similarly, English speakers in other countries spell words differently. It could be as simple as understanding the idea that the other person concentrated on different things in the image (9). They could be thinking more abstractly, and we could be thinking more concretely.

After such a discussion, Frierson urges librarians to tie this exercise into the search process. He even asks the students how they would have done if they had only entered a single word for each image. They get the point that they would not have succeeded very well. Students can begin considering how authors think of a given topic. Which words would a specialist use when describing a disease? Frierson writes: "As they activate this prior knowledge you can then introduce new ideas to connect to it: the search mechanisms of databases" (9).

Frierson concedes that this activity may take as long as ten minutes, but it may create more mental connections for the students, thereby increasing the probability that they may remember the search tips you want them to learn.

Frierson, Eric. "Unforgettable Instruction: Designing Learning Experiences that Stick." LOEX QUARTERLY 36.3 (Fall 2009): 8-10.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Active-Learning Presentation

Tomorrow I will be giving an active-learning presentation to librarians at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT. I have been updating and revising previous presentations along these lines. On my Google Sites page you can find some of these materials.

I anticipate that there will be lots of discussion. Librarians like to talk it seems. If you look at or want to use my presentations, please let me know and attribute me accordingly.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Favorite Teacher

Anyone who teaches for any length of time will certainly have there ups and downs along the way. How do you remain positive in the face of real challenges? Librarians, for better or worse, do not get to see students every day, so they do not get to see the progress or lack thereof of the students in the learning process. This may be changing as more librarians are becoming embedded in classes and help to grade research-related assignments. This models appears to have great potential for increasing students' information-literacy competencies.

To get excited about teaching, it may help to attend a teaching and learning workshop. Additionally, teachers may benefit from thinking about their favorite teacher. Why did they like that particular teacher? Which attributes did they exhibit?

Today I practiced a presentation and asked two groups of participants to describe their favorite teachers. Here are some of their responses:
  • Cute

  • Variety: in teaching methods

  • Surprising

  • Demanding high standards

  • Meaningful, relevant assignments

  • Funny or has a sense of humor = noted by both groups

  • Knowledgeable = noted by both groups

  • Interesting or off beat = noted by both groups

  • Intelligent or smart = noted by both groups

  • Interactive

  • Passionate and/or enthusiastic

  • Manages time effectively

  • Organized = well prepared

  • Caring

  • Encouraging

What kind of teachers do we want to be? Are we embodying the teaching qualities that we admire in others? What can we do as librarians to help students become information literate?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Oboler Library Room 212

Jardines in 2010 029
Jardines in 2010 029,
originally uploaded by Ref & Ins.
We have two instruction rooms in our Library. One has 26 computer workstations that allow for hands-on practice and live demonstration (we have Vision software that allows us to broadcast what we are doing at the instructor's station to all the other stations). It has a projector, screen, whiteboard, moveable blackboard, bulletin boards, handout cupboard, and ELMO. These have all been useful for instruction. This room (#212) gets used the most for instruction, because librarians like to let students practice and develop their searching and accessing skills.

Take a look in Flickr to see the photostream with more photos of our instruction rooms.

Oboler Library Room 266

Jardines in 2010 035
Jardines in 2010 035,
originally uploaded by Ref & Ins.
This instruction room (#266) has an instructor station, projector, screen, whiteboard, a big-screen TV, tables, and chairs that seat a little over 30 individuals. It's more of a lecture room, but we have also used it for teleconferences (College of DuPage). We do have a piece of art work or two in each classroom as well.

We like having two instruction rooms; it allows for more flexibility as far as library instruction and scheduling goes. It also doubles as a meeting room for librarians and for a presentation room when vendors come and want to show us their products.