Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Teaching with Technology

Using technology to teach students has become a reality of life, and in library land it seems that using technology and social networking sites continues to be trendy.  In an article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Julie Meloni offers instructors at the college level some potentially useful forms of technology that might be helpful.  She warns readers to be careful, though, because the newest technology should not be adopted just to jump on a bandwagon: "Whatever the level of technology, and regardless of our comfort level with it, remember that for all that educational technology can offer us through new communication methods and the ability to reach a wider range of students, it is no panacea.  An instructor must still deliver relevant material, enable students to achieve the goals of the course, and assess their work."

After the disclaimer, she expresses the idea that communication often figures as one of the main problems in a course.  Technology can can bridge the communication gap between students and instructors.  Four technologies can be useful in this regard:
  1. Discussion boards
  2. Blogs
  3. Social-networking sites
  4. E-mail and e-mail lists
As communication tools, they work.  A few years ago, I did see an information-literacy course that incorporated blogs into the assignments, and the students seemed to take off thrive in this medium as a way to write about their searching experiences for sources.  They discussed the sources they found and why they would or would not use the sources.  It seemed like a great idea.  Meloni declares that "individual blogs are my favorite," saying that she will recapitulate class discussions and highlight main points on her blog, and students will ask follow-up questions there. 

Many within academia may tout the usefulness of learning management software programs like Blackboard and Moodle, but Meloni argues that "individual instructors often find these platforms too cumbersome."  The free, cloud-based technologies seem to function better.

Meloni also talked a little about the usefulness of Zotero and Mendeley, as well as the importance of collaboration with students, experts on campus, and instructors at other institutions.  Making course materials freely available online certainly opens up the gates for collaboration with individuals at other institutions.  Sharing a syllabus, for example, elicited invitation sent to her to collaborate on conference panels and even publications.

It is a good article.  Take a look at it:

Meloni, Julie.  "Technologies for Teaching: Strategies and Pitfalls."  Chronicle of Higher Education 57.11 (2010): B22-B24.  Academic Search Complete.  EBSCO.  Web. 27 Sept. 2011.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Computer Policies and Library Internet Policies

When a patron recently asked if they could transfer MP3 files from our computer to their MP3 player, I had to take a look at our Computer and Internet Use Policy.  It appears that this is okay to do.  Library computers are reserved mainly for research purposes, and anyone can be asked to leave the computers if he/she is doing something not in compliance with the policy.  We do not allow individuals to download software to the computers, but apparently they do not need to download any software to transfer music files burned to the Media Player Library to their MP3 player. 

As someone who has been satisfied with older technologies (What can I say?  I love to read books and watch movies.) I have never learned how to transfer music files from a CD to an MP3 player or an iPod.  With the Media Player all that needs to be done is to highlight the music files in the library's album and drag them to the Sync window/tab.  End result was that the patron left satisfied; she was able to do what needed to be done.

However, let me say that after reviewing the computer and internet use policy, it pleased me that the policy encourages information literacy skills.  This information-literacy plug appears in the disclaimer toward the top of the policy:
With the exception of certain commercial information products, such as indexes and full-text databases, the Library neither selects nor controls the contents of Internet sites. The Library disclaims responsibility for such content that may be inaccurate, incomplete, out-of-date, controversial, or offensive to some. Users are urged to question the validity of information which they retrieve from the Internet and carefully evaluate its value and appropriateness for their purposes. They should also be aware that most Internet materials are copyrighted and existing copyright laws govern their use.
Overall, it seems that this is a great computer and internet use policy.  One of the things I like the most is that it is not lengthy, requiring little time to read and understand it, unlike I thought it would be. 

Does your library's internet use policy encourage information-literacy competency skills?

"Sansa Fuze MP3-Player."
Photo by Oliver Karthaus.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cloud Carnival

cloud carnival
cloud carnival,
originally uploaded by Slippery Joaquin.
While working on a Prezi.com presentation, I came upon this photo. I am working on a presentation that discusses team teaching with colleagues and in the cloud, i.e. with free computer software, such as Google Apps, Moodle, and so forth.

Slippery Joaquin sure took a beautiful photo here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Active Learning Activities for Teaching Academic Integrity

Today, someone on the information literacy and instruction listserv asked about some fresh ways to teach or emphasize academic integrity.  Yes, this is a plagiarism discussion.  How can you engage students?  Many instructors dread this topic; typically, it does not generate a lot of excitement in the classroom.  Sometimes students feel accused from the outset in a discussion like this.  Below is a response I shared with the person who asked me:

Admittedly, this might not be innovative or fresh, but I have attached a PowerPoint presentation we show to students.  Each slide asks a question, so when one appears on the slide students are invited to write down their own answer.  Then they are asked to share that answer with a neighbor before talking with the whole class as a group.  This makes it so that the students participate a bit more than when the instructor shows the slide and asks for volunteers to answer.  Freshmen generally speaking do not pipe up to answer, but this may be different in the upper-division courses.

Here's an Academic Integrity Tutorial you may consider using.  If you found some stories or examples of plagiarism, then perhaps you could split the class into groups with some general questions:
  1. How does this story relate to academic integrity issues?
  2. What can we learn from this?
  3. What could they have done differently?
  4. What did they do correctly?
  5. Are there any "gray" areas within the story?  How would your group reconcile these "gray" areas?
  6. What impact does plagiarism or academic dishonesty have on society?  Does your example or story illustrate your point?  How?
After a specified amount of time (maybe 10 minutes), groups could be brought back to tell the rest of the class what was discussed.  Dividing the labor sometimes increases the participation of the group members, so having a spokesperson, a scribe to take notes for the spokesperson, a time keeper to make sure the group stays on task in the allotted time frame, and maybe even a naysayer to play the devil's advocate and/or an agreer to emphasize the best points presented.

In my Delicious.com bookmark account, there are 60 websites tagged with the word plagiarism.  There ought to be a good number of anecdotes, news articles, and websites devoted to plagiarism or academic integrity.

Do you like the questions listed above?  What kinds of questions would you ask?  Would this kind of an activity invite participation?  Could this fly with undergraduate and/or graduate students? 

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    Studies about College Students, Libraries, and Information Literacy

    A friend of mine, who used to be the library director here at the ISU Library, shared the following link to an article from Inside HigherEd: "What Students Don't Know."  It confirmed a lot that I already knew, experienced, or suspected.  Students hardly know where the Library is, rarely ask for help from a librarian (even though it would help them immensely, ease their anxiety, and increase their efficiency), often overestimate their (re)search skills, rely entirely too much on Google, apply Google search statement logic to database searching, do not search Google effectively, and do just enough research to get by or to "satisfice."

    The article mentioned that librarians and faculty are partly to blame.  Librarians sometime overestimate the "digital natives" abilities, sometimes intimidating them further.  Faculty look at librarians as good for finding sources but not good at conducting research.  Steve Kolowich writes a good article here, citing several studies that back up the claims listed above.  He writes: "The most alarming finding in the ERIAL studies was perhaps the most predictable: when it comes to finding and evaluating sources in the Internet age, students are downright lousy."  What can we do as librarians to help students?  How can we get them to ask us for assistance beyond locating the restroom?  We can help students with research.

    Students could benefit from instruction on how to use Google, so they can understand how it differs from the academic databases:
    Throughout the interviews, students mentioned Google 115 times -- more than twice as many times as any other database. The prevalence of Google in student research is well-documented, but the Illinois researchers found something they did not expect: students were not very good at using Google. They were basically clueless about the logic underlying how the search engine organizes and displays its results. Consequently, the students did not know how to build a search that would return good sources. (For instance, limiting a search to news articles, or querying specific databases such as Google Book Search or Google Scholar.) (Kolowich)

    Perhaps we can ask that classes come to the Library for more instruction, maybe we can visit their classroom, share contact information and handouts, or maybe we could even ask to be embedded in the course management software, i.e. Blackboard or Moodle.  Moreover, we can smile more frequently at the reference desk and be more approachable. 

    With more students working another job and/or dealing with family responsibilities, librarians need to be practical in working with students.  Librarians can tout their skills to students by telling them they can teach skills and strategies that will help them save time and become more efficient with their research.  Give some tips that will make the research process less frustrating.  Kolowich references one of the studies to support the claim that librarians are more relevant than ever: "The evidence from ERIAL lends weight to their counterargument: librarians are more relevant than they have ever been, since students need guides to shepherd them through the wilderness of the Web."

    If you are a librarian, read this article.

    What can librarians do to garner more trust from students and faculty?  What can we do to increase the information literacy skills of the students?

    "Shepherd and Baby Lambs." See FreeFoto.com. by Ian Britton.

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    More Tutorials for Graduate Students

    Last week I taught a graduate student workshop for some physical science and sports science graduate students.  After updating a PE for Grad Students site, I created a Jing tutorial, explaining what changes I had made that may be helpful for them.  Unfortunately, it exceeded my goal of less than three minutes (it is 3:47 long).

    On that site is a link to a tutorial a graduate student in the College of Education's Instructional Design program helped me create using Camtasia.  This tutorial is the first I have created using this powerful software.  Honestly, I only recorded the tutorial, and the graduate student edited the content.  Last week I uploaded it to TeacherTube with the title: Research Success for Graduate Students. Again, this tutorial is a bit lengthy.  It seems that students prefer short, brief tutorials, so who know how many will even look at it.  Hopefully, the conscientious graduate students will watch and benefit from viewing it.

    Are screencasts worth doing?  Have you benefited from viewing screencasts?  Do you create screencasts yourself?  Please share what you do and why.

    I still need to read the article "Do Screencasts Really Work?"  If you have read this article, please comment on it.  Do you agree?

    Friday, September 2, 2011

    Library Instruction for English Composition Courses

    I recently read an article worth sharing with others in the Loex Quarterly newsletter.  JaNae Kinikin and Shaun Jackson, of Weber State University wrote the article titled: "Using a Back and Forth Presentation Format to Engage Students in Introductory English Composition Courses." 

    If you have ever wondered how to create a standardized library instruction session, this article should give you some good ideas.  They have created a PowerPoint presentation that unifies the instruction.  More interestingly, the article focuses on how they have sought for input and feedback from students in their classes to drive the type of instruction they offer.  Understanding how they used to solicit feedback and how they do it now is quite useful.  They now use TurningPoint software, which seems to be quicker than the "raise your hands if question B applies to you" method. 

    Finding out if students know and understand how to search the catalog and the databases can be helpful in gearing the instruction to the students' needs.  The authors wrote:
    The interactive nature of the presentation from the very beginning makes the sessions more informal and results in students being more comfortable in asking questions when given time to complete their worksheets.
    They suggest that a little bit of humor be inserted into the answers.  To the question: "Have you ever used a library catalog?"  Students could choose among these three options:
    1. Yes
    2. No
    3. What the heck is a library catalog?
    According to the authors, this teaching method has improved their teaching experience.

    See Flickr.com.  Photo by prettydaisies.