Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Mentoring Model and Louis H. Sullivan's Career

I recently completed a peer-reviewed article that has been published in The Idaho Librarian

"What Librarians Can Learn About the Mentoring Model Through the Professional Career of Louis H. Sullivan."  
by Spencer J. Jardine


American architect Louis H. Sullivan designed many buildings in turn-of-the-century America, including some of the first skyscrapers (Figures 2, 3, & 4).  These high-rising edifices represented a new age of possibilities and hope; however, before designing skyscrapers, Sullivan’s imagination soared with the lofty ideas shared by his contemporaries.  Walt Whitman, Herbert Spencer, and Hippolyte Taine expanded Sullivan’s intellectual horizons and fostered his ambitions.  These idea men served as his mentors and motivated him to aspire higher, which eventually influenced his architectural designs and professional writings, thus inspired a rising generation architects.

Likewise, librarians can gain inspiration from Louis Sullivan’s reading experience and professional career.  First, librarians can act as mediators and introduce patrons to authors who then act as mentors.  Second, experienced librarians can recommend reading material to young professionals in the field that enhances their professional development.  Third, experienced librarians can serve as mentors by writing books and articles that inspire imagination and creativity while also challenging younger librarians to take risks.

Additionally, Sullivan’s Autobiography of an Idea (1956) supports a thesis statement given by Barbara Sicherman (1989) that librarians should remember: “Reading is not simply a passive form of cultural consumption, that something happens to readers that becomes imperative for them to understand, and that reading stimulates desire rather than simply pacifying it” (p. 216).  Reading the writings of some of his great contemporaries fueled a lifelong passion for learning in Sullivan that found expression his architectural designs as well as his writing, thus leaving a lasting mark on American architecture and culture.  In this way Sullivan models the mentoring process: learning, acting, and sharing.

In-class Activities for Information-Literacy Classes

This week and last week we are talking about finding and evaluating web sources on the Internet.  Last week talked about some of the basics of the Internet, defining the worldwide web, the Internet, the invisible web, domains, and how search engines work.  We invited the students to practice finding sources online.  One group searched in the database (Academic Search Complete), another searched a search engine (Google), and another searched a meta search engine (Dogpile).

These worksheets can be found here:
In-class activities seem to have prepared the students better for the out-of-class assignments.  They practice searching and evaluating sources.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Guest Posts on Blogs

Bloggers of the world beware!  Individuals want to perpetrate scams by posing as guest bloggers on your blog.  Other bloggers have written about this already.  The Alpha Parent has written a post titled "Bloggers Beware: Guest Post Scams!"  She speaks from experience, having posted an article written by a guest.  Now she knows not to do this.  To her credit she did not include one hyperlink within the guest's post, because it did not seem relevant to the rest of her post.  Later on the guest asked that she include the link and kept pestering her to do that.  This was the intent--to increase traffic to their site.

Longrider expounds a bit more in his post titled "The Guest Post Scam."  I have only had one guest post on my blog.  It's truly flattering when someone comes knocking on your door saying how they like your blog and want to write something for your blog.  Sofia Rasmussen wanted to write about Creative Writing PhDs five or six months ago, so I looked into her and decided to let her post.  Her links appeared to be mostly legitimate, though it did seem she wanted to promote the Online PhD website, which did not seem like a big deal, considering that the link related to the content in her post. 

This week I received an email from the Online PhD website owners:

-----Original Message-----
From: Joseph Mcnealy [mailto:joseph.mcnealy[at]onlinephd.org]
Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 12:00 PM
To: xxxxxxxx@isu.edu
Subject: Link Removal Request - OnlinePHD.org

        You currently have a link on your site pointing to our OnlinePHD.org
website.  We have recently received warning from Google that they are
suspicious of link trading schemes surrounding this, and we want to make
sure that you are taking the necessary precautionary measures so that your
site is not adversely affected.

We are requesting that you remove the link back to our site.

The link on your page can be found at the URL below:


Please let us know once the link has been removed.  Thank you in advance for
your cooperation and sincerest apologies for any inconvenience this may have

Best regards,

Joseph Mcnealy

It appears that Google has been trying to deal with "link trading schemes," which seems like a good thing.  If suddenly the results on their searches are unfairly schewed, then their search engine produce becomes less valuable.

In response to their request, I have made a screenshot image of their Online PhD website.  Hopefully, this answers their question.  Perhaps I ought to be a bit more careful who I allow to post to my blog.

It never hurts to apply the tried-and-true evaluation criteria.  Here's a page on the ISU website with some criteria worth applying: Evaluating Information--Applying the CRAAP Test.

Friday, August 24, 2012

LLIB/ACAD 1115: Information Research Flier

LLIB 1115/ACAD 1115: Information Research
Course is designed to fulfill the following objective:
“Locate relevant sources and use them critically and responsibly.”
"Ever wanted a class that would help you learn how to conduct better research and find credible sources for your research projects?  This course is designed to help you recognize when information is needed, then find, evaluate, and use it effectively and ethically.  Explore a variety of ways to find reliable sources worth using/documenting in support of academic projects.   Learn how to create an annotated bibliography.   Sign up today."

Class begins August 27, 2012 and runs all semester. 

One credit.  Must have computer account. 


This flier announces the details for a course that will be taught at Idaho State University in Fall 2012 semester.  There are 40 seats that can be filled.  LLIB/ACAD 1115: Information Research is a course designed to help students become more savvy information seekers, going beyond Google as they search for reliable sources of information in support of academic projects.

For the past year this course has been an experimental course.  Now it is in the catalog as an official course.  It functions as an information-literacy course and is designed to help students gain skills that will transfer over to other courses and into life in general.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Evaluation Form for a One-credit Information Literacy Course

Last year I taught a one-credit, information-literacy course for the first time.  As an experimental course it was sponsored by ISU's Student Success Center. It was titled ACAD 1199: Information Research and ran during the last eight weeks of the semester, meeting twice a week.  In the first semester I created a student evaluation form to gather information from the students to understand how much work they put into the course, how effective the professor was, and how useful the course was overall.  This was an important thing to do as it gave me firsthand feedback directly from the students.

It is a bit lengthy, but I wanted to get a lot of information from the students before they left.  Have you created your own evaluation form, or do you administer one created by your institution?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Information Literacy

Information Literacy
Information Literacy ,
originally uploaded by Ewa Rozkosz.
Here's another photo with the words "information literacy." I like it. The reflection off the surface is a nice light effect.

Information Literacy

Information Literacy
Information Literacy ,
originally uploaded by Ewa Rozkosz.
Here's a beautiful and clean photo with the words "information literacy." I just like it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Writing Research Questions

William Badke's book Research Strategies: Finding Your Way Through the Information Fog includes some very useful information.  Early in the book he discusses the importance of developing an interesting and a good research question.  Definitely, some questions are better than others, and, frankly, some are just bad-- they have very little promise at being successful in an academic setting.  Following is his summary comment:
In my experience, the best research questions are simple ones that still require a good deal of analysis to answer.  If you start with a highly complex question your analysis is going to have be that much more complex.  The ideal is to have a question so simple and clear that you can actually see the goal before you, in your mind's eye. and the path you need to take to get there.  Yet the answer must require some struggle to come to.  And it must be capable of leading you to provide concrete evidence to support it.  You use the evidence you gather as a means to discover the solution rather than as the solution itself.  (36)
Badke's appendix offers a list of ten research questions that he has qualified as good and bad.  He notes that a bad research question is one that requires a yes/no answer, or requires a simple discovery of a fact.  This is not a college research question, but a report.  He writes: "A research question is more than discovery of a fact.  It has to deal with an issue that can be analyzed in depth" (233).  Therefore, a question asking how long is the longest bridge is not as good as a question asking what kinds of materials would be needed to build the longest bridge.  Remember, does it ask for analysis?  If it does, then this is better than a research questions that only requires the discovery of a fact, or a report on a set of facts.  College should challenge students to think and evaluate, rather than just regurgitate information.

Another bad question may ask a question that demands a connection between two things or phenomenon that cannot be determined with available statistics, reports, or publications in general.  Badke uses this question to illustrate this point: "What effect does homelessness have on the price of beds in Canada?" (233).  Finding statistics or reports that would connect these two aspects of the question would be mighty difficult.
"First Business Inn Deluxe Double Room."  See Viewology.net.
Other bad questions may be unfocused.  What has happened to __________ politician since the scandal that ruined their career?  What is going on with _____________ since she earned her billions?  The broad nature of these questions make them undesirable as research questions.  There could be hundreds of thousands of sources on a popular cultural figure, so how does the student know what to filter and what to reference in the paper?  Badke's suggestion for a better question goes like this: "Is Bill Gates' plan to give away a large portion of his wealth sufficiently well organized to ensure that the money achieves the goals he has set for it?" (234).  The student can envision a clear path to investigate and will understand when he/she has come close to answering it adequately.  The previously broad question would require a book with multiple chapters.

If the connections between two different occurrences can be seen, then this kind of question may be great for research.  Badke brings up the question of a country's Child Welfare Program, asking if the scrutiny in the media over the last few years has spurred new legislation.  A student could go and look at popular literature (newspapers and magazines) to determine whether increased publicity on this topic did in fact precede movements in state or national legislative bodies to change the law.
"[19/365] celtic connections." By werewegian.
Overly simplistic questions that call for a report and not an analysis are bad research questions.  For example: "What happened in Afghanistan during the last ten years?"  "What is going on with South American governments?"  Choose a particular aspect of the larger topic and ask a more focused question.  Sometimes it is better to ask "How?" and "Why?"  This requires some digging and searching.

One good question: "How could the looting of museums in Iraq in 2003 have been avoided?" (235).  Research would uncover how the lootings took place, which would open up the field for the researcher to choose some viable plan for preventing a similar occurrence from happening again.  Badke writes: "In hindsight, it should be possible to look at what happened and show what protections could have been devised to prevent the looting.  Considerable writing has been done on the issue, so there should be lots of information" (235).  In the end, students will want to be able to find lots of sources to back up their main points.  Being able to focus on the points within the sources that relate directly to their research question will save them time and yield a clearer argument.

Avoid research questions that ask for multiple points to be addressed.  Remember to be simple and avoid too much complexity, particularly if your paper is limited to six or eight pages in length.  If you as the writer are confused about all the points you are trying to make, then the reader may well be just as confused.
"Leaning, New style sount, stacked 3 high" by Oran Viriyincy on Flickr.com

Monday, July 9, 2012

Electronic Feedback with Polleverywhere & Library Instruction

On June 29th I presented ideas on clicker or audience response systems, online survey software, and text messaging in the classroom to a group of librarians and library students at the Summer Retreat for Librarians at the University of Chapman in Orange, California.

Here's a better description of the presentation:
Mobile, Instant, & Electronic Feedback to Increase Participation and Learning in the Classroom              
Spencer Jardine, Idaho State University
Asking questions remains one of the fundamental tools in a teacher's tool belt and can increase effectiveness in the library instruction classroom. Using free survey and polling technology, like Polldaddy.com and Polleverywhere, can guide library instructors to adjust to the needs of each class. Come learn how to enhance student engagement, learning, and satisfaction in library workshops. Understand the strengths of the free software and how to make it work best for you.
The full schedule describes the other presentations and breakout sessions that occurred during the retreat.

See the presentation below via Slideshare.com.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Teaching Non-Traditional Students in the Library

Non-traditional students can be the most rewarding ones to teach in the library.  They often have more questions, are more lively, and seem to be more grateful for library instruction.

This week I taught a class full of non-traditional students.  I uploaded my outline presentation to Slideshare and titled it "Library Research" on the presentation, though the more accurate title may be: "TGE 0199: Library Instruction for Non-Traditional Students."  These students, most of them anyway, had to earn a GED in order to make it to college. This class was helping them transition into college.

See the presentation below:
We used the Cephalonia Method during our tour.  The questions given to students were color coded to correspond to the different floors of the Library.  I printed out call numbers to specific books and maps that helped to answer some of the questions; these I handed to students and coached them in finding the materials along the way.

How do you teach non-traditional students?  Do you ever teach classes that consist only of non-traditional students?  What are their strengths? 

On the whole I enjoye teaching the non-traditional students, because they seem more attentive, ask more questions, and are glad to learn in most cases.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Teaching with Xtranormal, Poll Everywhere, Wikis, and Skype

It appears that many librarians today believe that technology needs to be used within librarian instruction to catch the attention of the "digital natives," or the current set of college students.  Nicole Eva and Heather Nicholson write: "Library instruction is viewed by many students as being less than enthralling.  Students may not understand how important the library can be for their academic endeavours, or they may think that they know all they need to know.  As a result, librarians often seek new and innovative ways to engage classes" (1-2).  These authors do not promote technology for its own sake, rather they tout technology as a tool for engaging student in collaborative  ways. 

They believe students "are familiar and comfortable" with technology, so it can be utilized as a means to deliver the content.  In their words: "Technology can make library instruction more engaging, more entertaining and more interactive" (2).  Their article, "DO Get Technical!  Using Technology in Library Instruction," highlights four types technology tools library instructors can use to engage students: Xtranormal, Poll Everywhere, wikis, and Skype

Xtranormal allows individuals to create their own little video with pre-fabricated characters, backgrounds, and voices.  If you can type, you can create an Xtranormal video.  Keying or typing words into dialogue boxes creates the audio component; a machine reads the words, though you can choose what kind of accent you prefer.  "You can make one Xtranormal video for free; after that you must buy points.  The more points you buy the less expensive they are, but generally it costs only two to three dollars for a basic movie" (2).  They recommend it as a tool that can share information, or teach students, without costing lots of money, while also being amusing. 

Student in their classes have enjoyed the humor and the entertainment in the process of being introduced to a topic or listening to a summary. They also suggest: "Students could also create their own videos in order to demonstrate their understanding of a topic" (3).  The machine-generated voices and the gestures throughout the videos increase the humor.  They have created a few publicly available Xtranaormal videos:
The next tool they explain is Poll Everywhere.  It lets students answer questions in real time anonymously, and the questions can be inserted to a PowerPoint presentation.  Nicholson and Eva write: "A basic account allows up to 30 responses per question and unlimited questions for free, and upgrades range from $15 to $1,400 per month" (4).  To respond, students need computers or cell phones to reply to the questions.  They explain: "As we have seen with classroom clickers, this is a great way to encourage class participation" (4).  Cell phones can text their answer, but computers with internet access may certainly respond as well.  "The polls are updated instantly, and PowerPOint slide changes dynamically as students enter their answers" (4).  Results offer instructors to correct students and solifify the learning; they can also prompt further discussion.

Nicholson and Eva also promote the use of wikis in library instruction, highlighting its effectives as a collaborative learning tool.  Like Poll Everywhere, wikis "exist in the 'the cloud' with no downloads requires" (5).  Wikis can be purchased, however, that are not available to the public at large, so just the students in a class could access the project.  They explain the essential aspects of a wiki: "The premise behind wikis is that they are collaborative; all users can edit or create new entries.  Student participation in a wiki is an effective way to promote active learning" (6).  Participation in this endeavor turns on the light for many students as they begin to understand how information is created, edited, and shared.  Therefore, they begin to realize how important it is to evaluate the information they find.

Finally, they talk about Skype.  This online videoconferencing tool can be used to teach students in distance settings, though this requires hardware such as microphones, video cameras, and speakers, not to mention high-speed internet access.  Nicholson and Eva have taken advantage of the technology to instruct students at distance sites, so they speak from experience (7).  I appreciated that they mentioned how they anticipated and prepared for technical difficulties.  When the visual feed was lost on the distance site's end, the instructor there was able to display the presentation slides that had been emailed previously while the library instructors continued speaking and teaching.  The instructor could demonstrate along with the librarians as they both walked through the presentation (8). 

Nicole Eva and Heather Nicholson believe that these technologies are "unique, effective, EASY, and low or no-cost.  When used correctly and where warranted, these applications can be usefu in engaging students in sessions in which they might otherwise tune out" (9).  Even their own lack of technological experience did not keep them from succeeding, and they believe others can experience this same kind of fruitful experience in the library instruction room (9). 

Work Cited
Eva, Nicole, and Heather Nicholson.  "DO Get Technical!  Using Technology in Library Instruction."  Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research 6.2 (2011): 1-9.
University of Lethbridge logo. Fiat lux is the Latin for "Let there be light."
Nicole Eva and Heather Nicholson work in the University of Lethbridge Library.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Find a Book in the Library Video

Kai-yi or Clark Huang and I have worked together to create a video showing how to find a book in the Eli M. Oboler Library.  Take a look at them, and let us know what you think.
We have more tutorials on our Tutorials Page.

Library Instruction Handouts & Worksheets

Each year the Early College Program at Idaho State University invites high school teachers involved with the program to come to the Pocatello campus for instruction.  These instructors teach the classes wherein students can earn college credit at reduced rates before even graduating form high school.  On several occasions I have been able to provide a workshop, showing and demonstrating how to access and use the library resources. 

This year, rather than demonstrating and talking the whole time, I decided to put them to work exploring the resources in groups.  Each individual received handouts that highlighted search strategies and important points about all the resources; however, individuals were divided into groups and handed a group worksheet with questions to work on together.  Each group reported their discoveries back to the class.  One thing I failed to do was to explicitly tie the handouts to the worksheet and encourage them to use the handout while answering questions on the worksheet.  At the beginning, one of the teachers was excited to get copies of the group worksheet, so she could have her students learn from this activity.

It did not go over quite as well as I hoped as several groups had too much time and others need more.  Some of the teachers did not seem very engaged.

Following is a short description of each of the handouts I updated or created for this workshop:
  • The CQ Researcher handout shows how to access this database via the ISU Library homepage and offers reasons why this may be helpful plus it gives a short description of the resource.  By the way, several teachers seemed quite interested in learning about this resource, asking if it were available to students not dually enrolled at the University.  Unfortunately it is not.  Much of this information was found on the CQ Researcher About page.
  • Evaluating Information: Applying the CRAAP Test offers criteria for students to apply to sources they find to determine their reliability. 
  • Since we have access to many EBSCOhost databases, I shared an EBSCO Best Practices handout, which has been created by EBSCO.  They show some of the basic search functions and offer some useful tips for searching.
  • The ISU Library is just beginning to implement the PRIMO search tool, but it still seemed important to make these teachers aware of this new tool, so I created this PRIMO Search handout.
  • Perhaps the handout I worked on the longest was the Research Pyramid handout.  It shows how a student can progress from broad/general information to focused and specific information during the research process.  I like to explain how it can be helpful to find reference articles in encyclopedias, handbooks, guidebooks, etc., because they give an overview of the topic, identify areas of focus, and sometimes point to other useful books and articles, thus launching students on a potentially successful research trajectory.  Books can be worth more than 5 or 10 articles sometimes, if you find one that is relevant to your research question.  Articles can be easily accessed online from home; our e-book collection is still not very large.  As the authors, students express their opinions and can cite personal experience to illustrate or bolster an argument.  They may also interview an expert or someone worth quoting in their paper.  This illustrates the research process.
Research Pyramid.  The research process often starts with the general and progresses to the specific.
Do you still create handouts?  Do you use handouts when given them?  Are they helpful in this digital world where we now live?  What makes a good handouts?  Do you print them or just share them online now?

Please cite me or the Eli M. Oboler Library at Idaho State University as the source if you want to use any of the handouts that I created.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Clickers, Participation, Assessment Outcomes, and Library Instruction

Clickers, or personal response systems, may encourage participation and help students enjoy library instruction more.  Emily Chan and Lorrie Knight, from the University of the Pacific,  conducted a study that discovered this to be true.  They also learned that assessment outcomes may not necessarily improve as a result of using clickers. 

Published in Communications in Information Literacy, their article "Clicking with Your Audience: Evaluating the Use of Personal Response Systems in Library Instruction" first identifies the makeup of college students participating in their study.  They belong to the Millennial generation who "tend to share these main character traits: feeling special, being sheltered, having confidence, preferring team or group activities, favoring the conventional, feeling pressured, and needing to achieve" (193).  They make the following claim: "Library instruction, often delivered through one-shot sessions, may seem out of touch to Millennials if it does not incorporate technology in a meaningful and entertaining manner" (193).  With this premise as their foundation, they propose the usage of personal response systems (PRS or clickers) to engage students.

Through their look at the literature they show that others have found that professional use of PRS helps students be involved in the classroom, promotes conversations, and enhances learning among students (193).  They note that PRS make the lectures and class activities more lively and less "stagnant" (193).  As mentioned elsewhere, clickers allow instructors to adjust in the moment they are teaching.  They can understand what the students know.  Therefore, an atmosphere of active engagement and learning may be easier to establish with clickers (193). 

Not enough has been written about the PRS and actual learning outcomes, so Chan and Knight worked to look at this with their study.  They cite Anne C. Osterman's 2008 article that identifies library instructors' two greatest fears: (1) boring students and (2) teaching above their heads.  At this point they refer to another article when they write: "The use of clickers can prompt greater classroom interactivity through an assessment of students' understanding of IL concepts" (194).  Additionally, they found another article that states the finding that clickers increase student involvement in the classroom as well as their usage of resources in the library (194).  To repeat myself once more, this study looks at student enjoyment, engagement, and achievement as they relate to the implementation of clickers in the classroom.

As with other studies, they prepare the reader by defining the constituents involved--in this case freshmen at the University of the Pacific--and explain the course objectives of the freshman seminar courses and the library evaluations gathered before the study took place.  "At the end of each library session, students completed a brief evaluation measuring their achievement of learning outcomes.  The Assessment Office tabulated and analyzed the results, which proved to be inconclusive" (195).  Librarians convinced their library dean to fund a second instruction room equipped with more technology, such as a smart board, a computer for all participants, and clickers.  This allowed the librarians to conduct an experiment to see if the technology influenced student learning outcomes. 

Surprisingly enough, they found that the classes without clickers scored slightly better than the ones with them.  They write: "The students in Classroom NC (non-clicker) scored significantly higher in the assessment than the students who had their library session in Classroom C (clickers) (P value < 0.001)" (197).  That is not to say that there were no positive outcomes for students taking the instruction with the clickers.  Chan and Knight write: "The students in the technology-rich Classroom C found the library sessions to be more enjoyable, organized, well-presented, and participatory" (197).  Perhaps these positive results would continue to justify the use of clickers in the classroom.

No doubt the authors must have been perplexed that the technology did not increase content retention; however, they offer some reasons why the students in technology-rich classroom may not have achieved higher scores on the assessment measures.  They do so by noting potential benefits of a paper assessment:
  1. Able to use the paper assessment as a resource
  2. Allows the student to self-regulate order and pace during the test time
  3. Lets them to see all the questions from the start (this is similar to reason #1 above)
  4. With paper exams students can review and correct their answers before turning them in to be graded
  5. A paper test gives students the opportunity to judge how they use their time; they are more in control of this than if the test is offered with technology, especially if the instructor changes the questions (198)
If librarians use the clicker technology to assess learning, these reasons may be worth remembering. 
Boulder Chain Lakes area in White Clouds of Idaho.  Lakes in photo may be of Sliderock Lake (l) and Shelf Lake (r) Photo by Spencer Jardine.  2010.
Here are a few other things worth mentioning from this article.  Classes with clickers seemed to enjoy the instruction more, felt it was more organized, well-presented, and participatory than those that did not have them (199).  Millenials may expect and want technology to be used.  Indeed, Chan and Knight also mention another study that suggests "the use of clickers can restart the attention span of students" (199).  Sometimes this is necessary to bring back students to the subject at hand. 

The authors see clickers as useful tools to invite participation, adjust to student needs, and as a means to get things going at the beginning of library instruction sessions.  They write: "With the clickers' ability instantly to poll the audience, library faculty used warm-up questions as icebreakers in order to foster a more collaborative and engaging environment" (199).  They had wanted the clickers to increase content retention, but the non-clicker classroom student out-performed their peers in the classroom with clickers.  Naturally, other researchers, just as the authors mention, should look to see how learning outcomes are influenced by the use of technology in the library instruction classroom.

Chan, Emily K., and Lorrie A. Knight.  "Clicking with Your Audience: Evaluating the Use of Personal Response Systems in Library Instruction."  Communications in Information Literacy 4.2 (2010): 192-201.  Print.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Information Literacy Course Descriptions

At the Oboler Library on the Idaho State University campus, we have been teaching information-literacy courses.  Years ago librarians taught an information research course that fulfilled a requirement for education majors wanting a library science certificate for K-12 instruction.  That course was canceled in 2007 when the education professor responsible for that program retired. 

In the Fall 2011 semester I began teaching a one-credit information research course.  Now we are writing a proposal to begin offering a three-credit information research course.  If it gets approved in the fall semester, then it may be offered in Fall  2013.  We will submit a proposal for this three-credit course to fulfill a general education requirement--the information-literacy goal.  Recently, the General Education Requirements Committee completed the process of finalizing the Undergraduate General Education Requirements. This process took over two years.
"Holt Arena! The Mini-Dome."  by Jake Putnam.  This is an icon for Idaho State University.
Following are the course descriptions for the information research courses at ISU:

Catalog Descriptions
LLIB 1115/ACAD 1115: Introduction to Information Research, 3 credits
Learn to recognize when information is needed, then find, evaluate, and use it effectively and ethically.  Explore a variety of ways to find reliable sources worth using/documenting in support of academic projects.  Equivalent to ACAD 1115. F, S
3.000 Credit hours
3.000 Lecture hours

LLIB 1115/ACAD 1115: Information Research, 1 credit
Develop life-long strategies for recognizing when you need information, locating it, evaluating it, and using it effectively and ethically. Explore a variety of tools and formats in order to find sources worth using/citing in support of academic projects. Equivalent to ACAD 1115. F, S
1.000 Credit hours
1.000 Lecture hours

LIBR 121 Introduction to Information Research 2 credits.  Fundamentals of the research process using a variety of library resources, including catalogs, electronic databases, the reference collection, government documents, and the Internet.  Emphasis on the organization, retrieval and evaluation of information.  F, S, Su 

Undergraduate Catalog 2006-2007.  Pocatello, ID: Idaho State University, 2006. 

Other ISU course descriptions can be found in the ISU Undergraduate Catalogs

"Red Hill, Pocatello, Idaho."  by Jake Putnam.  Red Hill is a well-known landmark of Idaho State University and Pocatello.  The columns can be seen from Interstate 15 (I-15).

"ISU from the West Bench."  by Jake Putnam.  This photo captures many ISU buildings, including the Oboler Library.  It also shows the Rendezvous Building while it was under construction.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Effectiveness of Clickers in Big, Intro to Psychology Classes

A group of researchers from the University of Delaware, in a study that looked at the effectiveness of personal response systems, found that modest use of "clickers" increased exam performance.  They did not see evidence that clickers actually increased engagement in their study.  In a reference to the literature they write: "According to some researchers, students like clickers, and students also believe clickers make them feel more engaged" (45).  As far as their own students went, however, they note: "Although Dr. B reported that students 'got a kick out of them,' clickers had only marginal effects on self-reports of student engagement, attendance, and reading in this study--effects that may be attributable to Type I error" (48). 

Freshmen students at the University of Delaware, at the time of the study that is, mark which classes they want to take their first year, and a computer assigns their schedule.  Morley, McAuliffe, and DiLorenzo mention more than once that this made their study more reliable and random, due to the random nature of the process.  Students personal preferences did not determine when they took the psychology class.  Morley explains that the teachers used the clicker system only minimally:
Both professors taught using an interactive lecture style.  Both professors taught the earlier section without clickers ('traditional' sections) and the later section with clickers.  In clicker sections, at the beginning of class, the instructor posted five multiple-choice, fact-based questions, based on the day's required reading.  Students earned extra credit for answering these questions correctly.  Later in the class period, if relevant, the instructor would briefely elaborate on a clicker question that most students had misunderstood.  Other than this change, instructors taught the two sections identically.  (46)
 Data gathered from the exam results did indicate that "exam scores were higher for clicker sections than for tratidtional sections" (47).  This occurred regardless of the teacher; there were two teachers who taught two sections of large, introductory psychology classes.  Morling et al. summarize it in more formal language: "Our data suggest that using clickers to quiz students in class on material from their reading resulted in a small, positive effect on exam performance in large introductory psychology classes" (47).

Further studies might consider looking at teaching methods used in conjunction with the technology.  For example, they suggest looking at concept inventories, group discussions, and Just in Time Teaching (JiTT), which could all be joined with clickers to see how they might enhance learning (48).  For more clarification, the authors write: "In our study, the instructors used clickers very minimally--to administer quizzes, publicly display the results, and quickly correct any widespread misunderstandings" (47-48). 

Moreover, the article addressed the possibility that some students cheated while taking the reading quizzes, though they concede that this may have actually promoted a cooperative learning environment, which would have improved their engagement in the class (49).  Overall, this was a good article, as it found a positive result of using clickers via a scientific study, rather than relied on anecdotes or the fact that the technology was trendy at the time.

Works Cited
Morling, Beth, Meghan McAuliffe, Lawrence Cohen, and Thomas M. DiLorenzo.  "Efficacy of Personal Response Systems ("Clickers") in Large, Introductory Psychology Classes."  Teaching of Psychology 35.1 (2008): 45-50.

Stowell, Jeffrey R., and Jason M. Nelson.  Teaching of Psychology 34.4 (2007): 253-58.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Got Statistics?

According to their "What We Provide" page, the U.S. Census Bureau's American FactFinder provides statistical data the population, economy, and other bits of information about communities the United States of America.  The American Community Survey gives data and estimates related to commute time to work, age, race, income, home value, veteran status, and more.  Search boxes allow interested individuals to search for statistics by topic, race/ancestry, industries, state, county, or place.
Image from Claremont Insider.
To test the system, I looked for one-year estimates of household incomes in Idaho.  Below are some 2010 estimates discovered in the search:
  • Total households in Idaho: 576,709
  • About 108,000 Idaho households make less than $20,000 annually = 18.7%
  • ~73,000 Idaho household make more than $100,000 annually = 12.7%
2010 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates
FactFinder makes it easy to limit by race or ethnicity.  Here are the numbers for income in last 12 months for white, non-hispanic households:
  • 96,000 White/Non-hispanic households earn less than $20,000 annually = 16.6% of all Idaho households
  • 65,000 White/Non-hispanic households earn more than $100,000 annually = 11.3% of all Idaho households
Universe: Households with a householder who is White alone, not Hispanic or Latino  more information 2010 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates
Hispanic/Latino households, according to the American Community Survey estimages, earn the following over a 12-month time:
  • 13,000 Hispanic households earn less than $20,000/year = 2.3% of all Idaho households
  • 2,000 Hispanic households earn more than $100,000/year = 0.3% of all Idaho households
Universe: Households with a householder who is Hispanic or Latino  more information 2010 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates

A different look at the numbers:
  • Total number of White/Non-hispanic households: 509,056
  • 18.9% of Whites earn less than $20,000/year
  • 12.8% of Whites earn more than $100,000
  • Total number of Hispanic/Latino households: 45,626
  • 28.5% of Hispanics earn less than $20,000/year
  • 4.4% of Hispanics earn more than $100,000/year
For more statistical resources see this Resources by Subject: Statistics page.  Personally, I like the statistics section on the Speech page.  It seems that many college students like to make reference to statistics in their speech and communications classes.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Audience Response Systems in the Classroom

Heidi Adams and Laura Howard write: "Audience Response Systems, commonly known as clickers, are gaining recognition as a useful classroom tool" (54).  In their short article titled "Clever Clickers: Using Audience Response Systems in the Classroom" they define Audience Response Systems (ARS), explain the two major systems (radio frequency and infrared), and explain how the systems can be used to gather feedback, check for understanding, assess student learning, and provide specific ideas for using ARS in the classroom. 

As a tool to promote student learning, each student must answer questions with a remote control.  Results are shown right away.  Adams and Howard write: "Since the educators are able to see the results instantly, it permits them to evaluate student understanding at that very moment and provides an opportunity to adjust the lesson accordingly to improve student comprehension" (54).  It helps instructors know if students got it.  ARS can be used and adapted to meet the needs of each student and each class.

Of particular value, this article offers twenty ideas for using ARS in the classroom.  Here are just a few:
  • Comprehension Testing
  • Drill and Practice
  • Review Games
  • Questionnaires/Surveys
  • Voting
  • Checking for understanding during a lecture
  • Fact Finding or Pre- and Post-Tests (55)
Adams and Howard cite some of the literature in making their point that ARS are good for students, because they increase engagement in the classroom.  Students seem to like it more.  They write: "With clickers, every student answers every question.  Additionally, the questions will spark more questions from students that will lead to further discussion and understanding regarding the material" (55).  Additionally, the on-the-spot assessment or feedback lets students understand if they got it right or not (56).  They do not have to guess; this seems to cement the learning and can solidify the learning process, or the correct cerebral paths in the brain. 

Naturally, the ARS do not solve all problems and have a few drawbacks.  Adams and Howard claim: "As with any other type of learning, if ARS is used too often, students tire of it" (56).  In other words, students like the newness of the technology, but with time will become less interested in it.  Still, they assert "that the advantages such as instant feedback and increased student engagement far outweigh the downsides" (56).  The potential of these systems does seem fairly expansive.
Qwizdom Clicker.  See "Spotlight on Education: Sandwood's S.A.IN.T Academy Hosts First Annual Media Day." Duval County Public Schools.
 A sidebar in the article shows a half dozen brand names of ARS:

Work Cited
Adams, Heidi, and Laura Howard.  "Clever Clickers: Using Audience Response Systems in the Classroom."  Library Media Connection 28.2 (October 2009): 54-56.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How does empowering versus compelling students influence participation attitudes?

A group of researchers at Brigham Young University collaborated to write an article in Active Learning in Higher Education.  It was published in 2007 and discussed a gap in the research on clickers or Audience Response Systems (ARS).  Many studies have looked into the participation factors: how they prompt discussions, how they uncover misconceptions in the learning, how they offer immediate feedback.  They write: "Studies that explored direct measures of student learning with audience response systems have shown mixed results [...] Although these studies showed mixed results, most studies that looked at indirect measures of student learning (including levels of participation and engagement) found positive results" (236-37). 

What about the groups of students who typically hold back and do not participate?  They cite studies showing that females tend to participate less, "because of they worry that they might appear to dominate discussion" (237).  Students from other cultures also participate less frequently, not wanting to give incorrect answers, "fearful of 'losing face'" (237).  These researchers call this group "reluctant participators," saying that other studies on ARS have not looked into this demographic (237). 
Reluctant Participants.  by Middle Age Biker.
They found that students perceive the ARS to be less helpful when they are used to grade or mark attendance.  Also, technical difficulties with the systems came back as the number one negative aspect of the systems, followed by their cost to the student, grading, and mandatory attendance.  Students had to pay $40 a piece, so "a significant number of students were critical of cost effectiveness" (240).   However, when the ARS were used to provide formative feedback, students perceived the use of the technology as positive.

On the whole, however, "the overall reaction to the use of the ARS in the pilot was positive.  [...] For all of the measures except one, a strong majority of the students 'agreed' or somewhat agreed' that the ARS was helpful to them in the learning experience" (238, 240).  Nonetheless, reluctant participators tended to view it as less helpful than the rest of the group.  Moreover, "students in classes where the ARS was not used for grading viewed the ARS to be a more helpful tool" (242).  This seems to be a major advantage of using Audience Response Systems (ARS).

During the survey, students were given opportunities to comment on what they liked as well as what they did not like about ARS.  "One student wrote, 'It was nice to have an immediate response so I could know whether or not I was doing something right'" (248).  Other students appreciated knowing what their peers thought on issues or content related to the class. The authors included this positive comment as well: "'The best part is that we could see the results of the surveys and what not instantly, and they were applicable to us in the class, not some foreign group of individuals.  It brought the issues to life which we were discussing in class'" (248).  This emphasizes the potential power of these systems, bringing forth relevant issues that can energize discussions.

At this point it seems appropriate to go back to the article's introduction to mention what happens when student have limited opportunities to participate and the method involves raising hands.  The authors write: "When classes have limited opportunities for students to respond, participation can be unbalanced in favor of the most knowledgable students who are most willing to respond in front of their peers" (234).  Personally, I have experienced this countless times.  Students often have good things to share, but it often happens that one or two students dominate any sort of discussion.  The strength of the ARS is that eveyone can participate anonymously.

While we are talking about active learning in general, it may be helpful to consider what the authors of this study wrote: "A diverse body of educational research has shown that academic achievement is positively influenced by the amount of active participation of students in the learning process" (233-34).  In the past, response cards have been used, and they helped to increase student participation and performance in higher education.  Today many have taken the ARS to invite participation and performance.  Active learning makes a difference, but it helps to consider the subgroups who reluctantly participate. 

Again, it is better to avoid using these systems for grading and attendance purposes, considering how many variables obstruct the success of the system.  The authors included this student comment: "'I think it's an unfair grading system.  I think they're great, as long as grades aren't based on them.  There are too many variables like battery failure, problems with being on the correct channel and so forth that interfere.  These variables make it unfair to base grades on clicker systems'" (240).  Clickers can be a powerful tool; however, students seems to dislike the tool when it appears faulty and they will be assigned a grade via the performance of this faulty tool.

Instructors should review the purpose of the tools or methodologies they use in the class.  The authors write: "The researchers in this study believe that the central concern of instructional technologists should be that of 'helping' students" (248).  Though the grading and attendance features may be helpful for instructors, if they create negative feelings in the students that inhibit potential learning, then perhas it should not be used to grade student work.  In their concluding remarks, the authors wrote: "Students perceived strategies that provided formative feedback and empowered them to evaluate their own performance as more helpful than strategies oriented towards grading and compelling participation" (251).  This explains the title of their article rather succinctly.

For researchers it may be helpful to know what they suggest for later studies with ARS.  "Future research could investigate a wider range of pedagogical strategies and the environments in which they are successful.  A measure of the goodness of the strategies could be student and instructor perceptions of their helpfulness in the learning process" (250).

Work Cited
Graham, Charles R., Tonya R. Tripp, Larry Seawright, and George L. Joeckel III.  "Empowering or Compelling Reluctant Participators Using Audience Response Systems."  Active Learning in Higher Education 8.3 (2007): 233-58.  Print.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Technology to Put in the Hands of Students and Librarians

Several weeks ago I attended a the ILA Region 5 & 6 Conference at Snake River Community Library.  Here are some notes that I took at one of my favorite sessions. 

Tech Talk: Integrating 21st Century Tools into School Libraries with Gena Marker, current president of ILA.  She is a school librarian at Centennial High School in Meridian, ID.

            This session was rather exciting for me, because it talked about how technology can be used to enhance learning and the educational experience.  She began by mentioning how many teachers get in a technology rut, using software adopted a decade ago.  Gena encouraged librarians to put new tools in students’ hands.  I believe one of the educational goals for Idaho is to increase student fluency with technology; someone made reference to this in the session. 

            Gena has bought flip or pocket cameras (Sony Bloggie models I believe) into the students’ hands.  Students need to learn new information and how to present it.  They should navigate the future and can do this with the use of new tools and technology.

            Animoto: it’s great and it’s free.  As an educator you can upgrade when you login.  This will give more access.  Create a video with a few clicks.  The free version allows for a 30-second video, but educators can do more.  Embed photos and video clips.  It is quick to use once you have tried it out, as with other sites in the Cloud.  With the flip cameras, it is necessary to be close to people to hear them.  Animoto lets you choose music from (set of options) music library.

            Photo Story 3: this is good.

            Zamzar: third party that converts almost any file type, such as avi, flv, wav, mov, etc.  It has an easy three-step process:

1.       Upload file

2.      Specify the new file type you desire

3.      Enter email address, so they can send you the new file with the new extension

Let students create videos.  It forces creativity.

            AnyVideo Converter: another third party file converter.  This may cost money, but it also does more in the way of screen captures, ripping DVDs, and so forth.

            Prezi: it’s an interactive whiteboard that zooms, flips, and embeds photos.  Create an educator account.  It’s possible to download it to a USB device.  Check out flip cameras from the library.  Learn by trial and error.

            Glogster: she recommends that teachers and librarians use the Glogster EDU as it may be safer and can be managed in a private setting just for class.  Use Glogster to show things.  It is an alternative to PowerPoint.  Poster yourself.  It’s a digital poster, but it allows you to embed audio and video into the poster.  Thumbnail photos can be enlarged.  It’s more about content than design creation.  Or maybe she said to encourage students to focus on the content than on design creation.  Some students in an honors class created one that looked at McBeth(?) from a feminist perspective.  They created a video that could be viewed, and they could show the poster while they explained it to the class during a presentation. 

            Extranormal: student love this the most and can waste a lot of time here.  Type in the text, and a mechanical voice will come out of the cartoon character you have chosen.  Type in stage directions, like walk forward three steps, and point to the left.

            Audacity: free podcasting.  It’s a free download.  Use a microphone with a USB connector to attach it to the computer.  Record a book review and share it in your online catalog.  With Follett’s Destiny (opac vendor), she can do this. 

            Windows Live Movie Maker: it is good for making movies with photographs, recorded digital movies, and music.

            VoiceThread: collaborate to change a presentation or comment on it. 

            Wordle: create word clouds.  This is a fun design thing.

            Overall, this presentation interested me because of the way she tied the technology to student learning and creativity.  It gave me some ideas and made me want to try some of these things.