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.