Category Archives: Instruction

February 25, 2014, 1:39 pm

[DON’T] SAVE THE TIME OF THE READER: a disconnect between librarians and teaching faculty?

From time to time I receive faculty feedback that surprises me. There is a contrasting view that occasionally emerges around the notion that learning should be hard: specifically that the process of identifying and locating information sources should be difficult. I’ve encountered this everywhere I’ve worked. We’ve even been called out for making things “too easy for students.”

Our reference and instruction program exists for the purpose of helping people navigate resources and making it easier for them to do research. Our web tools, such as link-resolvers, subject guides, tutorials, and discovery-layers are intended to get people to the content they want as efficiently and seamlessly as possible. I mean, come on, “save the time of the reader” is baked into our DNA. Libraries exist to help make people’s lives easier/better.

Most of the librarians I know believe in…

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October 2, 2013, 5:26 pm

“I’ve been researching wrong this whole time” – instructional insight via Twitter

I enjoy seeing social media used in classrooms. We’re definitely in the next wave now with many faculty members expressing excitement about these tools. Several years ago the conversations I had were: “that’s interesting but it just doesn’t work for my needs” and today it is: “I want to foster more interaction and I think this app might work, what do you think?”

 

I recently stumbled upon a Twitter instance here at Virginia Tech via the College of Natural Resources and Environment. They integrated Twitter into their First-Year Experience program. Here is some documentation.

 

Obviously using hashtags in class isn’t a new practice. But beyond a course-wide tag they also use separate tags for individual topics or speakers. This enables the instructors to engage with the course during and after presentations. It also provides a direct channel for the presenters…

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June 25, 2013, 2:56 pm

Haystacks vs. Algorithms: Is Scanning the Stacks for [Pretty] Books Really the Best Research Strategy?

One of my favorite courses during undergrad was Shakespeare. My professor had a performance-oriented approach but I recall writing a few essays and being amazed by the range of material in my library. Shelf after shelf held books about Shakespeare and other Elizabethan playwrights.

It was fun to flip through the pages and see what was contained. This was the mid-1990’s — the web was still emerging.

When I see faculty write about serendipity and the value of wandering the stacks I think back with nostalgia to that period in my life. It’s a very romantic idea—being surrounded by immense physical collections of knowledge.

Little did I know the university up the road had an even larger Shakespeare collection. Or that Folger even existed. My library contained just a thimble of information on this topic. If all I used were the materials in my library I could get a good grade…

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February 19, 2013, 2:40 pm

SCALING UP THE LIBRARY

We’re opening our SCALE-UP classroom today. This is a joint venture between the Library and the College of Science. It was one of the first projects that my Dean gave me upon arrival. We already have two classrooms that are computer lab-based models, but like a lot of libraries, our instructional demands are increasing and we not only needed more space—but a different type of space. The College of Science was also looking for more instructional space so it was mutually beneficial. They already have a successful SCALE-UP classroom – so this is an extension of that effort.

 

I had my first meeting with them in January 2012—and now thirteen months later we have a great classroom. Not quite startup speed, but it was a complex project. Many people were involved with this—from financing (thanks Provost & COS) to collection reviews and shifting. Our facilities team also kept…

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June 6, 2012, 4:04 pm

Hack the Learner Experience, or Get Yourself Some Pedagogical Perspective

Let’s keep this rolling for all the ubiquitous librarians out there. I want to post more but the tradeoff is that I need to write less. You know, only so much time in the day/night…

I mentioned back in January that Char Booth and I were working on a project together. That’s finally wrapped up and we packaged it all together:

Understanding the Learner Experience: Threshold Concepts and Curriculum Mapping

 

There is a paper along with links to a video of our presentation and some slides. I’ll let the content speak for itself, but I wanted to highlight a few things:

 

  • It was great working with Char. I tend to push things a bit far sometimes and she pushes ideas even further. Not only is she a good designer but is also skilled at the art of rhetoric too. Char and I are interested in working together again in late 2013 or 2014, so if someone has an interesting…

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March 12, 2012, 3:46 pm

Google Docs Will Free Librarians (to Engage Students More Directly in the Natural Writing Environment)

I had a vivid dream last night. I typically forget all my dreams, but this one stood out. In this world no one spoke directly to each other. Everyone was a ventriloquist and used dummies or puppets to communicate. I walked through restaurants, grocery stores, malls and a few other common locations– and everyone had their avatar on their hand. Perhaps it’s a metaphor for iPhones and digital devices and social media and how they are disconnecting traditional social interactions  – but that seems too obvious. I think the larger message is centered on the need to evolve with mainstream communication preferences and practices.

 

In the dream I didn’t have a dummy/puppet/avatar and hence everyone I tried to interact with just ignored me. This is likely a confluence of several things. I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of libraries, the future of information, the future of…

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January 11, 2012, 2:51 pm

The Rise of the Learner Experience Librarian

I’m excited to finally be collaborating with Char Booth. We’ve been seeking a project for several years now and finally found one in the form of an invited paper and co-presentation at CARL 2012.

This is our venture:

Understanding the Learner Experience: Threshold Concepts and Curriculum Mapping
In order to improve library instruction, we need to develop a richer understanding of the holistic learning and teaching experience of our institutions. Threshold concepts are core ideas in a particular area or discipline that, once understood, transform perceptions of that subject. Curriculum mapping is a method of visualizing insight into the courses, requirements, and progressions a learner negotiates as they pass through a particular department or degree. When understood and applied in tandem, these strategies provide a powerful means of developing actionable insight into the learner…

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September 26, 2011, 5:24 pm

What It Takes To Become A Scholar: helping students scale the taxonomy

We’re working on round two of our graduate student ethnography project. I plan to release the findings in January as a collection of whitepapers. The batch will include themes such as mentoring, collaboration, criticism, and work process. But my favorite thread is the progression from student to scholar. It has been fascinating to review the self-analysis and see how a scholar is defined.

Two predominate qualities emerged: independence & creation.

Some sample quotes:

1. “As you go through grad school at least in English, you begin to develop more into sort of an independent writer and scholar…. You start thinking more in terms of I’m making a book length argument that has to be interesting vs. I’ve gotta write this short argument that I think is what my professor wants.”

2. “As an undergrad, you were presented with deadlines that were dictated by others. And they we…

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August 3, 2011, 6:12 pm

What can you do to help with troublesome knowledge? Librarians and Threshold Concepts

This summer I’ve really been into Game of Thrones, Mineral, Simon Sinek, Curriculum Mapping, and Threshold Concepts.

I have to thank Steven Bell and Char Booth for their conversations at ALA11 that helped shape my thinking on Curriculum Mapping and a related instructional strategy. I have more to say on that but I’m waiting on my-future-collaborator-on-some-project Char Booth to write a post so I can piggyback with my thoughts.

Librarians & TC
The hottest thing to me right now is the idea of Threshold Concepts. When I found out that this was a code for “troublesome knowledge” I was hooked! These are the big ideas in each discipline that people struggle with for a variety of reasons.

I had a great conversation with a grad student a few weeks ago who is researching Threshold Concepts in relation to the Writing Program on campus. They are looking at it across…

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July 19, 2011, 8:06 pm

Instructionally Adrift? Are instructors letting their students down?

At ALA 2011 Steven Bell turned me on to the book Academically Adrift. He wrote a thoughtful piece on it back in January— I’m a little slow getting a response out.

The gist of it boils down to the notion that students don’t appear to be learning much (academically speaking) during their time away at college—and hence there is some question about the value (and investment) of a college degree.

This is largely based on findings reporting that when students were tested before and after their college years there was little progress in standardized scores, suggesting that the college experience (which of course encompasses more than just courses) does little to advance intellectual development.

Bell points out that there is a lot of finger pointing and I tend to point mine at the K-12 system, which doesn’t prepare people (myself included) for college. However, while watching…

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