Friday, October 3, 2014

The Limitations of Teaching Sources as Objects

Reading Holliday and Rogers' article, "Talking About InformationLiteracy: the Mediating Role of Discourse in a College Writing Classroom," has turned my brain upside down in the way I think about our information literacy instruction, and has even informed the way I work with students at the reference desk and in one-on-one research consultations.  It had never occurred to me that the very language we use in instruction actually serves to propagate students' perceptions of sources as "containers" to be "located" and "incorporated." The idea of using sources of information for the purpose of "inquiry" -- something that the new ACRL Framework is leading us to do -- gets lost as information has become a commodity to be "retrieved."

Even when faculty, with good intentions, try to guide students to "better" sources by restricting certain kinds of sources (for example, certain websites,) this only serves to emphasize to students the idea of sources as something for them to obtain, as a consequence eliminating the understanding of sources being more or less valuable because of the information they impart. This is something that I think librarians and faculty have always known and try to convey, but we are coming at it the wrong way. The use of "evaluation criteria" checklists as the predominant tools used to teach how to evaluate sources (which I personally have come to despise and refuse to use in my instruction) tops off everything else to create a complete package of denigration of the use of information.

Friday, June 15, 2012

I love the ideas espoused in this article from George Mason University, The Learning Library in Context: Community, Integration, and Influence. While the college or university library is often described as the "heart of campus," the article describes how the arteries and veins of this heart can intertwine themselves with the entire campus and the academic curriculum.  The library "pumps blood" into the efforts to instill in students the critical thinking and lifelong learning skills that colleges and universities aim to help students develop.

Some pertinent quotes (emphases mine):

"Rather than an external "add on" to the educational experience, the library, as information resource and gateway, is a primary catalyst for cognitive, behavioral, and affective changes in students -- as they interact with information resources as directed by faculty, as they complete assignments and study with peers, [...] seeking connections and making meaning in more self-directed ways.  The learning library, rather than a repository of materials or a study hall, is therefore an agency of change in students' lives" (124).

"In the Vygotskian sense, the learning library is the constructivist laboratory for students to make their own meanings, but only by moving through a series of 'zones of proximal development' with research strategies and information sources and with the coaching and guidance of more knowledgeable others"(124).

"Because of the continually changing nature of information access[...] students need a conceptual foundation for research. This approach fosters the underlying processes, mainly critical thinking and problem solving, that allow them to adapt to new situations" (129).

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Why You're Wrong About Community Colleges

Great article!  I especially agree with the part about the collegiality of the faculty and staff at the community college where I work, and our shared dedication to student learning. Also, I am equally as in love with my job as this blogger.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Day in the Life of an Instructional Services Librarian

I have not been feeling inspired by the literature I've been coming across lately, so I thought this would be a good time to do a "Day in the Life" post.

What exactly does an Instructional Services Librarian (often going by different names) do?

Today was not one of my busiest days, especially considering the semester has now ended and there have been very few people in the library, but my day went kind of like this:

8:00-10:00 a.m.: Reference Desk duty. Reference work was very slow since the library was virtually empty. 

While serving on the desk, I completed a document on the learning objectives we use in our library instruction sessions, which I am going to present at a meeting on Monday with Humanities faculty.  Also entered my reference desk schedule duties for June into my calendar.

10:00 a.m.:  Helped a patron from Harford County, who was transferred to us by phone from a Baltimore County public library branch, find specific articles from the Baltimore Sun, from 1910 and 1925.  Patron asked if our microfilm went back that far.  No, but we now have the Historical Baltimore Sun online back to 1837! The patron had the exact date of the articles, so that along with a specific topic (one was an obituary) allowed me to easily find these articles for him, download the PDFs, and email them to him. 

11:00-11:30: Email correspondence with faculty regarding their summer library instruction sessions.

11:30-12:30: Lunch. Hobnobbed with colleagues. Went for a walk.

12:30-1:00: Not sure what happened during this half hour...

1:00 p.m.: Answered a faculty member's email requesting dates for a library instruction session this fall. Sent more email correspondence to other faculty members regarding their courses' library instruction sessions this summer.

2:00-2:45 p.m.:  Met with faculty member from the Tutoring Center to discuss plans for a joint workshop with nursing students this summer, as well as a professional development workshop for tutors.

2:45-3:30 p.m.:  Can't remember exactly, but I know I put away some papers in folders, did a little outlining of what I would show tutors during workshop this summer, and gathered handouts for meeting on Monday.  Oh, and I made a couple of edits to the English 101 library instruction handouts.

3:30 p.m.:  Read some professional development articles, with hopes of finding something to blog about.  One article I read was this one on First Principles of Instruction (first article in this journal issues) as well as the Wikipedia article on the same thing, but decided not to blog about it.

4:00 p.m.:  Decided to blog about my day instead!

I'll have to remember to blog about my day *while* I'm in the middle of my day next time. And maybe on a busier day.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Kindles of the 1930s...

Fascinating to see someone's iteration of an e-reader of the future:

I always find it interesting to see these old images of "the future" as imagined at an earlier time.  Often, there are uncanny similarities between what was imagined and what does end up happening -- yet obvious gaps in knowledge of what would be possible in the future.  In this case, the artist/engineer could foresee the use of "miniaturized text," because it was already being used in microfilm.  So basically, existing technology was just re-packaged in an armchair to invent a "reader." So really, the contraption shown was not all that innovative.  What people could not have imagined (or did not imagine... until, of course, it was imagined) was invention of the computer chip and, subsequently, the Internet.

Looking at these old designs, aside from eliciting a chuckle, can remind us that we should not let what we know limit what we can imagine.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

College Handouts Don't Make the Grade

I can't say enough about the reports coming out of Project Information Literacy.  Report #3, How Handouts for Research Assignments Guide Today's College Students, gives a detailed analysis of the information conveyed to students in research assignment handouts, compared to the needs of college students during their research processes (as determined in a prior study).  It outlines how often specific resources are mentioned, including help from librarians.  Very eye-opening and great fodder for developing more collaboration between librarians and faculty in designing research assignment descriptions.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Knowledge Building"

And here it is: higher education finally getting on the bandwagon and engaging in constructivist learning techniques (re-packaged, apparently, with the new label "knowledge building").  This article, I'm proud to say, comes from my own alma mater, Smith College: "What Do You Know? And How Well Do You Think?"

I will let the article speak for itself, but I'm glad to see that innovative instructional design involving active, constructive ("knowledge-building") learning is taking place at the college level.