Friday, December 20, 2013

When New Books Arrive in the Mail

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Merry librarian-snark-mas to all and to all a good snark! Enjoy your break, and we'll see you in the new year

Monday, December 2, 2013

Brief Hiatus

Greetings iLOVE readers! The bloggers are taking a brief hiatus as we reorganize and re-energize for a new calendar year.  In the coming year we plan to share teaching ideas from new voices! Are you interested in being a guest contributor? Contact us at, or feel free to use the Ask the Masses form. We'd love to hear from you and help share your ideas with those who are looking for inspiration!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Teaching Translitearcy with EBSCO and ProQuest

Today’s post will be about something I love to use. That is, technology. I am an avid user and teacher of the stuff. Sharing some new tick, be it with a database, mobile app or desktop app is one of the key aspects of my job. As librarians, we need to be fluent with technology. After all, we teach students the concepts behind databases, web interfaces and working with file structures. 

There are some great tools out there, which interact with other apps. (Zotero being one such option. ) Being an iPad campus, my institution has purchased a notability license for our students.  This is a nifty little app that works with cloud storage to allow PDF annotation. As a librarian, I view this as an opportunity to teach students how to interact with file structures, save PDF’s, import them into the app and annotate them. 

These types of apps and tools require a student to really understand file structures and user interfaces. They need to understand that a PDF is more common for scholarly articles, whereas a word document is better suited for a working document. An understanding of common UI elements is also required. The larger concept here is transliteracy. 

Translitearcy, for those who do not know is “… concerned with mapping meaning across different media and not with developing particular literacies about various media. It is not about learning text literacy and visual literacy and digital literacy in isolation from one another but about the interaction among all these literacies” (Ipri, 2010).

This is not an easy thing to teach. Students need to draw concepts between interfaces and develop and intuition for graphical user interfaces (GUI). I believe most librarians are transliterate. The nature of our jobs require use to interact with different interfaces, to get desired outcomes. Students are often lost in new interfaces and require a guiding hand. 

Transliteracy is far too large of a literacy to teach in a single library session. It is something that is developed over time. They need experience interacting with lots of GUIs. In my sessions, I have developed a simple technique to get across a basic translitearcy concept.

The interfaces of EBSCOhost and ProQuest are not all that different. Sure, they use different color styles and somewhat different wording, but they both send you to a PDF. They both offer you the ability to refine your search with boolean operators. There is even a way to refine your search based on peer-reviewed status.

In class, I have the students find one article in EBSCO and ProQuest. Usually I leave 5-10 minutes each. If the articles they can find are related to a paper they are required to write, that is all the better. Once the time is complete, I ask which was their favorite. Most of the time, the class is split down the middle. 

After that, I bring up EBSCO and ProQuest on the same screen. I point out how both interfaces have that three search box interface. I mention the boolean operator drop downs. They are shown how to refine the searches with the peer-reviewed/scholarly article check boxes and how to refine the searches by timeframe. 

By showing them the common elements in each database, they are learning (hopefully) to look for familiar interfaces. In much the same way you or I would look for a left facing arrow to go back, I am hoping they are learning to use the drop down menu in either database to refine their search with boolean operators.

When Someone Teaches Me a Formatting Shortcut

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ask the Masses: Grading for Embedded Classes and One-Shots

This week's AtM question relates to something I've been spending a lot of time doing lately: grading/assessment.

My question is:

At what level are you involved with grading and formally assessing student assignments/projects in the classes you work with? Do you provide feedback, but leave grading up to the course instructor? Do you grade library assignments? Do the course instructors count library assignments or activities for course credit? Let's have a conversation about assessment and grading!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Web Quality (or Primary Sources) Game

For the longest time I've wanted to figure out a way to spice up my instruction regarding web evaluation. I wanted to do something that would emphasize the evaluation criteria and the need for students to dig deeper into their evaluation and reflection process when doing online research.  I have used my Wikipedia example in the past (found on slide 12 in the presentation below--you may wish to make it full screen to check out those circled parts; that definitely helps students think about the changing nature of information on the web--especially community edited information), but wanted something more interactive.

That's when the idea to do "Telephone Pictionary" or "Teletionary" or "Pictaphone" came to me. Though it's really well suited for explaining primary resources, this activity can also hammer home the importance of knowing where your information is coming from, just as a general concept.  I typed 8 different sayings into a table in MS word and cut the pages in half lengthwise (below).

Then I cut squares out of folded in half cardstock (I used construction paper for my first semester with this game, but it just didn't hold up so I switched to cardstock) so that only 2 boxes would show.

Every student starts with the given prompt and then draws a picture. They cover up the prompt so that just their picture shows and pass it along to the next person in the line, who then writes a new caption based on their interpretation of the drawing. They cover up the picture so that only their caption shows and pass it along to the next person. This continues in a cycle until all boxes are filled.  We then discuss how the messages and pictures changed over time (usually with lots of giggling as some of the changes can be pretty silly...), and then we tie it back in to research and web quality (outlined in the presentation below).

After we go through the web evaluation criteria I show the students how to use Google's advanced search tool, and then they're off to complete the web evaluation checklist (digitized using Google Forms--the link is on slide 18) for 2 websites related to their paper topics. Usually this activity works best with classes that are 80 minutes long (our Tues./Thurs. classes), but with a few modifications we have made this work in 50 minute classes. 

I have had several professors compliment me on this activity and note how their students' web search skills improved noticeably after this lesson. I think the activity helps students remember that they really need to look more closely at the resources they are selecting.  

What fun games do you use in your library instruction? 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ask the Masses: No student left behind

Time for another Ask the Masses question. Looking back at some of the responses for my teaching evals last week, one comment in particular stood out.

A faculty member said that sometimes my instruction tends to "favor the folk who pick up on things quickly," but that I'm sure to try and not move on until everyone has caught up.

The comment has gotten me thinking. How do you go about doing IL instruction, which tends to be hands-on, with a group of users that has skill levels across the board? I realize I try to teach closer to middle and get students going on the project and try and pick up the stragglers one-on-one, but that doesn't always feel like the best way to go about it.

So I turn to the rest of you, ideas??

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bringing the flipped classroom to library instruction

I suppose I should start this post with the note that I am by no means an educational pedagogy expert. Nor do I have any hands on experience with 'flipped classrooms.' But then again, if you've read any of my other posts, you know that I've taken my instructional inspiration from way weirder places. So without further adieu, Becky's version of a flipped IL classroom.

The basics of a flipped classroom for those of you unfamiliar with the idea include having students read or listen to the lecture or traditional class content outside of class and spending in-class time working on problem sets or what would traditionally have been homework. In essence, content is introduced outside the classroom walls, and class time is used to reinforce the ideas and concepts learned.

My version grew out of two different places. First, I had an instructor who gave me two full periods with his first-year students concerning his Journal Article Review assignment. He originally thought I'd spend the first hour doing a "basic library overview" and then the second date teaching them more specifically about the assignment. I agreed to the 2-date setup, but I politely reminded the instructor we don't really do a overview tour of the website, but I would find a way to use those class periods productively.

Secondly, I'd been playing around with an idea for while. Just trying to find a place to put it into practice. What if we had the students do the searching outside of class and did the rest of the assignment in class? Because let's be honest, the students are coming in more and more capable of typing words into a search box. Getting them to that point...and beyond that point. That's the issue. Why take precious time in class letting them search?

This assignment was perfect for this approach. It required the students to find a scholarly article and write a critique and review of it. Simple on the surface, but SO many skills and topics incoming students would need help with. After talking with the instructor and my backup in the class (Both sections of this class have approx 30 students.), we decided to split up the instruction this way.

Day 1

We started the day breaking the assignment down and figuring out just what we needed to find. Along the way we realized this 'journal' article might not be the kind of article we were used to, as the assignment talked about study participants, methodology and future implications. So we spent the next portion of the period talking about scholarly articles: what, why, who, and how.  Once we figured out what we needed, we moved on to how we searched for it. This class is a 100-level introduction to a major that has 3 distinct tracts: Sports Marketing, Pre-Professional Health, and Athletic Training. So to both take advantage of and explore that, we brainstormed topics about football. We created a topic web on a piece of paper all branching off the basic topic. Each tract was represented and we talked about how many different ideas and research studies might exist out there. And before we were done...we had a bunch of different keywords ready to dump into SPORTDiscus. This left us with about 10 minutes to demo the database and how to request the full-text.

The Homework

The students' job was to come to the next library session (about 3 weeks away) with a print or digital copy of a scholarly article that fit the criteria of the assignment. That's it. Do the searching. Read the abstract. Request the full-text. And bring it with them.

Day 2

The second day is all about using the article and assisting the students with whatever part of the process they need help on. The class activity to start is the "parts of a scholarly article" activity I've talked about previously. After that, we'll set up 3 "Ask-The-Experts" stations in the classroom. One will be staffed by a library staff worker (who is an MLS student). She'll cover APA citations and formatting as well as any searching as we expect a student or two to come in without an article. I will staff another on how to read a scholarly article and where we will find each piece the assignment requires. And the instructor will cover questions about sports terminology, statistics and graphs, as well as any specific questions about the assignments.

A few of the students in this class are upperclassmen. Part of the goal of this instruction is to meet the students wherever they are at skill and experience-wise. If the students are comfortable or have done this type of assignment before, then they basically have work time. Other students will have the opportunity to ask questions in a less intimidating arena than the reference desk or office hours. And it also empowers the students to recognize the skills they already have and hopefully legitimizes the process of asking questions.

We did the first library session already and it seemed to go pretty well. I've seen a few of the students since asking if they had to do anything now that they had their article. I told them they had 2 choices, just bring it with them to the next library date. Or get ambitious and start reading it to see if they can figure it out before they see me again. The next library date will be Oct 14. I'm excited to see how it goes. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Ask the Masses: Evaluation Classes

For this week's Ask the Masses, I want to ask you about your favorite lesson.

What is that one information literacy session that you just can't wait to deliver? Why is it your favorite? Do you get to teach it often?

I really look forward to reading some of these answers.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Evaluations via Blind Textual Analysis

It's evaluation time in lots of my classes. As I'm sure many librarians would agree, this is one of my favorite units to teach. I like to take it one step further than just giving students ideas on how to evaluate sources.

First Steps
I find that I need to provide at least some framework for students to evaluate sources. I typically will share with them several criteria. Many in our field have snazzy names for these criteria. (I'm looking at you, CRAAP test.) I take a somewhat simplified approach. I simply ask students to critically think about a source; ask themselves if this source good enough to earn a place in your paper?

Here are the slides, in which I offer some framework to evaluate sources:

Providing Source Material 
Once students have this very basic framework, I like to introduce them to raw source material. Here are three quotes from various sources, which I have used in class. When presenting these, I have a different student read each paragraph. Can you spot where each are from?

Source One: 
State schools, also known as public schools or government schools, generally refer to primary or secondary schools mandated for or offered to all children by the government, whether national, regional, or local, provided by an institution of civil government, and paid for, in whole or in part, by public funding from taxation. The term may also refer to institutions of post-secondary education funded, in whole or in part, and overseen by government.
Source Two:
Public schools in the United States have become predominantly liberal and atheistic government institutions that employ 3 million people and spend $411.5 billion annually at a cost of $10,770 per student. Liberals censor classroom prayer, the Ten Commandments, sharing of faith in classrooms during school hours, and teaching Bible-based morality. Mandatory homosexual indoctrination is common as early as elementary school in more liberal states. The failures of underperforming public schools are paradigm of socialism, along with landfills and the Canadian healthcare system. 
Source Three:
Since the mid-1800s, most Americans have had access to free public education at the elementary and secondary school levels. The availability of universal schooling is based on the notion that all children have a right to a basic education. However, concerns about the quality of public education in recent years have led to significant changes in the nation's public school system. Some people consider these changes a long-overdue remedy to a failing system. Others worry that the changes will undermine the nation's commitment to providing equal educational opportunity to all Americans.
My favorite part of having students read these three paragraphs comes after they finish the second one. I ask them to raise their hands if they went to public school. Normally 3/4's if not more raise their hands. Then, I ask how their "mandatory homosexual indoctrination" went. Sure that's a comical moment, but it opens the door to a discussion of face validity and how a simple critical reading can prevent a students from using a bad source.

The first quote came from a wikipedia and is actually my choice. The second came from Conservapedia. The third quote is from a subject encyclopedia in Credo Reference.  Many students tend to like the third quote best.

Next term, I want to use a source from a left-leaning organization to reduce bias. Rational Wiki seems to be a good place to find that type of information.  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ask the Masses: Teaching Energy

We've all been in this situation, no matter how committed to or excited you are about your job. How do you recoop spent energy after a particularly draining instruction session? There are some classes that are exhausting but energizing at the same time. The students' energy and your energy are combining to help them learn and you see those light bulb moments happening. Sometimes there are classes that simply exhaust you. How do you recover so you have the energy you need to be successful in your next session (whether it's immediately after a particularly draining session, or a little later in the day)?

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Research Process: Now with More Detail!

Teaching the research process isn't anything new to me. Many of the classes I work with (especially those I work with in an embedded librarian capacity) request that "module" (which is what we call the lesson plans from the First-Year Core Seminar's recommended "menu" of sessions). When I most recently taught the research process session to one of my embedded Core Seminar I groups, however, I took a new approach (while building off of what we've previously used in our instruction). Why a new approach? Well, it came down to necessity. The class I was working with presented a few challenges:

  1. This semester was the first time the instructor had worked with first-year students, especially those outside her field of expertise.
  2. Within the student population there was a wide range of experience levels in regards to research, writing, and study skills.
  3. Usually the research process takes no longer than 20-30 minutes, with time to work at the end of class. This time, however, I had 1 hour and 20 minutes with the group, and was teaching in their classroom, not a computer lab.
  4. Even though I had only worked with this group of students once, I knew from visiting with the instructor, and from observing classroom behavior, that they would need a highly structured lesson in order to stay focused on the content. 

All of the steps below are included in more detail in the presentation (embedded at the end).

In order to further my understanding of the students' background knowledge and experience with research I began the class with some prewriting and reflection. I allowed them plenty of time to reflect and write, then had them partner up with someone next to them. Then I had them switch partners and talk to someone who was sitting across the room. This helped them realize the wide range of experience levels within their class, and it helped me learn more about the students as I wandered from group to group and listened. (I also had students turn in their papers so I could review them in more detail and discuss them with the course instructor.)

Then we discussed the steps of the research process and how to select or narrow your research topic. This is typically all I've done in the past, and then spent some time focusing on selecting a topic. Usually I have students brainstorm three possible topics and do some background searching to see how they want to explore that topic within the requirements of their paper or project. With this group, I spent more time focusing on understanding the requirements of the paper (which had not been introduced or provided to the students before my class session), and study strategies/planning. With each required element for the paper, I also put a date next to it. I explained to the students that the dates listed were the class periods when we would discuss how to do each element, so if they didn't know what something was or were unsure how to go about completing a part of the assignment, that's okay! We're going to discuss it and learn how to do it on the dates listed.

I then provided them with a Research Progress Plan for them to write out on a calendar what they planned to do & when. Though it was only for this one project for this one class, I recommended they do this for all of their assignments and put the information in their planners. This way they could see when big deadlines are coming up for all of their classes and plan ahead in order to do well with all of them. After they took some time to plot out their action plan steps on their own, I showed them my detailed research plan and explained why I planned certain things at certain times. I think seeing the level of detail in my research plan helped the students understand that they are facing a new level of research and writing than what they have done in the past. Though we spent a lot of time focusing on study strategies rather than research strategies, I think it was something important we needed to cover in order for the students to have the foundation they need in order to be successful in their research.

In their reflective pieces they completed at the end of class I was encouraged that several students listed having a research plan as a new strategy they would use in their approach to the project. Others noted the research process as something that was new to them. Previously they had just picked a topic and started writing. I'm hoping that once they put their plan into action and follow the recommended steps of the research process they'll see that having this structure to help guide them helps make their research easier and helps them produce a better written product.

What is something new you've used in your classes that doesn't typically fall under your purview as an instruction librarian, but was something you knew the students needed anyway in order to be successful with the library concepts you were teaching?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Faculty-Librarian collaboration: co-hosting the class

Faculty/librarian collaboration too often is code for what librarians may see as 'faculty acquiescence' and what faculty may see as 'librarian takeover.' Yes, the librarian is helping the faculty by teaching valuable skills, and yes, faculty provide access to the students that the librarian lacks otherwise. But that's not true collaboration. That's substitution.

What we really need to do is co-host the class. Think of it as a balancing of expertise. Or two experts for the price of one. In small college settings, librarians can easily find themselves helping in classes or areas in which they aren't experts (or even have much content experience). Instead of seeing this as a weakness, use this to your advantage. Ask the professor to stay with you at the front of the classroom instead of escaping to the back. Have them interact with you. Ask them clarifying questions or let them introduce the assignment with you in class. Have them introduce you as another resource to take advantage of. And return the favor by praising their expertise in the field. (This works particularly well when discussing scholarly articles and just what kinds of people are authoring those studies!)

I'll be the first to admit this probably won't work with every professor, but I think for a few types of professors it will. Try it with that faculty member you know well and has seen you teach before. The one who knows how you roll. Or start with that faculty member who just can't help but interject in class. Take the interruption and make it part of the instruction. Or that professor who insists on talking with students during class. Make them have that conversation with you so you can guide it toward your instruction.

This idea comes from a colleague of mine who actually responded to my comment about him answering my question instead of the students with..."I was just helping out. We've got this thing going. It's like we're co-hosting the Emmys." It made me and the students chuckle. Later, while the students were helping me brainstorm topics we had the following exchange.

"That's a great topic. I know someone, a friend, that writes about that topic."
"To be fair, you know someone who researches each of these topics. You know everyone."
"What can I say? I go to a lot of conferences and make friends."

Have fun with it. If the students are engaged they'll absorb the lesson better. Bring them into the research conversation by modeling a conversation. No one is expecting teaching (or comedy) gold.  But may we all aspire to be the library version of that Neil Patrick Harris/Hugh Jackman duet on the Tonys a few years ago.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ask the Masses: Encouraging reading and it's domino effect

This week I'm asking my own question!

Our campus is encouraging and promoting a "culture of reading" this year. Some of the faculty have jumped on the reading train and are assigning particular books for class. Others have allowed their students to pick a title themselves (relevant to their course) and read and write about it. Even the traditionally non-reading courses have gotten in on the act: computer graphics students are illustrating short stories they're reading.

I'm really excited about people jumping in to this. My question is what other ways can we encourage professors to add reading elements to assignments? And how do we do so without simply turning our information literacy sessions into "how to find a book on the shelf" ones?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ask the Masses: Call for Questions

Greetings iLOVE readers! 

It is that time of year again: the start of the academic year! That means campuses are bustling, computers are humming, keyboards are clicking, and instruction planning and delivery is happening! 

We'd love to help out by offering up our ideas and posting your IL questions to the rest of the iLOVE readership so they can share their ideas, suggestions, tried-and-true activities, and so much more with the community, but in order to do that we need your questions. All are welcomed to submit their questions and observations using the link below. (You know the ones... The "Has anyone else run into this?" types of scenarios, or the "How and the heck am I going to do this?" questions, or the "I have something that works, but am looking to mix things up or do it better" situations.)

We're looking forward to hearing from you! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Citations Made Easy

I don't know how much energy we all put into teaching (and writing our own) citations, but I think it's quite a bit. Each department has different guidelines and each student brings his/her own background and understanding when they enter college. Some were well prepared in high school and are pros at properly giving credit to their sources. Others may not have ever written a citation, especially not a citation in a particular format.  Some may have "citation trauma" (a term I made up just now, but I'm sure we've all seen: deer in headlights, too afraid to even begin approaching a resource citation).

When something is too overwhelming for me, whether it is understanding a process or trying to come to a major life decision, I try to break it down into less-overwhelming parts. I figured this approach can't hurt with our incoming first-year students either!

It's not revolutionary, earth shattering, or even pretty (but, I suppose, if you feel so inspired you could add some visual pizzazz), but this citation chart is something I have started using to help students extract the citation information they need from an article (below is the APA version). I have 3 different charts for the 3 major citation styles we see students use the most. It is organized in such a way that the students plug in the information so that it is in the same order they'll use when pulling together their citation.

Citation Chart: APA
Author’s last name, author’s first and middle initials (if the middle initials are provided; if they aren’t then don’t worry about it.  Include all authors if there is more than one)
Year the article was published
Title of the article (include subtitle)
Title of the journal the article was published in
Journal volume number
Journal issue number
Page numbers for the article
DOI or Permalink for the article (if you found it electronically in a database or on a website)

Author (formatted like articles)
Year the book was published
Title of the Book (include subtitle)
Location where the book was published
Name of the publisher
Author (formatted like articles. If there isn’t an author, replace it with the organization that put together the website, usually found at the bottom by the copyright date)
Date information for the page or when the whole website was published
Title of the webpage (include subtitle)
The link to the website (be careful here—copy and paste rather than retype)
Newspaper Articles
Author (formatted like articles)
Date the article was published (include the year, month, & day)
Title of the article (include subtitle)
Title of the newspaper the article was published in
Page numbers for the article (if you found it in print)
Permalink for the article (if you found it electronically in a database or on a website)

What are some ways you help students break challenges down into smaller parts?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ask the Masses: Integrating Services within the Library

Jenny asks:

Our library has an opportunity to participate in a new faculty orientation next month. We will share a day (10 a.m.-3 p.m. including lunch) with the writing center and academic technology (also housed in the library). Our Director of Academic Technology recently attended a conference where integrated technology, library, teaching and learning centers were the norm (here is a related article if you are interested). We would like to collaborate more with the academic support services housed in the library to come across as a unified whole to support teaching and learning.

In what creative ways has your library collaborated with instructional technology, the writing center, and other academic support services? How have you conducted new faculty orientation to the library, and what worked/didn't work? Thanks so much for your input!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Using Programming to Build Connections

While this isn't necessarily an IL instruction focused post, it does speak to other areas of librarianship and thought it might be a nice change of pace in the summer.

Usually during the summer, things are a lot quieter at the library. There are fewer students on campus and the classes that are offered tend not to be too terribly research or IL heavy. This allows the librarians and staff to do a variety of tasks to plan and prepare for the fall.  Beyond weeding, meeting with faculty to prep fall classes, collection development, end of the year statistics, and reviewing/revamping our video tutorials (among other things), I wanted to tap into the energy from Summer Reading Programs at public libraries to see if we couldn't get something to help continue to build community (and increase interest in our new leisure collection), and also bring new populations into the library--because one group I realized I didn't see much of was campus staff.

I put together a calendar, a list of prizes (mostly small, inexpensive things), created a few signs, and sent out an email to staff, faculty, and students (and even spouses/partners could participate).

Here’s the info. flyer:

The response has been fantastic! While we have over 25 participants signed up with a mix of populations, the majority of those who show up for events are staff (since they work year-round, whereas most faculty are on 9-month contracts and many students are off campus for the summer). I have had several staff comment on how nice it is to have something like this for folks to get together and just talk about whatever it is they might be reading.

It has also helped me with my librarian duties by building connections around campus, helping get the word out that we have “fun books” at the library too, and it helps me visit with those faculty who do participate to see what their classes are looking like for the fall, hear about any questions they may have, and assist them.

 Another bonus: on all of the prize entry slips I have them indicate whether the book is from our library and (if not) whether they would recommend we purchase it for our collection.  This is going to come in very handy when I go to work on preparing the leisure collection desiderata. (Below are some photos from a few of our events.)




How do you build connections around campus and how do your non-faculty relationships help you with your library duties & instruction? What fun summer programming or activities do you do?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ask the Masses: What journals do you read?

This week's post was about Google Reader and its untimely retirement.  In the post, I spoke about having the opportunity to weed my RSS feeds. This got me thinking. Are there any open access library journals I am missing? What do other Iowa librarians reader in the way of scholarly journals?

For the sake of discussion, this is what I subscribe to:

I know there must be more out there worth reading.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Goodnight, Sweet Prince (Google Reader Post)

March 13, 2013 was a sad day for me. On that fateful day Google announced they were retiring my favorite Google App, the sweet prince, Google Reader. I actually went through the stages of grief.

Denial: Google was joking, right? How could they close Google Reader?
Anger: You're kidding me! They can't close Google Reader! I use that thing everyday!
Bargaining: Maybe if I a sign enough petitions, Google will decide to keep my favorite service up and running. 100,000 might even get Obama to comment on this tragedy.
Depression: How am I going to learn about all my library and canine related news? Am I going to be required to visit each website, separately, like an animal? What is this? 1995?
Acceptance: Fine, I guess I should start to see what alternatives are out there...

That only took about 2 months, trials of many of the alternatives and changing my daily behavior. I think I'm almost there, so let me share what I've learned.

For those who do not know, Google Reader was an RSS aggregator. It was a magical place, where you could store and read all your RSS feeds, regardless of the orignal source. Want to have stories from the New York Times mixed with PhD comics on a single page? RSS aggregation is how you do that.

Many of our academic databases and catalogs provide RSS feeds. These feeds could be for search results, new items, most frequently cited items, journal subscriptions and many others. One of my favorite ways to use this feature was to add journal level feeds to a folder called "Library -- Academic Stuff." (That's a proper name, if I've ever heard one.) I would have a folder populated with articles from Library Hi-Tech, Library Trends, Library Technology ReportsCommunications in Information Literacy... It was a great way to keep track of library literature. (That includes your favorite blog, ilove-instruction.) Especially since most of these are not published daily, you won't get bombarded with articles. For the record, most of those are from our EBSCO and ProQuest subscriptions.  If I am off campus, the link would direct me to our proxy server and then onto the article. I am able to view the title and the abstract from my RSS reader.

What I needed from an RSS
I use RSS all the time. Be it on my iPhone/iPad, work laptop or home laptop, this is a tool that has a huge impact on my life. Loading up my feeds is my 21st century equivalent of reading the paper with coffee. My requirements were simple -- or so I thought.
  • Be cloud based and have an iOS app. This will help me keep all my feeds in sync and I would not need to read the same article twice
  • Don't be ugly
  • Keep in sync between the app and cloud interfaces
  • Have the same keyboard shortcuts
  • List view
  • Free and/or clearly marked advertisements 
Here are some Google Reader alternatives and my impressions
NetVibes -- This one is slightly different than the others on this list. Instead of being an RSS aggregator, it pitches itself as a dashboard of information. You can load your Facebook timeline, Twitter feed, as well as RSS feeds from various websites. The web interface is pretty smooth and neat. I especially liked how the developers had a sense of humor with feeds with post dates in the future. It says, "Doc are you telling me you built a time machine?"

On the negative side, it does not have an iOS app. It does have a web interface, but that will not show me a badge notification for unread feeds. For me and how I want to use RSS, that was a deal killer. If they develop an app down the road, I will be looking at them again. The keyboard shortcuts are close, but not exactly the same. (I like to view one long list of feeds and use the spacebar to move down the list.)

Pulse -- This was another promising app. It is very visually appealing. It uses the magazine look to present articles. It also lets you use your social media accounts as sources of feeds. You are able to quickly post the story to your LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter account. It is also very easy to email the article to friends.

This one also did not flip the bill for me. The organization side felt off. I wanted to view one single aggregated feed from all my sources. Pulse wants to break down each source and display the articles attached to the source. When using RSS, I want to be able to create my own newspaper with sources pulled into one single place. It also does not display badge notifications or unread counts on the app or web interface.

Digg Reader -- Digg Reader is promising and I look forward to seeing what they can do with a bit more time. It is simple and clean. My spacebar keyboard shortcut is the same. One feature I really appreciate is their popular articles section. This is an algorithm that looks at your feeds and pulls out the most popular articles. It's great for when you only have a few minutes and want to see what's new. It is visually clean and straight forward. Their servers are super fast. 

What was I disappointed to see? Two things: I cannot hide previously read items from the all-items feed and badge notifications do not seem to work on the iOS app or web interface. Given that the team had 90 days and 5 people to create this service, I'm hopeful they will catch up and add these features. I'll be willing to revisit this one in a few months. 

The Old Reader -- I really want to support The Old Reader. They are an indie team that created their service about a year ago. At the time, Google had change Google Reader to incorporate more Google+ and less Google Reader. The kind folks at The Old Reader set about to recreate some Google Reader goodness. I think they have done an excellent job. The look is pretty close to Google Reader, circa 2011. Its keyboard shortcuts are right on. Surprisingly, they announced a partnership with Feeddler, my RSS app of choice on iOS devices. 

The downside is that their servers are slow. I would wait a decent amount of time for feeds to load. Also – I found myself wanted to explore new methods of viewing RSS feeds. It does not have any sort of tile view for articles. You only have title view.

Feedly -- This one seems to be everyones favorite, with good reason. It's clean, straightforward, servers are fast enough, and offers multiple ways to view your feeds. They have a tile and title view. The app I've found that works with Feedly is fantastic. Newsify has really struck a cord with me. It reminds me of a newspaper, which is what I'm finding more desirable than just a title list. (This is not to say I don't want a title view. Each skin has a time and purpose.)

Negatives, there are a few. When I first looked at Feedly it wasn't exactly cloud based. They required you to install a browser plugin. Very recently, they corrected that error. Had they not, I would not consider using the service. I also find the interface a bit bare. It just seems like a gratuitous use of white space. Newsify helps to fix this issue on iOS devices.

Where are we now? 
So, I've evaluated lots of RSS aggregators. The five mentioned above are the top contenders in my mind. Each one has strengths and negatives. It will be up to each one of us to find the one that fulfills our needs best. I am using a combination go Digg Reader, The Old Reader and Feedly w/ Newsify. It's a pain to switch between the three, but I have not found my RSS home yet. 

One good thing is that I was able to reevaluate my sources. Gone are the numerous tech blog websites. I've replaced them with Ars Technica and NPR's All Tech Considered. I've removed a few dead library blogs and replaced them with academic journals. I look forward to being more well read. 

My final score in Google Reader:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ask the Masses: Instruction Evaluation Tools

Anne Marie asks:

I am looking for examples of 2 evaluation tools (hopefully online & short):

1) students evaluate librarians' teaching (was the session effective in helping you with the project, how comfortable did you feel with the librarian, etc.)

2) teaching faculty evaluate librarians' teaching (did the session meet your needs, did the students' projects improve, etc.)

I'm happy to look at those from other institutions you may know of. Thanks!

Share your answers/observations/experiences in the comments section below!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Guest Post: Structure, Value, and Meaning of Scholarly Journal Articles

iLOVE welcomes a guest post from Dan Chibnall, User Services and Instruction Design Librarian at Grand View University in Des Moines, IA.


Students making the transition from high school to college have quite a few things to learn when it comes to the research process. As librarians, we help make it easy for them by teaching information literacy skills throughout their educational career in college. We help them isolate problems, access the best information available, evaluate what they find, learn how to use it in a project, and do it all ethically and legally.

But we all know it's simply not that easy. There are many challenges that we face as instructors, some of which are simply because we take many tasks for granted. For example, we all know how to read a scholarly article and understand the basics of it so we can summarize it or analyze it. However, our students are highly likely to possess very few skills in this area. That's why if we are ever going to get students to use more scholarly articles in their research, we first have to teach them how to read them.

In my class, Computer & Information Literacy, we do an activity that helps the students understand the structure, value, and meaning of scholarly journal articles. I've been using this activity for only a couple of semesters now, so I'm still tweaking it and making it better, but in this blog post I want to share with you the nuts and bolts of how it works.

I usually begin the lesson with a short, concise lecture on the differences between original research and literature reviews. At this point the students are already familiar with what scholarly journals are and have accessed them at least once via an electronic database. I touch on key terms to look for and show differences in the structure between original research and review. Then we do a brief activity where students look at some pre-selected articles (I save them in MyEBSCO or just create a list of hyperlinks) and have them try to identify if they are original or review.

Then we begin the larger activity. I pre-select one article before I come to class. The key to making this activity work is to break the article up into sections: discussion/conclusion, introduction, results, and methods. I get the students to form four groups based on the sections of the article. For example, each member of the Methods Group would receive just the methods section of the article. For the next 10 minutes or so, each group has to work together to figure out what their section is talking about.

During those 10 minutes, I give the students a series of questions that they have to try and answer. Every group receives the same questions even though they are reading different sections of the same article. The questions are:

  • What is the hypothesis?
  • What do I hope to learn from this?
  • What is the conclusion the authors come up with?
  • Why was this study performed?
  • What do the data and results look like?
  • How did they acquire their data? What methods?
  • What are some of the articles in the reference list that would be helpful researching this topic further?

The key here is that they won't be able to fully answer all the questions without the next step in the process. After the students have read through their section, discussed it amongst the group, and tried to answer the questions, I then assemble them back into one big group. In the big group, each section group takes a turn going through what they discovered and learned. It works best if you have them go in this order: discussion/conclusion, introduction, results, methods. It's kind of a "working backwards" method of understanding the article. After they have all spoken, the students have a much better idea of how the study was put together and what it all means.

When it/s all over, I give the students some tips on reading articles in the future: mine the reference pages for helpful articles, use highlighters in different colors (one color for questions, one for connecting ideas), grab your citation info at the beginning, etc.

It's a fun activity and the students enjoy it because they get to be involved in building something together. Plus, they don't have to read the entire article, just a piece of it.

Do you have a similar activity? Let me know how you teach this aspect of information literacy by responding in the comments below.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

How to design instruction: break it down

As some of you may know or remember, I have very little training in instructional pedagogy, but I'm a liberal arts grad who had some amazingly inventive teachers who has since surrounded herself with some really smart friends. That said, one of my favorite parts of my job is brainstorming and planning instruction whether that be my own, or helping other professors develop research (or non-library) assignments.

Last week I found myself helping a friend adapt college-level content about sports marketing to make it appropriate for 1st graders attending a college for kids program on campus. At first I was excited about the challenge, but quickly realized that while I knew how to build creative assignments for college students, first graders were a bit out of my league!

So I turn to one of those really smart friends of mine who works with kids that age. Her suggestion? Break it down to its component parts and relate those to something they already know, or are familiar with and make it active. As soon as she told me that, I felt a bit like I'd been hit with a brick. Obviously that's what you do. That's what I do to attack an assignment for my college students. I'd been doing that without framing it that way, but that was the basic progression. Take the goal of the project and the method to getting there. Break it down into manageable steps, ideas, processes, concepts, etc. Basically find its component parts, whatever form that may take. And then you relate it to what they've done or known before. You want to teach them about subject headings and authority control? Relate it to Facebook photo tagging. Annotating a text? That's a bit like live tweeting in the book. Find something that makes sense to them and build on that prior knowledge. And then?? Then you make it active. You teach the concepts or theories or ideas or whatever, and then you let them practice it. You have them apply it. Have them put it to use right away.

So when we left our heroes, they were grappling with sports marketing for kids. My friend brought in the content broken down with some idea of how to make it a project. I added a bit of the active appeal and the link to the familiar. And suddenly we've got a week long project of creating a team, pieces of marketing plans including price structure and promotion, all wrapped up in a book to take home to their parents. Ta da! But that wasn't really the ta da moment.

That moment? It came later. When the faculty member realized he could use this same project with his college students. We built it to be active for 7 year old because that is how you make things "fun" and also how you cope with 7 year olds when you don't make a habit of dealing with them on a regular basis. :) But the active piece with college students? That is that the chance to do some "real world" application. That's the buy in. It's where the rubber meets the road. You teach them the theory and then they put it to use, reinforcing it right away.

And my takeaway from this endeavor? That translating process can go either way. I'm not usually in the habit of building things for little kids, but I love the idea of break it down to component parts, relate to what they know, and make it active. We're all kids at heart, right? If it works for them, why not for us?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ask The Masses: Credit Instruction

Julius Asks:

Does anyone else have a credit library course? I'm very interested in learning how many of these courses each librarian is able to teach. We've been discussing how many credit courses are too many for a librarian. I have dreams of growing my program to have several 8-week, 1-credit courses each term. The terms are 16 weeks, so I should be able to squeeze them into the schedule.

Alternatively, how many one-shots does each librarian teach at your school?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Credit, Embedded or One-Shot?

One of my favorite topics to write about in library school was information literacy. I used to love talking about the various intricacies of why credit library instruction was far superior to that of one-shots. At the time, I was a graduate teaching assistant and helped teach a 4-4-3 load of an undergraduate, three-credit course for one academic year. That experience helped shaped how I view a librarian's teaching, student learning and academic culture. 

For-Credit Instruction
The for-credit course I helped teach was a full university course. It was 16-weeks, involved long assignments and multiple choice quizzes, but not a paper. The students were assigned a proper grade on the A-F scale, corresponding to their % of points earned. Each section had about 30-students, with one section being specifically for student-athletes. (More on the student-athletes in a later post.) 

It was required by the Mass Communication and Communications departments. That tended to drive decent enrollment numbers, as well as giving them vital skills for their majors. Despite being required by each major, there was no direct collaboration between the Library and Information Science professor and other departments. I tended to view this as a stake for academic freedom and a full acceptance of the librarian as a professor. 

The general outline for the course was as follows: 
Orientation / Learning Management System
The Research Process
Critical Thinking Part 1
Critical Thinking Part 2
Citing Information Sources Part 1
Citing Information Sources Part 2
The Internet, Virtual Libraries and Directories
Search Engines: General
Search Engines: Google, Bing and Wolfram/Alpha
Library Classification Systems and Catalogs
Periodical Databases Part 1
Periodical Databases Part 2
Specialized Web Databases
Ethics in Information and Copyright
Finals Week

I should also note this course was delivered online for two of the four sections, each semester. The last time I helped run the course was in 2008. 

That's how I was taught to teach information literacy. 

Fast Forward to Being Tasked with Teaching Information Literacy on my Own
When I made my way to Iowa, I was tasked with teaching information literacy. Up to that point, my institution had no formal instruction program. (Truthfully, we still don't.) There was a single dreaded one-shot in our freshmen experience course, but nothing beyond that. One-shots were given once the faculty member requested a librarian.  

At the time of my appointment, there was some excitement about the library. My colleagues had just finished an iPad pilot, which was successful. I had started off meeting with faculty to determine how best to integrate information literacy in their courses. I was lucky and managed to have 16 one-shots in my first term.

First Experiment with For-Credit Instruction
Some of my faculty colleagues had been open to discussing a for-credit library course. They encouraged me to use J-Term to experiment and see if it would go through. My proposed course was approved by the faculty senate in October and would be on the books in J-Term. For the rest of my first semester, I worked to drill down that 3-credit, 16-week course mentioned above into a 1-credit, 2 week course. I managed to do it, but poorly. 

The outline for the new course was as follows: 
Orientation / Library Website
Research Process, Research Question Development 
Introduction to Information, Information Timeline, Scholarly Communication
Critical Thinking, Source Evaluation
Advanced Searching, Keywords, Subjects
Sources on the Open Web, Government Data, Search Engines
Working Session -- Students needed to complete an information hunt
Periodical Databases
Citing Information Sources
Working Session -- Students worked on citations in class
Gross format of APA, Numbers, Headings
Annotated Bibliography 
Working Session -- Students worked on Annotated Bibliographies in class
Ethics in Information 

The first term two students enrolled. I was able to still run the course, since it was an
experiment for the library. From the evaluations, the students seemed to enjoy the
course, but felt there should have been a paper. Their comments also said it felt
disjointed from their other courses. I’d have to agree. 

A New Approach 
The following Spring term, I was approached by an education faculty member. She heard about my J-Term course and that I was able to teach APA style.  When she expressed desire for me to come into her course, I asked if we could try this embedded librarianship thing I heard about. It seemed like a nice meeting between for-credit and one-shot instruction. She agreed and gave me 5, 50-minute sessions in her course. I would be able to give assignments, which would count for ten-points on their paper. 

That outline was as follows: 
Research Questions / Keyword Development
Sources on the web, government data, Periodical Databases
Evaluation of sources
APA Style
APA Paper formatting 

This, we quickly learned was too short of a time frame to cover all that material in-depth.  Today, it has grown into 8-sessions, with a separate syllabus, but still part of the course. 

The more refined outline is as follows:
Research Question Development 
Searching for Information
Web Sources 
Academic Databases 
Evaluation of information 
APA Citations
APA paper formatting & working session 
APA formatting working session 

From student feedback, the students seem to love that partnership. Anecdotally from the faculty, their grades on their papers have improved, more sources are being consulted and cited properly. This is a partnership we both feel has worked very well. 

Another J-Term
Come this last J-Term, I learned my one-credit course was on the schedule and had an enrollment of over 12 students. (Great enrollment for a J-Term course at my institution, especially considering it is not a requirement.) When I ran that course, I used the same 8-sessions outline I used in the education embedded sessions and included more time to work in class. I also required a 5-page paper, with at least 7 sources. As the instructor, I feel the students learned a great deal. The grades had a normal distribution (okay, may skewed towards the left a little bit) and were as expected.

Finally a One-Credit Course that Worked
This last spring, I was asked to work with a nursing faculty to reconceptualize her four-credit introductory to the BSN program course. The course ran 8-weeks and I would have one-credit's worth of time to teach them the same material I was teaching in the education collaboration. There was one catch, it was fully online and I could not require synchronous meetings. 

I ended up recording my lectures for the course and posted them in the LMS. I also posted them to our website. You can check them out here:

A few days ago, I found out the nursing faculty submitted my syllabus and codified the course into the nursing curriculum. 

Where to Go From Here?
So I’ve had some successes and failures with instruction in my first two years. I count my first experience with for-credit instruction to be one of my first year’s biggest failures. However, it did turn into a great success, with the nursing department taking the bones of the course and using it in their curriculum. My hope for the future is to have one more department sign on to either an embedded series or 1-credit course. From there, I feel I can make the case to require this 1-credit course for more, if not all, majors. 

Questions for You

So, you, kind iLove reader, does your school have for-credit instruction?  Do you like doing embedded sessions? How about one-shots?