Monday, April 29, 2013

Presentation Technologies in the Classroom

Teaching our students how to give a good presentation is something that is often overlooked, but is so valuable! As part of our freshman Core Seminar I, I work with a wide range of classes. Some professors required students to give end-of-the-semester presentations while others didn’t. For those students who were required to give presentations, I didn’t want to do the typical “here are some options for you to use as visuals and now I click here to show you this feature and now I click here to show you another” type of demonstration. Ummm...Boring! But I also didn’t want to go too wild and crazy, just based on the personalities of the class and the classroom culture. Here’s what I came up with:

For the first 5-7 minutes of class it was the “traditional” setup where I gave my own presentation discussing the following points (with more detail than is outlined below):

  • Why is giving presentations important?
    • Here we discussed the need to give presentations in future courses as they advance through college, give presentations as they enter the workforce, etc. I also mentioned that it’s a handy skill to have if they ever wish to convey their ideas clearly and concisely to another human.
  • Intro to the basics of giving a good presentation.
    • In this part I discussed their need to really know their stuff, inside and out, do quality research, know the classroom where they’d be presenting, and practice (for the love of Pete, practice!).
  • Make an impression, and make it a good one.
    • I reinforce the need to start strong by having their opening memorized, how important it is to dress to impress, have a strong ending, and be sure that their key points are addressed (are they actually talking about what they’re supposed to be talking about?). I do give the warning to watch out for pacing, stay positive, and watch their posture, gestures, and vocal habits.
  • Remember your audience.
    • I mention the bored: bored equation--If the presenter is bored, the audience is most certainly bored, so finding a way to keep the audience’s attention, make it interactive, show your enthusiasm as a presenter, and talk TO the audience (not AT the audience) is so important.  If they can pull in a story or a real-life experience, that will help the audience connect with them as a speaker and the topic or issue they are trying to share. Oh, and don’t forget eye contact!

Then, I explained to the students that they would soon become the teachers. I printed out the questions (below) that each group would have to be able to demonstrate and show to their classmates how to use their assigned technology: PowerPoint (yes, some freshmen haven’t had to use PowerPoint before), Prezi, Google Drive Presentations. Because the classes can sometimes be pretty large, I usually wound up having two groups exploring the same technology tool. This doubling up isn’t ideal, but works--and can actually be helpful when one group shows one way to do something and the other finds another or uses a shortcut.  

I give the groups some “sandbox” time (time to get in there and “play” with their assigned technology) and then they present back (sometimes creating a very meta presentation about how to make a presentation using their tool, sometimes just walking the class through the steps). I prefer this hands-on approach because it’s more practical and forces the students to break that barrier of trying out a new technology.  If they’ve experimented with it in class, or have seen their classmates be successful with something new, then they are more likely themselves to try out a new piece of presentation software.


Things to consider/answer:

  • Tell us about the software.
    • Do you need to create an account to use this?
    • Is this something you purchase?
  • What are the basics:
    • How do you add information?
    • How do you edit information?
    • How is information displayed?
  • Advanced:
    • Can you add video? If so, how do you add video?
    • How do you add images?
    • Can you add transitions?
    • How do you change the way it looks? (Things like fonts, colors, images, layout, etc.)
    • Can multiple people edit the presentation at once?
    • Can you add charts and graphs? If so, how?
    • Can you create printouts/handouts?
  • What makes this presentation software different from the others? What makes it stand out?
  • What are some other features or elements that are important for your classmates to know about as they use this?

What other presentation tools or approaches do you use with your students?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Working in an Academic Library with a Small Staff

Between instruction, reference, committees, and other appointments, all of us run around pretty much like this:


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Professional development for instruction

Beth asks:
I am in the process of developing instruction-related professional development for library colleagues who will be taking on new or expanded teaching roles next Fall. I would love to hear suggestions for activities, readings, experiences, etc. to incorporate into this professional development work. What helped (or is currently helping) you in your ongoing growth as an instruction librarian? What have you used in similar types of training that has been successful for you? Do you have a mental checklist of things that Every Instruction Librarian Should Know/Do? If so what's on the list? 
Truthfully, I am not very far along in my planning for this and so far I have just some basic ideas about areas to cover: adult learning styles, developing student learning outcomes, incorporating reflection, formative assessment, and some nuts & bolts things that just specific to our institution. I look forward to any ideas or recommendations you may have and I will be happy to share more details as they come into focus. Thanks!

What a great question Beth! What do you think? What advice would you give? How do you encourage your own professional growth?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Extended metaphors: useful or too much?

During my undergraduate library internship I was required to read and review articles about academic librarianship. It's been 7 years, but one of those articles has stuck with me.

The article described the utility of using metaphors to teach research skills. The metaphor this author used was that of making a salad. It went into great detail about each type of thing you might put in a salad and what its research counterpart would be. While reading it, all I could think does that help? The students have two things to remember now the actual process and the metaphor. I simply couldn't understand how those two processes were related. After writing my review/critique of the article, I put the idea of using such an extended metaphor out of my mind and proceeded to get my MLS, not really expecting to teach.

Fast forward almost five years teaching undergraduates the ins and outs of information literacy, and I might just be changing my mind about that extended metaphor idea. I'm not sure I'm ready to jump into that salad metaphor, but I have employed a few of my own in the past few semesters.

While watching Castle one night (see this post for more about my tv viewing habits and IL) I figured out how I was going to explain what being a historian meant to my undergrads in a gen ed course. Being a historian is like being a detective and a story-teller. First you need to look at your primary source and figure out what is going on. Then, you need to figure out what kind of story that artifact can help you tell. What is the broader narrative that the artifact fits into? (For those of you who haven't seen the show, Castle is about a dectective in the NYPD who is shadowed by an award-winning mystery writer!) I used the metaphor in class the following week. I'm not sure the students embraced it entirely, but it did seem to resonate or at least make sense to them.

Later in the semester I was struggling to explain the process of writing an evidence-based argument in a research paper. As a class we were working with a research question, 4 articles and trying to figure out what kinds of things we're looking for in the articles. And what the difference between the factors we were finding and the facts. And then it hit me mid-discussion, it's basically a murder mystery.

I'd previously used the idea of quoting something from a literature review as being "academic hearsay." But expanding the metaphor worked well. Your reference question essentially becomes a "who done it?" You find evidence (i.e. just the facts, ma'am) from the articles. You combine all the evidence to come to a conclusion about who the culprit is. That culprit (the factors to college student success--our research question) becomes your thesis. And then you spend the paper trying to prove that your guy (thesis) actually did it using the evidence. The intro and conclusion of your paper can be a bit more theatrical, like the opening and closing statements you see on legal shows. As a metaphor it works decently well. And it relates something the students understand to a new process without the huge disconnect.

What do you think? Do you use metaphor in your instruction? What's your favorite? Does it work or do you get the blank stares of disconnect from your students?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

IPAL Preconference Ask the Masses Ideas Recap

Here are some of the ideas discussed during the Ask the Masses round. We're always accepting more questions on the blog--Submit yours here: Thanks to all who attended!

Ask the Masses Questions and Responses

A question was asked about encouraging faculty to attend library faculty development sessions. What are some ways you encourage faculty to attend professional development sessions? Do you collaborate with other departments on campus? Try to fold sessions into other training days? Videos? One-on-One training?I've been encouraged by new faculty members' willingness to participate, but what about "veteran" faculty members who "already know everything"? Suggestions:
  • Visit with new faculty as subject liaisons
  • Show what example IL sessions would look like in 100, 200, 300 level classes
  • Faculty testimonials--help spread the word within the department by asking faculty you've previously worked with to mention library services. Having them sing your praises will hold more weight than a song and dance routine selling library services to new faculty. 
  • Email new faculty and offer to buy coffee to help start the conversation (here you can “sneak in the vegetables” and help give new faculty context about the student population, their skill levels, and how their assignments may or may not be doable for students, or help them realize what skills students do and do not come in with)
  • Sometimes, developing a lesson plan that shows the professor that the students don't know what the professor thinks they know (in a way that doesn't intimidate or discourage the students) and have the professor actually see that they aren't able to meet the objectives as they stand without making modifications to the assignment or activity. (Kind of like the Princess Bride's "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.") 
  • Sometimes just those informal connections, grabbing a beer, wandering the halls in your liaison areas to help start conversations, being available and open, breaking out of the library clique and sitting with non-library folks at faculty/staff meetings and campus events, etc. can help open faculty development and instruction doors. 
  • Sending news items to faculty who might find it interesting (even if they don't currently have any library instruction sessions or library assignments)
  • Setting up Google Alerts for the professors names in your liaison areas and then emailing them when you get a notification that they've published or made the news
  • In terms of building relationships with faculty, some institutions require professors to meet with faculty whenever they are working on a new course proposal. Others suggested volunteering with non-library events around campus, particularly those for which you are the liaison. Things like helping host, set up, ushering, signage and marketing, etc.

Another question was asked about faculty status vs. non-faculty status of librarians at institutions, just to get a general idea of what policy is around the state.

  • There was a mix of both faculty and non-faculty, along with several hybrid librarians who are considered non-tenure faculty and have duties associated with both faculty and staff.
  • There were also some concerns brought up about faculty attitudes toward librarians within non-faculty librarian institutions; disregarding librarian contributions because "oh, you're not faculty." 

Finally, the group discussed whether or not professors should attend library instruction sessions with their students. There were some really good points brought up on both sides.

  • Some like having the professor there because it is good for them to be available to answer questions about the assignment guidelines and requirements.
  • Others like not having the faculty there because 1) it shows trust in the librarians that they're willing to hand over their classes to the librarians and 2) it gives the librarian more freedom to teach and speak freely, teach in their own way. Someone else liked the sessions without the professor because the students are more honest about their struggles, successes, and points of confusion. 
  • At my institution we require professors to be in the sessions with the students because oftentimes students will see that the professor isn't in attendance and either 1) skip the session or 2) not pay attention during the session. Also, we think it is important for the faculty member to be there to help clarify expectations (as mentioned above) and this helps us “sneak in the vegetables” with the faculty and teach them about library resources and offerings. I'm also a big fan of "talking the talk and walking the walk," so if I expect students to be able to do something, I'm going to make sure I'm able to do it (and make sure they see that I'm there alongside them). 

Monday, April 8, 2013

IPAL Preconference Instruction Ideas Recap

Here are some of the ideas discussed during the lightning round. Thanks to all who attended, and don't forget to submit your evaluation (check your email, or the post just below this one)!

Lightning Round Instruction Ideas

(I’ll do my best to give credit to those who shared their ideas, but if I missed something or get something wrong, please mention it in the comments & I’ll go back and edit the post)

White Board Name Tags
Using small whiteboards (they’re 2-sided and can be found in the Target One-Spot) with magnet clips (or large binder clips) as stands are a great way to learn student names and help you keep track of research topics. You can also have students write something about themselves on the boards as part of an ice breaker for the class. (Becky Canovan)

Telephone Pictionary
Start the students with this set of instructions (or something similar):
Pictaphone (Telephone Pictionary)
This activity is good for reinforcing primary source importance or good for reinforcing why it's important to track back sources, know authorship, how stories change over time.
  • You can't use phrases, words, or letters in your drawings
  • No talking
  • Pass when I say pass
  • Work quickly (because you don't have much time)
  • You will start with a prompt (BOX 1). Read that prompt and then draw (to your best ability) a picture that demonstrates or represents the prompt (BOX 2). 
  • After 1.5 minutes, scoot the box up in the viewer so that only your drawing and the next blank box is ready to go (BOX 3); then pass it LEFT.
  • In box 3, write a caption/description of what is happening in BOX 2.
  • After 1 minute, scoot the box up in the viewer so that only your caption and the next blank box are ready for the next person.  Pass it to the LEFT
  • Continue this way until all boxes are filled or until I say stop. 
Jenny Parker remembered a version of this called Telestrations and the version I learned from (but it took me 3 years to remember what it was called) was Scribblish. (Cara Stone)

Keyword Categories Activity
This activity was for an upper level science course, Environmental Toxicology. Anne Marie knew the topics ahead of time, and knew there would be many keyword challenges (they were to evaluate a specific organism and the influence of a toxin on that organism). As an avenue for brainstorming, she took cardstock and generated a series of keywords for four different categories (one category for each wall).  They were categories not specific to the discipline, so one was the “rear end” category (butt, buttox, badonkadonk, rear end, hiney, etc.) , another was “restroom” words (restroom, bathroom, loo, potty, etc.), another was for “carbonated beverages” (carbonated beverages, pop, soda, coke, etc.), and the last category was nicknames for her daughter (which included “fluffy butt” which was interesting for the students working to sort the “rear end” category). The cards were mixed together and then presented to the students. The students had to organize the terms into categories, rank them from broad to narrow, and then define the category using the broadest terminology.  They would then brainstorm ideas/terms for their own topics and then the librarian did a short demonstration of the database, applying the keyword ideas. (Anne Marie Gruber)

Keyword Haikus
Jennifer has her students write haikus about their research topics, which helps them think outside the box to generate additional key terms. (Jennifer Sterling)

Crowdsourcing Haikus
Becky precreated haikus, with some help from her friends, related to their class topics. Then the students had to identify what the topic was based on the clues found within the haiku.  Read more here: (Becky Canovan)

Visual Literacy and Keywords
Another Becky finds images that illustrate a topic, and then has students describe the picture. They then discuss the many words that help describe or represent the topic from the pictures, which helps students realize all of the keyword possibilities. (Becky Alford)

Brown Bag Categories
Anne Marie does something similar with groups of objects within a paper bag. You can either have students work to describe the items, or have them try to figure out what the common bond/category might be.  (Anne Marie Gruber)

Paper or Project Topic Press Conference
Julie has struggled with getting students to realize that the library instruction session they’re coming for isn’t the same one they came for last time. She uses ties as a prop to help set the scene for a class “press conference.”  In her public speaking session, she has one volunteer (who thinks they know their topic pretty well) come to the front of class and field questions from the "press" (the rest of the class).  This helps students realize what they do and don’t know about their topics, and what they need to further research. As they are fielding questions, Julie writes down keywords they might use to do additional research. As librarians, we know that asking questions is the best way to get to the heart of a topic or assignment, but students often haven’t learned that lesson yet. Once the class has seen this in action with one person, Julie has the students pair up and have one person asking questions and recording keywords while the other fields the questions.
Learn more here: (Julie Arensdorf)

MAD MEN Database Marketing
Julie also has a fun activity where she has the students pair up or get into small groups. Each group is assigned a database to work with, and it is their group’s job to sell the database to the class. What are some of the cool features? Why is this awesome? What kind of information is found within, and how could that be helpful? They also have to show at least one of the cool features that would wow their “clients” (their classmates).  (Julie Arensdorf)

Keyword Taboo
Becky uses the rules (and buzzer) from Taboo to help students generate keywords. Read more here:
Instead of using Poll Everywhere, Dan Chibnall tried Google Forms with the same activity and it worked like a charm! (Becky Canovan)

Web Evaluation with Google Forms
Students can share web selection and evaluation rationale with you through Google Form. Creating fields for their instructor’s name, course section, topic, URL, and a place where they can describe or explain why they chose their website.  This can all be done in class and you can follow it up with a discussion of a few selected submissions.  You can also follow up with the rest of the websites (by making comments in the Google spreadsheet) and share the types of resources students think are “high quality” with professors, who sometimes assume students already know how to select quality materials online. You can also link it in the class page for students to look over. You can make the student submissions anonymous by simply not having a field for them to enter their name or other identifying information.  (Anne Marie Gruber)

Julie Arensdorf also uses Google Docs for pre/post assessment. Students submit a website they think would be good, and then they discuss it as a group. In one class this nicely lent itself to a discussion of the anatomy of a URL, noting that just because there’s the word “Harvard” somewhere in the title or URL doesn’t necessarily mean that the website is something Harvard actually endorses or supports.

Boolean Operator Simon Says
With first semester freshmen, Beth likes to have the students play Boolean operator Simon Says (i.e. If you’re wearing Central gear stand up; if you’re wearing Central gear OR glasses stand up; if you’re wearing Central gear AND glasses stand up, If you’re wearing glasses but NOT wearing Central gear stand up, etc.). It gets students thinking about how they combine their keywords impacts their search results to narrow or expand their options.  (Beth McMahon)

Julie Arensdorf also uses something similar, but uses coffee as a...I don’t want to say temptation or bribe, so let’s just go with “motivating factor.” For some of the earlier classes she’ll say that she could really go for a cup of coffee, but she can’t buy coffee for everyone so she uses Boolean to help narrow down the number of students she’ll buy coffee for. (i.e. Those wearing Loras gear--that’s too many, those wearing Loras gear and glasses--still too many, etc.) And then she gets it so narrow that no students are standing & no one gets coffee.

Kid Lit Scenarios
In our literature for children class, we have a series of library info lit sessions; in one we discuss reluctant readers, read-alike options, book suggestions, hi-lo readers, and resources to help you find books to suggest. Then the students break into small groups and find recommendations for their "student." They are given a scenario and then share their responses on Blackboard. This way the whole class can start to think about options for their classroom library. (Cara Stone)

When IL Sessions Don’t Have an Attached Assignment
Sometimes classes or pre-school-year orientation programs have a required library day but don’t have an attached assignment.  Instead of keeping everything general, Becky and Anne Marie created a mock assignment that taught research skills in a college prep context. The assignment they created addressed the question “How do you approach a library assignment?” They created a worksheet (see below) with some basic questions and set the students loose in Credo. Then they brought the students’ focus back to the group to discuss some of the questions and research strategies.  (Becky Canovan and Anne Marie Gruber)
Getting Started - The Research Process - Gruber and Canovan - Dubuque by stonca01

Calvin Does Research
Another fun resource from Becky was the Calvin Does Research page. Check it out below! (Becky Canovan)
Calvin Does Research by stonca01

Check back on Thursday for a recap of the Ask the Masses discussion!

IPAL Preconference Instruction Interest Group Evaluation Spring 2013

Thursday, April 4, 2013

What is iLove and why go to the IPAL interest group?

What is iLove? I could rehash it here, but I'll let you check out our About Us tab at the top. We outline our Mission, Objectives, and who were are right there. More importantly, I'm here today to talk to you about the face-to-face manifestation of iLove.

What: "Beg, Borrow, and Steal"-- the IPAL Information Literacy Interest Group session

When: April 4, 2013, 1:30-3:30pm

Where: Drake University

Who: YOU!! What does that actually mean? Instruction librarians from Iowa private colleges

Why: Because it will be awesome. Ok, really, why should you show up to this? Because we as instruction librarians are coming together to talk about what we do on a daily basis. Something most of us rarely get to do. Are you the only instruction person at your institution? We can help! Would you like to hear what other people are doing? We can help! Do you have an assignment you just don't know what to do with? We can help! Would you just like to know you're not the only one out there in this lonely instruction librarian world? You aren't! And we can help!

We'll break down the session into 3 parts that mirror what we're doing here on the the iLove blog. We'll do a session of "Instruction Ideas." This will basically be a lightning round of IL sessions, lessons, tips, tricks, or even flops! Have an idea you want to share?? Let us know at

Then we'll flip it around and put the rest of us in the hot seat for "Ask the Masses." It's your chance to pose that question, problematic assignment, or instruction quandary to a group of people who might actually be able to help. Have a question you'd like to pose? Check out our "Ask the Masses" tab at the top of this page for more details.

And then we'll do some "Librarian Snark." Yep, you know what we're talking about. Those funny videos, comics, blog posts, memes that just make you giggle. Or laugh out loud. Or those ones where you really wish you'd not opened that link at the reference desk because oh my goodness are you getting weird looks for snorting.

Before all that begins we want to take some time to get to know each other and all our crazy hidden instruction talents and expertises (expertise just doesn't do it justice!).

Sounds like a blast, right? Good. You should come. No extra fees, just make sure to sign up for the Interest Group on the IPAL Conference Registration Form. Cannot wait to see (or meet) you all.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Inspiration: Be open to the possibilities

Looking for instructional design inspiration in all the wrong places?? Let me tell you about my experience.

I've been asked a few times about where I get my ideas for my instruction. I honestly wish I had a simple answer, but the truth is it's a messy, weird, and entirely unpredictable process. I think the best answer for me is: in the most unexpected and odd places. Sure I get some from my high school and college teachers, blogs, twitter, etc, but I've listed just a few of the less traditional places below.

  • reality television--I LOVE reality tv. Especially cooking shows. I've got an instruction session I designed off the show Chopped, and one based on the mise en place race from Top Chef named after The Amazing Race. Why reality tv? It's all about the competition. Finding a way to break the students up and give them a little friendly competition tends to get them engaged with the content. And besides, a lot of times it actually gets them up and moving around the room!
  • game shows--Before my reality tv obsession, I was pretty into game shows. We've all done the Jeopardy thing right? Mine was the Criminology research edition. Plus I have multiple activities I've designed based on my fave Price Is Right games. No...not Plinko...but can you imagine?? Instead of putting items in order by price, my students put events or part of a scholarly article in order by chronology. Complete with the flip open reveal. I've also done some simple matching games reminiscent of the price matching games. Some day I would love to do something based on Family Feud. Maybe my next lesson on keywords. Or what about a searching exercise based on Minute to Win It. And can you imagine one based on Supermarket Sweep?? Oh I really want to make that happen! 
  • red carpet shows/sporting events--I'm not talking award shows or the competitions. I'm talking about the live commentary. That's the best part, right? I channeled that live blogging aspect to teach students how (NOT) to give presentations. What if we used the idea of fashion police to teach source evaluation or sports commentary/play-by-play to look at explaining the research process or a way to explain a research log?
  • board games--I've played keyword Taboo in a few classes. And in another I've taken my love of that game a bit further. I need to lead with the fact that I've worked with this prof for 6 semesters now. For the past 3 semesters I've taken the Taboo buzzer into his class with me. The lesson is a 5-day unit on how to read and use scholarly articles. After seeing it twice, the instructor got very excited about the questions I would ask in class, get a bit impatient and answer for his students. I tried reminding him that I knew that he knew the answers, but needed to know if they did. Then he'd end up asking really leading questions. And that's when I brought in the buzzer. You know in Taboo when someone says a word they aren't supposed to use, you buzz them? Yeah, I do the same thing (playfully) to the instructor. The students love the interaction between us. And, they really love it when I screw up and end up answering my own question and I get to buzz myself! What if we didn't stop there? I've heard of Clue-based library orientations. What about Scattergories keywords, or cited reference Jenga or something with Cards Against Humanity??
  • children's librarians--Who says that what works with preschoolers won't work with college students? What do you do with little kids? You engage them physically and mentally with whatever you're doing with them. Isn't that what we want from our students? One of my favorite lessons I adapted directly from the children's librarian staple: story time.  I tell the story of my "fake" arrest and follow this case all the way to the Supreme Court to illustrate that process and explain what documents are introduced along the way. I use a prezi as my picture book, and the story sounds a little something like this. It has all the tenants of a good story time: a narrative, a little bit of theatrics, interaction between the audience and the storyteller, and a moral to the story. I've also borrowed the iSpy pictures to do a summarizing exercise with my students. Their assignment involves writing a 2-page executive summary using 15 different scholarly sources.  The students don't always (i.e. rarely) realize the difficulty of summarizing that much into that little of space, so I warm them up by having them summarize one of the classic (non-themed) ISPY pictures into 2 sentences. Then we share them and talk about the different ways we grouped, classified, and organized the items. And that's when they start to get how difficult this will be.
I think the biggest thing about teaching inspiration is to keep your eyes open and be willing to see the possibilities. You never know what will strike you or what can be morphed into an instruction session. My favorite teaching metaphor for history came from watching "Castle" one night. So keep your eyes peeled and your ears open. Your next great IL session might be hiding anywhere!