Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ask the Masses: Reference Statistics

Dan C. and I were talking today about our current reference stats form (we use Google Forms here at Grand View), and he had a great question about what others were doing and how they're using that information.

Dan asks:

At what level do you keep track of reference/interaction statistics? We keep track of it by medium (how the questions were received: phone, Blackboard, etc.), day/time of day, type of question, course number (if known), but do others keep track of things in more detail? We agree that collecting too much data can be overwhelming, but having some extra data can help shed light on different areas not previously considered. How precise are your fields of entry and what data do you collect? Are there things specific to instruction that you collect? And has this more precise data proven to be more beneficial to you as you examine and plan your instruction (and how so)?

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

Monday, May 27, 2013

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone and Into a New Role

I am not a nurse. I will never be a nurse. I was lucky just to have navigated my undergraduate science courses as well as I (somehow) managed. My undergraduate degree was in music with an education minor, and that was the subject material with which I was comfortable.

Fast forward a few years later, after having taught orchestra for 3 years and after attending graduate school, and somehow I landed a job that was instruction heavy (yahoo--that’s right up my alley), but also made me the Nursing Department liaison at a university with a very strong nursing program. Yep. That was definitely out of my comfort zone. Here are a few things that helped me become more comfortable in that role:

In the beginning: Instruction triage
  • Use your colleagues. They have either gone before you in this journey, or they’ve seen the librarian/staff person you replaced conquer the associated tasks. They can be a fantastic resource in helping you understand what the students and/or faculty you are working with already know, what they need to know, and how other’s have helped facilitate student/faculty growth. (And they probably have a few old lesson plans sitting around that you could use or modify to fit your immediate needs.)
  • Be patient. It’s not all going to come to you at once. You won’t just teach one instruction session and BAM! suddenly become an expert in discipline-specific issues and jargon. Luckily, though, you are an expert in searching for, sorting through/assessing, and understanding information and the research process. While discipline-specific subject knowledge is often helpful, that’s not why the students are in your classroom. They are there to learn how to navigate the research process in the context of their coursework, so remember that and be patient with yourself.
  • Ask questions. If possible meet with the professor you’re working with to discuss learning objectives, possible search terms, assignment requirements, etc. That will help you be more comfortable, knowing the types of things the students will be researching.
  • Prepare. Know what resources you have available, what resources are appropriate, and which database bells and whistles will be most helpful to the students, then work to have a plan in place and know it well. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll stick to your plan, but having something in place to at least fall back on always helps me get back on track if I go off on a tangent or need to answer unexpected questions while teaching.

As you go along: Instruction and collection development
  • After that first semester or so you’ll have a better picture of what the program is about and what they might need, both in terms of instruction and collection development.
  • If you are lucky enough to be in the classroom providing instruction a few times per semester, you get a good picture of the different types of assignments that students will be doing. This can definitely help with collection development. If possible, get copies of assignments, jot down topics you hear mentioned a lot, and when you’re working with students struggling to find any information on their topics, take note and see if that can’t be an area of your collection worth growing.
  • Let the students help you. They have some strong background knowledge within their research topics, so if you’re both really stumped, fall back on that. Become a human thesaurus, conduct a thorough reference interview, and help them (help you) think outside the box when searching. I learn so much from students through those reference interviews.
  • I reach out to the faculty when it comes to selecting materials to be added to the collection. I’ll pop them an email, make a quick phone call, send them choice cards, and mozy over to their neck of the woods or have conversations with them before or after activities held around campus. Part of being a department liaison is just putting your friendly face out there and letting folks know you’re there to help. That can be a bit of a stretch if you don’t have an outgoing personality. I have found faking it to be extremely helpful... You know those junior high play auditions you participated in, or maybe that solo your mom made you sing in church? Yep, pull up that kind of courage and step out to build those professional connections around campus.

Still uncomfortable in front of your class/with your liaison area? Try some of the tips I posted earlier about overcoming teaching stage fright.  

What do you do to prepare for a new role or to help you feel more comfortable?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Teaching philosophy: participate, contribute, and lead

Sorry for the lateness of this post. I got swept up in graduation and faculty development days. It was while I was helping run the faculty development portion of the week that the inspiration for this post hit me. As faculty members, the librarians at our university will be participating in professional portolios for the first time. I won't get into the requirements and pieces and such here, but one of the artifacts that I will have to develop is a "Philosophy of Teaching" statement.

I don't know about most of you, but I don't have an education background. My teaching and instruction qualifications stem from a semester long course on IL instruction. That's it. I've never written a philosophy of teaching before. And I'm not sure I've ever really consciously thought about what mine might include. Will mine be fundamentally different from someone who teaches a for-credit course? Or someone who sees the same students every day? I wonder if mine will be shaped by the fact that I fall into what one of my colleagues called a "practice discipline." One where a students' development and progress in the area are measured more in skills and proficiency honed via practice than in innovation, new thinking, or crafting a product. But my role in this eduction is that latter piece. I strive to think differently about education (partly because I don't have that classical grounding to fall back on) and teaching. It isn't the rote practice for me that it might require of my students. I know that philosophies of many great teachers are not bounded by the walls of a classroom, but I wonder how to address the significance that not only does learning happen outside the library classroom, but so too does the teaching.

As I got overwhelmed with these ideas yesterday, I was grounded by the language in the section I was leading. In the arena of scholarship, we are asking our faculty to think of their engagement in their disciplines and professional arenas in the following ways: participation, contribution, and leadership. I like that idea for my own scholarship, but as I took that idea one step further, I wonder if it wouldn't work for students and IL skills too. Can we think of our instruction not in the language of "introduce, reinforce, and master" but in something like participate, contribute and lead? And not just in skills. Don't we want to use scaffolding and building up of skills just in one session? Can we ask students to lead some of the instruction for lower-level skills we think they ought to have, but ask them only to participate in activities in areas unfamiliar to them. I really like the flip-flopping of this language because it changes the subject of those sentences. It is not the librarians who are participating and contributing in the instruction, it is the students. We write our Student Learning Outcomes as "The student will..." but when asked to talk about instruction, we begin our sentences with "I will..." Why? Does simply reframing the way we describe and think about IL change how we teach? What about the expectations for students?

It's something to think about. And I would love to hear about your philosophy of teaching? Have you written one? Where do you start? Has it changed throughout your career?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ask-the-Masses: Conferences

Cara Asks: 
I'm planning on attending ILA/ACRL in Indianola tomorrow and am interested in hearing what others are most looking forward to about the conference. If you're not attending, what are the things you most value about conferences in general (either in the presentations, keynotes, or outside of sessions)? What types/formats of presentations do you find most valuable?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Educational Apps

50 billion apps. Apple announced a few days ago that it is nearing the 50 billionth download of an iOS app. That's 166 or more iOS downloads per man, woman and child in the United States -- including many of your students and faculty. This leads me to wonder, how have others interlaced mobile technologies and information literacy instruction.

Here is how I've done attempted to do it:

Some Intuitional History 
In 2010, my library started purchasing iPads to test and circulate. A year later, my institution started issuing iPads to Freshmen students. A year prior, the library started testing iPads for circulation. These two factors, allowed the library position itself as on the cutting edge of this new technological wave. While I was new to the university in 2011, I had used Apple products exclusively for a few years prior.

My colleagues on the teaching faculty side of things were hungry for ways to include these devices into their daily instruction. Our working theory seems to be that the students will be looking at these devices anyway, so why not bring them into our instruction.

Two Apps I Have Used

Poll Everywhere may not be exclusively an iOS app, but I have found it extremly useful to get students to begin thinking about their mobile device as more than a tool to communicate with others in their social circle -- that it may actually have a place in the classroom.

Poll Everywhere is very similar to the traditional clickers. For the uninitiated, clickers allow instructors to ask questions to the room and receive feedback. Poll Everywhere allows you to embed some code into a powerpoint side and display the results in realtime. It opens to the door to some interesting pedagogy, such as asking conceptional-style questions and following that up with discussion. Given the nature of Poll Everywhere, I think some of the pedagogy on clickers may be generalizable

GoodReader is a $5 App, which my university provides for students at no cost. It is a simple PDF reading tool with advanced annotating features. Students can highlight, underline, attach sticky notes and draw freehand on PDFs. This little app ties into your Dropbox account, so you do not need to import them into yet another app. It's to use, even if it is not freely provided at your institution. 

It has been really helpful in the classroom. While teaching students how to interact with actual articles, I have students look at specific portions of an article and pull out the main concepts, search-terms that could be used in additional database searches and take note of interesting facts. Best of all, it prevents dozens of students from printing off copies of articles to notate them! Go Green!

So, do you use any apps or mobile technology in your sessions?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Ask the Masses: Library Instruction Space

This is a question I myself am asking because I'm curious about what's out there and am wondering what our imaginations can create.

Cara asks:

I'm really interested in library instruction spaces and design and am wondering two things:

  1. What type of instruction space do you have, how is it designed, and what sort of technology to you have within (Lab? Laptop cart? iPads? SynchronEyes? Smart Boards? Other cool fancy stuff?)?
  2. What would you change about that space to make it more info lit instruction friendly? What would your perfect IL space look like and what would be in it?

Right now we are very lucky to have one instruction lab within the library with a screen and projector hooked up to the instructor computer which is located at the back center aisle. We've rigged it with a wireless keyboard and wireless mouse so that we can be at the front of the room leading instruction and facilitating discussion. As it stands there are 30 computers, with 29 available for the students to use (the other for the instructor). We recently added Synchroneyes to the classroom, but it can be tricky to use when leading from the front of the room (because there's no instructor display--it projects the instructor's display to the projector which is shown to the entire class). 

When I was in grad school we had a fun project/assignment wherein we designed our ideal library instruction classroom.  Here's what I came up with: 

So, what do you have for your IL instruction and what is your dream space for teaching?