Monday, August 20, 2012

IULILColloq2012: Designing with Learners in Mind

The final session of the day was Christina Wray's (Center for Disability Information and Referral, Indiana University Bloomington) session" Designing with Learners in Mind: Utilizing Universal Design for Learning Principles in Library Instruction." Wray began by having attendees determine their learning style based on the descriptions she had on her handout (they boiled down to: imaginative, analytical thinker, hands-on learner, and spontaneous/free thinker).  This reinforced the idea that we all learn differently, but, if we design instruction to each all learners and intentionally plan beforehand, you're really avoiding creating "more work" later (rather than backtracking and reteaching, you're setting all types of learners up for success from the start).

  • "Universal design is not a trend, but an enduring design approach that assumes that the range of human ability is ordinary, not 'special.'" ~Elaine Ostroff
  • I love this quote Wray used because, in my "previous life" as a music teacher, I saw this all of the time--There is no "normal" way to learn.  No one approach to teaching will reach all learners, which is why it is crucial to approach each concept and skill from a variety of angles & present it to students in a way that engages them in multiple ways (see the three pillars below).
The Three Pillars of Universal Design for Learning (directly from Wray's handout)
  • Provide multiple, flexible methods of presentation
    • Provide options for perception
    • Provide options for language, mathematical expression and symbols
    • Provide options for comprehension
  • Provide multiple, flexible methods of action and expression
    • Provide options for physical action
    • Provide options for expression and communication
    • Provide options for executive functions
  • Provide multiple, flexible methods of engagement
    • Provide options for recruiting interest
    • Provide options for sustaining effort and persistence
    • Provide options for self-regulation
Many of the librarians who attended the session, including Wray, are at institutions that primarily deliver one-shot instruction sessions, which can sometimes make using Universal Design seem unrealistic given their time constraints.  Wray emphasized that Universal Design makes your instruction more efficient because you're actually doing a better job of reaching students & making the important concepts & skills "stick." I am very lucky to be at an institution that has a large and growing Embedded Librarian program, so I get to see many of the same students multiple times throughout the semester, and can take more time teaching (and therefore include a wider variety of approaches with) concepts and skills. 

Wray has compiled a list of resources and links (and continues to add to this as new resources become available):

Here are a few that I put big ol' stars by in my notes:
I loved that this session and my teaching philosophy overlapped in many ways and I loved that we walked away with a ton of great resources to tap into when we got home! 

The IULILColloq2012 ended with some closing remarks and prizes... Some of the prize giveaways consisted of drawing names from hats, while the last one was a bit more...participatory.  Sometimes it can be hard to get librarians (even the crazy instruction librarians) to volunteer for activities... So I stepped up to the plate and raised my hand when Carrie Donovan asked for volunteers.  Little did I know I would be asked to read Standard 3 of the ACRL IL Standards a (horribly executed) British accent (though I did do it with...errr...gusto?).  All in all, I had a blast at this year's IULILColloq and hope it is a tradition that continue! I know the date is already set for next year's: August 2, in the same place, New Albany, IN.  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

IULILColloq2012: Bringing Reality TV to Library Instruction

Warning: This is the blog post in which I enthusiastically discuss Becky Canovan's and my presentation and get really excited about the evaluation comments we received.

Ok, now that that's out of the way, YAHOO! I had an absolute blast presenting with Becky during our session "Bringing Reality TV to Library Instruction: Non-traditional Activities for Teaching Traditional Library Concepts." Our presentation began with a brief overview of both of our institutions (small, liberal arts but with many professional programs, similar average ACT scores--Grand View's is 21, etc.). Then we jumped into explaining the activities and how they were applied in two very different ways.

The foundation for the activity:
  • Simply put, it's a series of tasks (which I enthusiastically declared many times throughout the session, partly because it's applicable, and partly because it makes me think of Ted Stevens' declaration that the Internet is a series of tubes...series of tasks...series of tubes. That's where my brain went anyway!)
  • A group activity
  • The group must complete each task before advancing to the next round, after having the librarian or instructor sign off on the task
University of Dubuque's version--The Great Poetry Race:
  • This originated from a brainstorming session on a Friday afternoon (when all great, kooky ideas are generated, of course) when library faculty & staff were trying to come up with a creative and entertaining approach to students needing to find secondary resources on a poem. The goal was to be sure students were comfortable and capable searching within the library catalog, CREDO, JSTOR, & Academic Search Premier, and they would be introduced to Literature Resource Center.  The activity was done over two class sessions. Librarians reviewed using the databases listed above & introduced Lit Resource Center and then gave the students a chance to ask questions or review something again. After that, students were grouped and had to complete (you guessed it!) a series of tasks.  They were given packets of cards, each with a different task that needed to be completed by the group.  Here's the catch: the groups had to do this without asking for help.  They had one "life raft" card they could use to get help, but other than that, they were on their own.  For each task, the groups had to select a different member of the group to be their leader.  The first group to complete their tasks & have them signed off on by a librarian was declared the leader (hooray)!
Grand View University's version--The Great Citation Race:
  • We are fortunate to have a strong embedded program with several departments on campus, including the English department.  I worked with Engl 101 (Intro to Composition, a first-year composition course) for this activity.  Many of the students we get may not have even written a research paper before, let alone mastered the science (art?...whatever.) of citations. So, long story made longer, we developed a series of activities to be delivered over five class sessions.  Each activity took the first 20 or so minutes of class; the rest of the session was spent searching the library catalog or databases for the types of materials they learned to cite earlier.  
  • For the citation activity, groups were formed based on the students' majors (the instructor liked students to learn that, rather than have 1 set citation style for the entire class...Which meant I got to teach 4 citation styles. At once.), leaving the class with seven groups.  The groups that completed the activities first received the highest number of points (7), with the next group receiving  one less (6), and so on. The whole group needed to complete the activity and have it written on their sheets in order for anyone in the group to receive their points.  At the end of all of the rounds, those individual with the highest point totals received prizes (of course, the prizes were awesome Pez dispensers & a big package of Peeps).  For each round the students completed a worksheet (I know, worksheets are gross, but I felt the students would better interact with the citations they were creating by writing them out).  Each citation style had a different worksheet, but they all worked to cite the same sources (I just had to prepare answer keys in 4 different styles for each activity).  Here's a brief overview of each of the rounds:
    • Round 1: Explained the game & learned how to cite books with one author (no editors)--This included in-text (or end note) citations, paraphrasing source material, and incorporating direct quotes
    • Round 2: Citing books with multiple authors &/or editors (followed by finding books in the library catalog)
    • Round 3: Citing journal articles from databases & in print (followed by finding journal articles in the library's collection)
    • Round 4: Citing websites (followed by searching for & evaluating websites)
    • Round 5: Recap of previous rounds, showing points progress chart, and celebrating winners (followed by independent work time for additional research)
  • It was a bit chaotic at times, but the students really made the connection between citations and responsible use of materials.  Having to prepare multiple citation styles was...a challenge and a bit time consuming, but since the instructor wanted them to learn the citation styles they would use later in their majors, we made it work. (Let me know if this doesn't make sense--I sometimes forget to explain a step or two...)
Then it was time for the IULILColloq attendees to get in on the fun and complete a series of tasks in their own groups! 
  • Round 1: Chose a course from a list we provided (see the Prezi, linked above)
  • Round 2: They identified an IL skill to target in the course they selected in Round 1
  • Round 3: They linked their IL skill from Round 2 to at least 1 ACRL IL standard (& explained why they chose it)--We provided them with a printout of the ACRL IL Standards, for easy reference
  • Round 4: They wrote 2 learning outcomes for the session/IL skills they selected (i.e. The students will...)
  • Round 5: After completing the above steps as a group (and having gotten them signed off by either Becky or myself), the attendees worked individually to write down one IL skill, course, or way in which they could use this strategy at their own institution. They then shared their responses with the group and we recorded them on the prezi (so all could access them later)
Ok, so that's the nitty-gritty stuff of how we implemented this activity at our institutions and in our presentation.  I mentioned at the beginning of this (now ridiculously long) post that we received some great feedback and comments about our presentation. Here are a few (I'm not trying to brag--I'm just super-excited that our presentation was so well-received!):
  • "Another great one!  These ladies were not only knowledgeable, but very entertaining.  I loved their storytelling approach to how they made these techniques work with their students.  Great, GREAT presentation."
  • "I thought it was smart to have the audience try out the approach."
  • "I think a little more time would have helped this session.  The presenters discussed what they did in the instruction sessions at their universities and then demonstrated how their process worked by having session members participate in a real-life example.  But, I was still left a little confused by exactly how they planned and executed their instruction.  It would have been nice to have some time to talk to them about that." Agreed--we packed a lot into a short amount of time--it would have been great to have had more time to visit at the end of the session! 
  • "Hilarious and so fun. The hour went by before we knew it. Good ideas. Look forward to implementing my own 'series of tasks'!"
  • "I loved the energy of the presenters and also the information! They mentioned empowering students to answer each other's questions, and I LOVE this idea."
  • "This was one of the best sessions I attended and I think it was because instead of telling us how they did it, they had us experience it as a participant and described the behind-the-scenes parts at the beginning and end. The session leaders demonstrated their enthusiasm and genuine desire to teach. It was great fun!"
A HUGE thank you to my co-presenter, Becky Canovan, for being on board with my crazy idea to submit a presentation proposal for a conference that was held a couple of states (and several hours in a car) away! Thanks also to Maria Accardi (IU Southeast) and Carrie Donovan (IU Bloomington) for throwing this shindig! 

Friday, August 17, 2012

IULILColloq2012: Dancing with Strangers

Barb Macke, of the University of Cincinnati, was this year's keynote speaker.  Her passion for libraries and excitement for teaching and inspiring students (and us) was so evident as she spoke on her theme "Dancing with Strangers" (she dances the tango and related it to librarianship).  Here are some of my favorite moments from her presentation:

  • "Teaching is a lot like tango. At its best, tango is improvisational." Good teachers can improvise on a dime & flexibility is key! (See?! All of that time nerding out as a Thespian and in Speech Team in high school did pay off!)
  • "The IL instructor must make her classroom activities malleable to the passions of each student." If it doesn't feel relevant or intriguing to the students, what's the point?! Make it relatable; make it relevant; make it fun.
  • Fantastic (big picture) conversation starters for IL sessions (this is where the juicy learning happens, folks!)--Start with something provocative (a question or image) to get things going:
    • "Can information be used to control people?"
    • "How is information disseminated? How does it multiply?"
    • "How is information lost...and found again?"
    • "Who creates information? And why do they create it?"
    • "Why is some information more valuable than others?"
    • "Is this art?"
  • By raising questions you are helping students struggle with the concept--and in struggling, that's where good learning happens!  
  • Practice and application are key! "How can they practice if you are always talking?" 
Macke mentioned several resources I hope to explore in the near future.  Here are just a few:
  • Simmons, M. H. (2005). Librarians as disciplinary discourse mediators: Using genre theory to move toward critical information literacy. Portal: Libraries And The Academy, 5(3), 297-311.
  • Bain, K. (2004, April 6). What makes great teachers great? The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from (requires online subscription/login)
  • Anderson, C., & Runciman, L. (2005). Open questions: Readings for critical thinking and writing. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's.
So there you have it! A few takeaways from an enthusiastic & inspiring presentation! (I told you this post would be shorter than the last one!)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

IULILColloq2012: Communities of Practice

One of my few complaints about this conference was that there were too many awesome things going on all at once and I wanted to "DO ALL THE THINGS!!!" Take the line-up for session two, for example:
  • The Games Librarians Play: Using Interactive Strategies to Stimulate Information Literacy Learning
  • Engaging Students with Visual Literacy: providing the framework and materials for actively engaged teachers and learners
  • Teaching the Information Literacy Teachers: Fostering a Community of Practice
  • Easing the Intimidation: Decreasing Library Anxiety with Instruction
I mean, how do you choose? Yes, they all have the obligatory library (or any academic) presentation "first part of the title :colon: second part of the title" format, but they all look interesting, relevant, and valuable.  I ultimately decided to attend Malia Willey's and Brian Sullivan's session "Teaching the Information Literacy Teachers: Fostering a Community of Practice" because, though I had explored the concept of Communities of Practice (COP) during my internship and when preparing for our LOEX 2011 presentation, I haven't worked to create something like that here in Des Moines, I was interested in seeing how they developed and grew their COP at Loyola. Also, a small gang from around the state of Iowa are interested in getting an online COP going to facilitate sharing ideas and reflection specific to library instruction.  (It's in the beginning stages, but I think it's going to be something special!)

The presenters began by looking at the literature (and continued to do so throughout the entire process), first noting why they felt the need to address IL through a COP.  They noted the changing nature of librarianship and the increased emphasis on IL Instruction in new librarian positions (as well as a the need for already established librarian positions to do some of the instruction as well), but not all librarians have the necessary training (whether from graduate school or from work experience) to feel comfortable developing curriculum, writing lesson plans, and assessing student learning (along with assessing the effectiveness of their instruction).  This lack of preparation or experience can lead to anxiety and a resistance to change.  One way to combat this fear is through education and practice.

Willey and Sullivan shared various definitions of a COP, emphasizing that it's a group brought together (physically or virtually) by a common goal, interested in sharing and creating knowledge.  One of the most important parts of creating a successful COP is developing trust among members.  A COP is a place to come together, share ideas, ask for advice, share successes, and fail safely (in failure, that's when some of the most valuable learning happens).  They shared best practices (and noted that you can partner with like-minded people, or think outside of your immediate box and expand beyond departmental boundaries or even beyond your institution or region) and emphasized that the most important things are to model openness, curiosity  respect, and enthusiasm.  (Think of some of your favorite librarians or teachers--do these things not exactly describe them and their approaches to life?! I thought so!)  Another important element of developing a successful COP is to gather formal feedback.

At Loyola, they started the TLT (pronounced "tilt"-- short for "Teaching and Learning Team") with informal meetings sparked by one person's awesome experiences at ACRL's Immersion program. They developed a self-evaluation form after examining the Association of College and Research Libraries Standards for Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators, and asked questions like "how have you grown as an instructor?" and "what would you like to learn more about?" and had their librarians self report about other instruction-related strengths and weaknesses.  These evaluations shed light on some areas librarians felt they needed help with, and also showed that there are some things that librarians say they are comfortable with (or good at) that need to be reexamined.  Eventually these informal conversations morphed into times where they discussed shared readings or teaching experiences with the group.  The COP leader made a conscious effort to turn reoccurring conversation items into formal agenda items during meetings.

Things to consider when selecting shared readings:
  • The K.I.S.S. method: Keep it short, stupid! 
  • Resources to check out: LOEX Quarterly (love!)
  • Tracking back recommended readings lists from other articles
Tips for conversations:
  • Come prepared with an activity or questions (as is the case with everything, you may deviate from this, but having a plan--but staying flexible--is always good)
  • Monitor the conversation to allow all to participate 
Encouraging others to try something new:
  • Teaching Challenges (I'm super-excited about this and am probably going to issue self-challenges, if nothing else): At Loyola, they issued Teaching Challenges to all of their librarians to try something new as they teach (but, it's something specific.  It's like unlocking a new level, or achieving a quest on a video game, but this is with instruction...So that's pretty cool!). Some of the examples they gave were co-teaching or using new technologies like Adobe Connect. At the end of the semester they shared with the group the results of their challenge efforts
Preparing presentations and workshops:
  • Occasionally workshops covering teaching to different learning styles, incorporating active learning into instructional design, writing learning outcomes (yes, this is something that takes practice, especially if you've never done it before), etc. were held in addition to article discussions
Thinking outside your box:
  • Collaborate beyond the library: I immediately thought of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL, pronounced kettle, for anyone interested). We already have a series of "Conversations on..." a specific topic, faculty development sessions--often with a library/information literacy component.  The issue right now is over-committed faculty and (in the past) too many sessions for faculty to schedule into their already packed schedules.  We've already been working on a new way to deliver these sessions & I hope it makes a difference. One idea I liked that goes along with this element is to deliver the main presentation and then have a follow-up workshop (which could even be one-on-one if needed) to reinforce and apply the concepts with the faculty member. 
  • Regional Un-Conference: A casual gathering of area instruction librarians to discuss instruction ideas and approaches.  
At Loyola their TLT group meets every other week for 1.5 hours and the presenters were careful to emphasize that developing COPs takes time and purposeful reflection in order for it to really become a part of the culture.  

And here's the photo I forgot to tweet while actually at the conference...
So, that was a ridiculously long post--to reward you for getting (or skipping) to the end, here's a fun resource (it combines one of my fravrit memes and famous quotes) and the promise that the next couple of posts will be significantly shorter.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Indiana University Libraries Information Literacy Colloquium 2012

This year was the first annual Indiana University Libraries Information Literacy Colloquium and I was lucky enough to be there to participate! Becky Canovan (who I've probably blogged about a couple of times, at least), from University of Dubuque, and I sent in a presentation proposal and it was accepted (more on that in a bit). So these two Iowa gals hit the road to (just north of) Louisville, KY to be there for "Learning Out Loud: Information Literacy Pedagogy for the Non-Shushing Librarian."

The conference began with your basic welcome, but with an instruction-y twist (of course) where attendees jumped right in with a Think-Pair-Share activity.  We discussed something that has made an impact on our instruction/institution.  When we came back to the whole group we heard answers ranging from making headway with increasing the amount of instruction, collaborating/advocating for IL with faculty outside of the library, to being purposeful about making sure students (and faculty) see you as a whole person (many librarians, especially new/young ones, feel pressure to wear their professional librarian hat at all times, but showing you're a person & making mistakes can open doors and make faculty & students more comfortable coming to you for help). Another programming idea that was shared was the Murder Mystery at the Library where students have to follow clues (as part of their orientation) to find resources & solve the mystery (it was Mrs. White in the Library with the candlestick!!!).  How much fun would that be during freshman orientation days?! I totally want to dress up and ham it up melodrama-style!

The first session I attended was "We Didn't Start the Fire": How Billy Joel's Song Can Motivate Student Learning and Deeper Engagement, given by Linda Lambert (Taylor University) and Ruth Szpunar (DePauw University).  When I read through the abstracts I was really excited about this presentation because "We Didn't Start the Fire" is one of the first songs on my running playlist--power up!  The abstract described using the song to apply Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences "in an active learning session which employs multimedia and provides participants with a hands-on experience.  As part of this session we will create a time line [sic] using the events between the years, 1949-1989. The aims of this exercise are to encourage students to probe more deeply into the historical and ethical issues mentioned in the song and to engage in the learning process in a personal way." Basically, students chose one of the people/topics from the song, did preliminary research (using encyclopedias) and plotted some of the information they found onto a timeline, then they were to locate a peer reviewed article (and be prepared to discuss and evaluate), and formulate 1-2 possible research questions. The presenters also mentioned a more modern alternative to the Billy Joel version is a song from the new Train album (not really an option for me, as that would likely make my ears bleed and all of my hair fall out as I run screaming from the room). This session wasn't exactly what I expected...or rather it was exactly what I expected and didn't bring anything new beyond having students choose topics & research them. I suppose it was my expectations that got the best of me, but I wanted some extra "oomph" or something more that would further engage students in the classroom. You can find more information, including lesson planning materials, here:

Stay tuned for the next installment of "IULIUColloq" or "This Conference has a Super-Long Hashtag, but That's Okay Because Information Literacy is Awesome" (a little throwback to "Rocky and Bullwinkle" there with the two titles...).