Emerging Technology and IL Teaching Workshop, part 1

In the next two days, I’ll be giving a series of talks as part of this workshop in Seattle.  Here are the supporting materials for one of them – a short technology demonstration about our Flip video project…

For an example of how we used the Flip video camera we bought — we didn’t use it to demonstrate research processes or to show things in the library.  Or, I should say, we did do some of those things but not in the project I am describing.

But we did use the videos in tutorials.  Basically, my colleague Hannah and I had to do some work revising a set of tutorials.  And as is the case with all tutorials, we had these context-setting pieces that had to go in, pieces where the tutorial explains why the student should take an interest in the process or tool the tutorial will teach them to use.  We didn’t want to write up a set of “here’s why you should care” pages to include in the tutorial, but we weren’t sure where to go from there.

And then one of us – I don’t remember who – had the idea to ask our OSU students to talk about research, with the hope that we could then pull out “clips” that would illustrate what it was we were going to talk about.

It turned out to be a fantastic project – so much fun to work on.  We worked with our office of Student Leadership and Involvement to identify students who were here in the summer and willing to participate.  Then we did a quick 15-30 minute interview with each one.  We recorded the whole thing with a Flip camera, and then used iMovie to pull out useful clips.  The clips are stored on YouTube, so all of our librarians can use them in tutorials, course pages and elsewhere.

This one is one of my favorites – Emmanuel on how librarians are helpful!

See the videos in action

OSU Libraries YouTube channel.  http://www.youtube.com/user/osulibraries

OSU Libraries tutorials pages. http://ica.library.oregonstate.edu/tutorials/ (look at the tutorials for Written English courses)

Our Campus Partners

Student Leadership and Involvement, OSU
http://oregonstate.edu/sli

Associated Students of Oregon State University (ASOSU).
http://asosu.oregonstate.edu/

International Students of Oregon State University (ISOSU)
http://oregonstate.edu/groups/isosu/

Legal Stuff

Model Release Forms (ours were adapted from these at the OSU Extension Office).  http://extension.oregonstate.edu/eesc/how-to/permission-people-pictures-model-release

Using the Flip Camera

EDUCAUSE: 7 Things You Should Know About Flip Cameras
http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7043.pdf

Flip Video Camera User Guide (New Mexico State University)
http://brand.nmsu.edu/webnation/flip-video-camera-user-g.html

How to Use a Flip Video Camera
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mh6s9gNoFro

On T-Rex and Scientific Literacy

We went up to NYC to visit friends and family after ALA.  While we were there we went to the American Museum of Natural History (followed by a late lunch at the Columbus Ave Shake Shack – an altogether lovely afternoon).  In one of the dinosaur exhibits I saw this sign –

I really liked these choices that were made at the AMNH.  They presented a strong point of view on an issue about which there is some controversy (the relationship between dinosaurs and birds), presented it as a point of view, but also didn’t suggest that any opinion on this issue is therefore equally valid – awesome dinosaur bones plus an expectation that viewers are smart enough to consider questions of evidence in a sophisticated way.

Google Scholar search alerts

Searching today for articles about collaborative teaching philosophies (don’t ask)  – I saw this new little icon on the Google Scholar results – how long has this been here?

new search alert icon - Google Scholar result list

I clicked it, thinking it would give me the chance to email results to myself (which is something my students sometimes ask for, though not nearly as often as they ask why Google Scholar won’t format their citations for them).  But instead, it’s a chance to set up an alert for this search.

Google Scholar search alert, with articles only setI don’t actually know that I’ll use this because I don’t really want anything else coming to my email — an RSS feed would be nice.  But has this been around for months and I’ve just noticed it?  That could definitely be true – we’ll see how it works.

“how does the study measure up”

Here’s a great example of way that an academic blog post, written for a general audience, can be a crucial supplement or starting point for a student trying to decipher the peer-reviewed literature.  From Momma Data –

Blame Mom for High School Beer Binges: The Power of a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

This post:

  • describes the study
  • identifies the important (and discipline-specific) concepts used by the authors
  • analyzes the study design
  • gives an opinion about the quality of the paper
  • explains the significance of the journal to the discourse

The only thing I’d like to see is a more robust comment stream – maybe some discussion/ refinement of the ideas. But all in all, a great example and on a topic students sometimes write about too!

open access mandate in action

Kate and I had an article published in Reference Services Review at the end of last year, and we just got a copy to put in our institutional repository.

“I don’t think it’s harder, just that it’s different”: Librarians’ attitudes about instruction in the virtual reference environment

This article was based on some work we did for this presentation at the Virtual Reference Summit in 2008.  From the conclusion:

It is easy to let the technology be a barrier to teaching and learning.  It is easy to assume, in the absence of visual cues, that patrons who come to us via virtual reference services are not interested in learning how to search for themselves.  Facilitating exploratory search via virtual reference does not depend on new technology, it depends on policies, reference interview skills, and perhaps most important, attitudes that are geared towards looking for opportunities to put the patron in control of his or her learning.  New technology features or tools might make this switch easier or more successful, but in the absence of an instruction-focused attitude there is no technology that will make instruction simpler, more effective, or more prevalent.

Open Access Mandate

In this case, the open access mandate didn’t really influence our behavior, but it probably pushed some things up a little higher on the priority list, and made it more important to follow up on things that we would have wanted to do anyway.  It influenced the choice of venue – RSR is published by Emerald, a Romeo green publisher.  When we weren’t sure what version to archive, the mandate pushed us to more actively communicate with the journal editor for clarity.

tutorials a la carte

So the thing about DIY tutorials is that even though the technology bar required to build them is pretty low, there are some back-end logistical issues that have to be navigated.  When I decided I wanted to try these with some of my distance learning classes, I had to figure out how to create a locally hosted blog, and we ended up doing it in a way that hadn’t been tried before (using Drupal) so we had to go through some rounds of figuring out settings and styling.

Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a bad thing to go through for me, or for the library.  And when colleagues wanted a similar tool, we were that much further down the road and had some good reasons to try a different tool.  Still, when the goal is “I want to get a tutorial up” these kinds of barriers aren’t necessarily what you want to go through.

I realize that a local option wasn’t the only option – if all I cared about was putting up a blog for tutorials quick and fast there are obviously tons of options out there.  But that wasn’t the only problem I wanted to solve.  I didn’t just want to make tutorials myself, I wanted to do something that would make it easy for all of us to create tutorials and other instructional aids.

The issue of how to share the burden of creating instructional materials has been around for a long time.  Learning objects repositories like MERLOT offer lots of options for teachers – the ability to borrow online instructional modules, and the ability to comment on and rate those tools.  Shared tutorial projects like ANTS let librarians share tutorials, collaborate on prioritizing and creating tutorials, and also provide a social space to talk about tutorial-related issues.  Here, locally, we have  CLIP (Collaborative Library Instruction Project) which takes a good step in the right direction – making source files available and shareable, letting librarians share some but not all of the work of tutorial-building.

CLIP is just getting off the ground, so I don’t know what will happen there.  But here’s the thing.  Whenever I have talked to anyone involved with projects like these, or heard them speaking about the larger issues, they say the same thing – getting participation from educators is really, really hard.  They spend a lot of time gathering the content for the repositories themselves, they have a core group of committed people sharing, but getting the concept of sharing — of taking the time to participate in these types of projects and communities – to be part of the normal workflow for teachers is super difficult.

My own experience with the Library Instruction Wiki (now offline due to basement server room flood) left me feeling pessimistic about that project’s stop reinventing the wheel tagline.  I have come to believe some things – some things that got me thinking that instead of sharing the final product of tutorials, the way to go is to figure out ways groups of teaching librarians can share a process:

1. Teachers like reinventing the wheel.

This is something Jean Caspers said to me once, and its stuck with me because I think it’s essentially true.  Not that teachers don’t want to borrow and adapt and take advantage of other people’s cool ideas and good work, but to really feel comfortable going into a classroom and teaching a group of students something, a lot of us need to feel like we’ve made the stuff we’re teaching ours.  And the only way to do that is to adapt, and reshape, and refine.  So we don’t want to just point to other people’s handouts and tutorials (sometimes we do, but go with it).  We want to make them ours.

And an important part of the cognitive process that a lot of us go through preparing to teach is preparing the materials.  I know that when I create a course page for a class, I’m thinking about how I am going to present the material in class, and about how I am going to transition from one topic to the next.  And when I make a tutorial for an online class, I want to tailor it to their assignment, and the process of putting it together helps me clarify what they need to know/do for that assignment.

So, it’s not a bad thing that teachers want to reinvent the wheel, not at all.  And I think it’s a need teachers have that should be considered by anyone trying to help them work collaboratively.

2. The hard part of developing tutorials isn’t technical, it’s in the content.  And that’s the hardest piece to share.

One piece of this is practical – try teaching anyone how to do anything research-related on your campus and see how long it takes before there is some local quirk that you need or want to explain.  It doesn’t take long.  There’s a reason why the tutorials we’re most likely to share are on topics like plagiarism or citations — things where we are all working on basically the same standards and rules, defined outside of our local institutions.

One piece of this is related to the above point.  We want the content to be tailored to the students’ needs – we have strong opinions about how to do research and about how to teach it and about what students need to know about it.  I don’t know, I haven’t talked to many people who say things like “I would totally borrow X’s tutorial, but it’s built in Camtasia and I would rather it be in Captivate. The people I talk to are more likely to forgo borrowing a tutorial because they don’t like something about it — they’d like to change the way it explains a concept, or to add just one more piece.

3.  There is one sure-fire way to make the technical part hard – that is to tell everyone they have to use the same tool at every stage of the process.

Now this may seem to undercut the whole process-sharing thing I mentioned above but bear with me – I’m really talking about all of the component parts of the final product.  If you tell everyone that they have to use the same tool to build webpages, that’s going to leave you with a few people upset yes.  You’ll also have a lot of people that don’t really care.

But if you tell them that they have to use the same thing to take screenshots, the same thing to do screencasts, the same thing to create word clouds, or to display bookmarks, or to push useful links — then you’re going to start getting the kind of resistance that makes people decide not to create the thing at all.  This is especially true if people have been left on their own to figure out their own best way to do those things before.

So, to get to the point already…

So, Hannah and I were working on redoing our big tutorial – and one of the problems we wanted to address was the bottleneck that occurs when only a few people can edit or make changes to a tool.  We also wanted to de-Blackboard our beginning composition assignments, and make them more lightweight and dynamic.  Thinking to kill two birds with one stone, we decided to look at content-management-izing our tutorial building process.

The brain trust behind Library a la Carte (an open-source, lightweight CMS for building course pages and subject guides) works down the hall from us, so we had a place to go with this problem.  We were initially open to a variety of approaches (including Drupal and WordPress) for building these tutorials, but we ended up deciding that extending LALC to include a tutorial-building function made the most sense.

We launched it barely-alpha, with the fall term beginning composition students.  We found a bunch of things that wanted fixing, but even in this sub-optimal situation, there was an awful lot of it that worked well.   Now it is in barely-beta, and with about 40 sections of beginning composition using it, the reports we have had about it not working for the students have been in the single digits.

This is what the tutorials look like:

(Here’s a link if you want to look at the whole tutorial.  This one is cool because it has modules that feature: images, cartoons, videos and text included.  You have to log in to see the quizzes, but not to see the rest)

There’s a few things I really like about it -

First, it allows our teaching librarians to share at a pretty granular (modular) level – I can borrow Hannah’s catalog-using screencast, and put it into one tutorial that is really about how distance students can have books delivered to them by mail, and also into another tutorial that is really about the serendipitous process of browsing for books on the shelves.

And even at that granular level, it lets us borrow-and-then-tweak — keeping things right in most teachers’ comfort zone.

Using an incredibly scientific data gathering method (n=1; n=me) I have determined that instruction librarians just may be more likely to borrow from each other and to remember to share with each other in this format.

Secondly, it solves the problem of where everything is going to live.  Because it is integrated with our subject and class guides, the system lets us create tutorials and then automatically puts them on the website, with no pesky decisionmaking steps beyond what to call the thing.  Which admittedly, can stymie me for a while, but…

Using the same data collection method (this time n=me and Hannah) I have determined that with this tool available, we are more likely to include tutorials and learning modules in the things we do for our classes, whether we meet with them face-to-face or not.

It also lets the librarian pull in content from elsewhere, so they can use any method they are comfortable with to create the content initially.  If I want to store my photos on flickr, and edit with Picnik, that works fine. But so does uploading the photos that I edited with Photoshop.  If I want to embed a video I edited with iMovie, I do the same thing I would do to drop in a screencast video I created with Camtasia.

Editing a video module:

It also lets us easily use dynamic content (which sometimes breaks the styling but, live and learn) so if I want to embed a delicious linkroll to recommend links to three different classes of students, I can, and then of course I can update all 3 class pages at the same time when I update my Delicious.  Or if I want to do the same thing by embedding a Twitter feed, no problem.

Again, because this is integrated with our class pages system, we’ve already made a lot of decisions about where to share some of our resources.  But even though we have a flickr archive, lots of us don’t use that for building the modules.  And even though we have a YouTube channel, the videos there can be created in lots of ways.

I have no idea at this point if anyone else is going to start using this, or if it will mostly be used to update our main tutorial and in beginning composition.  But I do like the concept of process-sharing, and I think this might be a way that idea makes sense.

History and libraries, but not always history of libraries.

Nicholas and I presented this afternoon at Online NW.  Presentation materials are available here, on Nicholas’ blog.  Good times!

We used Prezi to create the presentation.  This is what it looked like, all together, when it was done.  I know that some people I know have found it difficult to get used to, but I kind of really liked it.  Plus, I’ve used it so far on three very different computers in three very different contexts and it’s worked smoothly every time.

Plus, no dongle drama.

I am an unscrupulous, unscrupulous formatter

Knowing about my constant and abiding interest in all things peer-review, a colleague handed me this pamphlet the other day.  Published by a project I like, Sense about Science (and funded by, among others, Elsevier, Blackwell, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, the Institute of Biology and the Medical Research Council), this pamphlet provides a good summary of a lot of reasons why people should value peer-reviewed research.

I really like its focus on the reproducability of research, the role that peer review plays in getting science out there to be acted upon by other scientists.  And this statement here gets at a lot of what I have been thinking about information evaluation lately – about how important it is that we evaluate sources within contexts, not in a vacuum:

If it is peer-reviewed, you can look for more information on what other scientists say about it, the size and approach of  the study and whether it is a part of a body of evidence pointing towards the same conclusions.

But this has me mystified.  A callout box titled How can you tell whether reported results have been peer reviewed? A question any academic reference librarian has struggled to answer at some point, right?

Their answer totally mystifies me.  I keep reading it and reading it and I can’t make it make any sense.   Seriously – they say the full reference to peer-reviewed papers is likely to look like this, and then they present – two formatted article citations, one from the New England Journal of Medicine and one from Science.  The Science one is APA, but I’m not even sure exactly what style the second one follows.

just formatted citations, right?

just formatted citations, right?

So under the citations, there’s a word balloon that says that unscrupulous people might “use this style on websites and articles to cite work that is not peer reviewed. But fortunately, this is rare.”

!

Wait, what?   So yeah, it turns out that I’m totally unscrupulous!  And so are you if you use APA to cite an article from the New Republic, or Time or The Journal of Really Lousy Non-Peer Reviewed Science!

I am so confused!  What do they mean by this?

identity, information literacy and professors as celebrities

So, in the infamous checklists we tell students “make sure you can tell who the author is, check their credentials, are they expert, are they scholarly?” as a necessary part of scholarly information evaluation, right?  Well, wouldn’t you say that an assistant professor of history at Southern Baptist University would be well-qualified to talk about the historical implications of the current President?

Apparently, someone thought so, and a lot of other someones thought so enough that they started forwarding emails based on that assumption.  Via Historiann, in today’s Inside Higher Ed, professor of history Tim Wood tells the story of how his name was attached to a document with a clear political agenda, with which he did not agree — and how the professional identity that he had built was clearly lending credibility to the essay in question.

Wood also tells the story of what  he did, and what others might do, to prevent and contain similar situations.  This line really jumped out at me -

Moreover, this incident has led me to reconsider my somewhat adversarial relationship with technology. (I’m the guy who still refuses to buy a cell phone.) But one of the greatest difficulties I encountered in all of this was finding a platform from which to launch a rebuttal.

He suggests that actively building, policing and maintaining an online professional identity is a good way to protect that identity.  This, I think is an important information literacy skill – and one we don’t talk about a lot.  In Wood’s case, his university gave him a space to post a rebuttal, that could be then pointed to and linked to expose the lies.

Using that space, Wood directly links this back to the information literacy skills we do talk about a lot as well -

To navigate those potential pitfalls, historians check facts and look for other documents that conform (or contradict) the information found in our source. We seek to identify the author and understand his or her motives for writing. We try to understand the larger historical and cultural context surrounding a document. By doing our homework, we’re better able to judge when something or someone deserves to be “taken at their word.”

This episode has taught me that these skills have an important place even outside this history classroom.

I’ve said before that I don’t think we should focus our evaluation teaching on those situations where someone is actively trying to trick us, but that doesn’t mean that we should pretend that possibility doesn’t happen either.  The checklist doesn’t get us where we need to go when it comes to information evaluation – at best it gets us to where we need to be to start doing our real evaluation.  When you figure out what the author’s agenda is, you’re not done evaluating, right?  When you figure out if it’s peer-reviewed, that just tells you what you need to be looking for as you evaluate, right?

(Full disclosure, I haven’t read the essay in question, so I’m not sure how aligned the content is with the scholarly research of the professor in question, but I do think that for most students brand-new to thinking about what academic expertise means “professor of history” would probably be enough to establish credibility)

And in this case, when you figure out who the author is, you’re not done evaluating either.  Does the work match other work by the author – does it fit within their normal research agenda – is it part of a scholarly/expert consensus, or is the interpretation more on the whacked-out side?  That’s what this story has me thinking about – how to get students from “professor of history” to “there’s something seriously wrong here.”

ETA – apparently, Professor Wood isn’t the only one to be dealing with this.

what I’ve been doing instead of blogging

I have no idea why I am feeling compelled to put this up here, except that it is what I have been writing instead of blogging.  Not that I’ve been spending the actual minutes writing it, because I limited the writing time carefully, but it is where the mental energy that would usually produce a blog post has been going for the last couple of weeks.  The hours when I’d usually be thinking about something I have read and getting worked up enough to write about it have gone to thinking about how to finish this teaching philosophy statement.

It starts here –

Learning can be hard, it can be exhilarating, it can be scary, and it can be transformative changing the way the learner understands the world.  The most meaningful experiences I have had in my education, as both a teacher and a student, have happened when a new thought, a new idea or a new understanding has that transformative effect.

…human learning presupposes a specific social nature and a process by which
children grow into the intellectual life of those around them.
(Lev Vygotsky, Mind and Society)

Teaching college-level research inherently means teaching students that research and learning are social processes.  Scholars do their research and communicate their findings according to practices and conventions defined by disciplinary communities and practice networks.  Teaching information literacy works best when the learning students do is grounded in these larger conversations.  This means the most effective teaching happens when I am working closely with faculty, to connect the research activities students do to the broader learning going on in the class.  For example, in Oregon State University’s beginning composition classes students engage in information literacy activities throughout the term, that connect information literacy skills to every stage of the writing process.

I believe that the best learning is a personal act of meaning-making where new information is integrated with existing mental models to create new knowledge.  Within this context, information literacy is not an end in itself.  Instead, it is the thing that gives students the cognitive capacity make that meaning for themselves.  As such, I believe that the best way I can teach students about information literacy is to introduce them to the necessary concepts, skills and ideas in an environment and context where they can immediately apply them within a larger process of learning and meaning-making.

While the meaning we make out of new ideas and information is deeply personal, the learning that supports that meaning-making is still social and collaborative.  My own ideas about teaching and learning have been strongly influenced by constructivist philosopher Lev Vygotsky, who frequently focuses on this connection. Vygotsky’s work emphasizes the interplay between teacher and student.  His description of learning as that which we can do with help, reflects the teacher’s expertise and body of experience without devaluing the knowledge, understanding and body of experiences the student brings to the process.  This is an especially useful and important way to think about learning for me, as an academic librarian.  My teaching is most effective when my knowledge and expertise about the research process combines with the student’s own expertise and experience with their topic area.

Liberating education consists in acts of cognition, not transferals of information.
(Paolo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed)

When that connection happens, between teacher and student, we are both engaged in the learning process.  I believe that one of my most important responsibilities as a teacher is creating an environment where that kind of learning can happen.

As a teaching librarian, I think one of the most important things I can do is to model an appreciative, curious, recursive research process.  Scholars do not know all of the answers in advance when they do their research; the research projects that result in deep learning are frequently those where no easy answer exists to find.  It is in the process of constructing an answer out of the information that is out there, a process that is often messy and chaotic, that that deep learning happens.  I have come to believe that avoiding that messiness and chaos when I am teaching does my students a disservice.  Instead, using my time with the students to show them how to navigate the research process, to troubleshoot when problems arise, and to keep their minds open enough to recognize opportunities when they find them is a more effective, though stressful, way for me to teach.

This includes strategies as simple as using new, untested topics to demonstrate research strategies, trying keywords without knowing what they will find.  It includes developing activities that focus on broad exploration, and teaching students how to browse a topic before searching for specific sources.  For example, in OSU’s advanced composition class the students and I spend half of our class session browsing obviously biased online news and commentary sites before switching our focus to published sources.

This also includes an emphasis in the classroom on active learning activities that allow students to connect new skills and concepts introduced in class to their own topics of inquiry.   It is when the idea or skill I have just demonstrated works to further their knowledge of their topic that they learn it best.  Building in time for them to make and reflect on those connections is crucial.

One of the biggest challenges I face as a teaching librarian is that most of the direct contact I have with students happens in the context of a single-shot, guest lecture appearance in someone else’s class.  It can be very difficult to push beyond the idea of teaching as an act of transferal in that context, because students frequently make the crucial connections between your teaching and their learning after they leave that guest-lecture session.  After several years in this environment, I still feel that I have not mastered this type of teaching.

The big deal is, that it’s part of my job to make sure that you don’t grow up stupid
…it’s bad for the world.
(Tami Taylor, Friday Night Lights)

I will continue to work on becoming effective within that one-shot context, and developing new ways to teach beyond that context because I believe that what I teach, what we teach as academic librarians, is important.  It’s good for the world.   Information literate learners can take control of their own learning, and continue learning throughout their lives.

Students who understand what evidence is, and how other people use it to further particular agendas are powerful.  Students who can find, understand, evaluate and use evidence themselves are even more powerful.  When people graduate from college without those skills and without mastering those concepts, it’s bad for the world.  As a teaching librarian I get to focus my time and energy on helping students develop their power, and making the world a better place.

and ends here.

So there it is.  For all I like reflecting on stuff, I find this kind of writing excruciatingly mentally difficult, and have to strictly limit how much time I give it.

In the end, the only way I could was to focus on a few of the things that have really sparked me to think about teaching in ways that have stuck with me – even the quotation  from Mrs. Coach on Friday Night Lights (which I agonized about because the word “stupid” seemed too unlike me to put in a teaching philosophy statement because I would never say that. But Tami Taylor would so I couldn’t change it either, and there’s no room in said statement to explain the context where it is not about that, but actually is exactly about what I wanted it to be about.

And of course it’s not finished.  That’s why this kind of writing is so difficult for me.  I never feel happy with it, and it never feels done.  I suspect that is the main reason I feel compelled to post it – because sharing it takes it out of my head.