Zotero assignment update

So the first mini-deadline on the Zotero assignment has come and gone, and I’m pretty happy with the results so far.  They’re not very impressive to look at, but when you compare what is actually happening with what I thought could happen, I think we are well on our way to getting this done.

For the first section, which has 21 students:

  • 11 successfully added a scholarly source to their Zotero library AND successfully synced to the group library.  Another one got the sync to work, but what got saved isn’t in very good shape yet.  Three more are waiting on ILL to decide which article they want to save to the bibliography.
  • Of those 11, 6 have added an original annotation and tags.

There are a few who added something in another format (and I’m not sure if that is a result of still not knowing how to find a scholarly article for their person, or if it is a matter of the best sources authored by their person not being scholarly articles)  I’ll find out more about that in class this week.

In the second, which has 24 students registered:

  • 13 successfully added a source to their Zotero library AND successfully synced.  Another one did the sync okay, but what got added was wonky.  There is one person who has added two things.  There is also an example article that I added still in there.
  • And there is a weird article from the medical literature that is still mysterious.  The author doesn’t share a last name with one of our target authors, so I am thinking maybe it was left in one of the classroom computers’ Zotero libraries and accidentally got dragged into our group library?
  • Nine have added original annotations.
  • Another handful are waiting on their articles from ILL.

Most of these have wonky notes/ attachments from the databases, and some need some of their metadata cleared up.  Batting 500+, though, was more than I expected at this point.  Why?  A few reasons, actually -

  1. First, these students have never used Zotero before at all.  Most of them have never used any kind of Firefox plugin.  That whole process of downloading and installing Firefox, then the plugin, was conceptually something new.  I expected this to be a hurdle in and of itself, before we even got to the the group library and syncing piece of the puzzle.  And it was, for sure, for some.  But not for most – most got themselves set up with Firefox no problem, and got the plug in working just fine.
  2. I want to be really clear here – it’s not that I thought these students weren’t intelligent enough to do this nor did I think it was really hard – I just thought it was going to be new and made more difficult by the fact that I asked them to do most of this new thing on their own on their own computers.  I did this mostly because I wasn’t at all certain that syncing the classroom computers to the Zotero group library would work with any kind of reliability.  So it comes down to -  I thought that showing them in class and then asking them to do the work at home was not necessarily setting them up for success (for all that that is how homework usually works).
  3. I really didn’t give them much instruction on how to do this at all.  We went over Zotero on the first day of class, and then I asked them to test different features of it along the way.  But here’s the thing – most of them didn’t do that along the way stuff because I wasn’t grading it and it wasn’t on the syllabus.  It was mostly a “please do this for your own good” thing and wasn’t at the top of anybody’s priority list.  So that .500+ batting average comes from students figuring stuff out with the tutorial I provided and what they could find in their notes and on the Zotero website.
  4. Some of the problems that have happened are undoubtedly not about Zotero at all, but are about navigating library systems and databases and the difficulties that come up during the process of finding scholarly articles — those are the primary reason for this class, after all!
  5. The syncing with the classroom computers is working really well – or at least it has for the last two sessions.  I have to tell you that I was worried about this with good reason.  Every time I have attempted to show this in the classroom, the sync has churned and churned and churned without any end (or any sync) in sight.  So when the students were having no trouble syncing the Zotero libraries in the classroom to their group accounts in class two weeks ago and again last week, I was shocked.  But what this means is that this week we can treat the classroom like a lab and troubleshoot most of the remaining problems together.

Onward!

Books beyond the best-seller list. Interested? Join this thought experiment.

Barbara Fister at Inside Higher Ed is asking for help with a thought experiment about the future of books. As she says, crowdsourcing requires a crowd, so if you have an interest in the topic, please join the crowd:

This leads me to a thought experiment, and I need your help. I would be grateful for responses from anyone interested in the future of the scholarly monograph….not in the future of writing and publishing scholarly monographs, but in the future of browsing and reading them.

In short, I want to crowdsource some ideas about an ideal future state for the book that is not “commercial” in that it is not going to land on the New York Times bestseller list (99.9999% of books, including those upon which trade publishers pin big hopes and equally large advances) but also in the sense that its prime purpose is not to be purchased by a large enough number of readers to generate profits that will cover its traditional cost, but rathter just to say something worth saying.

Making one-shots better – what the research says (Peer Reviewed Monday, part 2)

ResearchBlogging.org

And now, on to Peer-Reviewed Monday, part two but still not Monday.

Mesmer-Magnus, J., & Viswesvaran, C. (2010). The role of pre-training interventions in learning: A meta-analysis and integrative review☆ Human Resource Management Review, 20 (4), 261-282 DOI: 10.1016/j.hrmr.2010.05.001

As I said earlier this week, this was started by a link to this article, a meta-analysis trying to dig deeper into the questions: which of the pre-practice interventions examined in the Cannon-Bowers, et al study are most effective?  For what type of learning outcomes?  And under what conditions?

The first part of the paper reviews what each of the pre-training interventions are, and presents hypotheses about what the research will reveal about their effectiveness.

METHOD

They reviewed 159 studies, reported in 128 manuscripts.  For this work, they considered only studies that met all of the following conditions:

  • they involved the administration of a pre-training intervention
  • the study population included adult learners
  • the intervention was part of a training program
  • the study measured at least one learning outcome
  • the study provided enough information to compute effect sizes.

The studies were coded for: the type of pre-practice intervention; the type of learning outcome; the method of training delivery; and the content of the training.

The codes for pre-practice intervention were drawn from Cannon-Bowers, et al: attentional advice, metacognitive strategies, advance organizers, goal orientation, and preparatory information.

The codes for learning outcomes were drawn from the Kraiger, et al (1993) taxonomy:

  • Cognitive learning (can be assessed at 3 stages: verbal knowledge, knowledge organization and cognitive strategies)
  • Skill-based learning (also assessed at 3 stages: skill acquisition, skill complication, and skill automaticity)
  • Affective learning (attitudinal outcomes, self-efficacy outcomes and disposition outcomes)

Training methods coded were very relevant to information literacy instruction: traditional classroom; self-directed or distance learning or simulations, such as role-plays or virtual reality.

Training content was coded as: intellectual, interpersonal, task-related or attitude.

RESULTS & DISCUSSION — so, what does the research say:

For attentional advice — this was one that I was able to immediately think of one-shot related applications for, so it was particularly interesting to me that medium to large positive effects were found for both skill-based and cognitive outcomes, with the largest gains found for skill-based outcomes — given that so much of what is taught in one-shots is skill-based, intended to promote success on particular assignments.  These effects are strongest when general, not specific, advice is given.

Metacognitive strategies –

The authors identified two main forms of meta-cognitive strategies that were studied: strategies that involved the learner asking why questions, and strategies where the learner was prompted to think aloud during learning activities.

The research shows that meta-cognitive strategies seem to promote all levels of cognitive and skill-based learning.  Why-based strategies had more consistent effects for all levels of cognitive learning, which supports the authors’ initial hypothesis — but think-aloud strategies do a better job of supporting skill-based outcomes, which does not.

Advance organizers —

Positive results were found for these for both cognitive and skill-based outcomes.  Of particular note for instruction librarians is this finding:  “stronger results were found for graphic organizers than text-based ones across all levels of skill-based outcomes.”

Goal orientation —

When compared with situations were no overt goal was provided to the learners, goal orientations seem to support all types of learning: cognitive, skill-based and affective, with the strongest effects (just by a little bit) in the affective domain.

The authors also hypothesized that mastery goals would be better than performance goals.  The findings suggest this hypothesis is true for skill-based learning and for affective learning.  They were not able to test it for cognitive learning.  They did find something odd with regards to affective learning – when they compared performance goals and mastery goals separately against no-goal situations, then performance goals showed greater effects.  But when they compared mastery goals and performance goals, stronger effects were found for mastery goals.

Preparatory information –

This showed positive effects for skill-based and affective learning, but they weren’t able to test it for cognitive learning outcomes.

SO WHAT ELSE COULD HAVE AN EFFECT?

The training conditions and content were coded to see if those things had an effect on which pre-practice interventions were most effective.  Of particular interest to me were the finding that stronger effects for cognitive learning were found for advance organizers paired with self-directed training (e.g. tutorials) than for traditional classrooms or simulations.  (Of course, it’s important to remember that those showed positive effects too).

RESULTS BY TYPE OF OUTCOME

This turned out to be the most interesting way to think about it for me, so I’m going to include all of these probably at a certain level of length…

For skill-based outcomes, broken down – the strategies that work best seem to be:

  • skill acquisition: mastery goals & graphic advance organizers.
  • skill compilation: think-aloud meta-cognitive strategies, attentional advice and goals.
  • skill automaticity: graphic organizers and pre-training goals.

This seems to suggest pretty strongly that librarians should find a way to communicate goals to students prior to the one-shot.  Obviously, the best way to do this would probably be via the classroom faculty member, which is why this also makes me think about the implicit message in the goals we do send to students – most specifically, I mean the implicit message sent by requirements like “find one of these, two of these, three of these and use them in your paper.  It does seem like this could be considered a performance goal more than a mastery goal and even if the main impact on students is added stress to perform, is that stress that is serving any purpose or should it be eliminated?

For cognitive outcomes, also broken down – these strategies emerged from the literature:

  • verbal knowledge: specific attentional advice, why-based meta-cognitive strategies, and graphic advance organizers had the largest effect.
  • knowledge organization: general attentional advice and think-aloud metacognitive strategies
  • development of cognitive strategies: why-based strategies and attentional advice.

This is interesting, of course, because while we know that teaching on this cognitive-outcome level is pretty hard in 50 minutes, a lot of the topics we’re asked to address in the one shot are really asking students to perform in that domain.  Ideas like information ethics, intellectual honestly, scholarly communication, identifying a good research article – these all require more than a set of skills, but also require a way of thinking.  So in this area, I am thinking okay, we can’t teach this in 50 minutes, but if we can prep them in advance, maybe we have a better chance of getting to something meaningful in that time.

For affective outcomes –

  • Overall, a pre-training goal orientation and attentional advice were most effective in this domain.

These might not seem relevant in the one-shot, but they really are.  We’re talking in many cases about teaching them something with the hope that they’ll use it later, when they really get to that stage of their research process, their confidence and self-efficacy is clearly relevant, as is their disposition to believe that you’re teaching them something valuable!  In fact, I think this might be as worth or more worth focusing on that cognitive outcomes.  So that makes these findings particularly interesting:

  • post training self-efficacy AND disposition toward future use of the training material were most influence when a performance goal orientation was used.
  • Attentional advice, mastery goals and preparatory information are also promising here.

Prepping for the one-shot (Peer Review Wednesday)

ResearchBlogging.org

Via the Research Blogging Twitter stream – I came across an article the other day that seemed like it would be of particular interest to practitioners of the one-shot, but as I was reading it I realized that it drew so heavily on an earlier model, that I should read that one too – so this week’s Peer Review Monday (on Wednesday) is going to be a two-parter.

Today’s article presents a Framework for Understanding Pre-Practice Conditions and their Impact on Learning. In other words — is there stuff we can do with students before a training session that will make for better learning in the training session? The authors say yes, that there are six categories of things we can do, which raises the related question – are all of the things we can do created equal?

CANNON-BOWERS, J., RHODENIZER, L., SALAS, E., & BOWERS, C. (1998). A FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING PRE-PRACTICE CONDITIONS AND THEIR IMPACT ON LEARNING Personnel Psychology, 51 (2), 291-320 DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.1998.tb00727.x

This article also reviews the existing literature on each category, but I’m really not going to recap that piece because that is also the focus of the other article, which was published this year and why look at both?

So I have started to feel very strongly that instruction in typical one-shots much more closely resembles training than teaching – at least how I think about teaching.  I’ve had some experiences this year where I have had to do the kind of “what does teaching mean to you” reflective writing that put into focus that there are some serious disconnects between some of the things that are important to me about teaching and the one-shot format, and it makes me wonder if some of the frustration I feel with instruction at times – and that others might be feeling as well – comes from fighting against that disconnect.  Instead of thinking about what I think about teaching (thoughts that started developing a long time ago, when I was teaching different content in credit courses that met several times a week over the course of several weeks) and trying to fit it into the one-shot model, perhaps it makes more sense to spend some time thinking about the model we have and what it could mean.

So, the training literature. Can a deep-learning loving, constructivism believing, sensemaking fangirl like me find inspiration there?  Well, apparently yes.

In their first section…

…the authors define what they mean by “practice.”  Practice in the context of this paper means the “physical or mental rehearsal of a task, skill or knowledge,” and it is done for the specific purpose of getting better at it (or in the case of knowledge, getting better at applying, explaining, etc. it).  It is not, itself, learning but it does facilitate learning.

They distinguish between practice conditions that exist before the training, during the training, and after it is done.  This article focuses on the before-the-training group – which I think is what makes it really interesting in that one-shot context.

In the second section…

…they dig into the six different types of pre-practice conditions that they categorized out of the available literature on the subject.  In their review of the literature, they tried to limit the studies included to empirical studies that focused on adult learners, but they were not always able to do so.

Attentional Advice

Attentional advice refers to providing attendees with information that they can use to get the most out of the training.  This information should not be information about how to do the thing you are going to be teaching — but information about the thing you are teaching.  This information should allow the learner to create a mental model that will help them make sense of what is being learned, and which will help connect what is being learned to what they already know.

The example they give describes a training for potential call-center employees.  The attentional advice given before the training includes information about the types of calls that come in, how to recognize and categorize them.  Not information about how to answer the calls directly.

This one got me thinking a lot about the possibilities of providing information about the types of sources students will find in an academic research process (as simple as scholarly articles/popular articles/books or more complex – review articles/ empirical research/ metaanalyses, and so on) as attentional advice before a session, instead of trying to teach it in a one-shot session where you have two options – to spend five minutes quickly describing it yourself, or to spend half of the session having the students do something active like examining the sources themselves and then teaching each other.

Metacognitive Strategies

Most instruction librarians can probably figure out what this one is – metacognitive strategies refer to strategies that help the learner manage their own learning.  These are not about the content of the session directly, but instead information about how the learner can be aware of and troubleshoot their own learning process.  The examples provided take the form of questions that learners can ask themselves during the training or instruction session.

Advance Organizers

I am sure the metacognitive strategies will spark some ideas for me, but it didn’t happen immediately – I think because I was distracted by this next category.  Advance organizers give learners, in advance, a way to organize the information they will be learning in the session.  So a really obvious example of this would be – if you want students to learn the content of a website, you could provide information in advance about the website’s navigational structure, and how that structure organizes the information.

This one really got me thinking too.  Another piece of information literacy instruction that is really, really important and about which we have a bunch of research and information backing us up is the research process – the iterative, recursive, back and forth learning process that is academic research.  We even have some useful and interesting models describing the process.  But in a one-shot, you’re working with students during a moment of that process and it’s really, really hard to push that session beyond the piece of the process that is relevant where they are at the moment.  What about providing advance information about the process – does that require rethinking the content of the session or the learning activities of the session — probably.  But would it provide a way for students to contextualize what you teach in the session.  I’m not sure, but I’m going to be thinking about this one more.

Goal Orientation

This one is pretty interesting in the more recent article.  There are two types of goals – mastery goals and performance goals.  Mastery goals focus attention on the learning process itself, while performance goals focus on achieving specific learning outcomes.  As a pre-practice condition, this means giving learners information about what they should focus on during the session.  As an example, they say that a performance goal orientation tells students in a training for emergency dispatchers to focus on dispatching the correct unit to an emergency in a particular amount of time.  A mastery goal orientation, on the other hand, tells the students to focus on identifying the characteristics they should consider when deciding which unit to dispatch to a particular emergency.

So – an performance goal orientation in the information literacy context might tell students to focus on retrieving a certain number of peer-reviewed articles during the session.  A mastery goal tells them to focus on identifying the characteristics of a peer-reviewed article.

Preparatory Information

This seems like it would be pretty much the same as Attentional Advice, but it’s not.  In this one you focus on letting the learner know stuff about the session environment itself — the examples they gave were situations where the training was likely to be very stressful, physically or emotionally difficult.

Pre-Practice Briefs

Finally, there’s this one, which refers specifically to team or group training.  In this one, you give the group information about performance expectations.  You establish the group members’ roles and responsibilities before the team training begins.

In the third and fourth sections…

The authors attempt to develop an integrated model for understanding all of these conditions, but they’re not able to do it.  Instead, they present a series of propositions drawn from the existing research.  Finally, they examine implications for day-to-day trainers and identify questions for future research.  The most essential takeaway here is – not all preparation for practice is equal and that we should do more research figuring out what works best, with what kind of tasks, and for what kind of learners.

Stay tuned for the second installment, where current-day researchers examine the last 12 years of research to see if this has happened – and where it has, they tell us what was found.


cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudel

Another essentially no more than bullet points post — I have a lot of formal writing I have to be doing now, so this will end at some point.  So, cool stuff…

via Dave Munger (twitter) Alyssa Milano pushing peer-reviewed research — see, it is relevant after you leave school!

via A Collage of Citations (blog).  Former OSU grad student/ writing instructor turned Penn State PhD candidate Michael Faris’ First-Year Composition assignment using archival sources to spark inquiry and curiosity.  Note especially the research-as-learning-process focus of the learning goals.

via Erin Ellis (facebook) plus then via a bunch of other people — proof that, in the age of social media, an awesome title can boost your impact factor.  But the content stands on its own as well – I’ve been thinking a lot about different information seeking style, and how different people gravitate naturally towards different approaches.  By Karen Janke and Emily Dill: “New shit has come to light”: Information seeking behavior in The Big Lebowski

via @0rb (twitter) Journalism warning labels

via Cool Tools (blog) Longform to InstapaperLong Form by itself is pretty cool, it aggregates some of the best long-form (mostly magazine) writing on all kinds of topics.  But what makes it really cool is that it integrates seamlessly with Instapaper, meaning that I can find something there, push a button and have it available on my iPad to read offline the next time I am stuck somewhere boring.

Related – Cool Tools’ post on the best magazine articles ever.

via Cliopatria (blog).  Obligatory history-related resource — London Lives: 1690-1800.  Pulling together documents from 8 archives & 15 datasets, this online archive asks “What was it like to live in the world’s first million person city?”

snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes

Because the work I have to do is stressful  — it’s a dogs biting (not really) bees stinging (not really) feeling sad (not really either) type of time

Tom and Lorenzo’s analysis of the costumes on Mad Men (the season premiere of which I finally got to see late last night) –

It became quickly obvious to us that there was no way we could examine the female fashion on Mad Men without looking at ALL the females. Costume Designer Janie Bryant deserves every bit of acclaim and applause that has come her way since she started work on the show. Think of this series of posts as a mini-retrospective. We’ll work our way up to Joan and Betty by looking at each of the other characters first.

Here’s the thing – I love the posts for the big 3 characters – Joan, Betty, and Peggy – but in some ways, I love the posts about the secondary characters more.  In the first group, the conversation is very character-driven, what different costuming choices say about different characters, which is fun and interesting.  In the second group, though, there’s just as much about what the costumes AND characters say about the time and place in which they’re set – which is right in my analytical sweet spot.

This digital history project at StanfordThe Republic of Letters.

Using social networking visualization tools to visualize the letters that scholars wrote to each other way back in the early days of scholarly communication.

Forged in the humanist culture of learning that promoted the ancient ideal of the republic as the place for free and continuous exchange of knowledge, the Republic of Letters was simultaneously an imagined community (a scholar’s utopia where differences, in theory, would not matter), an information network, and a dynamic platform from which a wide variety of intellectual projects – many of them with important ramifications for society, politics, and religion – were proposed, vetted, and executed.

You can check out their case studies, or do a little bit of playing with their tools.

Cryptogram for iPad.

This game is very easy (if you let it tell you when you guess a letter wrong) or less easy (when you don’t), and so, so pretty.

New blog to follow

And last, but only because I can’t believe anyone who reads this blog doesn’t already know this - Barbara Fister is blogging at Inside Higher Ed.

Word of the day: Advertorial

So advertorial – one of those words (like “anecdata”) that has meaning the first time you hear it.  A piece of writing that is made to look like one thing (usually an article) but which is really another thing (an advertisement).

While the most famous example of this for instruction librarians is undoubtedly the advertisements for Big Pharma in the form of scholarly journals flying under Elsevier’s flag of convenience, they are apparently and not surprisingly a well-established tool in the public relations toolkit.  They even give awards for them.  In the last round of Bronze Anvil Awards (given by the Public Relations Society of America to “recognize outstanding public relations tactics”) there were two awards given to advertorials — one to InSinkerator for something called InSinkerator Gets Home Builders to Think Green, and one to the Florida Department of Citrus, for their Florida Grapefruit Makes Headlines.

So why am I thinking about advertorials today?  Because they are wrecking one of my favorite places to go on the Internet — ScienceBlogs.

In short, ScienceBlogs disastrously, inexplicably, weirdly, agreed to allow a new nutrition blog to join ScienceBlogs – which is an invitation-only type networks of blogs about science and scientific research.  The weird, disastrous, etc. thing about this new blog, called Food Frontiers, was that it was produced by PepsiCo, and the decision to fairly radically change the type of content that was part of the ScienceBlogs network was made in an uncommunicative, opaque, closed way.

Summaries of the fallout – which bloggers are staying which are going, where the going bloggers are now – can be best found here, at Carl Zimmer’s blog (associated with Discover magazine) — Oh, Pepsi, What Hast Thou Wrought.

A Note from ScienceBlogs can be found on the former site of the Pepsi blog, explaining the decision to take it down.

So what does this all mean and why do I care?  Lots of people know that I love ScienceBlogs, or that I have loved ScienceBlogs, as a librarian who teaches – my love for it has only grown.  So now what?

Dave Mosher provides a good summary of what this means for content from ScienceBlogs in the future – which is the issue about which I am really concerned.  I don’t

That effort signals a fundamental change to the way their content is structured:

Before: Blogs.
After: Editorial blogs. | Advertorial blogs.

I type “signals” and not “is” because the transformation isn’t complete.

Because part of this is about reputation – and not reputation in that individual kind of way, but reputation in that authority/publishing/information literacy kind of way that means so much to students struggling to find their way through the scholarly landscape –

From Dave Munger (emphasis added) -

The hypocrisy in handing a nutrition podium to a company that is seriously implicated in the global obesity crisis was astonishing, and even worse, the dozens of bloggers who’ve worked for years to build ScienceBlogs’ reputation were taken completely by surprise.

Former ScienceBlogger David Dobbs nails the key irony here (again, emphasis added), arguing that PepsiCo is “buying credibility generated by others even as they damage same.”

As PalMD and others have pointed out, PepsiCo hardly lacks platform. The only value they can gain from writing here is to draw on the credibility created by a bunch of independent voices engaged in earnest,= thoughtful (well, most of the time), and genuine conversation.

What these (and countless other) commentaries point out is that the reputation of the site matters – that the name ScienceBlogs is supposed to mean something and one of the things it is supposed to mean is no corporate agendas — the fact that just anyone couldn’t write for ScienceBlogs, the fact that ScienceBloggers were writing independently, the fact that their creators, Seed Media, proclaims this lofty agenda (from their About page) all adds up to a set of expectations about what the content on the site was supposed to be.

We believe that science literacy is a pre-condition for progress in the 21st century. At a time when public interest in science is high but public understanding of science remains weak, we have set out to create innovative media ventures to improve science literacy and to advance global science culture.

While those expectations were not always reasonable and there were ads on the site, and whatever else might also have been a little muddy or murky before – there was an idea behind the project that was an important part of why this project was useful to me in the classroom and at the reference desk and in my own work.  It is not that this content was all supposed to be good, or right, or true, or even civil – but the reasons for it being written?  They were supposed to relate to improving the public understanding of science and science literacy.  So what does that mean in a world when that content is either editorial or advertorial?  No matter how easy it is to tell which is which on the site (and the RSS feed?  the Twitter stream??) – that changes things.

Bora Zivkovic hones in on this question of a network’s reputation in his post, explaining his reasons for leaving ScienceBlogs…

We have built an enormous reputation, and we need to keep guarding it every single day. Which is why the blurring of lines between us who are hired and paid to write (due to our own qualities and expertise which we earned), and those who are paying to have their material published here is deeply unethical. Scientists and journalists share some common ethical principles: transparency, authenticity and truth-telling. These ethical principles were breached. This ruins our reputation, undermines our work, and makes it more unpalatable for good blogger to consider joining Sb in the future.

Zivkovic goes on to discuss the ways in which the existence and influence of the ScienceBlogs network makes the people who blog there de facto science journalists – whether they are aware of (or willing to embrace) that fact or now. It is not surprising in this context (the context of how important science blogging has become to science journalism) that some of the first reactions to the Pepsi blog controversy came not from quick-on-the-draw bloggers, but from mainstream media outlets and watchdogs.

I don’t blog at ScienceBlogs (not many librarians do) and it’s not a crucial part of my everyday professional knowledge building because most of the content on the site isn’t directly aimed at my professional needs — it’s more the idea of the project that is important to my work than the reality of what is posted there on a day-to-day basis. That’s not true for everyone.  But as a libriarian, particularly a librarian working with first-year students making the transition to academic thinking, reading, and writing, ScienceBlogs was (and probably is) a go-to site for me.

A lot of the reason for this is the authority/credibility/reputation issues discussed above.  Not that my students could or should automatically trust any of the content on that or any site, but because I felt like I could tell them (quickly, in a 50-minute one-shot) why and how that information had been created in a way that could guide their critical and effective use of the site as a tool — an incredibly valuable tool – that would help them navigate expert research and academic writing.

But another part of the reason is good old fashioned findability.  As Zivkovic says in his discussion of the network effect at ScienceBlogs, most people don’t track blogs using RSS readers or other tools – they find the content when they search for it.  And when they search for it and find it on one blog in the network, all of the blogs in the network are made stronger.  I don’t expect my first-year students to really figure out yet what pieces of the dynamic web they want to track for scholarly or professional purposes – most of them, at 18, are still figuring out what those purposes will be. They may want to track stuff for a particular class, or a particular term, but yeah – for most of them the searchability and the browsability of this site was key to its being useful.  ResearchBlogging is good for that too, and there are other collections of resources that I can point indivdiual students to – but nothing else out there does what ScienceBlogs does (did?) as a place to illustrate the importance and utility of science blogging and academic blogging.

Carl Zimmer puts his finger on one of the main issues for me – if the bloggers leave ScienceBlogs that may be (probably will be) good for the quality of the content but bad for the findability of the content, and those things are not totally unrelated.

What I find particularly galling about this whole affair is that bloggers who don’t want to associate themselves with this kind of nonsense have to go through the hassle of leaving Scienceblogs and setting up their blog elsewhere. The technical steps involved may be wonderfully easy now (export files, open account on WordPress, import), but the social steps remain tedious.

Munger picks up the theme -

If they want to continue to have the kind of influence they used to have at ScienceBlogs, I think the bloggers who have left the site need to do something more than just start or restart their old, independent blogs. They need to form a new network — perhaps built around different principles, but a network nonetheless.

I think so too – I think if they lose the network effect, individual blogs and bloggers and small groups of same will be able to connect with one type of reader, and an important type of reader, but they’ll lose the true neophyte who stumbles on to new ways of talking about evidence and knowledge coming in through a Google Search — or because a librarian says “browse here for a while” when they’re stuck looking for topics.

Ira Flatow (NPR’s Science Friday) offers to talk about hosting departing ScienceBlogs bloggers’ blogs on the Science Friday site instead. And again here.  I suspect that even the benign oversight of NPR might seem too much to the gunshy bloggers who left ScienceBlogs, but I hope they do find each other again somewhere, or that they build new somewheres elsewhere.

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.

scholarly reading on the iPad – one month in

Not that this will be the definitive work…

I’ve had an iPad, like many others, for something more than a month now.  I haven’t talked about it much because I just haven’t been interested in justifying the purchase, or answering questions about whether it was worth it.   Like the first post I just linked to says, I’m think the answer to that question is still evolving even as I notice myself doing familiar things in new ways.

But I went to a conference last week, which was not only my first iPad travel experience, but it was one where I decided to see if I could get by with just the iPad, even though the presentation wasn’t done when I got on the plane and I had a bunch of resources I wanted to bring with me.

….Probably someone had investigated the phenomenon; no doubt she could look it up on the wrist.  She tapped out the code for the Journal of Areological Studies, typed in Pavonis: “Evidence of Strombolian Explosive Activity Found in West Tharsis Clasts.”  “Radial Ridges in Caldera and Concentric Graben Outside the Rim Suggest Late Subsidence of the Summit.”  She had just crossed some of those graben.

So, this picture has always sounded pretty good to me.  The ability to carry everything I might need and get at it whenever I have a question – that’s a type of heaven that connects me back to my very first smartphone purchase in 2005 which was justified by my desire to access IMDb from any pub in America.

Though, I have never been able to picture what the displays on the units in the quotation above (from Blue Mars) must look like that they let you read any kind of document, ever, on a unit you wear on your wrist.

Now I didn’t buy the iPad thinking that it would bring me into the world of ubiquitous scholarship – but as I started to prep for this conference I decided to see how close it would get me.  I brought a pretty big folder of articles and other documents along with me and found myself able to use them as much and as easily and I wanted to thoughout my five days on the road.

For articles, I was using this app – Papers.  I don’t have the desktop client installed.  When I first installed it on the iPad, I did so because the description said that the desktop client wasn’t necessary to use it – but that wasn’t true then and given that this app is definitely not free, I wasn’t happy.  A recent upgrade changed things, though and while I think this application would be a lot easier to use if I did have the desktop client, my experiment in using it without was successful.

You can add PDFs to your library in a couple of ways – using iTunes, or by emailing them to yourself.  I tried both and found myself leaning towards the email option:

Here’s the PDF waiting in my email on the iPad.  Click the icon to open it, and within the email client, I get button with the option to open the document in Pages.

Once in Papers, it gets a little clunkier.  If I had the desktop client, it would move everything over with metadata intact.  As I don’t – to add this I need to add the metadata myself — if I care to have it.  I don’t use this program (nor, I suspect, will I) to manage my citations so I haven’t figured out yet if I care about having the metadata beyond a descriptive title.

The journal name is easy to add, especially if you already have articles from the journal.  I can see the utility here, if I wanted to browse articles from a particular journal maybe?

I bought and installed the Keynote application on the iPad right away.  I use Keynote all the time – even when my documents are going to end up as PowerPoint, I create them in Keynote and convert – that’s how much I love it.  Pages, on the other hand, I have never warmed up to.  I hardly ever use it.

But, at the last minute, I decided that I also wanted to bring along several dozen interview transcripts.  I installed the Pages application as an experiment to see how this would work, and opened my email.  I was pretty surprised when the documents (which were Microsoft Word documents) displayed a Pages icon as soon as I had it installed.  Click the icon, open in Pages and I had access to all of my transcripts with practically no effort.

And it’s fun to browse through the documents -

So neither of these are free applications – Pages costs $10 and Papers $15.00.  For that $25, though, I was able to carry about twenty transcripts, a couple of dozen research articles and the full scan of a dissertation that I really didn’t want to carry.  Plus the movies, books, photos and music I need to survive the hours and hours of airplane time it takes to get back to Oregon from the east.  It’s not a research library on my wrist yet, but I can see the way there.

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.