Reflections upon EN 102 observation

Had the pleasure of observing Mr. Brett Spencer working with 24 reluctant to cooperative students this morning beginning about 0930, and by 1030 they were all cooperative and pleased to have useful information in their hands or emails. Brett started with an Alabama football quiz for those students who came early enough, and by the time he started explaining Scout, most of the class was awake.

I realized how one had to begin at the beginning, assuming nothing in terms of library and computer use in order to make sure we were all on the same page, and the active learning component (following along with Brett) was an important part of getting the class material across to the students.  Brett did the step by step rollup to using the basic search in Scout, got things rolling toward keywords (southern culture as a taking off point) using Bubbl.us, and the five or six various groups in the class all followed along in learning the Scout tool.  Sooner than expected, Brett turned them loose to discuss among themselves what topics they wanted to explore, and they were busily selecting keywords as Brett waded into them waist deep, helping out where he could.

Again, the importance of beginning at the beginning was impressed upon me as I was called upon to escort a student to find books the group had selected about Southern foodways (call number guides at the elevators), and this student had never been beyond the first or second floor of Gorgas.  Another group (football, religion, politics) had found some items held in the Hoole collections and were very excited to hear that it would be a treat just to go to Hoole to use their holdings.  One student had bad experiences in high school trying to use databases, and a few limiters and a bit of encouragement pulled it all out of the ditch and put it back on the road again.  Got a chance to assist in keyword selection with one group that was interested in Southern clothing fashion (Southeastern United States; clothing/garment design; sales and marketing).  Yet another group was going to get their first experience with inter-library loan, so the diversity of requests and needs was also impressive.

Overall, a great learning experience for me, and a productive experience for the students, if I can judge by what they left the classroom with.  This flipped classroom thing seems to be quite effective, and getting productive work done in class pleases students in that they have a leg up on their projects, and their homework is on the way to getting done.  Many thanks to Brett for allowing me to observe, and I was glad to have some student contact again after years out of the classroom.  Oh yeah, the snow that started during class was only a small part of the excitement.

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