In the past week, I have finished teaching all of my sessions and have begun to focus exclusively on collection development for the history department with Brett Spencer. Finishing classes was a great relief, to be honest. I am getting really busy with schoolwork, and the anxiety I feel when I teach only adds to that stress. Teaching, for me, was a really valuable experience, and I learned a lot about myself. I am so grateful that I was given this opportunity, and I know how valuable it will be for me in the future.
I also learned through this process that I really enjoy collection development. Analyzing the history department, creating a conspectus and buying books has been really rewarding and fun. Brett is an excellent teacher, and I have been learning so much about which presses are more reputable than others, how to make sure I don’t buy items we already have in the library, and how to make judgment calls about books in general. In performing collection development duties, I have actually learned that my duties as an assistant to a private library creator were actually very similar to collection development, and so I found that I already had learned some of the skills required of a collection development position. This revelation should seem intuitive–after all, we were building collections–but sometimes it is hard to notice these connections or applications. After all, we were just buying books online and putting together collections for clients at Kinsey Marable & Co. How could that ever translate to buying books online and putting together collections in an academic library?
Yesterday I finished my final teaching session of the semester. True to form, I was teaching the database Opposing Viewpoints in Context and the database would not function. I tried and tried and tried, but apparently the Alabama Virtual Library, the carrier of OVIC, was experiencing technical difficulties. So, my entire lesson was useless and I had to improvise a lesson on the fly. Luckily I had planned to talk briefly about Academic Search Premier and my class was only eight students, so it wasn’t a huge deal and I think the students still benefited from the lesson. The class was comprised of three male freshmen students and five female freshmen students. The women in the classroom were very attentive and tried hard to implement my lessons in their searches. The men very stereotypically looked for the lowest prices on GNC protein powder. What was encouraging, though, was that by the end of the lesson everyone, including the men, were looking for sources for their topics. I was able to individually help everyone search, and in fact one of the protein powder guys had a very smart and fresh take on subject headings, keywords and searching in general. While I was explaining the process to him, he said, “oh, like tags.” What he meant was, keywords and subject headings are like tagging photos on facebook. I found that really encouraging because I think its a great metaphor. I never thought that this student who at the start of class couldn’t pay attention would actually teach me something by the end. This is one of the great aspects of instruction, and it is moments like these that keep instructors coming back to the classroom.
This week I read “Standards and Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators: A Practical Guide.” What struck me about this reading was the common themes that keep popping up in this reading: “collaborating,” “mentoring,” “improving,” “sharing,” and so forth. These standards clearly emphasize instruction librarians’ roles as supporters of one another. These standards emphasize instruction coordinators’ roles as mentors, as supporters of those librarians below them. These standards are really encouraging, and it’s really great to see how they are put into place in our environment. As members of the Jedi Council, we are there each week to discuss our struggles, our successes, and how we might improve upon our teaching. Brett and Sarah both do a wonderful job of motivating and encouraging us, and we, as interns and assistants, have the benefit of seeing how good instruction coordinators and librarians function.
Well, it is all pretty fun to me, even when I am dying (no comments, no laughter, no answers, no questions), as I know that most anything in the classroom can be turn around and headed in the right direction in a heartbeat.
My latest, favorite image is “How is a library like a drinking fountain?” My thought process related to this image is that water must (in these lucky United States) go through an exhaustive process of collection, filtration, purification, sanitization, and finally, safe delivery before it ever reaches your favorite water fountain. That is, in this country, we can approach a water fountain and be pretty doggone confident that we are going to get a cool, clear, pure drink.
Relating this process to the selection and “purification” process that goes on concerning information in a modern library is an easy leap. Students immediately say “it’s free” (if they only knew!!!), “you can drink all you want”, or “it’s pure”. You can extend this image and process as far as you like, given cooperative students (the final, best gift). I was and am thinking about no specific pedagogical method, tho analogy and imagery have long and dependable histories in teaching critical thinking skills. Asking anyone how x is similar to y always requires a thinking process on the part of the student, and that is active learning and participation. Simple. No props, no whiz bang, just get the brains in gear.
I admire and envy folks who have great (and hip) teaching ideas and tools. My brain sticks to the facts, and that is great when the facts are needed. I need to branch out, and rubbing shoulders with this crowd, it is bound to happen.
All good things, gisssteve
Early in my session 2’s, I had a moment where I came up with a new analogy for the publication process to help students understand why a resource should be trusted, and why we rely on peer review. My analogy begins with a discussion of what WebMD diagnoses you with when you give it your symptoms, even if it’s a rash and the sniffles, which most of the time is cancer. In contrast, if you go to the doctor and tell him the same symptoms, he’s probably going to tell you that you have allergies. The next portion of this analogy was to discuss why you trust a doctor more than WebMD, including the doctor’s lengthy education and the accountability of licensing, which then segued into how that resembles peer review. The first time I used this analogy, I saw how the classes came to understand why they trusted sources, and I ended up with lots of laughter and a really great discussion.
The comments from my supervisor and peer were both encouraging. They liked the simplicity of the analogy and they found it easy to understand. I enjoyed getting the positive feedback, and hope to do this with other activities.
My favorite classroom moment came in session two. I gave out three different sources to the class, all regarding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010. One source was scholarly, one was popular, and one was a webpage from BP itself. I also gave out a form worksheet, and this worksheet’s purpose was to get the students to figure out who wrote the article, whether or not it was scholarly or popular, and whether or not this article was reliable and relevant to the sample thesis provided at the top of the worksheet. After 5-10 minutes, we first discussed the BP official statement webpage. This is where my favorite classroom moment occurred. When I asked whether or not the students would use this source for this thesis, two students simultaneously said ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ I asked these students to explain their positions. The ‘no’ student listed bias as their reason. As I was about to say maybe we would use this source to explain BP’s official position but not as a reliable source for factual information, a student who did not even have this source for the activity took the words out of my mouth.
I really appreciated this moment because I think student involvement is most important in the classroom, and I was so excited to hear these students participate the way they did.
Naturally, this was a hard moment to recreate in our meeting because the moment was all about how the students responded and what arguments they responded with. However, it was really great because I didn’t tell Brett or Kristen what to say, and they also said ‘no’ when I asked if they would use this source. I think it is important for us to remember the context in which sources are appropriate, and I feel that this activity addressed the context problem effectively on top of the sort of standard source evaluation it was geared toward.