In our Jedi Council on Friday, we discussed active learning and the effectiveness of having a “messy classroom.” Brett made a very interesting point comparing Sesame Street’s format of short segments focusing on different subject using different deliveries to how a college classroom can be, too. I did not like active learning when I was introduced to it during the end of my high school years. I was used to a lecture based format. I have tried to develop other ways to appeal to as many learners as possible. For the last active learning module I created an activity that would appeal to me as a learner. When I am introduced to a new idea, it takes me a while to analyze and work through the applications of it. By choosing to do a think/pair/share format, I feel like I appealed to learners like me. If I have a moment to myself, I can come up with things to talk about with others. If I have to immediately answer or discuss something without adequate thinking time, I freeze, my brain freezes, and I can get nervous. I am going to start including think/pair/share activities in my repertoire so that I can include as many students as possible in engaging with the content.
Month: September 2013
Week 6: Popular vs. Scholarly
This week we were asked to work on an active learning exercise to teach students about the differences between scholarly and popular articles/journals. I like the idea of giving the students two articles and having them evaluate them on the spot before giving them any sort of lecture on the difference between popular and scholarly (much like Mark did in the class I observed a few weeks back). This approach, in my opinion, gets the students to think critically about some terms they are already familiar with (“popular” and “scholarly”) and apply them to a research/library setting. This way, the instructor can talk the students through the reasons why they decided “Article A” is scholarly and why “Article B” is popular. After all, these are concepts they are already familiar with (at least in the abstract). We’re just giving them the tools/knowledge to help them apply those concepts to their research.
In addition, I have also created a Sporcle quiz* that could possibly work as a quick little assessment after the article evaluations. It does not look quite like I want it to, but it is a nice start. If anyone knows of a Sporcle alternative or quiz generator that is a little easier to use/format, please let me know.
*Here is the bitly for the quiz:
Also, here is a pretty sweet photo I found on the interwebs:
This week we are developing active learning modules about Boolean operators. I have had some trouble designing an activity that describes this subject adequately. Most of the examples I have seen are illustrations of a Venn diagram describing AND, NOT, and OR; or using playing cards. Boolean logic is not a simple topic and can be difficult to explain to a group quickly. This subject has been one of the parts of the information literacy classes that I do not automatically have the words to explain. This week I observed Josh’s EN 102 session one class, and I finally understood a way to show students Boolean operators. He uses the advanced search options in Scout to search using the keywords already developed earlier in the class. Since the search is structured with the AND/OR/NOT between boxes to type in, it is a natural approach to stringing together the search terms. It was a smooth transition and was logical in the class. The students seemed to understand it well.
While researching ways to explain Boolean logic, I found several blogs by librarians with posts discussing this topic’s relevance in information instruction. Several instruction librarians emphasized that the topic is not nearly as important as many librarians assume it is. Also, the posts blamed this as a part of librarianship that creates barriers between new and infrequent library users and libraries. Perhaps this is a topic that will eventually be less important, but for now using AND and OR still seem important to me.
As for this week’s readings, I was quite glad to read something that takes seriously the true attitudes of college students and their approaches to information literacy. The best way to truly understand how to teach students is to be practical about the motivations and habits of the less interested students.
Week 5: EN 102
Today was my first day to co-teach an EN 102 class. Overall, I think it went really well. Alex was the main instructor, and I assisted by executing my keyword “active learning” activity that I demoed in our weekly meeting last week.* While the application of the activity in a real classroom wasn’t perfect, the instructor seemed to like it, and even complimented me on it at the end of class. So, yay.
Which brings me to our reading last week, “Becoming Critically Reflective: The Process of Learning and Change.” The article’s main focus was to illustrate how our assumptions about the way we teach and the ways we present can be changed by viewing our performance through different lenses. So, while it is certainly healthy to be self-reflective in our vocation, sometimes it is important to get the outside opinions of others, whether it is our peers, our students, or even the theoretical literature surrounding our profession. As I’ve mentioned before, I often get nervous speaking in front of people, so getting to demo my methods in front of my fellow “padawans” each week is super duper helpful. For example, getting that little bit of encouragement from my peers and mentors last week really and truly gave me the confidence to co-teach the class today. Feedback from others is crucial to my success in this internship, as it gives me confidence in what I’m doing and helps me see beyond my nervous disposition. So, keep the criticisms/feedback/praise coming, and I’ll try to do the same for you!
*I added a worksheet component (that used word bubbles) to help guide them along.
What I Consider to be My First Success
On Tuesday, we all worked together to co-teach a library introduction session for the LS 507 Reference class. I really enjoyed the experience. I spent about an hour preparing, and everything went smoothly. I decided to include a few things into the Scout tutorials that were aspects of the website that I did not know about when I started the program. I tried to focus on what would be the most helpful for helping them through their graduate program. I think that I built a good rapport with them. Throughout the tour and at the end of the session, all of the students were excited about some of the new things they had learned.
Through this experience, I feel that I have developed a method for preparing for classes, and I feel more comfortable explaining concepts. I am continuing to refine my explanations and revise my examples for the clearest and best instruction. I think that this session was an encouraging example of improvement through hard work. I should pat myself on the back.
Week 4: SLIS Survivor
This week all the interns joined Brett for our first co-teaching experience (well, except for Robert…he’s seasoned). We all met in the Osburn Room to give library tours and play a game of Library Survivor (LS) with SLIS’s LS507 class. We had previously worked with Brett to develop a version of LS that would appeal to SLIS students, and I think it turned out nicely. I was lucky enough to get a combination of SLISers in my tour group. All of them were first semester students, but each student was familiar with the library in different ways. Tours, I think, are perfect for me. When I’m moving, my nerves aren’t really an issue. I also liked dealing with the students in a small group. I felt like I got to “know” them a little bit on the tour, so by the time we came back to the classroom to go over SCOUT I was as cool and a cucumber. I think I’m going to really enjoy doing these BCE/Compass classes in the next couple of weeks, which follow the same format. Now for first year writing…
Week 3: Observation
This week was my first week observing.* Since the schedule this semester is awkwardly mapped, I was unable to view a first year writing course. However, I did get to view Mark teach a Comm 123 course and Brett teach a Compass course, the latter of which I helped out with a bit.
The first class I observed was Mark’s Comm 123 session. Comm 123 is a public speaking course required of most majors within the communication’s school. Of all the things worth mentioning about Mark’s class, I think the most interesting was how he began. Mark opened the class with two articles about texting and driving, one of which was from a scholarly journal and the other from a popular news source. Mark had the students read the abstracts aloud and voice their opinions as to why each was labeled the way they were. (For example, the students noted that the scholarly article was written with very technical language, while the popular article was written for an audience with a lower reading level.) After dissecting the two pieces, Mark then asked the students which one would be a better source for their first speech topic. Most of the students, as expected, answered with the scholarly journal. Then Mark explained that, yes, while that does seem like the logical answer, for a public speaking class a scholarly journal is not necessarily appropriate, depending on the audience and topic. I liked this for several reasons:
- It broke down resource stereotypes, such as the assumption that all scholarly journals are “good” and all popular publications are “bad.”
- It helped the students think critically about library resources.
- It was interactive. Student’s led the conversation while Mark steered them in right direction. This is much more preferable to me than lecturing.
The second class I observed last week was Brett’s Compass class. I feel like Brett was made for these. He is so personable, and I have a lot to learn from his enthusiasm for the library and the students. Observing him give a library tour was particularly helpful, as I was tasked with giving a library tour this past week to some SLIS students (more on that to come later). In addition, his library survivor game is top notch. The students loved it, and even got mildly competitive with it, which is great if you believe all the “game theory” literature.
Overall, things last week went well. My first round of real, hardcore co-teaching comes next week, and I feel like observing these librarians helped ease my nerves a bit. This, much to my chagrin, just might be enjoyable after all. 🙂
*Sorry about being a little late posting this to the blog
Challenging Grand Narratives
I’m certainly glad to have re-read “Grand Narratives and the Information Cycle in the Library Instruction Classroom,” by Sara Franks. Challenging grand narratives is something we must do to try to pull ourselves out of the traditional thought pattern that history is one massive, linear process. We should remember to tell our students to challenge traditional lines of thought. What did the author have to gain by publishing that academic article, for example? Perhaps he or she was truly passionate, but maybe they were coming up for tenure and needed to bolster their cv. We need to remind our students that their are alternative voices, alternative ways at looking at their problem or thesis than just the mainstream thought.
To supplement this reading I chose “If the NSA trusted Snowden, why should we trust the NSA?,” by Farhad Manjoo from Slate Magazine. This article, though hardly mainstream, raises important questions about Edward Snowden that many major news organizations failed to investigate, such as, why was Edward Snowden, a programmer seemingly less accomplished than your average community college grad, given the keys to the proverbial NSA safe? Without disappearing down a conspiracy theory rabbit hole, this article is one example of how difficult it is to challenge mainstream thought and then also penetrate the mainstream publishing avenues; indeed, it is almost impossible.
To bring this all back to information literacy somehow, it is very hard to challenge mainstream publications in a user instruction course. We want students to question their materials, but how are we supposed to tell them both to use our resources yet also not implicitly trust them? It sounds perfectly logical to us, but to a freshmen college student it must sound incredibly hypocritical. Furthermore, how far can we push the ‘don’t implicitly trust the mainstream’ without rubbing the class’ professor the wrong way? Many professors of freshmen English courses aren’t interested in rocking the boat too much, and don’t want students to become overly confused. We must find a way to push the envelope without alienating the professor. We must also find a way to teach students to not implicitly trust their resources, to question them, yet still use the library. It’s a difficult balancing act, to be sure.
Today I was able to watch Michael’s EN 102 class. For the last 20 minutes, he let me help with the worksheets, do an example search from a student’s worksheet as a wrap up, review the LibGuide, and finish up with the quiz about section 1. I feel WAAYYY more successful than I felt about my SCOUT tutorial from last week’s meeting. I think I needed to stand in front of a group of students to feel more confident. It did not hurt that I did not have to actually teach a large amount of content, but I just needed a success to inspire me. I even got a half-hearted chuckle from Freshmen. That is definitely a win. As always, there is a list of things I wish I had done differently, but it is good that I can recognize these things so I can improve my teaching.
For the next meeting I am working on the keyword active learning activity. I spent a very long time trying to find something new and inventive. I have always enjoyed coming up with new ways of explaining or illustrating ideas, but I had a lot of trouble with this. I have prepared an activity that has potential, but I need to iron out a few things. Honestly, one of the hardest things is creating a thesis statement that works well but is not incredibly boring. It seems as if things are coming together for now, though.
Week 2: SCOUT demo and Keyword Planning
At this past week’s meeting, the rest of the interns and I presented our SCOUT demos to Alex, Brett and Michael. I had prepared a demo that I thought was about 5 minutes long but ended up being much longer. Time management, it seems, is going to be a problem I need to work on for the next couple of weeks. My lesson plan was rather detailed, but I have a tendency to elaborate unnecessarily and stumble over my words (hello nerves). Other than that, I believe that the overall reception of my demo was positive. I covered what Scout is (a discovery search tool), how to get into Scout, how to search in Scout using the advanced search tool, and what a record looks like. Looking back, this was a bit ambitious.
This week, I am working on presenting an active learning activity for choosing keywords. I have done quite a bit of researching, and I think I have found an activity that would really appeal to the sensibilities of incoming students. I got the idea from UWM’s library’s website (http://www4.uwm.edu/libraries/ris/instruction/ip/terms.pdf). Basically, the objective is to get students to use encyclopedias to generate a list of keywords/synonyms/related words to use when searching for materials for their topic. I think it will work nicely because A) students are typically familiar with using online encyclopedias for research, both wikipedia and otherwise and B) it creates and nice teaching moment for letting students know that encyclopedias, while informational, are not appropriate to cite in a college level paper; HOWEVER, they are great for brainstorming paper topics and for choosing ways in which to narrow or broaden a thesis. I plan to hand out a notecard to each group that includes an encyclopedia and a keyword (ex. Capital Punishment, Facebook, Autism). The goal is to find as many broader, narrower, and related terms using the encyclopedia as a guide. After a few minutes, I will ask to students to share their findings with the class, making a point to ask them if they found any terms that surprised them.