Thursday, July 25, 2013

I'll read #ILread

Unfortunately I had to miss yesterday’s #ILread discussion, since I was in attendance at our state’s information literacy summit. I was impressed with Barbara Fister's talk at LOEX. As I recall, every one of her "outrageous claims" was loudly cheered by a large section of the audience. After I got home, I discussed her claims with a group of colleagues who were aghast that a librarian would say such things. I thought it was an interesting divergence of opinion. The claims were framed to get attention, so the statements appear more outrageous than they actually are, once we consider the underlying thoughts.

This is how I interpret them:
  1. Emphasize process over product. The research paper is the end product of the process. The learning is in the journey; the end product is just an artifact.
  2. Finding stuff is not hard. Coming up with good questions is more important.
  3. Citations are an academic thing. Incorporating the work of others into one’s own is the real skill.
  4. We're educators, not enforcers.
  5. There are reasons why students are expected to use scholarly sources. It is important for students to understand those reasons.
  6. “Librarians should spend as much time working with faculty as with students.” Actually, I think this is more obvious than outrageous. Faculty are our route to the students. We need to connect with them because we need them to advocate for us to their students.
One other thought about the discussion: I know that there are differences between how education is structured and how it operates in the US and UK, but I don't really know what all the differences are. It seems to make for a strange little language barrier that popped up now and then in the discussion.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Information literacy on the job

Niamh Tumelty / Page started an information literacy discussion group with the hashtag #ILread and a Zotero group. Here's my initial contribution.

Something that I think is worth discussion is the recent Project Information Literacy report, Learning Curve: How College Graduates Solve Information Problems Once They Join the Workplace by Alison Head. She also wrote an op-ed about it in the Seattle Times. The report looks at the gaps employers see between what they expect and what recent graduates bring to the job. Some of these are predictable: an over-reliance on Google, lack of persistence/thoroughness, and an aversion to asking coworkers for help. The report also looks at the situation from the perspective of the recent graduate. Focus group participants found workplace information problems to be more ambiguous and more deadline-intensive than what they were used to. They also mirrored the aversion to asking for help: "the biggest hurdle … was getting used to talking to strangers." 

As the Library Instruction Coordinator, a big part of my job is reaching out to faculty, promoting information literacy, and trying to find ways to bring the library and its resources into various courses. While the faculty see the value of information skills, many of them tell me, "Everything we do is project based. There is very little library research." So I have to talk about the information inputs and outputs of the projects, how information literacy is more than library skills, and how the library is more than what's in the building. Trying to get students on board with info lit is an even bigger challenge. If it's not required, they (for the most part) don't care, and if it is required, they don't see why it should be a requirement. I think the PIL report could be a great help in this situation.

The report reframes information literacy from "library skills" or "something students have to do in school" to a workplace expectation, and a workplace struggle. The idea that the first page of Google hits doesn't cut it, or that Google by itself isn't good enough, is more than an academic thing. Getting the findings of this report in front of faculty and students could accomplish a good part of the sales job. Getting them to read it could be another challenge.

I'm curious to find out: Do others think they could use this report in this way? How would you go about it?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Readings ramblings

One of the suggestions I routinely had for my professors while I was working on my Masters in Library Science was that they reduce the number of required readings and require students to find relevant readings to contribute. Mostly I felt that the readings were behind the times - some were seminal, but others were outdated, like an article from the 90s debating the merits of using email for reference questions.

So I appreciated Music for Deckchairs' view of changing the way we think about course readings. Michael Wesch wrote about using an interesting inversion of course readings a few years ago. At LOEX earlier this year I heard about the Medrano Project where students built a living textbook as part of the course, rather than pay through the nose for a regular text. A brilliant teacher at my own institution is currently doing a similar thing, having her Early Childhood Education students find journal articles to answer weekly essential questions in lieu of buying a textbook.

Participants in MOOCs do contribute readings to the courses, of course. I tried a couple times to start collaborative annotated bibliographies in MOOCs, but found few takers. I think we could have built useful, lasting resources. But I was just a lone voice in the wilderness, and the facilitators had supplied us with ample readings and activities already. No one saw the need to add to it.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Last week, Joshua Kim wrote of “Playing the Role of MOOC Skeptic: 7 Concerns” in Inside Higher Ed. Having spent the last year and a half lurking through various MOOCs, I was fascinated by the article. He’s describing something quite foreign to my experience.

It brings to mind Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, a book by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain from the mid-90s. McNeil named punk when he started Punk magazine, which covered an aspect of the NYC music scene in the mid-70s. Through the book’s lens, the Sex Pistols are seen as the end of punk, even though they are popularly considered one of the original punk bands. They put punk in the public eye. The Pistols made headlines, then the public heard the style but they missed the point. ''It was not about being perfect, it was about saying that it was O.K. to be amateurish and funny, that real creativity came out of making a mess, it was about working with what you got in front of you and turning everything embarrassing, awful and stupid in your life to your advantage.'' The first part of that statement could apply the so-called proto-MOOC ds106.

Punk went from being this NYC thing to a label that was apparently applied to almost anything, as this commercial shows. Is the same thing happening with MOOCs? The term MOOC was initially coined for a course run by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. They opened up their University of Manitoba course on Connectivism to the world through the web, and attracted a couple thousand learners. Connectivism lies at the heart of a MOOC. Learning happens through connecting with ideas and concepts, and connecting with others. The massiveness in the MOOC is not just the sheer number of participants, but the massive interconnection that grows through their reflections, contributions and interactions.

From that viewpoint, it is questionable whether these Stanford/MITx/etc. things are really MOOCs. They seem to me to be more like an evolutionary step up from OERs (Open Educational Resources). Would Thrun’s course have been fundamentally different if only twelve people signed up? Or one, for that matter? Kim writes, “A MOOC, if well designed, can be a terrific method for information transfer, practice and assessment.” But information transfer, practice and assessment do not require massiveness. Thousands of people doing the same thing at the same time does not equal thousands of people doing it together.

We could also question whether these courses really open. They’re open in that anyone can register, but for the most part they’re not open so anyone can look in. The recent course Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success was run through CourseSites, an LMS more appropriately termed byzantine than open.

Friday, October 21, 2011

MOOC/Librarian connection

I put together a MOOC/librarian concept map for a conference on professional development for academic librarians. My professional focus is information literacy instruction, which the map reflects. I'm mixing and matching ACRL and SCONUL views of info lit, so I apologize to any purists. I may be missing some important connections due to my focus. I would appreciate any comments, suggestions or input.

Friday, October 7, 2011

your images tell a story of anything at all.

How do my images tell a story of anything at all? This image says something about symbiosis, I suppose, or emergence. Or the problems of getting good focus on an iphone, for that matter. Taken as a whole, my photos might tell a tale of bizarre obsession.
I took a walk during a break at work a few years ago, and found this strange fungus growing out of the side of a tree, like a bark-born starfish fungus hatching to life, in a ritzy suburban area where expert lawncare appears mandatory, and mushrooms are probably a zoning violation. It occurred to me at the time that I had a camera in my phone that I never used, so I took a picture. I kept running into more interesting growths, and ended up with a Flickr-ful of them. I found a huge one in the cemetery, where the groundkeepers had carefully mowed around it, probably thinking a rock or headstone. It seems like I should do something with them, but I have no idea what...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

zotero and cmc11

I've been interested in creativity for a long time, and I've been meaning to give it some serious study. Life always gets in the way though. I'm hopeful that CMC11 can help me regain some focus.

Being a librarian, I'm sometimes inclined to collect and organize things. Probably more the former than the latter - so I'm thankful that my wife is so tolerant. I started a Zotero group bibliography of some of the material that's been referred to in the course so far. I should do some tagging and add notes, if I find the time. If others think it a worthwhile endeavor, they're welcome to contribute whatever they like. If enough of us add, tag and annotate material, we would build a valuable resource.

In the course of doing that, I found that I already had a creativity folder in my Zotero collection, so I copied the contents to the group library. I guess the course has paid off already in reminding me to look over some of these things. If only I can find the time to start connecting some dots...