Sunday, December 4, 2011

Why can't we do this?

Snippet from the wonderful infographic linked above, by HackCollege

Ignore the Google stuff. Instead look at the elegant use of graphic design. This, in my opinion, is self-help that users can intuitively learn from. Specifically, I mean libraries (and library web sites and vendor databases, etc.) need more well-designed, text-sparse infographics; to provide guidance (and to teach) our users to become confident, trans-literate information users and creators themselves.

Perhaps there might be LIS courses created that specifically look at and teach us how to think up and design infographics? If so, sign me up!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Late again: Latest WGIL Room Podcast

I forgot to post about our latest podcast with newest WGILer Dunstan McNutt, where we discuss issues of student motivation: WGIL Room Ep. 9.

On a side note: I've been really slacking in keeping this blog up, but don't give up on it just yet! The October mad house that is we instruction librarians' life is almost over, so hopefully I'll have a little more time to write up some good posts.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Adventures of a Curious Cat

A recent post on Andy Woodworth's always thought-provoking Agnostic, Maybe blog, titled Re: What I love Doing, which itself is a reaction to a recent commencement speech by Jessamyn West, just now sent me down an uncomfortable but exhilarating rabbit hole of mental gymnastics in relation to how I approach teaching. I am now in the process of rethinking, restructuring, and refocusing how I approach the online workshops I do every term.

In his post, Andy mentions something I believe many teachers and trainers struggle with, regardless of what discipline or issue they are dealing with (i.e., not just technology):
"The ultimate lesson I try to impart to my students is to be adventurous, be curious, and don’t worry about clicking on “the wrong thing” because honestly you really can’t hurt the computer. There is so much agony raveled around “messing up the machine”...
Photo by Laser Guided, via Flickr CC
The crux of Andy's excellent goal above, as I see it, is: how can we tap into students' sense of adventure and curiosity, so that it can be focused on the specific learning we are trying to facilitate? I constantly encounter students overwhelmed within a library database, despite the tools being right at their fingertips, for fear of clicking the wrong thing or losing their hard fought one decent result. The same curiosity that leads many of us at one time or another down a deep rabbit hole of funny YouTube videos or lolcat pictures or Wikipedia entries or obscure forums on some topic we hold dear can also be harnessed here in the name of information literacy.

Beyond content and other factors that are dictated by events on the ground of each class, are there overarching pedagogical techniques we can use to help this along? I ask this humbly as a mostly self-taught instructor, knowing full well there isn't any one or even one set of silver bullet solutions.  In some of my previous posts and several times during some recent WGIL Room podcasts, I've discussed the related issue of fostering student creativity. In many ways I believe creativity and curiosity are intertwined, if not co-dependent. It's hard to have one without the other.

Andy's insights about curiosity and adventure are eminently applicable to ourselves as well. If an instructor does not approach teaching with at least some degree of curiosity and sense of adventure (let alone, creativity), how can they hope to bring this out in their students? This all ties in, of course, to the broader idea of being an authentic teacher. This is something I struggle with constantly, and not just because I teach students at a distance or because I have a million other duties and responsibilities besides teaching.  As with most things, there is a delicate balance that needs to be maintained. Between institutional needs and student needs. Between immediate desires and lifelong learning. Between fish and fishing rods. Between work and fun. Between available time and sanity. Easier said than done, especially given my somewhat unique and challenging teaching environment, right?

Photo by Luciano Joachim, via Flickr CC
Where I stand now with my soon-to-begin online workshops (which consist primarily of 90 minute, voluntary, hands-on webinars, even though I detest that last word) is a rekindled sense of taking chances in how I teach. My goal is to spark student curiosity and creativity much more directly. To better break down the barriers between students and teacher; between students and their existing critical thinking skills; and most importantly, between students and knowledge creation. This will probably entail revisiting and revamping learning objectives and activities, and inevitably, involve some failures, which I always hope to learn from.  Gaming, if you read this blog at all, is a topic dear to my heart, and probably a path I will more fully mine for possibilities along these lines.

I will try, after the Fall term October rush, to draw up another post, on what actual changes I implemented, and if it had any apparent change in learning outcomes. If I forget, remind me!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thursday Evening Distractions

Having gotten home from roller derby practice tonight at 11:30 covered in sweat and unable to yet go to sleep, I decided to write up a short blog post while I cool down before a quick shower.

Below are a few simple browser-based games I use as occasional time wasters, many with educational potential as well. Note: none (with the possible exception of Global Resistance) are of the Farmville and or Facebook game ilk, which I have a distaste for
  • Sweatshop: educational, and fun in a nostalgic 8-bit way. Also: a good, brief write up on the issues it attempts to tackle.
  • Sissy's Magical Ponycorn Adventure: a simple, whimsical game recalling the innocence and pure imagination of childhood, made by a 5 year old and her dad. Isn't this a great project for a parent and child to work on collaboratively? Recalls a brief article from Wired magazine (Clive Thompson on Coding for the Masses) that backhandedly calls for coding to become a curriculum requirement; to help educate the masses in digital literacy issues as well as beef up grassroots problem solving in this country.
  • Haiku Hero: simple: make haiku's in survival, deadline or endless mode, but you must use words provided by the game and you get rated on quality.
  • Global Resistance: no educational value at all! Is a social-strategic war game that ties into the upcoming Resistance 3 console game. So far shows a good balance of cooperative and competitive play and and simple strategic play.
  • The Trader of Stories: a point and click adventure with a soothing soundtrack and a great art style.
  • Moonlights: a World of Goo block building clone - addictive and fun.
  • Knoword: a simple word game where you're given a definition and the first letter of the word and you have to fill in the rest of the word within a time limit to move on to the next word. Fun and helps build vcabulary at the same time!
  • Rebuild: a tough to master but easy to pick up strategy and Civilization-type game where you need to manage, equip and train an expanding group of survivors of a zombie outbreak, scavenge for supplies, and maintain and expand control of the city.
  • BattlePaint: addictive space shooter where you shoot increasing waves of paint and their "blood" when you kill them creates abstract art on the battle field.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

SUNY 2011 Conference Notes

This is late in coming, I know. A death in the family and work upheaval stuff have gotten in the way since I returned from Plattsburgh. Below, in mostly unedited form, are my SUNYLA 2011 annual conference notes and thoughts, drawn mostly from what I jotted down using Fliq Notes app on my Nook Color:

At some point between first day sessions, I was reading an interesting article from the July 2011 issue of Wired magazine titled "Transparency for All" In it Jesse Lichtenstien talks about the impact open gov't data projects are having on digital divides. He makes 2 interesting points in the article that stuck out at me:
  1. Open data is good, but useless without parallel investments in information literacy education. Otherwise only the Haves (corporations, etc.) will be in a position to effectively use that data to their advantage.
  2. (I can't recall offhand if this was a point he made or something I concluded from his piece): Librarians need to step into this space and provide info lit education to their communities of users.
I started the conference by attending my first ever SUNYLA council meeting as the new delegate for my college and recently elected to chair the Working Group for Information Literacy (WGIL) committee. It was an informal, mostly efficient affair where some important issues facing either the association or our libraries were discussed.

After that I had to rush over to set up for my own 3 hour pre-conference workshop "DIY Podcasting,"  which I was co-presenting with my WGIL Room co-hosts Carleen Huxley and Mark McBride. We had requested a limited number of participants because part of the workshop would consist of particpants planning and recording their own podcast, and the group of 10 we got was a perfect size. I think the workshop went very well. There was lots of back and forth discussion and good questions and I think everyone had a blast recording the podcast.

Here are notes from a few notable presentations I attended:

"Partnering with your users: getting them to tell you what they want," Keith Compeau & Jenica Rogers, Potsdam
Libraries are a business. Users ARE customers. We must market ourselves. What messages aren't they getting? Need to assess and evaluate.

Librarians are good at counting. But numbers don't really matter! Need to measure success; output measures instead.

One dissatisfied user speaks on average to 25 friends and family about problem. So one dissatisfied user actually = 25 dissatisfied users (or potential users lost)

Communications: allow students/users to provide feedback right on the means of communication (see suggestion box below).

Immediate feedback. Make sure students know you are listening even when issues can't be fixed.

Take feedback to stakeholders as proof of need to fix things. When students are allowed to speak in their own voices (rather than through a "form" - it can be more powerful than anything librarians can write up that paraphrases that feedback.

Iterative improvement process. Change up feedback design so returning students don't see the same assessment twice.

End result: changes made are more based on what students want rather than what librarians think students need.

  1. allowed students to test drive furniture under consideration. Was fun for students and staff. Built morale and was engaging. They asked for feedback immediately and responded to that feedback immediately. Created an informal conversation.
  2. Suggestion box: no rules: informal assessment. Used "Suggestion" by Illegal Art. Make it proactive. Made the no rules design clear to students.
  3. Focus group: allowed students to tell their own story about how they interact with the library. They got great feedback on everyday life student engagement with library.

"Finding a level playing field and blurring the lines: how two librarians' love of sports built a relationship with the athletic dept. and student-athletes," Mike Daly and Dan Towne, FMCC

Build trust with outlier student populations via personal, informal interactions outside the library (i.e., librarian not as "librarian" but as regular person, more willing and able to share and create level environment for conversation. Results in uptick in questions from that population (i.e., one user will spread word with the group; back to 1 user = 25 users).

"Scholarly communications: refocusing the library's role at an undergraduate college," Kate Pitcher and Tracy Paradis, Geneseo.

Outreach is a bid issue; collection development isn't (at Geneseo)
Team-based approach. Held a retreat to map out priorities and make an action plan.

Problems to solve: lack of priorities & focus, coordination, message, knowledge and changing roles of librarians.

How do we change interaction role with faculty? How do they need help with their research? Did a user survey.

Pilot group: each librarian picked a couple of faculty they have close relationship with and arranged some informal, in-depth interviews with them.User survey used for rest of faculty.

Approaches: ed services (e.g., open access services) AND faculty creation assistance services AND promotion/awareness of issue.

Questions asked:
What motivates you to publish?"
Do you include students in your research work?
How are online/digital projects valued in your discipline? In the college? In your dept?
Optional, depending on conversation: Work with data? What do you do with it? Storage? Ok to follow up? Would you mind providing a copy of your CV?

Focus: making faculty services more a priority. Got admin support.
Prioritize, be proactive, manage expectations and know it takes time to grow this kind of thing.

"Working with writing tutors to improve research instruction," Barbara Kobritz, TCCC [TC3]

This was more of an open discussion with Barbara expertly facilitating the conversation. Lots of libraries share space or collaborate in some way with writing tutors [can any of those collab ideas translate to online enviro?]

Are tutor spaces in public areas seen as too remedial? Keeps students away?

Writing tutors approach pedagogy/learning from a different philosophy and perspective than librarians. For effective collaboration, there should probably be some cross-training going on, to learn and possibly align efforts where they overlap or when students are passed from one service to the other.

Seek out your writing tutor service, often they'll have a new tutor orientation - ask to take it - get an understanding of how they approach things.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New WGIL Room Podcast Up

WGIL Room Podcast #6 has been posted! It's a great discussion with faculty member Stacy Pratt, from our co-host Carleen Huxley's own SUNY Jefferson Community College. We talk research skills and helping build a sense of pride and ownership in student's work through various kinds of assignments and teaching methods.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Vendor Mobile Apps are Here: but are they any good?

Inspired by the always-on-top-of-tech Bill Drew at the TC3 library, who has been working a lot with this stuff, I scouted out the available mobile applications for databases that my own library subscribes to or uses (there are certainly others out there):

Database apps:
  1. Annual Reviews
  2. Gale
  3. ScienceDirect: Android, iPhone, Blackberry
  4. WorldCat

Not apps per se, but mobile versions of library resources/tools:

My hope is to follow up this brief post in a few weeks once I've had a chance to actually take a look at these apps and mobile versions in detail and get feedback from library colleagues. If you have thoughts or reviews, please share them in the comments section!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Perception Wars

via Flickr creative commons license, courtesy of law_kevin
A couple weeks ago an excellent piece was posted on the always thought-provoking Attempting Elegance blog, "My peers are not my tribe."

In this post Jenica analyzes and comments on some striking data from library leaders in the Ithaka S+R Library Survey 2010: Insights from U.S. Academic Library Directors.

Her post speaks for itself, but I was excited to see a focus, in both the survey and in Jenica's comments, on the teaching aspect of academic librarianship.

Faculty perceptions of librarians, and more specifically on what we can bring to the information literacy teaching and learning table (as opposed to the traditional gatekeeper/buyer table) seems to me the lynchpin to many of the issues Jenica identifies. As Dale (in the comments section of Jenica's post) correctly states, the reasons for this generally low perception of our teaching role are many (as a side note, read the first few comments on this Inside Higher Ed post to get a taste of this low opinion of librarians). But I think this perception battle is one we can (and need to) win, but only if we do a better job as a profession of 1) equipping ALL new librarians with foundational teaching and pedagogical skills and 2) doing a much better job of explaining and marketing our teaching skills to the rest of academia.

To my mind, no one else is willing and able to directly take on this key and nebulous area of necessary academic learning. Faculty often do not have the time or inclination to address IL skills in their content classes, or they assume students already know it. Instructional technologists are often more focused on the technology. Academic librarians are positioned well for this and I believe there is data (if anyone can point me to it, you would get my thanks!) showing that while faculty members and administrators recognize the importance of these kinds of foundational skills, they are unclear about who can and should be responsible for addressing them.

It will be a long series of battles for us as a profession to win this war of perception and, ultimately, focus, but I believe it's a war that must be fought. What say you?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Computers in Libraries 2011: scattered notes

CiL is one of my most anticipated conferences each year. This year was, I think, my 4th time attending. It focuses on the confluence of technology and libraries in a tech-savvy way that few other conferences do. 

What follows are my mostly unedited notes and thoughts from memorable sessions of the conference (as with most conferences, some sessions I attended just didn't contain useful "blog-worthy" information from my perspective).

My thoughts got less organized as the conference proceeded, as connecting to wireless was pretty much broken in most session rooms and I had to resort to using the Easy Note app on my Android phone:

This year started out for me with an excellent half-day preconference workshop on Games and Simulations to Energize Training and Teaching, co-facilitated by fellow NYSers' Scott Nicholson (Syracuse U) and Jim DelRosso (Cornell).

Practicing what they preach in an engaging way, they ran us through a series of jolt, icebreaker, role-playing and simulation activities. Each was followed by a debrief session where we were actively encouraged to discuss the preceding activity and how we might use it in our own training and teaching, as well as our reactions and thoughts about what occurred. They ended with a deeper discussion of the use of the debrief as a learning tool, which I found very, very enlightening and already have a half-dozen half-baked ideas in my head about how to use this.

Gaming and Gadgets Petting zoo: the Playstation 3, Move-supported Gladiator game on Sports Champions was a big hit among the attendees. Who knew librarians would love virtually beating the crap out of each other?: A brief video of Gaming event co-organizer Amy Buckland, and Jim DelRosso playing.

Day 1:

Building Great Websites:
The day started out with a very engaging and informative session by usability and design gurus Amanda Etches-Johnson (U Guelph) and Aaron Schmidt (Influx). Again, they practiced what they preached with a simple and direct set of slides and an engaging message with lots of basic tips for how to create/improve upon a site that balances their three keys to success from user perspective: useful, desirable and usable.

usability: simple, less = better
lib sites are often “junk drawers” - lots of stuff/links “just in case” - better to streamline and hone so that 50% of users are delighted, rather than 100% of users being blaise about design.

Functional reading: users on web mostly scan page for what they need, so:
• remove unnecessary words
sensible abd clear labels and headings and use of white space
conversational tone: content must not be written in passive voice – needs to be active voice. The library = we, patron = you, patron = I. E.g., not: “enter an email address”, instead: “What is your email address?” - involve patron in it.
4 stages of lib website dev:
1. basic: necessary info, relevant functionality, no major usability issues – DO THIS FIRST
destination: lib-created content, basic interactivity
participatory: serious user-generated content, patrons creating culture w/ creation tools you provide.
Community portal: community platform, community knowledgebank
Check out: Google web site optimizer to get user feedback on possible designs
Kete: open source portal system

C102: Repositories and building community
2nd part: Jim DelRosso, Cornell U: DigitalCommons @ILR ( = high faculty participation
  • start small, focused...but dream big...find new things to do with it
  • find support...but be ready to do thingd yourself. 
  • Ask faculty: give us your vita, we'll do the rest: lowers the bar for participation. Proactive.
  • Plan ahead...but write them in pencil. Flexibility.
  • Assess!!! + anecdotes; stories tie it all together.

Day 2:

Keynote: on Digital natives:
3 ways to engage them:
  • public opinion, not private lives
  • knowledge sharing not hoarding
  • interactions not transactions
E-Book Publishers session: standard sales pitches, luckily limited to 5 min each. Yawn...

DRM: adobe has become defacto solution, even tho they need to improve or be replaced. Why are each of them coming up with their own proprietary solutions as well?

Had lunch and sat around in the terrace area with a few semi-under-the-radar luminaries in libraryland: Andy Woodworth, Jenica Rogers and Colleen Harris. I seriously learned more from their management and technology stories and discussions, ranging from dealing with trouble employees to dealing with facilities departments and backlogs of fix requests to ninja-ways to request small and big budget equipment and projects than I did at most of the formal sessions!

took part in the T is for Training live podcast (link not up yet - will add later when posted)

Day 3:
Lee Raine keynote:
  1. consequence of info ecosystem: volume. velocity.  explosion of creators. 55% of users noe share pics. 4-17% use location sharing. 12% use twitter 33% create tags. 62% use social networking. value add: 1. cover across divides: 44% those below poverty r highly dependent on libs and lib tech. 2/3 use lib tech to help others! more emphasis needed: relevance & digital literacy. bigger factor than price for those who don't use web.
  2. wireless connectivity: cell phones as social tool. app user profile: male young educated. app use is relatively low among cell phone functions used.  7% of adults have ereaders. 42% own game consoles!  can we get into the increasingly social spaces of gaming communities?  challenge: no longer place where ppl come. we need to go to them. value add: help ppl navigate and make peace w info: tools. access. context and Augmented reality. sanctuary - quiet space still desired.
  3. social networking revolution. half of ppl use social networks. diverse space. video creation going up. social network becoming default start and end of day stoping place. social dashboard. pervasive awareness. allows for immediate spontaneous creation of networks. smart mobs.
  4. lib shift: expertise and influence shifts to networks. value added: can be embedded in...attention zones-continuous partial attention, deep dives (eg medical), info snacking (eg angry birds), day dreaming.
  5. media zones: social streams, immersive (gaming), creative/participatory ( very open to lib expertise), study/work. value add: nodes in social networks: as sentries - word of mouth matters. evaluation; validators of quality/authenticity. forums of Acton; community focal pt/rally pt.
  6. teachers of new literacies: screen literacy/ visual; navigation literacy, connections, skepticism, ethical, how to create content. value add: help fill in civic gaps

Faculty user behavior session:
  • to understand entirety of faculty we need to look beyond our own survey efforts. surveyors to follow: UCLA high ed Res institute.  American college teacher natl norms. The College Board. CA digital Library: they engage in direct conversations. Mellon. ARL. ACRL. institutional research office: most univs have this.
    we need to get our transaction data into IRO hands.
    standouts: U Wash. Emory. both survey annually and longitudinally. faculty are used to being surveyed. creates foundation for communication b/w lib & faculty.
    faculty respond to persistent lib marketing. 
  • ithaka data: three categories define lib services: 1) gateway (contacts, access: but gradual decline in recognition of library as gateway), 2) buyer (emerging as key identity for research libs: more work needed w branding), 3) archive (humanists value this most; academics have mixed reactions to repositories). opportunity: link persistence to institutional identity.
  • new roles: teach support. research support. opportunity: follow faculty into online spaces and cocreate with them. limits of survey data: wisdom on the ground is crucial. days is only compass pt.
    library may have opp. as content publisher. oakleaf pub: value of academic libs. 
  • do not accept role as ancillary. pub lecture outside lib field. join college accredidation projects.  

Workflows session:
  • 4 factors for change: tech, skill sets, infrastructure (org culture etc), planning. 
  • you cannot live by adhoc decisions. make decisions based on where u want to go.
  • ereserves: reserves direct tech implementation went well. but infrastructure & skillset issues.  lots of dissatisfaction. then did some crosstraining.

Mobile usability:
  • mobile web and app usability conventions are very similar. W3C.
  • mobile is not a mini-desktop. mobile is less immersive-design for partial attention. context critical. microtransactions. 
  • desktop sites: satisfy all/most user needs. mobile: simple (edit down to essential),slim, deep; drill down. make choice mindless/easy. 
  • mobile users need info immediately. nypl site: 5 options. drill down via choices (where r u?) to other content. should be difficult/impossible to get lost in mobile site.
  • test: function, interaction, user satisfaction.
  • layers affecting usability: hardware, operating system or browser, UI
  • testing methods: heuristic evaluation, paper mockups, simulators/ emulators, lab-based w think outloud feedback, Firefox user agent, open me,
  • mobile OK checker.
  • browsercam. deviceanywhere./

Podcasting for professional development session:
  • Maurice Coleman (T is for Training), Jason Puckett and Rachel Borchardt (Adventures in Library Instruction): highlight was Rachel's plea for librarians to break out of the "traditional publication for tenure" model, as trad publishing is often too slow to be relevant to our fast-moving state of knowledge in many areas. She made a strong case that putting down our thoughts and conversations in podcasts and blogs and other newer media/communication outlets deserve some/more consideration in the tenure/prof dev process. I agree!

Transliteracy session:

  • content vs container. stories r changing: Amanda project. interactive fiction. flexibility is the key. transliteracy is "across" not "all"
    staff-led technical training. rethink access to collections. let reluctant readers read outside the "book"
  • transfer: across:transition. transformation. transposition.
    3 R's but go beyond that: 4 C's: communicate. collaborate. create.
  • diversity. flexibility. integrating. transformation.
    idea: have students use whiteboard to describe their own perception of "information" or "peer-reviewed."
  • blended learning
  • networked communities

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Congrats to Two SUNY Geneseo Librarians!

Kim Davies Hoffman and Michelle Costello have just been awarded the prestigious 2011 Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Instruction Section (IS) Innovation award for their work creating the excellent Library Instruction Leadership Academy (LILAC).

Having contributed a tiny part to that endeavor (I was a presenter for one session on distance learning and technology in instruction), I can say these two instruction librarians are an inspiration to many of us in SUNY, in the Rockester area, and beyond. SUNYLA and Geneseo (my undergrad Alma mater) are truly lucky to have them!

ps: Michelle and Kim will be our guests on the next WGIL Room podcast, which is set to be recorded on Monday, March 7. Stay tuned for a link to that podcast next week!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Shiny! New Things

New web "stuff" I'm playing with currently (or that are on my "to-experiment-with-soon" list):
  • Adventure Game Studio - engine that allows you (w/o need for real programming) to create a point and click adventure game. My goal with this or similar tool is to try and devise an RPG-like game where "library adventurers" go out on quests that reinforce IL skills, such as critical reading, citation skills, etc. Right now I have in mind an initial quest where the player needs to locate pieces of several missing magic books and assemble them (i.e., parts of the citation) in the correct order and then recite magic spells from them (i.e. paraphrase their content?) so that the kingdom can fend off attacking evil forces. Very initial stages of fleshing out this idea at the moment.
  • AppsGeyser - tool to create Android apps from the content of any webpage.
  • Electronic Literature Collection Volume Two - an innovative collection of digital and interactive stories and narratives. Many utilize aspects of gaming, multimedia or social media. Very cool.
  • Mission Earth: The Search for Hamburgers - a National STEM Video Game Challenge submission that teaches the scientific method via video game.
  • Mockingbird - dead-simple to use, browser-based, drag-and-drop wireframe tool (for mocking up website designs).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Seeking Motivation (on a Friday afternoon?)

via Flickr CC license, by kyknoord

Three completely unrelated statements have sunk their talons into me recently; the first an ancient proverb, one from the higher education literature, and one from a management seminar I took a few months ago:

"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."

"Lifelong learners become so because they find learning fun."1

"We can't motivate people, we can only create an environment that allows people to choose to be motivated." 2

It struck me that these statements are actually one and the same when it comes to library instruction. It boils down to this for me:

We can't teach people information literacy skills. However, we can create a learning environment that allows students to see the value to them in obtaining these skills. If we can do that, only then can we take the next step in supporting/guiding their exploration and eventual mastery of these essential lifelong skills as they apply to their own interests and needs.

The Smith-Robbins article quoted above discusses higher education in the context of gaming, which I think is one (but certainly not the only) path that holds lots of potential for us as instructors. If we can harness it effectively, gaming can foster a more interactive and fun environment in which our students might more easily overcome the ever-present barriers to learning: lack of motivation, relevancy and confidence.

This all came together for me, by the way, as I sit here on a Friday afternoon trying to tweak a lesson plan for an upcoming online synchronous workshop on using e-books and books. How can I make the alien and somewhat imposing learning environment of these workshops more "motivating?" In most cases, my students are at home, sitting in front of a computer after a day at work, probably with lots of distractions around, coming together via chat, audio, and applications like a whiteboard, in a virtual space with fellow students from different cities and different departments, and an instructor, all of whom they've never met before. Not an easy task...

  1.  “This Game Sucks”: How to Improve the Gamification of Education. Sarah Smith-Robbins, EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 46, no. 1 (January/February 2011)
  2. Cherie Cross, National Seminars Management and Leadership Skills workshop, October 27, 2010.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Librarian-Day-in-the-Life Monday Ch-Ch-Changes

I've decided to take on the "Library Day in the Life" challenge again (I did it in 2008 and 2010), mostly as a way to help me reflect on how I'm approaching my new job responsibilities. Very recently my job title changed from "Assistant Director of Library Services" to "Assistant Director of Library Instruction and Information Literacy." 

A few posts ago I jotted down some thoughts about change in regard to library instruction. Well, I'm in the midst of a quick and somewhat radical change in job responsibilities myself and the jury is still out in how I'm handling it. Especially the letting go part. Today mark's the start of the first full work week I've had since the change (due to vacation and some illness over the last few weeks) and I'm finding myself a bit discombobulated.  The duties I did on a regular basis just a few weeks ago, such as administering our reference services, managing the website and our LibGuides, and managing the workloads and niggling issues and questions of my fellow librarians, are no longer cluttering up my To Do lists. But I'mm having hard time letting them go because I invested a lot of time and effort into improving them over the last few years.I'm sure my colleagues will do wonderful things with them, but letting go so suddenly is still hard.

But as a result of this change, today has been mostly about the instruction stuff (YAY)! Here's what I've been up to:
  1. Bitter, bitter cold (-20 F) forces me to spend 20 min. trying everywhichway to finagle open my frozen car door & scrape frosted windows. Arrive at office 45 min later.
  2. Checked e-mail inbox. Checked Eventbrite registrations for my Elluminate workshop on Weds - 13 signed up so far! Added new librarian e-mail to Eventbrite account.
  3. Overhauled post-workshop assessment form (open-ended 3-2-1 format + content-specific question that asks them to create a search from a research question). Sent draft to colleagues for comment & pushed for all of us to use same Survey Monkey account so we can gather data more easily (rather than everyone using all different questions). Inserted a "rate the teacher" question based on request from superiors (I had changed to learning-assessment a couple years ago).
  4. Listened, while doing this other stuff,  to the most recent Adventures in Library Instruction podcast, with special guest (and fellow 2009? ACRL Immersion alum) Catherine Pellegrino.
  5. Set up Doodle to settle on our next WGIL Room podcast recording date and time. Sent out e-mails to co-hosts.
  6. Fretted a bit over just announced SUNY transition to ALEPH ver. 20 (why don't we drop this crap system already!). Luckily, we won't change over until August and by then I'll have trained the 2 librarians that are taking over e-book record updating & maintenance duties and they can deal with the transition.
  7. Formulated a diplomatic-stall e-mail to an influential faculty member requesting subscriptions to some specific journals.
  8. Troubleshot an inconsistent EBSCOHost journal holding listing brought up by a colleague (says 2007 - present, but only has up through 2009, despite four 2010 issues being published). Solution: call EBSCO to clarify.
  9. Brainstormed some possible scenarios/session proposals for a couple of "All College" or ESC faculty internal conferences coming this early Spring. Need to start a conversation with faculty on place of info lit in curriculum/in college (which at present is basically non-existent except for our voluntary online workshops and one non-librarian taught, non-required credit course).