Monday, July 30, 2007

On Using Facebook Professionally

I never gave that much thought to using Facebook as a professional tool. Sure, my thinking when I got the account is that it should be reflective of my professional status. I often make the joke with some students that they are not going to find my drunken pictures in my Facebook. To my two readers, don't get too excited. There are no drunken pictures of me anywhere. At any rate, Stephen Abrams points to two posts on using Facebook professionally. The posts are well worth a look. The one from Web Worker Daily is the one that started it all. Here is the list, with some of my thoughts on the matter:

  • "Think of it like personalizing your desk." This is a pretty good way to look at it. You would not put up a picture of yourself in your office desk hanging out with some stripper. You may hang it in your garage, but certainly not in the office or cubicle. Personally, I don't usually keep photos at my desk. I do have small knick knacks, a poster here or there, but photos are rare. I guess for me photos are a very personal thing. That I put some pictures of myself during my recent road trip (see the Flickr link in the right column) was a big leap for me. Notice the pics are of me. I left my family out of it for now. What you choose to put on your FB profile tells a lot about you as your desk does.
  • "Look for old coworkers and current connections." I have not used FB for this a whole lot. However, the attempts I have made to look up any old coworkers have pretty much failed to yield any results. None of the ones I looked up have a profile on FB. Not a one. So, at least for me, this advice is not very useful considering also I am not too likely to invite anyone to join FB. I am not one to impose on others.
  • "Add friends selectively." This should be self-explanatory.
  • "Add apps selectively." See above. When FB opened its system for developers to make applications, a concern out there on the blogosphere is that FB would become like FB. I will admit my bias here: a big reason I stay out MySpace is that MySpace is pretty much a big mess. Facebook was supposed to be a bit more tidy; then again, it was supposed to be for the college people, and we know how that ended. Adding one application too many is a surefire way of making your profile look messy. Is that the impression you really want to give others? I recently added the Flixster movie application to my profile, mostly to experiment with adding an application. The jury is still out on that one for me since the integration does not seem totally flawless. I was debating on adding the GoodReads application, since I have an account there as well (thanks to a recent invite by a friend), but my concern is if adding one more would add too much clutter. I like the WWD author idea that one could add an application and not let FB display it publicly. I may consider that as I experiment more. This goes with the next list item I am highlighting:
  • "Incorporate the tools you are already using into your profile." I would say to do it if it makes sense to you, and if it will help to maintain that professional image.
  • "Edit your profile and security settings." This is another one that should not need explanation. Folks, make sure you edit your privacy and security to your satisfaction. To do this, you do have to take some time to look over the settings. There are controls, but you have to use them.
  • "Join groups related to your business interests." This is basically to say "be selective" here as well. The WWB author observes that there are a lot of dumb FB groups out there. I know. I have taken the time to look at a few of them, only to wonder what some people were thinking in creating, let alone joining certain groups. Personally, I am not one to join many groups. I have a couple of groups related to librarianship and to my old school. However, if my old high school chums start putting things in the group that may be questionable, rest assured I jettisoning it out of my profile (or at least changing my privacy settings).
Now, I know that Facebook was not necessarily made to be a professional tool. It was made to be a social tool for college students. It has been discovered by college faculty and staff as well as others by now. That is fine. But if you are a professional, and you want to keep some sense of professional decorum in your profile, the advice from the posts is pretty good to consider.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Article Note: On Reflective Journals for Research

Citation for the article:

McGuiness, Claire and Michelle Brien. "Using Reflective Journals to Assess the Research Process." Reference Services Review 35.1 (2007): 21-40.

Read via Emerald.

On initial impression, I thought this article was a bit heavy on the literature review and sampling. However, the concept is a simple one. For me at least, it is something I have known about from my days as a composition teacher, just applied to IL. The article does provide a good description of how to set up the journals and the criteria for evaluation, allowing for replication. The idea is to use reflective journals to provide a more authentic form of assessment.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Booknote: Rumspringa

Schachtman, Tom. Rumspringa: To Be Or Not To Be Amish. New York: North Point Press, 2006. ISBN: 0-86547-687-X.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Religious life, teens, social sciences.

I pretty much picked up this book out of curiosity. Hey, sometimes curiosity is a very good reason to pick a a book. Plus I lived in Indiana for about 16 years, and I knew of the Amish in North Central Indiana, having lived a part of my Indiana years up in Mishawaka, which is not far from places like Shipshewana described in the book. In the opening chapter to the book, the author poses the question for us readers of why we would want to read about the Amish given that they are such a small percentage of the population overall. Here is his answer:

"The Amish are more like most mainstream Americans than almost any other minority in our midst. They share with the majority, and with this author, a common heritage: they are of 'white' European stock, they embrace the Judeo-Christian ehtos, and they come from families that have been in the United States for more than one generation. Also relevant are the ways in which the Amish differ from the majority, namely, in practicing an intense Christian religiosity that suffuses their daily lives, in deliberately attempting to live separately from the larger society, and in refusing to adopt precisely those practices and products of our mainstream society that have come to define and represent America and the Americans to the rest of the world--our cars, our entertainment, our consumerism. This combination of shared heritage and deep cultural differences makes the Amish a particularly significant mirror for the rest of us" (11-12).

The author suggests that often Americans find it easy to dismiss criticism from others who do not share the same Judeo-Christian values, say Arab Muslims or Asian Buddhists, but it is not as easy to be dismissive of the Amish. And, as we learn in the book, the Amish teens are very much like any other group of teens: rebellious and trying to figure out their place in the world. In fact, as I read some of the youth's narratives, they seem very familiar.

For those, like me, who did not know what rumspringa is before reading the book, it is a period that begins "when an Amish youth turns sixteen; at that age, since the youth has not yet been baptized, he or she is not subject to the church's rules about permitted and forbidden behaviors" (11). It is a time when young teens can go on their own to the outside world and experience it. The period lasts until they are ready, if they so choose, to then return from the outside world, be baptized, and become adults in the church. They can return from rumspringa at any time, but it usually runs during the teen years. And therein lies the risk: will they return or will they stay? For the Amish, the risk is that if their kids do not return, the sect gradually dies off. However, they hope that by allowing this time of roaming around that the kids will get some exposure early on and make an informed choice rather than defecting later. As a note, this is not practiced by all Amish, but mostly by old order Amish, and they do have what can be viewed as a good "retention" rate.

The book draws on extensive interviews with teens and parents, which Shachtman then uses to create great little narrative scenes. In addition, the author provides various segments that provide an informational and educational overview of the Amish and their culture, making the book a good, accessible way to learn about them.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Saturday with our incoming freshmen

This past Saturday (7/7/07) was the opening of our campus's Freshman Summer Success Program. It is an extended orientation program we do here. One of its features is that it replicates, on a small scale, a typical college schedule (see the program's schedule). Students participate in smaller versions of some core classes and take part in other activities and orientations in preparation for the fall. I am here today as one of the speakers and to mingle with the students and their parents.

Our president gave the welcome. Dr. Max Castillo spoke of what an education can do for you. He reminded us as well that we are a community, that sometimes you can't succeed alone, that you may need a little help along the way, and that's ok. You may need an advisor, a mentor, or a tutor. He advised the students to take a course in world geography, to increase their geographic awareness, and a course in speech, for the skills in interpersonal communication. He also spoke of the need to be technologically skilled but not letting technology dominate you. At the end of his remarks, he gave a small series of affirmations. The last one reminded us of how diversity makes us special.

As part of the introduction to UHD, I gave a small speech about the library. I joined members of our Learners' Community and the Dean of the University College, who spoke about their services as well.

Throughout the day today, the students listened to other speakers. They took some campus tours, and they visited displays provided by the student organizations and UHD support services. I was there as well representing the library. To me, this is one of the best parts of my job. A chance to promote the library, but more important for me, to mingle and get to know some of our incoming students.

Friday, July 06, 2007

A little more on leisure reading and academic libraries

As I am clearing my saved clips in one of my aggregators, I came across this post by Barbara Fister, writing for the ACRLog, on "Reading in the Vulgate." For me, this is sort of an update note for an article note I did on the article Professor Fister refers to. Fister points to a blog post by the Librarian in Black where the LIB is irritated by libraries having summer book clubs. Her argument is that libraries should promote the other services they offer. I can't really disagree with that, but to be irritated over a summer book club? I think that is taking things a little to the extreme. She thinks that those using other things should be getting points. So, in that view, if a kid signs in to use MySpace (to pick on something that many people may raise an eyebrow over), that kid should be getting points. I am not terribly convinced that ogling MySpace profiles or playing Runescape, two of the favorite activities at my local public library, again to pick on that something, would qualify as a learning experience on par with reading an actual book. As open-minded as I can be, playing online video games or pimping your MySpace are not exactly the same as reading.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will also say I am not a fan of Oprah's Book Club, but I am a believer that if more people read (or listen to. Yes, as far as I am concerned an audio book is a book, and listening to it is reading it. It's just someone reads it to you) as a result of Oprah's or any other book club, then more power to them. Personally, I am more of a genre reader myself. As I learned when I took readers' advisory, don't apologize for your reading tastes. I guess the thing that irks me at times is the fact that some people would prefer to forget that libraries have books. That is our brand, so to speak. Sure, we offer all sorts of wonderful things, but we still offer books. Why the need at times to make reading seem like a lesser endeavor than getting online with the latest 2.0 toy is beyond me. In my case at least, I blog. I have some profiles in some social sites. I do a few other things online. I am not plugged in 24/7, but I am certainly savvy. In addition, I read books (and other texts). I read a good amount of books. I read fiction and nonfiction. I have always enjoyed reading, and there are days when I get the impression that one should lessen that if one is to follow in the gospel of progress.

I am encouraged however. My library has set up a leisure reading area, and we are gradually buying a few more books that would fall under the leisure heading. We are even adding some graphic novels. Does it mean we give up other things? Does it mean we promote them less? No. We still have a small but nice computer lab to meet students' online access needs. And we are still getting those academic titles (print and online) that support the educational mission of the university. We just figured out that adding an element of pleasure reading is part of that educational mission. It must be working since the leisure reading collection here is circulating. It's a start.

As a note, Marc Meola, also writing for ACRLog, wonders "Why Do Students Read?" and hopes someone will do a study on it.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Article Note: On Expertise and Instructional Design

Citation for the article:

Frierson, Eric. "Instructional Design with Expertise in Mind (Part 1)" LOEX Quarterly 33.4 (Winter 2007): 4-5, 10.

The article provides an overview of expertise principles and how they apply to library instruction. The article is part one of a two-part series.

The author reminds us that we may be experts, but the students are not. So, we need to plan and teach accordingly. Much of the teaching is based on teaching to the point of need. There is emphasis on asking questions from students and then teaching to their needs. One way to do this is to use the concept of chunking, where you teach skills in small chunks. This means that students later on will be able to remember steps in the research process because they recall chunks of information. The idea is for the students to see research as a process, and then they recall what to do at specific stages of the research process. This is what you hope as an instructor will be happening:

"Later, when students are on their own, they recall skills in chunks. The search process is no longer one long sequence of clicks. They recall the broader stages of research, and then recall strategies they need for each one" (4).

I am particularly intrigued by the use of guided questions to review the sessions. I have always used a form of guided questioning to teach my sessions, but I am thinking I can take it a bit further if I conduct some review at the end of lessons as suggested in the article. It would make a good way to have a simple assessment of the lesson and what the students learned as well. I am thinking, for example, you can ask students:

  • Do you need to find an individual journal issue? Did your teacher give you a reference or you found one in your readings? (I actually get his a lot at the Information Desk). Well, in this case, show them how to use the (Find Journals By Title) tool.
  • Do you need to find articles on some topic? In this case, you show them how to select a good database and go from there.
The idea is to teach students to determine what they are trying to do and then select the right tool for the job.

Overall, the article is a short piece, but it has given me something to think about and a prompt to rework some of my lesson plans a bit more.