Friday, May 23, 2014

Kentucky Pedagogicon 2014 Conference Notes: Afternoon Sessions

 This is the second part of my two-post series with my notes on the KY Pedagogicon Conference held on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University on May 16, 2014. My notes are for the sessions I attended out of the many choices (and they did have some good choices). As usual, comments in addition to notes are in parenthesis.

* * * 

Session 4: "Team-Based Learning: Applying Collaboration and Problem-Solving Skills"

This was mainly an overview of the TBL concept, but it did some good insights for professors in terms of how to set up your classes for TBL and problem-solving. For faculty wanting to try out this technique, this would have been a good presentation to attend.

  • On the need for active learning, the days of the "sage on the stage" are over (reinforcing theme from the opening remarks I see). 
  • Also, the instructor does need to keep the teaching interesting for himself. 
  • TBL= small groups of students interact as teams to apply content to simple and complex problems with instructor feedback. This is problem-based learning. Students receive frequent and immediate feedback from the teacher. 
  • The basis of the concept goes back to management literature from the 1970s. Over time, adopted in education settings. See the work of Larry Michaelsen and his book Team-Based Learning (Michaelsen has made a cottage industry of TBL, see his other books on TBL by topics such as TBL for health professions and for the social sciences and humanities. When I was in graduate school, we called that "salami slicing.")
  • One way to make it work, divide your class into sections/teams. Design your curriculum around major instructional units (MIU), and run an MIU every two weeks or so. 
    • A reflection element at the end of an MIU is very important. He requires a 4-pages reflection on the unit and 2 more pages reflecting on how the team itself worked. 
  • Do not try this teaching technique if you are threatened by frequent student challenges. Definitely do not do it if challenges from students in groups threaten you. 
  • Keep in mind that TBL does take time to plan and implement. 
  • A good class size for TBL is 5 to 6 teams at most with 5 to 7 members per team. Mix them up. The speaker has his students fill out profiles to aid in group selection (yes, the students are assigned teams. They do not self-select). 
  • Begin classes at a slow pace. Give the teams a "basic" team assignment initially; this is to get them to learn to work as a team. After that, you can then move on to content. 
  • Advantages of TBL for students: 
    • Develop interpersonal skills. 
    • Active participation. 
    • Motivation to attend class. 
    • Accountability for content. 
    • Application of knowledge. 
  • Advantages for faculty: 
    • Better attendance rates.
    • Better student evaluations. 
  •   Way to alternate leadership in group presentations: all members must be ready to present. You then select a random member of the group to be the presenter. No one presents twice (ideally). 

* * * 

Session 5: "A scaffolded, collaborative approach to teaching research proposal writing."

(Actually, the title on this one was a bit misleading. While it dealt with the topic of scaffolding in teaching, there really was not much of anything about "research proposals," but we did get some material on literature reviews and annotated bibliographies. I did find the literature matrix handout the provided to be valuable, and may integrate an adaptation to our classes here.)

  • On scaffolding, may want to review your Vygostky (if it has been a while). His ideas were then expanded on by Arthur Applebee and Judith Langer. (For examples of convenience, see this guide on scaffolding and this article from NCTE's Language Arts journal. The journal links to J-STOR, so your access may vary. Consult your local librarian if you need access).
  • The speakers, who work at EKU, highlighted the collaborations taking place in their Noel Studio. (Note for myself to continue working on expanding possible campus collaborations here between the library and Peer Educators as well as our TLC).
  • On teaching about writing the literature review, lead with examples. 
  • Librarians can take some "burden" from professors in terms of teaching how research works, plus professors can also use the services of writing center tutors and other services to help address writing basics like a literature review. This thus can allow the professor to concentrate on content. (This does raise an interesting question: how much do we do as librarians versus assuming the professor will do it, whatever "it" is in terms of basic research and writing skills. We understand how research works, and many of us at least have done research, or in my case, are outright qualified to teach writing if need be. No, I don't mean literally going back to teaching full composition for a librarian, but we can certainly prepare materials and resources in collaboration with other campus units for things like how to write a literature review). Collaborations with faculty identify points of need to make lessons relevant. 
  • The literature matrix can help students see how their research works and will shape their writing.  Libraries can put forms like the literature matrix online so they can be easily accessed by students. (We already do some of this in our LibGuides where we have forms to help with narrowing a topic and evaluating websites.)

* * * 

Session 6: "Reflective blogging."

(Being a blogger, and one who has used, or rather attempted to use, a blog to help with library instruction, I was naturally interested in this session. As for my little experiment, never really got around to writing it up. Anyhow, I've learned more about blogging and pedagogy since then, and this session did give me some additional ideas.)

  •  Yes, you can do this in classes like accounting (our speaker is an accounting professor). 
  • The speaker uses BlackBoard for her classroom management system (CMS) and the Blogger platform for the blogging. (For us, this could work with Moodle, if we chose to try it out.)
  • For tutorials on things like making a blog, YouTube can be your friend. Why reinvent the wheel? Others have already done a lot of work and shared it on YouTube. 
  • Give students precise instructions on content and additions (say you want them to do a video embed, photos, length of a post, so on). 
  • You can do this with classes of up to 15 students at most. More than that can get unwieldy. 
  • DO create a rubric to grade the blogs (which she did). Put the rubric on your CMS for students to know what the rubric is and how they will be graded. 
  • Depending on the class, the instructor does need to teach a bit to students about what blogging is and how to do it (this may vary depending on the levels of your class when it comes to tech ability. Be prepared to offer as much help and teaching as possible).
  • She had them write stories that illustrated accounting concepts, 200-300 words, to help them explain and define a concept. 
* * * 

From the closing session (which was really a plenary wrap-up)

Some open questions and comments:

  • Make students aware of their information architecture. Metacognition. 
  • You can find our combined document of "what we learned" at this link:
As a final note, I did do some live tweeting. You can find my tweets as well as the tweets from other fine folks on Twitter under the hashtag #kyp14.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Kentucky Pedagogicon 2014 Conference Notes: Morning Sessions

This event took place on Friday May 16, 2014 on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University. This was my first time, and given that I did find it valuable and productive, I do hope to attend next year. One of the best parts is that it was a one-day event. In addition, it is pretty much local librarians and faculty presenting for other local librarians and faculty, which made it accessible, productive, and a positive learning experience unlike many regional or national conferences dependent on some hot shot scholar or rock star librarian preaching to the masses. Anyhow, let me just get on with it. I am posting my notes mostly for future reference, but hey, if anyone finds them useful, good for them.As usual, these are notes; any additional comments I add will go in parenthesis.

* * * 

Conference Keynote Speaker. The keynote was delivered by Dr. Robert L. King, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. The speech was mostly a bit of getting the troops rallied and a bit of a look at the topic of student success and teaching.
  • Topic: "Making Kentucky Stronger by Degrees." 
  • We are urged to be "soldiers" that take ideas and new practices back to our campuses. Be soldiers to help improve education results across our campuses and the state collectively. 
  • What is student success? What does it mean to be student-centered? 
    • We are getting less underprepared students due to teaching improvements, but we are still getting a good amount of underprepared students.
    • There is the old notion of the professor who says, "I teach. Learning is your problem." Should this change and go away? (question was asked. I certainly say yes, we should make fossils out of such professors). 
    • When surveyed, very few students revealed that they had a professor who cared about them. (Dr. King was referring to this piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education that highlights results of the Gallup-Purdue Index Report. You will get better context if you actually read the Chronicle piece at least).
  • Meeting teaching challenges: 
    • New pedagogy styles. 
    • Team course development. 
    • Flipped classrooms.
    • "Guide on the side."
    • Experiential learning. 
    • Differential instruction. 
  •  High Impact Practices improve outcomes. 
    • Academic achievement.
    • Persistence. 
    • Graduation. 
    • Engagement in educationally purposeful activities that connect to employer expectations. 
  •   Reference to the book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (on a side note, my library does have the book. For contrast/counter, here is a small piece on the topic out of The Chronicle of Higher Education). The speaker presented a pie chart from the book that highlighted results of students being asked how they spend their time in college. This is self-reported, for a 168-hour week: 
    • 51% socializing and other. This led the speaker to observe that the notion that colleges overload their students with work is not true. 
    • 9% attending classes. 
    • 7% studying. 
    • 9% working, volunteering, clubs. 
    • 24% sleeping. This is estimated.
    • Conclusion: the simple act of staying enrolled does not ensure learning. 
  • Ask yourselves: what is your role in yourself and your classroom to have more student-centered learning. 

* * * 

(There were various concurrent sessions, but since I have not figured out how to clone myself yet, I could only be in one place at a time. Therefore, notes are for the sessions I did attend).

Session 1: "From Yoda to Ironman: Selecting Technologies That Best Fit You, Your Students, and Your Course."

(This was a basic presentation of a list of good practices and advice when selecting technology for your classes. A handout was included, but sadly it was not made available online, However, I am jotting the list of items from the handout here). The speakers mention that often lists of liked and hated classroom technologies overlap; for instance, people often love and hate Prezi. This tells us that often the issue is in how we use the technology, not the technology itself. The principles the speakers presented:
  • Focus on pedagogy, not technology. Start with good ideas, THEN select the tool. 
  • Set expectations early. Make instructions for your students clear and specific. 
  • Choose high-quality content and ideas over high-tech. Think about what is best for your class or discipline. (Heck, for some teachers, a piece of chalk or a dry erase board can be the best educational tool. Don't believe it? Ask some math teachers in college). Ask what technology works best for what you are trying to accomplish. 
  • More technology requires more organization. You need to plan beforehand. This includes having how-to guides, tutorials, and other items needed for students who need to learn about whatever technology you have chosen to use (don't assume every student has been exposed to your new shiny toy). 
  • Accommodate before you innovate. For instance, geographic challenges, say rural areas with poor Internet. Or financial challenges in affording the technology. (For me, the geographic and financial are always big issues, and it is a pet peeve when, to borrow the old term, Two-pointopians just assume everyone will adopt or rush to buy whatever new tech du jour they advocate or want to use), Disabilities, not everyone can access your pre-recorded lecture if they are, for example, visually or hearing impaired. 
  • Appeal to multiple styles of learning. See also the ECAR surveys, that show preferences of print over mobile. Main ECAR site: (they just mentioned this).
  • Don't let technology make you mechanical. Goes back to "Just make sure they know that you care." Quote by Dr. Loys Mather. 
  • Use technology to teach, not entertain. The technology must serve a purpose. 
  • To legitimize, you must personalize. Make it your own. Personalize the assessment. 
  • Prepare for technology to fail. Be prepared to work and get around the technology. 

* * * 

Session 2: "If It Weren't for Those Meddling Librarians...: Shifting from 'Sage on Stage' to 'Meddler-in-the-Middle' with Team-based and Cooperative Learning Techniques."

Overall, this session was mostly an illustration of the technique. I did like the idea using the differently colored handouts for the students in groups to work on developing their research topics. An idea I hope we can integrate into our library instruction here.
  • Point here is to get students to guide the learning and the instruction.
  • Use a topic no student group is working on when you do your instruction. 
  • If breaking in groups in groups for the students to come up with keywords, one group can then give feedback to another. 
  • Group brainstorming. Can identify a leader to guide the brainstorm, make sure all speak. 
  • Use colored sheets, for example, as a way to define groups. 
  • Once the brainstorm is done, the teacher draws on their examples to guide the creation of search strings, truncating, so on. 
    • For advanced searchers, cover topics like truncation, citation mining, subject headings, cited references, and limiters. 
  •   To put students in groups, manipulate settings. Gather together by topics, by major/curricular program, randomly (using those colored sheets for instance). Assign group roles: scribe, moderator, so on. 
  • If a topic is too narrow, the librarian guides them to broaden out. (For me, this was a question. Here at Berea one of the General Studies classes does require having a "Berea" or other localized topic that may not lend itself as well to broadening. However, the issue often is not broadening as it is either students thinking too literally or worse professors who are inflexible. The popular bad sample topic, to provide an idea: the student wants to write about the story of food service at Berea College. This material simply does not exist, so you either have to disappoint the student or get them to broaden their idea. Often the challenge is getting the professor to accept that yes, a bad topic like that simply does not have research material available. Our Archives and Special Collections, as good as they are, are not limitless). 
  • To get some additional engagement, another idea can be use of "clicker" technology. (For example, Turning Point, which by the way, we had a demo of this on our campus recently. No, not shilling for them, simply came to mind due to timing).

 * * * 

Session 3: "Feeding the Teaching Soul: Faculty Reading Circles to Stimulate Conversation About Teaching."

(On a different track, I went for something dealing with the faculty. Given that we are interested in doing more outreach here, including under the mantra of "bringing the faculty back" --yes, we are going with that slogan), I figured this would be a good session for me. The presentation did feature a PowerPoint, but again, no online link available. Organizers should definitely consider collecting handouts, so on for online access, not so much to be green, although nice but assumes all have access, but maybe so folks like me have something to refer to later.)

  • What are challenges faculty face in the classroom? 
  • Organizational development: how to help the organization. 
  • Faculty are not often pedagogical experts (I was impressed they actually said that with a straight face. This is something I have known to be true forever, then again, I DO have a teaching degree, something most faculty tend to lack. Now, if I made that statement, I am sure some butt hurt faculty member would be griping at me. Go figure). 
    • So, how can the developer help them? Help empower the way they teach and empower the students to learn. 
  •  For a faculty reading circle, at the beginning, set ground rules for things like safety, openness, respect, collaboration, so on. 
  • You are not just reading a book. Take reading through the reader's experience and draw on outside resources and ideas. There is what you bring to the circle and what you take from it. 
  • Reading circles can be built around events, such as a relevant author coming to campus. 
  • 7 to 10 members is an ideal number for a reading circle. It is OK for people to come and go. Participation varying is OK but you want to aim for that 7 to 10. 
  • Also try for short period of time, say reading a book over a month so your group meets maybe once a week, or biweekly and go two months. Do not draw out over a semester. 
  • Reference. See book The New Science of Learning by Terry Doyle (mentioned by the presenters). 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Article Note: On Intentional Informationists

Citation for the article:

Hoffman, Debra and Amy Wallace, "Intentional Informationists: Re-envisioning Information Literacy and Re-designing Instructional Programs Around Faculty Librarians' Strengths as Campus Connectors, Information Professionals, and Course Designers." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 39 (2013): 546-551.

Read via Science Direct. 

This article draws on social justice research, and the authors present a new term: intentional informationists. This article has applicability for us here given our very strong social justice history and commitment. This new definition can help further enhance our information literacy program, and I also think it can go well with some programs here like our General Education program. When I came to my current workplace, a big reason to stay was that we share a vision for our students to be lifelong learners. How they apply information literacy skills and critical thinking after college is of interest to me, and the concept of an intentional informationist has potential to enhance that vision here. In addition, some of the article reminded me of previous Paulo Freire readings I have done before (I have blogged about Freire and his influence at various times, such as here and here); no surprise since there is at least one citation to Freire in the works cited section.

The authors advocate creating partnerships outside of the library, especially outside the "usual suspects" of composition and rhetoric. Go with folks in places like education (this actually makes a lot of sense to me, and as a former school teacher and adjunct professor, puzzles me with instruction librarianship does not as a profession and in academia work more with schools of education), business, and communications and media. Librarians can create and design courses for credit; in fact, the authors describe work they have done in this area creating courses that do sound intriguing (and that I would not mind replicating here). In addition, or if that is not a viable option (for instance, I know with my current duties, there is no way I could design a course let alone have the time to teach it), librarians can also serve as guest lecturers in classrooms for topics other than information literacy and library sessions. We do have expertise, in varying degrees, in topics such as writing, community engagement, activism, censorship, copyright and intellectual property, open access, and others. We should leverage this. It would also add to our professional standing if we get faculty to see us in different lights (it might also help the constant feelings of insecurity a lot of librarians tend to display over things like professionalism, expertise, and being an academic, but I am briefly digressing).

In the end, much of the point is for librarians to play to strengths that they already have. 

Notes and quotes to remember:

  • The authors state: "We believe that it is our responsibility as librarians and faculty to provide them with an educational experience and opportunities that challenge them to reflect, engage, and act" (546).
  • The answer to this is yes. For us, this really should be a no-brainer: "If information is a bit part of everyday life and librarians are intimately familiar with the interests and inequalities in the information realm, shouldn't we as a profession work to integrate social critique with pedagogical techniques that help students reflect, advocate, answer, and develop information related questions and issues that impact our students' everyday lives?" (547). Then again, this may include giving up to a big extent on the illusion of neutrality the profession so often wants to cling to no matter what. Sooner or later, as a profession, we have to choose to do the right thing. Sure, presenting a diversity of information and opinions is a noble thing, but it should not be at the expense of allowing misinformation and ignorance to stand. 
  • On this question, the latter should be the answer (in my humble opinion, which if you add it to a couple of pennies you might get some gum from the gumball machine): "Should we be teaching undergraduates concepts and skills in order to simply function in the information age, or should we be equipping students with the theoretical framework and critical thinking skills to define, consider, solve, embrace, and champion the ethical, political, social, and cultural opportunities and dilemmas that are presented to them?" (547). 
  • This is sad, and it needs to be addressed if we are to create better citizens: "The typical undergraduate has not, and probably will not, receive an introduction to information theories on the ethical, political, social, and cultural opportunities and dilemmas surrounding its creation and use" (547). By the way, I did read The Information Diet, which the authors cite in their article. 
  • The authors observe that many libraries employ standardized assessment measures for information literacy competencies. Here we use the HEDS assessment; the college piloted this past year, and we will decide whether to do it again or not. I think we'll likely continue a year or two, in part to see how it works. However, between reading this article and other reflecting and thinking, I know we will outgrow that eventually, but for now given we are building up a culture of assessment, it does give us something to start and get at least a base. I do want to know more, and I want my students to know more, so there goes my thinking for the future as I want to be able to assess critical thinking and reflection when it comes to information and its various implications. 
  • The authors' term: "Our definition of an intentional informationist is simple: she is a person that has the contextual, reflective and informational skills to identify information opportunities, tackle complex information problems and pitfalls, and provide solutions or considerations that do not just meet her individual needs" (547). 
  • "We believe that undergraduate students can and should be introduced to theories of commodification and ownership of information, ethical  uses of bio-recognition and genetic information, and convergence, as well as age-old dilemmas such as information haves and have-nots, information noise and overload, misinformation and privacy which impact them on a daily basis" (548). I certainly believe this as well. These are issues that are out there, even if more often than not the mainstream media ignores or hides them, and that affect them. Even the so-called "old-age" issues are barely touched, and libraries have a great opportunity in their advocacy roles to help with this.
  • This caught my eye: "Those who use libraries will need to reframe the discussion away from cost cutting to bigger issues of information access, information literacy, circulation monitoring, and safe information spaces" (549). Then again, this would mean common people would need to pay attention, something they are notoriously negligent about given topics like net neutrality that rarely get news coverage anyhow. Again, something librarians could be doing something about in the larger scheme of things instead of fussing about the not so large molehills they often do. 
  • And again, on librarians needing to do more than "the usual" things: "We believe the first big leap for librarians is to consider themselves as full partners in curriculum development, and not just there to inform collection development and promote library collections and services" (550). For some, it may mean more education and/or more training, but the way I see it this is a profession where you are supposed to continue learning throughout your life and career. For me, having a teaching degree in addition to being a librarian has been very handy. 
  • The authors mention finding success via outreach programs and activities. Certainly helps validate for me why instruction and outreach are linked. 

Side note for me on a couple of things cited I need to read or review soon:

  • Accardi and Kumbler, eds., Critical library instruction: theories and methods.  On the positive, my library has it. On the negative, they have it as an e-book (and reading books that way on the EBSCO platform is, to be perfectly blunt, a pain in the ass. I know this both as reader and from students who constantly ask for "the real book" when offered an e-book. I may either order a print copy or get one via Interlibrary Loan).
  • Jacobs, H. (2008). "Information Literacy and Reflective Pedagogical Praxis." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 34.3. I honestly thought I had read this, but I have no record of it on the blog, so either I read it and did not jot it down, or did not. So, may as well grab it again.
  • I. Shor's books Critical Teaching and Everyday Life and Critical Literacy in Action. The first one we have here. The other I would be requesting via Interlibrary Loan.