Class Week Two: Instruction to Solve Problems

There was great discussion in class this week (and not just about a certain entertaining Google Reader Tutorial…). We framed our discussion on screencasts by talking about different types of literacy first, all related to information literacy. We talked about how digital literacy–a term the government, among others, likes to use–perhaps doesn’t quite cover issues related to information, its systems, its management, etc. We also talked about transliteracy, a concept I still need to let sink in and wrap my mind around.

My first take on transliteracy is that it means new ways of communication, or the morphing of one type of communication into another (reading a blog instead of a novel was one example from class). It also seems that transliteracy is about how we’re taking our analog communication “tools” (books, magazines, handouts are more literal examples) and creating digital tools from them. How do screencasts come into this? Perhaps screencasts are the next best thing–or just as good as–your friend or boss or teacher sitting beside you and showing you how to do something on your computer. A related concept that was also emphasized was transferability–that is, pointing out how a new skill can be used across platforms, programs, devices, etc. It may potentially be challenging to take the skill out of context to what you’re teaching and connect it somewhere else for the user, but when I think back to being taught new technology, it was very helpful to learn that a certain command could be used for a variety of functions when working at the command line on a computer. We also touched on whether online learning is working–we have no answer for this now, but a good thing to keep in mind as this class progresses.

To that end, a theme that emerged for me from this week’s class was problem-solving. It first came up when we talked about the context for our screencasts. Why does the topic matter? What problem is it solving? I like the idea of solving a problem for someone, easing their burden if something is stressing them out and I have some knowledge to pass on. Screencasts are a really neat way to do that, packaging up a little tool and delivering it easily online for anyone to find and use at their leisure; they can even pause and replay parts as needed. I’m glad we talked about target audience in relation to the ADDIE model. It’s one thing to identify the problem, but you also need to tailor your solution to your audience; being warm and friendly is a given no matter the audience, but the way you put that across may be different depending on your audience (based on their age, for example).


Readings Week Two: Connecting Users to Resources

I was happy to read about librarians working with university lecturers in the Johnston article. After talking about librarians as teachers for the past week or so, it was encouraging to read about librarians in a similar-but-different role–librarian as consultant, perhaps? Resident information expert? I like the sound of that.

To begin with, it sounds like anything that instructional librarians are doing in academic courses is beneficial to students (based on the overall positive feedback in the Johnston feedback)–which, hooray! But it also made me think about past experiences with librarians in college courses. I remember one class session being devoted to our departmental librarian coming in and giving a talk about similar information literacy skills: searching various databases, managing our references, etc. I’m glad that there is increasing attention being paid to these areas; it’s something all students struggle with at least in the beginning of their academic career, and often do throughout school (I still have trouble from time to time with choosing citation styles and composing a search). And I think its right to invest time in finding the best methods to teach these skills. First, it made me think about the pros and cons of face-to-face instruction versus online tutorials. Yelinek et al. illustrated the handiness of having a single, good resource to point people toward, and eliminate the need to answer the same question over and over. On the other hand, in Johnston’s case, it sounded like a fair number of students responded that they would have appreciated a face-to-face approach. This makes sense to me; beyond obvious reasons like being able to ask questions and have them answered immediately, the face-to-face reference interview is usually seen as the best opportunity to determine exactly what users need when they use the library’s resources. It seems that the ADDIE approach would help us base our approach off of the needs of the users (as involved as that process sounds!).


Class Week One: My Thoughts

One of my favorite examples from class of how libraries are changing, and how we’re staying relevant, was that in the past, you could check out a cookbook from the collection and bring it home with you to read and try some recipes. Now, many libraries will offer cooking classes–right in the library! Of course, you can still check out a cookbook (many, many different cookbooks! They comprise at least half of my checked-out material at any given time). But that’s an example of how librarians are innovating and and striving to serve communities as technology develops, as the Internet continues to change people’s lives and expectations. We all know the cliche of the prim librarian who would simply point you in the direction of the book you ask for, or perhaps reprimand you for talking too loudly. Now, public libraries are instituting new programs like the aforementioned cooking class, health talks, and hosting crafting projects; they’re even adding items to their collections like telescopes, home energy monitors, and art prints for people to experience and take delight in their library in constantly evolving ways.

Something that was emphasized in class, and that resonates deeply with me, is that libraries are learning institutions after people finish their formal education (to paraphrase Dewey). That means that teaching matters. I’ve always pushed back against the idea of being a teacher, maybe because of my experiences in public school; I had several good teachers, but I never wanted that job for myself. However, while an undergraduate, I worked as a peer tutor and discovered that I really enjoyed that kind of learning situation. The methods I was taught were similar to our discussion in class, such as using metacognition and

  • narrating what you’re doing while you’re doing it. In fact, we were told to always have the student read their paper out loud, or read it aloud ourselves if they didn’t want to. Because of my good experiences as a tutor, and as a student in library workshops after my education, I feel hopeful and confident that I’ll enjoy an instructional role as a librarian.

Two days after our first class, I attended an inspiring talk given by Josie Parker, the director of the AADL. She embodied so many of the values we talked about in class, and more. One thing she emphasized was a “culture of generosity” that she tries to create in all of the AADL branches. This means perhaps forgiving someone’s late fees if they accidentally lost an item, as well as being welcoming, tolerant, and kind to all people who come into the library. She also talked about the importance of public space in the library and making it look as inviting as possible, pushing back against the idea of libraries as “book warehouses.” I can only hope to be as great of a librarian as Josie is!

Teaching and Learning in Libraries

Reading through the ALA’s core competencies makes me both excited and apprehensive–on one hand, look at all this great stuff I’ll learn and and these great skills I’ll have! On the other–I hope I can live up to these expectations. According to the list, the duties of librarians include, but are not limited to: being familiar with the nature of information and recorded knowledge, be knowledgeable about collection development and maintenance, information, numerical, and statistical literacy (!), having the tools necessary to help users of all ages and groups to use information, advocate and reach out to specific groups, an understanding of the principles and methods of research, to continue to develop professionally, and being knowledgeable about learning theories and participate in the lifelong learning of patrons.

As I read through the document, I admit I felt a sense of pride for my chosen career path. Librarians do so much to promote knowledge and the learning of new skills, not just for those who have the opportunity for higher education, but for everyone. Thus I appreciated the part the ALA added in about advocating for specific audiences when it comes to information use and information literacy.

An area that surprised me a bit was the section about continuing education and lifelong learning. I have always thought of libraries as places for people in the community to be able to learn new things and skills on their own by checking out books or perhaps attending talks and workshops; I haven’t always factored librarians in to that equation. Now, after working in an academic library for a bit, I have a whole new idea of librarianship. I’ve attended numerous workshops given by U-M librarians, including using TEI principles in XML markup and how to use different databases to search for graduate school funding. I also taught one workshop for Enriching Scholarship last year (a session on creating ebooks, focusing on free content and on EPUB).

The reading for this week, combined with my past experiences above, led me to do some reflection on learning skills vs. concepts (maybe you could call it practice vs. theory). Most of the time, I appreciate hands-on learning over discussion of theory. I want to break things down in order to learn discrete skills that I can then use and put on my resume, etc. However, reflecting on my experience as a teacher of a technology skills class, I remember feeling concerned that the people taking my workshop wouldn’t automatically see the value of learning how to create your own ebook and know how to access it on a mobile device–so as a student I may have been impatient, while as a teacher I saw the importance of contextualizing the skill and giving students a reason for learning that skill.

Another past experience where I utilized some of these concepts was as a Sweetland Writing Center peer tutor while I was an undergraduate. I tutored my fellow undergraduates during drop-in hours; students brought in their papers and asked for writing help. Something we were taught as peer tutors was that were not there to “check grammar” or to tell someone how to write; instead, we were taught tutoring as a collaborative process. This differs from the reading in that the tutor is meant to be learning something along with the tutee. But there are similarities in that collaborative tutoring is also meant to promote “expert-level growth,” to give someone a broader picture that they can apply to other areas in their coursework.