I like reading from How People Learn (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking) every few weeks; because it is written for teachers and focuses very much on learning, I didn’t expect to get as much out of it as some of the other readings. But peppering it in throughout the term has been very helpful and has helped me really reflect on the learning process as well as why I, as a future librarian, should also be familiar with it. This week’s chapter was on the amount of knowledge in a discipline that is required to teach it effectively, as well as the depth of knowledge about learning activities. The biggest thing that struck me in the history section was the way the teachers made history come to life, like having students role play and reenact the debates between rebels and loyalists in the British American colonies. This gave students a personal understanding that the fact-based textbook could not. Other stories in the math and science sections had similar anecdotes, where teachers went (where I would consider) outside the box to get students to think differently about subject matter.
The two other readings this week were about webinars and embedded librarianship. I’ve watched a couple of webinars for work and have been simultaneously impressed and unimpressed: the technology is great, and it was great to see the presenter’s screen and also see the comment box on the side to feel in touch with the other viewers. However, I was unimpressed because it felt a bit dry–and this was probably because the subject mater wasn’t particularly interesting (I’ll keep it anonymous!). At first blush, webinars sound intimidating. Recording a screencast was a challenge itself for me, mostly because it was totally new; webinars are essentially a screencast except they are live, with interaction via polls or audible questions from the virtual audience.
I find embedded librarianship exciting. As I’ve written before, I am interested in academic and special collections libraries and hope to work with specific subject matter, either as a subject specialist or some other new, not-yet-determined position that will arise from users’ needs (like instruction and field librarians). The embedded librarian position is the latter. An embedded librarian can be part of online classes or in person classes, and can be available to a small group of students to utilize at any time during the course of the semester. Montgomery (2010) and Matos, Motley, and Mayer (2010) suggest embedded librarians use webinars to more effectively serve students. Webinars solve the issues of the lack of a physical space in the department in which you are embedded, being able to answer questions from home if there is a great need for a webinar at odd hours, and also for online distance-learning classes.
I can see webinars being especially helpful for online classes, for obvious reasons. At a large research university like Michigan, however, which doesn’t have online-only courses, webinars could also be used to help students feel more comfortable with using library resources. As Matos noted, a lot of students just feel more comfortable asking questions over email than coming into the library. I think that’s a great reason for making webinars, when there are also other factors for which a webinar makes sense.