Tag Archives: teaching

Post-graduation research skills

The latest PIL report is getting to the heart of lifelong learning, what’s happening, and future things we need to consider. For those of short attention spans, watch the 3 minute video above. For those wanting all the details of the research, check out the full report.


2011 California Conference of Library Instruction notes

Are you feeling tired? Worn down by grading too many papers? More inspired by the end of Spring semester/quarter? Then, you feel just like me.  The cure: CCLI.  In one day, I’ve been not only inspired to better structure my outreach for effective acceptance by students, but also got to explore new online learning tools and consider hope for my academic librarian future.

The morning started out with cocktail umbrellas and Mad Men as Emily Missner asked us to reconsider what we think of as library resource advertising.  With her real world, ad agency experience, Emily began the morning with some basic concepts to reach our student population sweet spot (18-34 year olds). First, develop a unique personality that fits self images.  Second, evoke sn emotional response. Finally, create a stimulating experience.  As a model of how this works, the attendees brainstormed ideas of successful ads and marketing camaigns, such as Apple.  Often times, libraries advertise new resources like how vendors pitch to us – but do students really care about how many thousands of publication titles are in a database? NO.  So why do we keep telling them this?

Next, she shared her own approach of a listserv.  I know, I know, listservs are not Web 2.0 chic but, like Draper and the Kodak Carosel, she knows how to sell it to students, faculty, and alumni (about 2,000 to be exact).  Mood (like major holidays), nostaglia or pop culture, analogy, and anthropomorphism are her ingredients for success.  I would also state that her prudent use of once or twice a quarter in key weeks 3, 7, and/or 8 makes timing a sixth unnamed ingredient.

After a lovely lunch, Debbie Faires dove into the nuts and bolts of online education, methods, and a wide array of resources.  Now, first of all, online education in a purely-online-no-in-person-meeting-EVER has grown 21%.  Learning management system usage (the Moodle, Blackboards, etc of the world) is estimsted to be 1 in 3 students. Therefore, Debbie tooj a broad approach first identifying the various types of interaction between students and faculty, students and content, and student to student.  To minimize the isolation effect, all of these have to be in place.  Discussions across asynchronous, sychronous, and in between communication styles and tools encouraged good conversation from many of the other attendees.

As our final keynote speakers, Dr. Dale Jacobs and Dr. Heidi Jacobs reminded us not just what we do as being good enough, but also to “hope, a way to think things through as a group to make things better.” As the extended metaphor of this reflective librarianship, they referred back to the isolated island also being a complex ecosystem.  The rare species found in the Galapagos might be isolated from larger continents with better documentariand but it doesn’t mean that the vegetative life and animal life on the island don’t have to find a mutual cooperation for their shared survival.  With budgets and institutions needing to make use of what we have and better, librarians cannot just consider themselves as isolated entities in the sea of academia.  So, the Jacobs asked the hard questions and made us think about what we might start answering.  For example, what do you want from your info lit program? Who do you need to talk with? What do you need to do to make yourself avaliable to listening to other peoples’ responses? I have some notes of names and ideas but I’ll save my actions and findings for another post….    

Who you gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS!

With a rare formula of energy, time, and motivation, I was assigned a brief orientation for a Humanities class with the focus to introduce students to the library, the catalog, and the databases in about 30 minutes.  So, I wanted to get creative.  I know my content but selling the first minute or two is my usual stumbling point and it also happens to be the small window I get to actually have students get interested or mentally checkout.  Being the pop culture diva I am, I wanted something funny and relatable for my community college students, so nothing too age specific.  In my YouTube search, I started with general library clips but quickly made my way to the iconic Ghostbusters.  Scenes from the original and the more recent NYPL re-enactment quickly got added to the list but the real key, I believe, was knowing how to integrate these effectively.

So this is how the sequence went:

While students enter class, play this in the background to set the tone, get them curious about what is going on in the front of the room, etc.

Next, at the beginning of the class, start playing the first 20 seconds of this video on mute, noting how the library used to be with books, card catalogs, and the scary thought of doing research (timing is key to get the scream/scary research effect)

Next, launch into library intro

  • hours
  • facilities (printing, copying, computers, study rooms)
  • website

Catalog (Bloomsday related examples since it was June 16th)

  • Subject v keyword
  • demo search (Ulysses) – more refined resource lists/name disambiguation from the general and the mythological character
  • Review a record (location, call #, status)
  • Save record–>view saved–>Print/Email/Request/Hold
  • Request/hold individual books
  • ELECTRONIC BOOK EXAMPLE (under keyword results)
    • how to access in library & at home


  • Academic Search Elite
  • SIRS Researcher
  • Boolean operators
  • AND, OR, NOT – human example
  • Full-text, peer-reviewed, date range, source type, etc.
  • Show article
  • Email/print/save functions

Conclude with the note that Reference Librarians are there to help you and not do this…..

The giggles and lots of mid-presentation questions told me that the research and listening to the Ghostbusters’ theme song at least 25 times paid off.  Now, I must channel my 1980s childhood and finally dance like I wanna to the theme song.  Now, if I could just find my slap bracelet and blue Reebok hightops…..

Social media+students=success?

Is Social Media Ruining Students? Infographic

So, is social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) ruining students? Perhaps, but there’s a lot more to examine here.

I, too, have suffered from the let-me-procrastinate-on-my-paper-by-playing-hours-of-Bejeweled but is that really social media’s fault? Was it any different from vegging out in front of the TV?

At the same time, isn’t social media the new way to connect and inform students of updates. In a recent poll by AP-Viacom, students stated that “laptop computers were the top item they use in the classroom for note-taking, followed by smart phones, cameras, audio recorders, tablet computers and camcorders.” Social media is the way to reach students where they already are (their computers and phones). Smart codes in advertising utilize this tech-focus to expand the experience. Why should students considering stopping this?

Another issue, is that different social media attract different followers. In Joel Comm’s book, Twitter Power, he notes that there are socioeconomic and educational differences between Facebook and Twitter users. While Joel’s book first came out a few years ago and Twitter has mainstreamed itself a lot more, the 2010 infographic below still highlights some variations in user-type that may attribute more to why Twitter users work a bit better than Facebook users.

Facebook vs Twitter Infographic – DigitalSurgeons.com.

Facebook vs Twitter: A breakdown of 2010 social demographics

While I still struggle to get my students to use their school email and built-in Google Docs, what have people’s experiences been with Twitter/Facebook in the classroom?

Confessions of a term paper mill and Wikipedia becoming credible

The most exciting, intriguing read this week has undoubtably been the confession piece “The Shadow Scholar” from the Chronicle of Higher Education.  The article is a tell-all confessional from the point of view of a writer for these term paper mills and the details are eerily familiar.  Poor writing skills, pressure, and easy access to funds all appear as trademark components for keeping this industry quite alive, including a better than average salary for this individual.  For anyone working with writing students, I recommend this article as a Must Read.

For those who don’t despise Wikipedia, you’ll be gaining more ground in the credibility department as UC Berkeley has started gearing assignments, students, and professors to improving the accuracy of the site’s contents, at least in regards to public policy.  You can read more about this collaboration and the lasting impact on students from the UC Berkeley PR article, “UC Berkeley students help improve Wikipedia’s credibility.”

Given some other fun events going on in my life (yeah for upcoming holidays!), I have a few more backlogged items I’ll have to get to later, such as McKinsey Consulting’s report “Winning by Degrees: The Strategies of Highly-Productive Higher-Education Institutions.”

Technological advances in education

In less than 12 hours, I’ve come across a couple of very interesting pieces discussing two trends in academia these days: eTextbooks and online learning.

Wired posted an article about the first all-digital science textbook, and not just a digital copy of a print textbook at that.  For early iPad adopters, the transition from print to digital distribution of materials like newspapers and magazines have been a topic of discussion for a few months now.  The digital format offers so many more ways to present, display, and interact with information that digital publications can go far beyond just the text and still photographs of a print layout.  The textbook has a LOT of promise (and the visualization on the book using an iPad in the last video in the article ain’t bad).  At the same time, at what cost?  Textbooks are already unbelievably expensive and many campuses are turning to textbook rental services to help students and themselves not fall to the multi-billion dollar industry.  This example has a non-profit, a nobel laureate, and paying or making the bells and whistles, but what would be the cost for a more standard digital textbook along these lines?

The second article addresses the role of online education for students attending the traditional bricks and mortar university.  As one of those online instructors for a traditional bricks and mortar institutions, I am part of this on-going experiment.  My students, so far, range from those who are self-propelled and motivated to succeed.  Those students, most likely, would do the same whether I was in front of them or not.  The others struggle, partially due to technological difficulties, but more with general preparation problems.  Organization, freedom/initiative to ask questions, and curiosity are not always items permissible in our high school education system so I have the hoverers who want constant reassurance they are completing the task correctly and others who disappear into the digital ether.  A more traditional class would hold them….other than the whole ditching thing.  Having been a student, I also understand the disconnect that can occur when you don’t have to face your educational maker every week.  But, isn’t this more similar to our current work environments?  Projects are worked on in teams across the US or the world; you may not even meet your collaborators on developing a program, software, policy, etc. While the article ends on a somewhat snide note regarding distraction, doesn’t online education make you face and learn the technological and critical thinking skills necessary for modern worklife?

Enough with my ranting; read for yourselves and let me know what you think.

On the topic of videos….

In some of my down/zombie time, I stumbled across chadmattandrob’s interactive YouTube videos. Being a fan of Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid, the video concept is awesome, not to mention that these guys put quite a bit of work into these productions with the multiple options in each segment. Given my lack of video production experience, funding, and time, the possibility of creating my own is anything but possible. However, I could see this being an awesome way to work with students on different aspects of the research process, such as the query development, topic refinement processes, etc. But, if you received a grant or other form of private funding, what would you bring to interactive, YouTube life?

Teaching revisions

Well, my utter absence over the last few months derives from my own coursework and my attempt to teach a Library Studies course for the first time.  As a short term, 8-week, online course, the pressure was, well, intense.  However, without my own school stuff going on, I’m trying to test out new ways to possibly make my life easier and thought I would share my research findings.

1) Weekly homework assignments are part of the learning process of the course, forcing students to download, enter in their answers, save, and upload their responses back to the course Assignment Drop-Box (I’m using WebCT).  The number of problems this routine activity causes students is astounding.  To avoid the proprietary file format issue, the standard set forth is RTF (rich text format) so students can use it in Google Docs, Microsoft whatever version, WordPerfect, etc.  However, at least 10-20% of the time students fail to either a) include their names or b) save the file they edited in the correct format.  Other issues tend to arise from uploading a file.    In order for me to markup their assignments, I have downloaded each RTF file, converted it to PDF, marked up the PDF, and reuploaded it as a Graded Assignment for the student to review.  To say the least, getting through a batch of 30 kids can take 8-10 hours.  Therefore, I thought I might be able to trim the time down (at least on the uploading, converting end) and try to reduce the number of issues students encounter by changing the RTF document into a form of some sort.  The library is also keen on understanding the student learning outcomes (SLOs) from this course to help either a) advocate for more sections since this is a graduation requirement but we only currently offer 3 sections of it or b) propose more funding to develop the library’s resources and programs.

Option 1: Create PDF Interactive Forms for students to fill out

With government agencies like the IRS having made the transition to interactive forms available online (instead of waiting for paper ones to arrive), I figured it was worth a shot.  Previous experience with Adobe Acrobat Pro 9.0 (yes, only this version is form-creator friendly) helped me feel comfortable jumping in.  The forms seem like a good idea since students wouldn’t struggle with changing text font into a different color than black and then I could download all answers in a spreadsheet at the end of the semester to evaluate question effectiveness.  The only real trick to making this successful is remembering that after running the Form Wizard and creating all of your fields to go to Advanced>Extend Features in Adobe Reader so students completing the form can save copies of the form with their answers.  (Granted I only discovered this trick with drafting up this post).  I still need to see how things work with exporting the data, but I know that all goes to a CSV (comma-separated value) file that opens nicely in Excel and Excel like programs.

Example of an Interactive Form made with Adobe Acrobat Pro 9.0
Example of an Interactive Form made with Adobe Acrobat Pro 9.0

Option 2: Google Forms

I use Google Spreadsheets to track grading progress, I use Google Powerpoint to create my Powerpoint-like presentations, so why not test out a Google Form? Unlike Adobe’s forms, Google Forms are unbelievably user-friendly, as you can see from the image of how to create a Multiple-Choice quesiton below.

Google Form example - How to Make a Multiple-Choice Question
Google Form example - How to Make a Multiple-Choice Question

Another great thing with Google Forms is its ease of distribution.  You email the form itself to be completed in the email or give a URL for the form or even embed the Form into your own site.

Example of a Google Form embedded in a website, particularly a course page
Example of a Google Form embedded in a website, particularly a course page

Although, I think my favorite part of Google Forms is the pretty summary graphs and charts it gives you about each response, as you can see in the gallery of images below.  You can also view the responses in a spreadsheet if you’d like but its less fun that way.

However, for my purposes, there are some drawbacks with Google Forms such as I can’t markup assignments and send them back to students to see what they got wrong and students don’t learn how to save a file, edit the file’s name, download a file, or upload one.  While those aren’t technically part of my curriculum, these life skills are important for students moving into professional settings or moving on to other online or hybrid-type classes that most universities offer nowadays.  Therefore, Google Forms will simply be just that, a simple form tool to get feedback for my own use and not to use as a feedback tool between me, others, and back to others.