In Part 2 of this series, I looked at some best practices for incorporating discovery tools into information literacy sessions. Since I am currently in the midst teaching, I wanted to take the opportunity to try some of them for myself. I focused most closely on these two best practices:
I was working with a class that centered around science topics, and had received a request beforehand to talk about evaluating sources. Since it’s easy to find bad information about science topics (whether insidious or just misinformed), focusing on critical thinking was especially important.
Before coming to class, the students already had a research question, and were grouped in teams of 3-5. In addition, they had just completed an exercise that asked them to evaluate the credibility of a website. At the start of class, I did a brief group exercise that reiterated what they had just learned about evaluating sources, and emphasized that they would need to evaluate any sources they found, not just websites. We also did a quick brainstorming activity that modeled how to think about keywords and search strategies for a topic.
Then I set them loose. Since their assignment required them to find an actual physical book in addition to other materials, I demonstrated the book filter quickly, but otherwise gave them little direction other than to try SearchPlus. They had about 25-30 minutes to search for items on their topic, and choose one example to present.
After the time they spent searching, I asked each group to present what they found. As we usually do in class, I asked them to show how they found the source, but also why they chose it to show to the class, relying on the criteria we developed earlier. I was gratified to see that most students were very critically engaged with the sources they found, even going so far as to Google the author or publisher to make sure it seemed credible.
I was also encouraged by the search strategies I saw modeled. Groups pointed out useful filters to their peers, and talked about changing search terms until they were satisfied with their search results. Since they were in the exploratory phase of their projects, students found a wide range of materials, from trade articles to encyclopedia entries to help them think about their topic.
Some thoughts: I acknowledge that some students may have found better results in a subject-specific database. However, I decided that it was more important for students to demonstrate that they were thinking critically about sources, and SearchPlus lent itself well to that outcome, since it took some of the cognitive load out of searching and allowed them to focus on evaluation. The students will have access to a course guide in D2L, and I did point out that more resources were linked there, should they need them. But for an introductory freshman class, I was happy both with the quality of sources they found, and the quality of thought behind their examples.
Have you tried something similar? Were you satisfied? Why or why not?
It seems that lately, I'm reading more and more blog entries, articles, posts, tweets, etc., about how online learning can be either the greatest thing to happen to education, or the worst. It seems that one of the biggest issues facing those who teach online is how to keep students engaged and learning, especially when students can be spread across states, time zones, or continents. This brief article, entitled "Incorporating Active Learning Into the Online Classroom," outlines five main activities to incorporate into online learning:
collaborative group work
writing to learn
The instruction that we do as part of our face to face WRA courses do many of these already, so incorporating them into online courses can be done with a little tweaking-how can we make discussion happen online? Many LMS's have discussion or forums available for integration into the course site, so those can be used effectively to create discussion among students, especially while students are learning online. There are chat features we can use, so students can question not only the material they're working with, but also pose questions for instructors. Group work can be tricky online, but content management systems, and things like Google Drive can be effectively employed to encourage collaboration-with Google Drive, instructors can have students collaborate on a document, presentation, project, and have students submit or share. In this manner, instructors are able to observe the group work happening without having to physically be in a class or walking around a classroom.
What about you? What active learning techniques that you use in your IL classes would be easily transferable to an online setting?
There are several ways to glean new information about what technologies are available for use in the classroom and how best to use them, but some of the best resources I have found are lists. Technology tools lists, article lists, app lists, and even book lists. The blog Instructional Tech Talk recently released their list of the bestselling educational technology books from 2014. They cover a range of topics, from general educational technology to blended and flipped learning to digital leadership. Some of the books are geared towards elementary and high school teachers, but with a lot of librarians wondering how they can better flip their courses to reach students both in their one shots and outside of that hour and a half, there are lots of resources. One of the best resources is Flipping 2.0: Practical Strategies for Flipping Your Class. And one of my favorite books about education made the list-Salman Khan’s (from Khan Academy!) The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined. Even though the book was published several years ago, the premise still rings true today-how do we bring education to more people across the globe? There are many books, articles, and resources out there to help you bring technology into the classroom-if you have questions how you can do it, let us know!
Have you read anything this year that you'd add to this list? Let us know in the comments.
As you are deciding how to incorporate SearchPlus into your teaching this fall, here are four best practices from two recent articles for your consideration:
Buck, Stefanie, and Christina Steffy. "Promising Practices in Instruction of Discovery Tools." Communications in Information Literacy 7.1 (2013): 66-80. Web.
Fawley, Nancy and Nikki Krysak. and "Information Literacy Opportunities within the Discovery Tool Environment." College and Undergraduate Libraries 19.2-4 (2012): 207-14. Web.
More Here:Part 1: Describing SearchPlus
The following article came up in my Facebook feed recently (you’ll see why that’s ironic if you read the article): “Why I Just Asked My Students to Put Their Laptops Away” by Clay Shirky. Shirky draws on research to justify his recent decision to ask students to be device-free (including laptops) during class, unless explicitly asked. I was especially intrigued by the idea that distracting technology use during class affects not only the retention of the student using the technology, but those around him or her as well. This “second-hand smoke” effect was a large part of the reason Shirky finally decided to ban technology all together. Not that he blames students for being distracted; he asserts that social media is designed precisely to attract our attention on an almost biological level.
However, I wonder about this policy’s applicability to the kind of instruction we do in the library. Unlike Shirky, who has the luxury of building relationships with his students over the course of the semester, we often have less than two hours to develop rapport with students and hopefully make a good enough impression that they will be willing to return to the library on their own. Would the goodwill lost enforcing a technology ban outweigh the potential benefits of increased focus from students? Shirky’s piece will no doubt spark strong feelings from people on both sides of the issue.
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