Monthly Archives: January 2012

Week Three Reading

This week, we had to find three articles related to information literacy within our specific contexts, mine being school librarianship.

I usually get annoyed with the usual school library articles that are out there.  Lots of fluff,  So I tried to dig a little deeper and ended up with “INformation Literacy: a positivist epistomology and a politics of OUTformation.”  Yikes.  But I asked for it, so I read it.  The author, Cushla Kapizke, basically argues that the way in which we discuss information literacy does not reflect current assumptions about the way knowledge is actually created.  This article was written in 2003 and cites Information Power terminology along with similar responses in other developed nations, so the standards used are a bit dated.  However, I believe that the author makes an interesting point writing, “In sum, the notion of being ‘information literate’ was the library profession’s response to technological change and the proliferation of information.  Perhaps it is timely for the profession to consider whether a preoccupation with technologization has caused them to overlook less tangible but more profound developments around issues of knowledge and epistemology.”

The author looks at the conditions which created our concept of information literacy and what it has come to mean by those who use it- namely school librarians.  The author was very critical of the vague way that we have tried to define information literacy and called our standards at the time “educationally empty”.  Her big beef with school libraries can be seen in what she cites as the misconceptions of our profession:

1. The library provides a neutral service
2. The library user is an autonomous individual
3. Language is a transparent conduit for the transmission of meaning in information

The author posits that knowledge is something that we all own together. “Learning… is socially distributed across people and technology.”  It’s not like little coins you put into a piggy bank and your piggy bank is your knowledge.  It’s something that we all contribute to.  We are not autonomous thinkers; we think together.  And that, the author says, will change the way we think of information literacy and critical thinking.  When we view knowledge from this perspective, we also have to take into account the inability of language (the main source of info) to detach itself from politics and biases.  This creates “OUTformation” or the information that isn’t expressed for cultural or political reasons.  The author asks, why have we privileged information in education, when the social nature of information creates a kind of poverty of perspectives?

The solution that the author suggests is called “Hyperliteracy” which I think looks a lot more like the AASL Standards for 21st Century Learning.  The author suggests that more multi-modal, multi-sensory experiences be privileged alongside traditionally language-based information within libraries (games, social networks, movies, etc) and that critique of the information process play a significant part of our pedagogy.  We need to get students to start asking how their resources contributed to what they know about a topic.  How might things look if you had different sources?  If you were at a different library?  Why does this matter?  These types of questions.

Overall, I found the article (while difficult to wade through) very exciting.  It is fascinating to bear witness to the extreme changes taking place in my profession and that many people are coming to similar conclusions at the same time about what really matters in this day and age.

Seriously, I am calling it quits for tonight.  This article was a mind-full, and I will be thinking about it and adding to this post for a long time to come.  I will post about two more articles another day.


Week Two Class

This week, we talked about Formative Assessment.  This mode of assessment is  not often graded but used for improvement while continuing to work on a given task.  Contrasted to the summative assessment, which is more like a final grade after everything is complete.  When you compare the two modes of assessment, which stands out as the predominant mode in our educational climate and which is ultimately more fulfilling?  It is easy to see that there is a lot more to be gained from a formative assessment, so how did summative become so important in our culture?  I am a super-fan of badges/ badge systems, and I think that this can really be a the game changer in how we look at assessments.  Cathy Davidson did a really great post on this on the HASTAC blog that y’all should check out, so I will look it up and get a link on here asap.

In our later discussion about experts, one thing that really hit me was that the more you know, the more you start noticing.  The example was cited that people with teaching experience notice teaching techniques moreso than newbies.  I have noticed the same thing with computer programming.  Before starting at SI, I would look at a couple lines of code and see only see goobledegook, but now I notice the patterns and even if I am unfamiliar with the syntax, I can take something away from what the code is trying to accomplish.  When students are new to a subject area, they do not know how to filter what’s important to focus on and what’s unimportant, and so the whole things turns into an information overload.  500, anyone?

Week Two Reading

Our readings for this week looked at techniques for instructing strangers.  Usually in educational settings, best practices advocate getting to know the needs of the individual students– their prior knowledge and learning goals.  However, in a library setting, you often don’t get the chance for that sort of interaction.  Librarians have the ability to provide individualized attention to patrons, but we lack all of the knowledge and planning needed to create  the most successful and beneficial instructional sessions.  How do we overcome these issues?

One study that we read by Nicole Johnston proposed the creation of self-directed online learning modules.  Students were asked to complete an instructional course on information literacy on their own before a certain date, and the overall response to these modules was quite positive.  Students enjoyed working on things at their own pace, however they wished that they had more personal interaction whenever questions arose.  Ultimately, the authors posited that online instruction coupled with in-person support was the best arrangement for this sort of independent learning.

Two other articles that we read focused on the uses of free and for-profit screencasting software.  A hint for any other classmates/librarians interested in screencasting: check out omnidazzle.  It is another super (and free) application that allows you to use your mouse pointer to create special effects (like highlighting or drawing) over your screen.

Our last reading was a total Peace Corps flashback for me.  In training, we learned a similar project design and management cycle as the one presented in Creating the One-Shot Library Workshop.  I like the idea of creating a nice pile of lesson plans that can be saved and used when needed, however I worry about relevance when people keep their lesson plans around.  What worked for one group of people might not work for the next.  I think that the worth of our services will be in constant re-evaluation and flexibility.  I also like that co-planning was also touched on.  I am a huge fan of co-planning and I think that when you find another educator who is willing to share this process, it can be an immensely rewarding experience.  A group, however, would be too big for me.

Week One Class

This week in class, we sorted out the syllabus and reviewed assignments for the semester, but in addition to that housekeeping, we discussed a very long list of operational assumptions that will carry throughout the course material.  The point that resonated with me the most stated that “Librarians are teachers… just not always trained to be.”  I really believe that this is the function of librarianship.  We have taken on different roles over the years that don’t always reflect this kind of thinking, but those roles are disappearing in the current job climate.  As more and more people are able to search and find adequate material with ease, librarians become less the providers of information and more the facilitators of the information process– helping people learn what they want to learn.  I look forward to exploring these ideas in further detail throughout the semester!

Week One Readings (Part 2)

I would like to take this opportunity to confess: I was once a crummy computer teacher. When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, I facilitated a series of popular community computer classes for various populations in my rural municipality– high school dropouts, young mothers, elementary teachers, school administrators, etc.

Problem #1: I was the “expert.” I had the most experience with technology, however I was in no position to offer the kind of expert-level thought processes that could have helped my classes. I was also unaware of how to make thoughtful pedagogical decisions based on my two months of teacher training. Like the reading for this week suggests, expert teaching requires a balance of teaching and content expertise.

Problem #2: I relied on what the text calls, “the prescriptions of absentee curriculum developers” to decide the content of my classes. I used almost the same lesson plans with each population, even though each came from dramatically different backgrounds and wanted different things out of the class.

Problem #3: I never in my wildest dreams thought that expert-level growth was a possible outcome of my instruction. If a school administrator was double clicking with accuracy by the end of the first class, I considered that day a success. I was so focused on accumulating novice-level skills that I was not able to introduce meaningful thought patterns or incorporate previous knowledge.

Result: Instead of using the computer to track student progress, create a professional resume, or help with some other important task, the majority of my students accessed their prior tech knowledge and used the computers solely to play music. CD players and videoke machines were in most households, so many students (who hadn’t used a computer before) were able to implement the behavior patterns they used everyday to insert a disc and click play

Resolution: Go to the School of Information and learn to better facilitate the acquisition of what I consider to be some of the most important skills of this day and age. Since I have been here, I have recognized many professors and instructors who are combining their expert-level thought processes with engaging teaching to engender a sense of mastery among their students. I look forward to the rest of this semester, where we will continue to reflect on the role of instruction in libraries and on the practices that will improve our profession. And maybe learn how to be a totally-not-crummy computer teacher.



Week One Readings (Part 1)

While reading the initial chapter of How People Learn, it became obvious to me that, during elementary and middle school I was educated according to more recent, evidence-based instructional techniques, however the bulk of my high school and undergraduate education was dominated by antiquated, ineffective instructional models (listen to a lecture, watch a video, read a textbook, take a multiple choice test). I think that this focus on innovative instruction for younger students is something that carries over into informal educational settings as well, and I believe that is a problem.

We know that the zone of proximal development implies that young minds are should acquire certain skills within an important time frame, or their natural ability to catch up to their peers decreases. So we engage young learners by using every new trendy technique that comes out. But when it comes to adults, for some reason, we think that it’s alright to just throw a powerpoint on a screen and give a final exam at the end of the semester. We have it programed into our minds that adults can just force their way through ineffective instruction and come out on the other side with understanding.

The majority of my cohorts within the School of Information will be working with adults or young adults in their careers, and I think that this is an important point to recognize: the way that we design instruction for adults should be based on the same scientific principals and best practices that guide early childhood education. To the same effect, I need to remember that there is more to youth librarianship than reading cute books to kids and must make it a point to engage with the science of education in developing my own pedagogical framework.