Friday, December 16, 2005

Got instruction strategies to share?

Have you got an Information Literacy instruction strategy you would like to share? There is no reason I should have all the fun. If you tried a library instruction strategy that you would like to post on Information Literacy Librarian, please send it to amylib1 @ Let us know what has worked for you and what you tried that bombed.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Internet vs. Library

I like to use this analogy when I am talking to students about the value of library resources in the Internet age.

I usually start by asking students what they do for lunch or dinner when they only have five minutes to eat and five dollars. Every time somebody has said, "Go to McDonalds." I then ask, “Is it healthy?” and the students will usually laugh and shake their heads, “No.” Sometimes somebody will say “You can get a salad,” and I will point out that there are some good things on the web, but for the most part, the free web is like McDonald’s. It’s fast, cheap, and easy, but is unhealthy for your academic career. The free web is fine for everyday things, but you should use library sources for things that matter.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Student Webpage Evaluation

Today I tried a new approach to teaching web site evaluation and found that it 1) increased student involvement and 2) students already use the criteria we teach to evaluate websites.

In the July 2004 issue of portal: Libraries and the Academy, Marc Meola wrote an article titled “Chucking the Checklist: A Contextual Approach to Teaching Undergraduates Web-Site Evaluation,” in which he criticizes the typical checklist approach to teaching web site evaluation. He argues that students are more critical than we give them credit and that the checklist approach is ineffective for a variety of reasons. He suggests a “contextual approach” that promotes critical thinking skills. This approach involves:

  1. Promotion and discussion of reviewed sources
  2. Comparison
  3. Corroboration

I particularly liked the arguments in favor of the Comparison method and decided to try it out in my Internet class this afternoon. The comparison method requires the researcher to compare different sources and different types of sources in order to select the most useful. Ideally, the researcher will compare print, electronic, free and subscription sources in order to find the sources that most meet his/her information needs. Unfortunately, time limits and the scope of the class limited us to free websites only.

Earlier in the class, we did a search for '“childhood obesity” causes' in Google. I then asked the students to get into groups of 2 or 3 and to decide which of the first three results would be the best website to use for a research paper. After some time in groups, we came back together and voted on the best one (each group only had 1 vote, so they had to agree on their vote).

Selection of only one site spurred a couple of the groups into debate, because they didn’t just have to pick one, but they also had to convince their teammates that it was the best one. Instead of going with a gut feeling, they had to articulate why one site was better than the others. They also had to weigh different factors. For example, one group selected an older website that came from a more authoritative source. They decided the source was more important than the date.

After voting, I asked each group why they selected a particular site. Although I hadn’t taught them the checklist method, many of them used the same criteria. The winner of the vote was a webpage sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They said they selected this one because it came from a trusted source. They noticed the date, but decided the information was still valid. They also considered Coverage. The winning webpage was very lengthy and discussed many aspects of childhood obesity. However, another team voted for a website that was more concise because it offered all the information they needed. Students were also aware of Objectivity. They stated that no advertisements was another reason they selected the winning site over the other sites.

I think I actually learned more than the students did today. I learned that students do value quality sources of information and they critically evaluate websites.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

More Power to Ya!

I have been reading Maryellen Weimer's Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice. According to Weimer, traditional educational practices are Teacher-Centered, meaning that these practices benefit the teacher more than the student or learner. Weimer advocates for Learner-Centered Teaching, instruction practices that help students learn how to learn. In her book, Weimer promotes shifts in the following 5 areas of instruction:

  • Balance of Power
  • Function of Content
  • Role of the Teacher
  • Responsibility for Learning
  • Purpose and Process of Evaluation

The shift that I found the scariest is the Balance of Power. According to Weimer, sharing power with students increases their motivation and involvement. I won’t go into her arguments, but they are convincing.

I decided to share power with students in my Information Literacy workshops by allowing them to set some of the goals for the workshop. To start the class, I ask students what their goals for the workshop are. This usually takes some prodding with additional questions like “What do you hope to learn?” or “Why did you come?” I type their goals into a Word document and save it. After class, I bring the document back up and ask them to raise their hands if they met goal 1, goal, 2, etc. I count how many raise their hands for each goal so that the document also serves as an assessment document.

Although the goals I previously defined still shape the majority of the workshop, I am able to focus on topics that students want to know about. For example, I usually do not spend much time talking about our Pay-for-Print system, but after a student stated that that was one of her goals, I made sure that we covered that topic. When a colleague of mine tried this same strategy, she learned that the majority of the students in her workshop had a goal different from what she envisioned. As a result, she was able to shift the focus and concentrate on their immediate need.

For the most part, student goals are broad, such as “learn how to do research,” and easily fit into the goals of the Information Literacy program. I have only had to reject a couple of goals because they differed too much from the workshop objective, such as the student in the Library Catalog workshop who wanted to know how to register for courses.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Have Topic Will Travel

Today I taught a Research Workshop to a particularly attentive Composition class. I was surprised to see how much they had written down when I collected their Guided Notes*. Most of the time, students just copy what I write on the board, if they write anything. But these students also copied my power point slides and some took additional notes. I think these students particularly paid attention because they already had their assignment and topic.

Frequently, instructors send their students to our workshops before giving the students the assignment or having them select a topic. I assume they are thinking that the students will do better if they know how to research a topic before receiving their topic. However, as I look back on the workshops I have done in the past, students with an immediate information need (assignment and topic) are the most attentive.

I believe this could be loosely related to Constructivist Learning Theory. When students know their assignment and topic, they can immediately incorporate what they are learning into ideas of what they will need to do to complete their assignment.

*I collect the Guided Notes for assessment purposes. After looking at their notes, I returned them to the class instructor so that she can give the students back their notes at the next class meeting.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Google enters IM market

Google now has its own Instant Messaging software, Google Talk, in Beta. The Developer page states,

"We plan to partner with other willing service providers to enable federation of our services. This means that a user on one service can communicate with users on another service without needing to sign up for, or sign in with, each service. "
What does this have to do with Information Literacy? As much as librarians like to discuss virtual (remote) reference services, it is a service that has not come into its own yet. One problem is that services such as OCLC's QuestionPoint require library users to download a plug-in. Some libraries already use Yahoo or AOL Instant Messengers, but this excludes all library users who use a different IM service than the library's from their virtual reference service. If Google Talk is able to federate with the most popular IM services, a library could provide virtual reference to patrons using a variety of IM services.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Another Librarian Blog?

The Association of College and Research Libraries defines Information Literacy as “the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information.” Despite living in the 'Information Age,' many Americans do not possess such skills. Technology and the Internet provide easy access to good information, yet few know about how to find it. Most people are satisfied with the first results of their clumsy Google or Yahoo! search. Frequently, the information they find is mediocre, but they do not have the evaluation skills to recognize this fact.

As information seekers stumble on the surface of the Web, they are unaware of the wealth of information just inches below their feet. Most do not know that their Libraries provide them with FREE access to periodical articles, even some books, through the Internet. In addition, information seekers often overlook the vast information still contained in those old-fashioned things called ‘books.’ But what disturbs me even more, is the knowledge that most Americans remain blind to the fact that Librarians are there to help them untangle the web of information available to them.

As an Information Literacy Librarian at a community college in Texas, I help students (and anybody else who finds their way into the library) obtain Information Literacy skills. To do this, I teach workshops in our Information Literacy program, as well as workshops for individual classes. I also work one-on-one with students completing research for their assignments.

In this Blog, I will be recording my experiences as Information Literacy Librarian. Researchers and Librarians have written a great deal about Information Literacy theory and practice. However, one does not become a great librarian by simply reading the literature. I actively seek ideas that I can implement to improve my instruction skills. Information Literacy Librarian provides me a space to share and reflect on the teaching strategies I put into practice.