Thursday, August 16, 2007

10 Easy Ways to Engage Students

In a College Teaching article, Tara Gray and Laura Madson provide the following 10 tips for engaging students.


1. Maintain sustained eye contact.

2. Ask before you tell.
This is closely related to the Socratic Method, which I discuss in this post: Any Questions.

3. Create a structure for note taking.
I call this Guided Notes and mention it in this post: Have Topic Will Travel.

4. Let the readings share your lectern.
This might be possible if you can convince an instructor to assign a reading before the classes’ library workshop. I don’t think it is possible with open workshops.


5. Use the pause procedure.
Pause so that students can compare and discuss notes for 2 minutes.

6. Assign one-minute papers.
This is a popular assessment method in library workshops. Here is a great handout on one-minute papers:

7. Try think-pair-share.
I have had success with this method. Read more about it

Hold Students Accountable Daily

8. Quiz daily.
Many libraries use pre- and/or post-quizzes for assessment purposes.

9. Use clickers or colored cards.
This upcoming semester, I plan to try out Numina II SRS ( It is a free, web-based student response system.

10. Call on a student every 2-3 minutes.

Gray, Tara and Laura Madson. “Ten Easy Ways to Engage Your Students.” College Teaching 25.2 (2007): 83-87.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Teach Like An Expert

In a LOEX Quarterly 2-part series, Eric Frierson applies 6 principles of the effects of expertise on instruction to library instruction. These 6 principles were taken from How People Learn.

  1. Experts notice features and meaningful patterns of information that are not noticed by novices,” so teach information in chunks.
  2. Experts have acquired a great deal of content knowledge that is organized in ways that reflect a deep understanding of their subject matter,” so help students see the ‘big picture.’
  3. Experts' knowledge cannot be reduced to sets of isolated facts or propositions but, instead, reflects contexts of applicability: that is, the knowledge is ‘conditionalized’ on a set of circumstances,” so help students understand how and when to use the information learned.
  4. Experts are able to flexibly retrieve important aspects of their knowledge with little attentional effort,” so make each step clear.
  5. Though experts know their disciplines thoroughly, this does not guarantee that they are able to teach others,” so study pedagogy.
  6. “Experts have varying levels of flexibility in their approach to new situations” so teach students to be flexible as they apply the information learned in different situations.

In summary of part I, Frierson states:

“Think of ways to chunk instruction into pieces that fit together to form a whole, providing students with organizing ideas to help them recall strategies associated with one another. Describe how each chunk fits together to explain the big picture of library research, and then find a way to say that to students. Finally, think about how and when students will be using these tools. Tailor the instruction to frame the tools in those ‘how’s and ‘when’s.”


John D. Bransford, Ann L. Brown, and Rodney R. Cocking, eds. “How Experts Differ from Novices.” How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington DC: National Academy Press, 1999.

Eric Frierson. “Instructional Design with Expertise in Mind (Part 1)” LOEX Quarterly, Winter 2007: 4-5+

Eric Frierson. “Instructional Design with Expertise in Mind (Part 2)” LOEX Quarterly, Spring 2007: 4-5+

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Art of Persuasion: Strategies for Effective Communication with Chief Academic Officers

2007 ALA Annual Conference
June 25, 2007


Moderator: James P. Honan
Panelists: William W. Destler, Elise Bickford Jorgens, and Dominic Latorraca
Program description at

Thanks to this sluggish shuttle buses and the fact that this session moved from the room printed in the program to one even more difficult to find, I missed the panelist’s opening comments, but this was a very informative program. The panelists all had some great insight into the minds of college deans, VPs and others in upper administration. It was also great to hear from CAOs (Chief Academic Officers []) who valued and supported libraries. The CAOs on the panel offered the following suggestions for working with CAOs on your campus. Unfortunately, I was in the back and couldn’t see who was saying what.

Do’s and Don’ts
  • Don’t just submit an inflation-based bill
    • Include descriptions of how you will improve services in your budget requests
    • Show how the funds will support the library’s strategic direction and that of other departments
    • Back up your requests with requests with research and support
    • Can you convince others?
      • Show how your proposal will solve a problem. CAOs appreciate this because they are constantly seeking solutions for various problems.
      • Don’t just say “Higher education is moving in this direction.”
  • Is your CAO a natural ally?
  • Don’t go around your CAO. Deans and etc. don’t like surprises
  • Provide ideas on how to make the transition to future of higher education

Library’s Role in Conversations about New Programs and Faculty

  • CAOs expect libraries to reallocate funds out of resources for declining programs into resources for emerging programs.Evidence of this will help with requests for additional funds.
  • When departments are preparing proposals for new programs, remind them it is their responsibility to include learning resources in the proposals

External Funding Sources (like Friends of the Library)

  • Beware of the donor’s goals
  • Today’s libraries distinguish themselves through their special collections.Target these collections in fundraising.

Merging of Libraries and Technology

  • Role of librarians will change from providing the best information to helping students shift through the deluge of information and picking the best information
  • Libraries will be doing more information literacy instruction. Libraries need to carve out their areas that will always be academic because these areas will always have a strong teaching component.

Questions and Answers

  • Libraries and learning outcomes assessments
    • Libraries can be included in general and department specific learning outcomes. Libraries are frequently included in critical thinking learning outcomes
    • Find out how the library can help other departments assess their learning outcomes.
    • At one of the schools represented, the library dean serves on the General Education Curriculum Committee, which is drafting assessable learning outcomes
  • Approaching a new president
    • Invite him/her to the library. Provide examples of the ways students access information and show off technology and special collections
    • Check with the your supervising academic officer first and invite to join
    • Know how you will answer if asked what you need
    • Frame your strategies for working with the new president around what you know about him or her (what did they do/support at their previous institution)
  • Provide a lot of information when presenting case for keeping a high tech library high tech
  • CAOs use benchmark data heavily. Phi Beta Kappa and other organizations can be allies.

I had to leave at this point so I wouldn’t be late for my shift at the NMRT booth. But I picked up on some themes.

CAOs are in risky positions. They will listen to you if they believe you can make their job easier. They also place a lot of value on evidence, like what you have done already and hard data.

They see the roles of libraries and librarians changing. As technology makes more information easily accessible, they expect libraries to provide evaluation expertise and instruction. CAOs also expect their libraries to develop special collections that set the library and school apart.

CAOs receive demands from many directions. It is the library leadership’s responsibility to educate them about libraries and keep them informed. Libraries cannot expect automatic handouts. We must provide evidence and sound arguments for our requests and be willing to propose compromises. Nor can we be bashful. We must display and flaunt our innovations, successes and triumphs.

Read more coverage of this session at

Friday, June 29, 2007

What Being a Very Important Person is Like: Serving on ALA Council

Several people who are thinking about running for ALA Council have asked me what it is like. Even though I have been an ALA Councilor for a full year, I am still learning. The best way to find out is to attend Council sessions. For those who can’t attend the sessions, the following reflects my experience as a new (and learning) Councilor. You can find a description of Council and councilor duties at Oddly, I couldn’t find this document on the ALA website, so I have posted it on my personal website.

The first thing potential councilors must be aware of is the time commitment. While most ALA conference attendees went home Monday or Tuesday, councilors had to stick around until Wednesday. Below is the 2007 Annual Conference Council schedule. We had a similar schedule at the Midwinter meeting in January. That’s another thing; Councilors are expected to attend Annual Conference and Midwinter Meeting each year of their three year term. ALA Councilors also serve on ALA-APA (ALA Allied Professional Association) Council. However the half hour information session and hour long council session are small additions to the general council schedule.

9:00-10:00am Sunday ALA Council/Executive Board/Membership Information Session (NOT Required)

No action takes place during this session. Like the title suggests, the session is for information only. The Treasurer, President, and a few others presented their reports and received a few questions.
10:00-10:30am Sunday ALA-APA Information Session (NOT Required)
Similar to the above session, but shorter.
10:45am-12:15pm Sunday ALA Council I (REQUIRED)
I missed this session. But I e-mailed the Council Secretariat, so this was an excused absence. I don’t know what happens if you get an unexcused absence or too many absences. Detention?
During Council I, II, and III, ALA Officers and some others presented their reports. Some of the reports include items requiring Council action, such as the budgetary ceiling recommend in the Treasurer’s report. Resolutions, such as the Resolution on Funding for the National Library Service, are also discussed and voted on during these sessions.
10:15-11:15am Monday ALA-APA Council (REQUIRED)
I missed this session, but it is the same people and procedures as the general ALA sessions.
8-9:30pm Monday Council Forum (NOT Required)
A slightly less formal setting for Councilors to discuss items from the next day’s agenda. It seems to shorten Council sessions slightly by giving the few councilors in attendance a chance to debate and fine tune upcoming resolutions.
9:15am-12:45pm Tuesday ALA Council II (REQUIRED)

4:30-6pm Tuesday Council Forum (NOT Required)

8am-12:30pm Wednesday ALA Council III (REQUIRED)

The only difference between Council III and the other 2 sessions is that Memorials, Tributes, and Resolutions are presented.

Participation on ALA council also requires knowledge of parliamentary procedure, which is very complicated and sometimes confusing. In fact, ALA employs a professional parliamentarian during meetings to provide assistance and guidance. Here is just one example of the confusion born out of parliamentary procedure: If someone motions for an amendment to the resolution being discussed, discussion on the motion as a whole ceases so discussion of the amendment can begin. We must discuss and vote on the amendment before we can return to the whole resolution. Whether or not the amendment passes, we must still vote on the resolution itself. This got even more confusing during Council III when an amendment to an amendment was proposed.

I can see where parliamentary procedure can be necessary to ensure fairness and organization, but I still wish it was simpler. ALA uses Alice Sturgis’ Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, commonly referred to as Sturgis. An introduction to Sturgis is provided during the Council Orientation for New and Reelected Councilors at Annual and Midwinter. I attend these sessions when I can because I am a long way from being comfortable with Sturgis.

In addition to the time and complication of council, sessions can also become tiresome thanks to a small number of people who talk a lot (you know who you are). A few resolutions passed with little or no discussion. But others elicited lengthy debates. Some discussion is good because it provides background, clarification, clears up misunderstandings and exposes the strengths and weaknesses in a resolution. I have changed my initial “gut” decision after hearing sound arguments. This usually occurs at the beginning of the debate. Unfortunately, some people insist on sharing their opinions long after it appears everybody has made up their minds.

Sometimes the debate isn’t even about the resolution. A motion to form a task force to study e-Participation in the association instigated a discussion on the value of e-participation and not on the formation of a task force itself. When it was eventually pointed out that the task force would study these issues, councilors continued to make recommendations to the not-yet-formed tasked force. Couldn’t these recommendations be made once the task force is formed and directly to the task force instead of on council floor?

I can’t find where it is stated, but only Councilors can speak on the Council floor. When a councilor moved to Suspend Rules so an ALA member could speak, the motion was defeated. Yet, when somebody moved to Suspend Rules for the ALA President-Elect to speak, the motion carried. Go figure.

For most of this post I have been critical of Council and you are probably thinking ALA Council should be avoided like Fergie on helium. But I still encourage you to run. First, the council roster needs a shake up. Some councilors have served multiple terms and it is not a very ethnically diverse group. (Take a look at the photo gallery.) Our conservative, change-resistant council also needs some innovators and responsible risk takers.

Furthermore, serving on ALA Council provides the rare opportunity to benefit libraries and influence ALA’s direction. If you don’t like the way ALA is going and want to change it, run for Council. In addition, many items passed during Council benefit libraries and librarians. In my mind, the most obvious are the items that will be forwarded to congress, such as the resolution to provide adequate funds for the National Library Service digitization project. Passing resolutions like this puts ALA’s position on the record. Hopefully, congressmen and women realize they can’t ignore an organization as big as ALA.

And one more thing, being an ALA Councilor also puts you in the category of “VIP.” I thought I was pretty important before, but I guess I was wrong, because I didn’t receive the VIP Housing Form for annual and midwinter until I was a councilor. A VIP block is set aside at each conference hotel for councilors and other VIPs. I have never stayed in these rooms so I do not know if they are different from non-VIP rooms. But rooms set aside for councilors will not be released for general members until ALA is confident all Councilors have housing. Pretty handy when the hotels are filled by the second day of registration.

You can also get a better understanding about the inner workings of Council by visiting the following sites.

The Council Page on ALA:
Council Actions:
Council Agendas:
Council Documents:
Council Minutes:
Council Reports:

And some other blog postings I found about ALA Council

I hope I haven't scared you away from Council. It truly is an interesting and rewarding experience. I encourage you to throw your hat in the ring by completing the form at

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Undergraduate Research Engine via Google Custom Search Engine

The coolest thing to come out of Google the past year is the Custom Search Engine. Libraries, organizations, and individuals can now provide their searchers customized search results, pointing them to selected sites. Google’s latest Librarian Central newsletter has a couple of good articles about the custom search engine: Editorial Value Meets Algorithmic Search and Google Custom Search Engine: A Powerful Tool for Knowledge Experts.
Inspired by ALA’s custom search engine, Librarian’s E-Library, I decided to create a custom search engine for my students called Undergraduate Research Engine. Its purpose is to help them find free authoritative sources online appropriate for college-level work. While I designed it specifically for my students, it is generic enough to be used by lower-level students (maybe even upper-level) at other colleges. In fact I have been using it for my own searches because I find the results more trust-worthy.

Sites Searched by the Undergraduate Research Engine
I set it up to search the entire Google index, but to rank listed sites higher. At this moment, it includes 44 sites. However, this number is misleading, because I told it to include all .gov and .edu sites. I realize some .gov and .edu sites aren’t as good as others, but a large number of the best sites out there fall into these 2 categories. It would be very time consuming and use up the 5000 site-limit to enter all the good .edu and .gov sites. I trust the Google algorithm (to a degree) to keep poorer sites further down the list. I did not include .org sites because there are too many non-profits with agendas. The infamous site is an obvious example.
This means all the good .org, as well as .com, .net, etc., sites will need to be entered individually. That is way I have opened up the engine to Volunteer Contributors. The more librarian-selected sites submitted, the better the search engine will be. To volunteer, go to the Undergraduate Research Engine and click “Volunteer to Contribute.”

Why does this engine exclude Wikipedia?
So far, I have excluded 2 sites from the search results: and Wikipedia. I don’t think needs an explanation. I excluded Wikipedia because I tell my students it is okay to get background information from Wikipedia, but it isn’t appropriate to cite it. Yet Google frequently lists it as a top site in search results. We talk about how their teachers look at their works cited list to see how well they did their research. After the submitted sites list is built up, I may remove Wikipedia from the excluded list, depending on the feedback I get. While I trust Google’s algorithm, it might be necessary to exclude other inappropriate sites that rank highly in search results.

More Custom Search Engine Features
Limits or Refinements: You can also include customized refinements to help your users limit and refine their searches. You can label submitted sites with refinement labels or allow Google to search the results for the chosen refinement. Since our students frequently have persuasive/argumentative assignments, I created 2 refinements: Ethics and Viewpoints. A student searching for “organ transplantation” will see these 2 limits at the top of their results and can select one to refine their search. I will add additional refinements as I think of them.

Add to your website: Google also provides a gadget to add a custom search engine to your own home page. You can get the code for Undergraduate Research Engine at Go to to see what this looks like.

Tips for Adding Sites
So, you have set up your own custom search engine, or maybe you volunteered to contribute to Undergraduate Research Engine, and you are ready to add sites. Google Documentation provides some guidance at, but here are my 2 tips:
  • Use URL Patterns: I used the pattern *.edu/* to add all .edu and .gov sites to the list: You can also use this pattern to match sub-domains. ** will search and A similar pattern* works to search all pages of a website.
  • Use the Google Marker: Add the Google Marker to your bookmarks or links toolbar. Then, each time you visit a site you would like to add to the search engine, you can click on the Google Marker to add it to your site. No need to enter the search engine’s control panel to add sites.
Volunteer to Contribute
If you would like to help make Undergraduate Research Engine the best engine it can be, volunteer to contribute by visiting and clicking “Volunteer to Contribute.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

My Online MLA Lesson

My library has finally produced an entirely online version of one of our workshops, Research 3: The MLA Format - Avoiding Plagiarism and Documenting Sources. Students who need library credit, can complete the entire workshop, beginning at Since this is our first semester doing this, we are requiring students physically submit items to the library. It should be possible to submit everything electronically. Nevertheless, we want to see how well the learning activities work before we add another layer of complication.

The full workshop is only available to our students; however, the interactive lesson is available freely on the web at I designed the lesson and would really appreciate some input-What works? What doesn’t?

The lesson explains different concepts of the MLA format. Each section also includes an interactive activity for students to apply the information and a self-check question to test how well they learned the concept. Students can retry the self-check until they get it right.

An instructor at any school can have their students complete the lesson. At the end of the lesson, students can print a score summary to submit to their instructor.

P.S. I designed the lesson with LessonBuilder3 by SoftChalk. My general knowledge of HTML was helpful, but not necessary, and I don’t know Flash.

Friday, March 30, 2007

PowerPoint Extreme Makeover

I recently watched an online video by Dean Shareski about making PowerPoint shows for presentations. I learned about it in a posting by Steven Bell on the ACRLog. Shareski provides a lot of good advice for those of us that use PowerPoint shows as a teaching aid. I found his advice on images the most helpful.

Use only high-quality images (photos), NOT clipart. Good teaching often brings storytelling into play. Select images that appeal to emotions. Anybody that has studied adult learning theory and student motivation knows that engaging student’s emotions can be a powerful motivator. Many of Shareski’s examples from PowerPoint makeovers illustrate this.

He supplies some places to find high-quality images, like Flickr and Google Images. But most of the images found this way would require permission to use. I need images that can be used semester after semester and posted to the web. On my page, I listed some sources I use to find open source images:

Unfortunately, I am having trouble finding open source images of college students and research. I’d particularly like to find pictures of college age people working at a computer, some looking frustrated and some looking happy. At least, I want images that convey research can be very frustrating if you don’t know what you are doing, but we will learn how to make it rewarding, maybe even fun. Please post a comment if you have images that I can use or know where I can find some. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Council III

Council III
Originally uploaded by AmyGF.
I am back from ALA’s 2007 Midwinter Meeting in Seattle, Washington. In addition to serving on Council, I am also on a round table executive board and on an Association committee. So, I spent a lot of time in meetings. Good thing Seattle is home to the original Starbucks and our unofficial coffee capital, because jetlag and the busy schedule made caffeine my new best friend. I did make time for some of the receptions, where there was good food (and free drinks). I only made it to one ‘informative’ session, “Digital Gaming in Library Instruction.” I will post my notes on that soon.

Here is a picture from one of my first Council sessions. "Council is the governing body of ALA." Basically, Council sets all policies for ALA. For example, we voted to make changes to the ALA Policy Manual, as recommended by the Policy Monitoring Committee. We also passed non-binding resolutions, like a Minimum Salary for Professional Librarians Resolution. A list of all actions taken by Council at Midwinter '07 should go up on this site eventually. Councilor-at-large James Casey posted his notes from Midwinter, including Council Meetings, online.

I came back a little bit more comfortable in my understanding of Council, but I still have a lot to learn.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Embedded Librarian

"The Embedded Librarian"
By Karen M. Ramsay and Jim Kinnie
Library Journal Apr. 1, 2006

In this short article, 2 librarians at the University of Rhode Island describe their attempts to reach students, particularly distant students, through technology. A few faculty have embedded librarians in their online courses, where librarians provide timely research advice and answer reference questions. In addition, they are providing IM (Instant Messaging) reference through AIM and Yahoo! Messenger, which has proved to be popular. Jim Kinnie also wrote this for the conference proceedings of the 22nd Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning.