Monday, May 16, 2011

Information Visualization and Keyword Searching in Library Instruction

Matt Conner and Melissa Browne, University of California, Davis
May 7, 2011
2011 LOEX Conference

Download the Powerpoint Presentation
Visual Literacy is the ability “to produce and consume images.” Matt Conner and Melissa Browne promote the concept of Information Visualization, which “represents data with visual designs that assist comprehension and insight.” To illustrate the connection between vision and cognition, Conner used the example of the blind who have had their vision surgically restored, but are unable to process what they see (reminded me of the movie At First Sight).

Undergraduate Search Behavior
  • Search strategies: Undergrads use either single word or long natural-language search statements. This works in Google, but not in most library databases. Undergrads also use the same tools and strategies regardless of the information need.
  • Reading habits: Most students don’t read articles thoroughly, but prefer to skim.
  • Cues: Students also prefer to look at sources with more “graphical/visual representations.”

Their conclusion: “It’s more difficult than ever for students to translate subject knowledge into appropriate search strategies for scholarly research!” Their hypothesis: “Information visualization techniques improve students’ abilities to conceptualize topics and generate terms for academic online research.” Conner and Browne are currently conducting a study with Undergraduates to test this hypothesis

3 Pedagogies
  1. Keyword matrix: This keyword matrix is a little different than what I have used in the past. In this matrix the topic goes in the middle row and the student brainstorms general terms in the top row and more specific terms in the bottom row.
  2. Google’s Wonder Wheel: I’ve used the Wonder Wheel for concept mapping and development of research topics, but I haven’t tried it for keyword generation.
  3. EBSCO’s Visual Search: An alternative to the traditional search results display, Visual Search helps to narrow results with an emphasis on subject headings. Ebsco is one of the the few database providers that offer a visual search option. For my own research, I prefer the traditional view, but this presentation inspired me to try out the visual search option with students.

The Study
The presenters are currently conducting a study of the three pedagogies. As of the presentation, only about a third of the results have been analyzed. The following results are based on the data analyzed as of the presentation.
  • How students generate search terms: 1. Google 2. The topic itself 3. Course materials
  • The most difficult part of research: 1. Credibility 2. Narrowing (Information overload) 3. Relevance

Preliminary results of the study reveal:
  • No significant difference in the number of search attempts.
  • No significant difference in time spent searching.
  • Students “expressed great enthusiasm” for the term-generating tools.

Conner and Browne also made the following observations.
  • “Students did not rely on keywords.”
  • Students reacted to information. They used links instead of keywords to further their search.
  • “Adapted results to fit preconceived pattern for paper.”
  • “Wide variation is search strategies.” Examples of search strategies include “termers,” who frequently modify their search strategies, and “limiters,” who rely on database limiters to modify searches. Students were not using advanced search strategies such as phrase searching or truncation.
  • “Student’s assessment of search success did not match always match the investigator’s assessment.”

Based on the preliminary findings, the Conner and Browne state that “Information visualization techniques appear to help students with conceptualizing topics but don’t really impact keyword search strategies.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ensuring Valid and Reliable Assessments of Student Learning Workshop

Megan Oakleaf, Syracuse University
Thursday, May 5, 2011, 1:00pm - 4:30pm
2011 LOEX Preconference

The first part of the workshop focused on outcomes and performance assessment. The second part covered rubrics.

Megan Oakleaf briefly discussed the necessity for "clear, meaningful, transferable, learning outcomes." How will students be able to use what they learn in other contexts. Ensure that the outcomes are relatable, but not overwhelming.

There are a lot of different formulas for writing outcomes, but all good outcomes begin with active verbs. See Assessment-as-Learning.

Performance Assessment
Oakleaf stressed active learning. She briefly discussed the "Understanding by Design" approach before discussing performance assessment. Performance assessments “focus on student’s tasks or products/artifacts of those tasks.” These assessments “simulate real life application of skills.” I was surprised to learn that your instruction/learning tool can also be your assessment tool. It seems so obvious, but I had never thought of it that way. For example, observing students completing a class activity such as a database search can be an assessment. Develop a checklist and check off as a student meets the criteria. She used the example of tallying how many students locate an appropriate article. In our introductory workshop, we could keep track of how many students are able to locate on book on their own in our find-a-book activity.

Rubrics “describe student learning in 2 dimensions:” indicators/criteria and “levels of performance.” Oakleaf introduced us to the RAILS (Rubric Assessment of Information Literacy Skills) project:

Rubric Creation Process
  1. Reflecting: "why did we create this assignment/assessment?" "What happened the last time we gave it?" "What is the relationship between this assignment/assessment and the rest of what students will learn?"
  2. Listing: "What specific learning outcomes do we want to see in the completed assignment/assessment?" "What evidence can students provide in this assignment/assessment that would demonstrate their learning.". "What are our expectations of student work? What does it look like?"
  3. Grouping and labeling: "Can we group our brainstorms in categories?" "How can we label them?" The labeled groups are now the "criteria."
  4. Creating: Draft the performance descriptions. Define the highest level of or best possible student performance. Define the worst and other developmental levels as needed.
In order to avoid the most common rubric design flaws, describe what a student at that level ‘looks’ like.

Rubric Norming Process
Oakleaf recommends norming rubrics when multiple graders will be using the same rubric. This will limit discrepancies among evaluators.
  1. Think aloud about an example. Criterion by criterion, share how you came to your performance rating.
  2. Raters independently evaluate examples.
  3. Raters come together to identify similarities and differences in scoring patterns.
  4. “Discuss and reconcile inconsistent scores.”
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 new samples until consensus.
Closing the Loop
Based on your assessment, “Enact decisions to increase learning.” Assessment is useless if you don’t do this.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Pirate maps, tattoos, and flus: Using a problem-based format to teach information literacy skills

Kerri Shaffer Carter and Emily Buzicky, Westminster College
Friday, May 6, 2011
2011 LOEX Conference

Download the handout.

Problem-based learning (PBL) in library instruction is an attempt to provide instruction that more closely resembles the research process. In problem-based learning,“students are presented with an ‘ill-defined’ problem or issue ‘prompt.’ “Students work in groups to identify problem, research issue, and present a solution or hypothesis.”

Kerri Shaffer Carter and Emily Buzicky modeled the session after the problem-based format.
Session Timeline:
  1. Introduction to problem-based learning
  2. “Use scenarios and prompts to create a PBL lesson plan
  3. Sharing
  4. Debriefing (student reflection and instructor feedback)
During the session we had the opportunity to develop a PBL lesson plan. We were given a few sample scenarios and possible prompts. We were also given questions to consider, such as learning objectives, what foundational knowledge is required, and what resources will students be provided with. We developed the following rough lesson plan in about 20 minutes.
  • Class: Economics (non-business majors)
  • Time: 2 hours (I wish!!!)
  • Objective: Students will develop a research topic. Students will select the most appropriate research tools.
  • Prompt: Examine the Home Values Graph. What caused the various declines and inclines in home values? As a group, select one of the issues, events or trends represented in this chart for further research. Select at least three search tools that are appropriate for your chosen topic.
  • Materials: Home Values Graph and a list of possible search tools.
Collaboration among students is a significant component of PBL. The presenters admitted that it is “messy.” In my group work, we realized that it could be unpredictable. There is no right or wrong answer and each group will come up with something different. It will be necessary for the librarian and/or instructor to check-in with each group in order to answer questions and provide guidance.

Bridging the Gaps: Transliteracy as effective pedagogy for information literacy

Lane Wilkinson, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Friday, May 6th, 2011
2011 LOEX Conference


Lane Wilkinson defines transliteracy as “the ability to read, write, and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media.” It is how we navigate information sources and understand how the sources fit together. It originates with the Transliteracy Project, a study of online reading. Transliteracy encompasses new media, new linguistic competencies, new literacies and what Wilkinson calls the Descriptive Literacies (see slide 27). He used the Twitter hashtag as an example of a new linguistic competency.

Wilkinson offered these “three keys for library instruction."
  1. “Effective information use requires several information sources.” Students will continue to use Google and Wikipedia and we need to teach them to use these sources effectively. “Address non-library resources at the start.”
  2. “Information sources do not stand alone, they interact.” Library instruction needs to emphasize the similarities between library and non-library information sources.
  3. “Navigating across information resources requires transferable skills.” Students search by discovery. Take advantage of this “mental model” and teach how popular and scholarly information sources are similar. “Understand transferable skills”
  • “Make overt connections.”
  • “Provide links to specific applications.”
  • “Focus on the purpose of strategies.”
  • “Include time for student reflection.”
  • “Consider how strategies might be adapted.”
  • “Provide feedback to students.”
  • “Provide opportunities to apply, re-apply and re-teach.”
Interfaces change. Teach skills that are interface-independent.

At the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga students use Wikipedia to complete a research question worksheet before coming to library instruction.

To sum it all up: Transliteracy is the application of information literacy skills.

Learn more at the Libraries and Transliteracy blog: and

Instruct, Engage, Influence: How Educators Can Become Agents of Organizational Change

Melanie Hawks, University of Utah
Friday Morning, May 6th, 2011
2011 LOEX Conference

The conference opened with plenary speaker, Melanie Hawks, author of Influencing Without Authority. I picked up the following tidbits from her presentation.
  • The effects of long-term influence are not immediately evident.
  • Understand the environment you are trying to influence. You will have to adapt to the environment before you can influence.
  • Think of your co-workers as customers. Customers want what they want and have options.
  • You can’t predict the results. Develop relationships with the people who have influence.
  • A great way to influence, is to first approach people with an offer of how you can help them.
  • Stress the common goal.
  • She has attended Influencer training which discusses “vital behaviors.” A vital behavior is a single behavior that often leads to other wanted behaviors. It is simple, clear, direct and benefits the person performing the behavior.
  • A “Call to Action” is an advertising strategy informing people of what you want them to do. It is also important that you make it easy for them to do it. She used the example of the Buckle Up America campaign. The logos are simple and to the point. It is easy to understand what is wanted. Car manufacturers also make it easy by providing seat belts for every passenger and warnings when you’re not buckled up.