April 3, 2014

Introducing #critlib chats!

Tuesday night marked the first #critlib chat we had on Twitter to talk about critical pedagogy in libraries. Myself and the awesome @barnlib, @catladylib, @edrabinski, and @kellymce  organized the chat, and I served as moderator for this week. I'm really excited that these are happening, because not only is it important to talk about this stuff, but selfishly, I've been really wanting there to be something like this for awhile.

We created a cheat sheet for the chats to provide information about upcoming topics, how the chats work, and then to post the questions in real time as a reference point beyond the constantly updating Twitter hashtag feed. It's pretty fast paced to do these Twitter chats, and can make having in-depth conversations difficult, but it is a good entry point, is fairly accessible, and open to all. We had a good amount of people participating and some excellent conversations going. It's helpful to have 3 tabs open for this: the cheat sheet, the hashtag feed on Twitter, and then your own notifications feed to make it easy to reply to people without losing #critlib. Thanks to @aszingarelli, we also now have a Storify you can check out to see how the conversation went.

For this first meeting, we mostly talked about definitions. What is critical pedagogy, and what is critical library pedagogy? How do you incorporate critical pedagogy in your library instruction and in other aspects of library work? It was a good first meeting to establish a somewhat common understanding, and provide more context for those who are interested but don't feel comfortable participating yet. Some people mentioned they were just going to lurk, and I think that's great there is so much interest. I hope the chat will make everyone more comfortable sharing their thoughts, it's not meant to be a judgmental place or where anyone assumes they're an expert.

We posted Gregory & Higgins' intro to Information Literacy and Social Justice as supplemental reading since they introduce the concept very well. I was reading Toni Samek's foreword to the book as well, and thought what she said about risk was important:
We should not underestimate the collective will of projects like this one. Each contributor should be thanked for the risk they take on the page. I have, on a number of occasions, said publicly that information literacy is far too often realized in service of the state. This is rarely a popular observation. (And so I have been told.) But for almost twenty full years I have worked under the protection of my right and responsibility of academic freedom. The same cannot be said for all of the seventeen chapter contributors to this work. I admire them for their conviction (2013, vii).
This is important to think about, as these might not be popular opinions. It is somewhat of a risk to discuss these things, particularly for those who are not in tenured positions. So it's great to have a place to chat to support others with these similar convictions. We hope more will join us next time. Tuesday, April 7th will be the second #critlib, and then we will be moving to every other week after that.

Also see our Zotero group with further resources and readings (some of these might wind up being readings for future chats).

March 5, 2014

More on threshold concepts and #ACRLILRevisions

The three threshold concepts in the new ACRL draft Framework for Information Literacy (Higher Ed) are noted as:
  • Scholarship as a conversation
  • Research as inquiry
  • Format as process
From conversations on Twitter, Andy Burkhardt made a great post about how he has implemented "Research as inquiry" in his instruction. These practical examples are so helpful in understanding such a theoretical framework. Since I have been pushing research as conversation, or "Scholarship as conversation," in my own teaching, I thought I would share what I have done as well (for reference, I wrote about my initial thoughts on the new draft framework in a previous post).

Credit course and scaffolding
We have since paused our for-credit courses at the library, but in the last two sessions, I scaffolded research as conversation throughout the semester. I started off with introducing the concept, then made greater analogies to other modules, and in the end, had students create a short, animated video or comic strip (or script if they were not feeling visuals) illustrating a facet of research as conversation. (And this course is where we initially started using digital badges, as a side-note).

Searching online communities
In the fall, I had two additional opportunities of note to use scholarship as conversation, but also the other two threshold concepts. In a course in the UA's new eSociety program, my colleague, Leslie Sult, and I collaborated with the instructor to develop an in class activity and assignment. Students were researching a current event in a variety of formats/online communities (social media, local news, national/international news, news blogs, etc.), and the instructor wanted her students to do some critical thinking in groups to evaluate information and think about bias and point-of-view. I came up with the worksheet below, and we wound up having some great conversations as each group presented on their resource (YouTube and Twitter were especially interesting):

And additional questions we asked to coincide with the worksheet, after a brief lecture on related issues was delivered, included:
  • Open versus closed community: impact? E.g., Facebook closed vs Twitter open – algorithms on Fbook and Google search when signed in (stay in the echo chamber)
  • Primary versus secondary sources: what is the difference and when might you use either?
    • How are messages changed/altered when they are retweeted or shared? Is anything lost? (like playing telephone), how do you account for this in searching? How do you know what part of the message is accurate? Methods for this
  • Search strategies and tools: hashtags, groups, slang, memes, etc.
  • Trolling: how does it affect communities and how might it change your search strategy?
    • How do you know if someone is trolling a group or a topic discussion? Does trolling have significance in your search? Should you seek it out or ignore it?
  • Back to whose voices are heard? What might the effect of being in the “echo chamber” do to whose voices you hear personally? What search strategies could you use to get out of the echo chamber?
The learning outcomes based on the instructor's course learning outcomes in conjunction with Leslie's and my goals for library instruction were the following:
  1. Engage in a focused process of inquiry within an assigned online community in order to articulate the ways in which online communities function across contexts in contemporary life
  2. Strategically access and evaluate information via search in an assigned online community in order to recognize various perspectives including rhetorical, philosophical, historical, sociological, and psychological viewpoints
  3. Develop insight into the ethical aspects of information creation, use, access, and durability in order to be conscious of many group-related issues and practices relative to the use of computing technologies to facilitate group collaboration

Student athletes and avoiding plagiarism
When working with student athletes later in the semester, I more literally included scholarship as a conversation into my instructional design for a session I collaborated on with the Director of the athletes' writing center and my colleague, Niamh Wallace. I started the session talking about the process of research to frame positive uses of citations (how they help a conversation) and the negative effects of plagiarism, accidental or not (how they harm a conversation). To illustrate the concept in their minds first, I read them Burke's Unending Conversation Metaphor that I slightly adapted to more modern language they could relate to. I asked them to close their eyes and....
Imagine that you enter a party. You come late. When you arrive, others have been there long before you, and are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and fill you in. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you get the gist of the argument and join in. Someone answers; you respond; another comes to your defense; another aligns against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending on the quality of your ally’s assistance. However, the discussion is endless. It’s getting late, so you have to take off. And you leave, with the discussion still vigorously in progress.
Marisa (Director of writing center) incorporated a short lecture on how to write well when using other people's ideas, and as a hands-on activity had students write about their thoughts based on what we had presented to them (having them cite us). Then, using game design for this session, the theme was the "Citation Olympics," and we had students compete in groups for prizes as they learned content. Our format was introduce concept > practice > compete in the Citation Olympics at the end. Each module was a "sport," essentially. Here is a copy of the PPT we used to guide the session for a better idea (though much detail still gets left out from not including lecture notes).

Workshop on avoiding plagiarism for student athletes from Nicole Pagowsky

Anyhow, thought it might be helpful to share, and I hope to see how others have been teaching these concepts to gain a better understanding of how the new framework can be put into practice.

March 2, 2014

Thoughts on ACRL's New Draft Framework for ILCSHE

Image from goleansixsigma.com/bottleneck/
I've finally had a chance to read through the draft framework from ACRL, for Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (ILCSHE), as well as some good blog posts reflecting on the draft from Barbara Fister, Jacob Berg, and Andy Burkhardt. After attending ACRL Immersion - Program Track this last summer and also recently reading Susanna Cowan's, "Information literacy: The battle won won that we lost?" it seems like at least the existentialist part of the conversation on information literacy has been brewing for quite awhile. Cowan asks, "at what point does trying to interrupt the research process with the intrusion of instruction sessions, consultations, and tutorials become anachronistic, out of touch, and eventually irrelevant?" (2014, p. 29). And quoting Sugata Mitra, Cowan says we should "let learning happen," instead of essentially forcing/inserting ourselves into the process (p. 30). So the question then it seems many of us are asking ourselves is what does "information literacy" (IL) really mean, and if librarians don't "own" information literacy, what will our role be?

The draft framework focuses on three threshold concepts that would help advise our path, more so than define. Since others have taken a more theoretical perspective on their reflections, I am going to speak more practically:

  • Scholarship is a conversation: I am so happy this concept is being included, as I have been pushing it in my own instruction for awhile, yet have found it more difficult to plan and assess (though assessment is a murky area, even more so with this new framework). This notion can inspire students to see themselves as creators of information, having a greater stake in the research they are doing (as the framework notes). One thing I wonder here is how can libraries better enable this, regardless of if we own IL or not. Libraries including student output might be one way to encourage students to perceive themselves in this way, to show their work is worth something in the world beyond a class grade and that they are truly a part of the "conversation." One issue Barbara Fister brings up that I'd like to echo is that "we need to bear in mind how these thresholds we define are cultural constructs and avoid assuming upper-middle-class white American experiences that might seem hostile or exclusionary to those who don't fit that assumed identity." Who will determine what these universal threshold concepts are, and how?
  • Research as inquiry: Again, I think it's great this is included as a major concept. The framework talks about this meaning students understand that research is an iterative process and that "reflecting on errors or mistakes leads to new insights and discoveries" (p. 13). A major thought here seems to be teaching through failure, which research has shown to be effective. I'm just going to quote something I wrote in a previous post addressing this:
"Kluger and DeNisi (1996) support this notion of learning through failure by arguing that after doing an enormous meta-analysis of feedback interventions research, the conclusion is that the feedback literature is inconclusive and highly variable based on situations and learners involved. They explain that learners are most successful in learning through discovery, rather than feedback, particularly controlling feedback (ahem, grades)." via October 31, 2013
This also certainly mucks us up, as mentioned above, in regards to assessment. Though, as we partner more with faculty outside of the library, we will likely find more opportunities for reinvention and different ways to express our instructional "value."
  • Format as process: This last concept, although I think it is going in a good direction, is the one I feel is missing the most. Overall, I would like to see the framework be a bit more radical, and I think this is an example of one excellent spot to invoke critical pedagogy in a very specific way. In looking at how information is produced and considering the peer-review process, medium as message, and the value of information, I was hoping to see a discussion on marginalized groups and whose voices get to be heard in traditional publishing and media (and why). These are important conversations to have with students, and particularly so when we are encouraging them to be creators of information, joining the conversation themselves. What impact might avenues of publishing have on their ability to be vocal when considering their perspective and identity? How is privilege intertwined in format and volume? 

Overall, I am pleased with the draft and am keeping in mind that it is just that: a draft. Other issues I have echo what others have stated, including that the framework set out to rid itself of jargon, but wound up only replacing old jargon with new jargon (metaliteracy, knowledge practices, etc.). I think not only do we want faculty and administrators to implicitly understand what we're talking about with this framework, but it would be great if students could read it and quickly, easily understand our objectives. Tomorrow, I am meeting with other instruction and research services librarians at my library to discuss the new framework as a group (as well as Cowan's article), so I am interested to see what my colleagues will say. I'll be leaving my own feedback to the draft soon after that and am also curious to see other points of view and engage in more conversations on the future of information literacy and library instruction.

Edit: Adding an additional thought as I work through my perspective on this, but I'm wondering what effect the theory of cognitive development, or rather, Perry's theory of cognitive/moral development will have on the success of this framework, particularly with early undergraduate students. When students are freshmen especially, they tend to think in duality, black vs white, and the instructor as absolute authority figure, having difficulty to move outside the box. With the framework being so flexible to student exploration, will it in fact improve learning for these students? Here is a good resource to color this in a bit: http://home.ubalt.edu/ub02Z36/Perry_Stages_ACRL-MD.pdf 

January 9, 2014

Badges and buy-in

In November, I presented on digital badges to the University-Wide General Education Committee (UWGEC) that I am an advisory member for on behalf of the library. My colleague and I have finished our multi-semester course pilot where we used digital badges with content in the library's one-credit course for undergrads, and now we are looking to expand to greater campus and also gather faculty feedback. If faculty don't find value in digital badges, we won't get very far.

The reason I chose the UWGEC committee to present to is because all new gen ed courses are required to explain how information literacy (and other critical skills) will be incorporated into their class. There were a few applications that came through where it seemed faculty were unsure of how to either include IL skills in the class or just how to describe how IL skills would be included in the class. We do have a list of the (soon outdated) ACRL standards to help guide instructors, but there are of course issues with the standards, aside from them not really being intuitive to someone who is not a librarian. Additionally, since we don't have a FYE program, incorporating IL skills at the Gen Ed level would reach more students earlier on.

When badges can be embedded into courses, instructors can more actively understand IL concepts and skills that their students will need and map IL to current course design. Faculty were very excited to hear about this possibility of a mix and match digital badge option for including research skills in their courses. This wouldn't require much additional instruction time on their part, and everyone (faculty and the library) would have access to assessment data. Prior to this presentation, it felt badge talk on campus was stalled or even non-existent, but I found some interested instructors to become part of our Pilot Part II, and was also invited to another working group on campus to include digital badges in eportfolios (actually very similar to what UC-Davis has announced).

Some key points to consider that worked for me when presenting on badges to faculty:
  • Focus less on gamification when introducing the concept and more on measuring skills and competency-based education
  • If your campus is like ours and upper course level faculty complain that students are lacking research skills when they reach them, highlight how embedding skills early and through scaffolding throughout students' college years will benefit all in receiving better work and helping students be better prepared
  • Share as much student feedback as you can. If students are enthusiastic, faculty of course want to use methods students will enjoy and be successful at
  • Stress flexibility and cooperation. We are not giving campus mandatory modules that they have to incorporate into every class, it's a mix and match as I mentioned above where badges would be incorporated into classes based on content, skill-level, and need. We want to be strategic and not create more work for ourselves or faculty (or students)
  • Reiterate student anxiety on finding jobs after graduation, and how being able to display and describe specific skills could give them an advantage with future employers while also helping students better understand what they have accomplished

And I'll share some student feedback from our pilot:
“I liked when I did really well on a task when I got a badge for it”
I liked badges because they helped me feel accomplished and as if I was doing something worth while”
It was more fun than just completing a written assignment”
I enjoyed that the badges … were useful in keeping track of my work, but also of what I learned [and] that most of the time they made us really reflect and put our knowledge of the subject to use”
In order for me to complete assignments, I have to break them down into tasks. With the badges this was already set up for me. I found it fit into my learning style perfectly and I loved how I could track what I was doing within each badge”

University of Arizona Libraries: LIBR197R Badges Pilot survey

We will be analyzing our data for these two semesters and then will be starting another pilot for spring if all works as planned and presenting on our findings at ALA Annual 2014 in Vegas. I don't think there is a date or time set yet but the title of our presentation is: But did they learn anything? Using digital badges to create customizable learning experiences for motivation and assessment. Hope you'll join us! It will be an interactive session where audience members will start putting a badging system together for their institutions (and this is through LITA).