September 29, 2010

Kuhlthau, Second Life, and Beach Jupiter

All throughout library school I heard about Second Life, how exciting it was and how it could have educational benefits; I thought eh ok that's great for people who like that sort of stuff, and I'm willing to acknowledge its possible potential, but I wouldn't want to try it.

But the other day, I saw on the ili-l discussion list that the iSchool at Sheffield University was going to start a journal club in Second Life to talk about articles relating to information literacy instruction. After attending less interactive webinars more recently I thought maybe a visually-oriented, interactive web meeting would be more intriguing. I decided to just give Second Life a shot and thought I could attend the session while at our quieter, satellite campus.

To set myself up, I created an avatar and tried to get comfortable with the program (you need to download the browser to your computer (it's free)). Making my avatar look how I had sort of hoped was very awkward and seemed janky to me, but I feel like it's good enough -- she is no longer bald and wearing both a skirt and pants at the same time. Walking, running, and flying aren't as tedious as I had thought they would be, and for the most part, I think I get the basic functions.

The article we discussed in the session was:
Kuhlthau, C. C., Heinström, J. & Todd, R. J. (2008) "The 'information search process' revisited: Is the model still useful?." Information Research [ejournal], 13(4), paper 335. [Available at]

Organized by "Sheila Yoshikawa" and with the discussion led by "Pancha Enzyme," which are Second Life handles of course, it was a smooth session with a lively discussion (my avatar's name is "Beach Jupiter"). It felt more interactive than a standard webinar, and granted it was meant to be a group discussion rather than a presentation, the visuals certainly made me feel more inclined to participate than an anonymous chatbox.

I'll summarize what I took away from the discussion, but won't spend too much time on summarizing the article itself since it's easy to access:

First, Pancha gave an overview of the article we read to reiterate the main points:
  • it covers knowledge construction and feelings in information seeking
  • the article showed it is still relevant today, changing for the information environment (technology)
  • the method can be diagnostic in figuring out point-of-need to assist students struggling with assimilating information
  • it offers recognition of discouraging and motivational emotions in the research process
 (And I will add, from the article, the six steps of the information search process are, in order:
  1. initiation
  2. selection
  3. exploration
  4. formulation
  5. collection
  6. presentation)
She also had slides ready that avatars could zoom in on to read closely and projected SCONUL's 7 Pillars of Information Literacy and Taylor's Learning Process Sequence (see section 3.1.3) for comparisons. We discussed that Taylor's process seems to offer more room for emotions (as opposed to SCONUL's pillars), and that it also focuses on the experience of learning.

We talked about strengths and weaknesses in the article as well:
Weaknesses first:
  • article illustrates research process as linear, when it truly is not
  • students could not describe their own emotions; they had to rate pre-chosen terms
  • confidence intervals were small (for emotions)
  • much information now comes from browsing and encountering (not just searching), so is the article still fully relevant today with the expanse of technology?
  • individuals have different emotions when there is no grade involved (or money/time constraints for non-students)
  • seems prescriptive: those who follow the process of this emotional rollercoaster during research will not be as successful, as it says the students who followed the process more closely did the best grade-wise and with learning
  • could be used as a marketing tool for libraries to appeal for more student/class time
  • can use the process to show students that their frustrations and anxiety (as well as other negative emotions) are very common and do not represent a sign of failure
  • could be used as a guide to time management
  • (should be explicit for learners and not a secret guide for librarians/teachers)

They are looking for discussion leaders in future sessions, as well as articles to recommend. Seems like a great thing to keep up with, and I will be attending sessions as I am able.