February 2, 2011

Information Literacy Summit (Illinois)

Posted in Instruction at 10:17 am by melissaautumn

For my readers in the Midwest…

The Information Literacy Summit is an IL conference held in Illinois each year. It is a great one-day conference and is held at three locations, so there should be one close to you.


January 21, 2011

Reading Forums – My Process

Posted in Instruction at 2:20 pm by melissaautumn

Last week’s post on my grading process and the comments it generated inspired me to write further about my teaching process. Today’s topic is how I handle the discussion forums in my courses. I really don’t have an idea for another post, but if there’s some other aspect of my teaching life that would be interesting to read about, let me know.

Scheduling Time for Forums

I spend a few hours a day on my discussion boards – all before I get to grading, course prep, making videos or actual real-time instruction. I take my forums very seriously and prioritize them as a daily activity.

The traffic on my forums stays pretty consistent throughout the semester. My Illinois ones will slow down for a few weeks around the on-campus session since I don’t require posting during that time, however that “time savings” is more than offset by two full days of travel, prepping for eight hour classes and delivering full days of instruction.

Where I do see variation is the day of the week, with patterns of heavy posting on some days and lighter posting on other days. Once I identify the pattern for the semester, I try to take this into account as I plan my work week – so if Tuesday is a heavy posting day, I ensure I have ample time to read and respond to posts on Tuesday and Wednesday. I really hate falling behind on forum reading – not only does the build-up of unread posts get overwhelming, I think I lose the “teachable moment” if there is too long of a delay in responding to students.

Ideally my courses will fall into different patterns with a heavy day for one course offset by another course’s light day. In a bad semester, two or more courses will have the same heavy days. On those days, I feel lucky if I can just keep up with all the reading and responding – all my other work gets shoved to other days of the week. To a certain extent I can control this by varying due dates, but it can still be hard to predict student behavior.

As stated above, I check my forums daily. I do try to take at least one day off on the weekend, although on those days I still check my email and skim the forums for urgent student questions.

The Process

  1. Open the spreadsheet where I track student participation. I only track mandatory participation, but all my courses have some kind of required forum participation around leading or contributing to discussions of course topics.
  2. Navigate the course management system to the first set of forums. I start with the “questions” forum, since I want to resolve any problems as soon as possible, then move on to the topical forums.
  3. Read the first unread post. I make a note next to the student’s name in my spreadsheet (or assign a grade, depending on how the course is structured). Next, I read all the replies from other students, making notes about participation as needed.
  4. At that point, I may add my own comments to the discussion. If a student’s question was answered adequately by peers, I may not respond at all. And if a discussion is just starting, I may hang back for a few days to let the conversation develop before I jump in. When I do respond, I try to either share my expertise or pose questions to prompt further thought and discussion.
  5. Then I go to the next unread thread and repeat the entire process until I’ve worked my way through all my courses.
  6. A few times a week, I review the entire spreadsheet to keep an eye on who is on track and who is not participating. If I see a problem, such as not participating for a few weeks, I will email the student to inquire.

The Little Stuff

I almost always start my day by reading forums. I have a little routine where I boot up my laptop, check email, check Facebook, and then read all my forums. Once I’ve read the forums, I’m better able to concentrate on the rest of my work because I’ve accomplished one important task for the day.

The ideal start to my day is to drink my morning coffee while I read and respond to forums. Most days I have to take my kids to school first, so it is a big treat if my husband has the day off and can take the kids (like today, when I was online and reading forums before my kids even left for school).

I listen to music while I read forums, although I usually select more mellow music than when I grade. Hmm, I wonder why that is?

August 30, 2010

Writing a Teaching Philosophy

Posted in Instruction, Interviewing, Professional Success at 6:32 pm by melissaautumn

Today’s Chronicle of Higher Education has a good article by James M. Lang on how to write a memorable teaching philosophy.

Those of you going into academic librarianship may especially want to take note of this article, since the application and/or tenure processes can require a statement of your teaching philosophy or your philosophy of librarianship (and this article could easily be adapted for help with the latter).

August 26, 2010

Recommended Reading – Creating Online Tutorials

Posted in Instruction at 10:17 pm by melissaautumn

Oops, I wrote myself a note to recommend this article, then promptly misplaced the note for a period of months. But, I think the article is still useful, even if I’m a little behind in bringing this to your attention.

If you are interested in the creation of online tutorials for teaching information literacy or providing just-in-time instruction for patrons, this article features a helpful grid of software programs and their features, as well as a discussion on selecting software appropriate for your needs.

Slebodnik, Maribeth and Catherine Fraser Riehle. “Creating Online Tutorials at Your Libraries: Software Choices and Practical Implications.” Reference and User Services Quarterly 49 (2009): 33-.

Get it free here.

January 25, 2010

Recommended Reading – More by Melissa Gross

Posted in Instruction, Reference at 9:26 pm by melissaautumn

January is the time I catch up on my professional reading. Since I have a few weeks off between the holidays and the start of classes, I can work my way through the stack of journals I’ve been meaning to read, as well as organize all those articles I read during the fall and set aside in a pile vaguely labeled as “good – do something with.” This is one I read back in September (!) and am just now unearthing again.

Gross, Melissa and Don Latham. “Undergraduate Perceptions of Information Literacy: Defining, Attaining, and Self-Assessing Skills.” College and Research Libraries 70.4 (July 2009): 336-50.

In my reference and instruction courses, we read an article by Melissa Gross about competency theory (Gross, Melissa. “The Impact of Low-Level Skills on Information Seeking Behavior.” Reference & User Services Quarterly 45.2 (2005): 155-63). This article, which says that people with low level skills, the “incompetent,” generally do not recognize their own lack of skill, usually sparks a vigorous discussion.

Those of you who enjoyed that discussion may want to read this recent article. Here, Gross and Latham interview college students about their conceptions of information literacy and their experience conducting research. The article references competency theory, as well as the imposed query model and Christine Bruce’s The Seven Faces of Information Literacy. Very interesting article, especially for those of you interested in reading further research on some of the ideas touched on in class.

January 17, 2010

Recommended Reading – Serving Students with Learning Disabilities

Posted in Instruction at 3:06 pm by melissaautumn

Chodock, Ted and Elizabeth Dolinger. “Applying Universal Design to Information Literacy: Teaching Students Who Learn Differently at Landmark College.” Reference and User Services Quarterly 49 (2009): 24-32.

We all have students with learning disabilities in our classes. However, since learning disabilities are often invisible to casual observers, we may not realize it. In addition, the one-shot nature of standard library instruction often precludes getting to know our students well or learning about any special needs prior to the start of class. Therefore, it behooves us to work from the beginning to design information literacy sessions that are accessible to a wide range of learners.

In this excellent article, two librarians from Landmark College, which serves students with learning disabilities, share nine principles of “universal design,” or methods that make instruction accessible to all learners. The nine principles are clearly explained and accompanied by specific examples and applications for library instruction. This article is an easy read with loads of practical advice that you can start using immediately – highly recommended.