Teaching, And Reaching, First Years

Last week a few of the Teaching Librarians here at Champlain finished teaching our first-year, first semester information literacy course. A few weeks ago I wrote a post about some of the best videos for information literacy instruction. We used one of the videos, a TED talk by Eli Pariser about online filter bubbles, to open up a conversation about information and the web. After teaching nine of these classes, I have to say that it was extremely successful and probably one of my favorite sessions.

For one, it utilizes technology really well. We begin by using mobile phone polling which allows students to begin thinking about their own information habits and preferences. We ask them questions about their habits and then they have to respond and ultimately explain why they chose what they did. This gets at the motivations behind why students prefer getting information from the web, or face to face from people. It also gets at the idea that in different situations you might want to consult different sources or types of information.

We then show the TED talk and have students quietly reflect on it for a couple minutes by writing down their reactions and thoughts about it. This allows them to develop coherent opinions about it, especially useful for reflective learners. Following this, we discuss as a group the video and it’s implications. Opinions and discussions have ranged widely in my different classes, but there were a lot of strong reactions (both positive and negative).

Since it’s an inquiry based session we explore a number of different questions and don’t always come to the same conclusion. In most of the sessions though, we have agreed that in order to grow as human beings we need to get outside of our comfort zones and learn about things that may challenge us or that may be outside our immediate interests. We also often come to the conclusion that Google is just a tool and that we probably shouldn’t rely only on it to make our information decisions for us. We need to be thoughtful, and take responsibility for the information we consume.

Overall it seems like students enjoy the lesson because it’s accessible and immediately relevant to their world. They may not all agree with Pariser’s points, but most of them come away with slightly shifted perspective on information; and I am guessing many of them will be more mindful of how they search and what they are getting (or not getting) when searching Google.

The lesson has a great balance of activities that appeal to all types of learners, and I think it uses tech in the classroom really successfully. And one of the cooler things is that I overheard a couple students talking before one of the sessions and one them said “my friend said that this is a really fun class.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before in reference to a library session, so we must be doing something right.

Andy Burkhardt


  1. Thanks for posting this. My “intro to college” class is talking about media diversity soon, and I think I’m going to use this to get them thinking about how they consume media rather than just diversity in the content of the media they see.

  2. Thanks Steven! There were definitely quite a few different ideas that students grabbed on to and started wrestling with. It’s a pretty rich video for being only 9 minutes long.

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