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Learning and Unlearning Habits of Mind

Image via Mark Strozier

Image via Mark Strozier

I attended ALA Midwinter last week and there was forum about the upcoming revisions to the ACRL Information Literacy Standards. There was a fair share of angst and anxiety expressed about the upcoming changes. The previous standards were focused on searching for, retrieving, and managing information, while the upcoming changes appear to take a more holistic approach. From the forum it sounds like there will be much more focus on things like metaliteracies, abilities/dispositions, and threshold concepts. These sound a bit different from what we’re used to, and the argument was made at the forum that we are replacing our library jargon with other disciplines’ jargon.

From my perspective though, it’s simply another approach to teaching information literacy, and that it has to do with things that we talk about all the time. Some examples of threshold concepts included “scholarship is a conversation” and “information has value.” By focusing our instruction on some of these larger ideas it seems like it will be easier for students to begin making connections across classes and assignments. Instead of students simply thinking “I need another article,” they might think “I wonder who else is contributing to this topic?” These are big ideas that take practice, but once students get them their thinking about information will be much more integrative.

Another idea that jumped out at me is that of dispositions habits of mind as a part of metaliteracies. We talk about these regularly at my institution. An example of an important habit of mind for a sophisticated information user/sharer/creator is having a healthy skepticism and questioning of information that they find. I wonder though if it is also necessary to unlearn habits of mind to use information in a sophisticated way?

I’m reading the book Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath and they discuss the concept of confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the well researched phenomenon that states  ”when people collect information from the world, they are more likely to select information that supports their preexisting beliefs, and actions.” We see students do this all the time saying, “I just need a few more sources to strengthen my argument,” as opposed to being open to what their research surfaces. This is a habit that can be detrimental to the creation of new knowledge and can lead to polarization. Even being aware of this phenomenon would likely be helpful to students. Are there ways that we could more explicitly integrate this concept into our information literacy instruction?

What other habits of mind should our students be learning and perhaps unlearning?

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Storyhack VT

me warming up for acting/a lot of running

me warming up for acting/a lot of running

This weekend I spent 24 hours creating a story with some colleagues and friends for Vermont’s first Storyhack. What’s a Storyhack you ask? The local weekly Newspaper 7 Days describes it like this:

“The “hack” in the group’s name is a tip of the hat to the “hackathon,” a competitive event in which computer programmers are given a short window of time in which to collaboratively develop a software solution to a specific problem. In a storyhack, teams of storytellers collaborate to create original narratives, which are then entered into competition. StoryhackVT is Vermont’s first such event, and its focus is pointedly technological. The competing teams must concoct not just a story, but a story that must be told across no fewer than three different digital platforms.”

I stayed up late brainstorming, acting, writing, creating, singing, and tweaking various digital media with some very talented teammates. We also enlisted my exceedingly talented spouse Heidi for some acting as well. Even though we didn’t win we had a lot of fun and created a story that we are proud of. It’s a story about love, Canada, and redemption. You can watch it at http://kosmoplastique.com/ (that was our team name). Also the environment was created in Flash so it won’t work on mobile.

Enjoy the story!