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Ooching: Cultivating An Attitude Of Experimentation

 

Image via Squiggle on Flickr

Image via Squiggle on Flickr

I’ve almost finished the book Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath and one of my new favorite words that they define and discuss in the book is “ooch.” Ooching is the opposite of jumping in headfirst into something. Ooching is conducting “small experiments to test one’s hypothesis.” I know that I have fallen into the trap of debating at length the merits of some idea or initiative without getting anywhere. It’s also easy to think in terms of finished products and having to meticulously plan to get things perfect. And planning is extremely important, but what if you are planning for the wrong things? What if you are planning a service or initiative that people don’t actually understand or use?

One really important area where I would recommend ooching is in library school (and probably before). Before paying money for graduate school classes, try working or volunteering in a library. Shadow or spend some time with a librarian to see if it is actually something you’d want as a career. While in graduate school, internships, practicums, and work experience are great ways to test out different types of libraries and library work to understand what you will actually enjoy.

This idea of experimentation is extremely helpful in technology innovation in the library. Often we don’t know how effective technologies will be or how they will be useful until we try them. Whether it’s a new social media technology or a tool to enhance learning in the classroom,  an attitude of experimentation and a sense of playfulness are essential for understanding their value. The same mindset is also present in good teachers. They never see their classes as a finished product but as a constant work in progress. They regularly try out new lessons, technologies, and teaching methods to find the most effective ways of facilitating learning.

Ooching reminds me of the philosophies behind ideas such as design thinking and the Lean Startup Methodology. In all of them there is a curiosity and desire to learn paired with a bias towards action. In the Lean Startup Methodology you create a minimum viable product (MVP), test it, and repeat. In design thinking there is ideation and planning involved, but the process moves past that into piloting and prototyping. We can often get stalled and spend a great deal of time and energy in the planning phase without much result. It’s not possible to ooch into every every decision you are trying to make, but it can be helpful in moving forward. Perhaps the next time you get stuck in a meeting or while thinking about an idea could you ask questions like: “can we run a pilot,” “can we test this and see what happens,” “is there a way we can ooch into this?”

What are successful pilots, experiments, or ooches, that you have conducted?

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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!

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New Journal Article Published

My friend Sarah Cohen and I were just published in the latest issue of Communications in Information Literacy. Our article is titled “Turn Your Cell Phones On: Mobile Phone Polling as a Tool For Teaching Information Literacy.” From the abstract:

“While mobile technologies are ubiquitous among students and increasingly used in many aspects of libraries, they have yet to gain traction in information literacy instruction. Librarians at Champlain College piloted mobile phone polling in a first-year classroom as a less expensive and more versatile alternative to clickers. By utilizing a technology that virtually all students have in their pockets librarians found that it increased engagement from previous iterations of the session. In addition, by asking poll questions about students’ experiences, librarians were able to facilitate in-depth inquiry into information literacy topics. Ultimately, from direct experience in over 30 different classes, we found that mobile phone polling is a useful tool for any librarian to have in their pedagogical toolbox.”

The journal is open access you can go download the PDF right now. And apparently they are going to experiment with making our article available in EPUB format as well!