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.


5 Best Videos for Library Instruction

The teaching librarians here are gearing up for another semester of classes which begin next week. In some of the classes we do, we like to use different sorts of media and technology for teaching. We’ve been looking at videos for several of our classes and I’m always surprised with the interesting videos that other the librarians find. Here are five of my favorite videos for information literacy instruction that I’ve seen over the years.

Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles”

We’re using this for the first time this year as an introduction to using Google, the information landscape and getting students to question the gaps in their information. I’m really excited for this session and discussion.

Bing Commercial 2011 – Supermarket Food Fight (Animal House)

This one is quick, funny and would be perfect for a discussion either about search engines or more specifically on keywords and how a word can be interpreted a lot of different ways.

Obama Clinton Texas Debate Plagiarism “Silly Season”& Xerox

We’ve used this video for several years in a class about plagiarism and the ethical use of information. It works really great because it is a debate and it is not completely clear if it is plagiarism or not. It effectively demonstrates that there is a lot of grey areas in plagiarism. It’s a little dated, but still gets the message across well.

Jordan Paris – Australia’s Got Talent 2011 Comedian Scandal – Today Tonight Interview: Plagiarism

This is another great example of plagiarism. Though not as grey as the other, this one better depicts the consequences of stealing others ideas and passing them off as your own original material. Depending on your lesson, this one could work well for your class.

Et Plagieringseventyr

This is one of the most well produced videos on plagiarism I have ever seen. It’s from the University of Bergen in Norway so you’ll need to turn the closed captions on, and it could be a slightly risque for some American audiences. It could be a good, fun opening to a session on plagiarism though…and there’s a musical number.

I’m always looking for new ideas and I’d love to hear what other folks like to use in their classes. What are some of your favorite videos to use in the classroom for information literacy instruction?


Get Students To Commit

I have been attending and presenting at some local conferences like NELIG and the VLA College and Special Libraries Section conference. One idea that kept popping up was the idea of getting students to commit whether in the classroom or in their research.

Let me explain by way of several examples. A couple librarians from St. Michael’s College talked about a scheduling software called Acuity. They use this software to schedule research consultations with a librarian. On their library website a student clicks on a link that says “schedule a research appointment.” They are then taken to a form where they can choose a time and librarian that fits into their schedule. By filling out this form the student commits to a block of time with a reference librarian.

The opposite of this is a student who comes to the desk in between class or last minute and say they need some sources to finish their project. By not committing to taking time to research the result is haphazard and is perhaps not as successful. On the other hand, the St. Mike’s librarians said that they found the scheduled appointments to be some of the best sessions for both themselves and students. Students who commit to a block of time are able to explore their topic in depth as well as areas that they can pursue further.

The same is true for commitment in the classroom. In our information literacy sessions with first-semester first-years at Champlain College, we have them respond to poll questions using Poll Everywhere. Instead of asking them a question and wanting one or two of them to respond vocally to us, we have every one of them respond using their mobile phones. This makes them think about the choice and pick an option. After that, we ask them why they chose what they did. Because every one of them has picked something it is easier for them to explain a choice rather than make a choice in front of other people. This commitment makes them more willing to be engaged in the discussion.

It’s not always possible, but I’ve found that if you can find a way to make students commit, either at the desk or in the classroom, the results are often much better. Have you seen other examples of this?