Information Literacy Roundtable: Active Learning and Interdisciplinary Exchange

January 11th was Trexler Library’s annual Information Literacy Roundtable.  Nine faculty members joined librarians Kelly Cannon, Rachel Hamelers, Susan Falciani, and myself to discuss ways to integrate information literacy into disciplinary curriculum. Each librarian proposed activities for active instruction to engage students in evaluation of information and information structures.  These activities resulted in engaging conversations around disciplinary values, curriculum design, and student experience.

History professor Lynda Yankaskas joined Kelly Cannon in sharing a source evaluation activity that has helped students make informed decisions around resource selection.  In addition to giving her students source requirements for her annotated bibliography assignment, Yankaskas is transparent about the reasons behind these requirements.  Cannon begins a conversation around sources by asking students to evaluate seven sources  (see bottom of guide) that he specifically chose to challenge student’s evaluation skills.  For example, one resource is old and, therefore, not representative of the current scholarly conversation.  Other resources are not scholarly or not specifically written by historians, which are both requirements Yankaskas set for her students’ development as historians.  Perhaps the most challenging source within this activity is a book that discusses historiography, or the writing of history, but not history itself.  Through a class discussion of these resources students begin to recognize that there is a critical element to selecting the best resources for their projects; not all library resources are the same.

Following Cannon and Yankaskas, Susan Falciani brought out some letters from the Muhlenberg archive.  In classes with faculty from a variety of disciplines, Falciani utilizes these primary resources to excite students and inspire them to ask questions.  The Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education emphasizes that the process of research depends upon an increasingly complex line of inquiry.

In interaction with these manuscripts, students are asked to describe and evaluate the text and then identify missing information.  Students identify an information need based on the questions they have about the resource, and are then inspired to dig deeper.  Falciani connected with various faculty that had not previously considered use of Muhlenberg’s archive.  She mentioned that the archive is “not particularly deep, but wide” and that there are many disciplinary connections that can be made to the primary source material.

I suggested a constructivist approach to teaching students about the strategy required for searching databases.  Through student’s knowledge of social media, particularly Twitter, I proposed that students are posed to understand searching strategies required for efficient database navigation.  In my activity, I ask students to describe to a partner how to navigate to a Twitter post.  I draw direct comparisons to library database searching.  For example, searching for a Twitter handle is compared to Author searching and hashtags are compared to searching or controlled language.  Students quickly identify multiple search strategies that can be used within Twitter, but commonly use only one within databases.  This activity encourages use of multiple strategies and persistent searching, which is in line with the “Searching as Strategic Exploration” frame within the Framework.  Faculty questioned student’s knowledge of Twitter, but seemed to appreciate the comparisons, which can be used to connect student’s prior knowledge of databases with educational research.

Rachel Hamelers completed the day by leading a discussion around disciplinary values.  She asked participants to consider what barriers to creation, access, and use of information exist within their disciplines.  Then, she asked what disciplines values in information and how we can make these values transparent to students within their coursework.  Faculty in history shared the challenges that result from language barriers and how international multilingual conferences are breaking down barriers and resulting in greater exchange of information.  In psychology, the traditional value of quantitative methodologies and large sample sizes is being tempered by research within smaller, local contexts.  Interdisciplinary conversation around these challenges and values showed the variation in information literacy instruction across disciplines.

Faculty and librarians parted with knowledge applicable to classroom instruction and assignment development.  Keep an eye out for an additional conversation around information literacy later this spring over wine and cheese.

This post was initially published on 1/12/18 for the Muhlenberg College community on the Trexler Library blog.  I’m sharing it here because I think it’s valuable to the larger librarian community!

Oppression and Information, Learning from One Another

I suggested in a previous post that active learning pedagogies allow students to learn from one another and share different perspectives and experiences.  I’m very invested in increasing my skills at facilitating active learning and recently participated in an Intergroup Dialogue workshop on campus in hopes that I will be able to lead conversation around difficult topics, in particular information privilege.

Unlike race or gender, class (especially as it relates to information literacy) is hard to distinguish.  It’s hard to discuss.  However, I propose that information literacy is a privilege and that our society exhibits similar racial and economic disparities in information literacy as we do in other social sectors. Education affects one’s ability to achieve information literacy and funding for higher education is unequally applied in detriment to low-income Americans.  Access to the internet at usable speeds is increasingly required for access to information and digital redlining plagues our communities.  There are many other ways that systems of power and information literacy are tied.

In a library instruction session, what are the questions that could begin a conversation around information privilege?  How do we better understand each other through the lens of oppression?  If I’m proposing that active learning would allow students with privilege to come into contact with individuals not afforded the same privileges (I think this is truly what Seale means when she identifies students from the “global North” and those who are “subaltern”) how do I make this happen in a classroom space?  Is it even possible in a one shot session?

My answer to that last question is likely not.  It takes time to create spaces of trust and community in order for safe dialogue around privilege to occur.  However, let’s imagine a best case scenario in which students have come together to share their identities and listen to one another.  Here are the questions I’ve come up with:

  1. What information resources are available to you?
  2. What identities/memberships allow you access to these resources?
  3. Has your access changed over time?

It is in this hypothetical ideal scenario that students would be able to link their experiences and social identities with their information privilege,  share moments in their life when they have not had the same access, and explore next steps in advocating for others.  This ideal scenario is not the scenario in which I teach, and I imagine that it isn’t the scenario that many other librarians experience.  I’m going to continue to think about how conversations around information privilege can occur, and I’ll share them here if I have any great ideas.  In the past, I’ve emphasized the privilege of the access and education that my students have now that they are at Muhlenberg, however this is just a momentary declaration and doesn’t allow for the creation of information activists.  I think that the group dialogue discussed above would inspire students to impassioned work for social change.

Thoughts?

 

The Books I Read in 2017

books-I-read-in-2017

Keeping track of books I’ve read over the year helps me reflect on what else I have accomplished as well.  2017 has been a year of growth – I have more roots and have become more of who I am; I am also branching out and trying new things.  When I take a look at these books I am reminded of my progress in my career, my commitment to rediscovering my love for reading, and the trips my partner and I have taken to visit family and friends.

Spring 2017 was my first semester as an adjunct professor – I taught Web Page Design and began my year hurriedly brushing up on HTML and CSS with the textbook.  I also started a library Student Advisory Board, which was a fun but short-lived experience because I accepted a position at Muhlenberg College as their Assessment and Outreach librarian.  I absolutely recommend Library Assessment in Higher Education for anyone who wants to brush up on how to create an assessment plan, it provides a straightforward guide and good questions to prompt brainstorming.

I attended my first ACRL Conference this year on a scholarship and read Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State and Bad Feminist in preparation for her keynote.  Gay is AMAZING, frank, perceptive, and brave and I read the rest of her books this year as well.

In my new position I’ve connected with some amazing professors.  I’ve worked very closely with one individual to prepare for her upcoming course this coming semester.  In working with her I’ve read Tom McCarthy’s Remainder and Satin Island as well as Philip K. Dick’s Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep?  I’m so thankful for this special relationship especially since it’s so challenging to make true connections in an entirely new campus community.

I’ve done a lot of reading for fun this year – I basically doubled the number of books I read last year.  In my childhood I chose to read for fun at every opportunity, but I’ve diversified my interests in part because I’ve struggled to find books that I find truly engaging.  This year I’ve read so many books that I loved.  Honestly, every book on this list has sucked me in… though I’ve felt more satisfied after some (The Woman Warrior, A Tale for the Time Being, Typical American) than others (The Shadow of the Wind; Boy, Snow, Bird; The Circle).  

Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Lena Dunham’s Not that Kind of Girl, and Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods were listened to on trips to Baltimore to visit my best friends.  They moved from Corvallis, Oregon during summer 2016, so these books remind me of the gratitude I feel that they are only an audio book away.  A few of the others I read on vacation to Texas, where I met my partner’s paternal family for the first time, and at the beach, where we enjoyed the sun and surf together with my family for the first time.

Firsts abounded this year and included: slack lining, skiing, hosting a best friends week-long staycation, hanging pictures in our new home, planting an extremely prolific vegetable garden, participating in grassroots organizing, and I started printing and water coloring.  I’m looking forward to a new year, reading books new to me, and continuing to grow roots as I develop in new directions.