LOEX 2010 (Fyn)

LOEX [Library Orientation Exchange], the big conference in library instruction, limits attendance (275 – 350, recently), and the slots often sell out in under two hours. Registration covers all meals, too, including an opening reception and a couple snack breaks. There are no vendors to shift the focus away from anything but instruction.

My advice for LOEX? Attend everything. One of the strengths of a small conference targeted to one aspect of a position is that every person there does the same thing: library instruction. Conversation at meals and during speakers is incredibly valuable, and these are not shy librarians. Sharing the events of the day with others is a great benefit when you couldn’t attend everything you wanted too; talking to presenters may change your plans of which sessions to attend. Another strength of this conference is the willingness to share. Presenters can post slides, handouts, and other materials with the greater community; attendance at the conference is not necessary to view the materials. LOEX has collected and shared this material since 2006; go here (http://www.emich.edu/public/loex/conferences.html) to look at programs and supporting documents.

By far, my personal preference leads me to recommend interactive sessions. Again, learning from people who have the same position is great, and interactive sessions allow for you to contribute to the session as well. Learning theory suggest interactivity increases retention of the material, too. Multiple perspectives offer greater possibility to learn something that can be brought home. Below I highlight sessions that I continue to think about. I like to borrow search examples from others for those not-so-creative times, so those are here too. The sessions I was drawn to focused on improving instruction by integrating active learning and engaging students.

LOLcats and Celebrities and (Red Panda) Bears — Oh, My!
Mary T. Moser does not make learning stuffy. She incorporates items from the everyday lives of students into her library sessions to grab student attention right from the start and get them interested in the session or information literacy. One example she uses with a class considers celebrity gossip. Which magazine is the most reliable source for this: InTouch, People, National Enquirer, or Us Weekly? Imagine the class discussion on this, with students giving their reasoning behind their choice. Student reasons for reliability are remarkably similar to those of librarians, including a focus on reliability (named author, credited sources…). Looking for examples of credibility in something students are familiar with creates the connection that evaluating sources is something they already do. Giving concrete examples before dealing with the abstract helps students see the connection (Consider the source: would you believe Britney Spears? Lindsey Lohan? Why or why not?). Another suggestion is to offer to follow up with students by passing out little forms at the end of a session asking: “Would you like a librarian to follow up with you to offer extra help? If so, include your email here.” I had never thought about follow up after a session, instead leaving that to students to contact me after I provide my contact information, but perhaps after leaving the session they continue with their old habits and favorite searches. I plan to try this in the fall with some classes, inviting students to ask for help at a time they may realize they need it.

Nformaton Lteracy: Taking the I out of Instruction.
Each panelist (and one who participated via video segments) gave a quick background of changes made to library sessions to put students more in control of their learning. The variety of approaches made at least some of the ideas applicable to me. For an ESL session, for example, a librarian attended a few sessions of the class first to acclimate the students to her before the actual library session. During the library session, students got involved in planning a courtroom-style debate on a topic all students had an opinion on: social networking. Half the class was assigned ‘for’ increasing privacy on facebook, and half the class was ‘against’. The focus of the session was on finding relevant information, starting with brainstorming keywords, selecting and using databases, and forming an argument; the two sides then debated the issue in a classroom court, complete with props. Although I don’t think I would follow this method exactly, attending an early session of the class would give me a chance to get to know the class culture. Another librarian worked with a problem-based design in a first year composition course [PBL, problem-based learning, was brought up throughout several sessions]. Students in a class were grouped according to major or interest (social sciences, business, education…) to find sources. The problem example, “Should fast food restaurants be held accountable for contributing to obesity in America?”, was used in conjunction with a libguide (http://libguides.usu.edu/pbl-fastfood) recommending different resources for each group, aligned with their major or interest. This approach, similar to the one used in the pilot GSW sessions here at BG, was the focus of another session I attended.

Step Away from the Podium! A Lesson Plan for Peer Learning.
Andrea Falcone began with an introductory poll, using poll4.com to engage the audience. Anyone with a mobile device can vote, either from the poll4 website or by texting a response. (At latest check, poll4 redirects to http://www.polleverywhere.com/.) Imagine beginning an instruction session by asking students to pull out their cellphones and use them! If students don’t have unlimited texting, they can still participate in a poll by using the website to vote through, as well. The answers are calculated on the screen right in front of the class, so they can see the instant updates. My attention was instantly caught, and I was sad to be phone-less. The main focus, however, was moving from the direct instruction I generally do (here’s a database, here’s a practice search, now try on your own) toward a model where students collaborate and present their findings. This is similar to the pilot GSW instruction sessions from Fall 2009. Students are grouped up and given a specific task on a worksheet, and are told from the outset the group will have to present their work later in the session. The worksheet gives students context for the practice topic—about 3 sentences instead of a one or two word topic that would be demo’d. Collaboration in small groups appeals to students because it is relatively low-risk (they are working with peers, not answering to librarians) and is hands-on immediately. Collaboration is also good for librarians because we can circulate among groups and guide them when appropriate, burnout is reduced, and we are exposed to student processes, languages and obstacles. Students do expect the use of innovative technologies but don’t understand the need for a library session. Faculty do not always prepare students for the session, either, and students do not see the connection to everyday life. Grab their attention by starting out with the group presentation announcement.

Small activities can be used to relate a particular skill to a class. Link an activity to what the class is working toward to warm them up. Guess the Google (http://grant.robinson.name/projects/guess-the-google/) can be played in pairs, with teams practicing keyword searching concepts in a game format. Find It challenges teams to search for an article title not available on Google (could be in Google Scholar, if you choose). Movement in the room can warm up a class. Play Where do I belong? by giving students labels (magazines, journals, books, and so on) and have students determine if they belong in the library catalog or a database. Students move around the room to show where you find them. Magazines could be an interesting case! Journals as well.

A Picture is Worth 150 Words: Using Wordle in Library Instruction.
Librarians at IUPUI demonstrated how they use Wordle (http://www.wordle.net) as an assessment tool for instruction sessions. IUPUI librarians use a checklist to note which IL competencies are addressed in a session (ex: citation elements). Students can make a wordle answering the question: What did you remember from this session? Wordle generates a word cloud based on the words entered. Wordles can be ‘published’ and given a URL or posted to facebook. Students’ words could be used in a blog entry, and the blog could be run through Wordle to get a true tag cloud, with larger words indicating greater use. Other sites with similar features include Tagul (http://tagul.com/) which makes shapes with the words used and also lets you hyperlink words. I’d like to see how this linking feature would work in a LibGuide, if I can find the right use for it. Tagxedo (http://www.tagxedo.com/) also makes shapes and uses URLs.

At the start of the session, a small graphic was shown on a slide and the presenters challenged the audience to keep track of how many times the little picture showed up in the presentation. What a novel way to keep attention! Small prizes were awarded at the end for the ones who got it right.

Break the Ice, Build the Momentum: Successful Strategies for Beginning a Library Instruction Session.
Starting a session strong means getting yourself ready, too. Take a few deep breaths to increase your energy before beginning a session. The presenters experimented with instruction session openers from the Library Instruction Cookbook, and suggest these openers: use silly or non-library questions at the beginning of a session to capture the audience’s attention and make them more receptive to the session; begin with a brain teaser or riddle at the beginning of the session, and answer it at the end of the session; begin a session by describing a research failure; stream clips from 30 Rock and The Office that talk about Wikipedia. The idea is to begin with something unexpected, because if you do not have the group’s attention within the first few minutes of the session, you won’t get it later. Attendees participated in some group work as well. A quick group activity involved creating an icebreaker for a library session; these were collected and posted on a wiki: http://librarywarmups.pbworks.com/

Posted in Conference Reviews, Tools: Instruction. Tags: . Comments Off on LOEX 2010 (Fyn)

Comments are closed.