Summer Tech Fun July 2012

How to Generate Keywords (Amy Fyn) Doesn’t actually generate keywords for you, but models the process of creating a set of search terms. Results can be emailed to self or instructor, so this can be a good in-class or pre-class activity or checkin on research topics to help direct the conversation.

Catch and Evernote (Rob Snyder)
“Never miss an idea” with Catch, a place to save (and organize) your private thoughts and ideas. Private, of course, until you show your account to a room full of colleagues.

Evernote, kind of the same thing.

Wunderlist & Flash Card Exchange (Liz Tousey)
Wunderlist lets you create lists and assign tasks to people, who can mark off when they have completed them. Liz uses this tool to keep track of shelf-reading assignments for her student employees.

Flashcard Exchange is a site students use for studying. Flashcards can be used directly from the screen, printed out…

Clarify & Pinterest (Susannah Cleveland)
Clarify-it was cooler when it was free, but does still offer a trial. A nice streamlined way to make screenshots to walk through a sequential process; really good for creating complicated handouts more easily.

Pinterest lets you create virtual pinboards for pictures found on the web. Great way to visually display collections?
Pins from LibGuides.bgsu

Screenr & Voicethread (Colleen Boff)

Make videos of up to 5 minutes, with screen and audio (if you have a microphone). No log in or download necessary to make videos; can get started right away! *Must have Java installed to run Screenr.
Voicethread is an online collaboration site, where slides and audio can be combined by multiple people into one video. Others can comment on the video, linking comments with specific slides so the comments are responsive to the video as it plays, not just at the end. Colleen shared a few of the voicethreads she’s used in her courses as a student.

Mark Strang showed his Google+ hangout and talked about how he uses this to meet with classmates from all over for collaborative work. Google account needed.

Bo Butler mentioned Evernote Peek as another flashcard-like app. You can take notes in Evernote and then use them with this app.

Catch up on these two that we missed: Prezi and Voki (Stefanie Hunker)
Prezi is an online presentation site.
A prezi from WILU 2011:

Create avatars for use in class engagement.

Posted in Tools: Instruction, Tools: Presentation. Comments Off on Summer Tech Fun July 2012

ACRL Instruction Section mentor/mentee applications accepted

If you are a member of ACRL, you can join the Instruction Section for a small extra fee. Not only do you get the newsletter (a place for possible publication?), you can also sign up to be either a mentor or a mentee. Applications are being accepted for the next academic year now; check out this site:

I missed the sign up round my first year as an Instruction Librarian, and the window of applying was about 10 days last year, I think. At any rate, it was small, and you do want to share information about yourself so you get matched up with an awesome mentor. I sure did. The IS mentor committee set me up with a mentor who is a few years ahead of me in a faculty position. I had actually seen her present at LOEX and was putting some of her projects in action here, which made the match even more exciting. Since our conference attendance didn’t overlap this year, we communicate by email and cheer each other on electronically. The experience has been pretty great; she provides an outside viewpoint and set of experiences that are not a match with anyone else’s here. I feel like I can contact her any time to say hello, what do you think about this, or how did you get started in that? She is active in other organizations than the ones our library has ties too, so has been able to give me a push in a few different areas, or tell me more about expectations of service at different levels of the profession.

If you are already a member of this section and would like to be matched up, jump on it! The committee membership has changed, which may be a good thing, since the monthly discussion questions that were promised to mentors and mentees didn’t seem to ever appear, so we fumbled around a bit before we got our groove. It looks like this year will be more organized.

Posted in Tools: Instruction, Tools: Professional Development. Comments Off on ACRL Instruction Section mentor/mentee applications accepted

Gowalla — location based gaming platform

Finally, a “checkin” location based gaming platform that might actually be useful for library applications/instruction: Gowalla.

Check out the trips — if they could do it for Whole Foods, we can do it for the historic campus tour or the MLSRA!

Posted in Toolboxes, Tools: Instruction. Comments Off on Gowalla — location based gaming platform

After Immersion

To hear ACRL Immersion graduates talk about it, Immersion is like the religious experience the name alludes to. Instruction librarians return home “changed”, inspired by the readings, conversations, and reworked instruction scenarios. We want to talk about what it was like, but can’t quite describe the spirit of the 4.5 days of focused sessions except to other Immersion grads. Like any cult conversion or Bachelor-style relationship, though, the proof, the lasting effects, can only been seen in what happens after. After you go home, after the spotlight is turned off, after the paparazzi have left the building. To me, more important than what happened at Immersion is what I did and will do with that knowledge.

Before we go there, though: a little background on Immersion. As Meredith Farkas blogged shortly after Immersion this summer, it is more retreat than conference. The best way I know to tease out the difference between the two is to look at the focus of each. At a conference, the focus is on the presenter/s research or work, and what they think you may want to know. Even though conferences may be grouped around a particular theme, there is little opportunity or pathway to build ties from one session to the next, and many choices that make many different paths. Conferences are a solo flight navigated by the individual. Immersion focuses on the attendees rather than the (truly awesome) presenters. The Immersion retreat builds a shared experience even before opening by assigning readings ahead of time. Participants in the Teacher track bring one presentation, one-shot instruction session, one semester long course, or one online tutorial to workshop throughout the week. Working on separate projects but with similar stumbling blocks and shared goals and deadlines gave many opportunities for immediate peer review.

Instruction best practices, such as writing meaningful learning outcomes, were pieces of the puzzle. Although the final picture of the jigsaw that is Immersion will be different for each participant, one similar feature is a clearer understanding of ourselves as learners and instructors, and the ability to see our students as a mix of learners and teachers as well. Active learning is another part of Immersion. By participating in it, we learn how valuable a learning tool student engagement is.

So, now that 2 months have passed, and the first teaching hurdle of the semester has been jumped, what differences in my teaching, if any, have resulted from my Immersion?

First off, I have to acknowledge Tiffani Travis’s Program Track group. They led our Teacher Track group in a discussion on how to advocate for change: talk to a faculty member about changing the library instruction session format you’ve done in the past; talk to colleagues about approaching library instruction sessions with defined learning outcomes and active learning; talk to supervisors and administration about what you can do for them.

Returning all charged up from Immersion, I advocated my way into additional instruction departments. Some of these are areas I hadn’t considered working with before, but since reference fields questions from all departments, this will continue to round out my skills. The first 4 weeks of the semester were spent breathlessly leaping from new instruction prep to the next, sometimes continuing the instruction practices of the previous librarian, but when possible (limited by time or faculty preference) making adjustments to the session to keep the focus on the students. Now I am in the process of updating my LibGuides for the new areas where needed, continuing to build ties with my new departments and schools, and conversing with my colleagues. Fall instruction is in a lull right now, and I hope to have more chances to share active learning activities within my library.

What am I doing differently? I’m looking at students more. I am speaking up. I am slowing down my movements, and breathing or sipping water to let students absorb what I just said. I am asking students directly “What do you already know about the library?” Then I fill in the gaps or correct misconceptions. The students are learning from each other, more than they would learn if I just told them what I know they need to know–useless unless they need it at that moment.

I met with a Journalism 101-type course whose professor’s personal learning outcomes for the session included getting the students into the library, realizing the library staff is helpful, and has books and other materials that will be useful. Building from this generic foundation I created a paired electronic scavenger hunt of library resources and features of our new homepage, moving from general into Journalism-specific resources so students would work together to find and use these resources. Hopefully they found me helpful, but more importantly learned that the library is not just books, and now they have experience using resources for their major. I then used much of the same setup for a 200 level intro to research course in another discipline, and I am already thinking about how I would revise this activity for next semester. In the past I might have turned down working with this class because the session was not tied to an assignment.

I still need work on designing learning outcomes and would like to involve faculty members in that step more in order to make our library sessions more collaborative and therefore more meaningful to students.

So far, I have had several more students hang back after library sessions to thank me for the class. Our students are generally polite, but that is something extra. A graduate instructor said “This was the least boring library session I’ve attended” after I worked with his class, but I’ll take that as a constructive comment and build on it.

For the first time, I see social networking having positive and direct effects on my work. Facebook posts by Laura Westmoreland introduced articles from Inside Higher Ed I might have otherwise missed, and Maria Accardi posted a fantastic library session activity for a fast peer review. Sure, I’m on listservs that do the same things, but much like our students I find I like learning about new things from people I can picture and remember.

Free simple image editing software


See the article from ProfHacker here.

Posted in Toolboxes, Tools (non-work related), Tools: Instruction, Tools: Presentation. Comments Off on Free simple image editing software

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 ( 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 ( 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 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 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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:

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

Speaking about presenting

Getting ready to go to a conference, or planning a new instruction session?

Excellent, targeted advice ranging from dealing with nerves to how to plan for audience participation is found in this easily navigated blog, written by a professional speaker.

Posted in Tools: Instruction, Tools: Presentation. Tags: . Comments Off on Speaking about presenting

Using Libguides

ALAO – Re-energizing Library Instruction

Libguide about Libguides created by Amy Fyn et al for ALAO presentation

Posted in Toolboxes, Tools: Instruction. Tags: . Comments Off on Using Libguides