Dyslexia, Sorting, Organizing, and the Availability Heuristic

Writer Jay Stringer wrote a piece on Panels.net about how comic books helped him deal with his dyslexia and increased his reading skills (see Dyslexia and Comics by Jay Stringer 10|24|14). He notes,

“We all combine information in different ways, and at different speeds. Some can add story and plot together in a mathematical equation that leads to narrative. Dyslexics like myself can’t learn anything without a narrative to hold on to. Why am I being given this information? What does it do? What is it relevant to? What similar thing should I store it next to in my head?” (italics his)

One idea (among several) that stuck with me was the idea of sorting information. Stringer explains that dyslexia is often not just about the mechanics of reading, letters, words, and grammar. It is also about the ability to process information and thereby connect letters, words, and grammar to new and existing ideas. He sees this as a mental sorting process.

I am not dyslexic but reading Stringer’s piece gave me a unique perspective on understanding people who are (or at least Stringer’s experience). He provides an interesting perspective on information processing and how the mind handles new ideas and existing idea by connecting them to the tools of literacy.

Naturally, this got me thinking about information literacy and the research process. There are many times when we discuss information literacy that we discuss “synthesizing” information. Synthesis becomes this magical process where we take our own ideas and beliefs and mix them up with the ideas and beliefs of others which we gather through a search process. We talk about synthesis but we do not often talk about how it works and what it is.

Sorting and Organizing
Searching, evaluating results, reviewing sources, and taking notes from sources are essentially sorting processes. Our sorting takes the form of evaluations that help to separate what is (potentially) useful and what is not useful. We sort out the things that work best for us and save them for further review. When we read and take notes on sources themselves, we move to the level of ideas. We sort ideas that connect with arguments, understandings, and worldviews. It is not enough to simply sort. We must organize. Sometimes this happens through taking notes. Sometimes this happens through making outlines. Sometimes we just write and then we edit, re-edit, and the organization process happens as a draft forms itself.

Availability Heuristics
Sorting and organizing processes are deeply wrapped up in our beliefs about how the world works. Our beliefs tell us what is important and what to ignore. Most people are somewhat knowledgeable in a few subjects. But, most of the time, we are making due with poor knowledge. We are really bad at judging what evidence is missing. We use what we know but it is difficult to see all evidence and evaluate it appropriately. Many times, we use heuristics to make decisions. A heuristic is a simplified set of procedures developed to handle a problem. It is generally accurate but not perfectly accurate. When our mind takes action on information, it draws on the information that is available to it. Availability is greatly impacted by experience.

Here’s an example used by Daniel Kahneman,

Mr. Brown never picks up hitchhikers but yesterday he made an exception and picked up a hitchhiker. He was robbed by this hitchhiker.

Mr. Smith always picks up hitchhikers. He picks them up on a regular basis every chance he gets. Yesterday he picked up a hitchhiker and he was robbed.

How would Mr. Brown and Mr. Smith seems things differently based on their experience? Experience and existing knowledge plays games with the availability heuristic. Individuals who are experts (like Mr. Smith in the case of hitchhikers) with deep knowledge on a topic posses a broad foundation of knowledge to judge individual experiences and individual sources. In other words, they are better able to sort knowledge and experience into meaningful categories. swansonphotoThe challenge arises when individuals have superficial or a minimal knowledge about a topic. In these cases, we often act on our feeling and beliefs. We are more susceptible to the influences of availability and our narrow experience.

It was Springer’s discussion on dyslexia and the need to sort and organize information that took me down this information literacy rabbit hole. We can use many metaphors to understand (frame?) the research process. I found the sorting and organizing metaphor worth considering.

(For more information on the availability heuristic take a look at Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow.)

——
Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the co-editor of the upcoming book from ACRL, Not Just Where to Click: Teaching Students How to Think About Information. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

Library Blogging: TADL’s Fine Print

fineprintI am very impressed with the new blogging initiative launched by Traverse Area District Library:

Fine Print is a curated collection of library inspired findings and fun to enrich your personal, professional, and creative endeavors.

Fine Print is a production of the Traverse Area District Library, a network of community libraries serving Grand Traverse County through six facilities. Learn more about TADL.

http://fineprint.tadl.org

I especially like the “Reference Couch” entries:

http://fineprint.tadl.org/category/refcouch/

Kudos to TADL, the fine folks that also brought us the statistics dashboard:  http://www.tadl.org/stats/

Public Service is a Library Program: By TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke

10 PRINT "Hello World!"
10 PRINT “Hello World!”

The last time I posted on Tame The Web was on August 6, 2014 in a post titled Catching Up. The title of that post sort of sums up the past year and a half in my life here at the Chattanooga Public Library…lots of work for the community and not enough time to sit back, reflect, and share with everyone in the world. It’s all good. In that time, I’ve had some ideas floating around in my head and over the months and days they’ve been revised, edited, and now they’re ready to go.

In my role as Manager of The 2nd Floor/Coordinator of Teen Services at the Chattanooga Public Library, I’ve been looking a lot at how libraries operate their youth services departments. From kids to tweens to teens, we all seem to have a common theme connecting us: we all have so much passion for working with ages 0-18. That passion leads us to want to constantly offer the best services, be it story times, maker programs, special events, and more. The passion to give back to our community drives us.  It is that passion that makes youth services in public libraries some of the most innovative and popular public library offerings.  Corinne Hill (Executive Director, Chattanooga Public Library) and I call Youth Services in public libraries the “bread and butter” of public library services…the keep us well loved in the community and they act as our most popular circulated materials and programs attended.  In summary, Youth Services drive public libraries.

However, passion alone cannot drive a youth services program. While amazing and powerful, passion can also lead to some misguided decisions when it comes to how we should operate at our core.  The days where youth services staff were plentiful and there was an almost unlimited time to plan and prepare for programs has gone away.  These days, the need for great public service at all times is what we need to focus on. The need for great public service at all times is the opposite of having large amounts of time to plan and prepare. You can’t do both at the same time. You can try, but you will get stressed and burnt out in the end.  As a manager, I’ve stared at the weekly schedule and tried to figure out formulas for how my staff can have the time to prepare for programs that they’re used to having and also to have that necessary public service time. After working on it for a year, my conclusion is simple: it just isn’t there anymore and if we want to grow and continue with our successes, we need to change how we work.

2013-11-04 17.11.38

Realizing that this was the new normal in our youth services lives, my colleague Megan Emery and I began having discussions about this new reality. How can we continue to maintain great levels of passion for what we offer to the community and have our public services faces on at all times? How do we achieve balance with something that seems to be so naturally out of balance…innovation and public service? How does a public library operate in times of lean staffing, increased community usage, and the need to constantly innovate?

From that conversation came a phrase that now drives what we’re trying to accomplish at the Chattanooga Public Library: PUBLIC SERVICE IS A LIBRARY PROGRAM. There is an art to working a public service desk in public libraries. You have to be “on”. What do I mean by this? You’re basically involved in a shift long performance art piece where you’re helping, teaching, and aiding the community.  The traditional library program, you know, the ones that take place only from 4-5pm on the third Tuesday of every month and only for ages 13-18? Yep, those ones.  Those types of programs can and will still happen but it can no longer be our focus.  What can be our focus? The public.  Being “on” for them at all times. Being there for the community at all times.

If public service is a program then how can we actually have programs for our community? This ties into another thing that we’ve been thinking about a lot in youth services libraries….unprogramming, never ending programming, anti-programming….whatever you want to call it. It’s an idea that takes the library space, turns it into a destination, and adds programs, activities, and chances to learn into everything that we do. The 3D printer, button maker, rainbow loom…whatever it is, it’s all there and it’s ready for the community to use.  The programs happen during our open hours and they don’t end.  The library staff working in public services becomes the programmer. Their job is simple: guide the community in the library, help them find what they need, teach them all about the learning opportunities in the library, and to simply just have fun.

2014-01-24 18.57.29

That’s where our passion for what we do in youth services can go.  We don’t have to leave it behind and become nonstop public service workers.  We can weave that aspect of our job into what makes us passionate about working in libraries.  Public services is our programming.  We can create engaging learning opportunities for our community and run those opportunities while we’re working public service. We can mix the two and it will not be the end of the world. It will be a seismic shift, but we will survive. This is the new way for us to work and be the best for our community.

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

#hyperlibMOOC: New Article in JELIS

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I am honored to have an article co-authored with Kyle Jones in the new issue of Journal of Education for Library and Information Science. 

Stephens, M. & Jones, K. M. L. (2014). “MOOCs as LIS Professional Development Platforms: Evaluating and Refining SJSU’s First Not-for-Credit MOOC.” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 55,(4).

Abstract:

Beyond for-credit offerings, some library and information science (LIS) schools are exploring MOOCs as a means to promote lifelong learning and professional development. Using web surveys and descriptive content analysis methods, this paper empirically addresses if, in LIS programs, MOOCs can fill a role and serve new populations of learners within large-scale learning environments. To do so, the authors use a MOOC they designed, built, and instructed as a test bed. Findings reveal that students did use the MOOC for professional development, that they expanded their knowledge and applied concept models learned in the course, and benefited from diverse viewpoints provided by the global community of learners. In addition to other findings, the research reveals that the authors’ MOOC model was successful and there is significant opportunity for LIS programs to serve the profession through large-scale professional development learning environments like MOOCs.

Colin Ryan at Saratoga Springs Library

I was pleased to chat with Ryan on a recent flight. We had a great talk about library programming and learning opportunities. Check his stuff out!

http://www.saratogian.com/20141008/comedian-motivational-speaker-offers-practical-advice-about-personal-finance

Saratoga Springs Public Library kicked off its Financial Literacy Program with comedian and motivational speaker Colin Ryan Wednesday night. 

Ryan’s show, called “A Comedian’s Guide to Money,” blends stand-up comedy, storytelling, and lots of pop culture to breathe life into the oftentimes boring subject of personal finance. 

The speaker, who grew up in Ballston Spa and now lives in Vermont, has performed all over the United States and internationally with this show that explores the relationship between money and options in life for people of all ages. 

Ryan advises in a manner that is inspiring, hilarious, powerful and completely practical. Wednesday’s talk didn’t include overwhelming statistics or intricate budget calculations. Rather, it focused on the human behavior of spending money, and how to change it to better build a happy life. “I help people change their relationship with money,” he said. 

“Money makes a living,” Ryan began his show, “but money can go deeper than that. Money can make a life.” 

“I’m most interested in money in how it relates to your happiness,” Ryan said, telling the crowd: “Your ability to manage your money directly affects your ability the have the life you want.” 

Ryan spoke from personal experience, sharing that his first paid stand up comedy gig made him $10. He even showed the check. 

How he’s able to still be a traveling standup comedian? “Ever since I was a kid I’ve been saving my money,” Ryan said. The lesson: “saving money is buying yourself time… time to make that dream a reality.”

After talking about dreams, budgeting was part of the presentation, yet Ryan kept it simple. “You control your spending or it controls you,” he said. He told how he was appalled at his monthly ice cream spending, and how it was an eyeopener for him.

Find Colin here: https://twitter.com/colinryanspeaks and here: http://www.colinryanspeaks.com

Teacher, Librarian, Tinker, Spy: Expect More by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

The book at the top of my “Books I Wish I had Written List” is R. David Lankes’ book the Atlas of New Librarianship (written for librarians).  Second on that list may well be his derivative book, Expect More (written for non-librarians). In these works, Lankes challenges us (librarians, community members, administrators, government officials) to re-envision libraries and the roles they play in society. His thinking is rigorous and his writing is crisp. Expect More should be required reading for all library trustees, campus provosts, local mayors, and anyone else interested in the future of libraries.

Thus, I was excited to see that Lankes was making an audio version of his book available, and that Steve Thomas was helping to distribute it via his podcast Circulating Ideas. They are releasing a chapter every two weeks and are currently up to chapter 5 (see links below). As a bonus, Lankes does a nice job reading the text. It is well-done, and each chapter is the perfect length for commuting (at least from my house to my library). This audio version may be a useful way to get this text into the hands of librarians and non-librarians alike.

From the Circulating Ideas Podcast Page: David Lankes decided recently to record an audio version of his book Expect More (more info here) and chose two podcasts to serialize it: Circulating Ideas (for the librarian audience) and Nerd Absurd (for the non-librarian audience). You can also buy the complete audiobook on Amazon and elsewhere.

Circulating Ideas: Expect More Chapter 1
Circulating Ideas: Expect More Chapter 2
Circulating Ideas: Expect More Chapter 3
Circulating Ideas: Expect More Chapter 4
Circulating Ideas: Expect More Chapter 5

By the way, the third book on my “Books I Wish I had Written List” is probably Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut…but, of course, Vonnegut makes the list for different reasons than Lankes’ books.

—-

Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the co-editor of the upcoming book from ACRL, Not Just Where to Click: Teaching Students How to Think About Information. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

LIBR 200-12 Information Communities

LIBR 200-12
Information Communities

Spring 2015

Dr. Michael Stephens
Office Hours:
Virtual office hours by appointment (BB IM, etc)


Note:  All LIBR 200 students receive a complimentary student membership in a professional association, see: http://ischool.sjsu.edu/current-students/resources/complimentary-student-memberships-professional-associations

Course Description

Examines information users and the social, cultural, economic, technological, and political forces that shape their information access and use. The different resources and services that information professionals provide for their user communities will also be addressed as well as ethical/legal professional practice. LIBR 200 meets SJSU’s graduate writing assessment requirement.

Note: iSchool requires that students earn a B in this course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation.  You must repeat the class the following semester. If -on the second attempt- you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.

Course Requirements

Complete LIBR 203 Online Learning: Tools and Strategies for Success
This is a mandatory 1 unit course that introduces students to the various e-learning tools used in the iSchool program.  For more information, see: http://ischool.sjsu.edu/current-students/courses/core-courses-and-electives

Writing Requirement
If the instructor finds that a student’s writing is unacceptable, the instructor will require the student to sign up for online writing tutoring.  The student will ask the tutor to confirm with the instructor that he or she is attending sessions.

Blog Reports
Students will perform a series of activities relating to their community group (i.e., describe and evaluate a service, interview a community member about his or her use of new social media, etc.) and report their findings on their blog.  Students will be expected to read and comment upon the blogs of other students. (SLOs 14567)

Book Review

Students will read a book from a list provided on the course site and write a 350 word reflection or create a media-based presentation relating the topic and focus of the book to information communities, libraries or information environments, technology, community information systems and any topic that is relatable to course content. Students will publish the report as a post on their blog. Use images, video, and other media to enhance your submission.

Literature Review
Students will write a literature review based on 10 to 12 peer-reviewed books and articles about the community they’ve chosen to study.  The literature review will assess the current research on the community by identifying the most influential authors and publications, major theories and findings, and continuing gaps. Students will publish the review as a post on their blog. (SLOs 1,2,3)

Information Sources Survey
Using LIS guides, databases, and other relevant professional resources, students will locate and describe 10 information sources created for and used by the community they are studying. The survey will include a critical description of each source and an assessment of its value to the community. Students will publish the survey as a post on their blog.(SLOs 1,5)

Research Paper
Students will write a final paper based on their reading in the scholarly and professional literature and the data collected for each blog report.  The final papers should include a literature review and critically assess the findings of their blog research. The paper should be a minimum of 4000 words in length, the reference list should have at least 20 sources, and the formatting should follow the APA Publication Manual style (6th ed.).  (SLOs 1,2,3,4)

Grading

Assignment Points
8 Blog Posts 40 points
Literature Review 10 points
Information Sources Survey 10 points
Book Review 10 points
Research Paper 30 points

Assignment Deadlines
All assignments are due on Sundays and must be turned in by 5 p.m.  Late submissions
will be reduced by 20% of the total points possible for that assignment.

Calendar  

Week Topic/Module Assignment
1 Information Communities and the
Social Construction of
Knowledge: Introduction
Reflection Blog: Personal
Introductions
2 Information Users and
Information-Seeking Behavior:
Theoretical Overview
3 Information Seeking and
Information Communities
Reflection Blog: Information
community choice
4 Researching Information
Communities
5 Connecting Information Users
with Information: Research-
Based Information Sources and
Services
Reflection Blog: Report on the
information-seeking behavior and
information needs of chosen
community
6 Community-Generated
Information Resources and
Services
Literature Review Due
7 User Experience Reflection Blog: Report on your
community’s perceptions of
information services
8 Ethical Issues and Information
Communities
9 Intellectual Freedom and
American law
Reflection Blog: Report on an
ethical or legal issue pertaining to
your information community
10 Community Informatics Information Sources Survey
Due
11 TBA Reflection Blog: Topic of Choice
12 Teaching and Learning
13 Emerging Technologies Reflection Blog: Report on your
community’s use of emerging
technologies
14 Creation Culture
15 Course Wrap Up Final Reflection Blog: Personal
reflection on information
communities
16 Research Paper Due

Other Relevant Information:

Students will also be expected to use the course Web site multiple times a week to stay up to date with readings, assignments,  and blogging. This is also a way for students to experience the emerging social nature of the web – similar systems are being used in library settings all over the world. Librarians are working, writing and sharing in open, online systems created for interaction with each other and with library users. The course site utilizes the WordPress software package to create an open, interactive environment for sharing and discourse. You must create an account on the site and publish an open blog but  no one in class is required to share their full name, photo or any other details. The use of avatars and aliases is acceptable.

See You at New York Library Association!

I am very excited about this presentation with Brian Kenney this coming Friday at the New York Library Association in Saratoga Springs, NY. Please consider attending!

Program Slots #5 & #6 2:15 PM – 5:00 PM

Hyperlinked Learning Experiences at Public Libraries: MOOCs & Beyond

Sponsor: PLS
This presentation will explore emerging models of connected, open learning – offered for free – with great potential for staff and the public. Can we support students of all kinds in Massive Open Online Courses? What’s the potential for professional development and lifelong learning when courses can gather the best of the best in a field and offer experiences and exploration anywhere? This two part program slot will explore new ideas and thinking about learning at the library.

Speakers:
Michael Stephens, San Jose State University / “Tame the Web”
Brian Kenney, White Plains Public Library

 

Self-Protection, Your Brain, and Bigfoot by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

I did a presentation today for a speech class that is part of our honors program. They are doing deep research into a range of topics. The faculty member asked me to do a session for them about bias and approaching new topics. It was a fun session, so I thought I’d share my slides. Naturally, this session ended with a conversation about the Illuminati, which, I guess, comes with the territory (not a part of the slides below).

Self-Protection: Your Brain, Experience, & Bigfoot

——-
Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the co-editor of the upcoming book from ACRL, Not Just Where to Click: Teaching Students How to Think About Information. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

People, Libraries & Technology – A Weblog by Michael Stephens