All posts by troyswanson

Not Just Where to Click by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

I am very excited to announce the publication of Not Just Where to Click: Teaching Students How to Think About Information from ACRL. I co-edited this collection with Heather Jagman.

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From the ALA Website: Not Just Where to Click: Teaching Students How to Think about Information explores how librarians and faculty work together to teach students about the nature of expertise, authority, and credibility. It provides practical approaches for motivating students to explore their beliefs, biases, and ways of interpreting the world.

This book also includes chapters that bridge the gap between the epistemological stances and threshold concepts held by librarians and faculty, and those held by students, focusing on pedagogies that challenge students to evaluate authority, connect to prior knowledge and construct new knowledge in a world of information abundance. Authors draw from a deep pool of perspectives including social psychology, critical theory, and various philosophical traditions.

Contributors to the nineteen chapters in this volume offer a balance of theoretical and applied approaches to teaching information literacy, supplying readers with accessible and innovative ideas ready to be put into practice.

 

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

The Relationship Model: What Journalism Can Teach Us by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

I have been keeping tabs on the state of journalism over the last decade. I do this because it is part of my job as someone who helps build information literacy skills in students, but I also do this because the disruptive forces ripping apart journalism are related to forces impacting libraries. Journalism is at the epicenter of the earthquake, and we’re a bit more removed (so far at least). As media companies implode, merge, vanish, and reappear in new forms, I think it would do libraries well to sit up and take some notes.

One of these opportunities caught my ear when I heard Jeff Jarvis interviewed on WNYC’s On the Media. The interview entitled “Geeks Bearing Gifts”
(same title as his new book) challenges journalists to rethink what it means to cover the news. He discussed “the relationship model” of journalism. I was struck by this approach. It connected so directly to discussions about libraries and community that if I would go through the transcripts of the interview and replace the word “journalism” with “librarianship,” I could probably get it published in the library literature. In the least, I could probably pass it off as something David Lankes, Justin Hoenke, or Michael Stephens might have said.

Jarvis notes, “We have to stop thinking of journalism as a content factory, and we have to rethink it as a service.” He says that in the relationship model of journalism the press becomes a platform for community information. Jarvis uses the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as an example. During this tragic event reporters covered the flooding, damage and drama, but the people on the ground needed actionable information. They needed to find wi-fi to contact loved ones. They needed to know how to get necessities. They needed to know what streets were closed and where to get gas. News outlets repeated stories and warned people of the danger, but they did not act as avenues for the public to share information. They reported things that everyone on the ground already knew. They didn’t report information that people on the ground actually needed.

“What we’re used to doing in journalism is deciding what’s important and then writing about it. I think the process of journalism doesn’t start with the story,” Jarvis states. “The process of journalism necessarily starts with listening to the public and only then finding the best mechanisms to help the public meet their needs. If all we do is keep churning out four hundred pieces of content a day, the same to everyone, then, that’s not a great service. And, I think we have to reinvent other ways to help communities to come together to share what they know.”

In summary, he says, “We may end up looking more like community organizers, and that’s a different, perhaps heretical, way to look at journalism.”

As we consider ways that libraries will evolve in the future, Jarvis’s thinking feels familiar. The “library as platform” is not a new concept, but it remains a concept not fully realized in most places. It is easier to imagine than it is to implement. I believe that the pressures on journalism are more dire than those pressing libraries, but clearly, librarians should continue to take them seriously. Digital disruption (disintermediation) is impacting not only journalism, but also music, television, film, and many segments of the economy. The forces they face and the obstacles they must overcome are not identical to those libraries will face, so we will have to come up with our own unique answers. But, we can still learn from their trials.

You can listen to Jeff Jarvis on On the Media here:

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

Librarian Stockholm Syndrome & the Meaning of Free: Lanier vs Anderson by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

In 2013, ALA Annual was in Chicago, and all of librarianship celebrated the greatness of the Chicago Blackhawks. It was a special time, and it was at this conference where I attended LITA’s Top Tech Trends panel. This panel was made up of smart folks all of whom I greatly respect (Gary Price, Aimee Fifarek, Sarah Houghton, Clifford Lynch, Char Booth and Brewster Kahle moderated by Loran Dempsey). The conversation covered many topics that have faded in my memory, but there was a part of it that has remained. Several panelists held up the benefits of free content and the need to break down pricing models. MOOCs, open access, and other forms of free content were glorified as an unstoppable force of empowerment. Panelists called on libraries to set content free. Techno-lust was in the air, and librarians were encouraged to join the disruption. Free was the new thing.

As former Wired editor and author of the book Free: the Future of a Radical Price, Chris Anderson puts it, “the Web has become the biggest store in history and everything is 100 percent off” (238). (Anderson was not part of the LITA panel, but he would very much support the discussion.)

Interestingly enough, the day before the LITA panel there was another talk by computer scientist turned philosopher Jaron Lanier, who offered a markedly different view. Lanier challenged us to think about the dehumanizing nature of technology and the ways that it is restructuring the economy. For example, social media is playing a big role in destabilizing media outlets. Small and medium news outlets that employed hundreds of thousands of people across the country have been destroyed by Craigslist which employees 100 people and Twitter which employees just over 3000. (An ovely simplified example of a larger trend.) Are we moving toward an economy where 1% of the people run the economy and the other 99% are disposable? Lanier in his book Who Owns the Future asks what happens if the internet destroys more jobs than it creates? What if we live in an economy where a select few profit from the free content created by the rest of us?

Over the last few years, we have been in the midst of a showdown over the meaning of “free”, and most of us haven’t even known it. When I think back to the 2013 ALA Annual Conference, I often think about the the contrasting conversations of the LITA panel and Lanier’s talk, because the contrast presents a challenge to our professional values. On the one hand, we support authors’ (and other creators’) right to make money from their creations, and on the other, we support open access and free information. These competing values have been with us for many decades, but their implications may be more acute. For instance, libraries offering OverDrive to patrons, and then OverDrive making patron data available to Amazon and/or Adobe would be the exact kind of problem Lanier would find disconcerting. The community building, creativity, and learning that occurs within our libraries could be reduced into a mass of data given away to companies in the name of better marketing. At the same time, Chris Anderson would argue that this is how “free” works in the new economy. We trade data for access. No biggie.

Libraries are stuck somewhere between Lanier and Anderson. In his book You Are Not a Gadget, Lanier discusses “journalistic Stockholm syndrome” where newspapers promote the very free services that are destroying news media. I wonder if there is a librarian Stockholm syndrome where libraries are promoting free services that are destroying communities? But at the same time, how can we not?

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

 

Kickstarter for Circulating Ideas Podcast: Recirculated for Transcripts (by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson)

I am a big fan of the Circulating Ideas podcast. Steve does a great job of enriching the discussions within our profession. Thus, I wanted to share info about his Kickstarter. Help out if you can!

Circulating Ideas began as a podcast to share the innovative ideas and projects that librarians are creating to keep libraries vibrant and relevant in the 21st century. The show has spanned more than 60 hours of content with more than 100 librarians and library supporters and now I’d love to do more to make the show’s content more accessible and searchable. This Kickstarter campaign will allow for the transcription of the show’s content which will be made available for free on the website and as a DRM-free ebook.

Recirculated : Circulating Ideas Transcripts

The IL Standards and IL Framework Cannot Co-Exist by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

The ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education Task Force has completed a final draft of the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. This draft is working its way through the infrastructure of ACRL.

(I have previously posted about the Framework on this blog: The New Information Literacy Framework and James Madison, Information as a Human Right: A Missing Threshold Concept?, and Using the New IL Framework to Set a Research Agenda. I should note that I am a member of the Task Force but that I do not officially speak officially for the Task Force in this post.)

As this process has moved forward, I have been excited to see the conversations and debates unfold about how we think about Information Literacy, can better infuse information literacy within curriculum development, think about our role in teaching it, and can stake a claim to this arena of scholarship. Since the initial draft of the Framework was released, one of the oft debated questions has been, “What is the future of the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education ?” I wanted to address this, because, to me, the answer is clear. The Framework and the Standards cannot co-exist. The existence of Standards undermines the purpose of the Framework. (By the way, the Task Force has recommended the sunsetting of the Standards since the June draft of the Framework.)

The Mythology of the Standards
Anyone who has spent time in the classroom knows the problem with the Standards in terms of assessment and in terms of curriculum development. Either the assessment feels inauthentic producing data that is marginally useful in making changes, or the instruction must be adapted in inauthentic ways to meet the demands of the Standards.

In my career, especially as a new librarian, I have found the Standards quite useful as a place to go to generate ideas. They have been useful when a faculty member and I needed definitions and mental models for learning. When I have worked with faculty at a department level, it has always been a strain to shoehorn the Standards into the needs of the curriculum. They felt too broad for a course but overly defined for programmatic assessment. They never quite fit.

The times I found the Standards most useful were when I used them as a framework. I used them to outline skills, expectations, and outcomes. Most of the time when I used the Standards, the first step was to revise, simplify and focus the Standards. The top level definition of each standard was the most useful. The performance indicators could be useful with some revision. The outcomes never quite worked. In other words, the Standards always made a nice framework.

Authenticity and Curriculum Development
For me, the Framework has the potential to be a more authentic and useful statement on information literacy and learning. The Framework by design recognizes the diversity within American higher education by not trying to write monolithic outcomes for all institutions. Additionally, the Framework has the potential to better connect to real student learning outcomes in the classroom. The Framework presents definitions, knowledge practices and dispositions that can spur conversations at various levels of the curriculum. The Framework can be the overarching definition (a role played by the Standards) that guides the development of undergraduate general education outcomes, programmatic outcomes, course outcomes, unit outcomes, and lesson outcomes. The Framework engages institutions at a national level in discussions and evaluations of information literacy, but it does not pretend that these institutions will share outcomes in a broad standard. Additionally, it doesn’t pretend that a single outcome can be written to meet the diverse needs of our curriculum. The Framework can enable us to get to real student learning because it can be adapted to align with your goals as a teacher.

The Problems with Standards-Based Education
Critics of the Framework say that our country is moving towards standards-based education and that the Framework moves information literacy outside of that trend. This criticism misses the mark in several ways. First, we shouldn’t pretend that there’s consensus around standards-based education. The growing backlash against Common Core is evidence enough this debate is hardly settled. This is especially true when standards-based education equates to curricula built around standardized assessments. Second, if we believe that information literacy matters in the lives of our students and see information literacy as a form of empowerment for our students, the idea that we should write standards because that’s what everyone else is doing feels hollow. We should create the tool that helps us best accomplish our job. And finally, our profession has the opportunity to take the lead in moving away from the mechanistic bureaucracy of standards-based education. I do not know many faculty members who honestly think that more standards and more standardization will improve teaching and learning.

Let’s Get to Work
To me, the whole point of the Framework is that ACRL cannot write outcomes for my campus. They never could. We may have pretended, but it never happened. The Standards and the Framework cannot co-exist. The point of the Framework is that librarians should write outcomes for their own campuses (as they have always done), in partnership with faculty, administrators, and (maybe even) students. To create the Framework and then retain (or even edit) the Standards is like telling a child learning to ride a bike that we are going to remove one training wheel and keep one training wheel on. One training  wheel doesn’t cut it. At some point, the training wheels have to come off. Now is the time.

P.S. This post is not an effort to denigrate the value that the Standards have had to the development of our profession. I greatly admire the leadership of the people who wrote the Standards in the late 1990s. I admired their work as a library school student, and I admire them today. As our thinking evolves in teaching and learning, so should the direction of our professional organization.


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Troy SwansonTroy 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.

Success is Emergent: What Gamers Can Teach us About Collaboration by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

During my recent commutes to work, I have been enjoying the audio of Jane McGonigal’s 2011 book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World . This is one of those titles that I have always meant to read, and I am just now getting to it. McGonigal’s general thesis is that the compelling aspects of game-play (especially online gaming) can be applied to many areas of life (social problems, routine tasks, etc) in an effort to make life more engaging.

While McGonigal has much to offer the library community, her discussion of collaboration and coordination caught my eye. I have written about these topics in the past (see Library Management and Entropy: The Information as Management Text and Your “Library” Doesn’t Participate in Social Media, but Your People Do).

McGonigal notes that online games are particularly good at collaboration. She outlines three components of successful collaboration:
–Cooperation. Players must agree to work together and partner together.
–Coordination. Players much align efforts to work together.
–Co-creation. Players cooperate and coordinate as they produce something new (whether it is a creation in an online world or a shared experience).
She emphasizes the third in this list. True collaboration produces something new. It is a creative process.

McGonigal notes that elite gamers build high-level collaboration skills. She calls them “extraordinary collaborators.” These extreme collaborators built their skills through years of online gameplay. They have the following attributes: First, they are extremely outgoing in an online environment. Even if they are introverted in the F2F world, they must be extremely outgoing in the networked world. Second, they not only easily connect with others but they also have a good sense about whom to connect with. They are not connection spammers. They recognize when to connect and when NOT to connect. Third, they are very good at working in chaotic environments where the situation is emergent or outcomes are impossible to predict. In massive game environments, it is impossible for one individual to grasp the entire world around them. Extraordinary collaborators can engage their segment of a larger, game world while remaining calm and making decisions.

As I listened to this, I was struck by its applicability to the work of librarians. Her description of successful collaboration applies to much of what we do (not just game playing). Cooperation, coordination, and co-creation can be applied to how our staff members work together, programming we may offer our communities, and the “big-picture” impact our services have. The creative, collaborative process that focuses on making things, ideas, or experiences is increasingly (has always been?) at the heart of librarianship.

McGonigal’s description of gamers as “extraordinary collaborators” reads as if it was written for librarians. She is talking about online gamers, but this description has broader implications. All areas of librarianship require some degree of collaboration and coordination
but we are in a period of time where “extraordinary collaboration” brings great benefits. Whether this is an instruction librarian partnering with many faculty members, a programming librarian working with community organizations, a library fundraiser reaching out to donors, or a library administrator strategically building partnerships, librarians no longer have the luxury of single collaborations at a time. We must connect widely, outline shared goals, and create a plan to reach those goals. McGonigal describes the events in massive online games as “emergent” where small interactions result in larger, complex systems (see Steven Johnson’s Emergence). Like gamers, librarians must learn to manage the chaos of a collaborative enterprise. For us, success is emergent.

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Troy SwansonTroy 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.

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.)

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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.

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.

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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.

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

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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.

Comics, Games, Art, Literature at Graphic Novel Symposium by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

Since I have shared some of our planning on my library’s Graphic Novel Symposium in TTW posts (seeBehind the Scenes of the Graphic Novel Symposium & Grahpic Novel Symposium–#comicculture), I want to share our final video that summarizes our event.

You can watch our faculty lectures from the Graphic Novel Symposium at: Moraine Valley Graphic Novel Symposium, http://www.morainevalley.edu/comicculture/.

Graphic Novel Symposium at Moraine Valley

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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.