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.

Michael Casey on Harwood Institute’s Innovators Lab for Libraries

Don’t miss Michael Casey’s piece at LJ:

http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2015/01/shows-events/inside-the-harwood-institutes-innovators-lab-for-libraries/

The idea of asking people about their aspirations (“what kind of community do you want to live in?”) consumed much of the first day of training. Students participated in exercises designed to help them better understand the powerful responses that result from simply asking somebody about their dreams for the community. These conversations help the library focus outward and better understand the rhythms of the local community, gaining a wealth of public knowledge for the library.

In one of the first exercises, students broke off into small groups to examine the “stages of community life,” seeking to identify what stage of change each local community is in at the moment. This would influence the library’s course of action, as some stages are more amenable than others to major efforts for change. Librarians can then tailor their actions appropriately. Interestingly, determining this is not done through surveying but via conversations. A lot of discussion resulted from this community self-examination, and students frequently determined that different parts of their communities were in different stages of “community life.”

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.

THANK YOU & HAPPY NEW YEAR from TTW

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As 2014 comes to a close, I’m reflecting on my experiences this year speaking and traveling to work with librarians and information professionals all over the world. A heartfelt THANK YOU to the folks who invited me to speak or attended my talks, to the good people who chatted at receptions and after presentations, and to all who taught me so much about what’s happening in our world.

I’m thrilled to have visited these places this year: Philadelphia, Santa Barbara, Indianapolis, San Antonio, Denver. Chatham-Kent, Vancouver, Tampa, Los Angeles, Limerick, Ireland, Lyon, France, West Virginia, Virginia and New York. I am even more excited about the folks I met in these place. I learned so much – Thank you!

For Spring 2015 – I’m looking forward to seeing library folk in Ontario, Alaska and Connecticut.

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

People, Libraries & Technology – A Weblog by Michael Stephens