#officehours: “Notes from a Small Island”

topofthelake

My new column is up at Library Journal and it’s all about the incredible community of LIS folks in new Zealand:

http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/12/opinion/michael-stephens/notes-from-some-small-islands-office-hours/

Something struck me about this conference, in addition to my interactions with the library folk I met as we traveled down the North Island, stopping in Wellington for a talk I gave at Victoria University and on to the South Island. At a combination #hyperlibMOOC and library folk tweet up held at Pomeroy’s Pub in Christchurch, I finally asked the assembled group, “Why does the LIS community here feel so cohesive and tight-knit? Is it the isolation?” Between the pub chat and the question I threw out to Kiwis in my Twitter network, the ideas flowed:

“Tight-knit for sure, but many local authorities in NZ are becoming smaller, and there are fewer employing authorities, so librarians are working in larger organizations and tend to meet one another more often,” said Brendon Moir, system analyst for the digital library web team at Christchurch City Libraries. “The local and national partnerships between libraries have become really important, and this will only increase.”

Here’s a shot of the epic conference dinner:

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More photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelsphotos/sets/72157638183133045/

#hyperlibMOOC: “Opening Up: Next Steps for MOOCs and Libraries”

hyperlibMOOCThe #hyperlibMOOC is included in this new article at Library Journal:

http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/12/digital-content/opening-up/

In the Hyperlinked Library MOOC, Stephens modified the common MOOC style of watching a video lecture or reading a lesson and then taking a quiz on the covered material. Instead, student work is reviewed by their peers, who offer their thoughts on what’s working and where there’s room for improvement. Stephens, Jones, and a team of assistants also view the work, but peer evaluation is a huge asset to the structure of the course, Stephens says.While the first course offering hasn’t wrapped up quite yet, he Stephens said that more than 100 of the 363 students registered for the course are well on their way to completing the coursework. Like Lankes, he notes some problems with the pacing, a dilemma he attempted to approach by introducing a week-long break in the course to let students catch on assignments without missing new material. While that sort of break can be a luxury for full-time students, when working with professionals with careers outside the classroom, it may be necessary, said Stephens.

And it’s not just peers in class that are looking at one another’s work. Since the course is open to the public and not protected by a password, anyone can take a look at the ideas being discussed and weigh in on them. “We just did a Q&A in a Google Hangout,” says Stephens. “Not only is that going up in the MOOC space, but it’s being tweeted and reshared in other places as well.” Taking cues from social media not only helps students feel more connected to one another in a MOOC environment, Stephens says, it also makes them more connected to the world at large, citing instances where the authors of readings for the course have weighed in on assignments regarding their work, much to the delight of students in the course.

The next step, as far as Stephens sees it, is taking MOOCs to even larger audiences, including those in far-flung regions who might most benefit from group learning to which they otherwise may not have access. “Reaching isolated librarians with this type of learning will probably be one of the biggest impact factors of this MOOC,” says Stephens.

Problems with Evaluating: (Part 2) Affective Science & Information Literacy by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

I have long been interested in the idea of why we believe what we believe. I have been interested in this relating to information literacy instruction. How do we evaluate sources and how do we make decisions about what counts as truth? Recently, I have been doing some reading in psychology and neuroanatomy focusing on the complex ways that the brain utilizes outside inputs to make decisions. This research highlights some disconnects and points where our practice, as instructional librarians, may be falling short with these new developments in the literature.

Over the history of the 20th century the emotions and affective reactions were largely ignored by psychology. In the last two decades, researchers have presented a broader understanding of the fact that emotion plays an underlying role in all kinds of decision-making. Our moods and emotions color all of our interactions with the world whether we realize it or not. It wasn’t that long ago when most cognitive researchers believed that each region of the brain performed a specific function, and it was generally held that the limbic system dealt with emotion/affective reactions and the frontal lobes dealt with cognition and analytic thinking. Recent research has shown that the picture is much much more complex. The picture that is emerging is one where personality, decision-making, emotions, etc result from combinations of activity within the brain. Importantly, analytic activities (such as interpreting information) activate a whole range of brain regions especially those more associated with affect.

swansonphotoI am concerned that many librarians (myself included at times) still hold the view that our brains are like recording machines capturing all that happens around us. The learning process is then equated to information processing as if we are walking computers. Students simply absorb data, compute this data, and arrive at the logical conclusions. Naturally, we know that this view does not represent reality. In the abstract, we know that different people will reach different conclusions. But, in practice, I wonder if we think that given the same facts, all of us would achieve the same answer? I often hear academics speak with trepidation about the online, political echo chamber. We rant about anti-scientific views that are shared across social media.. What underlies these rants and fears? I often suspect that it is the assumption that the computational machines that we teach do not agree with us.

Increasingly, brain research is showing us that not only are we not computational machines, but we are more life belief machines. Our beliefs are our shorthand to understanding the world. Our understandings about how the world works and that emerge within specific situations greatly influence decision-making. These beliefs help us filter what we see help us recognize what is important and help us know how to handle particular situations. Clearly, psychologists have been building the picture of the believing brain for many years, but the revelations resulting from brain imaging are starting to reveal the mechanisms at work.

This quote from The Believing Brain: From Spiritual Faiths to Political Convictions by Michael Shermer is telling concerning right and wrong:

“In fact, research now overwhelmingly demonstrates that most of our moral decisions are grounded in automatic moral feelings rather than deliberatively rational calculations. We do not reason our way to a moral decision by carefully weighing the evidence for and against; instead, we make intuitive leaps to moral decisions and then rationalize the snap decision after the fact with rational reasons. Our moral intuition – reflected in such conservative-liberal stereotypes- are more emotional than rational. As with most of our beliefs about most things in life, our moral beliefs come first; the rationalization of those moral beliefs comes second.”

The jump from neuroanatomically-based brain research to a one-shot, information literacy classroom may feel like a quantum leap, but I have always felt that teaching students about information is at the heart of what instructional librarians do. If information literacy is truly a vital skill for lifelong learning, then it is upon us to make these leaps and recognize the implications for our practice and for our learners.

If you are curious about some of the books at the top of my reading list, I would suggest

  • Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman
  • Believing Brain by Michael Shermer
  • The Emotional Life of Your Brain by Richard J. Davidson and Sharon Begley

Feel free to add additional titles in the comments below.

 

Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the author of the book, Managing Social Media in Libraries. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

Problems with Evaluating: (Part 1) Predictive Judgments by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

The study “Judgment of Information Quality and Cognitive Authority in the Web“ by Soo Young Rieh is one of those studies that I keep coming back to throughout my career. (I have mentioned Rieh’s study in previous TTW posts Things We Do in Private,  and I Don’t Get Discovery Platforms)

I like this study, because Rieh gracefully hits upon a key difference between expert and novice searchers, which is the ability to make predictive judgments. Expert searchers have a feeling for the domain of knowledge in which they’re searching. They have an expectation for a quality and scope of information and therefore are able to make predictions about what they should find.

swansonphotoAdditionally, they are able to use this knowledge to select appropriate places to do the research. They purposefully select between Google, Google scholar, subscription tools, library catalogs, etc based on the information they expect to find most useful. Not only are experts able to navigate the information world more efficiently, but they are more able to recognize context and meaning.

I have found Rieh’s work (and others like it) to be compelling, because it highlights the complexities around “evaluating” information. It also highlights the failings of the “evaluating information” construct.  I think most instruction librarians who think about information literacy recognize that the research process is non-linear. Even if we write “finding, evaluating, and using” information, we do not really mean working through these steps linearly. This whole “evaluating” information concept is actually infused throughout the entire process:

Topic conceptualization: At a basic level, this involves thinking about what is worth knowing and ways in which I can actually know about these things.

Tool selection: This is a value judgment based on my predictive judgments. What kind of information has value and where does it live?

Evaluating search results: After I have performed a search, I must review the results and make another predictive judgment about the appropriateness of my search. Are the results relevant to my need? If not, should I change my search terms or search in a different tool?

Evaluating sources: Once I have a source in hand, I then need to make a value judgment based on the source’s authority. Do I trust this source, and if I do, how does it fit with my existing knowledge.

Reading a source: As I read and take notes on a source, I draw on my expectations for credibility/quality as I interact with the ideas presented by the writer.

Using/synthesizing information: As I write/create, the value judgments I have made about sources direct the ways that I use and incorporate outside ideas into my own ideas.

It may be an understatement to say that new undergraduates do not often think along these lines. Instruction librarians working with faculty members have an opportunity to point out where predictive judgments must be made in the research process. Teaching students about information is important, and even in one-shot, information literacy sessions, there are opportunities to highlight the hidden decision-making processing within the research process.

 

Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the author of the book, Managing Social Media in Libraries. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

 

#hyperlibMOOC Article: MOOCs for LIS Professional Development: Exploring New Transformative Learning Environments and Roles

I have an article in the Fall 2013 issue of Internet Learning

MOOCs for LIS Professional Development: Exploring New Transformative Learning Environments and Roles

Abstract

The rapid development of emerging disruptive technologies is a driving force behind the evolution of the library and information science (LIS) profession and is causing a redesign of the traditional approaches to LIS professional development. Historically fairly static, LIS environments have evolved into dynamic reflections of the enormous societal changes occurring as a result of open communications and access throughout the Web. In addition, 21st century LIS professionals must consider and prepare for the new roles they might play in network-enabled, large-scale learning environments. Several decades of research on self-directed learning (SDL) have shown the social, non-linear, and serendipitous process to be transformational. LIS professionals, who once relied upon yearly conferences, employer-provided seminars and workshops, and association newsletters in order to update their knowledge, have embraced SDL opportunities to expand their understandings and skill sets. The first wave of SDL and networked platforms for LIS professional development (Learning 2.0) may have been precursors to the connectivist learning environments designed into the free, not-for-credit, massive open online courses (MOOCs). Because these new environments of participatory and transformative learning offer the potential for LIS professionals to test emerging technologies, experiment and play with new roles, and self-select teams for collaborative artifact creation, the author has adapted his existing online graduate course, called the Hyperlinked Library, at San Jose State University’s School of Library and Information Science (SJSU SLIS) in order to explore how LIS professionals can use emerging technologies and participatory practices to serve their communities. Launched in September 2013, the Hyperlinked Library MOOC pilot (#hyperlibMOOC) provides a sandbox in which LIS professionals and students can play the roles of learner, connector, and collaborator in a self-directed yet social learning experience. Results from the pilot course will contribute to a better understanding of how the not-for-credit MOOC can serve as a transformative environment for professional development.

Acknowledgments

Thanks to SJSU SLIS student Margaret Jean Campbell for her invaluable assistance editing and formatting this piece. Thanks to Kyle Jones, PhD student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Library and Information Studies and SJSU SLIS lecturer, for his incredible work designing the site architecture and for co-instructing the Hyperlinked Library MOOC.

The issue Table of Contents is here:  http://www.ipsonet.org/publications/open-access/internet-learning/volume-2-issue-2.

#YLIBRARY Writing Competition Winner: What will never change?

I am LOVING this:

The winner of the #YLibrary of the Future Writing Competition is Sophie Manion. Sophie will receive an iPad mini. Congratulations Sophie!

Here is her winning entry:

I want to hear the voices of a million lives. I want to brush their hearts with the tips of my fingers and feel as they feel, with their skin and their lungs and their ears. It takes a moment – a light on a screen, a battery cord plugged in – but then I can. In a moment I am timeless. The library is a passport to worlds that exist only in the mind. I am lost amongst these places with my greatest friends, my most treasured heroes. Words can transport me. I can listen or I can read but I will always experience. It doesn’t matter whether I can touch the ink, smell the fresh pages or instead, scroll down the electronic page with a gesture of my hand. The future is a grand place but it is those words, the magic that I can only find in a library, that can teleport me away to somewhere I’ve never been. Whether I walk through those open doors from my computer, or on my phone, or physically – I will always find a new world waiting in that maze of books. There are some things that will never change.

Read more #ylibrary postst here: http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/slq-today/category/ylibrary-2/

My post “Making the Case for the Library to be a Space for Infinite Learning” is here: http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/slq-today/2013/11/26/ylibrary-making-the-case-for-the-library-as-space-for-infinite-learning-by-michael-stephens/

 

#ylibrary: Making the Case for the Library to be a Space for Infinite Learning

I was honored to be asked to contribute an essay to the State Library of Queensland #ylibrary project:

http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/slq-today/2013/11/26/ylibrary-making-the-case-for-the-library-as-space-for-infinite-learning-by-michael-stephens/

A snippet:

This isn’t a new idea. The Melvil Dewey quote that I used to open this essay resonates with me. “The time is when the library is a school and the librarian is in the highest sense a teacher…” He wrote that in 1876, and as librarians, we are evolving, and it is still true. Librarians should seek every opportunity to be teachers in their communities. Library users should look to the library for opportunities to experience new things, new ideas, and new technologies

Click the link to read the whole thing.  And here’s a link to all of the essays:

http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/slq-today/?cat=ylibrary-2

Building a Sustainable 2.0 Community for Lifelong Learning and Professional Development by Elaine Hall

Don’t miss this article about “23 Things for SLIS Students & Alumni” that Elaine Hall wrote for AlkiWashington Library Association Journal. Elaine Hall is a Washington Library Association (WLA) member and a MLIS graduate student at San Jose State University. She lives in Arlington, Washington and is pursuing interests in academic libraries, emerging technologies, information literacy, and research.

Hall, E. (2013, November). Building a sustainable 2.0 community for lifelong learning and professional development. Alki. Washington Library Association Journal, 29(3), 22-23. Retrieved from http://www.wla.org/assets/Alki/alki%20november%2013%20-%20final.pdf

The students and alumni of San Jose State University’s School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) have developed a Learning 2.0 pro-gram, “23 Things for SLIS Students and Alumni: Essentials for Success,” to build alliance among students and alumni for lifelong learning and professional development. Hosted by SLISConnect, SLIS’s student and alumni association, this program is unique in that it is created for SLIS students and alumni by students and alumni, fosters solidarity as well as asynchronous learning, offers digital badges as rewards for module completion, and involves more than thirty-five student and alumni volunteers. With three target audiences–new students, current students, and new LIS professionals–the modules presented in this program offer a mix of technologies, resources, and tools for social networking, time management, presentation development, career development, research, and more. Other library or LIS schools can also build a collaborative and sustainable Learning 2.0 program as a way to engage the community on multiple levels and foster lifelong learning.

 

People, Libraries & Technology – A Weblog by Michael Stephens