Full Circle () : Professional Development and the coming of summer

Its that time again, finishing up the term, classes, projects, paper.  I find this time of year difficult because I am so busy that I don’t have time to actually enjoy the classes that I grew to enjoy over the term.  In addition, the weather is getting nicer and I just want to close my computer and play outside.  My mind is so focused on my to-do list that I don’t make the time to savor the final moments.  Tonight will be the last class for SI 643.  I have enjoyed this class for a variety of reasons.  I had the opportunity to practice so many practical skills, just finishing up the webinar last week.  That process of researching and preparing a webinar was surprisingly difficult for me.  I am not sure if it was the topic, the time of the term or just me.  I didn’t connect with it as much as I thought I would.  Unfortunately, I think that this was conveyed in the final product.  My classmates’ webinars were AWESOME though.  I was blown away by the topics and professionalism that they exhibited.  If the three that I attended were any indication of the whole group, then the future of libraries is in good hands.

This weeks’ readings were focused on this aspect of professional development in three different environments, an elementary school, a school media center, and a public library.  In “When Teachers Drive Their Learning” Semadeni describes the process (Fusion) of Osmond Elementary teachers’ led their professional development.  Teachers can choose the strategies that they would like to improve over the course of the year.  Then teachers can meet with others in similar groups to discuss the ups and downs of the class and how they are progressing in their goals.  Along with this development, the schools give teachers this time to meet and track their progress.  There is a stress on observation and demonstrating which provides a practice aspect to Fusion.  All this really speaks to how I like to learn and push myself.  I do best when I have a support network to help me along and keep me accountable.  Fusion is obviously very time intensive which, if not supported financially and with free-time set aside, could be a problem.  The article addresses this issue by providing stipends for completed sessions/goals which seemed to be effective in the beginning for teachers who were not sold on the professional development aspect.

Kristin Fontichiaro’s “Planning an Online Professional Development Module” gave a great snapshot of the collaboration, implementation and feedback process of developing a learning module.  Also, she highlights the importance of selecting resources that fit your goals and the audience.  Being busy with school, work and family, I am drawn to these types of professional development that are available online and can be accessed in down-time from anywhere.  That is one of the reasons I am drawn to MOOC’s and developing skills through those avenues (not to mention they free!).

The last reading, “The C’s of Our Sea Change: Plans for Training Staff, from Core Competencies to Learning 2.0″ discusses the intersection of technology with librarian support.  This topic is fascinating to me because I have become SUPER excited by technology and making people aware of different tools that may make life processes interesting and exciting.  However, I do realize that many people find technology scary, intimidating, frustrating; so it is crucial to provide succinct and clear instruction.  So, the development of the staff core competencies with technology in mind is fascinating.  What a great idea!  Not only does it take into consideration different levels of competency, but it also provides space for growth and support.  I like the idea of implementing something like this focusing on Open Source software or Creative Commons Content, both of which are fairly unknown to mass culture.  Finally, I found the ‘Best Practices for Learnng 2.0” text box toward the end of the article useful.  There are some great practices to keep in mind, like “Use 1.0 methods to continually communicate with participants.”  This tip seems crucial for late adopters to the tools of Web 2.0 and could get lost in the push toward a more digitally connected staff.

These articles provided great food for thought and I hope to go back to them when the end of the term isn’t such an impending force.

Thanks for the great term!

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Twitter & Learning Curves

After quitting Facebook last year, I had some withdrawal from the constant updates on events and people.  So, I decided to join Twitter.  I am not much of a tweet-er, I am on Twitter to get updates on things that are happening.  I continue my online lurking in the Twitter arena.  I am not the most tech-savvy person, but I am also not a complete Luddite.  I comfortably straddle that line.  With this in mind, I haven’t really explored the tweeting side of Twitter.  So, when this assignment came up of re-tweeting five things with a new hash tag of #si643, I came across some difficulties.  

First, I didn’t realize that when I set up the account I made it private so that no one could see my tweets ( as few as they were).  So, when I searched for my #si643 tags this afternoon and they didn’t come up, I was baffled.  Not until someone mentioned that I might have a locked account, did I actually notice the little icon of a lock next to my name.  Many password attempts later and I was on my way to completing this assignment.

The other issue that I had with RT was how to actually accomplish this while adding your own hash tags.  It took me awhile (and a few RT that didn’t ‘count’ toward the assignment) before I realized that copying and pasting was an acceptable way to do this.

My whole point with focusing on these little tech issues is that I think that we sometimes forget how complex a lot of the SNS are for people.  After using them for so long, it becomes second nature to most, but this is a learned behavior, something that you had to grow accustom to.  I probably would have figured out that my account was locked (although it may not have been for awhile), but this assignment really pushed me to aquaint myself with Twitter in a way that I just wasn’t doing on my own.

As for the librarians to follow, I was doing that all along.  I am interested in the world, so I did that when I joined.  Although I am not so interested in the singular person accounts.  I like to follow institutional or organizational accounts like In the Library with a Lead Pipe, TeenLibraryToolbox and Library as Incubator.  I think that is because they give multiple perspectives while also reporting on events happening in the field.  

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Musing on Class–April Fool’s Edition

I found the discussion around effective and not very effective webinars in class very helpful.  Prior to last week, I had not used a webinar.  The one that I watched had potential, but was really uninteresting to watch.  In addition, there was a lot to think about before we try our own one.  How do you have a high level of interaction and engagement without having being distracting or take away from the topic?  Also, is there a threshold for how many of these tools that participants want in a webinar?  I am approaching this webinar as a way for me to learn the answers to the questions.  I am not trying to create the perfect session on the first try because if there is one thing that I am taking away from all the readings and course as a whole it is that we are constantly learning and tweaking what works.  And that is what will lead to successful teaching experiences.

I was glad that we were able to go over Elluminate/Blackboard Collaborate together as a class.  I seems like it may be easy, but then surprise you with the complex additions.  If getting a trial account was any indication, it can be a tricky process.  I am surprised that Elluminate does not support animated slides.  I am not sure if this is standard for all webinar platforms, but it seems that this type of function could be very useful in creating a more interactive webinar. 

My biggest concern is the time delay.  The only foreseeable way that I can prepare for this is to practice beforehand so that we have some idea of how long this will take (on average).  Practice, Practice, Practice.

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Webinars, embedded librarians and teaching by subject

Last week we completed our one-shot workshop sessions and it brought up an issue that I always seem to have in teaching situations, lack of time. When I started teaching English to non-native speakers, I routinely encountered this issue.  I would create a complex lesson plan with intricate activities and realize early into the class that I did not allot for enough time to get through the class.  This was mainly due to the fact that I was biting off far more than I could chew.   A skill that I need to perfect is creating a lesson plan that is at the level of complexity for the time given.  This was the major issue that we encountered last week during our workshop.  The topic was interesting and nuanced so we just didn’t have enough time to address all the parts while giving participants the opportunity to share and hear.

Unfortunately, due to illness and an allergic reaction to cold medicine, I wasn’t able to participate in the other workshops.  I would have enjoyed taking part in that process.

I am slightly nervous about the webinars that we are going to do for class.  I suppose it is mostly due to the fact that prior to this assignment, I had not participated in one.  In addition, I do not have a clear idea of what to do to host one.  I am sure that this will all become clear in class.

The readings, Online Webinars!, The Embedded Librarian Online or Face-to-Face, and Chapter 7 of How People Learn, were interesting in helping me think about what to do with my webinar.  Initially I didn’t understand how they all worked together, but upon reflection and some distance from the readings it seems fairly obvious.  The two webinar articles are basically making the argument for the need for librarians to use technology to engage with patrons in their research and information needs.  I am not sure if it is because these articles are a few years old or because of my time at UMSI, but this doesn’t seem like an very difficult argument to make.  I was surprised that it took Montgomery a few pages to make her for this move.  Using webinars as a way to embed the librarian in a disciple works by allowing the students, who may be long-distance, to receive instructions from their own location.  My time  at UMSI is my first experience with embedded librarians.  As an undergraduate, we did not have access to this type of service.  I am not sure if this was due to my discipline or because the University I attended did not facilitate this.  Either way, the SI librarian is something that I have been meaning to utilize, but have not.  This is partially due to the fact that I feel comfortable doing the research on my own, also because I am not on campus during her usual “office hours.”  If she offered a webinar on a topic, would I attend this?  I am not sure.

The chapter from How People Learn ties into the other two by reminding us that each topic that we teach may have some key successful ways to be taught.  Not everything can be taught in the same way.  I feel like the issues that this chapter brought up are the same that have been brought up in previous chapters, flushed out with more examples and resources.  The examples that the authors focused on were history, science, and mathematics. 

I was particularly interested in the section about interactive instruction in large classes.  I am currently enrolled in a large lecture based on learning coding where many students have questions that are highly personalized to their program or website.  The teacher seems to be pulled in 70 different directions throughout the class time.  So, I have been wondering how this class could be improved so that many of the students feel like we are getting the help we need without derailing the topic of the class.  The suggestion that How People Learn gave of using a classroom communications system could work for the in-class exercises which currently need to be manually checked by the professor or GSI.  It could also help students collaborate on shared problems.

Every time I read the How People Learn book, I keep wondering and hoping that one day I will be able to reach a level of mastery of a discipline to teach effectively. 

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Week Eight

Book Club

Prior to last week, I had never taken part in a book club.  So, finally doing so was a great chance to witness the dynamics of the club.  I had assumed that it was similar to that of a small conversational language class (like if you were learning conversational Spanish).  That is true in many ways.  The teacher acts like a facilitator, trying to nurture an environment that will engage the participants to share their thoughts and feelings about a particular subject.  If that engagement is tuned just right, then the participants will forget that they are speaking in a language that is not their native tongue thereby reaching some level of fluency.  If the teacher gets too involved, the students are reminded of their level and position, and will shut down.  In the case of the book club, the participants will be engaged by the text and others in the group that they will forget they are in an artificially constructed group.  They will then reach a level of comfort with the writing and the other participants.  However, as mentioned in class two weeks ago, if the facilitator presents themselves as the authority, it will dampen conversation. 

I went in as the facilitator being hyper-sensitive not to influence the discussion because I tend to over-share in small groups.  However, this sort of worked against me since I gave off the impression of not being engaged with the group and discussion.  I am glad that I had the opportunity to take part in this activity, both as a facilitator and participant.  Being the participant allowed me to see what worked for the group while noticing how the facilitator can guide the group along.  I would have never guessed that doing a book club was a such a tight rope walk.

ALA Ethics and a Virtue Ethics Approach

The ethical questions raised by both readings this week are appealing to me as a future librarian.  Some of my personal ideals are wrapped up in the ALA’s Code of Ethics, such as principles of intellectual freedom and user’s privacy rights.  I am proud to be entering an occupation that is founded on such principles.  But how do these principles guide our occupation in a daily way?

One of the biggest questions that I have had during my time at UMSI has been how does a librarian conducting a reference librarian deal with the “dangerous reference question” as Mark Lenker calls them.  I realize that there isn’t a formulaic answer since each situation will have nuanced differences, however I need more guidance than the basic framework of the Code that ALA provides.  So, I was excited to read Mark Lenker’s article “Dangerous Questions at the Reference Desk.” 

However, at the end of the reading; I was just as confused by my question.  I do not think that I understand what virtue ethics are and how they are different from what most people (not limited to librarians and information professionals) facing an ethical dilemma do…namely critical thinking.  Due to using subjectively defined terms like quality, virtue and vice, led to further confusion.  What one culture thinks of as a vice, another may not.  However, maybe he is using these terms, so that one can interpret the situation through their own cultural lens. 

Another issue that I have with this, is the sheer amount of time it may take to think through the different virtues in order to approach the situation at hand in an ethical way.  It seems that this sort of reflection would take time, and I am not sure there is a sufficient amount of time when a patron approaches you in the library.

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Spade’s Reading Circle

ImageWhen I started reading the selections for my group’s reading group, I was excited about the prospects of reading fluff (not used in a degrading way…just not academic writings).  I wanted to do some pleasure reading that I abandoned back in September.  And the selections delivered.  In fact, I was slightly disappointed when I finished them (in one night!).  I am going to touch on each of the readings briefly with some of my initial thoughts.

Ryan Andrews:  This was Our Pact

This was the first piece that I read and I REALLY liked it.  I have a soft spot for graphic novels, so I try to read them whenever I have the opportunity.  This particular story brings up a lot of questions for me.  What was under the bridge when the boys were watching the lanterns?  Did they forget their past lives?  How much of this should I take at face value?  I am excited to talk with others about this story (not to mention the illustrations!)

Zora Neale Thurston: Sweat

This was the next story that I read.  I’ve read only one of Thurston’s books (Their Eyes were Watching God) when I was in high school.  I don’t remember too much about it, so I was interested in reading something else by her.  This story was very provocative.  I couldn’t stop reading it once I started and it stayed with me long after I finished it.  I have a similar experience when I watch Mad Men.  I believe it is because this story (and Mad Men) address women’s rights, roles and oppression; something I feel very passionate about.  The characters in Sweat are very well constructed.  In fact, I was surprised by how excited (and a little pleased) I was when Sykes died.  I look forward to hearing my peers discuss the characters and the imagery.

Paul Flowers: A Tale of a Snake’s Tail

Another snake story!  I was wondering if there was an animal theme in our stories.  This one was fun.  I reminded me a little of the film Closely Watched Trains with its obvious reference to trains but also the surreal story line.  I like the idea of a snake communicating through the use of Morse Code.  One thing that I found somewhat disturbing was the image of a rattlesnake lapping up milk.  Kind of gives me the chills.

James Baldwin: The Story of Atalanta

I’ve read a number of legends and fairy tales.  This particular story follows similar paths.  I was happy to see a female heroine that didn’t follow in the traditional steps of princesses and helplessness.  However, I didn’t feel like the characters were all that developed.  I really didn’t care that much about them, so when some died I didn’t care too much.  However, there is a lot in this story in terms of cultural values and themes to talk about.  I want to hear what others got out of it.

I am really excited about this assignment and I sort of wish we did this more often in classes.

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Musing on Class 2/25

The most memorable tidbit from class was Kristin saying, “Your job is to facilitate other people’s experience.”  She was speaking about our role in mediating a book club in the library, but this could be applied to so many aspects of librarianship.  Our future work is largely based on facilitation which can be lost in the nitty gritty work that day to day life brings.  On top of which I love the use of the word ‘experience.’  Workshops, book clubs, seminars are all experiential, so they can be interpreted in a variety of ways.  Success at facilitating these experience can come down to being open to what is happening right in front of you at that very moment.  Reading the cues and being present.  These are skills that I want to cultivate in all aspects of my life, it is a bonus that they will also help me in my job!

In an earlier post, I described how I was excited about the idea of doing a Socratic Seminar.  After the discussion in class, I realized how challenging these types of discussion can really be to implement.  They are energy and time intensive on top of which this format does not appeal to many people.  I was caught up in the excitement of the prospects and the outcomes, that I failed to take that into consideration.  However, this isn’t going to be a deterient, merely a consideration before I jump into it.

Some really good pointers came out of the book club “Do’s and Don’ts” discussion.  I was particularly interested in the exercise on how to ask questions and when to ask certain questions.  I think that I would have a difficult time not wanting to join in on the discussion.  Which brings me full circle to the “facilitating people’s experiences” mantra.

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Socratic Seminars & Book Club Revival

The idea of Socratic Seminars are particularly interesting.  Teaching students that through doubt and systematic questioning of another person, one can reach an “ultimate Truth.”  This is an exciting idea that we could teach in a way where students will become critical thinkers while also deepening their understanding of materials. ACTIVE LEARNING!!!!

Then to take this to a public library book club is even more interesting.  This type of discussion can be extremely empowering however, it can be quite a challenge for the participants.  It pushes them beyond their comfort levels on top of which the exhaustion of doing this with people you may not know.  To do this at a public library would be rather tricky and would depend on the participants.  If I were to implement this I would want to use a reading that is short but controversial so that people would have feelings about it either way.  However, this could blow up in my face as people may be emotionally invested in the topic.  I would like to see this played out (as an observer and a participant) before I actually tried to facilitate one by myself.

Any ideas where I could do this???

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Reflection about Class

I was glad that we looked into the content of the McGonigal TedTalk.  She was stating a lot of grand ideas that we didn’t get a chance to discuss in class.  It was also nice to hear my peers’ POV.  I would have liked to hear McGonigal give more explanation on how she was going to get users to play these games.  In addition, I want to hear more about the success (or lack of) with the games that were released.

In terms of transfer, I am really glad that we discussed how to do this and what might qualify as transfer.  One of my biggest questions that came out of the reading was how to do this within the setting of the library.  I was interested in how this would look and the challenges that librarians may face.

Finally, it was great to talk (and hear about) the different ideas that are floating around the different LIS blogs.  It was somewhat of a relief to hear that other people had issues with infrequent blog posts or just blogs that were just not that interesting to read.

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How People Learn: How to use transfer in teaching

In chapter three of How People Learn the emphasis is on better understanding how transfer works and how one kind of learning can lead to transfer, “defined as the ability to extend what has been learned in one context to new contexts”. (51)  This chapter coupled with Wiggins and McTighe’s paper “Put Understanding First” hit home to me the gap between what we think should happen in classrooms and learning centers around the country to what is really happening.  Wiggins and McTighe’s mission for the long-term purpose of schooling was extremely powerful and was a great explanation of the ideologies of transfer and information literacy.

“The mission of high school is not to cover content, but rather to help learners become more thoughtful about, and productive with, content.  It’s not to help students get good at school, but rather to prepare them for the world beyond school–to enable them to apply what they have learned to issues and problems they will face in the future.”

I love this.  Rereading and typing it gives me chills.  This is definitely what we ought to be doing, so how do we do it?  Reading How We Learn, I get the impression that teaching for transfer (and information literacy) we have to start at the very beginning and continue on throughout all stages of education (something we mentioned in class a few weeks ago).  This isn’t something that can be started in high school on a trial basis.  So, why are we not seeing more of this style of teaching/learning in schools?  It seems that a crucial element of transfer is time.  As noted in How We Learn, “expertise occurs only with major investments of time.” (58)  Covering too many topics in a narrow window of time is not nurturing transfer in students, in fact it seems to push students away from learning.  Now that we are on timelines set by standardized tests, teachers, students and administrators may not feel the freedom to take a slower but more effective path of learning.

How will this trend of teaching without transfer affect my future career as an information professional?  One obvious way is that I will be having to do more instructional librarianship in order to fill in the gaps left by formal education.  Not having an academic background in teaching, this task is a little daunting.  Especially considering how I may not be able to see patrons often enough to effectively teach them.  And given on how nuanced transfer seems to be.  This will make my workshop presentations even more important.

Other aspects of the reading that I found particularly interesting were how transfer and cultural practices affect one another.  The study on topic associative oral styles versus topic centered styles is fascinating, especially how some teachers find one style more worthy than others and may discourage or reinforce it.  This issue could definitely relate to my futureb career.  How would the associative oral style play out in a reference interview?  I would hope that even though I may not be this type of communicator I will still be able to assist someone who is.  If you also found this issue interesting you may enjoy this blog post from Teaching in the Inner City.

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