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Lost in the Library of Babel:

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In "The Library of Babel," Jorge Luis Borges described a vast library with no circumference and no center, a library exhilarating in its infinite scope but where knowledge is always frustratingly out of reach. He seemed to be describing the information landscape as today’s students experience it. How can we help students learn how to navigate their way through the Library of Babel? What role does finding, evaluating, and using sources play in the major? How do skills and dispositions students acquire by engaging in inquiry contribute to lifelong learning and engaged citizenship? In this workshop [at Illinois Wesleyan University in January 2012] faculty will be invited to consider what students need to become information literate and will work on embedding critical information literacy into courses and programs.

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Lost in the Library of Babel:

  1. 1. Write down a topic or a research questionthat one of your students might write about in one of your courses.
  2. 2. Jennie Nelson, 1994Interviewed 238 students• 75% - compile information approach• 10% - premature thesis• 10% - scrabble game• 5% - recursive approach
  3. 3. Project Information Literacy (8,000+ students, 25 institutions)• Students have trouble getting started and choosing among options; tend to use strategies learned early (HS or 1st year); work at narrowing the range of choices because they face too many.Citation Project (160 first year students, 18 institutions)• students do not understand their sources; instead of summary use patchwriting; tend to assemble papers from quotes; most quotes are lifted from the first page.Stanford Study of Writing (longitudinal study of Stanford undergrads)• Students are deeply engaged in writing in everyday life and have a strong sense of audience; write far more than they did in 1980. When “writing to do something” they are better writers.
  4. 4. search is embedded in social processes and relationships
  5. 5. “[we] should highlight,in addition tothe tools and skillsmetaphor, theimportance of learningabout context andcontent inunderstandinghow information ‘works’ . . . we need torecognize that information‘access’ is not just about informationconsumerism, but also about individuals andgroups of people actively shaping the world. Christine Pawley
  6. 6. Liberal learningLearning a disciplineLearning within a course
  7. 7. What are your goals?Will you scaffold assignments?Will you provide opportunities to practice?Are there ways to foster a sense of community?How can you encourage writing goals:• Cognitive sophistication• Students’ ownership of their own voice• Intellectual presenceHow will this learning experience contributeto the major? To life-long learning?
  8. 8. Photo creditsBiblioteca Jose Vasconcelos by CINKerTurn page by andy.brandon50Book stack by ginnerobotNew York Times on the New Art of Flickr by Thomas HawkEvidence based change by Bernardo GuzmanRubik’s cube redux by M.ChristianCenote from waterlevel by Mike MileyLab bench by Spencer9Ideas (desk) by Alfred HermidaTexture by Friendbrook MedowsWorks citedLiving SimplyTeaching Inquiry Zotero group Barbara Fister – fister @ gustavus dot edu

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