Perceptions of Information Literacy: Presentation Notes


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Here are the presentation notes (mostly my part - Robin has her own notes) that go with our slides from WILU 2007 conference @ York University. Hopefully, these notes provide more context.

For the slides go here:

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Perceptions of Information Literacy: Presentation Notes

  1. 1. WILU Presentation May 2007 – York University M.J. D’Elia GENESIS (Robin: 2.5 minutes) • Robin’s IL journey and interest in this study GENESIS (MJ: 2.5 minutes) • Conversations on Information Literacy o Analyze the effectiveness of IL instruction o Strategize about how to make it better o Co-taught sessions o Designed interactive activities o Never entirely satisfied with our results • MCS 2020 Proposal o Approached to teach an entire course called Information Management o Second year course, required for BCom o Not a course about research, but it was information-related o Course was very much about computer technology and common business applications (e.g. Microsoft Excel) o Not surprisingly it was one of the courses that students hated most o The curriculum committee was hoping to update it, but no one was interested in taking it on o This was the opportunity to really think about information literacy and instruction - I had to accept. • Immersion in Boston (August 2006) o My experience was different than Robin o I didn’t come away singing the praises of IL o I did come away with a better idea of who I was as a teacher and what unique value I brought to the learning experience as a librarian (more on that later) • Feedback forms (December 2006) o Let Robin read some of the feedback forms from my students o The comments made us question our approach to IL even further o In the Winter semester – Robin and I hatched a plan to investigate further • The Research Project o We drafted a proposal for the Research Ethics board to study the students. o Robin came to many of the classes to observe the teaching and learning o She conducted focus groups at the end of the semester (In fact, a lot of the quotes you’ll see come directly from those sessions) o We did a mid-year and year-end survey with open-ended questions. o We’re going to talk about those results, but first I’ll let Robin set the tone for our session today. 1
  2. 2. WILU Presentation May 2007 – York University M.J. D’Elia EXODUS: Introduction to Session (Robin: 2 minutes) • Remarks and expectations about today’s session • Multiple roles/angles/perspectives (ourselves and the audience) • Intention to be co-investigators (organic, open-ended, self-discovery) EXODUS: Relevance Activity (MJ: 8 minutes) • Hand out a large-format sticky note to each member of the audience • Have the audience try to define “Relevant” o What does it take for something to be “relevant”? o What are the characteristics of “relevance”? o Think of this in an academic context or in your personal life • Questions? • Take 2 minutes to write down as many definitions as possible o The goal is quantity o This is more challenging than it looks o Feel free to think creatively (no censoring your thoughts) • Slide the notes one person to the left o Take one minute to read their list o If something generates a new idea scribble it down on the note • Slide the notes one person to the left again o This time, review the list of ideas in front of you (which has now been compiled by two different people). o If you think there is an interesting idea on your Post-it note that helps you understand the idea then come up and write it on the chalkboard. • Take a minute to go over the ideas as they’re going up on the board • What’s the point of this exercise? o When Robin and I started we wondered what the connection was between relevance (or students’ perception of relevance) and learning (or the motivation to learn). o What we quickly determined was that defining relevance is a very difficult task – it means different things to different people in different scenarios o It’s clear from the responses in this session that the term has depth, variety and different angles of approach. 2
  3. 3. WILU Presentation May 2007 – York University M.J. D’Elia o I had you switch the Post-it Notes three times so that you ended up evaluating someone else’s ideas – some people have a tendency to discredit their own ideas BUT in fact they’re quite good (it puts someone else in the position of evaluator) • Hand in their Post-It notes o Slide them to the end of the row and then to the front (give to Robin) • Class relevance o I do this exercise in my class (only I ask them to define and describe information) o Set the tone for the type of activities I will do throughout the course o Encourage them to contribute o Acknowledge the fact that there are multiple perspectives. EXODUS: Course Format (MJ: 10 minutes) • Context and Course Format o Easier to understand our observations (and the students’ responses to the course) if you understand what the course looked like • Role-Playing o I tell them to act like employees of a business, but not just any business. o I created a fictional company in the high-tech industry that makes smart phones and personal digital assistants. (Since we’re in Guelph we’re loosely modelled on Research in Motion, but in their early stages – not the billion dollar company they are now). o WebCT is our corporate intranet for communication and company documents (product profiles, company financials, corporate code of ethics) o Choose a name for their corporation (e.g. Uber Tech). Now, the class has some ownership over what happens. o This is role-playing on a large scale – on the one hand we’re a typical undergraduate university class, but on the other we’re something else too • Assignments o Mock corporation allows for more flexibility in terms of the assignments • Debate assignment o I create a fictional scenario that is facing our company (Uber Tech) and then two task groups are formed to present different options. o We might tackle ethical issues like corporate espionage (should we buy information from a competitor’s employee?), we might tackle legal issues like patent infringement or we might tackle long-term strategy issues (choosing a city for a new manufacturing plant). 3
  4. 4. WILU Presentation May 2007 – York University M.J. D’Elia o Two task groups we struck to research the scenario, present their viewpoint and present their case to the class. o During the business meeting they will also have the opportunity to rebut the case from their opponents and then field questions from the audience o This was more dynamic than typical student presentations. o After the debate the rest of the class voted by secret ballot (but they had to put down a reason for why they voted). o I was getting complaints because the ballots were too small and they had much more to say about the issues. • Comparison Paper o They had to examine a business technology issue Using biometric identification to secure access to sensitive information Implementing RFID technology to track goods and learn about consumer behaviour Outsourcing technology jobs to developing nations like India Investing heavily in Information Technology to gain a competitive advantage. o Their task was to examine the issue and then make a recommendation to the CEO (me) for our company. o Students quickly learned that they needed to examine the issue from multiple perspectives. o It wasn’t enough to provide a summary of major points of view, they had to make a decision based on the information they found – and defend it. • Different Perspectives o I designed their activities so that they had to look at the issues from different angles o Example: Implementing wireless technology in a Fortune 500 company and at your locally-owned coffee shop are two completely different scenarios – with a completely different set of variables. o I tried my best not to enforce my perspective on an issue, but to let them practice drawing their own conclusions – and practice defending them. • Librarian’s Bias/Angle/Perspective o I was initially asked to teach the course because of my perceived connection to the content (i.e. information management) – that sounds like a librarian doesn’t it? o However, I think I was successful teaching the course because of my perspective as a librarian (ACRL’s standards anyone?) Identifying the major arguments Prioritizing information needs Searching out the best quality information Using the information accordingly 4
  5. 5. WILU Presentation May 2007 – York University M.J. D’Elia o I wanted them to learn the content, but I wasn’t interested in teaching textbook answers – after all, research (and life in general) is a little more messy than that • Teaching Stance o The content of the course became the channel for communicating good information seeking habits. o In the fall I can change the scenarios, I can change the company, I can change the curriculum, I could even change the discipline and yet still achieve the learning objectives. o My teaching stance is what stayed consistent throughout the course. In this instance being a librarian served me quite well. o At no point did I use the term Information Literacy when talking about the course, but it’s hard to deny that it was embedded in the curriculum. • Pause for Questions LEVITICUS/NUMBERS: Explanation of handout (MJ: 2 minutes) • Handout o Now that we’ve set the stage, we’d like to share some of our observations with you. o We’ve grouped our thoughts into 6 major observations o You’ll see on your handout that these observations are on both sides of the paper (the only difference is the layout). • Side 1 (Traditional Side) o This is the order that we’re going to present our observations o We’ve left some space under each heading for you to make your notes o Of course, this layout suggests that the concepts are linear – when in reality they’re not o They’re not hierarchical, or iterative either – they’re just a mess of connected concepts. • Side 2 (Fun Side) o This side is a more visual way of taking notes – we’ve given you the ability to make a concept map o It’s a little more challenging to take notes this way, but it allows you to make your own connections about what we have to say. o Basically, as we talk about each observations you want to capture major ideas and group them around the concepts in an organic brainstorm o The challenge for you is to think about how these terms connect and writing the words on your connecting lines o Give it a shot – it’s Friday afternoon – what have you got to lose? • Pause for questions 5
  6. 6. WILU Presentation May 2007 – York University M.J. D’Elia LEVITICUS/NUMBERS: Observation #1: Modelling (Robin: 5 minutes) • How the library concept of information literacy was modelled in the course LEVITICUS/NUMBERS: Observation #2: Time (MJ: 5 minutes) • Connection to Modelling o It’s easy to model good information habits when you have the luxury of time (not just longer sessions, but regular weekly classes) • Rhythm – Feeling each other out Phase o 4-5 weeks to establish a rapport with the students o Students are trying to figure out whether this is really the course they want to take (or if it is going to be too much work) o I’m trying to figure out whether this class will be interactive or whether they’ll be distracted and bored. o Students need to be reasonably sure about what to expect before they fully engage in the learning project – it’s unspoken but we negotiate the classroom protocol and develop our shared experience for the course. • Active Learning o Time allows you to set the tone for the course. o I prefer to do a lot of in-class activities – using class time for more than just lectures • Time for mistakes o Chance to revisit content or clarify issues o Referencing example Students are told to reference so that you don’t get into trouble I didn’t use a textbook, so I forced students to look up articles. One of my citations was incorrect and the students couldn’t find the required reading They quickly learned another reason why referencing properly is important. • READING FROM THE CLASS o “One day when MJ sourced something incorrectly and I went to look for the article I was like I can’t find the article, what’s going on? I was so frustrated and then he was like, yeah, my mistake and I was like that’s why it’s so important to reference because when someone wants to find your article and they can’t find it, you go crazy. It’s like where is it? It’s supposed to be here. Am I crazy? What’s going on here? And if you can’t find the article, well then how legitimate is this?” 6
  7. 7. WILU Presentation May 2007 – York University M.J. D’Elia • Teachable moments o Allow you to deviate from your usual script when a good learning opportunity presents itself (increased spontaneity) o Power Point example In-class activity was to design a couple of PowerPoint slides I had been appalled at some of the PowerPoint skills from the previous semester, so I thought I would provide a little more direction. The students didn’t like the assignment calling it trivial and not important to their studies (I even had one group hand in their worksheet with random stick figures). I was frustrated with the output – I wanted to show them how important it was to communicate with visual tools Around the same time, we were hiring for a senior position at Guelph and I was on the hiring committee. One of our candidates was fairly strong, but nearly every committee member pointed out that her PowerPoint slides were really weak (and unfortunately that was our first impression of her). I was able to use this little lesson to show how important it is to organize your thoughts and learn to communicate them. It was an opportunity to recalibrate and emphasize why I thought it was important to know this stuff • Time for student feedback o After each debate I would summarize my thoughts o But I would also include comments from the class into the next lecture o I would provide feedback for the debates based on what the students had said on their ballots. o Plagiarism example One of my comparison paper topics was Biometrics Between the semesters I had made minor changes to the assignment The Winter class was required to find additional resources (the Fall semester just had to read from my list) When I was marking the papers from the Winter class I noticed that the reference lists on a handful of papers were nearly identical to last semester To me something wasn’t right. I thought about the best way to handle it – basically keeping it quiet or opening it up I presented the evidence to the class at the end of one of my classes and asked them what conclusions they would draw from this matter The first response was plagiarism – others suggested coincidence, laziness, inability to research. 7
  8. 8. WILU Presentation May 2007 – York University M.J. D’Elia I asked them what should be done about the matter and they suggested giving students a week to come forward and explain themselves to me in person. I had 5 or 6 students come forward noting that they may have done something that was in the grey area of research ethics I would not have had this opportunity had it not been for the amount of consistent time that I spent with these students LEVITICUS/NUMBERS: Observation #3: Expertise (MJ: 5 minutes) • Inferiority complex o In universities librarians are often considered second-class faculty (and in many ways we consider ourselves second-class faculty) o You can see this attitude all over the literature and hear people complain that faculty members “don’t know what we do” o Within this classroom I was immediately accepted as a legitimate professor – to students it didn’t seem to matter o Being the person responsible for their grades has an inherent form of authority; however, students can still choose whether or not to accept that authority. • Role of the Expert o I don’t have formal business training o I’m without a PhD and I haven’t published in a peer-reviewed journal o I do have personal expertise and experience in information management. I let the students share in my experiences (as a sales rep for Pepsi or as former owner of a small ecommerce website). o These experiences seemed to give me some legitimacy - they were able to identify with me. o I told them that I was a librarian and gave them a brief rationale for why I was the professor, but students didn’t seem to think that having a PhD was necessary for being a good teacher. o Sometimes we think that we need to know absolutely everything about something before we can teach it and I would say that just feeds our insecurities. • READING FROM THE CLASS o “They have to show passion and trust and enthusiasm in what they’re talking about. Because a professor gets up there and they’re talking monotone about something that they went to school for 8 years for, I’m not going to believe you.” 8
  9. 9. WILU Presentation May 2007 – York University M.J. D’Elia • Student-Teacher Relationships matters o Students appreciated the relationship dynamic o “What do we call you?” I told them that they could call me “MJ” – but most still stuck to Professor. o They knew I wanted them to learn the stuff and that mattered more to me than being the all-knowing expert. o Copyright question • One student asked me a question about copyright legislation in China and I didn’t have a satisfying answer (for me or for him). • The following class I had an article from a recent newspaper that provided a more satisfactory response • Simply admitting that I didn’t know something, made it okay for students to do the same thing • The question wasn’t essential to the course, but it mattered that I cared to find it o This sort of posture isn’t foreign to librarians – after all, we have a habit of using other sources to help students find information o The students responded to an attitude of transparency (not professional distance) o When we relinquish control or the need to be an all-knowing expert we’re able to adapt a posture of co-investigation (we’re all in this together, we’re all trying to make sense of the information world together). LEVITICUS/NUMBERS: Observation #4: Research Skills (Robin: 5 minutes) • Students understand writing and speaking skills as important but haven’t seemed to recognize the importance of research skills. LEVITICUS/NUMBERS: Observation #5: Self-Discovery (Robin: 5 minutes) • Students responded well to discovering meaning for themselves – constructivist approach. LEVITICUS/NUMBERS: Observation #6: Information Ecology (MJ: 5 minutes) • Ecology o In biology, describes the relations and interactions between organisms and their environment (and between other organisms) o Consider then the relationships among people and their information needs. o There are complex levels to the information environment we live in The Internet is definitely the best tool for some needs Academic literature better for others 9
  10. 10. WILU Presentation May 2007 – York University M.J. D’Elia Sometimes it’s a matter of knowing who to call (person-to-person contact) • Weekly readings o No textbook doesn’t mean no reading o Each week I would give them articles to read o Often these articles were on the same topic but from different perspectives o These articles also came from a range of readings – some from the internet, some from industry sources, some from academic journals, some from YouTube, etc. o I believe that this approach is consistent with the ideals of Information Literacy • Controlled environments = bad for learning o Our goal in a typical IL session is to help the students research o We provide assistance by showing them how and where to search. o Sometimes we even teach only to a specific assignment (that’s the only way they’ll listen to us, we say) o BUT we eliminate that important first step when researchers determine where they need to start looking for information and what exactly they need to find. o INSTEAD we should help them to frame their information needs as problems to be solved. o Then help them determine the best tools to solve their problems o The route to solving that problem will (and probably should) differ from student-to-student. o Comparison paper example The outcome isn’t to write a paper and get a good grade. The outcome is to research biometric technology Choose a solution based on what you know about our company and on the information you find. You’re still writing a report to effectively communicate what you’ve found, but the end goal is about a decision. • Black and White Answers = simplistic learning o We operate under the assumption that students (particularly business students) want black and white answers to everything. o BUT they engaged more when there was more ambiguity. o Debate example: Our debate sessions would raise questions that were not in the initial scenario (and could not easily be answered by the task forces) Instead of exposing the holes in the scenario the class questions highlighted other areas where we needed more information. 10
  11. 11. WILU Presentation May 2007 – York University M.J. D’Elia They quickly learned how complex decision-making could be in organizations. • READING FROM CLASS o “It kind of gave you sense of what businesses do and what problems they encounter and how hard the decisions are. It’s not as easy as it might seem. You might think it seems easy but once you see it from the business perspective it seems a lot more complicated.” • Where do we go from here? o We fail when we try teach in such a way that eliminates questions or imposes structured answers o We need to find a way to encourage questions – to let them see how messy the research process is. o What happens when these students graduate and no longer have access to thousands of dollars worth of information in business databases? o Wouldn’t we be better served to help them familiarize themselves with the broader information ecology o Would we be better off (at least in business) to show people how to get the most out of the internet and other free resources? DEUTERONOMY: Where do we go from here? (Robin: 2.5 minutes) • Why this exercise was relevant to Robin and how it affected her outlook on Information Literacy DEUTERONOMY: Where do we go from here? MJ: 2.5 minutes) • Practical applications o This study opened up a conversation with students o Their thoughts will go toward helping me shape this course for the Fall semester (both the assignments and the lectures) o Students liked the amount of choice that I offered o It allowed them to shape their own learning experience o And motivated them to learn as well o Having Robin in the class and debriefing with her throughout the semester was incredibly beneficial to my teaching • Relevance is a slippery o In some ways our observations simply leave us with more questions o Some things that work in one semester are not guaranteed to work in the next o I’ve taught 3 sections of this course and each one has had a distinct personality 11
  12. 12. WILU Presentation May 2007 – York University M.J. D’Elia My lecture on the Internet was the least favourite class in the first semester, BUT in the second many highlighted it as the lecture that helped them better understand the information society o Students have different levels of motivation and commitment to learning • The reward of relevance o Of course, the challenge to make things relevant to the students means more work, but (as with most things in life) more work means more reward. o If use the same examples repeatedly, or never deviate from my script – then I’m not much different than a textbook o The content quickly becomes stale, I lose interest in teaching it and the students can sense it o BUT if I find current examples and new discussion topics, then I enjoy it more and that enthusiasm comes out. • Stance o For me this experience helped me reflect on my own stance or teaching philosophy o I realized that for me to be a good teacher I need to enjoy my subject, but I also need to help them see the transferable nature of what they’re learning o For me the challenge was to communicate the values of information literacy within the course content – not as some separate exercise that we practice once in the semester. 12
  13. 13. WILU Presentation May 2007 – York University M.J. D’Elia DEUTERONOMY: Discussion (MJ & Robin: Remaining time) • What will you do differently in the 50 minute session and your role as guest speaker in the future? • If you change your philosophy of teaching towards co-investigation and self- discovery-focused teaching, how does it change how you teach? What are the risks and benefits? How do you teach to your strengths while acknowledging your weaknesses? • How does this challenge or support our identity as experts? Is the role of expert guest speaker the best approach? If we abandon it, what do we assume as an alternative? • Do we need to start to view IL more holistically with thinking, writing, arguing, presenting skills? (Just as our students do!) • How do we look at ‘failure’ in teaching and perhaps redefine it? • What has been different in this experience of IL for you, as an instructor, not a librarian? What did you have to unlearn? EXTRAS • The future o I do my best to find new examples each semester o Reusing examples tends to make the class seem too formulaic (even if it is only to me) o I try to pull examples from the past week’s newspaper to show how widespread information issues are in our society o I think I may change the industry our mock corporation works in (maybe we’ll make chocolate bars this semester) – that change in variable will naturally change the debates and papers o I’ve started a job for information management issues that will open the course content up to students outside the classroom. 13