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Monthly Archives: February 2013

This week’s class was one of my favorite discussions so far. Not only did we learn practical skills of leading a book club and running a Socratic seminar, but we also had a thought provoking discussion about Prensky’s article, “In the 21st-Century University.”

I really appreciated our discussion about the do’s and don’ts of a book club. I felt that the diversity of our class’s professional interests strengthened this comparison. It reminded me that when doing a book club, you need to supply the group with the atmosphere and books that that specific group want. As librarian’s we really need to pay attention and listen to all of our patrons, which may mean having a variety of books clubs with a variety of books and tones. Class also reminded me that book clubs are a good way to bring in non-library users and new patrons to the library by offering book clubs to a new demographic.

Our book club like discussion in the last hour of class was also really helpful in seeing how a book club/Socratic seminar should be approached. I also got a lot out of the discussion itself. When Kristin asked us to share what we took away from the discussion, I was glad that I had a lot of time to brainstorm before the spotlight snaked around the room to me. Our discussion covered a lot of different ideas and approached the article from so many different angles that I wasn’t sure what the most important moment for me was or how to explain it in just a few sentences. After a while I realized my biggest lesson was how to build innovative ideas that actually work and are not just successful, but powerful. And as I said in class, this article made me think about that innovation is kind of a balancing act between preservation and nuance, with a purpose of moving towards a specific goal.

I know that the lessons from this class in particular will be helpful in the next couple of weeks as my partner and I plan our book club. But the lessons will also be helpful as I continue to think about what direction I see myself going after I leave SI and what kind of work I want to be doing as a librarian.

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It should be no surprise that as a librarian in training, I love books. I love reading books, collecting books, discussing books, the list could go on and on. Like I said, this should be no surprise as loving books is practically a prerequisite for library school. But I think one reason that I love books so much is how they can help a person grow emotionally and intellectually. This is one reason that I think I am so interested in library outreach and reaching out to the undeserved. I was really inspired by the Library Journal article “The Evolving Book Group” that discussed library book groups for county correction facilities and the county court system. The program reminded me of a club at my undergraduate university that brought books into local correction facilities for the inmates and gave the inmates with families the resources and tools for them to record themselves reading stories for their children. I think that programs and organizations like these are really great examples of how libraries, library patrons, and library resources can strive to reach very specific undeserved communities and make a positive impact on their lives.

Like many other book lovers, when I encounter a person how claims they hate reading or are not good at reading I develop a sudden urge to force upon them a stack of books that I claim “changed my life.” But I think the readings from this week bring up the important point that many people who claim to not like reading were not given the opportunity to learn how to actively read. Though I was not an English major in college, every semester I was enrolled in at least one thematic English or literature course.  These classes taught me many lessons, one in particular that writers do not control the meaning of their work. Once a writer publishes, the reader holds control over what that piece of literature means and stands for. Though, in “Teaching Reading: Beyond the Plot,”Margaret Metzger points out that this is a very slippery slope when working with K-12 students. Because while an author’s written work can be transformed to have many meanings, it cannot be transformed to have any meaning. To me, the most important skill that Socratic Seminars teach a student is to decipher the social, cultural, political, historical, moral, ethical, etc. issues the author is presenting and address how they do or do not align with the reader’s own values, beliefs, and experiences.

Reflecting on Monday night’s class I couldn’t  find just one take away from the class. This is not because I found the discussion uninspiring, but rather that there were too many unrelated topics that I found engaging. I’m not sure if it was because of my own Monday night drowsiness or not, but class felt a little bit of a “grab bag”, “anything goes” kind of class. I walked out of class with two major ideas in mind with a little librarian humor thrown in.

I was very glad that we came back to Jana McGonigal’s TED talk on gaming because I was interested to hear what my classmates thought about the topic. While I am interested in how gaming can be integrated into library programs for all ages, I was a little hesitant of McGonigal’s gaming “fix all” theory. A lot of my own suspicions about the presentation may be due to the quick paced, over and done format of TED talks. Something I wish McGonigal would have talked about more is the uptake of her environmentalist game among non-gamers in gaming rich cultures. I suspect that in the right format (like an iPad or iPhone or other trendy device) non gaming populations may be quick to pick up games that align with their personal values. My suspicions are backed by research with a sample size of one, but I would be interested to see the impact of these types of games on non gaming groups in addition to those who already game.

The other big take away I had from class felt like an accidental lesson. I feel lucky, and a little intimidated, to be part of a community that is so well connected. I find it awesome, for a lack of a better word, that Kristin can give us the inside scoop on many of the bloggers, especially the ones that I find myself admiring. Since I began school at SI, “Networking” has been frequently dropped as the secret to life that will land us internships, part time jobs, and jobs that we could only have dreamed of. But networking has always felt like this elusive and esoteric thing that we’re all supposed to know how to do. However, the last couple weeks I’ve been beginning to recognize networking a more natural process in grad school. Though I’m not sure this means I’ve finally drank the SI kool-aid, but I think perhaps this class in professional practices is steering me in the right direction.

The Unquiet Librarian

The Unquiet Librarian is a blog written by Buffy Hamilton, school/teacher-librarian turned public/teacher librarian. I say “public/teacher” because Buffy recently became the learning specialist at the Cleveland public library where she is still very much engaged with teaching and learning. She was named a 2011 Mover and Shaker by Library Journal. Much of The Unquiet Librarian focuses on  innovative and meaningful learning opportunities for students of all ages. I am personally drawn to The Unquiet Librarian’s musings on community change through collaboration and learning, clearly expressed in a post on how Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can be used and promoted in a public library to improve a community. I also find this blog inspiring in how to help learners develop connections between their passions and their formal learning experiences.

The Librarian Is In

The Librarian Is In is a blog by Justine Schaffner, a public reference librarian for over ten years, that explores, photographs, and shares eclectic public libraries in the U.S. and around the world. The Librarian Is In offers its readers virtual tours of the libraries it profiles providing inspiration through comparison. I was drawn to this blog from my interests in the idea of maker spaces and how they are (or are not) permanently shaping the future of library services through architectural design decisions. I also find it interesting to see the differences in the layout of different libraries in relation to the communities that they serve and the needs that the library is fulfilling.

 Barrow Media Center

Barrow Media Center follows the happenings of the library and classrooms of an elementary school’s media center. Many of the posts emphasize developing well grounded and in-depth learning experiences for the students of the media center and David C. Barrow elementary school. The theme that I like the most about the Barrow Media Center blog is it’s continuous emphasis of student involvement in practical learning opportunities. For example, Real Life Angry Birds is a post about a research based project for a third grade class to learn more about the behavioral habits of the birds living around the school. Though I am not directly interested in school libraries, I find many of the posts at this blog inspiring in how to create relationships between in class learning, the outside world, and developing activities, resources and information systems in the library/media center.

Attempting Elegance

Attempting Elegance is a blog by Jenica Rogers, an administrative academic librarian. I find Attempting Elegance a humorous, yet insightful description of the day-to-day happenings of a library career in an academic library. Jenica often goes into details of her daily tasks and routines, which I find invaluable. Though I have known for a long time that I want to go into librarianship, I sometimes fear that once I begin my first job I might be surprised what the work is actually like. Though I have been able to observe and participate in the work cultures of many libraries through part time jobs, I have a hard time figuring out what my future job could actually look and feel like. Attempting Elegeance Is able to offer a great perspective of what one might look like in the future for me.

Trends and Patters

A  trend I noticed in the blogs I detailed above is the emphasis on innovative collaboration and learning to help build a better community. Though those communities might look different from each other, the blogs that I read are all extremely passionate about the libraries and communities that they work in. Two of the blogs in particular seemed devoted to creating meaningful learning experiences for children or young adults that go beyond the walls of the school or the library; experiences that resonate with them and fuel their passions and dreams. Those are the blogs that I was drawn to the most. Though this was a class requirement, and everyone knows its great to follow fellow librarian bloggers, the thoughts and trends I have been reading show me that no library, librarian, or community will look the same, act the same, or need the same things. These bloggers will offer me signposts as I begin down my own career path and navigate my own passions and skills.

This weeks reading assignments focused on the process of learning and transfer in learning. One of the topics brought up in chapter 3 of How People Learn was about motivation and its effect on learning and transfer. The chapter discusses that motivation is one of the factors that can impact the transfer of learning. Learners can be grouped into two groups with different concentration: “performance oriented learners” and “learning oriented learners.” The motivation behind learning is something that I have becoming more and more interested in as I think more seriously of what kind of librarian I want to be. Through readings and personal experience I think that learners who are motivated by learning itself are more willing to make more risks in the assignments and projects that they take on. In contrast, I suspect that performance oriented learners will be more conservative in the learning risks that they take so as not to risk their performance on the final assignments and projects. It is suggested in the chapter that these are not fixed traits. As a librarian, I see these contrasting factors as an opportunity to allow learners to expand their knowledge on specific topics by creating programs in libraries that provide learning oriented opportunities for them to take risks which will not have formal consequences. My feeling is that these opportunities allow learners to advance more quickly or easily in formal learning opportunities with less risks of failure.

Another topic of this chapter that caught my attention is what happens when prior cultural knowledge of race, gender, religion, and ethnic affiliations conflict with the learning objectives in a library or classroom? The chapter talks briefly about what happens when knowledge gained from home experiences may differ from what is being learned in public learning spaces. I would like to work in an urban public library, which would serve a diverse population. In a library, how can I best use or work around differences in prior knowledge? I find the suggestion that differences in cultural knowledge should be viewed as strengths to be built on, however that seems difficult to manage in a large group of diverse learners.

Discussion in class this week primarily focused on the ways to perform assessment on library workshops, classes, talks, etc., focusing on formative and summative assessment. I have little experience making evaluations, so I really appreciated the thorough walk through of question formats commonly used in evaluations and how to structure them to get the best assessment possible. I felt that I particularly benefited from Kristin’s presentation of the Likert scale. For a project last semester I conducted a small pilot study in which the participants were asked to fill out multiple questionnaires about their experience. The questionnaire used several of the formats discussed in class, but we primarily asked participants to measured their’ experience using the Likert scale format. My partner and I struggled to design our evaluations, and I think we could have avoided some biased responses by constructing the questions more carefully using some of the tips in class on Monday.

In regards to formative assessment, I get the impression from the big and small group discussions that formative assessment is something that is only really improved through practice. Reflecting on my experiences, instruction time seems to have had a big impact on a librarian’s ability to actively practice formative assessment.  A very good experience I had was during my first year and semester of my undergrad program. I was in a very small class working with the South Asian subject librarian who was helping the class with search tactics for our semester long project. I went to a large research university and it was my first experience with the libraries databases and I know I could have quickly felt overwhelmed. The veteran librarian did a great job of handling the class, giving us time to practice searching in a number of databases and gave us multiple tasks to complete before the session was over. The other workshop experience I remember having was individualized instruction from a young librarian helping me and one other person learn more about EndNote and EndNote Web. Unfortunately, this experience was less than stellar. The librarian was a little uncomfortable with the software and often forgot how to perform certain tasks. Despite working with only the two of us, the librarian never presented any time for real assessment.

It is obvious that the more practice we have at something, the better we will become at that task. However, I’m not sure how to really practice formative assessment. It seems like a particularly hard task to perfect, other than through years of experience. Kristin remarked towards the end of class, that if we we have never been to a workshop or can’t remember the last time we attended one that we may want to begin attending more library workshop sessions. I think observation is one way to help building assessment skills. I know that I am definitely looking forward to learning from all of my classmates during the one shot workshop assignment.

During my preparation for class this week I struggled to connect with the readings assigned for the week. Though I didn’t particularly relate to the theoretical topics presented, I suspect the topic will begin to feel more approachable during class discussion in the context of libraries and informational centers.

Despite my difficulty with the readings I found one particular passage in chapter six of How People Learn inspiring. On page 149, the reading briefly discussed the usefulness of learning outside of schools for students. Personally, I have been having increasing interests of collaboration in public libraries with other organizations. As I have discussed previously, I am invested in developing meaningful and deeper learning experiences for students through collaboration. Though in chapter six the author’s suggests building relationships between different learning institutions for the benefit of teachers in addition to students. I never considered the ways that teachers could directly benefit from that type of working relationship.

Another topic that interested me from the readings this week was the need for students to improve their ability to assess their own work and the work of other students. From my personal experiences I have found peer editing and brainstorming exercises to be highly successful and rewarding. In the article, Sadler suggest that learners may lack the ability to evaluate their own work because the responsibility is primarily given to teachers. Self assessment is hard, especially when learners are invested in the work primarily for the grade and not because of their own interests. Libraries and other information centers may be a good place to help learners and teachers improve this skill, where participants could draw on their own motivation and interests.