Tuesday, September 16, 2014

what a difference a day makes

Last Friday, I had the (self-declared) worse class ever.  I had looked over the notes for the previous class from last fall and thought they looked a bit boring .  I decided that I would use the same format but integrate several active learning techniques throughout the instruction.  I was prepared to have some fun.

Wrong!  The class refused to participate and I mean refuse.  I would pause for 7 seconds.  I paused for 15 seconds.  I made eye contact with the students, cracked a couple of jokes about participating in library instruction and nothing.  I was done early.  I was flustered and I couldn't think of what else I should talk about as they were obviously not interested in learning about the library.

Th next class that I taught was yesterday.  I was more prepared than Friday (for fear of repeating events) but I relied on the same format.  This class participated from the moment I walked into the class.  We were chatting before the professor arrived.  They answered my questions, contributed their own thoughts and we discussed the benefits of several different search methods.  I had fun!  Lots of fun!  This is the type of class that I excel at teaching.

So what did I learn?
  1. I need to have a more detailed conversation with the professors every year.  I need to ensure that the students have been given their research assignment in advance of my class.  Together, we need to discuss what are the learning outcomes for the class and share feedback from the previous year's class.
  2. I need to be a bit more assertive when asking for answers.  The Health Science folks pick people at random to answer questions.  I have never done this, but I need to start.
  3. I will start preparing a back up plans for situations when the students are not participating
  4. And finally, I think I will begin each class with the statement "I have two classes prepared.  One that will be delightful but requires you to participate.  You will learn a lot and will likely be very engaged in the materials that I have to share.  The other will be completely boring and will require nothing on your part."  Well, perhaps not that exactly - but something like that!

context

Yesterday I asked for some sample search terms from my class in Biological Engineering.  My plan was to use their term as a thesaurus search in Engineering Village.  One student suggested 'cherry stoner'.  We tried that with no luck.  I asked the student if there was another term that he thought we could use.  We then tried 'cherry pitter' instead which was equally unsuccessful. 

Try, try again -  I thought we could search more broadly first and then move to more specific results after so we tried pitter and then stoner.  Context is everything in a search.  I hadn't intended on looking up information for the term stoner, but was very relieved that we were searching in Engineering Village and not in Google. 

It became the perfect opportunity to talk to the students about the benefits of using a highly specialized database.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

and then this happened

I had a lesson in 'thinking on your feet' yesterday.  I was asked to provide a library orientation session for new students in a graduate program.  The professor asked me to follow the outline that I used last year - which caused me to assume that I would again have an hour for more presentation. 

Looking at the notes, I thought my previous session looked a bit boring, so I thought I would try and integrate a couple of active learning techniques as well as an ice-breaker activity.  I worked away at the content and thought that I had a really neat lesson planned for the class.

I arrive at the class and the professor states that he has some comments to make first and then it will be my turn.  I should have at least 20 minutes.

Yikes!  I planned how I could adapt the session while he gave his presentation.

I made a quick joke about my abbreviated session and then delivered key pieces of information that I thought they would require.  I wasn't able to add any active learning techniques to the class, but there was a lot of thoughtful questions at the end.  The energy in the room (including mine) led me to believe the session was well received.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

what happened there...

today I learned a valuable lesson in double checking.  I thought that I didn't need to check RefWorks.  I have done the presentation so many times, that it would be easy.  BUT - the A-Z list at the U of S changed the way it looked and I had trouble logging into RefWorks and then the way that you usually import your citations had also changed.  I floundered.  Thankfully a colleague was at the session and she made a suggestion that saved me.

so what I learned today was to always double check.  don't trust that it will work as it always has done.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The benefits of peer review

I have been through the process of publishing an article twice and both times the comments from the peer reviewers have significantly improved the quality of the paper.  This second time around, the comment back from the editor stated that "the article is accepted pending significant revisions". 

At first I was scared to look at the peer reviewer's comments.  Significant revisions is enough to frighten anyone, but upon closer examination, the comments helped to clarify potential issues with the article.  Here are some of the main problems that we had:
  • made an unsubstantiated statement [found a statement in the research literature that backed up the point we were trying to make]
  • tried to fit a case study paper into a research format [changed the format to include the following sections: Introduction, Literature Review, Class Name, Assessment, Discussion, Conclusion, References and Appendix]
  • use of the term research in a paper for the Scientific community [used the term literature search instead of research]
    • this last one is worthy of exploring further due to the perceptions of the term and how it is used in the library world and other academic arenas
I have also learned that as an author, you do not have to accept all of the changes that are suggested in your paper.  If you can provide a compelling reason why you did something, they are usually happy to accept your reason.

So far the copy editor has only had one further comment to make.  With any luck we will be seeing my second official citation, in the next month of two.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em...

I had some very interesting feedback from a session I provided yesterday for the Shad Valley group.  The individual was impressed by the fact that I wasn't "no, don't use that..." but instead was "use it, but here is how to use it more efficiently to retrieve more relevant results". 

Apparently high school students are still being warned against using Google and Wikipedia for their research.  I say - we know they are going there anyways, so why don't we teach them how to use those databases more effectively.  I also said to the students, start your research there... just don't end there...

I am sensing a research project here... I am feeling inspired!