Monthly Archives: November 2012

We are learning

It is the tail end of the semester. Capstone freak-outs among the students are in full swing. I taught my last class yesterday. Today, I wrote a personal reflection with headings like “things I did well,” “things I could do better,” “things I like to do,” “things that aren’t my favorite,” and “things I wish I could do.”

In the past there has been very little assessment of our instruction program. Ok, basically no assessment of our instruction program. Before the semester started, I put together a Google form that gets emailed each week to the professors of the previous week’s classes. I relied heavily on the template that Char Booth provides in Reflective Teaching Effective Learning. The form is for evaluating our teaching and approach and also lets professors talk about things they would like us to do in the future. I’ve been impressed with how willing the professors have been to respond to the survey, and I’ve collected lots of data. I have also been keeping a document with my personal reflections of each of the classes I have taught. Certainly, there is room for improvement in this method of assessment. For one thing, it leaves no room for feedback from the students.

Shortcomings aside, I’m glad to have implemented some measures for assessment. I’m also glad that on my reflection, the “things I like to do” outweigh the “things that aren’t my favorite” and “things I do well” and “things I could do better” are equal. As for “things I wish I could do,” well, I’m a dreamer at heart and I don’t see anything wrong with that. Here’s a pared-down reflection:

Things I did well
We have a fully developed workshop in place for our First Year Seminar classes that addresses evaluating websites. Even though this class was not my design, it has been the source of my most satisfying instructional experiences this semester, which is awesome because it’s also the class I teach most often. Related? Probably. I have found ways to make this class my own, and I feel that my personality comes across clearly.

Things I could do better
Bring more focus to non-FYS workshops. They often feel scattered to me. Slow down while talking. I admit I’m a fast talker, but I need to physically remind myself to slow down and be more comfortable with silence. This helps the students absorb and it also allows them space to ask questions.

Things I like to do
I love to connect with students, to talk with them about their research and frustrations, to advise them on strategies, to find that one thing they really need. I also like talking with the professors, gathering insight, and finding ways to support and help them. I absolutely love surprising professors with my ability to add value to their classes.

Things that aren’t my favorite
I dislike being the keeper of citation. I dislike having to teach citation because no one else wants to do it.

Things I wish I could do
I wish I could spend more time talking abstractly about information rather than always being slave to the final product. I feel like I’m doing a lot of “here’s how to find articles” classes, which are absolutely important because most students can’t do it, but I’d also like to be able to talk more about the field of information. Maybe I’m just missing grad school discussions?

How’s the end of semester looking for you?

Know more

I bet you’ve heard this phrase before: “The students know more about it than I do.” The phrase itself is nothing special. It’s the method of delivery that gives it weight. Usually, it’s accompanied by a grudging smile, a shoulder shrug, and/or an exasperated sigh. It’s always used in reference to some digital tool or concept. The person uttering this phrase may be a librarian but is just as likely to be a professor. Generally, it signals a line in the sand. This far and no farther.

This phrase makes me want to cheer, stand tall, and punch a wall. Frequently at the same time.

I want to cheer because it acknowledges an area of “shit you know you don’t know.” And if you’re aware of the existence of something, you’re a step ahead. You know it’s out there somewhere, and you can figure out how to get it.

I stand tall because I am in the business of figuring out how to get it. I am also in the business of digital tools and concepts. This phrase is an opportunity for me to demonstrate the value of libraries and librarians.

I want to punch a wall because this phrase also acknowledges a moment of learning lost. A moment of connection, an exchange of ideas and knowledge between students and teachers disappears.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a professor asking me for help. I love the outside-the-box thinking that pushes a professor beyond comfort. Sure, I’ll step into that moment. I’ll take the glory. I’ll be the one know who knows or can find out. But the underlying fear and assumptions makes me a little uncomfortable.

For one thing, throwing the “digital native” blanket over our students does them a disservice. It has not been my experience that students know significantly more about digital tools than a reasonably connected professor. We hear these statements on the media and believe them without holding them up against our experience of our students. Particularly at an institution like mine, where the majority of our students come from backgrounds that cannot fund the kind of digital connectedness we assume of their generation, these generalizations fall short.

In addition, even when students have more knowledge than a professor on a particular digitally-based topic, they are often one-sided users. They might know how to edit video, but they probably only know one way to do it. That one way might be produce a perfectly good product, but we’re missing out on a chance to expand their options and create critical thinkers. That’s the point of higher education isn’t it?

You know what they say about assumptions, right? Don’t be that guy.

Guest post at Library Tech Talk

As Summer into Autumn slips by Robert S. Donovan, on Flickr


I have a guest post on using Image Codr for Flickr Creative Commons images up at Towson University’s Library Tech Talk blog. The site is a cool tool for effortlessly generating code with correct attributions to use in webpages. Check it out here.