Category Archives: DART (Discussions About Resources and Teaching)

DART Recap – Authority is Constructed and Contextual

The format for the latest DART session was an open forum to discuss one of the frames in the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy, Authority is Constructed and Contextual. While there were not specific articles that circulated prior to the meeting, participants were encouraged to explore threads within two related ALA listservs, the ILI-L and the ACRL Frame.

The discussion generated and explored multiple complex, open-ended questions: How do we instruct students in distinguishing between news media and entertainment media? What are strategies for helping students to navigate the tension between innate bias and journalistic ethics and ideals, particularly in the current landscape of distrust for the media? How do we enable students to evaluate peer-review and persuasive research agendas within varying disciplinary frameworks and norms? What is the difference or interplay between expertise and authority? And overall, how do we foster critical thinking skills that transfer beyond the classroom?

Sorry to disappoint, but I will not be providing any tidy answers to these questions within this blog post. I can, however, share some potential ideas for activities and strategies that folks discussed having used or seen in relation to these issues.

  • Media Diet: Have students map out their media diets. What media/information sources do they readily consume? The diet metaphor can be stretched as far as you like (daily intake; splurge sources; holes in your diet; allergies/intolerance). Use the maps to guide or generate class discussion about bias and media literacy.
  • Choose Your Own Adventure: Present students with a real-world problem-solving scenario in which they are evaluating information. Example: You wake up one morning with a horrible rash on your arm. You do not know what it is. What do you do? Discuss student responses and continue to add questions/choices. (The doctor you see wants to amputate your arm, what do you do now?) This activity can provide a different access or entry point for talking about authority and information literacy.
  • Opposing Viewpoints: Have students look for sources that take different stances on an issue. Unpack this experience as a class, and guide a discussion of the who, what, when, why of these viewpoints and the process of uncovering them.
  • Evidence First: When looking at research, encourage and instruct students to focus on the evidence rather than honing in on the conclusion. Is there a clear trajectory from the evidence provided to the conclusion presented?

There are no easy solutions or quick-fixes in this area, and that can be uncomfortable at times, particularly in the role of educator. But it is possible that in some way, the questions here are just as meaningful as the answers, if not more so. It is through the posing of such questions, engaging in the dialogue, and learning how to operate in the uncertainty, that progress is made, both for us as professionals, and for our students.

We do not always have to have clean-cut, black and white answers for our students, and doing so would ultimately do them a disservice anyway, as it misrepresents the gray areas inherent in critical thinking. When a student asks a complicated question about bias or authority, don’t be afraid to shrug, and say “yeah, it’s really tricky, isn’t it?” Or flip the question back to the students, and ask them what they think and why. Be transparent about the challenges and the give and take, and talk about it explicitly. Indeed, scholarship is a conversation after all.

More to check out:

Read: Interesting blog post examining the frame Authority is Constructed and Contextual.

Listen: Circulating Ideas podcast with UT Doctoral Fellow Jeremy Shermack talking about bias, journalism, and the media.

DART Recap – scoUT Discovery Tool

Yesterday we launched the new platform for our professional discussion group, Discussions About Resources and Teaching (DART), formerly known as RIOT.  Motivated by feedback and transitions within the department, this change better reflects our current structure and goals as a community of practice.  Thank you to everyone who participated in kicking off DART!

Our topic for discussion was teaching with web-scale discovery tools like scoUT. To gather different perspectives, participants were invited to read one of three articles beforehand:

“Teaching Outside the Box: ARL Librarians’ Integration of the ‘One Box’ into Student Instruction” College & Research Libraries

“Beyond Simple, Easy, and Fast: Reflections on Teaching Summon” College & Research Libraries News

“Teaching ‘Format as Process’ in an Era of Web-Scale Discovery” Reference Services Review

We began with a round robin to share how, or in what capacity, people are using or not using our discovery tool scoUT. Perhaps not surprisingly, there was a broad and varied spectrum of responses. Some people actively use it as a teaching tool in classes, while others mention it briefly, do not teach with it at all, or find themselves engaging with it more on the reference desk than during instruction sessions. People mentioned using it for developing topics; searching by citation; refining vague reference requests; finding book reviews; and locating material on obscure subjects or with very specific search phrases only found in full-text.  Also, it seems that few people actually call the tool scoUT when talking about it with students, referring to it instead with names like the “all tab” search; “main library” search; or the “big box” search.

Interestingly, some of the features discussed that make scoUT useful are also what can make it challenging. For example, it is helpful in retrieving sources that cover obscure, specific or seemingly unrelated topics because it searches and crawls across so many things. Yet that also means that it often returns a deluge of results, which people expressed can be difficult or overwhelming to deal with.

After the round robin, much of our discussion stemmed from the third article, which explored the concept of teaching format as process and how web-scale discovery tools factor into this approach.  When searching online, sources become decontextualized; content is separated from its package and so visual indicators cannot necessarily be relied upon. Guiding students to consider the creation process inherent in different source types can help foster the development of higher-level critical thinking and evaluation skills.  A tool like scoUT, that requires sifting through a large number of different, and at times random, source types, presents an authentic opportunity to discuss and hone these skills. However, this depth and engagement takes time, and can be difficult to address in a one-shot instruction session.

There was also a general consensus that whether or not we are teaching scoUT directly, students are going to use it. Not only is it the first, obvious search box on the website, but it also has that familiar Google-like quality that will draw students toward it. So if they are going to use it anyway, it only makes sense for us to think about how we can teach them to do so in a discerning and productive manner that will serve them even outside of school.

It was great to hear at the end of the discussion that several people felt interested and inspired to find new ways to incorporate scoUT into their teaching practice. Thanks again for an insightful and engaging first DART!

Do you have an article or topic you would like to bring to DART? Feel free to contact Elise Nacca with any ideas and feedback!

References:

Kulp, C., McCain, C., & Scrivener, L. (2014). Teaching outside the box: ARL librarians’ integration of the “one-box” into student instruction. College & Research Libraries, 75(3), 298-308. doi:10.5860/crl12-430

Cardwell, C., Lux, V., & Snyder, R. J. (2012). Beyond simple, easy, and fast: Reflections on teaching summon. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.

Seeber, K. P. (2015). Teaching “format as a process” in an era of web-scale discovery. Reference Services Review, 43(1), 19-30. doi:10.1108/RSR-07-2014-0023