Tag Archives: teaching with technology

RIOT Recap – Teaching in the Learning Labs

After a brief hiatus, RIOT returned this week with the opportunity to reflect on teaching in the Learning Labs and using the new technology, led by Sarah Brandt. The topic was introduced with some guiding questions and an article that covered the TPACK framework, which posits technology as an integrated instructional component, alongside content knowledge and pedagogy.

It was great to hear people share the ways in which the Learning Labs, both the physical space and the technology, have sparked new approaches in instruction and classroom design. Having no obvious front of the room has created a decentralized, flexible arrangement, and the table groupings have allowed for better flow in addressing students and circulating around the room. People also expressed that the screens have provided a positive new structure for group work and collaboration, while also making student work visible, which increases accountability and facilitates discussion. In terms of specific learning outcomes, people felt that the whiteboards had been very useful for keyword instruction and that the screens supported evaluation activities. It was also appreciated that the Learning Labs are ultimately student spaces, which helps create ownership and engagement.

With regard to the TPACK framework and the role of technology, people connected with the idea that technology can refer to any tool, digital or analog, and that its use should be directly tied to what it is you are trying to accomplish. We discussed implementing technology in support of our teaching goals, as opposed to throwing it in because it’s the hot new thing. People also shared the importance of being able to think on your feet and adapt instruction for whatever tools are available or in the event of technical difficulties.

There were also some challenges discussed, namely transitioning between activities, time constraints, and dealing with faculty interruptions. Potential strategies included:

  • Have groups assign roles (scribe, reporter, laptop driver) before starting an activity so they know what they’ll be asked to do.
  • Tell students the agenda for the whole class (first we’ll be in small groups, then we’re going to share out, etc.), then have a student repeat it back to you.
  • Communicate ground rules and expectations for both students and faculty prior to the session.
  • Designate a time slot for faculty to make announcements.
  • Ask faculty to prep the students beforehand with the purpose and goals of the library session.
  • Establish with faculty what can and cannot be covered or included in a session. Suggest multiple sessions or encourage extra activities (tours, browsing stacks) to be scheduled separately.

There was also the opportunity to share any tips or techniques for teaching in the Learning Labs or in general. Some excellent ideas were brought up:

  • Play music as students are coming in, creates a welcoming atmosphere and can be a good conversation-starter.
  • Give a Google form pre-test, and have the responses live populate on the screens.
  • Put questions on the whiteboards for students to answer as they come in.
  • Have students use post-its on the whiteboards for organizing keywords or other information.

If you’re interested in additional ideas for teaching with technology, check out this article from the ALA Instructional Technologies Committee.

Need some training or a refresher on using the technology in the Learning Labs? Contact Sarah Dupont, and she’d be happy to meet with you!

 

 

 

 

Approaches & Theories to Effective Guides

Guides, pathfinders, portals… they’ve been called many things over the years, but the way that librarians curate content for point-of-need assistance remains a fundamental way that users access library content. The library’s website is often referred to as the “virtual branch” and as such should maintain the same high quality, organized, and well assessed services as our physical locations.  But what physical equivalent do our subject- course- and topic specific guides have when compared to our physical spaces? As the UT Libraries migrates and unites our guides on the LibGuides platform, I thought it was a good opportunity to reflect on the purpose of these stand-alone instructional materials.

 

Thankfully much has been written about creating user-centered and teaching focused library guides. Recently, University of Georgia librarian Jason Puckett published Modern Pathfinders: Creating Better Research Guides to offer insight into best practices for creating guides that are guided (pun intended!) by foundational principles of writing for the web, content assessment, and instructional design. He also offered a companion webinar, which can be accessed through the UT Libraries HR staff development wiki.

 

Additionally, the 2013 LITA text, Using LibGuides to Enhance Library Services, edited by Aaron Dobbs and Ryan Sittler, offers a well-rounded resource covering many aspects of LibGuides beginning with its purchase, installation, training and finally creating guides. The two chapters in particular I found helpful and relevant address specific instructional design elements when creating guides.
Nedda Ahmed’s “Design: Why It Is Important and How To Get It Right,” perfectly summarizes how and why aesthetics really matter when striving for content engagement. Drawing from Donald Norman’s book, Emotional Design, she summarizes that, “Norman and his cognitive science colleagues have come to understand is that objects offering a good balance of aesthetics, practicality, and usability are more effective—essentially, he says, attractive things work better—their attractiveness produces positive emotions, which causes mental processes to be more creative and more capable of working through obstacles” (104).  It follows, then, that we, like many of our students, have negative reactions to aesthetically displeasing pages, sometimes discarding them wholesale despite their authority!

 

Visual elements such as composition and visual hierarchy help us process information; by using techniques such as entry points, focal areas, rest points, and uniformity, we can create calm, inviting and memorable instructional materials. Ahmed also mentions color as a technique, but personally, this remains questionable as it seems less compatible with principals of universal design. Lastly, she covers the importance of writing for the web, which cannot be overstated and are summarized as:
  • Be concise
  • Be objective
  • Make it scannable

 

In Chapter 7 entitled, “Integrating LibGuides Into The Teaching-Learning Process”, co-authors Veronica Bielat, Rebecca Befus, and Judith Arnold use pedagogical and instructional design theory to illuminate best practices in creating specific and targeted LibGuides for a variety of instructional needs. Because the LibGuides platform is so flexible, it can be used to support many different type of teaching: asynchronous, point-of-need, course integrated, and train-the-trainer.

 

The authors promote scaffolding as a way to help individual learners succeed no matter what point of entry they take to this content. Scaffolding is described here as providing the students “with all of the resources they need for a learning task plus guidance by an expert to support their discovery of new concepts and knowledge” (123). Learning tasks are broken up into smaller, more manageable pieces and can be accomplished at different paces according to learners needs which is especially useful when there is not an expert available.  Additionally, other theories such as metacognition and cognitive load are also expanded and explicitly tied to the LibGuide. I’ve reproduced their chart with the examples below:

 

Table 7.1: Incorporate these learning theories to make LibGuides a Teaching Tool
Table 7.1: Incorporate these learning theories to make LibGuides a Teaching Tool

 

Taking into account these user-centered design principals and instructional design theories, here are few potential conversation starters for tomorrow:
  • How have you incorporated elements of writing for the web, user-centered design, scaffolding, and instructional design into your guides (course or subject) previously? What worked and didn’t work?
  • Is there support that you feel you need in order to better integrate these principals into your guides?
  • What do you personally respond to when reading instructional materials on the web?

TLS Tips: Lowering the Stakes to Teaching with Technology

When I began teaching, incorporating active learning into my class plan was a big step. It meant that I may have to field unexpected questions, realize I didn’t have all the answers, and have to think on my feet.  [Sidenote: I think this is the perfect librarian job description].  It meant that I needed to let go of control and share the teaching responsibility with students to truly be more of a guide on the side.
So, if you’re just getting started with the idea of integrating active learning into your teaching, adding in technology may sound a bit overzealous. Anything and everything can go wrong with technology, right? Well, I’d like to share a few examples and techniques that may lower the stakes to using technology meaningfully as part of your pedagogical practice in different kinds of teaching environments and situations. I hope these examples will help illustrate how some of these tools could facilitate not only more active learning but also meaningful dialogue and teaching. And also, there’s a lot that can go right with technology, too!
Using GoogleDocs for Group Work and Collaborative Discussion
Previous TLS tips have name checked GoogleDocs or GoogleForms for integrating active learning. I’m going to go a little bit further in-depth to explain how I set this up and why I take my particular approach.
Most, if not all, of the learning outcomes I identify for UGS classes aim to discuss source evaluation. As Krystal mentioned in her previous TLS tip, I prefer to have the students do this exploration and discovery on their own in groups and then come together to share their experience. During the larger group discussion, I try reiterate the most important takeaways of source evaluation.
Here’s a few examples of GoogleDocs that I’ve used in the past to get students working in groups:
  • Exhibit 1 : Prof. Min Liu’s class
    About the class: 65 min total in a computer lab classroom in SZB. The students worked in groups for 15 min and then the report out took about 30 minutes, which was longer than I originally allotted for but the discussion was really fruitful.Document design: This is an openly editable GoogleDoc so students do not need to login to edit which means that there are FERPA fewer issues. I selected a topic based on the students assignments and then found a variety of sources that would enable us to cover multiple aspects of evaluation. I added the “final answer” of Read It, Skip It, or Cite It to help reinforce the idea that research is an iterative process and that background information can come in many different containers (not just Wiki/Encyclopedia articles). I link these documents to the class’s course guide (in this instance, this one) so they can find everything all in one place.How I use it:  As the students are working, I have each of the Docs opened in different browser tabs and toggle back and forth between them. I actually project their documents up on the screen so they know I’m paying attention; i think they also like to look and see how far other groups have gotten and that provides some motivation.  As I’m looking through, I note (mentally, digitally, or analog) which groups have covered a particular point I want to highlight as well as something that I want to discuss further with them. I make sure to start out with one thing they’ve done well since often students can be shy to share and talk about their work in front of the class.

    Changes: Over time I added “Whys” to some of these questions because I wanted the students to delve deeper into their answer. Additionally, this really helped our class discussion because I could see their thought process.

  • Exhibit 2, Form + Responses : Prof. Charumbira’s class
    About the class: 75 minutes total and this took up the entire class. The is the second of two classes I taught for Prof. Charumbira and this took up the entire class session.Document design:  Since we had already had one session about source evaluation, the second session was focused on getting the students to be able to understand the types of resources available to them.  Through assigning each group a different resource to find using tips from the course research guide, the students filled out the form with one student assigned as the recorder so there weren’t multiple entries for each group, a bit of difference from using the GoogleDoc for class activities.How I use it:  I circulate as students fill out the form; those that have identified their       source as a book are free to go into the stacks to retrieve the book (I make sure ahead of time it’s in PCL.) As in the exercise above, I pull up the Google Spreadsheet and check-in noting some of the points I’d like the group to discuss. In this activity in particular, I also ask the students to provide their feedback on the research process so we can also talk about that. This gives me an opportunity to see what I’ve missed covering and where I need to make changes for next year.

    Changes: I wanted to focus the students on a the questions and creating a GoogleForm over a GoogleDoc enabled me to do this. GoogleForms limit the participation, but I think it also sort of forces students to talk. In the future, I would also definitely think about asking students to fill out the form ahead of time, and then discuss their answers in groups or as a larger discussion if there wasn’t available technology in the classroom.

I hope this gives a little bit more insight into some of the ways that just one form of technology can be integrated into the classroom and can help facilitate discussion. Students are very familiar with the Google Suite of tools so hopefully using this tool won’t be as scary as some others.  If you are interested in creating something similar or have an idea about translating a paper activity into something digital, I’d love to hear about and/or help!

TLS Tips: Teaching With Technology Resources

A little less than a year ago, I stepped into the role of Learning Technologies Librarian, and with a lot ground to cover, I’m still working out the best way of sharing information and resources about teaching with technology. The TLS Tips posts seem to be a perfect opportunity, but there’s also the issue of how to choose just one idea, topic, or tool when we are surrounded by technology.  What tools, practices, and pedagogy is most effective when integrating technology into instruction? Thankfully I don’t have to reinvent the wheel since there are countless organizations, committees, and sites already doing great work to collect this information.
Organizations like Educause’s ELI publish helpful series that note emerging technology trends, like 7 Things You Should Know About.  These summaries of tools also provide scenarios and classroom context. The latest is on VR (Virtual Reality) Headsets, such as the Oculus Rift.
The ACRL- Instructional Technologies Committee’s publishes Tips and Trends each quarter that evaluates multiple tools, with an excellent bibliography for follow-up. The last few were about Online Presentation tools and Flipped Classroom resources.
Increasingly in Twitter feeds, conference presentations, and blog posts, I see crossover between learning technologies and digital humanities tools. The fantastic ACRL DH+Lib blog curates resources, opportunities, and registry  of other college and universities offering digital humanities and digital scholarship services which can be used for finding pedagogical contexts for digital humanities projects.
Lastly, this past July a group of UT librarians attended the Teaching with Technology workshop that I developed after a month long online/blended Immersion program of the same name. Even if you couldn’t attend, I’ve published online resource summarizing some of the resources and tools that we discussed, which lists some helpful desktop and browser-based tools, as well as tips, and further reading.  In the coming year, I’m looking forward to working on a host of learning technologies projects. Please take a look and let me know if there’s something here that you’d like to discuss that I haven’t considered.