All posts by Cindy F.

Cindy Fisher has worked in Library Instruction Services since 2008, first as the First-year Experience Librarian, and currently as the Learning Technologies Librarian. In addition to teaching research classes to freshman, supporting faculty with assignment design, and liaising to the School of Undergraduate Studies, Cindy is particularly interested in the high school-to-college transition, instructional design and integrating technology meaningfully. She has created partnerships with local and state high school librarians in order to better understand the skills, needs, and perspectives of incoming college freshman.

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?

Information Literacy Symposoium at Houston-Tillotson

On Friday, January 22nd  the Teaching and Learning Services Department participated in the first-ever Information Literacy Symposium held at Houston-Tillotson University in East Austin. The Symposium was coordinated by Patricia Wilkins, Library Director, Ana Roeschley, Public Services Librarian, and Stephanie Pierce, Technical Services Librarian, and it brought together librarians from across public, school, and college and university libraries.

The all-day symposium was a great opportunity for us all to exchange ideas, share teaching strategies, brainstorm about potential partnerships, and get updates on the ways our libraries and services have evolved in response to curriculum and student learning.

There were four sessions offered throughout the day and TLS gave a panel presentation entitled, “Measuring Learning from Classroom to Program,” about the different ways we integrate assessment into our information literacy instruction and how we address the challenges we encounter.  You’ll find our presentation along with supporting documentation that we referred to during the presentation in this shared folder; please feel free to adapt them, but we would love it if you would credit the UT Libraries somewhere in your adaptation and let us know if you do!

Our sincere thanks to Ana and the rest of the staff at the Downs-Jones Library at HTU for organizing this Symposium.

Looking to the Future, While Reflecting on the Past

As the end of another semester and year approaches, I find myself looking to the future, defining new goals, and exploring exciting possibilities, especially since this is the new normal at the UT Libraries today! However, I recently received an email that made me reflect on a past partnership that has blossomed into something greater than I ever anticipated.

The email came from Lisa Hernandez, currently the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo College, Career & Technology Academy Librarian and the Texas Library Association’s Librarian of the Year. In 2013, Lisa had been one of ten Texas high school librarians selected to attend the UT Libraries Information Literacy Summit, a day long summit about information literacy. Information Literacy (IL) is broadly defined by the ability to find and think critically about information and is not only a crucial skill for life-long learning, it is also one of the six requirements of UT’s School of Undergraduate Studies Signature Course program, a required interdisciplinary foundation course for all incoming UT freshman.

During the Summit, high school librarians from across Texas and librarians from the UT Libraries Teaching and Learning Services department shared expertise, identified overlapping skills, and created mutually-beneficial instructional content in order to better understand the types of issues and needs we have at both ends of the high-school to college transition.  UT librarians shared real syllabi used in freshman courses and we worked collaboratively to design activities and assignments that would help augment information literacy development at both levels, a need identified in national research conducted by Project Information Literacy.

One of the goals of the Summit was to continue sharing resources and exploring partnerships beyond the day long information exchange and a number of the participants did stay in touch, presenting a poster entitled, “Partnering with High School Librarians To Create Information Literate College Students” at the Texas Library Association conference in San Antonio in 2014.  Lisa Hernandez, who notes that her attendance at the Information Literacy Summit was the “highlight of her professional career”, used the concepts she learned at the summit to create an E-Research Plan Portfolio which helps scaffolds reading, writing, and research assignments over a period of time. It also integrates resources from her home library as well as from the UT Libraries and UT’s University Writing Center.

Lisa has shared her work with her colleagues, most recently on November 16th at a district librarian meeting and has been a steadfast leader in bridging the relationships between high school and college teachers and librarians. In our recent correspondence, Lisa gave me an update on her collaboration and the integration of the E-Research Plan Portfolio. She writes,

“Presently, our school library has a unique partnership with South Texas College Library.  Collaboratively, a STC librarian and I provide library services to college and/or HS students.  This semester, Criminal Justice dual-enrollment students were introduced to my e-Research Plan Portfolio as a resource to conducting research.  The success of the portfolio is professors and students are beginning to value it as a research tool; the challenge of the portfolio is constantly verifying electronic links are updated and working.  My future plan is that it will serve as an effective resource to better prepare Texas HS students for college academic success.”

Lisa’s work demonstrates how connecting with our colleagues outside of the University can have a real effect in local communities. When we accepted Lisa into the Information Literacy Summit, we had no idea that we would find such an invested advocate and collaborator. For that, we are truly thankful and grateful.

Two female librarian smiling.
Cindy Fisher and Lisa Hernandez prepare for their presentation to the Texas Association of School Library Administrators Conference on June 18th 2014.

RIOT Recap – 10/20/15

Krystal’s RIOT enabled us to have a rich discussion regarding the role reading plays in developing student’s information literacy skills while in the library instruction classroom.  To be sure, it would be difficult to evaluate information without reading it, but, as Krystal notes in her blog post, this is often what happens within the classroom setting when we have limited time to integrate active learning and model the research process.
Time is a constant obstacle in the library instruction classroom in even the most concept-driven and pedagogically sound classes. Creating an inauthentic classroom environment, something Roxanne’s earlier blog post investigated, feels appropriately off. However, framing the short evaluation exercises as good habits rather than retain content could help instructors reinforce that the activity is to build skills. Then, after they have developed the skills to evaluate a source, they can deem that source worthy of follow-up and close reading.
So, instead of an active learning classroom scenario like this:
Librarian: “Okay, now take the next five minutes to read your source, in a group develop criteria you would use to evaluate it, and develop a sound argument as to why or why not you would list as a source for your paper, and don’t worry if you don’t finish the article because there isn’t enough time to do that anyway, this is just for a class discussion…” (slightly dramatized)
We could frame it as:
Librarian: “Okay, now take the next five minutes to skim over your source noting elements within and about this source that would help you decide if a closer reading of this source is useful for your paper. Your criteria should be broad enough that it could be used in any class regardless of the assignment or research you’re doing.”
The latter framing would hopefully reinforce that this is a conceptually exercise rather than a content-driven one.
We also discussed a few other strategies, such as:
  • Reaching out to the faculty member to ask if s/he has talked about reading with the students in an effort to compliment or augment that dialogue.
  • Using and promoting educational technology, such as Endnote Web and Noodletools. Roxanne mentioned that she uses Endnote Web to teach students how to keep track of the research they are finding as a way to organize and conceptualize the research process. Michele mentioned that NoodleTools also enables students to annotate their references and add tags which can be used for critical reading.
  • Designing scaffolded assignments, such as the annotated bibliography assignment, which allows students to build skills and draw connections between readings and assignments over the course of the semester.
  • Framing the research question in a way that elicits a more targeted answer. For example, “Does XYZ solve this question” rather than “how does XYZ effect …”?
Many of us already have great relationships with faculty and have collaborated deeply on their courses and using the successes from these partnerships, we discussed ways to reach out to other faculty and illustrate a collaborative approach as a proof of concept. Additionally, are there ways in which we currently support faculty, such as the Information Literacy Toolkit, that can be redesigned to meet faculty where they are or to reach faculty before they have begun to plan their course.
We also discussed that the way in which students reading patterns have changed, mostly online and in segments, could be challenging the way we teaching information literacy.  Students may write a paper first only to go back and find sources that support their points rather than build it from a body of evidence or they may cherry-pick quotes from an article without having read it in entirety.
Roxanne offered up using review articles as a strategy for helping students better understand the synthesis of research papers. You can start with a review article and point out that scholar’s a + b say one thing, scholar’s c + d say this other thing, and then ask students to go back to the original article to see it in full context and how the author of the review article summarized their research. Sarah recommended asking students to read the first paragraph of an article and ask the to pull out keywords from there.
We ended our RIOT with a discussion of the potential of adding an additional approach to our current Signature Course program as a way to reach all students to instill information literacy skills. Because this program already catches all incoming students, it is a captive audience and we already have buy in from the School of Undergraduate Studies. We discussed what such an approach could look like — something online, a tutorial, an interactive video – and perhaps it would be something online that all students are required to complete, that would complement any of the rich course-integration interactions we currently have. Finally, we ended with a reiteration that curriculum mapping could help us define faculty and areas for partnership.

TLS Tips: Playing to Learn

As we brought up the Media Lab over the past year, Andy and I have had to think about creative and interesting (well hopefully interesting) ways to ensure that our Media Lab Assistants have a baseline level of skill in the most frequently used digital media programs. Since this software is supposed to help communicate creativity, we really wanted this training to be fun. By the end of the year the students had created individual projects with accompanying tutorials to help reinforce teaching skills as well as digital media software creation skills and we heard from them that they were overall pleased with the training.

What does this have to do with my TLS tip? Well, thanks to Krystal’s last post, I’ve been reflecting on this year and realized that much of it has been focused on encouraging play and experimentation with new tools and software. While I didn’t focus on hot new tech tools like Apple Watches or Google Glass (RIP), I did look at software that could complement teaching like Guide on the Side, Audacity, and Google Forms.  Sometimes the tools worked well and were easy to implement and I could see clear applications for using this tool. Other times, like in the TIS Sandbox where a group of us played with Guide on the Side we encountered some software hiccups, but knowing that this was a common experience made it easier to laugh off and find a workaround.  We were more resilient when encountering software issues when we were together because we could use one another as resources and it was a collaborative learning experience. Going forward into the Fall, we’re going to be experimenting with technology in the classroom once the Learning Labs are open and operational.  There will be training and more opportunities for collaborative learning in these spaces!

In the process of doing research on how best to approach adult acquisition f technology skills, our recently graduated GRA, Grace Atkins, came across a great article about technology and Life Long Learning habits.  Below I’ve excerpted their philosophical approach to lifelong learning, which I feel is especially apt as we head into a  new academic year under new leadership and in brand new learning spaces.

The habits are the following:
1. Begin with the end in mind.
2. Accept responsibility for your own learning.
3. View problems as challenges.
4. Have confidence in yourself as a competent, effective learner
5. Create your own learning toolbox.
6. Use technology to your advantage.
7. Teach/mentor others
7½. Play.

So, I suppose this TLS tip is not so much a tip but instead encouragement to allow yourself to get messy when playing with new things. Even if you don’t see an application for something right away, it might come in handy later.

And, just for fun, here are some of the tools and apps I’ve been playing with recently and why:

  • IFTTT (IF This Then That): Uses “recipes” to connect programs and automate tasks; an easier and slicker Yahoo Pipes.
    How I use it: organize spreadsheets – I get monthly Canvas reports that I tell to upload to a folder in Box.
  • An app and web-based calendar that integrates multiple calendar (OWA, Google Calendar, iCal, Facebook events and birthdays)
  • Padlet: An way to create an online bulletin board that integrates audio, images, and video in addition to text. Great for brainstorming and for visual learners.

What tools, software, or web apps are you playing around with?

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.

RIOT: ACRL Information Literacy Framework for Higher Education

Since March 2013 a task force has been working to update the ACRL Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education which, at this point, have been around for almost 15 years. Needless to say, this has been no small task however,  after multiple revisions, calls for feedback, revisions, and criticism, the current and third draft is out and because this will likely be the last version before it is presented for final adoption, it’s a good time to begin a larger discussion of the framework.

Because we hope to have a longer and more inclusive discussion in January with anyone interested in the framework, this post will not will provide a brief overview of the frames, some helpful resources that discuss or describe the frames, and my personal reflection.

The full third draft of the frame work can be found at the ACRL Information Literacy Standards page here and more information about the Taskforce and previous drafts can be found here.  A robust FAQ on the standards can also be found here.

An Overview and What’s Different:
In the most recent third draft, the Taskforce has included a concise and revised definition of information literacy:

“Information literacy is a spectrum of abilities, practices, and habits of mind that extends and deepens learning through engagement with the information  ecosystem. It includes

  • understanding essential concepts about that ecosystem;
  • engaging in creative inquiry and critical reflection to develop questions and to find, evaluate, and manage information through an iterative process;
  • creating new knowledge through ethical participation in communities of learning, scholarship, and civic purpose; and
  • adopting a strategic view of the interests, biases, and assumptions present in the information ecosystem. “

The current framework uses Threshold Concepts (TC) as the main component and anchor. Meghan wrote a great RIOT post about TC and the Taskforce explains that they used threshold concepts as a way to “broaden our practice from focusing on skills and indicators to focusing on the development and exchange of knowledge within scholarship, professional discourse, and the larger society.” It’s been a point of contention, but that discussion can be saved for another day.  You’ll also note that instead of standards for information literacy, frames (or lenses) are presented.  These frames are more conceptual in nature, according to the Taskforce, were done intentially to reflect the current information landscape:

However, the rapidly changing higher education environment along with the dynamic and often uncertain information ecosystem in which all of us work and live require new attention be focused  on foundational ideas about that ecosystem. Students have a greater role and  responsibility in creating new knowledge, in understanding the contours and the changing dynamics of the world of information, and in using information, data, and scholarship ethically. Teaching faculty have a greater responsibility in designing curricula and  assignments that foster enhanced engagement with the core ideas about information and  scholarship within their disciplines. Librarians have a greater responsibility in identifying core ideas within their own knowledge domain that can extend learning for students, in creating a new cohesive curriculum for information literacy, and in collaborating more  extensively with faculty

This reflects the Taskforce’s  choice to deliver a framework that is not prescriptive but allows for open interpretation on what fits best for each institution. The librarians that first introduced TC in librarianship gave a recent presentation at the Reinventing Libraries conference and have shared what TC might look as different assignments, which may help to ground this theory into practice.

The Frames and What They Include
There are currently six frames:

  1. Authority Is Constructed and Contextual
  2. Information Creation as a Process
  3. Information Has Value
  4. Research as Inquiry
  5. Scholarship Is a Conversation
  6. Searching Is Strategic

Each frame is further broken down and explained by “knowledge practiceswhich are demonstrations of ways in which learners can increase their understanding of these information literacy concepts, and dispositions, which describe ways in which to address the affective, attitudinal, or valuing dimension of learning.” These knowledge practices and dispositions are again, not meant to be prescriptive skills that librarians should aim to use as learning outcomes, but instead as scenarios or concepts to be use for integrating into assignment design, instruction, or other areas. In addition, each frame’s definition is accompanied by expectations of how novices or experts would internalize and react to this frame.

After reading background, updated IL definition, frames along with their knowledge practices and dispositions, I was heartened. This process is messy, especially as the information landscape is constantly changing, where accreditation and assessment is directly affected by deeply embedded standards such as the IL standards. However, as I was reading some of the standards, I felt myself nodding at the definitions of novice and expert levels, while realizing that the language I was using to explain these concepts or frames could be simplified to both the students and the faculty member in a way that accounted for a more scaffolded approach to understanding this concept.

Some questions to consider for our discussion:

  • What was your initial reaction to the new Framework and has it changed?
  • Do you see opportunities for using the Framework in a different way?
  • Subject liaisons, have you heard your colleagues taking a specific approach?
  • What’s a good way for us here at the UT Libraries to begin to better understand the new Framework?

Discussion: Universal Design for Learning

Carolyn presented an article that experimented with using the Universal Design for Learning as a framework for course design. As she explains thoroughly in her blog post, Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles used to ensure sure that information and learning is accessible for all learning styles.  Universal Design sprouted from Americans with Disabilities Act. Instead of retrofitting buildings to make them accessible, Universal Design is a framework for building in principles of accessibility in at the very beginning of any design process.  Educators then took a page from Universal Design and applied the same approach to learning, hence Universal Design for Learning. These principal can be applied to K-12 as well as institutions of education. See for more information.

Carolyn began the discussion by asking the group what we have done in terms of accommodating different learning styles.

Michele explained that she has taught to different learning styles as a way to accommodate different students. Even though she couldn’t accommodate for each learning style in every class (because there are many more learning styles than visual, kinesthetic or auditory), it is a best practice to try to accommodate them when you can.

As a group, we also discussed that sometimes it’s hard to try something new because the students do not know you as well as their classroom faculty and may not be as receptive.

Carolyn brought up the idea that perhaps there should be someone in the libraries who can assist other librarians in making learning materials more accessible to students of all learning styles.

Krystal described her experience with having a blind student in one of her classes. The student had brought his own laptop and had his screen reader. This experience helped her reflect on how to integrate a more accessible design into the classroom teaching experience. Someone asked about the course instructor’s experience. Krystal explained that the instructor had also learned how difficult it was for students with disabilities to attend UT because not all texts were available in Braille, so had to find alternative materials.

PG noted that Services to Students with Disabilities will provide audio text, but need to have access to materials ahead of time. He explained that within the libraries there is currently a posting for a  TIS position just for captioning.  He also explained some history on the topic of making texts accessible for studentes with disabilities.  For instance, in California, students sued in order to have access to materials in whatever format they wanted, whether they be audio or Braille.

Brittany explained that at her old institution, she taught a class with a deaf student. Her institution did have a librarian who worked part time to help accommodate students with disabilities within the libraries.  In this case, Brittany worked with her to create transcripts ahead of time for the student; she also created videos with captions, etc. She explained that it was a lot of work, but really seemed like it helped the student.

There was a question about using PowerPoint in the classroom. Most of us said we don’t normally use PPT in class because our teaching style is more discussion based, than lecture based. Additionally, students are often doing active learning or group work, — things that rely less on PowerPoint or other presentation software.

Meghan noted that while she doesn’t normally use PowerPoint, she found it useful to use in a class with many ESL students in the class with low English comprehension. Meghan used the PPT to as visual prompts in order to facilitate discussion.

Carolyn noted that LecShare could be used to check PPTs to make sure they are accessible.

Someone noted that they also had a hearing impaired student in a class once and the librarian was given a small microphone to wear in order to capture what was said. They noted that it makes you a lot more aware of what you are presenting!

We discussed how the idea of using UDL for International students especially since this population is less likely than other populations to admit that they don’t understand something said in class. This is likely a cultural difference rather than an indifference toward the course content. Michele noted that in one of her classes she did a lot of active learning so she could give one-on-one instruction when it seemed that certain students needed help, but they had to be prompted to share. We all agreed that joking around in class or using slang in order to connect with student is likely alienating for for non-native English speakers.

Marta shared that in order to demonstrate Boolean logic, she has students to stand up (If you have brown hair AND are wearing UGG boots) and that it worked.

Carolyn described that she read an article that forces students to “meditate” and would talk through what they are going to do that day.  She said it was a little weird. Michele added that these are college students and we should probably try to make them feel like they are adults with free-will.

Cindy explained a design thinking exercise she used in order to set the tone of the session that instead of a lecture, students would need to use problem-solving skills and creativity to find what they are looking for.

Carolyn asked an intentionally provoking question: Is there a time and a place for institutionalizing these concepts? Michele responded by saying that the best teachers are the ones that are comfortable with the way they are teaching. Instead of enforcing a certain kind of teaching, it’s better to provide colleagues with best practices and support.

Someone brought up a recently published article from the the Atlantic entitled, “Why lectures are good“. [ed note: however, there are also articles about Why the Lecture is Dead and What Comes After the Lecture“, so, I don’t think anything’s been decided.]

Carolyn, noted that in the 10 propositions for Universal Design Principals, assessment is mentioned a lot and and it also describes that “technology is essential for UDL”. We discussed how it really depends on how “technology” is defined. It could be anything from a pen and piece of paper to an iPad app. Krystal noted that it’s hard to get everyone on the same page, because there is so much room for interpretation. ANd PG added that flexibility needs to be the main thing.

Then we watched a video about UDL and noted that this video is obviously for a younger audience, though we could see how UDL is incorporated into college level work.

Marta noted that there are so many different kinds of media being used to demonstrate learning concepts; video, animation, infographics, texts. It’s hard to know when and where and how to select one to demonstrate an idea.


Informed Transition Overload

In late January, I found out about a book that would be coming out in early February called Informed Transitions: Libraries Supporting the High School to College Transition because one of the members of the Library Instruction Round Table (LIRT) Transitions-to-College Committee had co-authored an chapter to be included and we were discussing it on our conference call.  This is the book I’ve been waiting to read for the last two years. You know all of those times we’ve sat around the conference table thinking, “Really? Is there nobody else talking about this stuff or thinking about how to partner with high school librarians, other local librarians, or graduate students for a teach-the-teacher model?”  Well. There were. And many of them have written chapters in this book.

This book has also been especially helpful as I try to come up with a curriculum for our Information Literacy Summit happening in just under a month.

I’ve read almost the entire book, but there are a few chapters in particular that align well with what we currently do as well as ideas we’ve had for the future. I also wanted to capture some of the resources that are mentioned in the book that have probably been pushed out via the ILI-listserv as various points in time, but that could be potentially helpful to evaluate again.

I would actually encourage everyone, at some point, to read the first chapter authored by the book’s editor, Ken Burhanna. Entitled, “The Transition Movement: From Blueprint to Construction Zone” it details the history of outreach and/or collaboration of high school and academic librarians in supporting their students.  In 2000, ACRL and AASL (the American Association of School Librarians) co-authored a Blueprint for Collaboration that was essentially a call-to-action for academic and school librarians to work together to better facilitate the integration of information literacy into the curriculum. Their recommendations lay the blueprint for a grant vision of information literacy world domination. As we know, it didn’t exactly come to fruition in this way.

What is igniting an new national interest in high school – academic library partnerships is the adoption of the Common Core Standards by 41 states (and Puerto Rico!) Of course, Texas is not one of them.  AASL has written cross-walks between Common Core and their Standards for the 21st Century Learner. These standards updated the previous ones by addressing multiple literacies and holistic view of learning – not just in the classroom but personal as well.  One of the major points that Ken Burhanna addresses in this introduction is the need for the ACRL Information Literacy Standards to be updated to address these multiple literacies — something that has been addressed over the past few years by research on transliteracy.  In addition, the ACRL IL Competency Review Task Force recommends that the standards be reviewed and extensively updated in the near future to, among other things, provide continuity is the AASL 21st Century Standards.

Among other things the book also describes other ways the academic and high school librarians are working together to bridge this gap, which include:  collaborative dialogues, professions development, preservice teacher education (in a way, what we do with Rhetoric) instructional experience.

Different chapters also details ways in which some HS students are receiving instructional content from an academic seating: HS students visit the college library; HS are participating in pre-college programs (upwards bound, etc), dual credit programs (enrolled in college level courses during HS)

One of the most interesting chapters, “Information Literacy & 21st Century Skills: Training the Teachers” I read came from a program in Minnesota, where they developed Metronet Information Literacy Initiative  for teachers & library media specialists. The goal of MILI is to provide support for teaching information literacy & 21st Century Skills. Metronet is a multi-county library system and it provides training and support for their participants. The program is very small program with just two  full time employees.

The trainers (the library media specialists) focus on  teaching the research process, rather than specific tools. So they teach the 3 R’s → Research, Reliable Resources, Responsible Use. As it’s note, “for the program to be the most effective, teacher participants must have a research project in their curriculum.”

Their mission and visions are very well-organized plan with the responsibilities, outcomes, and goals of the program all laid out (pgs 125-126). One of the materials that they developed to help the teachers to become more critical of their assignments was the ART Evaluation of Assignments. It asks teachers to view their assignment in the context of information literacy. The teachers are then asked to use the Research Project Calculator help teachers work backwards and scaffold the assignment over time. A full overview of the program and the materials that are used to to it are available at

So, just a few questions to spark discussion:

  • Should we be focusing on integrating transliteracy since it’s seems like it’s the natural progression from the AASL 21st Century Learner Standards? Are we already doing this?
  • Is the Rhetoric program a natural partner for continuing to teach the teachers about integrating information literacy (or transliteracy) skills?
  • How do we use the opportunities of outreach to high school librarians to address furthering a scaffold of AASL to ACRL standards?
  •  Are the ACRL IL Standards outdated?