Tag Archives: 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!





Does putting on a good show matter?

The article:
Corcose, E., & Monty, V. (2008). Interactivity in Library Presentations Using a
Personal Response System. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 31(2).

The basics:

This article reports on a study of the use of a “Personal Response System” (more commonly known as clickers – wireless devices that students use to respond to a question posed by the instructor) in library instruction. The authors conducted three classes using the clickers, and three classes covering the same content without them (with a total of 127 participating students in each group). In the clicker classes, students were presented with multiple choice questions throughout the session, which allowed the instructor to gauge their understanding of each topic. In the non-clicker classes, similar feedback was obtained by asking open-ended questions.
At the end of each class, students completed anonymous questionnaires ranking (using 5-point scales) 1) their enjoyment of the session, 2) their feeling of competency using the library, 3) the relevancy of the class to their needs, 4) the organization and presentation of the class, and 5) the knowledgability, helpfulness and effectiveness of the instructor.
Using chi-square analysis, the authors determined that the only responses that significantly differed between the clicker and non-clicker students were those for enjoyment of the session and for organization and presentation of the class, with the clicker students reporting higher enjoyment and better organization. The questionnaires also included a few open-ended questions.
The authors noted that using the clickers “enabled good pedagogy,” but reduced flexibility in the classroom (the questions had to be pre-programmed), and extended class preparation time. Additionally, they reported that clicker use ate up 15 minutes of the 50-60 minute classes. They concluded that the advantages outweighed the negatives, due to the immediate feedback they facilitate and to an awareness they create in the instructor that students can only learn so much in one session. They noted that other studies have found that learning outcomes remain the same for both traditional and clicker methods.

Why do we care?

This article drew my attention because several students have recently come to the reference desk asking for scissors to open packages of clickers, so they seem to be in use on campus. Since we usually don’t have the time to develop relationships with the students we teach, they are sometimes reluctant to interact during our sessions. Part of this could just be due to other factors (maybe they’re a quiet class, or maybe they just turned in a paper and are all tired), but I wonder if giving them a chance to submit anonymous feedback would help them feel more comfortable.
After reading the article, I found myself thinking about whether technology like this is worth using if it makes the class more enjoyable but doesn’t increase learning outcomes. If we use technology to make the session more fun, are we just putting on a show, or are we adding something valuable?
One major difference between the authors’ instruction sessions and ours is that for whatever reason, their students didn’t have the opportunity to conduct their own searches (though it seemed like they had computers). 17% of the non-clicker students suggested that future classes have a chance to search on their own, but only 3% of the clicker students made this suggestion. To me, this suggests that using the clickers may have filled some desire the students had for interaction that could have been filled in other ways (like active learning). If we were to implement something like this, would it take away from other forms of interaction? Between the laptops and the clickers, would all the technology be too distracting?
Finally, I wonder how much you can really change your class plan to respond to such immediate feedback. While flexibility is definitely a good thing, would it be difficult to switch your plan on the fly? I found it interesting that one of the authors’ pros for using clickers was that it made them realize the limitations of how much students can learn in one session. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in trying to cover everything, but it might be useful to have a reminder to slow down and make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Big picture:

Beyond looking at specific types of technology, what are the best reasons to introduce new gadgets or techniques into the classroom? Should criteria always be focused on improving learning outcomes, or do student enjoyment and instructor organization/presentation style matter too?

Key Findings of the 2009 ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology


The ECAR (EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research) studies of undergraduate technology use began in 2004 and aim to “shed light on how information technology affects the college experience.”  The study reports on student ownership of technologies and asks students to rate their own technology skills while also asking them to reflect on the relationship between technology and their learning experience.

My comments reflect the contents of the shorter Key Findings document, though I did delve into certain sections of the full report.

The study presents findings from a Spring 2009 survey of over 30,000 freshmen and seniors at over 100 four-year institutions and 12 two-year institutions.  The study also includes the results of focus groups and literature reviews.  The focus of this year’s study was Internet-capable handheld devices, which is what drew me to the report.  With TIS working on a mobile version of the website and both EBSCO and Library Press Display releasing mobile websites this past week, I found myself thinking more and more about how to promote these resources to students and whether or not students are interested in accessing those library resources through mobile technology.

While looking for an article related to this topic, I happened across a 2009 Reference Services Review article by Jim Hahn reporting on what happened when three second-year undergraduate students at UIUC were given iPods loaded with Wikipedia.  Students were asked to report on their use of the device.  After 12 weeks, none of the three students reported that they had consulted the information while writing a paper.  One student reported using it to select a research topic and none of the students reported using the devices more than monthly.  While this was an experiment with a very limited scope and a somewhat artificial situation/technology, I wondered if students aren’t yet thinking about integrating their use of mobile devices into the research process.  Occasionally I’ll see students at the desk with call numbers saved on their phones, but I rarely see anyone accessing information through a device.  I was hoping the ECAR study might include some information that would provide a clearer picture of how current first-year undergraduates are utilizing mobile technology in the research process and its implications for our work.

In the findings on student ownership and use of computers, an interesting statistic pops up:

“The vast majority of respondents, 9 out of 10, use the college and university library website (94.6%), with a median frequency use of weekly…”

Immediately, I wondered where the study was pulling its sample from, but saw a wide range of universities and colleges listed in teh appendix.  Doesn’t that number seem high? This is pretty much equal to the percentage that uses social networking sites and texting, but with daily usage reported for those technologies.  The same high ranking for library website use shows up again when students are asked about the technologies they were actively using as a part of their courses at the time of the survey in spring 2009.  73.1% said they were using the college and university library website, a higher percentage than those using a CMS or LMS (70.4%) or Powerpoint (66.5%).

As one might expect, when students were asked to rank their own information literacy skills, they gave themselves high marks, with 80% saying they were “very confident in their ability to search the Internet effectively and efficiently.”  This number went down slightly, however, when students were asked to assess their skills at “evaluating the reliability and credibility of online sources of information” and their “understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of digital information.”  For example, while 34.9% claimed they were “expert” at searching, only 18.7% made the same claim about their evaluation skills and only15.2% understood the ethical issues at the expert level.

The most interesting and newsworthy finding, I think, related to the self-assessment of information literacy skills was the relationship between the self-assessment and the students’ views of themselves as innovators and early adopters.  91.5% of students who claimed to be early adopter/innovators saw themselves as very skilled or expert while just 59.1% of the late adopters or laggards rated their level at very skilled or expert.

The study dropped a question about simple cell phone ownership after 2007 responses showed “near ubiquitous” ownership, but it did ask about Internet capability on phones.  51.2% indiciates they own an Internet-capable handheld device, but more than a third (35.4%) said they never use the feature.  Those numbers reveal a smaller percentage of active users of mobile Internet devices than I have assumed.  More than a quarter of respondents who said they owned handheld devices used them to access the Internet weekly or more often, with fewer than 1 in 10 using them to access the Internet monthly or less frequently.  No one reported that they were using their cell phone to do research, though some mentioned using it to find directions, check the news, and check facts, all of which could be bundled under information-seeking behavior.  Almost 50% of people also said that they didn’t use their cell phone because there were other ways to access the Internet, but then 44,5% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that in the next three years they “expect to do many things on a cell phone or handheld Internet device that they currently do on a laptop or desktop computer.”

Still, when asked which of their institution’s IT services they would be most likely to use if they were on a mobile device, “library services” rated lowest at 14.8%.

So with that reality in mind, I have some questions that we might pursue:

1) If early adopters/innovators believe that their information literacy skills are at a very skilled or expert level and that these are the people who are “power users” when it comes to mobile technology, what are the implications for pushing out new mobile applications from the Libraries? Can buy-in from early adopters help elevate the popularity of these resources?

2) In the Road Map document accompanying the report, ECAR suggests that faculty should bring communication technologies into their instruction and that institutions should develop mobile applications for key campus services. Should we/how might we promote mobile search technologies through library instruction recognizing the current level of use?  When is the right time to invest resources in developing and promoting these technologies?