I don’t feel ready, but I am going to try another blogpost-a-day on a theme, like I did in August, and hope I finish the month out this time. Why do I keep picking long months to do this? It is the timing of the need. A lot of the blogposts I write are in response to questions I am asked here or projects that are going on. Today, I attended the first part of a local initiative called FutureLibCon. The theme of the whole event is roughly what is the future role of academic librarians, what should we be doing. The topic today was on social media, and what role, if any, is appropriate for the librarian in supporting education. People talked about whether social media is appropriate to use in education, and whether librarians:
(a) should teach social media skills,
(b) should teach digital literacy skills as they apply to social media,
(c) should teach digital literacy skills more generally,
(d) should use social media to teach digital literacy,
(e) should use social media only as it comes up in order to support education in whatever form it takes,
You get the idea. The discussion was wide-ranging. I tried to mostly keep my mouth shut and listen, since this is a topic on which I have more practical experience than well-thought out opinions. I started teaching Delicious almost four years ago, I think. I started not just with how to, but also why, what it did for personal and professional productivity, and also touched on ideas for how you could use it educationally. Heck, I still think it would be interesting to have students select quality resources on a topic, tag then for the faculty to review, select appropriate description tags thinking of specific audiences (self, peers, general), and practice writing well-crafted brief annotations. That is a substantive assignment right there.
Anyway, I didn’t think so much about whether or not I should do it, I just did it. There was a tool I was using and finding useful, I could imagine many other ways it might be used, and wanted to share the tool and ideas with others. People liked it, and I was asked to teach the class several years running. That was the first social media tool I taught, but it sure wasn’t the last! My current position as the ETechLib derived directly from doing this type of work, from discovering the tools, and applying them, to sharing them via communication and education.
One of the questions that came up today in the small group discussion was what is the role of the librarian in this environment. I can understand why folks are asking, and it is a good question to think about more deeply, and someday I should do that. Today, I’m afraid my response (inside – I didn’t say it) was a bit on the glib side. We do the same thing librarians have always done!
I firmly believe that these roles (discover, select, collect, organize, husband, access, preserve, assist, share, teach, outreach, research, advocacy, create) persist in all information and education environments, irregardless of the technologies or tools. These are core values of the profession, not simply tasks. There is the potential for an almost infinite number of examples, but what I hope to do this month is perhaps build a new tech blog equivalent of the annotated bibliographies that librarians were making before I went to grad school, like the old Oryx Press series edited by David Tyckoson who I knew back in Iowa. David was great at this. You’d have a topic or question, review what’s available, select la crème de la crème, provide clear information on how to find it, and note clearly specific reasons why the item selected was valuable. In certain of these bibliographies, you’d also include information on other matters such as recommended audience, and possible uses.
In keeping with that general goal, the topic that is burning in the brains of most educators this fall is the flu, specifically H1N1, and how to keep things going if either the students or faculty take ill, or if it becomes bad enough that people are told not to congregate. I seem to hear something along these lines several times every day, from all different kinds of people. “Continuity of learning” seems to be a popular phrase.
ASCD. H1N1 and Continuity of Learning. Sept. 24, 2009.
ASCD. H1N1 and Continuity of Learning Webinar. September 30, 2009.
ED.gov. H1N1 Flu Information.
In higher education, there a some nice things being done in many places to try to help faculty be prepared to teach remotely if necessary. The concept I’m hearing here is referred to as “social distance-ready courses” or “social distancing teaching format.” For myself, I prefer the former, so that is what I will try to use. UW-Milwaukee and UW-Madison have both provided some particularly good information, as has the University of Denver. Each of these is distinct and different, and if you keep looking you will find many other schools that have done likewise. All I’ve seen are good, I am just selecting these three as useful illustrations of different approaches.
University of Denver. H1N1 Continuity Plan Teaching Support Page.
UW-Madison. Instruction in Time of Pandemic.
UW-Milwaukee. Academic Continuity.
All organizations are recommending preparations that enable teachers to engage students who cannot come to class, teach when they cannot come to class, and have alternative assignments and lectures prepared in case they are themselves too ill to teach and need to call in a substitute. UW-Milwaukee and UW-Green Bay has developed or mention a particularly nifty set of guidesheets to support what they are calling D2L conversion – Desire2Learn. They are also providing a series of workshops (similar to our own Teaching and Technology Collaboration-TTC) focusing on various useful skills for engaging students remotely, creating online-only assignments / projects / collaborations, and adjusting existing courses to alternative formats. Here are some of the workshops they are offering to help their faculty increase their preparedness for teaching in health emergency situations. Here are some of the workshops they have selected as being particularly relevant to this situation.
• D2L: Just the Basics!
• Using D2L discussion forums for effective teaching and learning
• Developing small group work in online and blended courses
• Grading your students: Assessment in online and blended courses
• Using Respondus to import quizzes and test banks into D2L
• Redesigning large enrollment courses for online and blended learning
• Using voice‐over PowerPoint presentations to deliver content online
• Digitizing video content for online and blended courses
• Facilitating real‐time interaction in online & blended courses
• Introduction to clickers
• Develop easy‐to‐use online activities and games for student engagement
• Second Life for teaching and learning
• Digital storytelling workshop
Around the University of Michigan area, I’m impressed with the guidelines from LS&A that were put in a wiki, making it easy to update and modify, as well as making it possible for multiple people to take on editing responsibility if the main person can’t do it for any reason. Excellent thinking! They have broken out a lot of the most likely uses, and selected just a few appropriate tools in each category. Really, this is a very nice starting point.
LSA Teaching Through The Flu: Just-in-Case Options for Handling Flu-based Absences:
You probably thought I was digressing from the topic, so let me circle back. In each of these collections of resources for preparing “social distance-ready courses” they quite rightly include just a few basic tools that their particular campus is recommending and prepared to support. There are a few ideas for how to adapt assignments and learning opportunities, but for the most part they expect the individual faculty member to come up with this on their own, as it is after all their own content! I’d like to see a little bit more in the way of creating an idea bank of non-standard distance-ready tools and innovative or creative ways these could be used in support of learning. Our Cool Toys Conversations group has been doing some of this each month, looking at unusual tools and brainstorming ways they can be used. What I hope to do this month, is each day highlight a tool or type of tool, and in the annotations give a few ideas of ways this could be used in distance learning. I hope that the readers of this blog will contribute additional ideas in the comments. This is a little ambitious, but I think it would be really useful, even if it fails. So, fingers crossed, here we go, and do please help with more ideas and comments!