31 July 2008

Immersion: Day 3 and 4

Clearly, Immersion is intense and intensive so the chance to blog has been slim the last 36 hours. In part, and this is almost hard to believe myself, this is because the little time I have to myself is spent putting things together. Yes, after only 4 days, I feel like I have a new concept of what an excellent Information Literacy Program is. While I think that Champlain has some truly essential pieces of such a program in place, there are certainly things that we will have to spend time thinking about, planning for, developing, and implementing. Perhaps the most important thing I am taking away from this experience (how many times have I said that?) is that creating a program, especially an excellent program, takes time.

Pacing myself is a true personal challenge for me. As the Leadership skills assessment showed, I am a big picture person. Ideas flow out of me and I have a tendency to capture a good percentage of them on this blog, in notebooks I carry around, on sticky notes, etc. I have so many ideas, some of them really good, that I want to act on them, NOW. Right now. I am aware that this is one of my shortcomings. And I think listening to someone like Deb Gilchrist emphasize how long she has been at this and how many iterations she has gone through settles me down a bit. Mary Macdonald, a truly wonderful storyteller, shared many experiences of trial and error that she has drawn on to improve and revamp her program. Karen Williams has spoken a lot about the time it has taken to get buy in from her administrations and librarians, let alone faculty. All of these librarians have success stories that I have learned a lot from but it is also their failures that really help me see where to go and not go. What to try and not try. On the first day of Immersion, they showed us a video about IDEO. The CEO of the company says "Fail often so you can succeed sooner." That has been a motto here at Immersion. I think it's a good one for me.

So, where I am at this point? Swimming in thoughts. The rest of today is spent creating action plans for us to bring back to our institutions that identify Action items, Rationale, Evidence of completion/ expected outcome, Strategy, Support needed, Constituents/ stakeholders, and Starting points/ components. I've started writing a narrative that is mostly for myself. I hope to put it into something less lengthy and more usable for me and my library. I appreciate the timeline they emphasize: 6 mos - 1 year. As I said, there are so many ideas running through my mind at this point, if I didn't think about the immediates, I think I would find the starting point difficult to find.

Later today, we will be vetting drafts of our action plans with our cohort. Here we are, brainstorming a bit:
These are some wonderful, creative, smart, collaborative librarians who I hope I can work with and turn to in the future (in no order): Nicole Brown, Barett Havens, Evangela Oates, Jennifer Sigalet, April Cunningham. I am so happy to have met and worked with them. They made this not only an educational experience but a fun one.

30 July 2008

Immersion: Day 2

Bam. Bam. Bam.

The sound of synapses firing.

After only two days, I have 18 pages of notes, 3 full page lists of TO DO for when I return, new tools for assessment, activities for both my librarians and my classes, and about 25 different authors to look up and start reading. It's a lot to take in. I'm so glad I brought my running shoes so that I can get outside a little bit, and I mean little, to clear my head and process.

Day 2 has focused mainly on assessment, the element to IL programs in which I am most interested and in which I am in need of the most help. Deb Gilchrist is running the assessment show and she is wonderfully insightful. Assessment brings up a lot of questions and I have a tendency to be bogged down with the philosophical questions it often encapsulates but Deb has really helped me to focus my attention on the most important thing: the student. This is best demonstrated in the "5 Questions" we are using to develop outcomes:
1. What do you want students to be able to do?
2. What do they need to know to do this well?
3. What activity will facilitate learning?
4. How will the student demonstrate their learning?
5. How will we know that the student has done this well.

These are the leading questions in developing student learning outcomes and I think that we are well on our way at Champlain. However, there is more to it than that. The overall IL program needs outcomes too. That is what I am focusing on for the rest of the time here. I am trying, and I emphasize trying, to develop outcomes that are meaningful, reasonable, and transferable. Sounds easy, right. Yeah...not so much. Trying to capture all the things that we want our program to be and to do in a concise, impactful, measurable statement is really quite difficult. But it is wonderful to be working at tables with librarians that are struggling to do the same thing. The "5 Questions" I am thinking about at the program level are:
1. What do we want to achieve?
2. How will we know our outcomes are met?
3. What data do we need to gather?
4. What can we learn from the data?
5. What changes are necessary as a result of that learning?

I'm working on it.
One last thing that I have really been thinking about: measuring what is valued. We can measure all sorts of things through assessment but the true challenge is to identify and measure what's important.

I'm telling you...this is tough stuff to think about. I am loving it.

One last note: there was an earthquake in LA yesterday and we did indeed feel it here. It was my first earthquake, and pretty shocking. Immersion makes the earth move.

29 July 2008

Immersion: Day 1

Whew…what a day. What kind of day was it? The kind of day that makes my brain feel like it is on fire. My synapses are firing even after 13 hours of Info Lit. I guess we could say that is a good, good sign.

The day started off with the Opening Plenary. Both the Teacher and Program tracks met together for the morning to talk about the different lenses of information literacy. A lot of this session focused on readings we had done ahead of time, particularly Christine Bruce’s article, “The Seven Faces of Information Literacy.” Personally, I love sessions that draw on readings but also combine a healthy dose of personal experience and philosophizing. I sat with a terrific group of librarians, all from different institutions: from a community college, one of the country’s largest research universities, an elite boarding school, a large state college. Coming from a small, private college library, I wasn’t sure if we would make a lot of connections. I need never worry about that again. Together, we talked about what resonated with us personally from the readings but also how the readings should influence our teaching and learning. Between my group and the contributions from the larger session, I gained an awful lot of insight into how people view the opportunities and challenges of info lit. One thing that really stuck with me though was some key tips from the Immersion faculty:
1. Be Human.
2. Be Playful.
3. Have Fun.
It seems so basic but I think that when we are faced with those challenges and opportunities, it is easy to lose sight of those important qualities and focus only the work or the program or the outcomes or the meeting. Good advice.

The afternoon included an interesting and pretty enlightening session on leadership for the Program Track. I found out that I am a Symbolic Leader. Some characteristics include providing inspiration and exciting people through enthusiasm and stories. That certainly sounds Sheck-like. But I also learned a great deal about the importance of other modes of leadership and the essentiality of balance and integrity in decision making and collaboration.

Finally, we met with our cohort groups to talk over case studies about our info lit programs. The feeling of working in our cohort was safe, encouraging, supportive, and constructive. For me, I walked out of there feeling two things:
1. Learning from one another and our efforts, experiments, successes and failures = Priceless.
2. I have wonderful colleagues in the library, in the faculty, in the administration. I have such a supportive and open minded director. I work at an incredibly innovative, creative, progressive institution.
I often feel this way when I read blogs from librarians but today, I felt it acutely in part because I listen to others’ experiences and they are not always as positive. And in part because I know that the lessons I learn at Immersion and from the people here will be lessons my colleagues will be eager to hear and grow from as well. And that is pretty special.

One final word: every time I go to library conferences or events, I am astonished by the creativity, intelligence, devotion, and vision of librarians. Immersion is intensifying that perception. The people I am meeting here are wonderful. They are fiercely committed to the betterment of our students, our faculties, our institutions but also higher ed and society as a whole by creating more aware, critical, and prepared users. It is exciting and inspirational.

Needless to say, I am exhausted, as you must be if you read all the way down here. My pillow calls.

28 July 2008

On the way to Immersion

The Sheck is en route to ACRL’s Information Literacy Immersion program in San Diego. For the next five days, I will be reading, studying, developing, and practicing ways to improve Champlain’s Information Literacy Program. Immersion comes in a few different flavors: Teacher Track, Program Track, Intentional Teaching, and Assessment. I am hitting the Program track this year as that is perhaps the most daunting part of my job at this point: designing a program for all students for all four years.

Part of getting ready for this program was reading an awful lot of articles about pedagogical theory, learning outcomes, and assessment. Some of it was a bit hard for me to digest. But a few were truly extraordinary. Particularly this piece by Dane Ward at Illinois State. The idea that we are truly trying to do more than just introduce students to library resources is vital, I think, as librarians try to engage students and faculty and prove themselves relevant and necessary in the age of Google, Wikipedia, and changing landscapes at institutions of higher ed.

Part of our preparatory assignment for Immersion was to create case studies of our institutions that include SWOT analyses. I have been astonished by how few programs have the opportunities to engage students in information lit rather than traditional library instruction. It’s no wonder that Stanley Wilder was so poorly received. Librarians at many institutions seem stuck trying to get a few key IL concepts, which they are really excited about, in to the few sessions faculty ask them to give. It makes me realize how incredibly fortunate I am at Champlain to have a Core curriculum that embraces IL as key component to the inquiry method and to creating well rounded students. And while I attribute most of it to progressive thinking on the part of my director and colleagues at Champlain, I have to shout out props to Jeff Rutenbeck. When Jeff first came to Champlain, he asked how we can inject information literacy into our students daily lives. THAT has been my modus operandi when I took on this new role at Champlain. THAT is what drives me to think creatively about what the library should offer students. THAT is what I am doing as I design a program for students for all four years. I am thinking beyond those four years. I am thinking about how to reach students for a lifetime.

As I sit on the plane, I am more excited than I thought about Immersion. I hope I can find some solutions to the problems we are facing as we head into year two of the program. I hope I can find more resources to draw on, both in terms of academic writing but also the ever-essential human capital component. This trip has great potential.

Post Script: For anyone who knows me personally, I am a freak about flying and being on time for flights. So, I just have to share what happened to me on the way here. Leaving Burlington’s airport is one of the true joys of living in Vermont. The entire airport could fit in the Food Court at Philadelphia’s Airport, where I was raised. So, it’s no big thing to get there a little late. I walked in with my bag and boarding pass and saw on the board that we were leaving from gate 6. I go upstairs, go through security, and sit down to enjoy the NYT Book Review. Time goes by and I start to think, “Hm…I should have boarded by now.” I decide to stand up to look and walk by the short short corridor that leads to gates 7 & 8 when I hear, faintly…oh so faintly, MY NAME! I dash over there, only to be the absolute last person on the flight. Why? Because the light was burned out on the departure board…it said 6 but was supposed to be 8. So much for trusting even the most basic information. How fitting that I was on my way to an Info Lit Immersion. You can bet I will share that one with students when I get back.

21 July 2008

Activating Our Base

The ever inspiring and amazing David Silver is one of the founders of the September Project. With the academic year quickly approaching, he wrote to remind me that any programming/display/screening/just about anything is worth sharing with their project to demonstrate the role of libraries in the promotion of freedom and democracy. Here is some more info:
Welcome to the 5th annual September Project! The September Project is a
grassroots effort to encourage events about freedom and democracy in all
libraries in all countries during the month of September. September
Project events are free and organized locally.

In 2004, we began the September Project to break the silence following
September 11, and to invite all people into libraries to consider topics
of patriotism, democracy, and citizenship. Initially, events focused on
September 11 and largely took place on September 11. As the project
evolved, events spread throughout the month of September and focused on
issues of freedom and democracy.

To date, public, academic, school, and government libraries around the
world have organized September Project book displays, community book
readings, childrens’ art projects, film screenings, theatrical
performances, civic deliberations, voter registrations, murals, panel
discussions, and so much more. What will this year bring?

How can you participate? Organize an event at your library, and tell us
about it! We’ll post all events on this site as they develop around the

The September Project: Connecting the world one library at a time

So first and foremost, this is a call out to anyone who has something on the agenda for fall. Share it with the September Project.

Secondly, I started to think back on the displays I've done that could have qualified for September Project events. I am pretty hardcore about putting up displays to remind students that they are, or should be, active members of society. My mantra is always that "Learning More Is Doing Something" but I try to remind students that actions are key to change. And along that line, I love the idea of having a voter registration drive in the Library. It is activating our base, saying learn more then act. Be educated and involved. I've already got ideas in the hopper. If you do too, share them! And if you blog about them, be sure to use the tag: TSP08

Finally, once again I am reminded an amazed by the way the 2.0 world builds community around activism. Henry Jenkins, in his book Convergence Culture, talks about the “power of the send key”. While I still have a lot of concerns and questions about whether technology is being used as it could be or should be to further democracy, it is projects like this that are built on creativity, community, genuine concern and care for who we are and what we believe it that motivates me to teach, to learn, to act.

I will be posting more about the September Project, particularly about what Champlain will be doing. I hope you will too! And pass it on to other libraries and librarians!

17 July 2008

Information Overload, or, Summer in Vermont

Perhaps it is the daily swims in Lake Champlain.

Or the fact that I want to be or am trying to get back to hiking/running/biking/swimming/gardening or just plain smiling in the sun.

Whatever it is, I am feeling a bit overloaded by all the information that has been coming my way lately.

The diagnostician in me is strongly considering whether it is my Google Reader.

Admittedly, my Google Reader is my web homepage so I see it first thing and all the time. Part of me really likes that. If I have a moment, I can scan the news. I can keep up with a lot of things at once. I can manage information. I can be effective while hopefully being efficient.

But then there is the other part of me that feels overwhelmed by how much comes across my Reader. Not so much because I don't want to know it all or because depressing things happen (which they do), but more so because I just don't have the time to do something with all the information that I view, review, and collect. How many articles or blog posts get starred or delicious-ed (is that verb?) for blog posts but don't end up on my blog? A lot. How many thoughts run through my head as I read and make connections between my course, information literacy, libraries, technology, innovation, or just things I think about? Too many.

It reminds me of the look many faculty give me when I show them RSS. Or the look students give me when we do our first database searches. It's a lot to take in. And you have to be prepared for all of that information, all of those options, all of those thoughts that are going to start shooting up out of nowhere. It is too much when you are looking for something easy. I mean, who knew that trying to keep up on what is going on in the world would be so exhausting? Or overwhelming? It just goes to show that the world is truly a big place, no matter how small it appears on the screen.

Another admission: when I go home, I turn off. Like I said, I garden, bike, run, play with Rigi (my dog), cook, and most importantly, swim in the Lake everyday. And of course, that is when my best thoughts come to me. I think back to my dad, who always carried a notecard in his pocket so he could write ideas down when they came to him. He was ready for those epiphanies, those connection, those bursts of clarity.

Where am I going here? Perhaps that I am more than aware of the tradeoffs I make in order to be the kind of summer-lovin Vermonter I am. And sometimes those tradeoffs are difficult to manage. Sometimes, I wish I could put my head down and write, read, and think about the incredible things others think about or say. Sometimes, by the time I seem to get to it, it seems passe. Sometimes, I just take it in and it comes to me as I run or swim and then runs or swims away. That's hard for me as both a teacher and a librarian. I want to capture, examine, analyze, and discuss ideas.

But that is when the person in me, the person who lives in a state that has six-month long winters, just has to watch some thoughts go on. For capturing later. The good ones, the important ones, the good ones will stay, I hope. In the meantime, my tomatoes need tending.

11 July 2008

Information Literacy...on the radio.

I drove to work today, which is unusual. There are two things I cherish on these rare occassions: 1. Bringing coffee from home, 2. Listening to NPR for the ten minutes I am in the car. This morning, though, it was particularly special because a lesson in information literacy was central to this piece on Iran's manipulation of photographs showing their missile tests.

Here's what I love about David Folkenflik's analysis. He emphasizes the need for critical analysis of source. As he says, "consider the source." The photographs were provided by the Iranian military and they have an agenda that needs to be taken into consideration when looking at their evidence. He then goes on to talk about the number of people that provide material to news organizations today might not have the same "journalistic practices."

What did I get from this: we need to evaluate information rather than just accept it.

Gosh…that sounds pretty an awful lot like information literacy. Funny how that happens.