23 June 2011

What to teach and when to say enough

While scrolling through my RSS this morning, I came across this article by Steven Bell. In it, Steven suggests that academic librarians welcome the opportunity to include financial literacy in our teaching. His argument is compelling and I applaud the idea that financial literacy is "the ultimate information challenge, and the consequences of the decisions can be life altering." Absolutely. Admittedly, I am still dealing with some poor decisions from college and directly after. I would love to help students learn to make sound decisions about the wide variety of financial information that is out there.

This topic converges with two things that are at the forefront of my mind: professional development and sustainability of information literacy programs.

The Teaching Librarians at Champlain are reading Char Booth's book "Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning" for our summer book (we read something together each summer). In the beginning of the book, Char talks about academic librarians' underpreparedness for a huge part of our jobs--teaching. If we are to take up Steven's call, how are we going to prepare ourselves for that teaching? Is this an opportunity to bring a new type of sponsor to ALA or ACRL? Will we see the likes of Citibank or TD Banknorth offering us bags and mugs with sessions about financial literacy? Or, are we going to take it upon ourselves to learn how to teach this vital literacy. As echoed earlier, financial decisions have lasting impact. Are we prepared to teach those skills, that literacy? Some of us might say yes because we are experts at evaluating and THAT is what they would share with students. Bravo, I say. But there is a lot wrapped up in taking something like this on. Do you have the time and the resources to prepare yourself and the other librarians to do this teaching? Do you know how to prepare yourself for it? I would urge us to think about this call as an opportunity for collaborations and new kind of professional development. It has potential to be wonderfully fruitful! But I don't think we should jump into teaching financial literacy without some help and training on our end too.

On to my second point: sustainability. We have had a number of visitors at Champlain lately. Some amazing librarians from Keene State came to talk about embedded information literacy. We then had the incredible Megan Oakleaf on campus to talk about the same and the value of academic libraries. As usual, I came away from these experiences with a long wish list. A list of ideas for our program, for the Teaching Librarians, for our faculty, for our students. As I sat in my office looking at these ideas, something truly eye opening dawned on me: it will never be enough. You could give me my own course to teach on IL (and I don't mean library skills...I mean, what I am calling, "real deal" IL). You could give me multiple visits to classes. You could give me a lecture series, student ambassadors, a marketing campaign, faculty toolkits, mentorships....give it all to me. And I will still want more. I will still think of things that I think we should think about with students. It will never be enough.

Are you laughing at me? Some of the more experienced librarians or managers might be because I imagine everyone comes to this realization at some point. I don't say this to deter you or myself from consistently reviewing our program, session content, or delivery strategies. Not at all. I say it to remind myself that some things will make it from my notebook to the design session and all the way to the classroom and even to assessment. And somethings won't. And that's ok. Financial literacy would be a terrific thing to add into my sessions. But where we are at Champlain, for something to come into a session, something has to come out, at least until we find a way into more sessions. And even then, it is never enough.

The best that I can do as a program manager is to work with my team to decide what are the skills and habits of mind that are essential. We move from there, knowing that we have more ideas to draw from when our students' needs change. There is something very grounding about that. And something inspiring and focusing about it as well.

What do you think about librarians taking on financial literacy?
Do you feel prepared to teach different literacies?
What training do you wish you had for teaching?
Are there ways to broaden our teaching strategies beyond sessions or classes for something like financial literacy?
Do you find something like "it will never be enough" disheartening or empowering?

17 June 2011

Thoughtful Technology in the Classroom

Andy and I presented at the Vermont Library Association's Special & Academic Library section on Tuesday in gorgeous Castleton, VT. We were even able to get the group into an inquiry exercise....pretty fun!

And the tuna melts at the Birdseye Diner was pretty awesome.

If you want to talk fun tech in the classroom, let me know!

16 June 2011

Creativity on demand

Randy Hensley was the keynote at NELIG a few weeks ago. Many of us know Randy as an instructor at Immersion and have learned so much from him in that environment. What he spoke about at NELIG was creativity. He talked about the attributes of creativity rather than modalities. Some of the attributes he listed included creativity as starting from an unusual place, as problem solving, as visual. But one thing he said that has really stuck with me is that creativity is not something that you turn on. It is engaging in a series of processes.

Creativity is not something you turn on.

Randy talked about preparing people to be creative rather than springing something on them in the hopes of creative bursts. He points out that 98% of us don't get creative that way. Rather, we need to prepare for it. To marinate on the topic. To develop creative approaches.

I have almost always asked the teaching librarians to turn on their creativity, to brainstorm on the spot. As I think about the dynamics of our team, I realize that I was not tapping into their most creative ways. I am one of those people that can, and enjoys, brainstorming on the spot. I have had to learn to adapt the way I prepare for teaching and Randy's talk has also taught me that I need to adapt how I approach creativity with others. It makes me think about how I approach prep for teaching, how I prepare for meetings, and how I can really allow everyone to engage in the creative process.

But it also made me realize what I need for creativity. I need to feel safe to speak and safe to fail. I need to know that not everything I say will be taken seriously. I need a partner in creativity (Andy, thank god, has been my partner and a darn good one. Apparently he's a good blogger too.)

What do you need? What circumstances really get your juices flowing? Or don't? When do you feel the most creative?

08 June 2011

Using Mobile Phones in Info Lit Instruction

Andy and I presented at the New England Library Instruction Group's Annual Conference this past Friday. Such a great day! I will be posting later on Randy Hensley's awesome keynote (he's incredible). Here are our slides on using Poll Everywhere in first year instruction. We had a terrific group in our session who posed a number of good questions about the technology, our program, assessment, and faculty reactions. If you have questions, please share them in the comments! Enjoy!