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(McConnell Library at Radford University)

On Tuesday, May 23th, Kyle, Joy, and Amanda had the opportunity to attend the first ever Innovative Library Classroom Conference at Radford University in Radford, Virginia. We joined 75 other instruction librarians interested in new, creative ways to teach information literacy. May is a conference-heavy month for instruction librarians, so we thought we’d give your inbox a break and combine posts.

Keynote Address: Design Thinking (Joy)

The keynote address was given by Lori Anthony, Assistant Professor in the Department of Interior Design & Fashion at Radford University. Her topic was “Using the Design Thinking Process to Address Today’s Unique Educational Challenges.” I am sure that many of you are familiar with design thinking, but I had to do a little reading on this to catch up with what she presented at the conference. Designed thinking is usually discussed in relation to what is referred to as wicked problems. Wicked problems are “problems that are difficult to solve because they are incomplete, requirements are constantly changing, and there are various interests related to them. Solutions to wicked problems often require that many people are willing to think differently on the issue and change their behavior…there are no true or false answers, but rather good or bad solutions” (Rittle & Webber, 1973). Design thinking differs from ordinary problem solving because the design does not aim to solve a problem with an ultimate answer, but rather it contributes to the current state of affairs. In design thinking, people are seen as actors who can make a difference. There are three stages to the design thinking process: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. This is non-linear approach, and there is no predetermined manner to navigate. Lori emphasized the need for empathy in the process. When design process is used, the people represented need to come from a variety of backgrounds. One of the themes of this process is “fail early, fail often” and they encourage using prototypes to test the ideas. She gave a detailed example of how she worked with a team to use design thinking with at Spotsylvania Middle School to work with their special education classes. The five special education classes at this school were self-contained with very crowded classrooms. The design team helped them deal with a variety of identified problems including issues related to: social skills/communication; space limitations/conflicts; and attitudes/behaviors. They used core principles of free ideas and no judgment, and they were able to radically transform and help this special education program (they used 350 Post-it notes in the process!).

I think that most of the time librarians deal with tame problems such as finding classroom space for our instruction sessions (though Roz may disagree that this is a tame problem!). Tame problems are more like puzzles that have clear solutions. I think that wicked problems for us are things like Summon where there are many players involved and the answers are not so clear. I read an article that talked about the introduction of eBooks as a wicked problem (unlike the introduction of DVDs which was a tame problem). As a Library, I believe the upcoming renovation to the Library (specifically combining service desks) would fall in the category of a wicked problem. Design thinking is one possibility for working through the endless variables and coming up with a workable model that you are willing to change as needed. By the way, I believe that if we went with design thinking for talking about combining the service desks, we would need to order a case of Post-it notes to facilitate the discussion!

Design thinkers must be: optimistic, collaborators, experimenters, integrative thinkers, and empathic. Interestingly enough, these concepts were woven throughout the conference, although I think this was mostly unintentional. Overall, this was an interesting choice for a keynote address and I believe that when the next wicked problem crops up, I’ll know one possibility for approaching it.

Courageous Conversations (Joy)

One of the breakout sessions was presented by Carroll Wilkinson who is the University Librarian at West Virginia University and she was an invited guest speaker. The title of her presentation was, “Courageous Conversations Worth Having (To Strengthen Instructional Practice).” She talked about David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney’s Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change. Appreciate inquiry seeks to bring out the “positive core” of an organization and to link this knowledge to the organization’s strategic change agenda and priorities. She then talked about The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World by Ronald A. Heifetz who defines courageous conversation as, “a dialogue that is designed to resolve competing priorities and beliefs while preserving relationships” (Heifetz 304). She then talked about the relationship between courage and vulnerability and encouraged us to listen to Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on the Power of Vulnerability and recommended her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. If you watch this Ted Talk, I believe you will agree that Carroll’s talk was about much more than Instruction Practice. When I was at Immersion in 2004, one of the required readings for the week was Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. In Parker’s book, he talks about good teaching coming from our inner ground and from the community of our fellow teachers from whom we can learn more about ourselves and our craft (141). Carroll talked about Parker’s book, and while at first glance, vulnerability does not seem like a topic to discuss in relation to instruction, when you realize that teaching comes from within, you realize that it has everything to do with instruction both in and out of the classroom.

Carroll gave a couple of other quotes related to courageous conversations and encouraged us to have courageous conversations in our libraries. She also noted that courageous conversations help create a culture of courageous conversations within organizations. We then spent some time as a group brainstorming ideas about when we could use these conversations in libraries. I believe we at ZSR have had some very courageous conversations in our Library such as those around salary and work load/work life balance, and thanks to our administration who has been open to these conversations, we have seen progress and preserved relationships in the process!

Overall, this was a very inspiring presentation!

Data Literacy (Kyle)

This was far and away the best session I attended. Our good friend Lynda Kellam from UNCG presented on some pedagogical strategies she uses to teach data literacy to her undergraduates. The session challenged us to think of and teach data in the same way we teach information in its more packaged forms (books, journal articles, and the like). And this is true–data tell a story, and one can manipulate data to tell almost any story they want. Lynda reminded us that datasets and infographics require the same evaluation skills that we already teach. We looked at some of the infographics published by USA Today and ran one of our choice through the same kind of evaluation we might teach during a website evaluation exercise. I feel that this exercise is perhaps even better than the standard website evaluation lesson, as the websites many librarians typically use as examples are often ridiculous, inauthentic, or intentionally misleading. These infographics, on the other hand, have some authority attached to them. After all, they’re on the front page of a national newspaper. Stephen Colbert calls out one infographic in particular to drive the point home.

Library Instruction and Instagram (Amanda)

One librarian from the University of Montevallo also presented on using Instagram in library instruction. This program is similar to other scavenger hunt-like library orientations you may have seen that utilize iPods or iPads to have students explore and take photos of various library service points and resources. What Instagram brings to the table is the ability to make the connection between social media hashtags and library controlled vocabulary. Students also happen to like Instagram a lot and have a lot of fun coming up with creative photos and hashtags.

Concept Videos for Library Instruction (Kyle)

The crazy-busy folks at the undergraduate library at UNC-CH presented on a new strategy for creating library tutorial videos. Usually tutorial videos are designed to be used in one context, and are often very specific with regard to the tools they are designed to demonstrate. UNC decided to divorce the info literacy concepts from the specific contexts in which they’re taught, making their videos reusable by librarians, faculty, and students at the point of need or any other context. They’re great! Check out their first two: Developing your Topic and Building your Knowledge Base.

Lightning Talks (Amanda)

There were also several wonderful lightning talks in which librarians shared innovative ways they were using technology to connect with their students and faculty. One librarian collaborated with a faculty member to create LMS-embedded Camtasia videos. ODU Libraries presented on their incredibly creative One-Minute-Tips videos made with iMovie. University of Maryland presented on using Twitter as a metaphor for scholarly discourse. We were also introduced to the idea of using the Denzel Washington Venn Diagram as a way to explain Boolean Operators.

Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians (Joy)

The last breakout session that I attended was “Reframing the Standards: A Call for a New Approach to Defining Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians” led by Candice Benjes-Small from Radford University and Rebecca K. Miller at Virginia Tech. I have been an instruction librarian for 14 years, but I never knew that ACRL had a list of Standards for Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators. This list has 41 proficiencies for instruction librarians and coordinators have an additional 28 proficiencies listed. Candice and Rebecca proposed that we rewrite the proficiencies and place them in a new framework. After looking at the list, I will say that I completely agree that a new framework is needed. For one thing, these proficiencies are based on the one-shot model. It was definitely worth going to this session, just to learn that this document exists!

Assessment (Amanda)

Instruction librarians from Radford University presented on their new assessment efforts, which include applying rubrics to student’s works cited pages. This method of assessment was also done at my previous institution, Coastal Carolina University. While each method of assessment does have it’s drawbacks, this particular method is generally considered to be a more authentic assessment than the more common post-session surveys. This is because it allows librarian to assess the research portion of an actual assignment to see if learning outcomes were met, rather than rely on 3-2-1 reflections or multiple choice questions. If LIB 100 were ever undertake a large-scale assessment of all our sections, applying rubrics to student’s research outputs would certainly one method to explore.

Overall, we all really enjoyed this conference and look forward to attending next year!