As Amanda said in her blog, LOEX was a wonderful experience this year! It is always energizing to be surrounded by instruction librarians, but it was twice as fun this year because Amanda was with me. This year’s LOEX Conference was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. What a great place for a conference! This historic hotel is located in the heart of Grand Rapids, within easy walking distance of numerous shops, bars, and museums including the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum and the Grand Rapids Art Museum. We took an early flight to Grand Rapids and we spent the afternoon as tourists visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meyer May House as well as the Presidential and Art museums. It was a magical day where everything went right including our flights, the cab ride, and they even had a room ready for us at the hotel at 11:00 a.m.! That evening we attended the LOEX Hors d’oeuvres Reception where we met many wonderful librarians from across the United States and even bumped into Steve Cramer who provided some great tweets over the two day conference.
Since Amanda has reported on several sessions from the conference, I will try not to repeat what she said. Here are some of the sessions that I particularly enjoyed and found helpful:
Friday Morning Plenary Session – Terry Doyle
The conference kicked off with a great presentation by Terry Doyle who is a Professor of Reading at Ferris State University. The title of the presentation was, “The New Science of Learning: How to Learn in Harmony with Your Brain” (which also happens to be the title of a book he wrote that was published in 2013). Doyle’s expertise is neuroscience as it relates to teaching and learning, and for this session the focus was on creating the best conditions for student learning. He presents the idea that the burden of creating these conditions falls mostly on learners (if teachers could fix the problem alone, they would have fixed it years ago!). He started off by showing the Gardio Sarducci 5 Minute University video which is totally worth five minutes of your life if you would like to add some humor to your day. He laid the groundwork for his talk by stating that by 2018 57-67% of all jobs will require a four year college degree and that many of the future jobs do not currently exist. Students must learn how to learn. He dispelled a couple of theories such as the idea of right or left brain learners, and the idea of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. He stated that learning creates a change in the neurological patterns of the brain. It is the “ability to use information after significant periods of disuse and it is the ability to use the information to solve problems that arise in a context different (if only slightly) from the context in which the information was originally taught.”
He stated that “it is the one who does the work who does the learning.” He then proceeded to describe the conditions needed to learn. He talked about the importance of paying attention and how we do not have the ability to multitask. Multitasking interrupts learning and decreases mental resources. At this point, he focused on five things all learners need to be prepared for the learning experience: oxygen, hydration, diet, exercise, and sleep. Here are just a few of the things he said:
Physical activity is a reliable way to increase blood flow, and hence oxygen, to the brain.
- Water is essential for optimal brain health and function. Dehydration can impair short-term memory function and the recall of long-term memory. Even mild levels of dehydration can impact school performance.
- Glucose is needed for fuel your brain and since neurons cannot store glucose, the bloodstream provides a constant supply. Glucose comes from carbohydrates you consume in the form of grains, legume, fruits, and vegetables. Too much sugar or refined carbohydrates can actually deprive your brain of glucose and deplete your brain’s power to concentrate, remember, and learn. Glucose enhances learning and memory. Recommended foods for healthy brain function include: blueberries, avocadoes, dark chocolate, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, and wild salmon.
- In order for our brains to function optimally, we required regular physical activity. Research shows that movement can be an effective cognitive strategy to: strengthen learning, improve memory and retrieval, and enhance motivation and morale. I like this line, “regular exercise, even walking, leads to more robust mental abilities beginning in childhood and continuing into old age.” Exercise also erodes stress (stress disrupts the process by which the brain collects and stores memories).
- While we sleep, our brains flush out neurotoxins through the spinal column. Sleep also plays an important role in the formation of long term memories. The final two hours of sleep from 6-8 hours are crucial for memories to be laid down as stable residents in your brain. Your brain also prepares for learning during the “second half of the nights, so if you sleep six hours or less, you are shortchanging yourself and impeding your learning.” Sleeping directly after learning something new is beneficial for memory. Sleep also helps us produce new and creative ideas. If a person is sleep deprived, even though they are fully awake, the neurons used for important mental tasks switch off. Doyle said that humans are supposed to nap daily and that 20-30 minutes is ideal. Resting after learning improves your chances of remembering (more Starbucks time?).
Terry Doyle has a website titled “The Learner Centered Classroom” filled with fascinating links such as “Helping Students Learn in a Learner Centered Environment,” and “The Learner-Centered Classroom.” I think LIB100 does a great job of helping students develop several of the essential skills he says they need including: Learning how to learn on their own, and taking more control of their own learning.
Sculpting the Mind, Shaping the Learner: Mindfulness Practices in the Classroom
My first breakout session segued perfectly with the plenary session, where Jill Luedke from Temple University and Deborah Ultan Boudewyns at the University of Minnesota introduced the idea of incorporating mindfulness practices in the classroom. Jill is a yoga instructor and Deborah practices yoga, and our session started with a two minute meditation exercise. They explained the benefits of mindfulness practices to foster more productive learning experiences with greater awareness, patience, and focus. I must say that these presenters completely had my attention when they talked about us creating a collective body to be more aware and present in the moment. They showed an image of the constellation Orion and they said that they encourage their students to find the brightest start for their research. They defined mindfulness as “Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment.” They talked about loving kindness and bringing that to the classroom. These presenters are both art librarians and I found their presentation to be completely authentic and genuine. I have never taken a yoga class, but after this session, I’m ready to give it a try!
ACRL Information Literacy Framework (Roundtable Discussion)
Amanda did such a great job talking about this, that there is no need for me to say much about this discussion. I will reiterate the fact that the overall theme of this discussion seemed to fall under the category of uncertainty and perhaps skepticism. One of my personal goals for this summer is to spend some focused time on the Framework so that I can be up to speed with what is happening. I am hoping that Amanda, Kyle, and I will have the opportunity to lead some discussions about this with the Research and Instruction team. This is still a work in progress and a second draft is scheduled to be released in early June. The next draft will include even more threshold concepts and scenarios that will provide ideas for how to incorporate the concepts into instruction. In order to understand the differences in the documents, you can start by looking at the different definitions of information literacy:
Information literacy as defined by the 2000 Standards: Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.” [Note: there is more, but this is the first line and summarizes the rest.]
Information literacy as defined by the 2014 Framework: Information literacy “combines a repertoire of abilities, practices, and dispositions focused on expanding one’s understanding of the information ecosystem, with the proficiencies of finding, using and analyzing information, scholarship, and data to answer questions, develop new ones, and create new knowledge, through ethical participation in communities of learning and scholarship.”
More to come in the future on the new Framework!
Unifying Ideas: Building For-Credit Information Literacy Courses Around Themes to Optimize Student Learning
In this break-out session, Elizabeth Price and Rebecca Richardson, both from Murray State University talked about their experiences teaching a one-credit course using themes. One of the instructors used the theme of “Digital Footprints” and then she had the students research the topics in light of their majors. For example, “How do privacy issues affect us psychologically (or sociologically)?” “What are the financial risks related to privacy breaches?” She touted the approach as helping students analyze sources for their usefulness. The other instructor used the theme “Is Google Evil?” which sounded very intriguing to me, especially since my husband just purchased a Chromebook this weekend!
Saturday Morning Plenary Session – Lee Van Orsdel
Lee Van Orsdel is the Dean of University Libraries at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. Her presentation was about the new $65 million main library on their campus which opened in the fall of 2013. She showed numerous pictures and explained the “social/student centered” approach. The layout and philosophy are very similar to the NC State’s Hunt Library‘s. Here are a few things that she said that stood out for me: there is no signage in the building; furniture is only moved by the staff at the beginning of the semester, the rest of the time students are free to rearrange furniture as they desire and they do this frequently with tables and chairs going up and down elevators; only students work at service desks; students do their “Peer Consultant Experience” consultations (the equivalent of our PRS’s); they track a lot of data about their consultations; and they provide quiet study rooms (the opposite from our stated purpose of study rooms). My impression is that it is a beautiful library, but I don’t think I’m ready to turn ZSR into a social-centered instead of an information-centered library.
Zombies, Pirates, and Law Students: Creating Comics for Your Academic Library
This presentation was a lot of fun and presented a range of ways that comics have been developed and used in academic libraries. Jennifer Poggiali at Lehman College and Matt Upson at Oklahoma State University both used artists to create original comics based on actual people in their libraries. Jennifer worked with her college’s art department and Matt hired a nontraditional student assistant who happened to be an artist. The part of the presentation that I got most excited about was Katy Kavanagh’s (East Carolina University) presentation on how she used ToonDoo to liven up their LibGuides. Evidently there are several options beside ToonDoo for creating comics, and maybe if I get some extra time this summer, I’ll explore some of them! Wouldn’t Hu Womack make a great super-hero librarian?! I I think this concept has a lot of potential.
Overall, LOEX was simply wonderful! I’m very grateful for the opportunity to attend this great conference.