Last week, Amanda Foster and I had the privilege of attending LOEX 2015 which was held this year in Denver, Colorado. This year, 390 instruction librarians from the United States, Canada, and Norway (yes, two librarians from Norway!) gathered to exchange ideas, commiserate, and re-energize. Our common bond was library instruction. As with past LOEX experiences, this was an extremely well executed event filled with outstanding plenary and breakout sessions. The entire conference took place in the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center located 10.5 miles from downtown Denver.
Thursday Evening Opening Reception
One of the best parts of LOEX is having the opportunity to meet some of the most interesting people in the world. At the Friday night reception, I sat with the engineering librarian at the University of North Dakota who was an entomologist and worked for the USDA for many years, including a three year stint in Raleigh, NC (and this is just one small example of interesting people!). At the reception, I learned that LOEX is now a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization thanks to a behind-the-scenes successful rescue by a group of librarians who helped LOEX dodge being absorbed into Eastern Michigan University’s budget!
Friday Morning Plenary Session
The opening plenary session was one of the best I’ve heard. Anne-Marie Dietering from Oregon State University spoke on “Reflections on Reflection: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Meta.” Two years ago, I incorporated metacognition elements in my LIB100 sections and I was less than pleased with the experience. Anne-Marie never used the term “metacognition,” but instead used the term “metathinking,” which I really liked. You can read her entire speech, including the findings here (it includes the names of several books that we have in our library that helped shaped her five year journey with this topic). The punch line of her talk focused on Mary Helen Immordino-Yang‘s findings which connects “social emotion, cognition and culture.” It seems that through the 1980’s, scientists believed that thinking and emotion were separate, controlled by different parts of the brain. But it turns out that emotion is an essential part of higher-level thinking. New experiences receive “tags” that we put into our emotional knowledge banks that determine how we make decisions moving forward. Anne-Marie says that our world is comfortable with binary thinking (good/bad; guilty/innocent, scholarly/popular, novice/expert, etc.). She challenged us to stretch ourselves and our students to accept the uncomfortable spaces between the binaries. We are not good or bad, but in the middle and we must learn to deal with the complexities in between. She says that librarians are particularly equipped to navigate grey areas and that we should embrace our unique role. I personally loved this speech for several reasons. It helped me to understand what was wrong with my metacognition exercises that I used in my classes two years ago which were completely analytical, “What I learned” reflections. It also affirmed what happens naturally in my classes when most of the students let go of old research habits and embrace new search strategies and tools. We introduce them to the uncomfortable world of databases, the catalog, and Summon and the angst they experience is the sweet spot for knowledge. I was so inspired by this speech that I could have gone home after her presentation and declared LOEX 2015 a success!
I will very briefly discuss some of the other highlights of the conference:
Breakout: “Using Satirical News Sources to Promote Active Learning and Student Engagement” By Stephanie Alexander (California State University East Bay)
In this session, the presented showed three video clips and then asked us to use the new ACRL Framework for Information Literacy and select the threshold concepts the clips addressed. The presenter shows the clips in one shot sessions. Amanda and I were both at this session and we agreed that the first two clips could not be used in our classes (both took jabs at conservatives: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and Rand Paul’s Plagiarism Problem by Stephen Colbert). However, the last clip was John Oliver’s Commentary on the Sugar Industry had more potential. She showed an excerpt from the clip that quotes research from the sugar industry that says sugar does not cause obesity. This clip could be used to discuss the first concept, “Authority is Constructed and Contextual” where learners determine the credibility of sources and understand the elements that might temper their credibility.
Breakout: “Hacking the Framework: Using the Art and Science of Story to Address the Dispositions” By John Watts and Joshua Vossler.
I attended this session because I attended a LOEX preconference two years ago led by this pair and I thought it would be a fun session. It was entertaining, but I was disturbed by the story on which they hinged the presentation. Josh gave a very dramatic presentation about an English professor he had in graduate school who screamed at them for not using proper MLA format when they were given an introductory exercise in class and the answer was Moby Dick: Or, the Whale. After the class, I asked him which threshold concept this represented and he said it fell under, “Scholarly is a conversation,” and the disposition under that was, “systems privilege authorities and not having a fluency in the language and process of a discipline disempowers their ability to participate and engage.” I have thought about this a lot, and it is my sincere hope that this is not the meaning of this disposition. By the way, the Framework was a common thread throughout the conference, and it was clear that everyone is still trying to figure out what it means and how it will be used.
Roundtable Discussion: Assessment of Instruction
During lunch, I attended this roundtable discussion (with Susan Smith in mind), just to hear what others were doing. We will be a beta site for the new SAILs assessment tool starting this fall and I will be using it in my classes. I learned that the full version of SAILs requires a lot classroom time and that other institutions are using “Research Ready” and “Guide on the Side,” but no group seemed thrilled with their tools. I also learned that Megan Oakleaf is a consultant on this topic and she was given rave reviews by those in attendance.
Breakout: Teachers-turned-Librarians Share Tips for Improving Instruction
This session was filled with common sense tips for classroom management and effectiveness. Instructors should engage students, build rapport, and work to prevent distractions. When disruptions occur, subtlety is the key—focus on positives, keep your cool, ignore if possible, never reprimand in front of the class, discuss issues with students one-on-one. Up to 90% of how we communicate is with body language, so be self-aware! Stand still when you are giving directions, be aware of boundaries, use eye contact, be positive and upbeat, and be honest. Find ways to improve your instruction by using peer observation, practicing reflective teaching, co-teaching, and using mentors.
Breakout: Teaching Evaluation Can be a One Dish Meal by Heather Campbell at Brescia University College in Canada
I thought this was a particularly interesting breakout. Heather is the coordinator of instruction at her school, and she implemented a 360 degree style teaching evaluation to help strengthen the presentation/teaching skills of their teaching librarians. She shared copies of the feedback form as well as the rubric they developed. The purpose of the evaluation is to be supportive and helpful, and is not used for job evaluation.
I attended other sessions, but I have summarized what I thought was most interesting. It was a wonderful conference and I am grateful for the opportunity to attend!