From May 11th-14th, 2021, several members of the ZSR Research and Instruction team virtually attended LOEX 2021. While we missed attending in person, the program this year was very strong and there were several great sessions that we wanted to share with you:
This year’s LOEX Conference was originally planned to take place in Northern California. It is safe to say that the four day LOEX Zoom conference which took place May 11-14, 2021 was not what the original planners envisioned, but it was an extremely well planned and executed event. For those of you unfamiliar with LOEX, it is the premier library instruction conference available for academic librarians. This year’s Wake Forest attendees included Elizabeth Ellis, Amanda Kaufman, Meghan Webb, Sarah Jeong, and Joy Gambill.
The tone of this year’s conference was set in the opening session by plenary speaker Nicole A. Cooke, Associate Professor in the School of Information Science at the University of South Carolina. The title of her speech was, “Tell me Sweet Little Lies: Racism, Bias Confirmation, and Persistent Malinformation.” Dr. Cooke is the author of the recently published book, Fake News and Alternative Facts: Information Literacy in a Post-Truth Era. The themes that she introduced were woven throughout the entire conference. She talked about misinformation, disinformation, malinformation, implicit bias, microaggressions, and stereotypes. She also said that we need to move beyond critical literacy to critical cultural literacy. Critical cultural literacy goes beyond critical literacy by reclaiming diverse voices and looking through the lens of historical literacy, racial literacy, social justice, and emotional literacy. We must work to right injustice.
Pedagogical Strategies for Supporting Autistic Students (Joy)
There were a number of unusually good breakout sessions this year, but one of the ones I enjoyed the most was “Pedagogical Strategies for Supporting Autistic Students” presented by Rachel McMullin and Kerry Walton from West Chester University which is located in Chester County, Pennsylvania. This university has had a Learning Assistance Center specifically for students with autism, so these librarians have benefitted from five years of on-going training about this topic. They started with some basic reminders such as referring to these students as “students with autism,” always using person-first language. Then, they reminded us that autism is a spectrum disorder and each person on that spectrum is an individual. These students have hyper and/or hypo reactivity to sensory input (which means patterns, sounds, etc. can be extremely distracting). These students need kind, but direct instruction. These students benefit from numerous Universal Design principles: offering choices, providing visuals, avoiding sarcasm, working in chunks, setting clear expectations, and providing examples of good work. Group work for these students is particularly challenging, and asynchronous online classes are fantastic educational environments. I do my best to incorporate universal design principles in my classes, but thanks to this breakout session, the audience I have in mind has expanded.
Epistemic injustice and white supremacy in information literacy instruction (Elizabeth)
One of the major themes that I noticed throughout LOEX 2021 was trust in information. This session by Maggie Clarke (CSU Dominguez Hills) approached the theme of trust through epistemology: what is knowledge and how do we know something? The presenter asked attendees to consider the decisions we make when choosing to trust information, which is culturally shaped by the identity of the information creator. Epistemic injustice occurs when a person’s knowledge is not accepted or they are excluded from participating in creating knowledge because of their identity (this includes our students or people with whom they share identities).
Scholarly information was specifically addressed as a privileged type of information created in a powerful and exclusionary structure of knowing. The presenter’s suggestions to address epistemic injustice in academic information literacy were to:
- acknowledge the limitations of scholarly knowledge, including the historical and continued exclusion of some groups from scholarship as well as the information that can not be found in scholarly information,
- including more types of information sources and knowledge domains in our instruction,
- avoiding hierarchy while recognizing that different types of information have unique strengths and weaknesses.
More critical examination of whose voices we gravitate towards and privilege in our instruction should lead to more inclusive information selections for our students, a topic that was further explored in Nimisha Bhat’s (Smith College) presentation Diversify your lesson plans: de-centering whiteness in library instruction and Dr. Cooke’s opening address.
I have to admit that with the pervasive threat of mis/dis/malinformation, I found myself wanting presenters to tell me how to confront the idea of trust in information with my students. I was not the only attendee with this concern. In regards to epistemic justice efforts, one person asked “If we flip this on its head, how do we not legitimize knowledge of anti-vaxers or conspiracy theorists if all knowledge makers are equal?” It was difficult for me to reconcile the expansion of what we define as “truthful” information beyond creators that are already trusted and accepted, but several sessions rightfully encouraged attendees to challenge the canon. Dr. Cooke’s model of critical cultural literacy encourages us to pay more attention to whose voices are included and excluded when determining whether or not information is trustworthy.
Being Present for Liberatory Instruction: Emergent Strategy Facilitation (Sarah)
I have always wished to attend the LOEX conference, and my first LOEX conference did not disappoint. I was intrigued by this presentation title and abstract, and three academic librarians, Jennifer Brown, Kiyoki Shiosaki, and Gisele Tannase, from the University of California at Berkeley gave one of the best presentations I have ever attended about liberatory pedagogy. The presenters’ teaching inspiration is derived from the writings of Octavia Butler, who was a respected author I learned of in an educational philosophy graduate course. After teaching in the midst of the COVID-19 surge and maintaining calm while galvanizing students’ learning during Spring 2021, I found unexpected respite and rejuvenation as I listened to the presenters’ teaching philosophies. Among the core principles that resonated with me are the following:
- “Small is good, small is all. (The large is a reflection of the small).
- Change is constant. (Be like water).
- There is always enough time for the right work.
- Never a failure, always a lesson.
- Move at the speed of trust. Focus on critical connections more than critical mass–build the resilience by building the relationships.
- What you pay attention to grows.”
It has not been easy to define my teaching approach in the past, and I was encouraged by their presentation to “be like water” as my instruction methodology continues to progress and evolve.
Transforming privacy literacy instruction: From surveillance theory to teaching practice (Meghan)
Sarah Hartman-Caverly & Alex Chisholm (two Reference & Instruction Librarians from Penn State Berks) presented an engaging workshop series showcasing current, critical surveillance theory-informed privacy literacy instruction practices. Privacy literacy is something that Amanda and I incorporate in our FYS (Information, Influence, and Neutrality: Exploring Our Digital Lives), so I was interested to learn about Sarah and Alex’s approach to this topic in their classrooms.
During the session, Sarah and Alex shared some interesting privacy literacy learning activities and resources from a privacy literacy toolkit that they’ve developed. During their instruction sessions, they frame these activities using critical surveillance studies. Here are some of the resources that were shared during the session:
- How Normal Am I? An interactive documentary about face recognition technologies
- Mathwashing. Longform infographic unpacking the widespread fallacy that algorithms and AI are neutral
- The Endless Doomscroller. Interactive digital art installation that promotes reflection on the interface design, rhetoric, psychology, and social architecture of doomscrolling
- Digital Shred metadata activity.
I really appreciated their approach to privacy literacy instruction, especially their shifting from technosolutionism and their focus on conscientious connectivity, privacy as a value system, and context over method. I’m excited to adapt some of these lessons in future instruction sessions.
Googlization of Knowledge: Teaching Students to Think Critically About the Internet’s Impact on Self, Society, and the World (Amanda)
Sometime last year I was chatting with Hannah Rozear of Duke University Libraries when both realized that we would both be co-teaching a 3-credit course last fall on similar themes (focusing on topics misinformation, privacy, algorithms, etc…). We swapped syllabi, but hadn’t touched base on it since then, so I was really excited to see that Hannah and her co-instructors were presenting on their course at LOEX! Figuring out how to organize all these complex topics into a semester-long course is challenging, so it was tremendously helpful to hear about how another group went about it. I continue to be impressed by Duke’s information privilege knapsack resources, and the presenters went into greater detail about how they use the knapsack as a jumping off point for further discussion.