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Georgia International Conference on Information Literacy

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the Georgia International Conference on Information Literacy in Savannah, GA. This was my kind of conference. It was small enough to make friends, but big enough to have some really great sessions to choose from at every time slot. Plus, it was all about information literacy, which is one of my favorite things to talk about! What more could an instruction librarian want? One unique thing about this conference is that it wasn’t just academic librarians. It was all kinds of librarians, plus faculty and teachers from many different places. There were a lot of faculty/librarian collaborations which was really fun to learn about.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Sharon Mader, the ACRL Visiting Program Officer for Information Literacy. She gave a great update on the ACRL Information Literacy Framework (Threshold Concepts), and was able to (hopefully) calm down some rumors and worries that have been circulating in libraryland. First of all, the Threshold Concepts are not replacing the standards. A Threshold Concept could never be measured as a Standard. ACRL purposefully made the Framework a filed document, as opposed to an approved document (such as the Standards) so the Framework can be a “dynamic and flexible” living document. She said something that I really liked and even Tweeted!- “The Framework is not doing things differently, but doing different things.” It is not meant to drive the undergraduate curriculum at institutions, rather it is to inform our teaching and help our students reach deeper levels of thinking and understanding. She asked some really important questions- “what does student misunderstanding tell us?” and “what is it meant to do information literacy?” It was a great update about the new Framework, and her insights were really meaningful to me.

The best session that I went to was presented by a faculty member and librarians at Niagara University. Paul J. Vermette was simply an inspiration. He has a wealth of experience, great ideas, a solid research background, and the “it” factor for me when it comes to teaching. I don’t really know what “it” is, but he is just an excellent educator. The talked about applying the ENGAGING Constructivist Framework in the Library Instruction Classroom. At first I was worried because they spent more time than I would have on “getting to know you and what we are going to do” types of activities. But what I realized by the end of it is that building relationships is so important, even in one-shot situations. Taking just a couple of minutes and doing something that allows students to get to know each other and to get to know you can make a huge difference in how the rest of the class goes. We did an activity about a Gronk (it was really cool, you should look it up) that allowed us to have fun with our partner and learn things about teaching and how others learn. I met a great conference buddy (Hi, Elena!) and was hooked for the rest of the session. One neat activity that I plan to use in the classroom the first time I have a chance teaches students about Boolean operators (aka “connectors”) AND allows them to establish a rapport with each other. They can fill in a black Venn diagram with the things that they have in common (the ANDS) and the things that they don’t. A very quick activity that is fun, makes them comfortable with each other if partner work is coming up, and leads into a topic that they need to know about. Genius! You can read all about the ENGAGING Framework, so I’m not going to regurgitate it to you here, but I highly recommend that you take a look at it and think about ways to incorporate more active learning techniques into your teaching.

Another session that I enjoyed was given by an old friend of mine, Brooke Taxakis and her colleague at Campbell University, William Epps. They talked about the Cephalonian and Jigsaw method. I had never heard of the Cephalonian method, and they did a great job of incorporating use of it into their session. Active learning- it’s not just for Millennials! With the Cephalonian method, you give students questions ahead of time that includes cues about when they should ask those questions. For example, you could have a shape on the card and also shapes on your presentation slides, or they could be color-coded. This seems like a great way to get students engaged during a one-shot, where they may not know what to expect and may not know what to ask. I had seen the modified jigsaw method before, where students are in groups and work on a particular thing and then each group teaches their thing to the class. But I am excited to try to full jigsaw method, which involves mixing up the groups and having “experts” in each group teach particular topics to just their group members. It seems like students would pay more attention that way. The only obstacle I see is time, which is why I think we use the modified method more than the full jigsaw method. This session was great, because I picked up some new and very practical ideas that I can implement into my teaching. I can’t wait to try them!

Making it REAL: I attended a lovely 20 minute session given by a librarian and a faculty member from Appalachian State. Jon C. Pope teaches English Composition and worked with librarians Kim Becnel and Amanda Finn to make some changes to his big research assignment. Instead of doing the typical English Comp research paper, he had them do a REAL (Rhetorical Exigence and Active Learning Project). The students (in groups) had to choose an Exigence to work on. For those of you who are like me and have no idea what an Exigence is, it is a problem that has an urgent need that they could connect to. Some of the examples that he gave were students choosing to write about the need for a traffic light at an intersection on-campus, or the fact that women soccer players get 2 points for every goal and men get 1 (I think that’s right- I know nothing about soccer so I could be remembering that wrong!). Students care more about their writing when they are writing for an audience other than their professor. Dr. Pope shared that with the REAL project, students saw themselves as content creators and took more ownership of their writing. One memorable thing that they shared was that students reported at the end that they liked the project because they didn’t have to do research. But they were doing research! A lot of research! Groups went to government agencies to gather data, did interviews, and even looked at some research articles. They were doing something authentic. What’s the point of making freshman read peer-reviewed articles? (A whole different topic). Lots of things to think about from this example.

For my ODU Peeps, here is the link to the conference website. If you want to hear more about the stuff that I went to, just ask!

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