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#TILC2014 Recap

#TILC2014 Recap

May 15, 2014

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of attending the first ever Innovative Library Classroom conference at Radford University. The conference was a vision of Candice Benjes-Small at Radford University, and librarians from Radford, Virginia Tech, Hollins College and Longwood worked together to organize the event. This was my kind of conference, filled with people excited about teaching, and focused on library instruction. It seems as though I gravitate towards the library instruction sessions at larger conferences, so I loved the focus of the entire day.

The keynote speaker was Lori Anthony, a Design Thinking expert at Radford University. I always find it interesting when a non-librarian is the keynote speaker. She started by showing us a really cool video called Shift Happens. Very thought provoking! She talked about a Steve Jobs quote: “fail early, fail often,” and the power of ideas, even if they are crazy, bad ideas. She emphasized that when working in a group, we shouldn’t stifle each others ideas, even when we know an idea won’t work. A great idea can come from a crazy, unrealistic idea! She also mentioned some questions that we should ask when designing a new space, curriculum, or any other type of new plan:

  • Why is it this way?
  • Who cares about this issue?
  • How can I make it better?
  • Who are the stakeholders?

It was a great way to kick off the conference, and definitely gave me food for thought for summer projects:-)


For the first breakout session, I attended Using threshold concepts, learning theory, and millennial research in the design of information literacy sessions by Brandi Porter from Ferum College. She talked about her approach to one-shot instruction sessions based on her research of how millennials retrieve information, using threshold concepts and teaching and learning theories. She stated that information literacy threshold concepts are necessary for disciplinary research, which led her to the development of session specific specific learning outcomes. She talked about knowing the student culture at your institution. Are there a lot of first gen students? Are they unprepared to do research? Are they mostly digital natives? She noted that from her observations, despite being digital natives, millennials are not prepared to do real research. One thing that I really liked was her visual, which gave a listing of a preferred learning method of millennials pared with a practical example of how to address that learning preference in the classroom (I’m all about being practical!). Her examples were: visual-Prezi; collaborative-groups; structure-Libguide; meaningful-problem scenario; and active-iPads. I really liked the Research Guide that she created for her Freshman Seminar. She uses the flipped classroom approach, having them complete the exercises prior to coming to library instruction. It provides the structure, but the interactivity (through use of Prezis and exercises) that freshman need. I will definitely be revisiting it this summer as I am brainstorming ideas for our own Library 101 guide. She then gave us examples of threshold concepts and we talked about learning outcomes that may come out of those concepts. One that I will be using in the future is “research is a process.” This is something that  most of my students just don’t “get” during their early years of college.


The next session that I attended was that of the invited speaker, Carroll Wilkerson, from West Virginia University. She talked about Courageous conversations worth having (to strengthen instructional practice). One of my favorite things that she said was that innovation can be enhanced by talking. This goes back to the keynote speaker’s idea, that it is important to share ideas, even if the ideas won’t work. You never know what will come out of a great conversation. She also talked about the importance of critical moments. Moments that could open up, or shut down. This can not only happen in conversations, but also in the classroom. Sometimes it’s important to just let students talk, even if you don’t particularly agree with where the conversation is going, or if you are dying to jump in and correct them and tell them the “right” answer. She also reminded me of the importance of getting together with my fellow instruction librarians and just talking. I’m thinking pizza Friday in the ref office will be happening soon!


So then there was lunch, which was awesome! I didn’t sit at any of the topic tables, because I just wanted to relax and talk to my colleague and those around us. We also had time to practice for our presentation and go to Starbucks, so that was fun:-)


For the next session, I attended Beyond the Gold: Redesigning a successful information literacy tutorial for a large first-year class, presented by Jenne Klotz and Kathy Clarke from James Madison University. I was excited about this session, because ODU’s information literacy modules are very similar to the Go for the Gold modules that JMU had for several years. I wasn’t here at the time, but I’m pretty sure that our inspiration came from them. We are in the process of redesigning those modules, so I was very interested in what they were doing. It was fun hearing their story about what they have done in the past, from workbooks to Go for the Gold, to their current system which is more of  on online toolbox where students can pick and choose what they need, or they can go through all of it for the info lit requirement. It is mostly video based, and includes a couple of online games. At JMU, all students are required to pass an information literacy proficiency test (about 4,000 students) during their first year. They also talked about the development of the test and the changes that they have made to make it more relevant to students of today. These millennials are giving us all kinds of challenges and work to to:-)


The last breakout session that I attended was presented by a librarian and recent graduates of UNC-Chapel Hill (Jonathan McMichael, Julia Feerrar, and Amanda McDonald) Let the distance bring us together: Using concept-based videos. This session was perfect for my current interests. I’m all about digital learning objects, and instructional videos are one of my favorite things to talk about. Jonathon McMichael talked about “visible learning,” and those a-ha moments that can be attained through active learning. I really liked Julia Feerrar’s research about story telling, and having videos that tell stories can be a lot more interesting and memorable for students. Amanda McDonald talked about her experience with a flipped classroom, in which she had students watch videos prior to coming to class. Her experience was really positive, and the flipped classroom technique had great results in comparison to the traditional lecture technique. I’m really looking forward to investigating their videos, and hopefully applying some of their great ideas to our own instructional videos.


Finally, it was time for the Lightening Talks. The first talk was by Carole Porter and Laura Link from the Jefferson College of Health Sciences. Roanoke happens to be my hometown, so I was rooting for them! I loved that one of the presenters was a faculty member, and her enthusiasm was contagious. They created videos using Camtasia to teach students about phlebotomy procedures. Not only was I interested in the video creation information that they shared, I loved seeing the successful collaboration between a librarian and a faculty member.


The 2nd talk was myself, and my colleague Rachel Lux, representing Old Dominion University (go Monarchs!). This was my first conference presentation ever, and do you know how hard it was to wait until the end of the day to get it over with?! I think that it went really well. We made a One Minute Tip video specifically for the presentation, and it was so much fun to show it in front of an audience. They laughed at all the right moments, and “got” our sense of humor. So after the video was well received, the rest of our talk was fun and people asked good questions. Yay for us!


I was super excited for The Retweet of Academia: using Twitter to improve information literacy instruction, by Alex Carroll and Robin Dasler from University of Maryland-College Park. They showed a really great and funny example of plagiarism via Twitter that I will definitely be using in the future. I totally agree with their statement that we shouldn’t focus on citation style with undergrads, but we should shift our focus to the concept of plagiarism.


Liz Johns’ (from VCU) talk about using visuals in the classroom was great, and she gave us a beautiful handout that I plan to keep forever! She talked about how visuals can capture the attention of students, and gave some great examples of how to use more creative Venn diagrams (the Denzel Washington one was great), and ‘old school’ topics that students can relate to, like Disney characters, to teach concepts. One of my favorites of the conference.


The last talk was done by Craig Arthur from Radford University. He had some great energy, and his topic was right up my alley- How to (and how not to) engage your students with popular culture. He talked about a zombie event that they did at Radford, which seemed like a lot of fun. We’re not suffering from zombie fatigue yet… He talked about the importance of meeting students where they are, and gave examples of memes (my favorite was Success Baby talking about using library resources), cartoon characters, social media trends & more. Very enjoyable presentation.


The last talk brought up a question that I’ve since given a lot of thought. Someone asked something like “I’m not a young person, and I don’ t use social media. How can I use these pop culture references in the classroom, when I don’t use them in my real life?” The response to this was great- people suggested ways of finding out what is popular, and reassured everyone that you don’t have to be young to be cool. My take on it is a little different, but it didn’t really fit in with the discussion, so I didn’t say anything at the time. Way back in undergrad at Longwood University, I learned that “good teaching is good teaching.” You have to be true to yourself, or students won’t be able to relate to you. You don’t have to be just like them to connect with them. If memes aren’t your thing, don’t use them. If you don’t use Facebook or Twitter, that’s fine. Everyone has their own talents and interests and ways of connecting with people. You don’t have to imitate someone else to be successful in the classroom (and from my own experience, trying to be like someone else is exhausting and ineffective!) Find what works for you and do it!


As you can probably tell, The Innovative Library Classroom was a really positive experience to me. I’m ready to get to work and implement some of all of these great ideas!

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