Thursday, September 12, 2013

Active Learning in Library Instruction

I need to start incorporating a lot more active learning in my library instruction sessions. I can't keep watching students play with their phones while I try to impress upon them how important the library is, and releasing them into the world knowing nothing more about the library than they did when they walked in. (Disclaimer: I have some excellent classes that are very attentive and ask great questions. But then I have some that can be described as above. And I think both types of class would benefit from a more interesting, hands-on, interactive class structure.)

I feel for my students; I really do. I sat through sixteen of these things myself between first grade and my senior year of undergrad. They were all boring. Some were informative, I admit; I was using JSTOR, Gale, and EBSCO like a pro in high school thanks to our librarians. But I can do better; I can be interesting.

Here's a blog post about active learning being applied in library instruction classes. It doesn't have detailed plans for how to apply active learning concepts to LI, but it has some good information.

I love this article that gives some simple activities that introduce active learning to the session. I really want to try Deck of Cards Boolean.

The idea of a Human Citation (among others) is presented in this article, and I really want to do that one too, but I think I'll rename it ("citation" is just a touch too close to "centipede" for my comfort). Unfortunately, this would only work for the (very few) classes where citation is strongly emphasized. (Out of the 102 classes I've scheduled so far this semester, two are about citation. And they're at a time where I won't get to teach them, despite my avid love of MLA.)

Slide 8 of this slideshow has some great activity ideas. I like the idea of "Shoot Out" (students write questions down, crumple up the papers and throw them to the front of the room, and they're answered at the end) but I don't want to encourage students to throw things toward me and the two 90" screens up front. I also really like "Press Conference" (students are given cards with questions that are answered at predetermined points in the presentation). A slight alternative on "Synonym Race" that would take a little less time would be to have students (as a whole class) offer alternative search terms (like "death penalty" also being "capital punishment" and "execution" and whatever else they come up with).

Pete was talking a few weeks ago about when he used to go into middle school classes and demonstrate science concepts, like electromagnets, or how different elements create different colors of flame when lit on fire. He noticed that, at the more well-to-do school, the students would sit, watch and listen to the explanation, and then participate in "experiments" using those concepts. It was a model that worked for them. But when he tried to apply the same frame at the poorer school, the kids got antsy and didn't pay attention. They wanted to play, and have something happen, then ask why (and there's your teachable moment). I think I need to start applying this latter, sandbox approach. "Here's a database; go screw around with it and see what you learn. I'm here if you have questions." It would give me an opportunity to walk around the room (which deters them from playing games or using Facebook because then I can see their screens) and lets them move at their own pace. If nobody runs into something to ask a question about, I can pepper comments on limiters and searching techniques and results throughout the time allotted.

Part of me also really wants to create and use a Powerpoint Jeopardy game. I wouldn't have the time to teach the concepts and then play the game, so it could be a learn-as-you-go, I-don't-expect-you-to-know-all-the-answers, low-stress game. Of course, they'll expect candy or prizes if there's a game involved... or maybe not. Maybe just not being lectured at will be sufficient reward. If it isn't, maybe I'll point that out. ("It's this or listening to me drone for an hour!")

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