Featured Teaching Librarian: Paul Showalter

Several times a year, the ACRL Instruction Section Teaching Methods Committee selects and interviews a librarian who demonstrates a passion for teaching, innovation, and student learning.
Paul Showalter

Paul Showalter

College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA

Job Title:
Coordinator of Library Instruction & Assessment

Number of Years Teaching:
17 and counting

Are you a dogs or cats fan?
Have both. Love both.

What are you reading right now?
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

Describe a favorite activity that you use with students (this could be for a face-to-face class, online, or hybrid class).
With new students, I often start class with a “Road Trip” activity. In small groups, I have them spend a few minutes thinking of the top ten things they’d need to plan for a road trip to Las Vegas. What do they need to do before they leave? What happens between Williamsburg and Las Vegas? What will they do when they get to Vegas? As they share their plans, I capture the ideas on a whiteboard.

Once we’ve spent a few fun minutes on that, I congratulate them on their road-trip planning skills and then ask them to consider a different kind of journey, one that also can benefit from good planning: the research assignment. On the whiteboard, I make a dot for the point of departure (when the assignment is given) and the destination (when the assignment is due). I ask them to work in their groups again for a few minutes to draw a hypothetical map of the trip between those two points. I then have each group share aloud a one-minute explanation of their map. That gives us a chance to highlight common elements between groups and note the ways in which processes can differ, but arrive at the same goal. I pay particular attention to where in their “journey” research occurs and whether they imagine the trip as a straight line or as something a bit more circuitous, as both of those concepts can foster discussion about process and mindset.

Name two things you would share with a librarian who is new to teaching.
While I won’t presume to call it wisdom, with a librarian who is new to teaching, I would share a couple hard-won bits of advice:

(1) Get the students involved in their learning. It’s tempting to try to control the class by talking at the students for the entire class period, showing them all the things you think they should know and all the amazing library tips and tricks that you know. But, if you’re willing to let some of that go and focus on a few tried-and-true activities, students will learn more during your time together.

(2) Your own learning doesn’t stop just because you’ve become a teacher. We can all get better at our jobs, so embrace professional development. Seek out learning opportunities from your peers, colleagues, and on your own. Get involved (or start!) discussions about teaching and learning with librarians and faculty at your institution and beyond.

Describe your experience with instructional technologies (e.g. Kaltura, Captivate, Articulate Storyline, CMS).
All incoming first-year students at W&M taken an online summer course called “College Studies.” It’s administered in Blackboard and is comprised of two main parts. Part two, called “Welcome to the World of Information,” is an introduction to information literacy concepts and to the W&M Libraries. For part two, I worked with a handful of excellent partners to build a library of video tutorials using Camtasia and quizzes using Blackboard. As we’ve revised and (hopefully) improved the tutorials and quizzes each year, I’ve spent around 500 hours on the project, all told. Once I got the hang of it, I found Camtasia fairly easy and enjoyable to use. My editing process goes much faster now than it did when I was starting the project in 2015, which frees up time for me to try to think of ways to make the tutorials more engaging. With Blackboard, there was a pretty steep learning curve for building tests and question pools, but that was largely due to our desire to have multiple random question options for each quiz. I feel pretty adept at it now, but as I was learning, I relied heavily on a few Bb experts at my institution and on tutorials I found online. In our last round of revisions, we added captions to the videos (using YouTube, mostly) and uploaded our videos to Panopto in Bb for easy streaming. If anyone wants to take a look at our tutorials, they’re publicly available at guides.libraries.wm.edu/infolit.

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