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Instruction Reading

Critical Reading Partnership Inspired by Project Information Literacy

By Deb Baker, Library Director, Manchester Community College, Manchester New Hampshire

This fall, at an English faculty colleague’s suggestion, I’ve been visiting her Composition I class to collaborate in modeling college reading. We were inspired by Project Information Literacy’s “Provocation” series, especially articles by Barbara Fister (Lizard People in the Library) Alison Head (Reading in the Age of Distrust) and Nicole Cooke (Tell Me Sweet Little Lies: Racism as a Form of Persisting Malinformation). Together we’ve facilitated students through reading, annotating, critiquing and discussing eight articles on a single topic over seven weeks, followed by two weeks of inviting them to apply the skills they learned to the sources they’ve found for their own research topics.

In August, we met to talk about Head’s suggestion that “educators and instruction librarians must make the invisible activity of reading more visible.” In part because of Fister’s article, my colleague suggested QAnon as our topic. She found a series of articles from newspapers, websites, and academic journals that she hoped would help students situate QAnon in the historical, social, and cultural contexts of American satanic panics. Every week we read and annotated the assigned reading ourselves, uploading them to Canvas at least a couple of days ahead of class, and then talked through what we had wondered, looked up, and thought about in a class discussion. She would follow up each class with a Canvas discussion board. We set broad goals – sharing our own reading processes, helping students develop critical reading habits, introducing Cooke’s critical cultural literacy, and connecting critical reading with research.

With this plan in mind, we started class discussions in the third week of the semester. For our first session together, the students were asked to read the assigned article, but not to annotate. We led the discussion. For the next week, they annotated the first part of the article, and we again led the discussion. The idea was that each week, the students would take more of a lead.

It went relatively well, but like all of the best laid classroom plans, also went somewhat differently than we’d envisioned. First, we thought QAnon would be interesting, especially in light of the context provided by the many different articles my colleague chose – everything from a column by Los Angeles Times music critic Mikael Wood about the conservative outcry over Little Nas X’s ‘Montero’ video to a lengthy analysis of QAnon by game designer Reed Berkowitz to scholarly articles by Mary DeYoung and Sarah Hughes about the historical and economic conditions that led to past satanic panics. Some students found the topic engaging, but a few did not and one student wouldn’t participate at all. While it may not have been the topic that caused this, some of her ennui seemed to rub off on classmates at times.

Practically speaking, we observed that students were not necessarily familiar with or conscious of asking questions as they read, and just as Head reports in Reading in the Age of Distrust, weren’t sure how to connect what they read with previous readings. Even after we modeled our own methods, they did not necessarily follow suit, even when given clear directions such as “look up something about the author and the publication.” Eventually, my colleague resorted to a worksheet outlining what students should look for, such as claims and evidence.

Even with clear instructions, we also found that for students raised in a time of standardized testing and five paragraph essays, it was challenging for some to identify an author’s stated purpose. If it wasn’t the last sentence in the opening paragraph, where they have probably been taught to locate a topic sentence or thesis statement, some students missed it. They were for the most part unfamiliar with academic writing, which we were expecting, and seemed to trust the journalist author of the first article we read more than the academic author of the second, which we were not expecting. My colleague began talking about the years of study and research that go into earning a PhD, and the expertise that results. It was also interesting to discover that the most of the class was not really familiar with the role of critics, and saw criticism as “opinion.” Further discussion revealed that many students understood opinions to be less reliable than “facts” and therefore dismissed opinion pieces as bad sources. We validated their concerns that some opinion writing has a tenuous connection to evidence or is propaganda rather than journalism, but that critical reading could help them spot that and also to find quality opinion pieces.

We also confirmed that when it came to critiquing an article, students tended to have a binary view of bias, rather than seeing it as a nuanced and sometimes invisible force. That said, they were very aware of racism and acknowledged its role in satanic panics. Contextualizing other forms of also seemed to come naturally – they were well aware of biases around gender and sexuality, for example. We weren’t sure how critical cultural literacy would go over, given the heightened rhetoric about critical race theory in our state, but none of the students seemed surprised or unfamiliar with considering how racism amplifies and perpetuates misinformation.

In fact, cultural literacy seemed to come more naturally to the class than information literacy. No matter how often I tried to emphasize that the same critical reading skills apply to information found on the internet, some students had strongly held views about the trustworthiness of certain kinds of sources. When the class shared their own research sources, we had a chance to explore some of these oversimplifications. One student had found a “peer-reviewed” article in an open access journal from Omics International, the problematic vanity publisher. At first the consensus was, if it’s peer-reviewed, it’s a good source. I suggested we look together at information about the journal’s peer-review process and the class concluded correctly that it sounded way too vague and unspecific to be legitimate. They seemed surprised to hear me caution that even peer-reviewed information needs critical reading.

Another student analyzed a blog post from an economic think tank. The initial class response is that blogs are not “good” sources, but after looking closely at the author and considering their fellow student’s information need (he was looking for historical analysis related to the current debate about fair wages), they were able to see why the piece provided expert and well-documented background information useful for his paper.

Even though not every student mastered critical reading, they all had the opportunity to see it in action, and we feel like this experiment, modeling and teaching critical reading and connecting that work to students’ own research, provided a foundation for students to build on. Critical reading and critical cultural literacy will be part of Comp I at our college in the future thanks in part to what we learned together. The class got to see how they fit into the scholarly conversation and the intellectual life of the college. Students also got to know me better, rather than just seeing me for a “one-shot” research session or two, which resulted in more students scheduling research consultations.

Categories
Instruction Presentations Tech Tuesdays Technology

How I Use Google Docs as a Community College Librarian

For years, I mostly used Google Docs as a tool to jointly write, give feedback, and edit documents with colleagues. More recently I’ve been experimenting with different uses of Google Docs that leverage anonymous participation and the fact that all contributing can see what others are writing in real time. Below are a few ways I use Google Docs in my job as a community college librarian. I’d love to hear how you use Google Docs.

Warm up for Library Instruction

When I do instruction for Composition 2 classes, I like to start by finding out what students already know. When teaching in person, I sometimes do this using post it notes. Teaching online, I started giving students 5 minutes at the beginning of class to respond on a Google Doc called Share Your Experiences with Research. I ask students to share either a research tip or a question. Then we discuss what they wrote. It is a great way to warm up and get students active at the beginning of class. Later in the class, I use the same Google Doc to ask students to brainstorm keywords for their topic. It is helpful to have all of these activities together in one document, so I can share one link for the interactive parts of the lesson.

Shared Document for Online Resource Fair

When our face to face college resource fair couldn’t happen last year due to the pandemic, we wanted to figure out a way to put it online. I set up a Google Doc for the Online Resource Fair and asked representatives from the different student service and academic affairs areas who usually attend the fair to add the top 3 questions that they get from faculty and/or students. Then, during the faculty professional activity (PA) days, we provided access to the Google Doc from the PA Day Website. We told faculty they could read the information and also add questions. Staff checked the document at the end of PA Days and responded to questions. Although only two questions were added to the document, faculty did report that they found the information was helpful. And using Google Docs was an easy way to gather information from many different units on campus and present it to faculty. I did some editing after the information was added to standardize the format, but it was a lot easier that putting together information from a lot of emails.

Interactive Transcript Review Activity

At a recent online conference presentation about virtual reference, I used a Google Doc to help facilitate an interactive Transcript Review Activity. I put the directions for the activity at the top of the page, provided the text of a transcript to review, and gave space for librarians to share their observations. Then we discussed the observations as a group. I plan to repeat this activity with librarians at our college as it was a great way to review virtual reference best practices in an online format.

Group Brainstorming during a Staff Meeting

Last year, our Library was part of a renovation project and we needed to discuss what to name our new space. It was a difficult issue to discuss as we all had very strong feelings about the topic. For our online meeting, I created a Google Doc and asked all staff to spend 10 minutes making suggestions and asking questions on the document before we had a discussion. Because it was something people felt very strongly about, it was helpful to have time to write down our ideas first, before speaking. More staff had a chance to weigh in, as some might have been reluctant to speak up during the meeting. And we coiud all see a variety of ideas on the shared document before we started to discuss them as a group.

Your Ideas

How do you use Google Docs in your work? Are there other technology tools you’d like us to feature in this monthly column?

Categories
Instruction Resources

PIL’s Provocation Series Essays

Project Information Literacy (PIL) is publishing the Provocation Series, a series of essays “about what ‘literacy’ means in all its manifestations. At a time when finding reliable news and information is more difficult than ever, we publish a new long-form essay every two months to spark discussions about pressing issues, ideas, and concerns.”

The essays published so far include:

Learn about forthcoming essays and access discussion questions for each essay to use with reading groups on the Provocation Series website.

On my campus, instruction librarians have discussed how to integrate concepts from the essays in information literacy instruction. We have also shared the essays with faculty on campus in liaison communications.

How are you using these essays on your campus to prompt discussions among librarians, students, faculty, staff, and beyond?

Photo by Olga Lioncat from Pexels
Categories
Instruction Uncategorized

Let’s talk about Project Information Literacy: Reading in an Age of Distrust

If you haven’t already seen Alison Head’s essay “Reading in an Age of Distrust” (part of Project
information Literacy’s Provocation series) you’ll want to read it soon, so you can discuss it with us.

The ability to read analytically and deeply should be one of the most important takeaways from college. But are educators equipping students with the skills they need for today?” How can community college librarians contribute to a culture of critical reading in our institutions and beyond? Please comment with your initial thoughts and we’ll be back with some discussion questions soon.

Categories
Instruction Uncategorized

Are there lizard people in your library?

What do lizard people have to do with libraries?  For an answer, check out Project information Literacy’s Provocation series. “Our occasional series features timely essays about what “literacy” means in all its manifestations. At a time when finding reliable news and information is more difficult than ever, we publish a new long-form essay every two months to spark discussions about pressing issues, ideas, and concerns.” (Project information Literacy, 2021.) On February 3., 2021, “Lizard People in the Library,” by Barbara Fister was posted to kick-off the series. Check it out here: https://projectinfolit.org/pubs/provocation-series/essays/lizard-people-in-the-library.html. Then come back here to talk about it. We’ll post a new question every week, and we welcome your thoughts.  Feel free to color outside the lines and answer questions we haven’t asked.

This week’s discussion question: Article databases, especially those that aim to represent multiple sides of contentious issues, may include content that promotes, as Fister puts it, “counter-factual beliefs.” How can we help students develop source evaluation skills and not just accept a source because it’s “from the library?”

Categories
Collections Instruction Outreach Presentations Resources

Conference Time is Almost upon us

acrl-2017

By Alyse McKeal

Are you heading to Baltimore, Maryland next month for the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Conference?  There’s quite a diverse selection of presentations, programs, papers, panels, contributed posters and much more geared towards junior and community college librarians and libraries! Here is a sampling of the offerings. (This is by no means a comprehensive list.)

Are you heading to Baltimore, Maryland next month for the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Conference?  There’s quite a diverse selection of presentations, programs, papers, panels, contributed posters and much more geared towards junior and community college librarians and libraries! Here is a sampling of the offerings. (This is by no means a comprehensive list.)

Fostering Diversity Through the Human Library (Poster Session)

Maximizing the Impact of the In-Person One-Shot: The Case for Targeted Library Instruction Outreach in Community Colleges (Contributed Paper)

Next-Gen Collection Policies: Developing Templates to Aid Collection Managers (Round Table Discussion)

If You Build It, Will They Come: Re-Framing Your Instruction Program (W0rkshop)

Steering Change in Liaisonship: A Reverse Engineering Approach (Contributed Paper)

The Coach in the Library: Coaching Undergraduates to Academic Success Through a Diversity and Inclusion Library Coach Program (Poster Session)

Scaffolding the Framework: Bridging the Gap Between 2-Year and 4-Year Institutions (Roundtable Discussion)

Confessions of a Teaching Librarian: Teaching Anxiety, Growth Mindset, and Resilience for Library Instructors (Roundtable Discussion)

Applying the Framework to an Online Credit-Bearing Information Literacy Course (Poster Session)

What’s Social Justice Got to do with Information Literacy (Panel Presentation)

Reclaiming Knowledge as a Public Good: Librarians Leading Campus OER Initiatives (Panel Session)

Pathway to Your Future: Roadmaps for Community College Student (Chair’s Choice Invited Program)

Casting a Wide Net: Assessment Strategies Community College Libraries Use to Stay Afloat (Panel Session)

Evolving Evidence-Based Practice: The ACRL Information Literacy Framework in Action (Roundtable Discussion)

Tending the Garden: Sharing Projects that Strengthen Communities within the Academic Library (Roundtable Discussion)

Going O’ER: Using Open Resources as the Path to New Pedagogy and Information Literacy (Panel Session)

Exploring Evidence-Based Approaches to Using the ACRL Threshold Concepts (Roundtable Discussion)

IT Security and Privacy in Today’s Connected Library (Panel Presentation)

Anchoring Instruction Through Design: Creating a Team with Diverse Skills to Transform our Process (Contributed Paper)

Diversity, Change, and its Discontents: The Role of the Library in Campus LGBTQ Transformation Efforts (Invited Paper)

From Request to Assess: Using Cloud-Based Tools for the Library Instruction Life Cycle (Poster Session)

Taking a Different Tack: Adapting First-Year Information Literacy Instruction to the Online Environment (Panel Session)

Using the Framework to Frame: Cataloging Policy and Practice as Seen Through the Lens of the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (Contributed Paper)

Every Day is a Winding Road – or Our Long Circuitous Journey to Assessment (Poster Session)

Open Educational Resources: It’s Time for Libraries to Take the Plunge (Contributed Paper)

Consortial eBook Purchasing for the Rest of Us (Contributed Paper)

Turning Lemonade into a LibGuide (Chair’s Choice Invited Program)

Diversifying the Academy: Librarians Coaching Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows Through the Scholarly Research Cycle (Poster Session)

Does ProQuest Research Companion Improve Community College Student Information Literacy Competency? (Poster Session)

If possible, take advantage of the discounted, advance registration rates and register by February 10th! Enjoy the ACRL Conference and Baltimore.  We hope to see you there!

Categories
Instruction

Information illiterate: Challenges libraries face in this fake news era

By Erica Danowitz

Happy 2017! Here is an interesting article to start our Spring semesters!

Information illiterate: Challenges libraries face in this fake news era