Professional Development

In the 'Innovation in Instruction' Category...

The Future of Education: The Horizon Project Retreat

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 5:29 pm

Immediately following ALA, I was extremely lucky to be able to attend The Future of Education: The Horizon Project’s Tenth Year Retreat.

Since I first learned of the Horizon Project, I have been impressed with it. It’s an annual report, with editions for higher education, k-12 education, and museums, about the technologies that are on the horizon. Each report focuses on six technologies over three time horizons as well as naming some contextual themes that are applicable across the board.

Several years after first learning of the Horizon Project, I saw some discussion on library blogs about how libraries weren’t represented, so I decided to throw my name in the ring to see if I could be involved. I was fortunate to be included and the first report I contributed to was the Higher Education edition for 2011. I also contributed to the 2012 Higher Education report. The process of creating the reports, itself, is an amazingly efficient and productive modification of an onlineDelphi study, and I’d be happy to blog or chat about it if you’re interested.

Horizon name badge

The retreat, itself, was for anyone who had served on any of the advisory boards over the past 10 years. It was organized by Dr. Larry Johnson, CEO of the NMC, and Dr. Lev Gonick, VP and CIO at Case Western Reserve University and Board Chair Emeritus of the NMC. It was held in Austin, Texas at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort. The location was ideal. It wasn’t in the city, so we weren’t tempted away the way we might have been otherwise in the evenings. This meant that for the entire retreat we were all in one space, thinking about the same thing.

The event was comprised of group discussions, nine speakers featured on the NMC’s YouTube channel under 6 minutes with, and the amazing facilitation of David Sibbet, which is hard to understand unless you take a look at his visual representation of the event. Sibbet is a master at visualizing ideas, and I think every one of us probably wished for an ounce of his ability in that area.

At the Horizon Retreat

As you can see, this event incorporated various communication technologies as you’d hope it would. iPads outnumbered all other computers as best I could tell. (I felt a little old-fashioned with my MacBook Air!) They brought in speakers via videoconferencing technologies. Tagging was used extensively.

The pace of the event was quick, as we’d get a little bit of introduction, hear a speaker, have structured small group discussions, bring back the big ideas to the group, and watch as Sibbet illustrated the discussion we were having. The structured group work was built around specific points they wanted us to come to conclusions on–which took a bit of getting used to for me but I ended up really liking it. It reminded me of some of my teaching exercises, trying to make sure we don’t always do the same group work and mixing up the types of interactions.

The main ideas from the retreat are captured in a Communiqué. The ideas in this document are “megatrends” that are impacting all educational institutions (libraries included) around much of the internet-connected world. The executive summary, if you don’t want to pop over there, is:
At the Horizon Retreat

  1. The world of work is increasingly global and increasingly collaborative.
  2. People expect to work, learn, socialize, and play whenever and wherever they want to.
  3. The Internet is becoming a global mobile network – and already is at its edges.
  4. The technologies we use are increasingly cloud-based and delivered over utility networks, facilitating the rapid growth of online videos and rich media.
  5. Openness – concepts like open content, open data, and open resources, along with notions of transparency and easy access to data and information – is moving from a trend to a value for much of the world.
  6. Legal notions of ownership and privacy lag behind the practices common in society.
  7. Real challenges of access, efficiency, and scale are redefining what we mean by quality and success.
  8. The Internet is constantly challenging us to rethink learning and education, while refining our notion of literacy.
  9. There is a rise in informal learning as individual needs are redefining schools, universities, and training.
  10. Business models across the education ecosystem are changing.

There was brief discussion of including a library-related topic as one of the ten, but there weren’t enough library folks at the retreat to get the votes necessary to include it. If you read the communiqué, you’ll note that libraries are mentioned under many of these 10 megatrends. In fact, there was brief discussion of if there should be a libraries Horizon Report as their is a Museum one. I’d lean towards keeping libraries integrated within the existing documents, while increasing librarian participation. I think I can contribute more about libraries to a higher education discussion, and I’d rather librarians be at that table. Likewise, a school librarian could really contribute to the k-12 report. I’d like to see public libraries represented somewhere, though.

And, since we have a library focus here, I thought I’d include Marsha Semmel’s (Director of Strategic Partnerships at Institute of Museum and Library Services) talk.This talk was given to an audience with only about 5/100 librarians, so she was definitely introducing people to standards of the field as well as pushing on some boundaries.

The Horizon Retreat was an amazing opportunity, and I–frankly–was frequently surprised to find myself included at the table in these discussions. I look forward to seeing what else comes of our work over that week. If you’re interested in following along, you can on the (surprise!) wiki!

Elon’s Teaching and Learning Conference

Friday, August 19, 2011 11:14 am

Yesterday was the 8th annual Elon Teaching and Learning Conference and the theme this year was “Thresholds to Learning.” Joy and I drove down together for the day. As always, it was a great event. I’m always surprised at the quality of presentations given that it’s both local and free. I’ll send something out next year when they announce the dates, so keep it in mind if you’re looking for something low-barrier in the instruction realm.

The first keynote was by Ray Land, Professor of Higher Education and Director of Centre for Academic Practice and Learning Enhancement at University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. He spoke on his area of expertise: Threshold Concepts. He’s written and edited a few books on these, which I’ll be sure to get at the TLC liaison. The idea of a Threshold Concept makes perfect sense once you hear about it. It’s those pieces of knowledge that change who you are as a person and how you see the world. You cannot unlearn them. The example that resonated most with me was that after taking women’s studies courses, you can’t see the world the same: family is different, work is different, your expectations for your own role change. He also pointed to other familiar concepts like evolution, deconstructionism, and very specific discipline based concepts like “photoprotection in plants” or “confidence to challenge” in design. The very last few minutes were about how to concretely apply this idea to course design and teaching, and I really would have liked to have seen a whole second session on that. They recorded his session and it’ll be available on the website later today.

Throughout Land’s presentation I was thinking about what this means for information literacy instruction. I could think of two of those major shifts I went through. One was that there was an economics of information. As a child, prior to learning about employment, publishing models, tenure, and the like, I thought people sought out knowledge because that was important to do. And they made true knowledge available because that was the right thing to do with it. It never occurred to me that certain questions were asked because the investigator could get a grant to support the research or because it was something that could get published by a journal that was trying to make money. This was a major Threshold Concept for me. Another was that there are complex systems that might reveal information that would otherwise be unknowable. A librarian specifically taught me this when showing me Web of Science to track citations for a philosophy paper. Learning this system showed me a new type of information that I didn’t even understand could exist prior to that session. And learning it helped me realize that there were probably lots of other types of information out there that could only be revealed through these complex systems that I also did not even know existed. (…making libraries all the more exciting!)

Joy and I chatted about how for today’s students, that you can’t find everything on Google is a Threshold Concept. It didn’t occur to me because search wasn’t so useful when I was in college. It was clear you’d have to do something to go beyond whatever you found on the web for an academic paper. Today’s students have a very different experience. And learning that they would have to go beyond the web is a certain Threshold Concept: it’s troublesome knowledge in that they prefer the old world they lived in where Google could get them everything, it’s irreversible that once they learn about how limited that world is they’ll know they have to keep looking elsewhere for information, it’s integrative that it becomes part of who they are to continue to have to seek information through more complex means, and on and on.
Land mentioned that some faculty are reconstructing their classes around Threshold Concepts since they’re the ones that take more of a personal approach to helping students fully understand them and integrate them into their understanding. These faulty take the approach that the rest (or much of the rest) are details that can be self-taught, found through another resource, or could be taught in class to bolster the Threshold Concept. Interesting stuff!

I also attended a session on the SCALE-UP model, which reminded me a lot of Erik’s POGIL work and a session on online learning. The most personally interesting session I attended was about if counter-normative pedagogies (like Service Learning) have Threshold Concepts. This was more of an intellectually interesting question rather than something directly applicable to work. As someone who has done some work in faculty training, I was interested in the idea that there might be a Threshold Concept around student centered learning or some other non-traditional approach. I also attended this session because it was led by one of my college professors! She taught the (fantastic) service learning class I took at NCSU and made quite an impact on me. She’s apparently now doing consulting around service learning and working at UNCG. Small world!

All in all, a great day! Let me know if you want to chat about any of it!

Leslie at SEMLA ’08

Monday, October 13, 2008 6:25 pm

On Oct. 9, I drove down to East Carolina University in Greenville for the annual meeting of the Southeast Music Library Association. It was a very interesting and varied program this year:

Library “Infomercials”

Nathalie Hristov, Music Librarian at UT Knoxville, gave a presentation titled “The Music Library Informercial: a Practical Guide for Creating the Most Powerful Marketing Tool You Will Ever Use.” Nathalie had noticed that certain materials in the Music Library — audio-streaming databases, directories, vocational literature (job ads, etc.) — seemed to be under-utilized. She contacted Alan Wallace, UT’s Education Librarian, who had made videos for the main library, about producing an infomercial on the Music Library’s resources and services, with a special focus on the under-used resources, to be shown at the music school’s fall convocation, which all students were required to attend.

The infomercial fulfilled all expectations: surveys conducted before and after showed increased student awareness of the Music Library’s services in general; an increase in the number of students who knew about the under-used materials and who had used or planned to use them; and a large majority who reported that they found the infomercial to be both entertaining and helpful.

Nathalie’s and Alan’s advice on the nuts-and-bolts of producing an infomercial:

Script:

  • Don’t overload your infomercial. Decide what you want to focus on (e.g. under-used resources), and cut your script to make it as concise as possible.
  • Keep narration to a minimum, or you’ll lose viewers’ attention.
  • Speak the students’ language (not librarianese).
  • Play on students’ strengths, wants, and needs (papers due, rehearsals to prepare for, finding a job after graduation).

Scheduling:

  • Create a timeline. Divide the project into sections, and set a deadline for each section’s completion.
  • Stay on schedule to avoid losing currency of information.

Cast:

  • Use local talent. (One option: drama students.)

Taping:

  • Survey your venue for aesthetics. Ugly objects like trash receptacles, signs taped up on walls, etc., are “forgiven” by the eye in real life, but jump out on the video screen.
  • Use cue cards, since your cast are likely not to be trained actors.
  • Use uniform clothing (a school T-shirt is good) for your cast. Otherwise, if you’re filming the same people in separate sessions, subsequent editing can create a comical impression of sudden costume changes (say, for warm and cold weather).
  • Go for interesting angles (from above, below, etc.). In cramped stacks spaces, the UT team shot through openings between shelves.

Editing:

  • The UT team used iMovie, a Mac-based software. They also used Final Cut Pro, but warned that this product was expensive and involved a steep learning curve.
  • Screencasting tools like Snagit and Camtasia can be used.
  • The final step is exporting and burning to disk, which depending on the application can take anywhere from a couple of hours to fifteen.

Evaluation:

  • Solicit viewer feedback, as the UT folks did with before-and-after surveys.
  • Also important is cost/benefit analysis. Document everything: the UT team made daily records of time spent, tools used, etc.

Embedded Info-Lit

Sarah Manus, Music Librarian for Public Services at Vanderbilt, gave a presentation titled “Librarian in the Classroom: an Embedded Approach to Music Information Literacy for First-Year Students.” Vanderbilt’s music curriculum includes a “core” of four courses on music history and literature which all incoming music majors are required to take. Sarah took advantage of this opportunity to embed herself in all four courses, giving progressive instruction from the basics (the library’s catalog) in the introductory course to advanced research tools (composers’ thematic catalogs) in the fourth. Her original plan was to give two info-lit sessions per course, but faculty subsequently asked her to “front-load” her syllabus with more sessions in the first course.

Sarah’s participation included:

  • Attending all class sessions.
  • Participating in class discussion, when asked to by the instructor.
  • Answering students’ questions about their research.
  • Holding office hours twice a week.

Sarah warned that this degree of embedment required a huge time committment, especially after the music school added a second section to the core, and she consequently found herself attending class five days a week. Sarah said she also had difficulty remembering which material she had given when to each section!

(It’s also worth noting that Vanderbilt has three music librarians — one for public services, one for cataloging, and a director of the music library — which enabled Sarah to make the necessary time committment to an embedded project of this scale. As Sarah noted, where you have one person performing all three roles (like at Wake), or you have a large program with several hundred students enrolled, it would not be the most feasible option.)

There were some other unanticipated difficulties with the embedded approach. Sarah’s familiar presence in the classroom led some students to draw the wrong conclusion. The inevitable procrastinators expected her to do their research for them, and others prevailed on her to pull strings on their behalf, such as having library fines forgiven. The instructor had to give the class a stern lecture to the affect that “Sarah is not your slave, and will not do your work for you!” Still, Sarah found that the opportunity to get to know the students and their needs, and to be more closely involved in the overall educational process, was well worth it.

Improvements Sarah plans:

  • Devote more time to the research process. Sarah found that many of the students were used to doing short critical essays, and had never done an extended research project before.
  • Use active learning techniques, such as small-group work.

Ethnological fieldwork

Holling Smith-Borne, also from Vanderbilt, gave a presentation on “Recording the Traditional Music of Uganda.” This was an update on the development of the Global Music Archive project, a website hosted by Vanderbilt that offers audio streaming of traditional music, so far from Africa. Holling became acquainted with a prominent Ugandan musician who served as an adjudicator for Uganda’s annual national music festival. This man consequently knew all the best traditional musicians in the country, and had an extensive network of contacts with universities, govenment agencies, and other institutions interested in preserving Ugandan culture. Vanderbilt provided him with a salary, recording equipment, and training, and engaged him to travel the country supplying material for the Global Music Archive. Holling and his team hope to identify similar contacts in other African countries, to expand on this work.

They next plan to add to the Archive:

  • Appalachian dulcimer music
  • Indigenous Mexican music
  • An existing Vanderbilt archive of tango music

http://www.globalmusicarchive.org/

Greenville being so near the coast, our guest speaker was retired ethnomusicologist Otto Henry, who shared wonderful reminiscences of his fieldwork on the Outer Banks, recording old-timers singing and playing folk music of the area. Many of his recordings were issued on the Folkways label.

Business meeting

We missed the company of a number of colleagues this year due to cutbacks in travel funding (Georgia’s state library system in fact announced the total elimination of travel funding just a day before the SEMLA meeting). We dovoted some time in our business meeting discussing how the general downturn in the economy was likely to make professional travel increasingly difficult for many for some time to come, and explored ways of compensating for this unfortunate trend, including screencasting future SEMLA meetings.

Also in the business meeting, a student member proposed creating a Facebookaccount for SEMLA, with the object of outreach to library-school students, and of increasing awareness of music librarianship as a career. The idea was well received, and an exploratory committee was set up.

All in all, a very enjoyable and informative meeting this year — I’ve come back with lots of ideas for our LIB250 course and other endeavors!

Sarah at the Innovation in Instruction Conference

Friday, August 22, 2008 1:42 pm

On August 21st, I attended Elon University’s 5th Annual Innovation in Instruction Conference. Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University, was the keynote speaker. I won’t rehash the details already reported upon by Lauren, but the take-home lesson for me is that we should teach less of an “Information Paradigm” but more of a “Participation Paradigm,” where students can navigate the world and critique and analyze information. In addition, teaching is less about control, and more about enabling your students to become active participants rather than passive observers.

Next, I attended Lauren’s presentation, “Students as Contributors: Teaching Skills While Teaching Content.” There was lively discussion about the influence of social media in business, politics, and education. For more information, check out her presentation here.

I also attended “Evaluating Critical Thinking” by Ed Neal, Director of Faculty Development at the UNC Center for Faculty Excellence. This session provided many practical tips on how to effectively evaluate your students’ critical thinking skills. He provided many examples of the types of exam questions which assess different levels of learning in Bloom’s Taxonomy. He also provided examples of grading rubrics, which are effective tools for encouraging higher level performance among your students.

Last, I attended “Teaching the Future” by Jeffrey Coker, Assistant Professor of Biology at Elon University, and Janna Anderson, Associate Professor in Communications at Elon University, which was already reported upon by Lauren. I was especially interested in the method in which Dr. Coker taught his Introductory Biology class. Dr. Coker has an interesting approach to teaching biology for non-science majors, where he focuses on “Ecological Change,” Cellular Change, and ” Genetic Change.” In his class, students design, implement, and analyze and present their own experiments. In addition, students design plausible biological systems for the future and plan their implementation. Some examples of student projects are “Eradicating human influenza” and “Human resistance to antibiotics.”

I am so glad that I attended this conference, because I learned many lessons about effective teaching that I plan to directly apply to my LIB220 course this fall and in future classes, as well.

Innovation in Instruction

Friday, August 22, 2008 11:28 am

Yesterday I attended Elon University’s 5th Innovation in Instruction Conference. I’ve attended almost all of them, and each year they get better. This year’s keynote should make it clear how impressive the event has become. Michael Wesch, of The Machine in Us(ing) Us, Information R/evolution, and A Vision of Students Today fame, was the keynote speaker and was one of the most interesting and provokative speakers I’ve heard in some time. The drive alone was worth hearing this talk. My notes, in detail, are here.

I also was able to give a few talks. My first one was “Learning From the Context” and I think we had at least 70 people in the room. It was a really nice crowd and I got positive feedback from several people:

I gave another talk with Jolie Tingen on convergence literacies. We had a smaller crowd, but we had some really good discussions:

The final session I attended was on “Teaching the Futures” and was largely about integrating futurist thinking into courses. My notes are here.

Innovations in Instruction is a great, and free, opportunity for those who are interested in effective and innovative teaching. It’s a crazy time of year, but I’m glad that they have it when they do. Reaching professors and instructors as they’re just getting ready to gear up for the fall is prime time for people who are looking to do something a little bit different this year. And the content and enthusiasm of the presenters was just the inspiration I needed to get energized for this coming semester.


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