Design training programs based on appropriate learning principles and theories.
This competency speaks to a librarian’s need to be a competent educator. For the contemporary librarian has a task more important than ever: teaching critical thinking and research skills to the young people of our generation. As technology has rapidly transformed our lives and we have become “lost in abundance” to a nearly insurmountable amount of new information, the young student’s skills have not at the same time advanced. Many students today are unable to perform basic information retrieval. They are unable to use the information gadgets which they do adore properly and often a lack an understanding of the theory and important restrictions on good research. One of the most important tasks of the librarian in this contemporary age of information flux is to act as wise guardian to an ocean of uncertain, unchecked and freely available knowledge. In a sense the librarian has become, perhaps more so now than ever, an educator on topics of information literacy, reasoning and discovery. While librarians often had to explain their confusing cataloging systems in yesteryear, a failure in understanding such systems was often not a fundamental disservice to the patrons. Nowadays, the patrons are fully immersed in information retrieval systems, whether they realize it or not, and do not have the luxury of ignorance. Failure to properly use these systems results in a myriad of problems: both academic and personal. The librarian must be there to help suppress matters such as lack of information literacy and the digital divide. The young must learn to responsibly use information retrieval systems or will be powerless in the information technology world that is rapidly becoming central to everything (Western) humanity does.
I often liken the librarian of the day as to Virgil in Dante’s Divine Comedy. The proverbial Dante, the patron, is curious and immersed in arcane matters that he or she is ignorant to, and without the tender guidance of looming Vergil, peril awaits. A bit hyperbolic, but none too far fetched considering the wide range of proficiencies a contemporary student must have but is often unaware of (Shapiro and Hughes, 1996):
- Tool literacy: the ability to understand utilize the digital/electronic tools which commonly dominate our information lives, independently and without assistance.
- Resource literacy: the ability to know where to find information, how to use those resources, validate them, share and collaborate with them.
- Social-structural literacy: the ability to understand social media systems and the social dimensions of information use.
- Research literacy: the ability to locate, validate, sort, differentiate and analyze the information they encounter.
- Publishing literacy: the ability to use digital systems in order to publish personal materials, ranging from setting up a Facebook profile to submitting documents to the DMV electronically, to digitally contributing to a discussion forum for a college class.
- Emerging technology literacy: the ability to adapt to inevitable new changes in technological procedures and to establish the skills to become a student of technology.
- Critical literacy: the ability to evaluate information technology intellectually.
It is the librarian’s job to help educate the patron on these matters, as such literacy is rarely otherwise instructed in our education system, a disservice to our young generation. Outside of freshman seminar or a coincidental personal interest in information technology, the likelihood of a young person encountering these often dry topics is remote. Yet in order to inform these categories the librarian must have a fundamental awareness of educational methodology. They must be versed in philosophies, theory and practices of education, and have developed their own educational philosophy. They must be aware of the various “intelligences” of the patron ( Logical-mathematical, spatial, linguistic, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic, existential) and endeavor to employ an interactive, rich method to inform their understanding. This is to say: the librarian must be a teacher capable of working with the different modes of perception common to human beings, create materials to transmit information to them effectively and to do so in a manner which does not compromise the message.
Of prime importance is the ability of the librarian to be a communicator; the librarian should be capable of engaging listeners and connecting to them. For this I study rhetoric and the Socratic method. An understanding of group dynamics, noise and transmission theory does not hurt the cause either. I engage the listener as I would a friend, and speak to them without the pretensions of the literature hinging on my words. My educational philosophy and method derives from undergraduate coursework in education, to which I earned a degree. My educational method is a mixture of Socratic, Stoic (ref: Seneca/Musonius Rufus) and classical, influenced by some Enlightenment thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and contemporaries such as Walter Kaufman, Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan and James Randi. Regardless of the particulars, the librarian must be able to coherently develop a philosophy of education, and adopt tested procedures for training, presenting and lecturing. The education literature is useful for particular procedures and methods and the liberal arts are a sound source for more fundamental philosophies and theory of education. With a training in the fundamentals of education, presentations and guides on how to use library catalogs and the like follow naturally and without issue.
One final note I will make is that being a library educator in the contemporary age goes beyond what the past paragraph would have us believe. It is not enough to simply be a provocative, well versed educational theorist and communicator. In the contemporary age the librarian must also not only be proficient but embrace and be able to design digital learning resources ranging from powerpoints, to websites, to video and audio presentations. A jack of all trades, the librarian must be able to compete with other forms of media which are threatening to draw users away from the library as an institution. No longer will the end-user tolerate a wall of text and silo’d, static information – video is essential. Showing them, guiding them with human voice is essential. Animated graphics, charts, figures and tutorials aid the end-user acclimate to information retrieval tremendously, as the latter is often too nebulous in practice and is perhaps better shown rather than explained in theory.
The applied work at this competency derive from a combination of two sources: SJSU coursework and professional developments. While at SJSU I have produced a significant number of educational and training materials and then had the good opportunity of applying classroom theory to practice in a series of internships. It must also be stated that I have an undergraduate degree in education and have in my prior years extensively studied educational methodology, principles, theory of learning and philosophy. Those latter studies have migrated naturally to my library science studies and buttressed the SLIS coursework.
My first piece of evidence is a video I produced for “literati by Credo,” a reference software offered by Boston based Credo Reference. I had the good fortune of interning at Credo and was tasked with helping to create information literacy resources for the platform’s users, which mostly comprised undergraduates in their twenties. The video is an instructional tutorial on how to use the “visual search” feature of the literati platform, which is essentially a tag cloud presented in a visual form, linking to academic articles and encyclopedia entries. The tutorial, like all of my video productions, is geared to accommodate the multiple intelligences of the student. This video clearly demonstrates that I am capable of using multimedia to present training programs in a coherent and compelling way. I used the following practices in order to produce the video:
- Recording my desktop display and microphone input using FRAPS
- Editing the video with Adobe Premier
- Extracting the original microphone track from the video in order to clean it up and remix it in Audacity
- Securing open domain music and inserting into the final video production
- Uploading it to YouTube and proliferating it to the viewers of this portfolio, as well as employees of Credo Reference
My second piece of work is a pathfinder guide that I furnished for David Midyette’s reference class on the topic of the relationship between the ancient philosophy of Stoicism and the Roman polity. It is a bibliographic guide, prefaced by annotation which introduces the user to the topic, the materials and provides a rationale and context by which to use them. Pathfinders are ideal entry points for research on specific topics of interest, as they provide much more to the user than mere record titles or summaries of the works. The annotation I provided is specifically suited to the research topic; I essentially save the user dozens of hours of work (that is: searching through a record for specific coverage) by focusing on a topic of interest. This work demonstrates my ability to present disparate findings in a coherent way for purposes of education.
The third work I would like to present is a blackboard module I helped design for Yuba College. My internship called for, among other things, converting some old word documents into online learning modules and updating the original content. The original materials were created by my supervisor, Elena Heilman and I was tasked with converting them into HTML/CSS and updating them for an upcoming course on basic research. This work I present is one module of seven that I designed for Yuba. This particular module focuses on:
- Creating a research strategy
- Subject Heading Searches
- Phrase searching, Boolean operators, and truncation
- Searching the library catalog (Yuba college libraries)
- How a book is shelved: A look at call numbers and library classification systems
- Differences between Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) and the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) System
- MLA citation format
All in all this work demonstrates my ability to develop training programs based on academic standards: similar modules are common among undergraduate research courses. Both the blackboard module and pathfinder also demonstrate my ability in creating webpages and online resources.
My fourth example of applied work is a PowerPoint presentation I was asked to produce for Elena and Yuba College. The PowerPoint was intended to be used in the library to teach newly enrolled students how to access the library catalog and resources. It features a step by step walk through of how to register for, access and personalize the experience of the library catalog. I believe this demonstrates my ability to produce training materials for live presentation and transmission to an audience. For ease of consideration I have converted the PowerPoint file into an Adobe Acrobat PDF.
My last and fifth piece of work is quite unique. The work are my course notes and recording of an online seminar I offered concerning combat aviation simulation, a hobby of mine. Although produced for purposes of a hobby it was invaluable as an experience because it involved:
- Extensive research into the subject literature
- Presentation of that research in a form comprehensible to novices
- Extensive course notes, a syllabus, examinations and a practical exercise
- Using a virtual environment as a classroom, giving the students a practical hands-on experience on the subject
- Intervention-style instructing, in which students were free to interact with one another to learn the materials following a lecture, and were corrected on a case by case basis
- Offering a lengthy, interactive lecture on a TeamSpeak (voice chat) server and fully integrating it into the classroom experience
- Producing instructional aids including graphics and training documentation
- Application of both undergraduate and post-graduate educational methodologies
- Post-course analysis, student feedback and mentoring
- Modeling and programming virtual environment for training
- Teaching ESL students – the course included Danish, Egyptian, French Canadian, Italian and Slovenian students (in addition to Americans, Brits and Canadians)
For the unfamiliar, this work was similar to that of a Second Life seminar, although perhaps even more interactive. I utilized the computer game Armed Assault 2 to present the course exercises in a virtual teaching environment. The course materials were fundamentally academic in scope and concerned the function and theory of close air support in a simulated combat zone. The audience was comprised of history and war game enthusiasts ranging from late teens to late twenties. The link below is one class, of three. I believe this work demonstrates my ability to create training materials in an online virtual environment which is essential considering current trends.
Visual Search Video (YouTube)
Burkhardt, J. M., Macdonald, M. C., Rathemacher, A. J. (2010). Teaching Information Literacy: 50 Standards-based Exercises for College Students. Chicago: Amer Library Assn Editions.
Shapiro, J. J. and Hughes, S. K. (1996). Information literacy as a liberal art. Educom Review, 31(2), Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/apps/er/review/reviewArticles/31231.html
Slavin, R. E. (2005). Educational Psychology: Theory and Practice (8th Edition). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Dillon, J. T. (2004). Musonius Rufus and Education in the Good Life: A Model of Teaching and Living Virtue. Lanham, Maryland: University Press Of America.