Monthly Archives: February 2010

Keeping Up With Learning Technologists

On Thursday May 21, 2009 John Shank and I had the pleasure of co-hosting an important webcast event held by the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community. Josh Kim and Barbara Knauff, Senior Learning Technologists at Dartmouth College co-presented a webcast titled “Becoming an Educational Change Agent”. The presentation was based on an article Kim and Knauff published in EDUCAUSE Review titled “Business Cards for the Future” in which they discussed how the role of the instructional technologist had evolved over the previous decade and how it was evolving further into something new that they termed the “educational change agent”. What made the webcast significant is that it celebrated one of those rare occasions when academic librarians gathered to listen to and learn from their learning technologist colleagues. To be certain, many of us have occasional interactions with the learning technologists on our campuses, but far less frequently do we engage outside of the workplace to discuss our common issues, and learn how we can work together to help our faculty and students achieve academic success.

Back then, I would say that Kim, who is a Senior Learning Technologist at Dartmouth College in Hanover NH, was a relative unknown to academic librarians. As we head into 2010, that may no longer be the case. In his role as the learning technology blogger over at Inside Higher Ed, Kim is becoming more familiar to the academic library community, especially after two columns that raised some questions and controversies and got quite a bit of feedback and attention from the academic library community. While Kim took a few shots from commenters who might have thought we’d all be better off if Kim stuck to what he knows best, I have to praise him for stimulating some conversation between our two camps. If anything, Kim’s posts about academic libraries show how much we still have to learn about and from each other – and that there are great ideas to be shared.

Creating better communication among and collaboration between academic librarians and instructional technologists was one of the original motivations for the Blended Librarian concept. In the original article laying out the six principles of blended librarianship, number five speaks directly to this goal:

5. Implementing adaptive, creative, proactive, and innovative change in library instruction can be enhanced by communicating and collaborating with newly created instructional technology/design librarians and existing instructional designers and technologists.

In one of his posts Kim did his part to encourage his colleagues and other academic partners to do something that librarians have had little success with – getting our non-librarian colleagues to spend more time listening to our conversations and learning about our issues. Kim recommended a number of resources to follow for keeping up with academic librarians. I hope it will create some change and encourage more interaction between librarians and educational technologists. I thought I’d return the favor by sharing some resources I find useful for keeping up with learning technology, and encouraging academic librarians to follow them:

Educational Technology is a good filter blog for keeping alert to the latest developments in the field. It provides just a few headlines each day so it certainly doesn’t overwhelm. At times more of the posts are K-12 oriented, but even those items report good new technologies.

EdTechPost is perhaps a better example in that is more like the traditional commentary style blog with a mix of pointing to new resources and practices and sharing thoughts about them.

One of the better blogs for keeping up on the latest developments in learning technology, which more opinion making if you like that sort of think, is Stephen Downes’ OLDaily.

If you like the occasional post on how technology is impacting writing rhetoric take a look at Kairosnews. I’ve been following this one for years now and it’s helped to understand some issues our writing colleagues encounter.

Sure, Campus Technology is a more commercial publication, but it’s a good way to find our who’s doing what with technology at different college campuses. You may even learn about some new technologies coming to the campus.

What else? Too many to mention. I spoke with a few other learning technologists to find out what they use to keep up. What I found interesting is that many routinely follow resources that cross boundaries – not just educational technology blogs and newsletters. Most mentioned subscribing to a variety of RSS feeds from EDUCAUSE and you could start by following a few of their blogs. Others mentioned participating in webcasts by fellow instructional technologists, vendor webcasts and following #edtech group on Twitter. While there are still a number of valuable journals in the field, such as On The Horizon (I follow TOCs for a number of these), I get the sense that our learning technologist colleagues pay less attention to them.

I think Josh Kim’s posts do help to create better bonds between academic librarians and learning technologists – or to at least get us asking each other questions. When we do get together it’s a combination that is sure to contribute to the academic and research success of our faculty and students. I’m not sure whether this post will reach many learning technologists, but perhaps ACRLog readers can share it with their colleagues at their institutions, and ask them what resources they use for keeping up with learning technology. It could be a simple way to start the conversation. If you hear of any good resources, share them in a comment.

Interest Group Advances Services To International Students

Did you know that the number of international students at about 3,000 U.S. colleges and universities rose 8% last year to a new high of 671,616. Big increases in students from China helped fuel the rise. As in other recent years, India once again sent the most students to the U.S., followed by China, South Korea, Canada and Japan. Or were you aware that U.S. receipts from international students studying in the United States reached $17.8 billion in 2008, the highest amount yet recorded. Those U.S. exports come primarily from travel by international students, who then pay tuition, fees, and living expenses to U.S. institutions. Students who come from abroad to live and study at our colleges and universities are not only vitally important to our institutions, but to the U.S. economy as well.

In our focus to serve mainstream American undergraduates, we sometimes overlook the increasing numbers of international students at our institutions, but they represent a unique population with perhaps even greater needs for library and research assistance. It suggests that we should be paying special attention to and developing programs targeted to this group. Only after I attended a meeting at ALA MW of the relatively new ACRL Academic Library Services to International Students Interest Group did I realize that we’ve never once written about international students here at ACRLog. We now correct that oversight.

The session I attended was led by Dawn Amsberry and Loanne Snavely, two librarians from Penn State University. Amsberry is the administrator of the international students interest group. While I’m relatively new to this topic it’s clearly not a new one for many academic librarians. In fact, at the session I learned that the earliest known publication on this topic is Sally G. Wayman. “The International Student in the Academic Library.” Journal of Academic Librarianship. v. 9 no. 6 Jan., 1984 pp. 336-341. Many articles and programs have followed since this article’s publication. A presentation by Amsberry and Snavely shared many of the program efforts made at Penn State to reach out to international students. From the obvious beginning-of-the-semester orientation to the special web page for international students, Penn State has tried many programs. For example, both international and American study abroad students participated in an essay contest about library experiences in non-U.S. countries. A student was hired to translate the library’s audio tour into Chinese. The library sponsors a global perspectives panel, and invites international students to speak about exposure to new cultures. I was impressed by the many efforts to involve international students in the library beyond the traditional orientation.

Why should we care about extra efforts to reach international students when so many of our domestic students are themselves in need of our assistance? My observation is that cultural differences and communication skills create unique barriers for international students. Domestic students, when they need assistance, know librarians are there to help (though they may not be sure who the librarians are), and can communicate their basic needs. International students, owing to their cultural traditions, may be reluctant to ask for help or may lack the language skills to articulate their needs. But those of you more experienced in working with international students are familiar with these issues. More of us need to pay attention to them. That’s why I was glad to become aware of the ACRL Academic Library Services to International Students Interest Group.

If you are interested in participating in this interest group, you can learn more by exploring their Google Groups page. You will also find some valuable resources, some of which were used in the session I attended. ALA members can also join the group via ALA Connect. Please use the comments to share something special your library does for international students.

Staying the Course

Classes started at my college last Thursday, officially bringing the winter intersession to an end. While the library was fairly quiet in January, I kept myself busy with a couple of big projects, including getting ready to teach our library’s first credit-bearing course this semester.

It’s been exciting (and, I admit it, a little scary) prepping for the course. I spent lots of time researching courses offered by academic libraries while creating our course last year before it passed through the college’s curriculum approval process. I’m using a textbook and supplementing it with lots of readings from articles, books and websites. I’ve sincerely appreciated the willingness of my fellow academic librarians to share their syllabi and class plans online, which helped enormously as I updated my syllabus last month.

And it’s no surprise that it’s a big time investment to teach a semester-length course. Since this is the first semester out for us our enrollment is on the low side, which will lessen the amount of time I’ll spend on some aspects of the course, like grading. But we expect enrollment to increase in the future. There are several new majors in development at my college, and some of the faculty in those departments have expressed interest in requiring their students to take our new course. It’ll be interesting to see how the course develops.

There has been and continues to be lots of debate over whether credit-bearing courses are the best way for academic librarians to advance information literacy at their institutions. I’m of the opinion that there’s no one right way for IL, and that different strategies will be successful at different institutions. I see our course as another way to offer library instruction; we’re still continuing with our one-shots, individual research consultations, and other instruction options.

One of the things I’m most looking forward to is the chance to work with students for a full semester. While I enjoy teaching one-shot BIs, of course there’s never enough time to cover everything I’d like to in one or even a few library instruction sessions. It’ll be great to tackle topics like the production of information, evaluation, and information ethics in much more detail in the course than is possible in a one-shot. Let the semester begin!