LILAC14 – day 2

kaffe og goderi og mac

All set for keynote: with coffee, candy and my Mac

Day 2 of LILAC opened with a keynote from Alison J. Head. This was the moment that I had waited for! I have followed Dr Head`s work for a few years, and I have been very impressed with her research, particularly the scale of it – really sound. The keynote was entitled: “Truth be told: how today`s students conduct research”. I have copious notes from the keynote, but I`ll do my best to summarize here.

Truth be told: How today`s students conduct research (Head)

Head said that her interest in how students conduct research was raised by a senior student asking her how to find research. The student had reached her senior year without knowing how to use the library. This led to Head`s interest and research on how students find and evaluate information, and the study: “Truth be told: how students evaluate and use information in the digital age” (pdf). (I used this report in my master`s thesis, so I knew the report pretty well, but still.. hearing Head talking about it (and her other projects) at LILAC was great.) “What can we learn from students?” asked Head. She had interviewed many students to find out what they do and what they feel when they (students) conduct research. Some findings:

1. Students find it harder to do research now than before. Why? We provide them with so many options and so much information that they are completely overwhelmed by it. The students who come straight from high school find the transition very difficult. Many are anxious, tired, stressed and afraid. 30 percent of first year students don`t come back for their second year of college. Students feel that there is more risk connected with everyday life research, rather than coursework research, mainly because the everyday life research they do usually involves purchasing (eg. new laptop).

2. Students find that getting started on their research assignments is the hardest part (69 percent find it so). They have trouble defining what they are going to write about. The second hardest thing is searching (41 percent).

3. Students lack context. They do not understand the meaning of the words they are supposed to use and they don`t know how to handle it. Google Scholar are the “training wheels” for database searching, and it is the first place to go for many first year students (and others too, in my experience). As Head put it: “It is the simple search for something that is not simple”.

4. Students use the same few “go-to” sources every time. They use curriculum first. They think that professors only provide “top sources” so they don`t have to be critical there (oh boy.. is it a fair argument on my point now to say that curriculum makes students passive??). After curriculum, students go to Google. Students use the three C`s: Convenient, close at hand and current. Strategy and predictability are important factors for the students.

5. “Wikipedia is my presearch tool”. Students use Wikipedia to get a summary, to find definitions and to get started on their assignments. They use Wikipedia for “big picture context”. They like the interface and it helps them get started.

6. Instructors are the students` coaches. The classrooms/ lecture halls are huge, and few students will contact the lecturer after class. Teachers can be very influential when it comes to research skills, but they rarely or never ask the students to go to the library, even the teachers who are library users themselves (wow.. I find this very suprising!). Teachers are angry and frustrated by students` lack of research skills, but they are not willing or have the necessary skills themselves to teach the students these skills.

7. The library is the students` sanctuary. They like the “productivity vibe”, and they use the library computers so that they are are not constantly interrupted by Facebook etc. The students use the library to be efficient, but also to relax.

Head thinks that our future will be to give the students context and to be “translators”. Critical evaluation is a 21 century skill; it is vital for handling the information load.

More publications from Project Information Litearcy (PIL) available at their website, and I recommend having a look there. Very, very interesting!

What can we learn from our first year students (Nikoi)

A positiv transition to higher education has a profound influence on retention. Students are bombarded with information on everything from housing and childcare to social events, finding the best pubs etc., yet something as simple as a reading list for the first semester is not in the information packages. What do we know about the students and their knowledge on IL when they arrive as first years? What expectations do they have regarding their academic work? What expectations do they have regarding the support systems at their institution? Research done at Aberystwyth (sp?) University suggest that students there felt confident in information gathering, but not academic writing. They feel confident that they know how to listen to lecturers, take notes etc. Many feel insecure about presenting findings for other students, but most feel confident about teamwork. Students use Google and their instructors to find information. The library (but strangely enough not librarians.. what does that mean, exactely?) comes high up on the list. Students were familiar with concepts like plagiarism, copyright and bibliography, but that does not mean that they know how to handle it in real life research. Conclusions: What students know when they enter college/university varies greatly: they think they have good cognitive skills, but they know they have bad academic writing skills, they know little about scholarly sources, and they know nothing about learning management systems.

Nikoi used the terms “cold knowledge, warm knowledge, hot knowledge”, where cold knowledge is something like a library guide on paper. What the students want is hot knowledge; knowledge in a context with people they can talk to.

At Aberystwyth (sp?) University they use the MAMA and PAPA network for first year students. PAPA= pre-application, admission, preparation and arrival. When students arrive: MAMA= meeting, anxiety, managing change and academic work.


Teachmeet was organised a little differently this year. The presenters sat at tables and the delegates ran (yes, ran!) around to the different tables to hear 5 minute presentations of different projects done the last year. The themes varied from using annoted bibliographies, to introducing Summon, to “research courts”. Teachmeet is a great way to discover what is going on in libraries now. You only get small snippets, but you are free to contact the presenters afterwords to get more information. It is a great way to get ideas to projects, great and small. I don`t have many notes from this session, as running around doesn`t leave much time for notetaking. I`ll just mention here two projects I would like to know more about: “Research court in session” and “Improving IL through annoted bibliography assignments: a collaboration between library and faculty”. I`ll follow up on these later.

I missed the first half of the session “Crossing the line with the students: is that you or the other lady?”, so I never really got what that was about. My last session of the day was “Hidden vegetables: a collaborative approach to embedding information and academic literacies in the curriculum”. I think I left by brain behind at Teachmeet, because I have three sentences of notes from the last session, and they don`t really make any sense. I am sorry! I should apologize to the speakers for not paying enough attention, but there are so many good ideas to digest at LILAC – I am still not recovered completely:)

Lovely conference dinner at Cutler`s Hall Thursday night. Really special place, and I wish I knew more about it. Congratulations, Jane Secker, with the Information Literacy award 2014. So very well deserved!

cutlers hall sheffield dinner

Photosync image of the conference dinner at Cutler`s Hall in Sheffield

LILAC14 – day 1

Winter garden in SheffieldBeing able to attend a conference or two a year is a great privilege, especially knowing that so many librarians struggle with an almost impossible budget that leaves them unable to attend any such arenas. Whenever I feel a little demotivated, perhaps due to stress or overload, I think of my next conference. This year, the LILAC conference couldn`t have come at a better time. It has been a crazy, crazy busy year, and that has led to less blogging, less learning and more repetitive teaching for me. I needed something to inspire me again..

LILAC (Librarians` information literacy annual conference) is, as the name suggests, an annual conference for librarians involved with information literacy. The last time I attended was in 2012, and I think I walked around with a big smile on my face the entire time. I still think of some of the things I learned at that conference. I was so excited when I got the funding for LILAC again this year (..though getting to Sheffield proved to be an ordeal..).

Anyway. Some notes and thoughts from day 1 of the conference:

Supporting information literacy: Reflective pedagogic planning (Sen & McKinney)

Using reflection as a tool to change and improve teaching practice. Too often, we focus on the negative experiences – the things that did not go as planned or that did not work, but that is not necessarily all we should focus on. Donald Schön wrote about “reflection in action” and “reflection on action”. “Reflection in action” is about changing things as you teach. It can be when you see that students are confused or overwhelmed, or when they don`t understand what you are talking about – you make a change and explain things in a different way or use an assignment or similar. “Reflection on action” refers to the post-teaching assessment. We can learn from both of these (“in action” and “on action”). Reflection is a good way to learn, and it can help us manage personal and professional development, stress etc.

Inquiry-based learning is student centered learning; learning by asking questions. It is based on constructivism and it can be a good tool in information literacy training, e.g. by analysing an article they are interested in, interviewing fellow students about their information needs, searching and presenting etc.

Sen and McKinney let us (the delegates) try one of their reflective exercises. We were handed a sheet with three boxes. In box 1, we were supposed to describe a recent teaching experience, pure descriptive, in 5 minutes. Then discuss our experience with the person sitting next to us. Afterwords, in box 2, we could reflect on our experience and try to think about what happened, how it made us feel, how it affected others and what we learned from the experience. We could also write something about what changes we would like to do and what impact these changes could have. These reflections were shared with the person sitting next to us, and the other person could ask questions or share his/her own thoughts on your reflections. Box 3 was to help us think about inquiry-based learning (IBL) by choosing one or two aspects of IBL and trying to identify where improvements could be made (still based on the experience from box 1). It was a very interesting exercise.

Sen and McKinney talked about how important it is that we teach our students to really reflect, because most of them (and us) only ever write descriptively. Many therefore, remain on the surface of things instead of digging deep. Reflection can help us discover the deeper issues of teaching and learning. Jenny Moon`s (2007) model of reflection  shows four levels: Descriptive writing, descriptive writing with some reflection, reflective writing 1 and reflective writing 2. The goal is to get to the top level (reflective writing 2).

I think I`ll start using Sen and McKinney`s template with the three boxes a little more, even start a reflective journal perhaps – just to track my own teaching more. Maybe I`ll discover something that I can change and improve? I think so.

Moon, J. (2007) Getting the measure of reflection. In: Journal of Radiotherapy (6), pp. 191-200

Publication without tears (Secker & Jackson)

Jane Secker (who won the Information Literacy Award this year, btw. Well done!) from London School of Economics and editor of  Journal of Information Literacy (JIL) and Cathie Jackson from JIL talked about how to get things published in JIL. It was a very good session for those of us who are thinking about maybe writing something for JIL. Main points made by Secker and Jackson were:

  • Read the author guidelines
  • Make sure that your article is related to information literacy
  • Originality is important
  • Proof read before submission
  • Blank our your name, name of institution etc. before submission (due to peer review process)
  • Use relevant literature and place your own work in that scope + reference right
  • Use the template that is posted on their website, remove EndNote formatting etc. before submission

Keynote: Bill Thompson

The title of the keynote was “Information science and the 10 cultures”. The title alludes to the old joke: “There are only 10 kinds of people in the world; those who understand binary and those who don`t”. (10 is binary for the arabic number 2, for those who are in the second group here).  I must admit this keynote went a little over my head, or maybe just in one ear and out the other. Thompson did ask some fundamental questions, though, like “Who decides our future?”. Thompson talked about the industrial revolution vs. the scientific revolution, and used Snow as an example of someone who foresaw that the scientific revolution would be even more important to the human race than the industrial revolution. Thompson made the point that we all should understand code (and referred to the Heartbleed fiasco). We don`t all have to be programmers, Thompson explained, but we all have to understand the basics so that we understand what happens with our personal information etc. Those who rule the bits, rule the world, Thomson said.

Plagiarism school 101 (Earp)

At Kent State University in Ohio they have started a “plagiarism school” (shouldn`t it be the “anti-plagiarism school”, btw?:), a program done on individual basis for all who get caught plagiarising. There is communication between teacher, student and librarian. The teacher can decide whether to let the student hand in the assignment again, fail the student for the assignment, the course or the semester. The “plagiarism school” consists of a session where the student is taken through the university policy on plagiarism, a review of the paper that the student had handed in, common mistakes (citations etc), case studies (help the students see what is considered plagiarism and what is not) and they get “homework” (usually correction a couple of pages of the assignment that they had handed in or analysing a couple of articles and writing a reflective essay about it).

Many librarians ask themselves if they are qualified to handle these kind of courses. Some are ok with teaching how to avoid plagiarism, while others have reservations. Many are also asking how much time librarians should spend on this, because if there are many students each semester it can become very time consuming (as it is done on individual level – due to privacy issues).

Earp noted that many teachers use plagiarism charges as an excuse for punishment, and that many hardly ever mentions it in class other than as a punitive measure. “If it`s that important, why don`t they talk to us about it?”, a student had asked. Good question.

Evidence-based instruction (Carbery & Leahy)

Carbery and Leahy wanted to find out more about the impact their instruction had on their students, and they used rubrics and citation analysis. They wanted to base their assessment on real student coursework (=authentic assessment) instead of standardised tests and worksheets made by librarians.

Carbery and Leahy have made a checklist that use for analysing the students`bibliographies, and they discovered that students use a large variety of library resources, but that they rely very heavily on online sources, and they do not know the difference between a primary and a secondary source.

The main problem is not to find things, but what to do with the information. We can spend less time showing them how to use the databases and more time teaching them how to use the information they find.


And this concluded my first day at LILAC14. The other blog posts from the conference will be shorter – promise!

Very nice, informal networking event on Wednesday night:)