LILAC18: day 2, part 2

[I´m writing up my notes from LILAC18. See previous posts here, here and here.]

Mary Beth Sancomb-Moran: Flipping information literacy

Sancomb-Moran works at University of Minnesota Rochester. It is a small campus, and the library has few physical books. Almost everything is virtual. The library went from giving traditional information literacy classes to using flipped principles. The librarians have almost entirely been given positive feedback. Seeing as the students have to prepare for class, they are almost always get more out of the classes when they come. The librarians have made video tutorials that the students watch first. They also have to perform initial searches before class. The librarians collaborate with teachers to make good quizzes and assignments that are connected to the content in the videos.

The librarians have emphasise the iterative nature of searching and that it is ok to make mistakes. A lot of students get very frustrated when they search databases without getting the answer that they are looking for.

The librarians have worked with the Information Literacy assessment and advocacy project (ILAAP) where they have CC licensed content. They have made a quiz bank that is freely available. Sancomb-Moran has made a test with 18 questions of different character, f.ex. questions on plagiarism, referencing, search techniques etc.

The students performed quite well on the test. The librarians used the results to produce more videos and classroom materials. They did a post test, too.

Sancomb-Moran said that librarians have to be careful with their use of jargon. She had a good tip: when you talk about the difference between keywords and headings, take up a prop and ask the students to suggest search terms. This will form the basis of the keyword search. Then talk about the headings. [I have already tested this after I came back from the conference. Worked really well!]

Bart Lenart: Philosophy in the library

Lenart gave a very good session on the importance of starting early when it comes to development of intellectual and moral ideas. It is important, he said, to start with our children when we teach them to face the world with a critical set of eyes. Philosophy is an important and good way to teach them about all aspect of life. Some claim that children cannot understand and use philosophy, but many now see that they have underestimated children. Many children have deep thoughts about the world, life and science.

Humans are natural philosophers because we are fundamentally curious, Lenart said.

The attendees of this session got several assignments. The first one was to rate questions (on pieces of paper) from least to most philosophical. This can be a good assignment to teach students about which questions we can ask and how we think. [Harry Stottlemeier´s Discovery –  a philosophy book for children from 1974 by Lipman. Not very good, but interesting because it targeted children.]


Lenart talked about the Wartenberg method: In order for a question to be philosophical, it must be contestable (more than one possible answer), controversial (not everyone can agree) and answerable. 

Rules for (good) philosophical discussions:

  1. Say what you think, but you have to have a reason
  2. Agree or disagree
  3. Present a concrete example from the abstract that is up for discussion
  4. Present an opposite example for a statement or position
  5. Present a revised version of your original statement
  6. Add reasons for your statement.

Lenart read us a childrens story and then encouraged a discussion on the topic “What is bravery?”. It became an interesting discussion in our group (all the attendees were seated in groups). The conclusion to the question that most people agreed with was that bravery is the action, while courage is the innate quality you have to perform the brave act. And there is a difference between bravery and foolhardiness.

This short discussion was just meant as an example of how you can teach your students to think critically about information and to use philosophical questions in order to make them think deeper about things.

A possible assignments for higher education students could be to range and organise sources from less to more scholarly.

I really liked this session, but I wish I could have had some more examples that were easier to transfer to higher education.

Pam McKinney and Sheila Webber: Teaching the next generation of IL educators: reflections for learning

This session was about how the presenters have worked with active reflection for library and information science students. McKinney talked about reflective practice. It is a theory based on Entwistle (2004) – model of teaching and leaning environments. (Concept map influences on student learning.) McKinney and Webber are having a book published later this year (in the US).

The authors perform action research in the context of teaching and learning environments. The students have to reflect on how they learn, how they feel about information literacy etc. The educators are encouraged to think about the constructive alignment [Biggs] between teaching and learning activities and the assessment used.

This session by McKinney and Webber deserved more attention than I was able to give (sorry!), but it had been a very long day and the headache from the day before lingered, so.. anyway.. do check out the Information Literacy blog they write. Lots of helpful links and tips.

The conference dinner took place in the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, and if you think that sounds strange, with a conference dinner at a cathedral, you should have seen that place. It was huuuuuuge! A church with its own parking garage underneath- just saying. Lots of lovely people to chat to as always at LILAC.



LILAC18: day 2, part 1

[This is blog post #3 from LILAC18. See previous posts here and here]

Ola Pilerot: Putting theory to work in practice: unpacking information literacy with a conceptual toolbox from library and information science

Day 2 started with a keynote by Ola Pilerot. I was looking forward to this keynote, as Pilerot´s work is known to me. I have read much of his work and I think he has made many interesting contributions to discussions in our field.

Watch the keynote here:

Although Pilerot was somewhat less clear in his keynote than in his articles (not very remarkable), I thought he gave a good presentation and I was reminded why I like his work. The main idea was that we should make an effort to see the relationship between theory and practice in the field of information literacy (IL), and that we have much to gain from trying to promote understanding between the different actors within the field. If the researchers understand librarians, students.. and vice versa we could teach and learn better.

There are many ways to understand IL, Pilerot said. It can be understood as a field of research for librarians, as a political goal or motive, or something that can be observed – or as an analytical field. Therefore, we should be careful with a normative approach to IL, meaning that we either implicitly or explicitly express that there is a right way and a wrong way to be information literate.

Pilerot presented several interesting theoretical models of IL. Wilson (1999)´s model on information searching, information seeking and information behaviour was dwelt on. Kulthau´s model for the Information Search Process included the students´ emotional behaviour during each phase, and that was something new when it first was published. However, this model is linear, and most information searching is not. Forster´s model is non-linear, but difficult to understand, and Bates´ model from 2002 is interesting as it shows IL as portrays the different approaches as directed/undirected and active/passive.

I have used several of these models, but the last one he talked about is perhaps the one I have used the most, namely Sundin´s approaches to teaching IL.


Sundin´s model: Approaches to teaching for information literacy.


It is very interesting, and I recommend reading the entire article.

Pilerot did a comparative study* between nursing students and engineering students. The nursing students cited much more literature and used “better” sources than the engineering students. Pilerot had a look at the culture behind these disciplines, what research questions they asked etc. The students practically had their own communities of practice within their own disciplines. The engineering students did not lack information literacy, but they adapted themselves to expectations within the field. It is important to remember that IL shows itself in different contexts.

*[Pilerot, O. (in press) Swedish university students´ information literacy: a comparison of two academic disciplines]

Amanda Folk: Drawing on identity and prior knowledge to join the conversation in research assignments

Folk has found the “Scholarship is a conversation” frame of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education particularly useful for students. Not only does it emphasise and make clearer what the students are expected to do in research assignments, but it helps them understand the other frames in the framework. In this session we talked about what the Scholarship is a conversation frame can mean and how we can use it. Many good ideas on teaching about content in this frame were mentioned by attendees.

One attendee said that she used this frame to talk about referencing, and how the students should think of their work as a part of a greater discussion. One attendee said that she focussed on how something being published does not have to mean that students have to agree, and she used this as a point for discussion. One said that she usually starts by saying to students that before there were journals, researchers wrote letters to each other, and this was the main idea behind the journal publications. One attendee said that he usually talks to students about writing as a piece of a large puzzle. We need each others pieces to complete the image.

Folk continued to say that talking about social class and capital is still somewhat taboo in the US, so it has not been discussed much. What kind of cultural and social capital (Bourdieu) a student has is important for how they react in different situations. FOlk therefore made a point about it being important to know what kind of background our students have to be able to organise our materials and teaching. Academic alienation is a real thing, and we have to talk about it. The ACRL Framework gives us some new opportunities, Folk said, and we should practice it for these students. The Scholarship is conversation frame is a good entry level, and we have to get the students to understand that they are part of the discussion. 

Folk is doing her PhD on hermeneutic phenomenology – she is trying to understand how it feels to receive and perform a research assignment [and this made me think of Project Information Literacy and Alison Head].

Folk did qualitative interviews with students. Some showed intrinsic motivations and others had a need to understand themselves and their own situations to take active standpoints and transfer their knowledge. Minority students often have a higher socio-political awareness than their majority counterparts, and they have given more thought to what their cultural, political or religious means in their society. It is important for us to make them understand that this background and their knowledge about this can be used in the academic discussions.

We all have funds of knowledge, Folk said.

This was a good session, and I think we all left the lecture theatre wanting to understand more and to look into more of the ACRL Framework with this background.


LILAC18: day 1, part 2

[I´m in the process of writing up my notes from LILAC18. Here is part 1.]



Barbara Band: The elephant in the room – why are information literacy skills not an essential part of the curriculum?

To be perfectly honest, I do not know if Band answered this question. Maybe it is even too complex a question to cover in a keynote. While Band delivered a good keynote, I must admit I did not really take any real key ideas with me. It was too general, and not that much new. I hope I am not too harsh here. Writing a good keynote must be very hard.

Band said that we live in a world where our work tasks and roles are in continuing evolvement. We are no longer just “librarians”, but Learning Lounge Managers, LRC managers and lots of other varieties. Band wanted us to take back the meaning of the word “librarian”.

Information literacy is essential for students, so why don´t the teachers demand that it is described in course descriptions etc? What challenges do we face? Is it the education system itself that causes the problem – that nobody wants to think long term? Are the teachers the main barriers? Is the problem that librarians have low status in the workplace – that their input is easy to ignore? Is the problem that libraries are poorly staffed, and that librarians feel they cannot leave their posts to participate in meetings etc?

There are so many models and definitions of information literacy? Is that important or does it just add to the confusion? Is it important that all students adhere to the same IL model? Does that help them in their learning?

We have to change the way we speak about our work, Band said. The word “literacy” does not help us. Information literacy are soft skills that cannot be easily measured. This is not easy in a world where everything is measured.

Teachers have often missed the fact that many students struggle with every single step in the research process, Band continued. We need more collaboration. There is way too little formal collaboration, and everything depends on having a personal relationship with teachers. [So true!] We have to end this practice. We cannot keep doing things in circles, and that everything falls apart if a teacher quits or retires. Information literacy must be integrated in course descriptions.

Another issue is that it doesn´t help that librarians want higher standards than teachers. It doesn´t matter that we teach searching databases, critical thinking and referencing if teachers are willing to accept that students copy from websites and wikipedia.

Information literacy is not a single course, and is therefore not measured on IL itself. Sometimes it can therefore be challenging to give sufficient training and that students acquire the skills they need. Students are, understandably, often very goal oriented, and passing an exam is more important than achieving long term skills. Teaching to the test is not possible or even desirable when it comes to information literacy. And – as teachers get more and more tasks to solve, they have to drop something. IL is often easier to drop than other things on the agenda.

If the library is just a place with books and librarians are just someone who drops in at random times during a course, we will not be seen as a profession of our own, with our own particular field of expertise.


Nephin & Park: Reading group for academic librarians:

The librarians presenting here had started a reading group for librarians at their institution. They had multiple libraries at different campuses, and they wanted to be more actively involved with research in stead of just dealing with the daily tasks all the time. The reading group has chosen research articles, twitter posts, blog posts etc.

The administrator calls everyone in for a meeting, and all attendees must have read the document, but there is no requirement other than that. The attendees can have read, but not understood the document and still be able to participate. There is a delegated leader for the meeting that will lead the discussion.

The reading and discussions strenghtened the community feeling between the librarians and changed the dynamics. They got a lot of information through reading, but it was the discussion that helped them develop their thinking and practice. After a while, Nephin and Park asked for volunteers to lead each meeting. The volunteer could choose a topic for discussion and choose the document for reading. They organised meetings at the different campuses to ensure that as many as possible had the option to participate, and they had some light refreshments served at each meeting. These meetings were very imortant for new staff, and also for people who are not naturally extrovert. The reading group opened a blog where they write small notes on the general “mood” of the meetings and a short report on what went on. The blog has not worked that all that well, as “we are more twitter people”, Nephin said. Twitter was easier, but the blog has been a useful archive.

Tips: You need an administrator. The administrator have to send invitations, make the coffee etc. – otherwise, it will all come to nothing. As in everything else, you need someone to take inititativ. The leader of each meeting did have access to a very general list of opening questions that they could use to help get the conversation started, like “I chose this article because..”, “I found this most interesting..” etc. , but they were not often needed.

A very interesting session! I´ll try to start something similar here, I think.
Emary, Kitchin & Lawrence: Prosess drawing: a tool to promote reflective practice in information literacy.

This session was about using process drawing to encourage good discussions with students. It is not a great method to use with large student groups, but great for small groups. The teacher can give a task, f.ex. Imagine that you have just been given an assignment that is due in two weeks. Draw a map that shows your process from start to finish. Each student draws a map consistent with their practice. Ex: Day 1: brainstorming, day 2 -7: being lazy, day 8: research etc. The student draws the map and explains the process and who they include in their process. The student gets 10 minutes to make the map and s/he can talk to fellow students about it or the librarian can make a sort of interview based on the map. This can enhance the role of the process and make the student more aware of the process itself.

This can be done as a pre-/post thing with the students. Students generally draw their ideal route, but is that what reality looks like? It is important to give them a relevant task, closely related to what they should learn.

Process drawing and other types of reflective activity is important for learning processes, and it can change behaviour.

(I wish we could have had a little more time, as there were many questions from the audience, but at the same time I was relieved to get out, as the airconditioning was out of order, and it was like a sauna in there!)

Fealey et al.: Plugging the gap: can online tutorials be more than just 24-7 support?

The presenters said that they had found that students actually liked pdf versions of tutorials. The students preferred tutorials with no sound. They liked tutorials that just showed the process being done, and then to test the method themselves.

The library where the presenteres worked has made great efforts in better facilitation of online tutorials. They have included more assessments so that they can improve what they have already made. Everything (the tutorials) is located in the learning management system.

The success criteria were: that there were clear structures and content lists, and that there were well-described learning goals and quizzes at the end of each element so that the students could test themselves.

Unfortunately, during the last session, I had such a headache that I could barely make notes, so I apologise for the brevity of the report from that session. The headache was so bad that I felt sick and also, sadly, missed the networking event at the World Museum (with the special display of terracotta warriors!). Nooooo!

LILAC18 : day 1, part 1

I always write up my notes and experiences from LILAC (almost) immediately after the conference. That way I can process everything while it´s fresh in my mind. This year, things happened and I haven´t been able to do it before now. I think, therefore, that the report will be somewhat more “cropped” this year. Still, I hope that the notes will be useful later, as I often go back to notes from previous conferences to refresh my memory.

So – this year´s LILAC took place in Liverpool. (I´ll refrain from elaboration on the travels to and from:)) As always, the programme was packed with interesting topics and great presenters. LILAC is my fav conference, and I have so far never been disappointed by the content they manage to combine over three days.

Teaching information literacy in an active learning classroom/ Veronica Alfredsson & Louise Bjur

The librarians felt like they couldn´t connect properly with the students and that they did not get enough feedback from the students. Furthermore, students often asked questions that had just been covered in the lecture. This led the librarians to wonder about knowledge retention.

The librarians changed the layout of the classroom. They organised the students into groups, and the students had to share whiteboards, blackboards, screens and flip-overs. This changed the students´ behaviour. When they came into the classroom and saw the layout, they assumed that they had to participate and talk to their peers. It also changed how the librarians were teaching. They found themselves walking around and interacting with students in new ways. In rooms with this kind of layout, it is difficult to give a lecture. It forces the teacher to assume a more active role and the students to interact with each other.

The librarians started doing backward design. In stead of figuring out what they wanted to teach, make a lesson and then teach it, they turned it around and thought: what do we want students to master, what do the students have to practice in order to achieve these skills, and what kind of information do they need to have in order to do the work? This forms the foundation of the lesson.

Example of activity: they handed out a newsarticle and asked questions about it. Who is the author, who is the article written for, does it cite other sources, and would you use it as a source for your paper? Then, step two would be: find the study that the news article was based on, how did the students search to get there? The students reported these steps on a whiteboard. Then they talked about the article (the one that forms the backdrop for the news article) and had a look at the structure (IMRAD) and other qualities.

Other activities included having access to physical documents and placing them along an arrow, from popular science to more scholarly content.

Yet another activity the librarians used was The Boolean game: they pretend that the room is a database. The instructor is searching the database. If the instructor say a word that you as a participant want to be associated with, you stand up. For example: “jeans” = too many stand up. “Jeans” AND “glasses”. Still not perfect. “Jeans” AND “glasses” OR “contact lenses”. And so on..

Reviewing the role of teaching librarians in supporting students digital capabilities/ M.Gscwanter.

Mr. Gscwanter, Canterbury Christ Church College, had his work descripttion changed. He was to teach “digital literacy”, and he tried to find a good way to integrate this into his lessons. He used JISC Digital Capabilities Framework: 6 elements of digital capacity.

Gscwanter did a literature review and some interviews to explore the “digital literacy” term, and how people define it. He found that most librarians relate to the term as “digital INFORMATION literacy” – like business as usual, only with digital elements. According to Mr. Gscwanter, librarians only work within the “Information, data and media literacies” (JISC) element. Is that ok?, he asked.

In a discussion at his university on whether they should use the term “digital literacy” or “information literacy”, “digital literacy” won, and the term is now used in all course descriptions for master students. “Digital literacy” seems more pragmatic for teachers, and therefore easier to understand – was the argument.

And to avoid that this blog post never ends – LILAC day 1, part 2 will follow…