Connecticut Information Literacy Conference 2016

This is a guest post from Jennifer DeVito, a member of Cohort 2 of the Design for Learning program, reporting back from the conference she attended as one of our scholarship recipients.

Accompanying pictures on Storify

On Friday, June 17, 2016, with the generous support of the D4L Leadership Team scholarship, I attended the 2016 Connecticut Information Literacy Conference. Held at the University of Hartford in West Hartford, CT, this day-long conference is a terrific opportunity to learn about new approaches to information literacy in academic libraries.

The conference theme – “Maintaining Focus in a Changing IL Landscape” – was reflected in the keynote as well as the morning and afternoon breakout sessions and led to some interesting discussions about the changes in librarianship and information literacy.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Lana W. Jackman, a passionate advocate of information literacy and the former president of the National Forum on Information Literacy.  Dr. Jackman advised us that to be effective facilitators of change, librarians must get out of the library and advocate for ourselves in other circles – educational, political and national arenas. She entreated those in attendance to familiarize themselves with educational standards for accreditation and, yes, Common Core, to identify the “hooks” that will allow librarians to demonstrate the value of libraries and information literacy and gain entree into the curriculum.

Read the standards thoroughly and look for those hooks, such as NEASC 2016 standards 4, 6 and 7 through which a knowledgeable librarian will be able tie information literacy to the outcomes in the standards.  Using the standards helps librarians communicate with deans, provosts and other administrators who may not be as familiar with information literacy standards.

Dr. Jackman also talked about the importance of branding for libraries and librarians and of using that marketing approach to promote the services that will support student learning outcomes. She encouraged us to have that elevator speech ready to go and seek out networking opportunities like conferences and other educational forums to promote your brand and the value of libraries.  Look for partnership opportunities with school and public libraries to reach students sooner and integrate information literacy skills.

After the keynote, attendees selected one of three morning breakout sessions.  I attended Dear Diary: Adapting the SEA-change model to assess and improve library instruction by Briana McGuckin of Central Connecticut State College. This engaging presentation was based on the SEA-change model covered in the paper by Sen and Ford.  This model uses reflective writing in a situation-evidence-action format as a method of assessment. Ms. McGuckin’s presentation examined how reflective writing can be used by librarians who do information literacy instruction.  Who among us hasn’t led a class that just isn’t going the way it was intended?  Maybe the students aren’t paying attention or you anticipated that the class would have more knowledge and skill than they do and you are left floundering for a 60-90 session.  With practice, reflective writing can be a form of a self-assessment for librarian instructors and lead to modifications that make instruction more effective.

During the breakout session, attendees were asked to think about a situation that presented a difficulty for us.  It could be professional or personal; preferably, it was fairly recent.  We then spent some time writing about it using the SEA-change model. Describe the situation; evidence will build from the situation, which will lead to the action.

First, describe the situation and include details. This is self-assessment so no one has to see it.  What is/was the problem; when and where did it happen; who was involved; how did it evolve?  Next, explain your evidence. How did you know it was a problem? Finally, what action will you take to correct or change the situation? Don’t focus on finding the “right answer;” sometimes different is good enough.

Getting in the habit of this type of self-reflection and assessment can be beneficial in one’s professional and personal life. Writing should take place immediately or very soon after the event so the details are fresh and the evidence and action ideas are authentic.  Consider multiple perspectives and be clear about what actions you will take to make a change.  Reflective writing does not have to take a long time – 10-15 minutes is sufficient.

After the morning breakout session, lunch was served and we had time to walk the campus and tour the libraries on campus. Then it was time for one of the three afternoon breakout sessions.  I chose Lecturing: Not Always an Abomination by Jason B. Jones who is the Director of Educational Technology at Trinity College.  In this session, Mr. Jones talked about the value of lectures in education and how the lecture can be an effective and entertaining educational tool.  Lectures are an important component in education, especially in the humanities, because they are exercises in mindfulness and attention-building and they help teach comprehension and reasoning. In lectures, students learn how to identify important concepts and link them.  Students can take notes, sketch or doodle – anything that will help them connect with the information.

As a group, we thought of the characteristics of some of the best and the worst lectures we’ve attended.  For the best lectures, some of the descriptions were: funny, lively, good pace, stories involved. Vocal variance is also an important element of a good lecture.

Other suggestions to make a lecture effective include being dynamic in your presentation.  After 15 minutes, move.  Change sides, talk about or do something different.  Also, be mindful of the time of day.  If you are lecturing after lunch, you may want to adjust your lecture to keep your audience engaged.  Don’t be a slow talker! Keep things moving.  Use changes in tone and pace to add some interest to your lecture.

Also, keep in mind the attention span of the average audience member. Get your important points in early. Break your lecture into chunks so your audience can regroup and get at the information.  Think of the lecture as academic theater. Ultimately, a lecture should inspire students to do something for themselves.

Even though this session was geared for face-to-face lecturers, those of us who are involved in online instruction can benefit from much of this advice as we prepare for online classes.

The day ended with a wrap-up and a raffle.  It was an informative conference and I highly recommend it.  I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend.  Many thanks to the D4L Leadership Team!

About Arden Kirkland

Arden Kirkland is an independent digital librarian, providing consulting services for digital collections and online learning. Her years of work in higher education have included a focus on students’ active participation in the construction of multimedia digital collections. Other recent projects include ArtOneida.org, HistoricDress.org, and work on the Capability Maturity Model for Research Data Management. Find out more about her work at ardenkirkland.com.
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