Friday, January 8, 2016

Information Literacy and Recent Graduates: New from PIL | Library Babel Fish | Inside Higher Ed

From Barbara Fister's Library Babel Fish about the new report from Project Information Literacy
This bears further reading and discussion. I'm firing this off right away because the note that students don't feel prepared "to formulate and ask questions of their own" strikes a chord with a major theme/concept that we have been wrestling with in our information literacy program here at SUNY Oswego. This indicates one of the reasons that our response to the ACRL Framework features Question as one of three basic concepts in the Research Process. That is, students struggle to learn how to raise their own questions. The other reasons are that we as librarians and writing teachers still don't know how to teach independent questioning, at least not well; and that questions and answers somehow drive what we as humans experience as informative.

Information Literacy Learning Goals at SUNY Oswego: Question, Discover Sources, Use Sources
Video overview of our framework: The Research Process

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Video series aims to help instructors help first-generation students @insidehighered

This has situated cognition and cognitive apprenticeship all over it. 
  • Good ideas for improving learning and success for at-risk and other students
  • Nice strategy for spreading knowledge through an online collection of short videos
  • With the bonus that such a strategy could be used for students and not just faculty

When a U.S. Senate committee sought to highlight successful practices in educating minority and other underserved students at a hearing last month, it turned to officials at an urban two-year institution (Long Beach City College); a historically black university (Fayetteville State University); and Heritage University, a private institution that is located on tribal land in Washington State and where about three-quarters of students are the first in their families to attend college.   Congress i...

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Don't evaluate scholarly research on public impact alone (essay) @insidehighered

This op-ed on how to evaluate and explain the impact of research on the public good relies on a communities of practice model for expertise and makes some clear explanations about how students become members and practitioners of a discipline.  The ideas here align closely with the new ACRL Framework for information literacy and our Question-Discover-Use conceptual framework.

Recently, the value of academic research, especially in the humanities and social sciences, has been questioned. The current majority party in the House of Representatives has proposed cutting science funding for social science research,  and eliminating all funding,  for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof accused faculty,  of engaging in specialized research disconnected from the interests of the reading p...

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Friday, April 25, 2014

As Researchers Turn to Google, Libraries Navigate the Messy World of Discovery Tools

"Librarians want to make their content searchable, but they're wary of commercial software that may skew the results."

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We are introducing Ebsco Discovery this summer.  I am struggling with the impact  that a discovery layer might have on the research behavior of our students and faculty, and how we might use it to promote information literacy.

One of our goals is to help students explore and understand the information landscapes for their disciplines.  Can EDS help us highlight the features of conversations in the various disciplines?  Or will it make it even easier to think that Ebscohost is a database, that Gale Virtual Reference Library is an encyclopedia and that knowledge is just a pile of identical grains of truth?

One of my colleagues has noted that EDS is meant to be intuitive for a novice researcher.  Our expert researchers currently prefer to go straight to their favorite databases.   Can EDS help us nudge the novices toward the behaviors of the experts?

Well those are my first thoughts and worries.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Digital Literacy in General Education, 2013

As reported in my earlier post, the General Education Council at Oswego has been reviewing and approving, or not, computer and information literacy infusion plans for our major programs. 

The infusion of the "basic operations of personal computer use" learning outcome was nearly taken for granted because of the widespread use of word processing, online searching, spreadsheets and computer-based presentations.  The only issue was whether our faculty are prepared to assist students and provide constructive feedback in the use of tools that are not always well used by faculty.

In trying to make sense of the other SUNY General Education learning outcomes (1999) for Computer and Information Management, the Council resolved that the main reason to set the outcomes about research practices apart from related outcomes in Writing and Critical Thinking in 2013 is to emphasize the use of computers in those practices, especially in regard to managing and analyzing data.  In one extreme case, the Council used the terminology "numerical data, be it quantitative or qualitative."  In the sciences and social sciences, this presented no problems, and in fact the elegance of some of the science plans probably inspired this position.

However, this insistence on the use of computer tools for analysis of data has made it almost impossible for programs in the humanities to officially infuse computer literacy in their courses, even though they have information literacy practice integrated into almost all of their courses and use computers widely for searching, reading and writing (and viewing and presenting).  The offering of a digital humanities version of our Computer Science 101 course has made it sensible and attractive for the history and criticism programs to simply require that course instead of getting approval for an infusion plan.  That is because the primary source material for history and criticism can be easily and meaningfully digitized even when the scholars are mainly benefitting from the digital projects rather than engaged in the digitizing as a part of their own professional practice.

The one discipline that is left hanging is Philosophy.  It is not that important connections and collaborations between philosophy and computing don't exist--logic, artificial intelligence and cognitive science can be all about philosophy and computing.  It's that the work of philosophy is theory and does not at its core work with the kind of data that scientists use, or even with the kind of accurate and authentic representation of texts and objects that are important in history and criticism.  Philosophy's counterpart to data appears to be arguments that are to be analyzed on their own.  Any computer assistance to that analysis is very simple and merely a help.  Computer use is ancillary and remains far from the authentic practices of philosophers.  It remains to be seen how Philosophy and the General Education Council will deal with the Computer and Information Literacy requirement.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

General Education, Digital Literacy and Information Literacy: Infusion at SUNY Oswego

Entering the 21st Century:  SUNY GER, ACRL Standards, Middle States and 3 Directions

We have redesigned our General Education program at Oswego to infuse information literacy into our curriculum.  I served on the General Education Council throughout this process and encountered two happy surprises: the 3 Directions conceptualization of information literacy is a settled issue among our faculty and taken for granted; and the only way to concieve of basic computer use at this time is in terms of digital literacy, with disruptive outcomes in the disciplines.  Background on information literacy in our General Education follows an explanation of my surprises.

First Surprise: Information Literacy as a settled issue

At the beginning of deliberations on infusion I shared with the Council my earlier post on "Integrated Literacy Across the Curriculum," and a continuing re-statement of my position that information literacy broadly-concieved encompasses reading and writing and thinking as well searching for sources, and necessarily incorporates the SUNY GER categories for Writing and Critical Thinking as well as Computer and Information Literacy. This is an ax I have been grinding here for over a decade with no clear success, at least until I saw this sentence in the Council minutes:
To begin, there is no little degree of overlap between the third learning outcome in Computer and Information Literacy, the third learning outcome in Writing, and the learning outcomes for Critical Thinking
This is not the revolution, but my feeling that my position is not only accepted by the Council but also more broadly by the faculty was reinforced when we began to review the infusion plans from the departments.  Most of the plans documented how students met the information literacy outcomes in the context of learning to do research and write in their disciplines.  In fact most departments found this easy to document, leaving the computer literacy outcome as the primary point of failure.

I am beginning to feel that the conceptualization of information literacy as the broad ability to use information for learning, life and work is almost taken for granted at SUNY Oswego.  That is better than a revolution--it means that information literacy is becoming an institution.

Second Surprise: Re-inventing "basic operations of personal computer use" as digital literacy in the disciplines

We quickly encountered problems in how well our faculty could address computer use in their programs. It certainly seems quaint to me to be concerned about "personal computer use" as a college level learning outcome in 2013.
  • Capacity of faculty to teach and assess digital presentation 
  • Variation in use of computers in the disciplines especially in regard to data in the humanities


I arrived in Oswego in August 2000, just in time to greet the 21st Century on January 1, 2001.  Oswego State had just started a revised general education program based on the 1999 SUNY GER (General Education Requirements) which included an information literacy requirement under the guise of Computer and Information Management.

"Students will:
  • perform the basic operations of personal computer use;
  • understand and use basic research techniques; and
  • locate, evaluate, and synthesize information from a variety of sources."
Although the central administration of SUNY allowed either infusion or a required course to meet the requirement, the expedient move at Oswego was to go with a required Computer Science course, and as it happened the faculty in Computer Science focussed on basic computer use.  It took a few years for them to extend the course into a research activity: requiring source material to be used and cited in creating a web page/site.  Meanwhile, in 2004 the faculty at Oswego divided the Computer and Information Management requirement into Computer Literacy and Information Literacy with an advanced component for Information Literacy and encouragement for departments to infuse these into their majors.  Several departments in the sciences chose to infuse at the time.

Then three years ago SUNY began to be more flexible about the implementation of SUNY GER and at Oswego we took advantage of that to improve our program, in part by simplifying and streamlining the program through reducing the required courses by a third.  As a result Oswego's General Education program now requires that Computer and Information Literacy be met by infusion.  Departments then had to either document how the learning outcomes would be achieved in the required courses for each major, or revise their programs to require a course, usually in Computer Science, that is determined to include the learning outcomes for Computer and Information Literacy.

This past year, then, the General Education Council reviewed proposed infusion plans from almost all our departments, negotiated with departments that were not quite on the mark, approved most of the plans, and coordinated with the Academic Policies Council to approve a handful of program revisions.