Category Archives: Reflections

Class #1: Reflections

An overview: Introduction to the course, why teaching matters in libraries, best practices in learning, learning versus teaching, librarianship, interviews

I am very excited for this class and appreciate how focused it seems to be on practical application of the concepts and practice in the best-practices.  I know from my previous experience that this is far better than being able to say what book an answer is in (or something to that affect).  I am excited to learn how to approach teaching in a library with the mind-set of patron learning.  As in the readings, much of the ideas presented in lecture are the same ideas that permeated my undergraduate classes in early childhood education.  I made every attempt to teach in a way that worked for student-learning and not “I taught it so they better know it” but there is always room to grow and learn and approach the same topic in a different way next time to make it easier and more successful for the learner.

This also reminded me of a thought I had last semester – I am curious if librarians are made better by taking pedagogy and child development classes as well as classes like collection development or professional practices etc.  Although I made the personal choice to not pursue life as a school librarian but instead focus more on public librarianship, I wonder if my experiences and learning in pedagogy and child development will transfer to this new profession.  I believe it will impact how I approach my teaching responsibilities in the library – but I wonder if I will be able to keep the mindset when doing other activities – such as program planning etc.

I also wonder if librarianship should begin to include classes on pedagogy and child development.  Since so many of our predecessors state that the library IS a place for education and that librarians ARE educators, perhaps it’s time library schools prepare librarians for this idea on a more fundamental level rather than just saying it.

During class I could not decide whether or not I was a fixed or flexible mindset learner.  (Read more about those ideas here.)  I feel as though I was definitely raised to think that I was smart and could do anything I wanted but I also started playing violin at a very young age.  The nature of learning to play an instrument is very fluid and very focused on learning parts separately and together and without music and with music (not to mention needing to learn how to read music).  From that experience alone I think it feels very natural for me to say you can learn anything you can take in things now and revisit it later and take in more information.

Looking forward to next week!

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Adaptive Expertise

…or reflections on Chapter 2 from How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition / National Research Council…

Prompt: Consider the last tech class you attended. Was the focus on novice-level or expert-level growth? How do the professors and teachers you admire promote expert-level growth? How in the heck does this all connect to libraries? To your past technology or information literacy instruction experiences as a student or teacher? What connections do you make between the “Adaptive Expertise” section and your experiences in 501?

The last tech class I took was SI502 – Networked Computing: Storage, Communication, and Processing.  I find it hard to classify this class into only novice-level or expert-level in the intended outcomes but I believe it was taught with the expectation of eventually containing expert-level mastery and application.  It was stated more than once that the class would only bring you one step further than where you were when you started, however I believe that the way in which it was taught allowed even that small amount to be adaptable to many different situations.

Although I personally know that I have a lot more to learn before I feel confident and comfortable in my knowledge, I at least have a starting base that helps me know where to go next.  Even this is a sign of learning in a way that uses expert-level as a guide.  Had the class been taught differently, I may only remember certain formulas or facts about the Internet.  Instead, I know where I can go to find information to write a program, I know what programs look like and I know major concepts surrounding the Internet and its design.  This differs very much from the one other tech class I remember taking in Undergraduate/high-school where we sat with a “lesson” on the computer to complete an Excel spreadsheet, or typing program and submit our final score.  I know that the only mastery I have of Excel is because I had to re-learn it when I was using the program, and not because of that class.  That class was taught at the novice-level and did not seem to have the intent of achieving mastery in anything.

The missions of public libraries are to educate.  It is extremely important to keep this in mind when working with patrons and other library users and to always make an attempt to help them grow in their knowledge.  I believe that school libraries could, and should, be used a lot more collaboratively with teachers and public libraries.  It takes more than one show-and-tell session to learn how to appropriately search Google for a research paper.  It takes more than one tour to know what resources your library actually has and librarians are there to HELP teachers.  So many times I have seen teachers take their class to the library to research for a paper when the librarian is working at a different school that day.  Such a waste of a learning opportunity – not only does the librarian have no idea what your students need but the teacher as teacher may not understand the best ways to educate students in research tools.

In SI501 – Contextual Inquiry and Project Management, I feel that the learning I had with this class was completely dependent on the hands-on and full immersion of running a project with an outside client.  I believe this directly correlates with its transfer ability in future situations.  I have already participated in and muddled through the concepts and ideas once with a positive outcome.  I now know areas that may take longer, that I need to review and that are completely necessary for success.  Although I probably would not choose to go through the experience again, I understand how it helps business and where I need to go to be better the next time I participate in something of this nature.

Further thoughts: How does curriculum and expectations stop expert teachers from using these research-proven methods?

Still A Novice Learner

… or reflections on Chapter 1 from How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition / National Research Council…

Prompt: Consider how this reflects/differs from your experiences as a student in the classroom and on your past observations of library instruction/activities.

I was particularly drawn to the concepts of meta-cognitive approaches to learning and the ability to transfer knowledge and concepts from situation to situation.  According to the text, meta-cognitive activities that experts participate in include, “monitoring their own understanding carefully, making note of when additional information was required for understanding, whether new information was consistent with what they already knew, and what analogies could be drawn that would advance their understanding” (How People Learn pg 18).

It is important to recognize that to get to this expert level of thinking and understanding, one must have been taught strategies and ways to do all of these things in the appropriate situation.  I cannot pinpoint any one teacher or class where I know that we were taught subject matter with the expectation of becoming an expert and gaining  understanding in mind. Many of my favorite classes expected critical thinking skills – often in English or literature courses where we analyzed and reflected on the texts – and these courses are probably the closest I have ever had in regards to teaching for understanding.  Many others, such as math and science, were taught with the expectations of memorizing formulas or definitions of concepts.  My knowledge of how to solve complex math problems is rudimentary, at best, and I have always thought this was mainly because I have never had an inherent interest in math.  situations. After reading this chapter, my lack of ability in solving math problems may stem more from the fact of not being taught concepts so that I could transfer them to other

This also reminded me of an experience I had while taking a graduate course in curriculum development from Western Michigan University.  In this course we analyzed and reviewed current curricula along with what teachers should be using for best learning practices.  Many of the curricula currently offered in schools does not teach for understanding of concepts but instead teaches facts with activities sprinkled in for hands-on learning.  Our professor made this point explicitly clear by asking us to solve a common homeowners problem: I just bought a dog and want to fence in my square backyard so he doesn’t run away.  How do I know how to keep my fence lines straight when building?

As it turns out, not a single one of us graduate level students who had had years of math could recall the formula “A squared + B squared = C squared” would allow us to measure accurately for the fence.  This simple transfer of knowledge was not possible because so many of us had learned that formula in relation to a triangle sitting on the piece of paper in front of us.  Had I had any sort of math training that used real world situations (and not which train will arrive faster at the station) that expected use of these formulas for the ‘answer’, I may have been able to transfer the knowledge to building a straight fence.

(As a side note: this also may be why American students score so poorly on standardized tests when compared with foreign competitors.  Many schools in Japan and China use math curriculums that teach 12 – 15 basic concepts and the why behind those concepts instead of simply a formula.  Then they are able to apply the concept to any type of question asked, whereas the majority of American students can only apply formulas to questions asked in the same way as those used when learning the formula.  Once the above professor drew a triangle on our picture of the house/yard and said solve for ‘C’ we all knew exactly what formula to use, but we could not reach that point on our own.)

Library instruction has hardly registered throughout my schooling experiences.  I know in elementary school we went to the library once a week, used it for in-door recess and had school programs during open houses however, I cannot remember exactly what we were taught when going “to library”.  I have always loved going to the library, the bookmobile, the public library wherever but cannot remember ever being explicitly instructed in using it except for once in high-school when writing a research paper.  Our high-school librarian spent time teaching us better searching practices through Google and helped us understand where we could find sources in our school library however I know I used the public library more during that project.  This may have been a comfort thing because I rarely used my high-school library but used the public library all the time.

Most of my time spent in libraries was participating in summer reading programs, checking out books and conducting research for class assignments.  More recently it has also become my study home away from home.  I rarely take advantage of programs or opportunities offered through the library and have only just recently began to see how those are effectively helping libraries reach their missions.  I am very interested to see how my experiences teaching, and the knowledge I have gained from teaching, extend into my experiences as a librarian.

Further thoughts: On page 17, the text states that “students will begin as novices”.  I immediately wrote in the text, “do they leave as experts in anything?”  So much of my schooling was based around you need to know this or you should do this and I am not convinced that I graduated high-school with extensive knowledge in any subject.  I did well in all subjects, but does that mean I am an expert in all subjects?  I am not sure if we are expected to become experts only during and after college when our learning becomes more centralized on a certain topic or if that expert status should start earlier.  Is it okay to leave high-school still a novice learner?  Is it okay to leave high-school still a novice learner when attending college is not something a student is able to do?  How are expectations of novice and expert learning changed, and how should teaching practices change, when teachers believe a student will be attending college or will not be attending college?