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Higher Ed at Altitude: Notes from LOEX 2015

Higher Ed at Altitude: Notes from LOEX 2015

Cara Evanson and I attended the LOEX Conference last week in Denver, Colorado. LOEX is a conference focused on library instruction and information literacy. As always, the conference was excellent and we had trouble choosing which sessions to attend! Fortunately, with two of us attending this year, we were able to divide and conquer. We attended sessions on topics such as using primary source materials in instruction, advice from teachers turned librarians for improving instruction, and graphic design.

We want to share with you some of the details of the especially compelling sessions we attended:

Extending the Research Conversation: A Model for Integrated Research Instruction

This session was presented by a librarian and two professors from George Washington University.

The librarian, Bill Gillis, was embedded into two study abroad mini-courses. The goal of the partnership was to get students to think in new ways about the new information environment in their host countries. The librarian encouraged students to turn their curiosity into active engagement by asking “odd-angled questions.” These questions are unexpected, cannot be answered by a yes or no, and reveal more questions. This leads students into a spiral of inquiry that allows them to take their research to a higher level. The presenters described this process with a metaphor. They compare the research process to room the students have just entered, where a party is in progress. They urge students to imagine the guests in the room as potential sources for their bibliography, and their role as a researcher is to engage them in conversation. This method motivates students to focus on what they bring to the scholarship party.

As an example, one of the students on the France trip was studying Monet. As an international student from Japan, she was able to bring her own heritage and interests into her research. Her inquiry led her to explore how the color blue in Monet’s Water Lilies compares with the use of the color blue in depictions of Mount Fuji.

Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1906, Art Institute of Chicago

Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1906, Art Institute of Chicago [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Drinking on the Job: Integrating Workplace Information Literacy into the Curriculum

Allison Hicks, from the University of Colorado-Boulder, shared her method for teaching about workplace information literacy in the classroom. She talked about how she conducted interviews with people in different professions to get a sense of what information literacy in the workplace looks like in various contexts. These workplace information literacies were framed as Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) which are a collection of tools and processes for learning and reflecting about information. Hicks then brought these insights about PLEs into the classroom, asking seniors to map their own PLEs and consider how they compare to the PLEs of workers in their future workplaces.

During the session, participants mapped their own PLEs. What does your workplace PLE look like? You can map your own by considering the following categories. What processes and what tools do you use to:

  • inquire and discover information
  • think and reflect information
  • curate and collect information
  • collaborate and network knowledge
  • create and share knowledge

The keynote for LOEX was given by Anne-Marie Dietering from Oregon State University. Her theme was reflections on reflection – the benefits and pitfalls of the reflection process we do as teachers and librarians. It was a call to action to question our assumptions and inner narratives. This can be an uncomfortable process because it requires us to break away from safety nets such as binaries and constructs of identity. However, this is critical in order for us to grow as instructors and facilitate this same reflection process for our students. She was clear that her reflection process is by no means complete, and asked probing questions such as “how do we create safe learning spaces when asking students to question who they are and what they believe about the world?”

Anne-Marie described her reflective process as “going down the rabbit hole.” Before we get too deep into the rabbit hole ourselves in describing the details of LOEX, we’re going to wrap up this post. We would be happy to talk more about our conference experience and welcome any questions you have.