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Thoughts on Getting Class Ready for Fall

August 1, 2014

Happy Friday, dear readers! Can you believe we are already at the start of August? I can’t. This means that I have a month and some change until Fall Quarter starts, which means I really need to get my class ready. I always revamp my class quite a lot during the summer based on feedback and observations from the previous year’s teaching. This coming year, I’m teaching in a new first-year experience cluster, Taking Charge of Your Life: Balance, which I’m very excited about and today I wanted to share a few thoughts about getting my class ready for fall.

First, I love revamping my classes. It is what allows me to integrate new, relevant content and examples for my students and, equally importantly, it keeps me from being bored teaching introduction to information literacy classes every year. I also love teaching, so that helps, too. While I tweak my classes between quarters, there isn’t enough time to do huge overhauls so those have to wait until summer. Then I have the headspace and the time to map out my ten-week class and figure out what to keep and what to change.

I’ve been teaching in the flipped classroom model for the past two years and it has been really a good change. Having lecture material as homework, mainly in the form of video tutorials, has freed up classroom time for activities and discussion. Students, overall, really like being able to review the videos to help them with their work. But not everything has gone perfectly. This year, I’m adding back in a few more traditional homework assignments as I’ve found students need more practice with certain concepts and this practice needs to be graded so the majority of my students will complete the work.

I’m also excited that I get to teach the information literacy class within the larger cluster focused on balance and making conscious decisions about your life. I’m looking forward to learning a lot from my students and being able to share some of the things that allow me to have a fulfilling and balanced (to the best of my ability) life. I’m also super-excited because it means I get to share a lot of TED Talks. So excited. I’m hoping to use the TED Talks as introductory discussion topics with my students for each class. I’ll let you know.

So what gets you excited about teaching or presenting or sharing what you know with others? If you teach, how do you go about revamping your classes or orientation sessions? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Finally I want to leave you with a TED Talk that I’m planning on sharing with my class in fall quarter. Hopefully it will inspire some of them.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, dear readers. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Tuesday Fun

July 29, 2014

Happy Tuesday, dear readers! I hope that your weekend was relaxing, Monday was kind to you, and that your Tuesday is going well. As always, I have some fun for you to check out for a break from work today. Today’s fun comes to us in the form of typography, so let’s get to it.

The lovely this week in fonts should make you smile and want to use some new fonts in your designs. I’m loving Riga this week. Looks like a lovely font to use in the library. Unfortunately for me, my campus already has specified fonts to use for design (at least they are nice ones).

And, for those who like some guidance in mixing fonts, check out 10 commandments of typography. Handy chart to help when choosing fonts. Just remember, as one of my many typography resources said, no one ever got fired for specifying Georgia.

Finally, while not related to typography, I just had to share this amazing article on Tree of 40 Fruits. It is so beautiful and amazing.

I hope you have a lovely week. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Teaching Digital History: Or, Out of My Comfort Zone

July 25, 2014

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week went well and you have a lovely weekend planned. Today I want to share some of my experiences from the last quarter, especially about being outside of my comfort zone in my teaching duties. This spring quarter I taught a digital history class that I had created for the history department for the first time and it was both completely fun and completely terrifying at the same time. Let me explain.

I was asked last year by the chair of our history department if I would like to create a digital history methods course. Of course, I said yes! After checking out as many digital history course syllabi as I could find online and digging through lots of literature I began to draw up a syllabus with input from the history chair. We wanted the course to combine theory and practice so the students would get an opportunity for hands-on work as well as getting a grounding in the theory of digital history and current discussions surrounding digital history. After a few iterations of the syllabus, we had a course that we thought would be good so we were able to put it forward to be approved for the next academic year. Happily, the approval process was fairly straightforward and we were on our way for having it taught this spring quarter.

I’ve taught for six years on campus, but I was totally terrified (and excited) to be teaching for the history department a brand new course with non-first year students. But after a bit of shuffling of students in the first few weeks of the course, we settled into the groove of the course and got into the discussions and work of the digital history project. After reviewing the students’ course evaluations, which were overwhelmingly positive, I can’t wait to see where the history department takes their digital history courses next. I just wanted to share a few thoughts about my experience and how it helps in all my work.

First Thought: Just because you are talking with someone in an allied field doesn’t mean they know or understand your field.

This was one idea that has really stuck with me after teaching a digital history course. I really wanted the course to be cross-disciplinary, so I challenged my students to read outside of their comfort zone of history articles and texts. We read articles in Science on using big data for research, library science articles, articles written by archivists studying historians, and more. Some of the students talked in class and wrote about how it really pushed them and was hard at first to understand these other fields. Many of the history majors talked about how they weren’t aware of what archivists did or that anyone was studying how historians used archives. It was really interesting for me to figure out how to translate research from different fields and get students excited to learn about things outside of the history field and see the interconnections that they could use as they go out and become teachers, public historians, etc.

Second Thought: Digital History is always changing so it’s okay to experiment, too

As anyone who works with me knows, I like to have plans and to be prepared for class before the quarter starts. I’m happy improvising up to a point, but winging an entire class doesn’t work for me. Happily, I found a middle ground with this class. While the main bones of the course were all settled before the term started so the students knew overall what to expect, we were able to experiment and improvise with parts of the course so that we could focus on issues that were of interest to the students. It was great to be able to pull in new online videos and articles into the class discussions and readings that would make our learning richer. Some sites didn’t work when we tried to use them in class, other sites seemingly disappeared. Sometimes things that looked easy from the help tutorials turned out to be crazy hard and other times things that looked hard turned out to be easy. Being open to experimentation is key, which leads me to my next thought.

Third Thought: Being uncomfortable is a part of learning and having a supportive environment allows us to work through it

Many of my students talked to me about their difficulties working through some of the new theory presented, some of the technical specifications we talked about, and trying to create online projects instead of writing a research paper. There were definitely moments of discomfort and stretching in class, but that is what learning is about. We have to challenge ourselves to keep learning, to find new ways to communicate history, and to find new ways of engaging with others. While learning may be uncomfortable at times, it was my job as the instructor to maintain a supportive environment for learning, for making mistakes, and for ultimately creating some awesome digital history projects.

My time teaching this course was an amazing experience. I learned a lot that I want to incorporate into my other courses and I hope that I have a chance to collaborate with our awesome history department and students some more in the future. So, I guess what I’m saying is that while the students may have been challenged, I was challenged, too, and learned so much. It was a tiring, fun, terrifying, and invigorating class and term. I can’t wait to see what the next academic year brings.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, dear readers. I’ll be back soon with some more news and notes. Allons-y!

Tuesday Fun

July 22, 2014

Happy Tuesday, dear readers! I hope your week is going well. I can hardly believe we are in the second half of July. The summer is just rushing by. So today, I have some fun things for you to read/view as a reminder to take a break today.

I love calligraphy and had to share this great photo post of optical illusion that makes calligraphy jump off the page. So beautiful. It makes me want to start practicing my calligraphy more.

Also, I can’t resist lists of best librarians from literature, television, film, etc., so had to share SciFi and Fantasty’s best librarians list. If all librarians were like the librarians in Night Vale, I think we’d spend a lot less time worrying about whether or not people take our profession seriously.

Finally, enjoy this amazing video of ceramics masters creating works of art. Absolutely breathtaking:

I hope you have a fantastic rest of your week. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Online Tutorials for IL Instruction: Thanks NCCPL!

July 18, 2014

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has gone well. Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking at a workshop hosted by NCCPL (Northern and Central California Psychology Libraries) on using online tutorials for information literacy instruction. It was a lot of fun and I just wanted to share a bit from that talk today.

The NCCPL Workshop was held at the lovely Palo ALto University. I’d never been there before, but it was great to be up in the hills for the day.

Palo Alto University sign

Palo Alto University sign

It was a great, friendly group of librarians and we heard about new information literacy modules from vendors as well as the information literacy module process undertaken by Menlo College Bowman Library. (Very interesting process and cool module with open source code that you can download and modify for your organization.)

I talked about best practices in creating online tutorials, contexts for using online tutorials, and showed how we use online tutorials at my library. Happily, my laptop even held up through a brief walk through of the tutorial software we use. (*happy dance*) And no one fell asleep during my talk, even though it was after lunch. I just wanted to share my link to the resources and tools I talked about yesterday: Hopefully you find something of use.

I hope you have a wonderful, relaxing weekend, dear readers. I’ll be back next week with some more news and notes. Allons-y!

Tuesday Fun

July 15, 2014

Happy Tuesday, dear readers! I hope your week is going well and that you had a lovely weekend. I can hardly believe we are into July already. Time is flying, even in the relative peace and quiet of summer here on campus. Today, as with all Tuesdays, I have some fun to help you through your day.

I highly recommend this video by Ruth Change on how to make hard decisions. Really great TED Talk and yes, though serious in subject matter, it is fun to watch.

I think summer time definitely calls for trying out new recipes (we’ve been making a lot of flatbread recently) and Joy the Baker has a bunch of tempting recipes. I’m thinking this one would be hard to beat: strawberry raspberry crostata.

I hope you have a lovely rest of your week and I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Summer and Focus

July 4, 2014

Happy Friday, dear readers! For those readers in the United States, happy 4th of July! I’m excited to have a three weekend, do some celebrating and relaxing, and really feel like it is summer time. In honor of summer, let’s talk a bit about focusing and a bit about relaxing so we can enjoy the summer.

I know it might sound a bit counter-intuitive to want to talk about focusing and relaxing in the same post, but I really think they have a lot in common. I enjoyed reading this article from Lifehacker, why we brag about being busy and how to regain focus, which really resonated with me. It is so important to focus, especially when we have so many deadlines to meet and different things competing for our attention. In that vein, I love the idea of asking
yourself what you can let go every day. No one likes unending to do lists and it is always nice to be able to totally take something off one’s list.

And with better focus, hopefully we’ll have some more free time and can use it to build your summer manifesto. I love the idea of a summer manifesto and have started creating one for summer. I find that time flies by so quickly that if I don’t plan out some things to do, it will be fall and I won’t have done anything! On my summer manifesto: eating outside, planting some new flowers, and doing a lot of fun reading.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend, dear readers. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!


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