“Thanks” — it really does mean a lot

 

"Thank you" spelled in colorful magnet lettersThis made my week, and definitely goes in the “save for a rainy day” file:

I am writing to you to express my gratitude as a parent and my admiration as a fellow librarian. My son is in the business cluster this term and he shared your subject guide with me, because he knows I’m interested in that sort of thing. I am astounded at the complete and guided format… you really walk the students through everything they need to know, and help them to take advantage of every gem that Alden library has to offer….and Alden seems to be a treasure-trove of gems! As a librarian who will be doing an information literacy program for GED students who will enter college, I admire your professionalism, dedication to your students, and thoroughness. As a parent, I am greatly pleased at this level of service, and pleased with OU sparing no expense for library resources; you educate students in research method, OU really does seem to have every important resource a student might need, and I’m glad my son has access to it all.

 

Thank you, thank you!

 

Image CC via VistaMommy

There’s hope for the future

 Google Music album cover of Pink Floyd's "The Wall"

 

When a student gets your reference to an “old song,” it gives you hope that these kids might make it someday.

An actual chat interaction with one of my students:

 

 

Student: Can one of us meet with you to ask questions? We’re looking to be helped towards the right direction

Me: are you guys in the library?
Me: ?
Me: do you guys have a study room?

[large block of time passes with no response]

 

Me: Hello, Hello, Hello, is there anybody out there?
Me: Just nod if you can hear me.
Me: Is there anyone home?

Student: Sorry we were away from our computer, we are researching in Copeland. Was that a Pink Floyd reference?
Me: yup

Me: I’m around until 4:45
Me: just let me know when you might swing by Me: I’m proud that you got the Pink Floyd reference. Shows some culture!

Student: We are in class until 5:00, if one of us is not permitted out, we will definitely find you sometime this week. Thank you for being so easy to contact! Also – I love my rock and roll

10 things to do on a long, snowy weekend

Best decision I ever made was buying extra snow shovels

Supposedly there’s a decent-sized storm heading this way.  All basketball games and kids activities have been cancelled for tomorrow.  The fridge and freezer are stocked.  The semester starts on Tuesday, and we’re off on Monday for the MLK Holiday.  Here’s a few things on my to-do list for the weekend:

  1. Finish Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  Yup, I’m the only librarian who’s never read they entire series, though I’m hoping to remedy that.
  2. Balance the checkbook and pay the bills.  Santa’s check never seems to reach the credit card company for some reason.
  3. Edit some photos.  I have a bunch of Christmas pics from our holiday road trip that I need to edit and post, lest they get lost on the hard drive forever.  Along the same lines, I need to upload some of my Instagram photos to flickr, as the cross-posting stopped working a while back.
  4. Ride the bike trainer.  I ran the treadmill today at the gym, so tomorrow’s a bike day.  Need to queue up some good YouTube videos to watch,  or perhaps start a trial of Peleton.
  5. Play some Battlefield 1.  I haven’t played my favorite game since before Christmas.  It will be rough going for a while until I get my trigger fingers back.
  6. Probably shovel the driveway at least once.
  7. Do some snow building if the boys are in the mood.
  8. Work through a few lessons in the fingerstyle blues guitar course.  I’ve been playing more guitar than video games lately.  As a result, I also need to change my guitar strings. 
  9. Finish some work for the start of the semester.  I didn’t get to this at work today as I was distracted by other projects and issues (such as planning for staffing the library during snowmaggedon.
  10. Watch some movies and basketball games with the family.

What are you doing this weekend?  Have a fantastic weekend and stay warm and safe!

I made my students 49% smarter and I can prove it

“Well looky there, you learned something!  You’re 49% smarter than you were 5 minutes ago!”  This aha! moment  occurred while teaching over 400 business students this fall.  Using Tophat in my business research instruction sessions, I was able to assess that my students did in fact learn something through my teaching.

The Challenge

Each semester I have the awesome opportunity to teach two research sessions to  over 400 sophomore business students.  The 400 students are divided into 3-4 sections, which I teach in the same day (it can be exhausting).  The first session is generally a typical 30-45 minute database demonstration, as they need to do a basic industry analysis for their first project.  For the project, all students are researching the same industry, so the tools they will need are pretty consistent and straight forward (Type an industry keyword in a search box, get some useful stuff).

The second project is a bit more challenging to teach to, as each 5-member student team can choose their own business to create.  The resources they need to successfully complete consumer demographic, local market, and competitor analyses are quite a bit more challenging to use than the sources for the first project.  The resources they need for the second project require significantly more creativity to use, as well as more brain power to interpret the data.  In the past when I have done a basic database demo of these resources for the second project, students were paying more attention to how to use the interface than they were in understanding how they might apply the data.  This was clearly demonstrated in the 20+ consultations that I held with student teams, as almost every team had questions about how to interpret the data.    The consultations were very repetitive, with each student team having the same questions.  This was not an efficient use of my time, and was certainly slowing student learning.  There had to be another way to teach them to use the data first, and the interface second.

The Setup

In order for the students to do thorough research for their projects, they really needed to deep dive into Simmons Oneview, SimplyAnalytics, and Bizminer.  I outlined my class sessions so that the students would first look at the data available from a single database and answer questions about the data.  This would be immediately followed by a demonstration of how to navigate and find the data in the specific database.

For the sessions to be relevant to their assignment,  I needed to make up a mock business concept that could adequately demonstrate how to interpret the data from the business databases.  I chose to investigate opening a store that would serve two of the three sports of mountain biking /road cycling, running, or golf.  I created a  data handout for class (pdf) with screenshots of demographic data and local market data that would be useful in researching my business concept.  I then drafted questions that would lead students to interpret the data to make decisions about which two sports my store should cater to, as well as the location of my store.  These questions were based on the types of questions they should be asking about their own business concept ideas.

I decided that a video tutorial of each database would be more efficient and consistent at demonstrating how to find the data in each individual database.  Simply pushing “play” and watching a video would help me to stay on track with my usage of class time by avoiding database/internet slowdowns and my own tangential ramblings, as might be the case during a live demonstration.  I created three videos, one for each of the essential databases, to show the students after they answered the data questions how to find the specific information they were referencing in their handouts.  These videos were also embedded on the blog post that I created for the project , allowing students to refer back to them after the class.

Finally, I created the questions for the class in Tophat, and put all questions inside their own folder within the Tophat Course for the class.  Because I was teaching three sections that day and wanted to keep the answers separate, I created two additional folders and copied the questions into those folders.

A picture of how I set up my folders in Tophat

Folder system in Tophat

The Delivery

At the start of the class session, I explained to the students that they would be doing the bulk of the heavy lifting in the research session.  The were instructed to find the handout, which was posted to the class Basecamp page, as well as log into the Tophat course.  Each team was required to have at least one laptop, but most tables had at least three.

Student research in action

The format for each database was as follows:

  1. Students answer Tophat question using data from the PDF handout.
  2. Chad show answers and talk about how the class did as a whole.
  3. Chad discuss how to properly answer the question or interpret the data correctly.
  4. Students answer another similar Tophat question about the database information.
  5. Chad hopes for improvement between step 2 & 4.
  6. Chad plays video to demonstrate how to find the information.

The slideshow below shows some of the questions used for the class.  Note that not all question had “correct” answers.

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The Results

Not all questions had correct answers, as many of the answers were just their “interpretations” of the data and could not be judged right or wrong.  However, for the questions that did have specific correct answers, there was a noticeable improvement in the students’ ability to interpret the data correctly.    The two images below show just one example of how one class section immediately improved after I explained how to read the data correctly.  They really did get 49% smarter!

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In the other two sections, 71% and 67% answered the first question correctly, immediately improving to 84% and 89% who answered correctly.  Seeing such substantial improvement across all three sections for the same question was very satisfying, while at the same time it was very cool to visibly show the classes that they had in fact learned something.

Other questions that did not have specific correct answers were very useful in showing the students how the data might be interpreted differently to tell a different story.  In many cases with consumer data, the story you tell and the answer you give depends on which data point you use, and to visually demonstrate how their classmates interpreted the data differently was effective in teaching them that there isn’t always one correct answer in business research.

In the days and weeks after the class session, I held approximately 30  consultations and answered another 25 questions about the project.  What is interesting is that in general, the questions I now received were about what available data might they best use to tell their story and where to find it, not about how to use the interface or how to interpret the data.  I spent less time last semester explaining the tools than I had in the past, allowing for more meaningful conversations with students about how they were using data to tell their story.

I clocked approximately 8 hours of preparation into this session, which might seem like a lot.  However, I should be able to use the exact same content for the sessions in future semesters, as the exercises were general enough to be applicable to future class projects.  The only thing I will change for future sessions is to create some questions to assess overall comfort/knowledge  for before and after the class session.  The sessions also required me to work a bit outside of my comfort zone in the classroom, and future sessions should improve with additional practice.

 

“Please” and “Thank You,” they are the magic words

Chad during a lunchtime run on the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway

Chad in a happy place

I posted this on Facebook, but figured I would also post it here to preserve it for good measure (plus I got an itch for actually publishing something on this cob-web-infested blog).    I received the following email from a student that I helped with some research:

Good Morning Chad,
Within 3 clicks I found exactly what I needed! Thank you so much for your amazing help and timely response during this stressful week! It is very much appreciated!
Happy Holidays!

This made my day. Sincere gratitude can go a long way, especially when you really mean it. Be nice. Pass it on.