Teaching a one-shot library instruction session with TopHat

This spring I used Tophat to shake up the delivery of my large research sessions.  This is one example of how I have used Tophat to enhance my library research instruction.

The scenario
Each spring I am invited to give a one-shot, hour-long orientation to approximately 125 students who are part of the Global Consulting Program course.  The students take the semester-long course prior to their 3-week study-abroad trips where they will do consulting projects for real companies in China, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Spain, and Italy.  The goal of the 60-minute session is to give the students an overview — or in many cases, a refresher — on some of the tools they will use to conduct international business, company, cultural, and country research for their in-state class assignments and out-of-country consulting projects.
For the past few years, I would generally show up to class and just deliver a simple demo of some of the key resources that they would use in their projects.  Given that the class generally meets at 7 PM, I was lucky if less than 25 percent of the students fell asleep.
This spring I was approached by a new GCP program director, who invited me to do the orientation.  Since I had not worked with him before, I figured this was an ideal time to do something new.  We met and I told him what I had in mind, and he was very amenable to trying anything that would get the students more engaged.
 The setup

For this class, I have typically demonstrated resources right off my Best Research Strategies for Global Consulting page on my Business Blog.  I would continue to use this page for my new session, but wanted the class to do the bulk of the work themselves.  I  drafted some basic learning outcomes for the resources, and created nine questions that the students would answer, as teams, to push them to learn.  I put the  questions in TopHat, which I would use to present to the class and allow them to record their answers for all students to see.  Because the students are not enrolled in my TopHat course, I previously contacted TopHat to change my course to allow anonymous answers without the need to sign in (or enroll) to the course.   The professor also communicated with all students that they should bring their personal laptops to class.

The session

For the first five minutes of class, the Internet connection was painfully slow, and I struggled to log in to TopHat and bring up my class guide.  I thought my session, which I had spent about several hours preparing, was dead in the water.  However, the Internet finally behaved, and we were able to carry on as planned.

Screenshot of a typical Tophat discussion question

A sample TopHat question

I had each team work together to come up with a team name, since there were multiple teams going to each country.  I presented each question using the TopHat present mode, and allowed ample time for most groups to respond with their answers.  I selected the best answer with each question, and awarded the winning team for each question a goody bag.  The bag contained a sampling of library laptop stickers, pens, stress balls, and other assorted vendor junk that I had solicited from my colleagues (basically asked them to unload their junk and clean out their desks for me to give it to students).  The students got a kick out of the silliness of the prizes, and I thought the prizes stoked their competitive spirits.  After each question, I spent a short time explaining the answer correctly, and doing a short demo of the resource if necessary.

What I learned

Overall, I think the class went pretty smoothly.  I definitely think the students learned more, and were more engaged, than if I had simply stood in front of them and lectured for 45 minutes.  No one fell asleep.  I did have a few students who did not bring laptops, and if their neighbor also failed to bring a laptop, then those students pretty much checked out for the hour.  I appreciated that I could walk around the lecture hall and answer questions as they worked, allowing me to personally engage with some students in a way that would have been impossible in a traditional lecture format.

The professor provided great feedback and showed a great deal of enthusiasm for the class.  He even said, “From my own experience I know you had 5 minutes of work for every one minute of this class time, and it shows. This was fantastic.”  He was pretty much spot on, as I had about 3-4 hours in prep work for the class.   I think that the time spent was worth it, just in seeing the students do actual work and use the resources right away.   Given that the same class is offered every year and they usually go to the same countries, it was time well spent, as I can recycle the content and reuse the TopHat questions for future sessions.  This class also helped me set the groundwork for another class that I taught this semester, which I will be writing about soon.

How to make library instructional (or other educational) videos and screencasts

The video below is a follow-up to my previous post about how I make library instructional videos.

 

This video shows the basics of making library instructional (or other educational) videos and screencasts. The video discusses the inexpensive equipment and software needed, and shows how to make a video from start to finish. Discusses camera selection, how to use Screencast-o-matic.com, how to edit the video in Windows Live Moviemaker, and how to upload to YouTube. For a detailed write-up of the process, visit my post on how I make library instructional videos.

YouTube and Fox News for an evaluation exercise

I’ve been doing an evaluation exercise with many of my English 151 classes for the last couple of years.  It works pretty well, and I’ve had several instructors request that I repeat it again for their future classes.  Many of my colleagues have been asked about this exercise, so I thought I would put it down it writing.

First, a little background on our English 151 library sessions.  We generally get to see each section of English 151 for a 2-3 hour period, usually during the middle of the 10-week quarter.  We teach them how to use the online catalog, how to search for articles, a little about navigating our website, and usually a little about evaluation.  The English classes are our best bet in getting most of the first-year students familiar with the library.  Many students won’t ever have another library instruction session in their college career, but rather than try to teach them everything they could possibly know about the library, we try to address more general themes.  One of those themes is evaluating sources, and we all tend to teach this a little differently.  Here is one of the more successful exercises that I use to teach evaluation.  If you have any questions or if anything isn’t clear, please post a comment and I’ll try to answer as best as I can.

The Exercise

1.  I play the following YouTube video for the class. It takes about seven minutes.

2.  While the video is playing, I take notes on a whiteboard at the front of the class.  Basically I am writing down things the people say in the video that really stick out at me, things that I might want to question.  If you listen to the video, you’ll get the idea of the type of things that might raise a flag.

Notes on the whiteboard

3.  After the video is over, I ask the class what they thought of the video, and this usually generates some conversation.  If no one talks, I’ve got the notes on the whiteboard at the front of the class.  I’ll mention things like the “Luke Skywalker meets…..” comment, or ask them about what things the panel may have said that may cause them to be less credible.   I also ask them about the supposed “expert” on the panel, and ask what makes her credible.

4.  With the expert, I like to point out that she had not played the game that she was criticizing at all.  I also mention that the anchorwoman did not allow the real expert, the game journalist, to speak much at all.  We then talk about all the other panelists, and discuss what gives them the authority to talk about the game.  As an example, the anchorwoman “went on the internet” to do research, one panelist questioned “what happened to the days of Atari and PacMan” and that she felt “old”, and another panelist compared games to Playboy Magazine.

5.  In examining the clip, I like to specifically focus on one of the expert’s points about game statistics.  She alleges that teenagers are the majority of game players.  However, if you check the Entertainment Software Association’s website, you’ll see that the average gamer is actually 35 years old.  The expert also mentions a “new study out of the University of Maryland,” but I try to point out that there are numerous studies about video games, and nearly all of them contradict each other.  If you want to find a study that says video games make you kill people, then you can find that pretty easily.  If you want to find a study that says video games will make you smarter and a better team player, entire books have been written on those topics as well.  The point is to look critically at these studies and find other information that strengthens and weakens the argument.

6.  I then point to this blog post on Joystiq about the Fox News/Mass Effect controversy.  I explain to them what happened in a nutshell.  First, Fox News aired the video shown above, then someone (most likely an angry gamer) copied the video and uploaded it to YouTube.  (FYI, more than one video was posted). Next, multiple gaming blogs embedded the video(s) on their pages, whereby millions of gamers saw the video and became enraged.  Not content to just sit on their hands, many of these gamers went to Amazon.com and rated the expert’s book (which happened to be promoted during the video segment on Fox).  Amazon actually removed over 400 negative reviews of the book, but most of them said something like  <paraphrase>”after never actually reading the book, I can tell you that this book is an utter piece of garbage and the author has no idea what she is talking about.”  I can say this because, since I haven’t read the book, I am still an authority on the subject.”</paraphrase>   The expert later apologized publicly via the New York Times, but I don’t think Fox News ever ran a retraction of the story.

7.  The entire exercise, including watching the video and discussion, generally takes no longer than 15 minutes.  More than 15 minutes, and I find myself belaboring the point too much and their minds start to drift.  If you use this, try to keep it fresh and lively, engage the students for a few minutes, then move on to the next thing on your agenda.  I usually do the exercise after they we have had time for hands-on work and they have found a few articles or books.  It’s a good way to bring the class focus back together after the hands-on individual activities.

So what’s the point?

The point of the exercise is to demonstrate to the students that evaluation of information goes beyond  telling the difference between popular and  scholarly articles.  This exercise shows them that they should look at things critically, regardless of whether they are doing academic research, watching the news, buying a new camera, or trying to decide which movie to go see.  Even in real life outside of academia, we are required to make choices about the information that we ingest and digest.  Even when information is fed to us via Fox News, CNN, the New York Times, our professors, or our mothers,  it’s important to understand and look for bias and misinformation.  I get better with the exercise the more I do it, and by the conversation it starts with the students, I believe it really is effective at making my point.

I hope that this is useful to someone and that if people use it, they’ll make it better.  If you try it and it works, please let me know.  I’d love to hear what worked, what didn’t, and what changes you made to make the exercise better.

I’m also curious what other librarians and teachers are doing, as I’m always looking for new ways to be more effective in the classroom.  Have you seen something that really worked, or have you tried something that really made the point of evaluation clear to the students?   If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Why use web video to reach your audience?

Because it’s growing by leaps and bounds, that’s why!

“The number of unique viewers of online video increased 5.2% year-over-year according to The Nielsen Company, from 137.4 million unique viewers in January 2009 to 142.7 million in January 2010.”  I’d like to think that a few of my videos that I created in the last year have contributed to a growth in that number.

Today I did a count of my videos, and discovered that I  created 27 business research videos and 21 library-related videos (like the ones I post on this blog)  in 2009. My business research videos were viewed over 2600 times, and the more general library videos have been viewed over 4200 times.  Most of my videos took less than an hour to produce, from start to finish, so the return on investment is quite huge.  It’s good to know that something that takes so little effort to put together is getting used so frequently.  For me, web video offers a great way to reach my users.

I’m in the process of putting together a series of blog posts on how I use and create web video, including services, tools, and more.  Hopefully librarians and others will find the information useful. Look for the posts coming soon.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about web video, please leave a comment.

Because it’s growing by leaps and bounds, that’s why!

“The number of unique viewers of online video<a href=”http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/total-viewers-of-online-video-increased-5-year-over-year/”> increased 5.2% year-over-year according to The Nielsen Company</a>, from 137.4 million unique viewers in January 2009 to 142.7 million in January 2010.”? I’d like to think that a few of my videos that I created in the last year have contributed to a growth in that number.

Yesterday I did a count of my videos,and discovered that I? created 27 business research videos and 21 library-related videos in 2009. My business research videos were viewed over 2600 times, and the more general library videos have been viewed over 4200 times. Most of my videos took less than an hour to produce, from start to finish, so the return on investment is quite huge.? It’s good to know that something that takes so little effort to put together is getting used so frequently.? For me, web video offers a great way to reach my users.

It’s a small world after all

Last night I got an IM question from a student while staffing our IM reference service.  She was in the stacks, but “was totally overwhelmed” with how many books we had and was very confused about how to actually find a book.  Since four floors separated us, I decided to send her my video on how to find a book in our library.  It’s a rather cheesy video that I made last summer with my Flip video camera.  As is typical, after sending the student the link to the video, I never heard back.

This morning, I taught a library session for a freshman English class.  About 45 minutes into the class, two girls mentioned how they had watched my video last night and found it really useful.  It turns out that the girls were the same patron that I sent the video to last night.  It was a very cool “small world” experience, and I was able to use the experience as a way to promote our Ask A Librarian service to the other students in the class.

I’m glad that the students found our IM transaction to be helpful, and that got me to thinking.  What if I had given them bad service last night?  What impact might that have had on their experience during this morning’s class?  How would it have impacted future library experiences?  What if they told their classmates that they were treated poorly?  We almost never get to meet or see the patrons that we help via IM, chat, or email.  With IM and chat, there is almost never a real name tied to the patron on the other end, so it can be easy to be less personal with the patron.  If you’re having a bad day, it can also be easier to be rude or short to a person who you cannot see, or whose name you do not know.   The girls this morning were extremely engaged, and worked very hard during the session.  They asked a lot of questions, and I think their overall impression of our library is very positive.  I wonder if we assumed we would meet each virtual patron the next day in person, how might that affect our interractions with our virtual patrons?  Likewise, how might our patrons’ perceptions of the library change?  It’s a small world, after all, and it’s only getting smaller.