How COVID is changing my online course this spring

This spring, I’ll be teaching a section of my eight week credit-bearing information literacy course starting in late March. This is the first time I’ll be teaching this course in over a year thanks in part to the chaos of COVID and also my sabbatical this fall, which will soon be coming to an end.

Because I was on sabbatical and focusing on my research during what would normally be the planning period for spring, my plan this year was just to teach the course the exact same way I did last spring. Back then, I’d rearranged the course a little from previous iterations and used a new version of my usual annotated bibliography project that was reasonably successful. So I decided that I would make minimal changes this time around in order to squeeze as much as research and writing time as possible out of my remaining sabbatical.

In some ways, that was easy to do. My course has been fully online for quite a while now so there was nothing I needed to do to convert the materials I already had to the new situation. Teaching the course this year should have been an easy copy and paste job. Easy peasy.

The problem with this is that I’ve never been very good at copying and pasting my course from semester to semester. I’m always making changes. Between fall and spring, these are usually small changes. I generally save bigger changes for the fall semester so that I have the summer to plan them.

But now a whole year has passed since I last taught this course and the world looks very different from the way it did last time I did this. So while a copy and paste from last year to this year would have been possible, it didn’t feel right. I ended up doing yet another overhaul.

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Thoughts on “Creating Learning Outcomes from Threshold Concepts”

As I’m working on some new and exciting research projects, I’ve found myself going back to a few of my earlier works and reflecting on how my thinking has changed in the time since I wrote them. I thought I would share some of this here partly because I still get asked about some of these articles from time to time and partly because I think it’s valuable to show how things can change as you grow as a scholar.

So today I’m taking a look at an article I wrote called “Creating Learning Outcomes from Threshold Concepts for Information Literacy Instruction,” which was published in College & Undergraduate Libraries in 2017.(1)

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Dear students: Citing your sources incorrectly is not plagiarism

There’s a unit in the course I teach where I present students with a set of what I call(1) “information creation scenarios.” These are hypothetical situations, many adapted from real life incidents that have made the news, in which I ask the student to imagine themselves in the shoes of an information creator for whom something has gone terribly wrong: a social media post that’s gone viral in a bad way/for bad reasons, an original piece of art that they created and shared online that’s become associated with a hate group, etc. For each scenario, they have to explain what they could have done differently to prevent the situation from happening in the first place and what strategies they would use to try to fix the situation after it happened. It can be a fun challenge.

One of the scenarios I give my students relates to plagiarism. It goes like this:

Imagine that you write a research essay for a course in your major in which you are expected to cite a certain number of sources. Though the required citation style is one you are familiar with, you are still learning about the proper format and placement of citations in a research essay. Knowing this, you do your best to follow the rules for citing your sources. You refer to trustworthy websites like Purdue OWL(2) for help and also visit the Writing Center and the library for advice and helpful resources. You use all of this information to create your reference list and you are careful to include all of the sources from which you pulled information. You hand in your paper confident that you have done your best to properly cite your research.

 A few weeks later, your professor hands back your essay and you are devastated to learn you failed the assignment due to plagiarism. Your professor highlights several passages in your paper with quotation marks but no in-text citations to indicate where the quoted information came from. There is another passage with no quotation marks and no citation which the professor feels is too close to the wording from one of your sources to be considered your own original work. This is why you failed the assignment on the basis of plagiarism.

In my experience teaching students about plagiarism, what this scenario describes is, for them, a huge fear. Nobody cares about intentional plagiarism because intentional plagiarism is, by definition, committed only by those who know that they are cheating and are presumably prepared to face the consequences if they’re caught. Getting a failing grade due to unintentional plagiarism even when you’ve tried your hardest to do the right thing—to many students, that’s a much bigger reason to worry.

Except.

Is the professor in the scenario right to accuse the student of plagiarism?

Personally, I think not.

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Reflecting on un-research

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

As I’m working on some new and exciting research projects, I’ve found myself going back to a few of my earlier works and reflecting on how my thinking has changed in the time since I wrote them. I thought I would share some of this here partly because I still get asked about some of these articles from time to time and partly because I think it’s valuable to show how things can change as you grow as a scholar.

So today I’m taking a look at “Teaching Information Literacy Through Un-Research,” which was published in Communications in Information Literacy in 2015.

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Gone fishing

I’m off for the holidays and won’t be posting any new content until January but I thought I’d pin a thing here highlighting some favorite posts from this past year, organized by general topic, in case you missed them.

Thanks for reading and see you in the new year!

Research in fiction writing

It’s significant that popular books on creative writing don’t talk about research

Research is a process, writing is a craft (except when it’s a process)

The true as the enemy of the good: Creative license and the ethical use of information

Research in fiction writing: What I learned from Five Things posts on Terrible Minds

Why I want to learn about the role of research in fiction writing

What I learned about creative research at the Writer’s Digest Conference

Research as a subject of study

They just keep moving the line: Peer review and the follow-up to “Research is an Activity and a Subject of Study”

Information literacy, teaching, and librarianship

In defense of “finding and evaluating information”

The annotated bibliography as establishing shot Part 1 | Part 2

The role of excitement in teaching

Title policing in libraries

Information literacy skills: Wherefore art thou?

Neil Gaiman’s famous quote about libraries: A critique

That time I participated in a Banned Books Read-Out and what I learned

Information literacy and identity negotiations

Libraries, information literacy, and pop culture

Libraries in pop culture: The Station Agent

The Circle and information literacy

Video games and failing better

Information literacy in evolving situations like COVID

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

As an information literacy instructor, I spend a lot of time talking to students and library patrons about authority. As the ACRL Framework tells us, authority is both constructed and contextual. So someone who’s considered an authority in one area or situation might not be one in others. And who we bestow authority on also depends on a number of indicators, both emotional and objective. Like, not only what credentials this person has but also whether or not we feel like we can trust what they say.

Authority has become a complicated thing the last few years as mistrust in expertise keeps rising but I think this year has been especially challenging because the COVID situation has been one where a big reason people stopped trusting the experts is because what the experts were saying kept changing. Like with the mask thing. First we didn’t need them, then they became important and now they’re thought of as essential.

Of course, there are political reasons behind at least some of this inconsistency. It doesn’t help that the person in the United States who is supposed to be viewed as most authoritative of all is…well, we know who he is and what he’s like.

But there’s also the fact that the reason authorities and experts changed their advice over time is because our understanding of COVID changed over time. The whole reason COVID was such a threat at first was because we didn’t know how it worked or how to treat it. But the experts had to tell people something. So they worked with the information they had and gave what recommendations they could: wash your hands, sanitize surfaces, etc.

And I don’t know about you, but having some information about what steps I could take to help protect myself made me feel a little less anxious at the time, even though the advice we’re being given has changed a lot over time.

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Reflecting on Using Team-Based Learning in an Online, Asynchronous Information Literacy Course

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

As I’m working on some new and exciting research projects, I’ve found myself going back to a few of my earlier works and reflecting on how my thinking has changed in the time since I wrote them. I thought I would share some of this here partly because I still get asked about some of these articles from time to time and partly because I think it’s valuable to show how things can change as you grow as a scholar.

So today I’m starting with my very first peer-reviewed article, first published in the Journal of Library Innovation in 2013, “Using Team-Based Learning in an Online, Asynchronous Information Literacy Course.” 

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Information literacy and identity negotiations

So while I’ve been on sabbatical, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about writing pedagogy. Most of this has been in the area of creative writing pedagogy but a few of my sources are from the writing studies field more generally or another area like composition. I recently got through Writing and Sense of Self by Robert Edward Brooke, a self-described composition specialist. The book describes the workshop model through the lens of identity negotiations, which was useful for my creative writing-related research but actually made me think more about my information literacy teaching as well.

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Video games and failing better

Image by DG-RA from Pixabay

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of failing.

It started with Horizon Zero Dawn. As a video game player, I am, shall we say, not talented. Up until a few years ago, the only games I had played were side scrolling platform games like Super Mario on the original Nintendo (…because I am officially old). Then I was given a PS4 as a gift, bundled with Uncharted 4, and suddenly I had to figure out how to play games with, like, camera movements and other characters yelling at me to hurry up and figure something out already. It took me about six months to get through Uncharted 4 playing in easy mode. Immediately afterward, I tackled all of the other Uncharted games and The Last of Us, which is made by the same company. The Last of Us was hard because even though it functions in ways that are very similar to Uncharted, it was the first game I ever played where I had to gather supplies and craft things. I think I only understood that I could make crude weapons out of the items I was finding three quarters of the way through the game.

I got better at these games as I went along but all of them took me quite a while to finish, even playing in easy mode (which I make no apologies for). They were all difficult at first, but I didn’t quit and eventually I made it through every single one.

Then I decided to try Horizon Zero Dawn.

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