December 17, 2012

Library Skills for Academic Integrity

In an effort to improve retention rates and let students learn from their mistakes, the university now issues sanctions for students to attend mandatory, multi-part workshops when caught plagiarizing, instead of immediate expulsion. This is really great, because a lot of the time plagiarism is not intentional. Students may have procrastinated and just sloppily put a paper together at the last minute. This way, they can learn better study skills and what plagiarism really is instead of just being kicked out. It's really up to the faculty member and how s/he wants to handle it, but the Dean of Students Office has a general outline to follow.

Since this falls under student retention, it's my area, and although we have worked with the Dean of Students Office in the past to deliver a standalone library component workshop for the series, I am working with Student Affairs and the tutoring center to revamp this model. The Dean of Students Office presents their own workshop on what academic integrity is and the UA's honor code. Then, the tutoring center has hired a Graduate Assistant (GA) from Education to teach the three hour workshop on study skills and putting knowledge of what plagiarism is into practice. So my portion will be embedded within improving study skills and how to write a paper. We're using the train-the-trainer approach here once again though to keep it scalable since there are about 10-15 workshops per semester. So I will be training the GA, and delivering the first session or two, then he will deliver the library portion along with what he is already covering while I observe, and then he takes it from there. We will be checking in throughout the semester and plan to re-assess before summer.

The Dean of Students is also hoping to offer this to the campus community at large for anyone interested, caught plagiarizing or not. So, I will be working with the tutoring center to market this workshop to a wider audience. I am also hoping to tie this into the Libraries' badging system in the works. This workshop, or a component of it, could be a challenge or a badge in itself.

As far as the instruction goes, the last thing these students want, I'm sure, after feeling irritated, uncomfortable, and probably embarrassed about attending these sessions, is someone standing up there scolding them and making them memorize searching skills, library jargon, and dos and don'ts. I'm trying to make my portion for library skills fun and relatable, showing them it's actually pretty easy to not plagiarize. My thoughts are most have procrastinated, slopped a paper together at the last minute, and then thought having a list of references at the end would suffice. I don't believe the majority of these students intentionally plagiarized with the hope that others' work would be passed off as their own. I really do think they just wanted to get their assignment done for a class they might not think will affect them in the long run. I was not the best student during most of undergrad, so I can certainly relate to those feelings.

Here is my pretty-close-to-final draft of the Libraries' portion of instruction for these workshops. The presenters' notes, which you probably can't see through SlideShare, have more detail on what I'll be covering in each slide.

December 11, 2012

Library research expertise, collect them all

From Purdue Passport
Student motivation can be problematic in college courses, and particularly with auxiliary college work where skills are encouraged, but aren't necessarily required to be learned (ahem, library research skills). Some instructors are serious about students building a knowledge base in using the library and developing critical thinking in regards to information, but it's not across the board. As we know from the ERIAL Project, student perceptions are heavily influenced by their instructors' relationships with the library. When the library has a good relationship with an instructor, research assignment design tends to be strong and students get a better grounding in using library resources. As great as this is and as much as we'd hope to advertise this fact to faculty, we can't exactly force every instructor on campus to work with us and especially to incorporate a research-related or info lit-type of assignment if they either don't want to, or it doesn't fit with the course.

So, we wonder, how can we help students develop these skills even if we can't work with them through a class, or if we haven't yet become embedded where they are. I've been thinking about this a lot over the past year in relation to student retention and also gaming and motivation, and became very interested in Mozilla's Open Badges, which I discussed here back in January when exploring badge systems. These badges are tied to certain skills that can be earned through reading and completing certain tasks, which can then be displayed in a portfolio or on social networking sites.

Thinking about how this can be tied to education has been apparent in MOOCs, and just recently, Purdue has developed Passport to offer badges in a university setting. I have been approved to be a beta tester, which I am really excited about. We have been talking about incorporating gamification and a badge system here at the University of Arizona Libraries since I started and was particularly enthusiastic about it, but we run into issues with the programming side of the system since we have limited staff in that regard. We are hoping to develop a gamification layer over our existing tutorials and guides and will have badges tied to the ACRL Information Literacy Standards (as a very basic explanation of these ideas).

Now, let's be realistic, I think we all get it that most students aren't going to be persuaded to do extra work in learning library research skills just because they might get a PNG image after completing tutorials and quizzes (I certainly know I wouldn't have been convinced as an undergrad). However, I am hoping we are able to work with the career center, tutoring, and other areas on campus that might help give the badges more value so students feel they are meaningful. If only one unit on campus is offering these badges, what exactly do they even mean? However, if students can include a suite of them in an eportfolio or on a resume, that does have more value. On the flipside, from our analytics, we do see that students, and even non-students, complete our tutorials regularly without them being assigned, and for the ones offering a certificate upon completion, we have a large number of people submitting their information to receive one. So, there is clearly intrinsic motivation present, but we hope to use a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic to find the right balance in helping students build these skills.

I wrote a literature review on motivation in gamified learning scenarios for a gaming in education course I took this semester, which you can read here if you're interested. Applying these ideas to a badge system in libraries is more tricky than a classroom since we typically do one-shot sessions, and like I mentioned these skills are often treated as auxiliary to a class.

Anyhow, I will keep this blog more updated than usual as I beta test and incorporate badges into our resources! More next time...

November 1, 2012

Meme-themed CRAAP Test

As part of my work in identifying and supporting student retention/success efforts on campus, I have been providing workshops to athletes as part of their mandatory study table hours. This semester, I am working with the football players and just finished up my second visit with them. We are really only given a half hour since they are busy getting homework done, and oftentimes, attention spans are short. This means I have to plan out lessons that are quick and to the point, and preferably engaging and hands-on as well.

I plotted out the three sessions to cover topics at point-of-need in the semester. First, a colleague and I went over library resources available to them and how to get started with research (catalog and databases). This session was directly tied to assignments in classes the majority of the athletes take in their first semester. The session I covered this week was evaluating sources, and the final session next month will be on citations and avoiding plagiarism. The latter two sessions are not directly tied to a particular assignment, so the challenge is to get their attention and make the workshops relevant.

Since over the summer, the competition was fierce when we used a BINGO-like game to teach the athletes about library services available to them, I figured using a game again would appeal to the football players. The plan was to review search tips from the first session briefly, cover the importance of evaluating sources, show the students the CRAAP Test from CSU Chico, and then with these skills, let them loose on the game.

Students were broken up into groups of 3 (out of a 24-person class), and each team was given a different meme. The athletes would need to use their newly-acquired searching skills to find a source that explains what their meme means, and then use the CRAAP Test to determine if the source is credible or not. The first team(s) to finish, and then accurately explain their meme and credibility of their source would win candy (bribes do help).


They seemed to perk up a bit when I mentioned memes. Some of them weren't sure what they were at first, but once they saw an example, they knew. Because it was such a short session, it was acceptable for them to use web sources. This made it easier for them to explain the meme but seemed more difficult for them to assess credibility. Also, in assigning different memes to each team, some of the ones chosen were more difficult to explain than others, so this gave an unfair advantage to certain groups. I tried to choose ones with cultural or historical significance that would have more content available when researching, but this wasn't always successful. Another issue was students simply locating pieces of information on the site and then regurgitating this on their worksheet, rather than using critical thinking skills to examine credibility. After noticing this, I made an announcement to think critically about what they're finding: instead of just writing down the year of publication or author name, think about if having more recent information on the topic is essential, or what affiliations and expertise the author has.

Using this lesson a second time with pre-business freshmen in an MIS class, the colleague I delivered the instruction with to the athletes and I instead required using the CRAAP Test on library resources only, requiring the students to search the databases. A problem with memes and researching pop culture of course is that it's brand new, so it's not likely there are scholarly sources. We permitted use of news articles instead because of this. Because of the class and revision of the lesson plan, it seemed to be more successful the second time around.

And today was the third trial with this lesson, on the second section of the MIS class. Instead of assigning a different meme to each group, I chose the two memes most conducive to research, divided the class in half, and then broke each half into teams of three. The first team in group 1 to explain the meme and source credibility would win, as would the first team in group 2 to do so. This went much more smoothly and it generated more possibility for discussion when groups explained their results.

I have to say, after working with the athletes especially, my classroom management skills are really taking off.... dealing with students not paying attention, talking, doing other homework.... I'm finding a silent pause with direct eye contact, asking discussion questions so students have to pay attention to each other if not me, and saying stuff like "come on guys, really? this is to help you finish your homework faster" seems to help a little. I think the library instruction sessions will always be perceived as boring and irrelevant by a number of students, unfortunately (I certainly thought so for a good portion of my undergrad years), but if we can mix things up with games and interactivity, it definitely can start to change those perceptions.

Lesson plan - Original - added in more discussion of aspects of CRAAP Test: students seemed unsure about certain terminology, like currency, relevance, and authority

Individual handouts

Group activity - memes - Original before revising to only include library resources and handing out only the memes: casually pepper spray everything cop and Neil deGrasse Tyson reaction

July 20, 2012

Mystery solved: Assessment of Mystery in the Stacks

Last week, I wrote about the murder mystery, or "Mystery in the Stacks," that we used in our outreach and instruction to a summer program for high school students. This was the first time we had done this program and also the first time we had used a mystery to engage the students.

We received all positive feedback from students and parents... some examples:
"...I wanted to thank you for your coordinating "Mystery in the Stacks".  [Student] enjoyed the day and really learned a lot.  I hope you have it again next year…I will pass on the excellent rating. I wish AYU would put this program on for adults!”
 “...He really enjoyed the class - the Dante book especially made a big impression. He said the librarians were cool - praise from a 13 year old, hard to come by!”
 “[Student] had a great time at the Mystery in the Stacks. He really enjoyed it and, honestly, couldn't stop talking about it for hours!” Thank you all for  your hard work and a great day. “

We were so pleased to see that the students had fun and the parents seemed to feel the program was worth the money and time. The other question though, and perhaps more pressing, is did the students actually learn anything?

They did solve the mystery with essentially no help needed from me, so I would say so. I sat in the computer lab while the students were solving the mysteries to answer any questions and provide instructional support, so I was able to witness their problem solving processes. Overall, they really did do everything right and retained what was taught during the instruction portion to help them solve the mystery. There were just a few minor snags that I think could have been worked into instruction and/or planning....

  1. In the second clue, the students are prompted to search Stedman's Medical Dictionary to understand that the medical examiner means dehydration as cause of death when she lists the synonym, exsiccion, in her report. I saw a student immediately jump to Google instead of even trying the medical dictionary, and of course I said, "Hey now! You want to make sure your information is accurate, so use the medical dictionary to find the answer..." And when you search Google for the term, nothing really comes up anyhow. I think I should have stressed more the uncertainty of Google. Of course it is good for quick definitions, I use it all the time, but for specialized information, using a trusted source actually saves more time.

  2. I taught the students the basics of Boolean logic during the instruction portion, and was so happy to see they remembered how to use AND during the catalog-searching clue. However, for some reason when they put the first term on line 1 and the second on line 2, those results differed from my answer-checking when I typed term AND term on one line. I'm glad I caught them before the ran up to retrieve the next clue because they would have been led to an incorrect location based on the catalog results. I hadn't even thought to check this, but now I know.

  3. Google seems to really capture the students' attention, so perhaps spending more time on search tricks and evaluating websites might be good. I covered the difference between Google and databases at the beginning, and showed how they search differently. We talked a bit about credibility and in the second half of the instruction they completed part of a tutorial on evaluating websites. I think maybe spending a little more time on instruction and incorporating some quick games or activities could be good. We chose not to because the mystery was the major hands-on/game portion, but perhaps more specialized instruction would have been good since these kids seemed to be more advanced.
So overall it went pretty great, I think with just a little more time on instruction and maybe a shorter tour would work well. We are now talking about repurposing these mysteries into orientations for K-12 outreach and/or UA students. More on that another time!

July 10, 2012

Library mystery as outreach and instruction

We do outreach to the community, particularly over the summer, and tomorrow we will have high school students visiting the library for a summer workshop on research skills. Since it's more of a summer camp and these are younger students, we wanted to make sure they would have some fun and be engaged... so we are using murder mysteries as our hands-on activity after a short instruction session to prepare the students for detective work.

I think the mystery I created is fun and it works; I'm sure it would be much better if I had more background in game design (working on that), but this at least will hit all the learning outcomes in a cohesive way:

  1. Students will understand how databases work, and what the difference is between library databases and Google.
  2. Students will be able to construct a basic search using synonyms for a broader search strategy.
  3. Students will be able to locate a book using the library catalog.
  4. Students will be able to evaluate websites using the CRAAP test.
  5. Students will be able to use information appropriately by citing sources in APA style.

Assessment will be done by seeing if they solve the mystery, and since they have to write down answers along the way, we can see some of their search process to get a sense of how much they learned during the instruction portion of the session.

The mystery takes them through using different types of resources in the library, including (hopefully) getting value and comfort in asking a librarian for help. In the end, they wind up in Special Collections where they are spending the afternoon, and will solve the case at the end of the day. We decided to tie our instruction to Special Collections so the students get a more holistic picture of the research process.

I am sure I will notice some snags along the way as this is the first time we are doing this, so I hope to do a follow up post about what went wrong and what could be improved. This would be a great way to gamify orientations to the library for UA freshmen, especially for the smaller student success courses, and could then be tied to retention efforts.

See the mystery with answer key here.
(The narrative makes more sense and is more engaging if you read the full mystery here, below is a synopsis.)

The students start off with information that Wilbur Wildcat (the UA mascot) has been found in the library by one of the exhibits. They need to use the library website to figure out which one and where; they are given a clue that the exhibit features two types of music that were influential in Tucson's culture.

Here they get information the police have collected as well as stats from the medical examiner. They find out Wilbur died from exsiccion, which when they are prompted to look up in Stedman's Medical Dictionary from our health subject guide, they realize that this is actually a synonym for dehydration. From that, they are given a riddle to figure out that a five-letter word for a liquid that can cure dehydration is water. They then need to search the library catalog for a book about water and border issues. Once they find a particular book, they need to go to the stacks to get their next clue.

In this next clue, the students realize an important fact was left off the police report: the suspect left a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary at the scene of the crime, open to the page on aliens. Since the physical copy is locked up at police headquarters, they can luckily search the OED online through the library. They must write down the first use of the term alien in science fiction to realize that the suspect is extra-terrestrial. With this info, they then go to the reference desk and are required to ask a librarian for help in locating an article on UFO sightings in Arizona in the last 50 years. Once they find an article, they must write down the citation in APA style; if the librarian approves that the citation is correct, s/he will hand the team their next clue.

Going to the police with the hypothesis that the killer is an alien would probably get the detectives laughed at, so it is suggested in the next clue to get background information first. A great place to start for background info is CQ Researcher. They must look up UFOs in this database and click on the most recent entry (which, unfortunately, is 1996). They are prompted to read about the University of Arizona professor, James E McDonald, who was a pro-UFO meteorologist. He happened to collect dirt samples from UFO sightings, which are housed in Special Collections (I think this is awesome). They locate his name in CQ Researcher, then must search the catalog to find any works by him as an author in the stacks. They will find the McDonald papers which are housed in Special Collections, along with the dirt, and it is there they will apprehend the killer... who in fact isn't really a killer since the medical examiner made a small mistake in pronouncing Wilbur dead: he was simply in a coma from dehydration and just needs to drink some water (keeping it PG).

I'm excited to see how this goes, and how well my portion of the mystery ties into what Special Collections will be covering. More next time...

April 5, 2012

New ACRL Student Retention Discussion Group!

So a very exciting thing to me about my position is that I have an area of focus. I am an Instructional Services Librarian, but within that, I have designated areas to take the lead on. Student retention is a hot topic on campus (and seems to be a focus for many campuses and now academic libraries lately), and so I am working with a colleague on my team to get the library more involved in campus retention efforts. We are hoping to develop more collaborative relationships with non-disciplinary units on campus to aid in student success and retention. And this is not just for retaining the low-performing students, but also keeping the high-performing students from going elsewhere (for example, looking at the Honors College).

From my focus, I have established a new ACRL Student Retention Discussion Group with Jaime Hammond, who is a Reference and Outreach Librarian at Naugatuck Valley Community College. A number of other instruction and outreach librarians I have met are just starting to figure out how to approach this, and there seems to be consensus that library contributions to student retention efforts might be a tricky thing to measure and assess. So hopefully this discussion group will serve as a useful resource to those of us working in these areas.

Check out a recent blog post by Steven Bell, ACRL Vice-President / President-Elect, about retention and our new discussion group on ACRL Insider to learn more about "the student swirl" in graduation and also more about how ACRL Discussion Groups work.

Hope you will join us! The conversations will be ongoing via Connect, but we also have a set meeting time at ALA Annual in Anaheim, Saturday 6/23 from 4:00-5:30pm PST.

Here was the official announcement that went out:

Student retention is a hot topic in academia, but how do libraries fit into the discussion? Join the newest ACRL Discussion Group on ALA Connect at to be part of the conversation! 

What: ACRL Student Retention Discussion Group 
Why: to discuss methods, best practices, and assessment for developing case-by-case and programmatic efforts related to student retention 
How: on ALA Connect ( or meet at ALA Annual

Please contact the conveners with any questions: 
Nicole Pagowsky, Instructional Services Librarian, University of Arizona Libraries 
Jaime Hammond, Reference and Outreach Librarian, Naugatuck Valley Community College

January 31, 2012

SOPA on a ropa

I initially wrote this blog post on 1/21/12 during #alamw12 but didn't get a chance to post it. With the boycotting of Elsevier, I thought it would be a good time to pull this back out:

There has been a lot of talk about SOPA and PIPA leading up to the conference, and now during. One of my conference roommates, Lauren Bradley, pointed out this Tweet that is pretty hilarious:!/danwho/status/160800863298916353

Clearly, there is some inner turmoil in dealing with these vendors professionally, and having good relationships with them for our libraries and in general, yet if they are supporting something you (or I, I do) oppose such as SOPA, then what is our professional obligation versus personal ethics? This last Wednesday was a blackout day in solidarity of protest for SOPA. ALA made commentary via the website, and librarian projects such as Radical Reference and In the Library with the Lead Pipe went black for the day. I even blacked out Librarian Wardrobe.

Now that we’re physically at the conference, though (or, those of us who are here), what can we do to not have the cognitive dissonance of being so vocal on the internet battleground, but feeling politely silent at the conference? For starters, Andy Woodworth at Agnostic Maybe made an *amazing* color-coded guide to the exhibit hall. Amazing, really! So you know which vendors to complain to and/or avoid. I’d say this extends to the parties, too. I had RSVP’d to the Elsevier Dessert Reception but now decided I’m not going to go. Some of the ALA Think Tankers are going to go and protest while there. I guess it goes either way it’s kind of like if you don’t go and they see there are significantly fewer people there then maybe they’ll realize our collective voice is pretty strong. At the same time, if we don’t go to these things and actually verbalize our opposition, what will actually come of it? They could just think we aren’t showing up because of unrelated reasons. 
So what vendors have you spoken to, who support SOPA? What are you doing to fight against this crap? Do you think going to the party and protesting or not going by silent protest is more effective?

January 17, 2012

Reflections on Code Academy and Code Year so far

I've started Code Academy and as of last night, completed Week 1. This is a free program with weekly, online lessons to learn how to code (Javascript). Librarians have started using the hashtag, #codeyear to communicate with each other on their progress (and you can sign up for the lessons at the Code Year site). There has been a push in Libraryland for librarians to learn coding so we can be more self-sufficient in developing digital services and products, as well as just communicating better with IT professionals. There is even a newly-established ALA Connect group for librarians to discuss and help each other with the weekly lessons.

My impressions so far of Code Academy are mixed. Of course, no doubt, this is a great thing. It's free, it's accessible, and it's an intro-level program that is incredibly interactive. It can be hard to teach yourself these types of skills, so opening up the playing field is huge.

It's also nice that the lessons are given in increments, so you get Week 1 for a week, and then are sent Week 2 the next week. You can do more if there is more content up on the site, but it at least makes it more digestible. The leveling up and getting badges is another thing I like. It could be a little bit of gamification, but since these lessons have been made more social through Code Academy and also through the library community, it adds a little more fun to it. I've taken a particular interest as well as to how the Mozilla Open Badges project will relate to library instruction (or could relate), so experiencing a badge-generating program is useful to me and I'm seeing how it could potentially work with students. Although the Mozilla Open Badges project is for open access education, I still think it could be a beneficial concept to try in university and other formal academic settings as well.

Back to Code Academy, there are also some things that I am finding problematic. When considering good pedagogy, detailed feedback contributes to effective learning. Code Academy does not really give any feedback. You put your code in and run it, and then you are right or wrong. There is a little bit of info that pops up when you do enter wrong code, but it's not often enough to help you figure out where you went wrong. The hints are great at the beginning of the lessons, but get more obtuse and mysterious as you progress. I think it can be a good method that they are giving sort of a sandbox atmosphere to try out coding without being bogged down with theory and memorizing definitions (and where you don't have to be afraid of failure, which is a quality of a good game BTW) but at the same time, not really understanding the logic behind how some of the code works makes it very hard to understand why your answer does not work. I was glad to have other librarians who understand coding logic explain why my answer for Week 1, Lesson 8.2 was incorrect, so I was able to progress and finish the week.

Overall, I really do think Code Academy is great, and I'm going to continue on with the lessons. It can be difficult to weave detailed feedback in to an automatic, teach yourself-type program, but at the same time, it is essential for people who are just starting out. I think this article by Tech Crunch, "Will we need teachers or algorithms" (interesting read also for emerging trends in education) rings true here to a degree. Human or AI-driven though, if you can't figure out what you did wrong in a meaningful way, you can't learn from your mistakes and progress.