Friday, January 27, 2006

cross-grade blogging


I thought you might be interested in this post on cross-grade
. 2 Cents Worth is a really interesting blog from another North Carolinian!

It was fun seeing you at Midwinter!

Friday, December 23, 2005

remix & information literacy

Hi Sue (and Bob),

I hope you both are having a wonderful holiday.

I've been mulling over what we talked about at coffee last weekend, and I am interested in this idea of remix culture. (Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture, which deals with some of the "remix culture" idea can be found, in full, here.) Actually, I'm really interested in what Bob calls "ambient education," and I think remix culture could be an important part of that.

I don't know if you both know, but I'm really into social software. It's started as a hobby, but I'm starting to get interested in it in an academic way. I blog both here and in other places, I maintain a wiki to train my student employees, and I participate in, among other sites.

I think there's a lot of potential in this new, social phase of the internet. It's surfacing in librarian blogs as "Library 2.0." These social spaces on the web provide a fertile ground for certain types of learning. For example: I am very current on a number of library/technology issues due to regular RSS feed monitoring. I regularly check in with sites like the Library Success Wiki for information about the profession. I don't feel the need to buy cookbooks (though I do), because Vegan recipes abound on the internet. And I don't necessarily always do this at my desk. I pack up my laptop and read RSS feeds on 4th street downtown; I download podcasts to go.

These social spaces encourage remix culture. People add to wikis from the information they've gathered over time. They add altered photos to Flickr. People can now even create video for iPods. I'm not sure if I agree that knowing how to participate effectively in remix culture is a part of traditional information literacy, but it is related. There are some areas where skill overlaps.

I also see social software and remix culture as a part of mobile culture. I take my camera with me everywhere, I post photos to Flickr, and I occasionally remix, myself. I carry my laptop and type up blog posts, even when away from the internet. I repackage library information in the student wiki to be more appropriate for my audience. I listen to podcasts and audiobooks whenever I drive in the car. I'm not that much different from those in the Millennial generation, and I really dig participating in social/remix/mobile culture.

So, I'm firming up an idea about how social software is creating an excellent environment for "ambient learning," as well as mobile learning, and I'm thinking more about how remix fits in with all of this. At the very least, I think information literacy is critical in this "new world" of learning. When we can access all kinds of information, in all kinds of ways, from all kinds of sources, we need to make sure people have the tools to ask good questions and evaluate information as they come across it.

I think there's also something to be said for taking time out of this social/mobile culture. It's easy to get in and never take a moment off to reflect on things. I was much more reflective before I had my own computer and a T1 connection. I'm using this break to remind myself how important it is to take time to reflect, and hoping it will take hold before the whirlwind start of the spring semester.

So, I'm not sure what this means for my idea of next summer, but they're just some thoughts I'm having at this point in time.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

a matter of assessment?

Hi Sue,

It's really interesting that the gap is the reverse of what you had expected! I'm not really sure, and I need to look at the standards for both organizations again, but I think there's also a major semantic difference between the standards. The ACRL ones seem to be worded to indicate something that can be measured, whereas the AASL ones include both measurable standards and some that are more general ideas. I wonder if this is in part because of the increased importance of assessment in university funding.

I think you're onto something in terms of teacher professional development as collaborative work to create new knowledge. It's empowering to know that one is an expert in an area and can do creative things with their work. (Certainly more so than always being told what to do by outsider "experts.") In a way, too, it's closer to a faculty model.

I'm really looking forward to getting together for coffee!

Friday, November 18, 2005


Lauren, I was really somewhat surprised by the ACRL standards. I had been thinking that there might be a gap - in other words that the AASL standards might fail to adequately prepare students for the ACRL standards. But instead my first impression is that the ACRL standards fail to pick up a significant strand of the AASL standards. And what I find fascinating is that the strand is one that maps onto your interest in the social generation of knowledge. Note the particular language in standard 6 (AASL)... "strives for excellence in information seeking and knowledge generation."

And where ACRL suggests an either/or: "The information literate student, individually or as a member of a group...", the AASL standards promote membership not in just any group but a "learning community," and further one of the standards is effective participation "in groups to pursue and generate information."

This is the language in the AASL standards that is currently of real interest to me as a professional educator because I believe it's at the heart of the movement in teacher education and professional development that posits that teachers have particular knowledge about their work and are capable of collaboratively creating new knowledge. Continuing teacher education should not look like the traditional workshop with an outside consultant relaying new information to teachers but of teachers working together to examine data about their students and having conversations that generate new theories about that data and then testing those theories in practice followed by further conversation to generate knowledge from those theories.

Let me give you an example. There's current interest in something called lesson study which comes from math and science teaching in Japan. A team of teachers get together and plan a lesson. One of the teachers teaches the lesson and the other members of the team observe. Observations are of the student learning not so much of the teaching -- what are they saying, doing, or producing that is evidence that they are or are not learning the concepts? Following the lesson the team gets together and talks about the observations and looks at any student work. Then they have a conversation about what worked or didn't work in the lesson. Then the lesson is re-worked or tweaked. Another teacher on the team teaches the revised lesson with observers again and the process is repeated.

As I am writing this I think it's really fascinating that you and I have interests that seem to weave in and out of each other's yet because we are coming from different contexts we have to stop to explain to each other. And in that process we have to make our own thinking much more explicit.

Should be an interesting independent study. Let's keep an eye on the dates for summer registration and get this together.

Information Literacy, Independent Study, and Social Epistemology

Dear Sue,

I think it would be really interesting to look at the relationship between the standards you describe and the ACRL Information Literacy Standards.

The standards that ACRL recommends are:

1. The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed.

2. The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently.

3. The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system.

4. The information literate student, individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.

5. The information literate student understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally.

It's interesting to me that so much of the ACRL language is similar to the AASL language. It's also interesting to me that AASL also focuses on "independent learners" while ACRL doesn't, and that ACRL chose to put ethical and social issues into the fifth point while AASL included those issues throughout the "independent learner" section.

All the angles you discuss for possible aspects to consider in our independent study sound fascinating.

As for Social Epistemology, it's a broad topic. I understand it from the philosophy perspective, and only as an interested philosophy student, because the class wasn't offered while I was at majoring in philosophy at NCSU. There's an entirely different way to approach the topic within a library and information studies/science perspective that has a history going back to Margaret Egan and Jesse Shera in the 1950s (it's all very new!). This is what I'm working on learning more about now.

General epistemology asks questions about the nature of knowledge (and to some extent, truth). Social epistemology is a part of this and focuses on the social dimensions of knowledge, though there are many different arguments for how social knowledge actually is. There are two main schools of though, though I tend to see them as ends of a spectrum.

One end of the spectrum tends to view things most traditionally: there are truths that would be true independent of the observer, some of those truths are colored by social factors. These social influences might be the scientists doing the discovery, the teacher imparting knowledge, the availability of information, or something of that ilk, but there is still knowledge that is true (like physics) that we discover.

The other end of the spectrum is more radical and is often criticized for being relativist (though there are members in this camp arguing against that). This group says that even the most "objective" truths have a social element and that even the most objective science is biased by the fact that it's conducted by a social being. This group may be interested in the anthropocentric nature of academic studies, that science arose at a time of rigid gender roles, that academics have always been the realm of the privileged class, or some other social perspective. This group also tends to be interested in science as it is done in non-Western cultures, though we're quickly eradicating any examples of this. This group focuses on the "production" of knowledge, whereas the first camp focuses on the "discovery" or "growth" of it.

Some social epistemologists in both camps are interested in the communities that produce knowledge (not long ago I seriously considered a PhD program in sociology to study this).

Library and Information folks tend to view social epistemology as a framework for a philosophy of information. They might be interested in how the arrangement and classification of information effects truth discovery (I wrote a paper on this last year), how the market affects the discovery and distribution of knowledge, how research practices lead to knowledge, Popper's knowledge production and Kuhn's paradigm shifts, or similar social dynamics in the information discovery process. I am moving towards an interest in these social dynamics, as I've described before: how the organization of information, copyright and public domain, information producing agencies, cultural information institutions, different "types" of research, the economics of information, and the commodification of information, influence one's ability to find information. In the sense of information literacy, I am interested in how one compensates for these kinds of variables when seeking information.

We try to do a little of this with our students. One hour of the WFU information literacy course is devoted to copyright and public domain. We discuss market issues when we talk about "the time line of information" and the production of books and journals. We never go deeply into these issues, though, as we only have the students for 14 or 15 hours, and our main priority is teaching them *how* to use the library and resources we provide.

I'm looking forward to getting together to talk about the independent study.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Kitchen Sink

Hey Lauren, Sorry I have neglected this blog. Yes yes yes I am still planning on doing the independent study - next summer if possible.

Right now I have lots of ideas and need a focus.

Here's my overriding concern and interest. AASL has nine student standards for information literacy:


Standard 1 The student who is information literate accesses information efficiently and effectively.

Standard 2 The student who is information literate evaluates information critically and competently.

Standard 3 The student who is information literate uses information accurately and creatively.

Standard 4 The student who is an independent learner is information literate and pursues information related to personal interests.

Standard 5 The student who is an independent learner is information literate and appreciates literature and other creative expressions of information.

Standard 6 The student who is an independent learner is information literate and strives for excellence in information seeking and knowledge generation.

Standard 7 The student who contributes positively to the learning community and to society is information literate and recognizes the importance of information to a democratic society.

Standard 8 The student who contributes positively to the learning community and to society is information literate and practices ethical behavior in regard to information and information technology.

Standard 9 The student who contributes positively to the learning community and to society is information literate and participates effectively in groups to pursue and generate information.

These are available with indicators in a pdf file from this site:

I would really like to have the time to reflect about these and what they actually mean and how they play out with students --and maybe with professionals. And I guess an obvious question would be how they morph into university info lit standards? Do they? Is there any disconnect? Looking over them, I think I see several of your ethical questions addressed.

One area where our interests may overlap would also be in teacher education: do pre-service teachers need information literacy? Is information literacy a cornerstone of lifelong learning and continuing professional development? Is there an info literacy core that teachers need to have and convey to their students? I think these questions would be germane to the departments we represent: Curriculum and Instruction as well as Library & Info Science.

I met with Bob today and we talked about approaching this from a needs assessment angle: is there a need for info literacy?

Another angle of interest to me is the new NC Center for 21st Century Skills

How do these skill map onto the AASL Info Lit Skills?

I've also started thinking about assessment and metacognition (self-assessment) because I think at heart this is what information literacy is about - assessing a need for information, seeking information, assessing the information you find, applying the information to the problem, assessing your application....

Tell me more about social epistemology...


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

More musings

Hi Sue,

This semester I've been working on an intense project for my reference class. We're pulling together comprehensive annotated bibliographies on the subject of our choice--as long as it's not library related. My topic has morphed over the semester, becoming narrower and narrower as the end approaches.

Tangently related to this topic is a new area that I'm really interested in: the tie between social epistemology and library and information studies. In fact, library researchers were the first to use the term "social epistemology," which is recognized as a true field of philosophy now. It's funny, normally fields of philosophy break off and become their own. It's very unusual for a separate field to become part of philosophy.

Again, this post is not entirely relevant to our topic, but I think it could be related to the "ethical issues" list I wrote about last time. I need to look into the rules about multiple independent studies because this might be a topic I'd like to look at in a more in-depth way as well.

I hope you're doing well & making it through the end of this semester!


PS Are you still interested in doing this independent study? Do you have an idea of when? I'd like to do a practicum sometime in the next year and a half, and I need to know the status on this before I proceed with the paperwork on that.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Lots of Lists!


It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I’ve had a lot of time to mull over a lot of new information. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about:

There are a few trends that I keep reading/hearing about in higher education:
• Universities are moving towards a business model (more technically/career-oriented, and less of the traditional, broad, liberal arts education).
• Students are more career-oriented, and are interested in continued learning in light of that. They tend to be less interested in learning for the sake of learning.
• Departments need to assert their value in the university, particularly as budgets shrink. This can be in terms of the money they bring in, the statistics they produce, or the relevance to the students’ employability upon graduation.
• Librarians need to prove themselves to administrators and faculty members (in a number of ways: education, tenure process, as equal to faculty, etc.).
I think that these issues probably also exist in primary and secondary education as well, but you’ll have to verify or correct me on that.

I think that information literacy education is a way for librarians in libraries and media centers to address these issues.
• Information literacy prepares students to look for new information and evaluate it in light of their context, no matter what it might be.
• Information literacy is directly beneficial to both students’ current academic work and their future career work.
• Information literate students are valuable to all academic departments as well as the library. If students have adequate information literacy backgrounds they will perform better research for their other classes and use the library more effectively (which will save public service library staff time in the long run).
• Teaching classes is something faculty and administrators are used to. Pathfinders, websites, and tours do not easily fit into the traditional teacher/researcher paradigm. Teaching regular classes does. Giving grades can help. Doing research educates and fits into the administrator/faculty understanding of what a faculty member does.

So this doesn’t really address our question of “what is information literacy and are we, as librarians, information literate?” It does, however, give us a way to argue for information literacy as an integral role of the university (or educational process).

As far as what is information literacy: the more I think about it, the more I think that it has to span a large area. When I think of information literacy I think of the traditional:
• How to ask a question
• How to narrow a topic
• How to use library and internet resources effectively
• How to critically evaluate the found information
• How to correctly use and cite the information that is useful

Lately I’ve been thinking about ethical issues that I believe are foundational to information literacy:
• How the presentation (and organization) of information affects our ability to find it
• How copyright and public domain affect our ability to find and use information
• How we come to terms with the information we believe to be true
• How information producing agencies work (universities, for-profit research labs, government statistic gathering processes)
• How cultural institutions affect the way one can find information (for example, libraries, museums, and phenomena like Google Print)
• How different types of research affect the outcome of the process (feminist research vs. cultural research, etc.)
• Economics of Information and the Commodification of Information

I’m not sure that all information literacy librarians need to worry about all of this last list. However, I think that if people want to specialize in information literacy, in addition to the traditional librarian skills, this could be a fruitful area. This is a field that is interdisciplinary enough (communication, critical studies, cultural studies, law, philosophy, business programs, and American studies, all play a role) that no one discipline covers the field completely. Perhaps librarians focusing on information literacy can do further research in these areas and could further our understandings of this, passing information on to their students, like faculty.

Of course, this paradigm might not be most effective for school media, or the university for that matter. And we need practitioners to write in their specific areas, so that the profession would continue to improve and grow.

So, I’ve just been babbling and listing, but there’s a whole lot of information literacy that I’ve been thinking about lately.

I hope you're doing well!