I watched an archived Webinar on a campaign created by OCLC and the Gates Foundation called Geek the Library, which was fascinating. I was really struck by how difficult it is to make a webinar more than just a recording of a powerpoint presentation. The webinar was actually made up of two different presentations that were working together and in the archived format, I had to read the chat separately from watching the audio and slides. It seems as if how the webinar presents itself reflects in the chat conversation, this webinar patterned itself like a traditional presentation and so there was less talk in the chat. I came away from it glad to know of the program and curious to learn more but with little sense of the people presenting.
This week the reading is a mixture of articles and chapter 7 of How People Learn which is titled “Effective Teaching: Examples in History, Mathematics and Science.” I’m going to start with the chapter and then move on to the other readings and I’m curious about advice about how to make an effective webinar. They seem to present a combination of challenges from other formats in one place. The chapter starts by presenting an example of a teacher who knows how to combine their teaching experience with content knowledge to design a curriculum around what her students wish to learn. It seems like something that would be incredibly hard to do, use students questions to craft a course but if it worked would change how students think about learning. The two history examples look at teachers who try to get their students examining what is history and why and how do we study it. This is something that’s so important but most students don’t seem to encounter that idea until college as that type of learning requires more time. I appreciate how these teachers found ways to make these questions into the day to day teaching of their courses and that helped them make it work within the structure they were working in.
The mathematics section starts with a teacher who talks about teaching through sense-making so that students understand why something is reasonable on their way to understanding how to do multiplication. By connecting to their prior knowledge, the teacher was able to lead the students to a place where they felt comfortable with the work. While the second teacher, Ball, focused on a model to help with a lesson on negative numbers and found that while it was helpful for some aspects it didn’t cover everything. Again she was building on what the students already knew to better help them grasp the new information and not be overwhelmed by it. Both teachers use models and the book speaks about how models can help so much in learning math since when children are younger abstract concepts can be more difficult.
The science section is not as clearly written or explained as it talks about physics and the idea of teaching students how to think about problems. It seems as if the authors chose a tricky topic to teach but their examples end up rather abstract as opposed to the other ones. There are examples presented of innovative ways of teaching but there isn’t the clear narrative structure of the other sections which was a difference from the other sections. This made this part not seem to fit and a little harder to integrate with the other ideas. Though there are a variety of examples in the science section, they don’t seem to connect in the same way the other sections do and it makes it harder to come out with a clear sense of what works. I found this chapter helpful but it seemed to veer between too specific and too broad, I’m not sure how easy I would find it to work these things into my own teaching.
The next reading is Online Webinars! Interactive Learning Where Our Users Are: The Future of Embedded Librarianship by Susan Montgomery from the August 2010 Public Services Quarterly. Montgomery begins by stating statistics about how online college students are at this point in time and how academic librarians must find ways to connect with them where they are. Then looks at some programs that work by integrating intelligent use of online tools in and out of the classroom and creating embedded librarians that students see as part of the learning team. Webinars are then presented as the next step in this type of reaching out to students since they allow for more levels of interaction between students and teachers. Montgomery makes a good point by showing that librarians are used to webinars in their professional education so its something that they know what good and bad ones feel like. This article presents many options for how to interact more online with students and places that are making changes but doesn’t seem to lead anywhere other than online stuff is useful and we should do more.
The last reading is from the same publication and is by Matos et al and is titled The Embedded Librarian or Face-to-Face: American University’s Experience. This article examines how two types of embedded librarians worked at American University, the first was what they termed traditional, which is a librarian that is connected to a specific unit. These librarians tend to be specialists within that subject area, which I wasn’t completely aware of. The second type of librarian is a combination of a reference/instruction and collection manager that seems more like the type of librarian I’m aware of at the University of Michigan with the subject specialist librarians who organize book and online resources and field questions. One of the challenges seems to be how to make sure that the library and the department are both getting what they need and providing the most for students without losing anything. The music librarian’s examples of learning to mesh with the community show how just being there isn’t always enough. She had to show the students that she understood what they did and could be an ally for them instead of what they perceived a librarian as. The business librarian on the other hand does most of the connecting in a more formalized way through online communication and speaking in classes so his interaction with the community has a different feel. The key in both of these seems to be figuring out what the communities wish for from the librarians and being able to provide that in the best way possible. As always communication is what makes things work and a librarian who doesn’t know their community won’t be able to truly help.
What I get from all of these readings is how key it is to know what the community you’re teaching in needs and wants to find out the best way to teach them. This seems to be one of the trickiest parts if you’re a new person in the community as there are things that someone who’s been there a long time will pick up that aren’t obvious. All of these readings have good suggestions of what to do when you know what works best and ideas on how to use new technology to create new avenues for instruction.