A Blog to Accompany the Book

By Jerilyn Veldof

October 3, 2011

Learning Styles? Forget it.

There are moments in ones career that just stop you in your tracks. So was it when I read this NPR piece about learning styles.

Here's what Doug Rohrer, a psychologist at the University of South Florida found after reviewing studies of learning styles - there is no real evidence that they matter. Psychologist Dan Willingham at the University of Virginia, goes so far to say that we don't need to tailor instruction to different kinds of learners.

Does that mean you shouldn't work to incorporate engaging visuals in your classroom? Does that mean you shouldn't bother having students break into paired discussions? No, we as teachers know that these techniques keep people's attention and help them process information.

I just find it amazing that there is NO good evidence that supports learning theories. Live and learn. Chalk this up to yet another paradigm shifting under our feet?

May 9, 2011

Value of Instructional Designers in Libraries

I've long been a proponent of libraries contracting with or employing skilled instructional designers. We did that here at the U of MN a little over a year ago. Recently, Steven Bell had a chat with our designer and covered some of that in his From the Bell Tower blog. He called it "How an instructional designer can make a difference" and included this great quote from Paul, our designer:

"Instructional designers add value to academic libraries in two ways. First, in collaboration with academic librarians, instructional designers utilize design models to assess, identify, and codify learning outcomes, design and develop projects to satisfy those learning outcomes, and implement and evaluate the completed offerings. Historically academic librarians have not been trained in educational theory therefore instructional designers have become essential partners in the translation of librarians' expertise into intentional and measurable learning experiences."

Take a look at the whole blog entry here.

April 5, 2011

Workshops, presentations and consultations I have done in the past

I was recently asked for a list of workshops, presentations, and consultations I have done in the past to supplement this book. In this document I pulled from some of the titles and descriptions I have used in the past and thought I'd post it here in case others are interested.

Creating the One-Shot Options for Workshops, Presentations, Consultation

February 18, 2010

Culture of Library Teaching

Recently I read an interesting LISNews blog entry by Susan Ariew (University of South Florida) called "The Teaching Librarian Versus The Teacher" in which she explores how the teaching mission in large academic libraries is often not understood or valued by the library at large. This is something so many of us teaching librarians experience and I found her insights both interesting and oddly comforting.

Here's a snippet:

"Unlike teaching departments on most campuses, much of what has happened with the instructional mission of academic libraries has been defined, shaped and created in response to forces outside the library, forces like academic faculty requests for library instruction and faculty frustration with students who lack skills in evaluating their sources. Thus, the new and changing role of the teaching library and librarian is much less established (or even autonomous) than other traditional library functions such as cataloging, interlibrary loan, circulation, reference, special collections, or collection development."

January 19, 2010

And... cut down on those BULLET points on your Powerpoints!

As a follow-up to my last posting:

There's a great overview on the Bob Pike Group website of some research done by Chris Atherton, a cognitive psychologist.

To whet your appetite here's a couple take-aways:

"1. Don't say too much. Limit what you cover in a presentation. Your audience has limited capacity to take it in.

2. Split the load. Take advantage of the brain's two pathways. Design your slides so that they can be processed quickly by the visual cortex, allowing the language areas to focus on what you're saying. This means using more pictures and as few words as you think you can get away with.

3. Get rid of visual clutter on your slides"

And to get you even more interested, there are lots of great ideas you can implement immediately (such as ways to make your learners do some work - even if you're just lecturing).

Check it out!

September 30, 2009

Cut down those PowerPoints!

It's such a relief hearing so much talk about how cramming tons of words and information into PowerPoint slides is so... yesterday.

One of the big proponents of that is Guy Kawasaki who created what he calls the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. "It's quite simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points." Hallelujah!

Check out his entire posting here - http://holykaw.alltop.com/102030-rule-of-powerpoint-0

If there was one rule of thumb we all took into our lectures, workshops, etc., I vote for this one!

September 11, 2009

Ten Teaching Tips

Our Information Literacy Collaborative here at the U of MN came up with this list of teaching tips for our librarians. Great advice - take a look!

1. Less is More. Avoid too much content. Remember the brain can only remember 5 to 7 bits of information--after teaching content include a short activity to help refresh student's brains and allow them to take in more information. Include additional details in a handout or CourseLib page for students to refer to.

2. Write 3-5 learning objectives as you prepare materials for an instructional session. They will help focus your teaching in the limited time you have available. Also ask faculty and instructors for their syllabi or assignment description so you can tailor the objectives.

3. Add a 5-minute "Think-Pair-Share" to help students process. For example, 1.) Ask a question (What are your biggest challenges with doing research? Let's say you are working on a project on health care reform-what is the best place to start? How can you avoid plagiarism? ) and 2.) have student think for a minute then talk to a fellow student for 2 minutes and 3.) then have a couple students share with the group.

4. Make content available after the instructional session such as with a CourseLib/PageScribe page, department blog, handout, PPT, etc. Ask the instructor to forward an email with the material to the students or post it in the course site.

5. Refresh your use of PowerPoint. Look for examples of good PowerPoint usage or presentation tips:
* Presentation Zen
* How NOT to use Powerpoint (Warning: Humorous)
* Doing a 15 Minute Presentation in 10 easy steps

6. Start with an open-ended question ( "What are your questions about the library and research?" "Where do you start your research?" "Do you think research is easier or harder than it used to be?") to get the students engaged in the material.

7. Try a small-scale experiment with technology such as the clickers. Instead of trying to redo your whole presentation just add three questions at the beginning or at the end.

8. Students learn by doing--build short hands-on activities to help students practices what you are teaching.

9. Analogies and stories are powerful teaching tools. Write down a couple or ask colleagues about analogies or stories they use in instruction.

10. Here are a few more readings and resources:
* Eric's Top Ten Teaching Tips
* Adventures in Library Instruction Podcast
* 10/20/30 Rule of Powerpoint
* Less is More: Making Your Presentations Zen-tastic

May 12, 2009

Making presentations TED style

Although I talk mostly about designing workshops here in this blog, the reality is that lots of us also have to do our "sage on the stage" bit every once in awhile.

Lucky for us, Garr Reynold's in his Presentation Zen blog just posted the "Ten Commandments" for TED speakers. He also included a fantastic list of presenter best practices accompanied by TEDTalks illustrating those.

A choice quote:
"But what the good presentations have in common is that they were created carefully and thoughtfully with the audience in mind and were delivered with passion, clarity, brevity, and always with "the story" of it (whatever it is) in mind."

Check it out - Making presentations in the TED style

And p.s. If you're not a TED fan already, check out (these four of the best talks).

March 24, 2009

Vetting (or filtering) information

I stumbled on this great piece from the Bottom-Line Performance blog that I think is worth sharing (and it's certainly something I focus on a lot in my training librarian workshops):

"The challenge for instructional designers is no longer finding some relevant information on an obscure topic. Wikipedia does that for us. The challenge becomes identifying the most important content, the facts and information that will best support the performance the organization needs to drive business results. Ruth Clark tells us that people learn more from a short description of how something works than from a longer description of how something works. Learning professionals can weed through the nice to haves and create a program that best meets the needs of the business and the learner."

The irony here is that we've been talking about this for a long time in libraries (that our worth in libraries going forward will be more on what we exclude, what we filter out, than what we include).* Here it is again, but in the context of instructional design. I'm definitely in that camp - that to remain relevant we need to make this paradigmatic leap - both as librarians and as instructors/instructional designers. Less IS best!

* I was first exposed to this idea in John Sealy Brown and Paul Duguid's book. Well worth a look:

March 13, 2009

Gorilla Approaches to Instructional Design

I just got off the phone with a librarian from major state university who is bringing me in for a half-day workshop. Given what she called a "catastrophic" economic situation in her state and university it became clear to me that I could not do a business-as-usual approach to teaching instructional design to librarians.

I talked her through 3 different approaches that focus on quick, effective approaches to designing library workshops. The intent is not to freak out the participants with a design process that would bog them down and cause them even more stress and demands on their time.

Here are three approaches that I recommended. Perhaps they will be useful to others thinking about how to get the most bang for the buck in these difficult financial times where everybody is stretched to the n-th degree.

Approach 1:

Focus on meeting discipline-agnostic instructional needs that span the library. For example:

- novices finding 3 scholarly articles using Academic Search Premier,
- grads finding a known item from a citations,
- undergraduates assessing whether or not an article is considered scholarly or not

Assign small teams one need each. They are expected to go through the full instructional design process, including developing the lesson plan, visuals/handouts, and exercises. Each need should translate to one – or two – discrete modules (10-20 minutes). Make these available with the expectation that all the librarians will be able to plug these modules into their classes with minimal adaption. This leaves each librarian with only a segment of their class that they will have to design on their own.

Approach 2:

Focus on individual mastery over a few, key steps in the instructional design process. Fill in the rest of the process using your current design approach. The areas I think have the most impact and are most worth focusing on are:

- Step 1 – Needs Assessment
- Step 4 – Filtering Content
- Step 6 – Task Analysis (although greatly abbreviate)
- Step 12 – Teaching Methods (also abbreviated)

Approach 3:

Facilitate/encourage/nurture a change in mindset in how we often approach teaching in libraries; give library instructors some concrete tools they can immediately implement to make their classes more effective.

The focus would be on these kinds of questions:

- What is information overload?
- How do we contribute to it?
- What are ways to structure our classes so that students learn what we want them to learn and avoid being overloaded and frustrated?

This is a more light-weight approach that mostly just focuses on step 12. Combining this with Step 1- needs assessment - would be a good combination.

January 5, 2009

Interesting teaching technique

I just learned from CLENExchange another teaching technique that sounds like a great one to combine with the jigsaw technique. It's called Pecha Kucha, a 20x20 presentation where students develop 20 slides and each slide gets 20 seconds of presentation time for a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

I could see a variation of this working with a jigsaw exercise where each group of learners is asked to review something (such as an article, database or website) and then is given a certain amount of slides and minutes to teach the rest of the class what they learned. I could see asking a couple students to keep time and using a cow bell or some fun beeper to pull people off the 'stage.'

Give it a try!

November 18, 2008

Is In-Person or Online Instruction Better?

This is a question that has been asked and studied about for ages. Claudia Stanny from the University of West Florida provided a citation today in a "POD" listserv post to a meta-analysis of 40 years of research comparing online and face-to-face instruction.

But first, her summary:

"The bottom line is that the quality of pedagogy used trumps the medium. Engaging pedagogies produce superior learning outcomes to passive learning pedagogies. If the online class has the more engaging pedagogy, online learning is better. If these strategies characterize the face-to-face class, face-to-face instruction looks better."

Maki, R. H., & Maki, W. S. (2007). Online courses. In F. T. Durson (Ed.), Handbook of applied cognition (2nd ed.). Chichester: Wiley. (pp. 527-552)

November 10, 2008

Check these out! A list of 25 education blogs

As you know, as teachers and instructional designers we're a big part of the education field and sometimes less part of the library "industry.", yet we tend to read our own blogs, publications and go to our own conferences. So yes, I know - you already have enough to read, enough to do - but for those looking to better align yourself with the field of education, check out this recent listserv post:

Hake, R.R. 2008. "Thirty-two Education Blogs," AERA-L post of 7 Nov 2008 16:38:18-080; online on the OPEN! AERA-L archives at <http://tinyurl.com/6leyj6>.

August 7, 2008

Creating "niched" learning opportunities

Here's an interesting blurb that appeared on an Educause Learning Initiative site exploring the future of education:

"When Chris Dede, the Timothy E. Wirth professor in Learning Technologies at Harvard University, sat down with students in a Philadelphia private school to talk about their personal learning preferences, no one delivered the same answer. One student liked research papers, preferring a clear template and an assignment with a defined start and finish. Another loved multimedia projects, relishing the opportunity to think about something in many different ways. Another said their mind worked like the video games they liked to play.

Now imagine, Dede said in an interview at EDUCAUSE 2007 in Seattle, if those three students walked into your classroom. And they came with a group of peers whose learning preferences weren’t even on that same menu.

“If I were designing a learning environment for those students], it would really have to be like an ecology,? Dede said. “It would have to have a lot of different niches in it because from one day to the next, any one particular student may want a different kind of niche. And different types of students might want different kinds of niches…"

July 9, 2008

Getting rid of some of your content

One of my favorite blogs has a great entry about weeding through content and figuring out what are your need-to- knows.

The entry is geared towards instructional designers creating e-learning, but applicable to in-person delivery as well.

Check it out: Build Better E-Learning Courses By Getting Rid of Some of the Content



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