On this foggy morning I find myself on a ferry en route to Seattle for the annual ALISE conference and thinking about ‘connections’. It’s a powerful word – my research interests are focused on how we connect with different individuals and groups in the context of decision making. My recently completed doctoral study explored the connections between those in the public library community (librarians, patrons, and trustees) and the people making decisions about public library funding.
One morning last April as I ate my Cheerios and paged through the recent issue of American Libraries, I came across an article written by SJSU SLIS instructor Meredith Farkas. Knowing that she always writes thought-provoking pieces, I paused to read it before I got to my work for the day. The article, “Incorporating Active Learning into Online Instruction” was about a tool developed by the librarians at the University of Arizona called Guide on the Side. Since my own work centers upon teaching and learning in library and information centers, I knew this was a tool about which I had to know.
I am part of a team reviewing the core classes at SJSU’s School of Library and Information Science, in particular, LIBR 200 (Information and Society), LIBR 202 (Information Retrieval) and LIBR 204 (Information Organizations and Management). The discussion with fellow faculty has been exciting and I am finding the topics under consideration to be both challenging and humbling. My realization: I have spent far too much time in the actual practice of taking or teaching the courses and not nearly enough time thinking through the significance and interconnection and, best of all, their future direction and opportunities for innovation in our curriculum, teaching and learning.
We’ve been having a minor discussion thread in my history research methods class (LIBR 285) on whether or not library history is boring. I have to admit that when I tell people that I’m studying the history of California librarians it certainly is a conversation stopper. Even my historian husband gets drowsy when I discuss my “exciting” research finds at the dinner table.
Collaborative learning is an instructional approach heavily promoted and widely practiced in online teaching. While the effectiveness of collaborative learning in face-to-face settings is well established and its benefits well documented (Johnson, Suriya, Yoon, Berrett, & La Fleur, 2002), collaborative learning in online environments is different. Instead of working face-to-face in groups, online collaboration takes a distributed form. Students from diverse geographical locations form virtual groups and rely on Internet communication technologies to coordinate group processes and carry out group activities. Group interactions are mediated by computer networks.
As this is my first CIRI blog, I would like to tell you about my primary research interest, crisis informatics. Crisis informatics is a term that I coined in 2006 in a paper entitled “Using research to aid the design of a crisis information management course” presented at the Association of Library & Information Science Educators (ALISE) conference Special Interest Group Multicultural, Ethnic & Humanistic Concerns. Crisis informatics is an emerging field of inquiry which explores the inter-connectedness of information, people, and technologies in *crises/disasters and examines the intersecting trajectories of social, technical and information perspectives in crises /disasters.
One of my research interests is to study how online users behave and interact with each other, and how such interaction dynamics impacts the formation and impression of virtual communities. Among the many interesting user behaviors is group polarization, which has been studied extensively in psychology and social science literature.
Computers provide 24/7 access to endless amounts of information for every aspect of our personal and professional lives. We use the World Wide Web for shopping, socializing, traveling, dating, writing, banking, scrapbooking, organizing, and sharing perhaps more details of our lives than most people care to know. With our dependence on computers in their multiple versions and formats, it is no wonder there has been an explosion of online learning in the past fifteen years. While faculty developed their skills for traditional teaching over a lifetime of observation and modeling by their instructors, teaching online exploded without the benefit of established systems and practices.
I continue to research the impact and effectiveness of self-directed learning programs in libraries. I wrote about Learning 2.0 here last May. Foundational to the Learning 2.0 program model is an emphasis on instilling a desire for lifelong learning, empowering personnel to engage in a self-paced, learner-managed environment, creating an interactive learning community, and fostering increased confidence in participants to explore new technology on their own. Today’s library personnel face financial and time restrictions when choosing to engage in professional development.
Library science is both a discipline and a profession. It differs from many other academic disciplines because the focus is not a subject, but an activity or maybe even a process, which implies that the discipline changes when the profession evolves and changes. The curriculum must therefore reinforce the student’s capacity to solve problems and use skills in constantly changing real-world environments.