iSchool Instructor Meredith Farkas Receives Excellence in Online Education Award

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The award recognizes Farkas for her work teaching INFO 246 (Advanced Information Technology Tools & Applications), with its focus on Web 2.0 and social networking tools, including the technical aspects of tools such as wikis, podcasting, and RSS feeds, as well as concrete examples of how they can be used in library settings.

“At first some of the students were a little intimidated; they expected it to be more of a fluffy class,” she said. “But they were able to handle the technical aspects, and they realized that they are much more tech-savvy than they thought.”

Farkas’ class is different from other San José State University School of Information coursework from the moment students first log on. Instead of using Blackboard last year, she received permission from iSchool administrators to work with Drupal as her learning management system. Drupal essentially turns the classroom into “one big blog,” Farkas said, with a front page that allows students to see postings from all of their classmates as well as the instructor.

The WISE award came as “a validation of the way I chose to structure my class,” she said. “It makes for a much more constructivist atmosphere, where the student is a teacher and a learner at the same time.”

Farkas plans to teach an Online Communities course in spring 2010, where she hopes to “explore the human elements” like good moderators and agitators that help social networking tools take on a life of their own.

Farkas, who previously worked as a social worker before switching careers, discovered her library science niche somewhat serendipitously. She learned Web design while earning her MLIS from Florida State University in 2004 and began her own blog to discuss the applications of Web 2.0 technologies before that term was even in the lexicon.

“It just snowballed from there,” she said. Now she works full–time as Head of Instructional Initiatives at Norwich University in Northfield, VT., and writes the monthly column “Technology in Practice” for American Libraries. She continues her blog Information Wants to Be Free and authored the text Social Software in Libraries: Building Collaboration, Communication and Community Online.

A growing number of iSchool students take advantage of the school’s participation in WISE, a unique program that allows them to take online elective courses at 14 other LIS graduate schools.

The Excellence in Online Education Awards are presented to instructors who are nominated by WISE students from institutions other than the faculty members’ home institution. More information regarding the award program can be found at