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The Power of PowerPoint
Alright, maybe it is not that powerful, but at least, useful.
In my college days, professors’ lectures were mostly verbal and sometimes aided by a blackboard. The professor would either talk my head off throughout the whole lecture non-stop making me take notes busily in the fear that I might otherwise miss some important things, or in a better situation, write some key points on the blackboard with a chalk but I, occasionally if not often, had to do a guess work due to an individualized handwriting. Sometimes, the professor might use a slide projector making things a little better, but I still struggled with the handwriting on the slides. I never had a class that featured in PowerPoint presentation because that was in the last century, a long time ago before PowerPoint came into common use in classroom teaching. Thanks to technology that makes teaching both verbal and visual.
My first attempt to use PowerPoint was in 2002 when I was engaged in a summer teaching exchange program between CUNY and Shanghai University in China. The two courses that I taught, Introduction to Information Sources & Services and Using the Internet for Research, had two hundred students in each. Class size was incredibly large compared with the American’s (we have an average class size of 25 at York), partly because the students were interested in the course contents (and partly … hey, it’s a populous country.) The classes would be held in a large lecture-hall and I would have to use a microphone to deliver lectures. All seemed okay except it might be difficult for students sitting in the back to take notes from distance. Then I discovered that the room was equipped with a computer and a projector for the lecturer. I decided to try to use PowerPoint instead of using a traditional blackboard. However, I was a novice user and knew little about the software. Fortunately, my teaching assistants, assigned by the university, were tech savvy. They taught me the basics and showed me some useful tips. (Off the topic: they also helped me “climb over the wall” because some databases and websites were blocked by the so-called “Great Wall”, a government-backed internet filtering system, but I needed to use them for classroom demonstrations.) All lectures went smoothly and the university was pleased to see the students learning outcomes. Since then I have used PowerPoint frequently.
It must be stated that I am no expert in the full spectrum of PowerPoint universe but a happy user of it. In my practice I enjoy the following benefits from using PowerPoint to teach one-shot library workshops.
It is visual
In addition to our talking, students can enjoy the graphs, diagrams, tables, images, and photos that are visually descriptive in effective ways. Thus, the students can get a better understanding of our points.
It is multimedia
We may use Animations, Transitions, Audio and Video files to enhance the presentation and to enrich user experience.
It has multiple usages
We can save the PPT file as PDF and make it handouts for students to use during the session and/or for future reference.
It makes it easier for students to take notes
Students never need to guess what’s on the projected screen since the text is typed.
It is more than a local file
We can hyperlink reference databases and websites to introduce sources from our library’s subscribed databases and on the Internet, and access relevant information with a click of the mouse.
I also recommend the following tips.
- Use large fonts for both heading and text for easy reading.
- Use timed presentation if you are good at time management.
- Use click-controlled presentation if you want to have more control over slides.
- Don’t use the background color that is too similar to the text color.
- Don’t use too much text on a single slide.
Attached here is a sample PPT file which I use for orientation workshops.
Subject Liaison Librarian
One of the programs often seen in academic libraries is the subject liaison program. Librarians are assigned responsible area(s) based on their education background and/or professional training. They serve as a bridge between teaching faculty and the library. A liaison librarian’s tasks may include, but are not limited to, bibliographic instruction, collection development, and research consultation. In addition, the liaison librarian is responsible for informing the target department/program about current status of relevant information sources should any changes occur. In the teaching front, some libraries, in collaboration with teaching faculty, embed liaison librarian in the program as a co-teacher for the class.
At York College Library, we have assigned 24 subject areas among 10 librarians. https://www.york.cuny.edu/library/about-the-library/subject-liaisons. One librarian served as an embedded librarian in a health science class in 2012-13. An exciting event occurs every year when we receive the budget for new book acquisition. Each of us will get a share of the pie and update our collections with his or her wisdom.
A recent article on the topic by Karen Stanley Grigg, Science Liaison Librarian at University of North Carolina at Greensboro Libraries, is worth reading.
Building a Successful Liaison Program from the Ground up
“Library anxiety” was identified thirty years ago when Constance A. Mellon of East Carolina University published her paper, “Library Anxiety: A Grounded Theory and Its Development,” [College & Research Libraries 47.2 (1986): 160-165. <http://crl.acrl.org/content/47/2/160.full.pdf>], describing college students feeling intimidated, embarrassed, and overwhelmed by libraries and librarians. Library literature has been enhanced by this topic since then.
The anxiety appears to be more common among freshman students. This phenomenon ascertains the importance of library instruction for first-year undergraduates, as well as calls for user-friendly learning environment. A recent report on Columbia libraries is fun to read: “The Strange Affliction of ‘Library Anxiety’ and What Librarians Do to Help” <http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-strange-affliction-of-library-anxiety-and-what-librarians-do-to-help>
Dr. Russell’s talk @Rutgers
A follow up for those interested, a video recording of the said talk is available now:
The evolution of literacy
Daniel Russell of Google had a talk at School of Communication and Information of Rutgers yesterday. The topic sounds rather interesting. Obviously, being literate today is far different from being literate in the 18th century. The process of becoming literate has evolved. How do we accomplish our mission as educators? This is an ongoing issue which we ought to think about it constantly.
Here is brief info about the talk. http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/events/lis-brownbag-talk-by-dan-russell-from-google.html
Title: “The Evolution of Literacy: How search changes our understanding of reading, writing, and knowledge”
Abstract: What does it mean to be literate at a time when you can search billions of texts in less than 300 milliseconds? Although you might think that “literacy” is one of the great constants that transcends the ages, the skills of a literate person have changed substantially over time as texts and technology allow for new kinds of reading and understanding. Knowing how to read is just the beginning of it — knowing how to frame a question, pose a query, how to interpret the texts you find, how to organize and use the information you discover, how to understand your metacognition — these are all critical parts of being literate as well. In this talk I’ll review what literacy is in the age of Google, and show how some very surprising and unexpected skills will turn out to be critical in the years ahead.
Is your audience listening?
One of the things we don’t want to see during teaching is the disconnection between the lecturer and the listener. It happens for various reasons. It could be the lecturer; even a veteran speaker could have a dull moment. It could be the listener; he or she might have had a long day already. It could be the use of jargon, clarity of speaking, tempo of talking (either too slow or too fast), unchanged pitch of voice, student’s lack of interest, slow computer, or even the weather…
The most effective way of teaching involves two-way communication. We should try to create an active learning environment to make sure students remain engaged in learning process.
Ways of engaging students may include asking simple questions, doing classroom easy quizzes, using game-based demonstrations (I still remember vividly Sandy’s, a wonderful former colleague, game of Boolean Logic).
Visit Vitae, a service of The Chronicle of Higher Education, one may find useful teaching tips there. Although they may not relate to library science, general rules can be applied. For example: “What if You Have to Lecture?” By David Gooblar. URL: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/909-what-if-you-have-to-lecture?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en
IL is rarely on administrator’s agenda
Reading through the interview (link below), one can see a number of items on the newly hired university librarian’s agenda as priorities: reinventing the building, caring for the legacy materials and physical books, and delivering 24/7 services. Dr. James J. O’Donnell’s envision of the future academic library is “one in which everybody in the institution…gets everything they need, wherever they happen to be, immediately.”
It is true that the library profession originated as a service type and we always strive for better quality to serve users. We must remember, though, that the profession has evolved over the time in both concept and content. User education is an inseparable part in a modern library although the degree of involvement may vary depending on the mission and nature of the library. Academic librarians act dual roles: keeper and educator. Teaching is part of our job. Information Literacy education and library instructional programs are necessary, to say the least.
Interview link [It is a news link, thus, has more than this interview. Read the top item only.):
A Former Provost Is Recast as a Librarian, and Other News About People
Praise from a professional
Daniel Russell is a researcher at Google. Some of us may have taken his MOOC of Search ReSearch. A scholar, scientist, and an expert online searcher, Dr. Russell regards library highly and speaks of librarian with respect. “I have many reasons to use my local library-but perhaps the best is that it’s a place where I always learn something.”
“Reference Librarians. They’re excellent resources of information and a source of research skills. When you go to your public library, be sure to chat with the reference librarians. They are, in essence, professional SearchReseachers. They know all kinds of things that are key to finding information (both online and offline) in places and in ways you might not have thought about.” For full text, read his blog post:
5 reasons you should have a library card
“reference librarians are both incredibly well-informed about the infoverse AND incredibly happy to tell you everything they know in order to make you a better researcher. I like that. I like it a lot–they’re not out to make a dime from every transaction, but they’re genuine saints who want nothing more than to teach you how to do the search on your own and make you self-sufficient.” Full text:
The current status
To keep up with the progress of redefining IL, Keiser’s detailed report on ACRL’s work is rather helpful. (Barbie E. Keiser is an information resources management consultant located in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area.)
Reimagining Information Literacy Competencies
“Change Literacy” and the future libraries
Brian Mathews of Virginia Tech suggests to put “change [as a noun] literacy” into consideration for the ongoing revision of definition of Information Literacy. Change literacy is, describes Mathews, “the ability to anticipate, create, adapt, and deal with change (in the broadest since) [sense, I’d guess] as a vital fluency for people today.” The rationale is “If we treat change as a literary [literacy, I’d guess] then we can better prepare students for the challenges they will face tomorrow.” Despite the somewhat awkward term, Mathews’ view of “change literacy” reflects the evolving concept of literacy. His blog post about it can be viewed at
On a separate topic, a recent essay by the same author, “Librarian as Futurist: Changing the Way Libraries Think about the Future” appears in July 2014 issue of portal. He advocates “What will libraries be in the future? They will become whatever their users need.” His statement, while inspiring, has raised questions: how do we decide user’s actual need (in what scope and at what level(s))? Who decides user’s need (user-initiated or librarian-initiated or both)? These are the issues that deserve to be discussed.
Citation: portal: Libraries and the Academy, Volume 14, Number 3, July 2014 pp. 453-462.