Thursday, April 29, 2010

What I Did During Spring Semester

It has been pretty evident that the second semester of my doctoral program has kept me quiet on the social media front, including this blog. What little spare time I had this semester was focused on two pretty intense courses. In the theory seminar, I read and commented on the learning theories of a few dozen authors (Bruner, Rogers, Vygotsky, Skinner, and so forth). Some students in the program affectionately call this course the "Book of the Week Club." As I look at the shelf filled with this semester's books, this is not an exaggeration.

This semester's other class focused on research foundations for the field. One of the final projects was a major literature review which could ideally become part of a dissertation proposal. Initially I had planned to write about the use of synchronous electronic communication in an in-person classroom (text messaging, chatting, Twittering, or other backchannel communication as part of the class), but I found few research studies which analyzed the impact (or not) of these technologies on learning. I did uncover some skepticism about the effectiveness of these tools if you consider cognitive load theory and the ability to multitask effectively. As an occasional backchannel participant at a conference, I sometimes find myself distracted from the speaker as I follow and participate in the online discussion. So it is an interesting question--would the use of these tools in the in-person classroom help a student learn (through ease of asking questions, community building, finding additional links and information, etc.) or would it pose as a distraction?

I ended up writing about the use of audience response systems in the in person classroom (aka clickers). This is more of an old-school technology, generally presented asynchronously to the lecture, and the choices are fairly limited (A, B, C, or D for example). There is however a wealth of research literature out there on this technology: 3.7 pounds worth if you are curious. These systems are evolving to offer more options beyond objective measures, and the keypad notion is gradually being replaced with smartphone or laptop applications. I see a lot of opportunities with using these systems in the future, even in the library instruction environment.

That brings me to what I'll be doing this summer--writing a literature review examining the use of interactive technologies in library instruction. I'll also be working on an internship project to update my English LibGuide and related tutorials using instructional design methodology. Hopefully you'll be hearing more from me over the summer, but I suspect these projects along with everything else will keep me pretty busy.

So what's with the photos in this post? The research seminar met in a model classroom, so we were treated to various elementary school science projects, dioramas, and posters throughout the semester. The neatly printed signs around the room were amusing: "This is a door." After some of our hefty discussions, it was good to be reminded.

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