Getting Personal

I thought this week would be a break from instruction, but I keep getting booked to teach classes! I did a short session today and yesterday for a speech class and they were a nice change of pace. The English orientations I’ve been doing are very similar to the ACA classes so I was starting to feel a bit disconnected from the material. The instructor for the speech class really wanted to focus on evaluating and choosing sources. I made a simple web checklist that students can fill in and print out to show that they’ve spent time evaluating a website using the CRAP test, and this instructor is going to require that students submit it for any web source they use. I’m hoping more instructors do this!

I handed out a CRAP test to each student and then took them through an evaluation using a Google search for “Martin Luther King”. One of the top results of the search is (I don’t want to actually link to it, thus no http, you’ll understand why in a second). This site is actually run by an organization called Stormfront which is a White Supremacist organization, but it looks fairly legitimate at first glance. I love seeing the student’s expressions change when they realize who made the site. I think this example helps to show how seriously they need to take source evaluation. After we did that I showed them two of our databases that would have content for their speeches and tried to beat them over the head with the idea that using library databases makes it easier on them in the end. I seemed to get a good reception from them.

Tomorrow I’m teaching a Humanities class doing an in depth examination of a subculture. They have to write a paper and eventually produce a short film on their subculture. Again, something different from the norm, and I’m excited to work with them. The instructor really wants them to look at stereotyping in their subcultures and I think I’m going to use the GLBT community as my example and look for articles on how the community has tried to reclaim words like queer and dyke and incorporate these into their identity. This brings me to my next point, which is a blog post I read today about using personal stories to enhance instruction.

I don’t make any secret of the fact that I’m queer, but I don’t necessarily advertise it in this small, rural, Southern community. However, knowing this instructor and the students likely to be in this class, I feel comfortable using a GLBT topic and I think this will help the students relate to me. The blog post is from a librarian at a nearby community college, and her example was intriguing because she used storytelling in a one shot, which is all I ever get to teach. I’ve been thinking about how I can do more of this, and it doesn’t always make sense given my time constraints and the fact that I’m usually teaching very generic classes. I did realize that I already add a bit of personalization to my teaching by telling students stories of how I helped other students, and using their queries as examples. I’ve noticed that when I start talking about the catalog by saying “Just the other day I was helping a student with his English paper on xyz topic, and…”. I think it helps them understand that the library and their librarians are here to help them, and that we don’t expect them to have the skills and knowledge to search for resources on their own. I hope I can find ways to personalize all of my instruction sessions, even if it’s a simple as using an example like this.



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