Monday, June 05, 2006

Haven't posted in a long time...

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I while ago I set a personal goal to post here once a week, but to never post when i didn't really have anything to write about.

I guess I've blown both goals, as my last post was over a month ago, and now I'm writing a content-free entry.

But, it occurred to me that I have stuff to write about--problem is, I've been busy working on the stuff, so I haven't had those free moments when it occurs to me that i should write about the stuff.

So soon enough, I'll come back and write about:
  • my library's attempt at a small-scale usability focus group that fell flat.

  • my library's revisions of our web site despite lack of usability data: how to decide what the user needs/wants when we have little data to look at besides our own erratic observations.

  • integrating Searchpath, the library skills tutorial, into the college's course management system.

  • observations on planning maternity leave in a library

And I might comment on the post I just read that reminded me that I haven't written here in a while but should have: The User Is Not Broken: A meme masquerading as a manifesto (from Free Range Librarian)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

fanfic day on BoingBoing

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Yesterday, the blog BoingBoing (a daily read for me) had not one, but TWO posts about fan fiction. The first was nothing startling, but was eloquently put. The post links to Teresa Nielsen Hayden, an editor at Tor Books, who said:
In a purely literary sense, fanfic doesn’t exist. There is only fiction. Fanfic is a legal category created by the modern system of trademarks and copyrights. Putting that label on a work of fiction says nothing about its quality, its creativity, or the intent of the writer who created it. (link to original)
And then later in the day, someone else chimed in to report that California was named after some 16th century fanfic:
California is named after the island of California, home of Queen Calafia, her beautiful black amazons and their man-eating griffins, as all detailed in Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo's Las Sergas de Esplandian, which was the Sword of Shanarra of its day, a highly unauthorized but popular sequel to the much more highly respected Amadis de Gaul, more The Lord of the Rings of its day. (link to original)
They both stemmed out of the same discussion going on over at the blog Making Light, prompted by a post titled "Fanfic: force of Nature." I might have a new blog feed I need to add to my Bloglines!

Friday, April 21, 2006

there are stupid questions

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It's a sunny Friday afternoon, and I'm catching up on the pile of Chronicle of Higher Educations that have accumulated in my office the past few weeks. (I guess I've been pretty busy?)

The April 7, 2006 Chronicle Review includes a one-page think piece by Maureen Donohue-Smith called "There Is Such a Thing as a Stupid Question." The title kinda grabs you, of course, and I read it because I was curious if the title was facetious or not. It's not.

She makes the point that, indeed, in the classroom, there are stupid questions, like when a student interrupts a lecture to ask how the upcoming paper is supposed to be (when it's printed on the syllabus). But then she gets into the necessity for faculty to teach students how to ask good questions.

This reminded me of the interview for my current job, when I was asked to define information literacy, and I responded (mainly flying by the seat of my pants), it's knowing how to ask good questions. I think I made decent sense of that idea then, but it wasn't something I'd thought out too terribly much yet.

But I think Donohue-Smith and I were getting at the same thing: that students who know how to ask good questions are good learners. They know enough to know what they need to know. They enough about the discipline to know what kinds of questions should be asked.

She gives some concrete suggestions for how faculty can teach students to form good questions, such as:

Require students to ask questions in class. Research on students' attention spans suggests pausing every 15 or 20 minutes to allow students to organize their notes and summarize important points. During those pauses, ask groups of three or four students to think of several significant questions about what they're learning. Have them share the questions with the rest of the class, ask why they consider them important, and ask other students to modify the questions.

This suggestion helps teachers move beyond the simple imperative to ask for questions and wait for a response. It guides students to ask questions, rather than expecting that students already know how to ask questions.

Note: the Chronicle online requires a subscription for access to most of its content, but I *think* this article is one of the free ones.