Notes from NELIG 2011

Among other conferences that I attended for the first time this year was the New England Library Instruction Group (NELIG) annual meeting.  Like the ACRL-NEC conference, this year’s NELIG focused on creativity.  I was also honored to give a presentation during the afternoon breakout session with a colleague from Dartmouth College.  Here are my notes from the sessions.

Keynote

The Creative Dynamic of Information Literacy
Randy Hensley, Head of Instruction, Baruch College, City University of New York

Ways to get into a creative mode of thinking:

  • Start from an unusual place (e.g. open a presentation by singing, as Hensley did for this session)
  • Solve a problem (don’t forget to wait the audience out after introducing the problem; give them time to work it out)
  • Visualization/Sensory process (e.g. What does the problem sound, smell, taste, and feel like?)

In the American system of education children begin with right brain activity (creativity, play); left brain becomes emphasized in elementary school through high school, so that by the time students are in college they do not do creativity as easily.

Being creative does not ‘just happen’ but must be cultivated and practiced.  Research suggests that emotions and visualizations can help us access the creative part of the brain.  Creativity is an active engagement of processes that take us to our senses. Then we can begin thinking in more abstract ways.

Modalities

  • Experience/Direct Involvement – we understand the world because we’ve had experience
  • Observation/Sensory Awareness – watching an experience and gaining knowledge
  • Authority/Observation of others – taking the word of others (experts)
  • Reflection/Integration with Analysis – take information from the other modalities and integrate them into another process

Daniel Pink – writes about the changing nature of work, the “Conceptual Age” (A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future; Entrepreneurial Nation)

Hensley showed a video about the wearable interface from MIT: make phone calls, take photos, find out information about an item just by looking at it (i.e. book reviews while browsing at a bookstore), manipulate an augmented reality environment using hand gestures.  The technology is an example of using information sources we have already and putting them in an organic, mobile interface that better integrates the information into the flow of our lives.

This device fits with Pink’s model of the Conceptual Age, in which intrinsic motivation is the key; high concept (artistic and emotional beauty); create a satisfying narrative (gives context and flow); combine unrelated ideas into a novel invention; and high touch (empathize, humanize the work, subtleties of interaction (collaborative learning is a prelude); stretching beyond the commonplace to attain meaning (i.e. lifelong learning).

Daniel Pink’s Model for Working Creatively
(Can this be applied to instructional design?  What would it look like?)

  1. Design – Beautiful, whimsical, emotionally engaging form, not just information and data
  2. Story – (our students have their own stories and they are trying to make meaning out of their classroom experiences)  Our efforts should have a story that is connected to the stories of others.  What is the thing that I’m creating for the students and how does it connect with what they are creating for themselves and their classes?
  3. Symphony – Components that work together, things we create that go together in a holistic way.
  4. Empathy – Introduce yourself in the class session as someone they can contact after the session.  (Not – “go ask at that place” – Come and ask ME.)  Wait – why would the students actually want to ask me anything?  Finding a design for sessions that helps students want to do something different, something beyond their expectations.
  5. Play – Adults give themselves permission to be creative. “Play doesn’t matter – it’s just play, just for fun”.  Encourages risk taking.
  6. Meaning – Intrinsic meaning is key. What is the point of the exercise/activity/experience for the participants?

Group Exercise: Apply these concepts to a library instruction session
Problem: Students think they already know how to search and that the instruction session is going to be a waste of time.
Challenge: WOW and engage the class.

Design – Have students work together and with the librarian to fill in a diagram about search techniques. Ask them how they search now, what they already know; have them demonstrate the process they use.  Students are empowered; engaged in a conversation with the instructor and each other.

Change our own instructional expectations and adjust them. How much SHOULD students care? They have their own pressures, stories, etc. Recognize where they are coming from and their existing approach to the assignment or the session.

Story – What does your professor do when they do research?  What do they do when they’re outside the classroom?  You are learning and developing skills and participating in the scholarly conversation.  Tell the students:  “Cite sources that will make you look good, that will let people know you know what you’re talking about, take you seriously.  You’re not just writing a paper for class, part of the scholarly activity; your work can be on the internet, not just in your professor’s hands.”

Concluding thoughts:
When we are being creative for others it is easier; when we try to be creative for ourselves we get constipated.

See also: Alane Starko Creativity in the Classroom
Key concepts: Fluency, Flexibility, Originality, Elaboration

Breakout Session 1

Using Technology (the Video Production Process) in the Service of Learning
Mitchell Shuldman, Librarian and Head, Division of Media Services, University of Massachusetts Lowell

The stages of video production directly complement information literacy and also parallels the stages of Engagement Theory proposed by Kearsley & Scneiderman, 1998.

Pre-Production (relate); Production (relate/create); Post-Production (relate, create, donate)
Relate: learning occurs in a social context
Create: Hands-on and project-based
Donate: The project has an “authentic” outside of the classroom (focus on problems that have impact in the real world)

The video production process engages multiple literacies & skills:  Learning & innovation; life and careers skills; information, media and technology skills

Video Production as an Idea Technology
Example 1: Students in the Introduction to Health Promotion produced a video for the Lowell Department of Public Health that is shown and used regularly.

Example 2:  Students in the Principles of Ecology course created video research projects on topics not covered in class; students had to research their topic, locate appropriate video and images, and write the scripts based on their own knowledge.  The faculty member approached the assignment with the idea that scientists don’t present science to the general public well; how can these videos help solve that problem?

Breakout Session 2
Engaging Students’ Creativity with Media Resources & Assignments
Sarah Tischer Scully, Media Services Librarian, Dartmouth College
Susan Simon, Media Learning Technologist, Dartmouth College

Our presentation seemed to be well-received, with a number of good comments and questions both during and after the session. Participants were excited by the number of free tools available for media source material as well as applications that are easy to use for the novice multimedia producer. We also showcased sample assignments and completed projects, available on the Dartmouth Video Projects site.

We encourage anyone to use, copy, and contribute additional resources and tools to the Multimedia Research Guide from Dartmouth College Library.

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