Wow! I just looked at the date of my last post (besides the one I just posted about Julie Grob’s collaborative work) and more than a month has gone by with no news from me.  Not a surprise at all.

If you haven’t already heard, I ruptured my right calf muscle on July 1playing in a soccer game.  Nothing dramatic at all, as far as how it happened.  I just started to run and SNAP, my calf sprung like a worn-out, old rubber band.  I spent three hours that night in the ER with the only recommendation being to ice, elevate, and take some pain medication (vicodin was not my friend).  There’s nothing the doctor could do for me.  😦  And he felt my pain, considering he had had the same injury once or twice.

So, a week and a half in bed with the summer camp coming down the pike.  I spent some time at home literally crawling on my knees since I hate, hate, hate walking with crutches.  They are exhausting and uncomfortable.  I have to say that I became quite adept using them though, by the time the ordeal was over.  And they provided the perfect guise as we instructed our middle school students to be careful while at the dig site.  I told them that I had twisted my ankle at the site because I fell into one of the holes.  Not one student left camp injured from the dig site.  🙂  In the end, I finally came clean with a few of the students since the story would have seemed absurd to me, considering I was constantly on crutches for the full two weeks (because of a simple sprained ankle?).  A bruised and swollen ankle, due to fluid draining from the calf muscle, lent credibility to the story of my injury.

Physical therapy is working wonders, and a month after the injury (to the day), I am walking without crutches and can place my heel on the ground.  This was a BIG step.  I will see the Sports Medicine Specialist on Tuesday so he can gauge my progress.

I don’t know how I made it through, but the summer camp was a huge success.  Two news crews came to report on the camp and share the story of our students’ amazing discoveries (arrowheads, flakes, and fire-cracked rock from 5,000 years ago!).  The students were able to name the newly found archaeological site – Roc City – a name that will forever be attached to their work.  Any further excavations done within a certain number of miles from Geneseo, NY will be required by law to cite Roc City.  The dig location will be added permanently to a map of New York State.

Following are the news stories (and video) of our students’ camp experience.  I will write more on the many collaborations that took place during the camp in the next few days.

Students at SUNY Geneseo Camp Really Digging Archaeology

Digging History . . . and Making It! (Look for the yellow icon to view the video)

Many more pictures and video to come . . .

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From Julie Grob, Digital Projects and Instruction Librarian, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries.

Like most instruction librarians, I typically teach one-shot classes at faculty request, although my classes focus on the rare books that are held in Special Collections. In the fall of 2006, faculty member Dr. David Mazella, an eighteenth century scholar in the English Department, contacted me with a different kind of instruction request. He was interested in doing more to enhance undergraduate research skills, mirroring the goals of a new Quality Enhancement Plan for the campus called “Discovery-Based Learning: Transforming the Undergraduate Experience through Research.” Dr. Mazella was designing a pilot course that would coalesce around the ideas of inquiry-based learning, undergraduate research, primary source materials, and information literacy. The course would parallel research he was doing for a book project called 1771: A Geography of Feeling. Students would read books from the year 1771 that were related to four key cities – London, Edinburgh, Philadelphia, and Kingston, Jamaica – and then do independent research using rare books and journals to develop their own lines of inquiry related to those texts. Dr. Mazella believed that such a course would require the ongoing contributions of a librarian.

I was eager to take on the challenge of working with Dr. Mazella on the 1771 course, which he would be teaching for the first time in Spring 2008. What was particularly exciting was that I was not being asked just to suggest places where library instruction sessions might be slotted into an existing course, but to help build the information literacy component of the course from the ground up. We decided to schedule four visits to the library during the semester, one in which students would learn database searching skills and three in which they would work on assignments utilizing eighteenth century materials in Special Collections. During the planning period, I combed our existing collection to find relevant materials, and applied to my library for a Micro-Grant that allowed us to purchase $2000.00 worth of rare books and journals geared specifically to the course. I also worked with Dr. Mazella on developing Special Collections assignments, in some cases proposing the actual construction of the assignment. One suggestion I made was that we should create worksheets with questions to be answered that forced students to immediately become involved with the materials, thus reducing their anxiety over handling old and rare items.

Once the course got rolling, the advantages of the faculty/librarian semester-long collaboration model became apparent. For one thing, it offered me the opportunity to do assessment after the first Special Collections instruction session. I posted a link to a SurveyMonkey questionnaire on the courseblog, and received valuable input that I used in planning the next Special Collections visit. Dr. Mazella and I were also able to build on earlier library instruction sessions and plan a more complex assignment for the final visit. Previous Special Collections assignments had required that students examine one item in depth, and conduct research on that item using databases such as MLA, JSTOR, and Project Muse as their homework. But during the final visit, we asked students to identify a keyword in the rare book they were perusing that they could use as a stepping off point for their database searching. One student who was examining the slave autobiography The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, chose the keyword “agriculture” from the text, which led her to an exploration of how Jamaican slaves worked with sugar crops and livestock. By selecting keywords directly from eighteenth century texts, students were able to draw a direct connection between primary source materials, database research, and the development of new lines of inquiry. Both Dr. Mazella and I were pleased with the outcomes of the course, and “1771” will be offered again next spring.

Had lunch with my friend/colleague in Spanish today and we discussed plans to improve upon her SPAN 326: Latin American Civilizations course.  At the top of the list of student comments provided at the end of Fall 2007 . . . KEEP KIM! Both Cristina and I are pleased to see how valuable her students found the embedded library instruction and follow-up as they compiled their final portfolio projects.  A few possible tweaks:

  • Shorten history lessons (in powerpoint format) given during class time with homework assignments (or work time in class) leading students to scholarly articles, books and/or websites that provide answers to a given set of questions.  This approach puts more of the learning in the students’ hands (never teach what students can learn on their own) and would generate more class discussion.  A particular thought is to give students a key article to provide a little context.  Next, students research articles on their own that supplement the original article where specific examples and different points of view can be explored and discussed in class.  Content can be learned independently and through group discussion with the research skills as the vehicle for finding the content.
  • Forewarn students of topics that will be harder than most to locate solid, scholarly materials on.  For instance, Precolumbian to 20th Century history in Latin America involves changing geographic borders, especially if you consider the main civilizations of the Maya and the Aztecs.  It will be difficult for students to locate with 100% certainty where a particular tribe (that perhaps became part of the greater Maya or Aztec) lived when Mexico and Guatemala, for instance, were not their own separate countries with distinct borders.
  • Include required readings that students have to find through their newly acquired research skills, rather than simply linking them in MyCourses (ANGEL).
  • Adjust the timing of when students need to see me (or e-mail me) to have sources verified in conjunction with the timeline for Ellen’s ANTH 229 class.  Last fall, I got bombarded with SPAN and ANTH students needing to meet with me, each on an individual basis, within the same week.  STRESS! Although face-to-face is better, I managed to instruct students with their choice of scholarly materials and citation style almost as easily though e-mail communication.
  • Require verification of sources by attaching a grade to the consultations (whether in person or via e-mail).
  • Include criteria in the portfolio assignment to ensure students are finding a variety of sources on their chosen country, rather than consistently using the same book for the different historical eras.
  • Provide an instruction session at the beginning of the 20th Century section to show students how to access current news stories and websites of grassroot and non-profit organizations, in the Spanish language.

During the course of our conversation, Cristina mentioned to me the growing interest in the Foreign Languages Department for including library instruction in the curriculum, especially where Spanish is concerned.  Within the past year, I have seen an increase in the number of Spanish library sessions I’ve been requested for.

Proof that if you start small and get just one professor interested, word will spread.

My dear friend from the Foreign Languages Department stopped in to see me this morning.  We’ve been friends for a few years now, even before she was working on a tenure-track line, but we began working on a new teaching partnership last summer.  Cristina attended the first conference presentation that Ellen Kintz (ANTH), Tom Cardot (student), and I offered to an audience of teaching faculty (as opposed to preaching to the choir of librarians).  Cristina and I had already taught together in her Spanish classes, for one-shot instruction only.  She was inspired by the triangular model of collaboration, especially as she was gearing up to teach a Latin American Civilization course for the first time in Fall 2007.

We met multiple times last summer to discuss a strategy.  We knew that we wanted to cover maps, books, journals, and the web and plan for a few work sessions throughout the semester as students gathered scholarly materials (primarily in Spanish) on a particular country for a cumulative final portfolio.  Background research would span from pre-colonial times to the present.  The goal was to have students present their country on Culture Day (an idea taken from another dear friend and colleague who is visiting Rochester next week . . . yay!!!!) and students would have the opportunity to bring in food, music, visuals and costume from their studied country.  The plan sounded great – ambitious, but both Cristina and I were very enthusiastic about what we could accomplish.

Since this was a newly developed course, we ran into a few roadblocks.  Despite the aim of having a librarian come into the classroom and teach sessions on each of the areas mentioned above (maps, books, journals, web), time got short and Cristina needed to cover her anticipated content.  After our introductory map/web lesson, my time in the classroom got shortened to about 15 minutes, rather than the expected 45, per session.  Knowing that students were “required” to see me with their chosen sources before adding them to the final portfolio, I wasn’t too worried.  I could always reteach, one-on-one, especially as it related to the specific choices students were making with their research materials.  We now know that the “requirement” needs to better enforced (with extra credit or a participation requirement for the course?) and we need to think smarter about how students will schedule time with me.  I ended up getting somewhat bombarded between the Spanish and Anthropology student needs.

Some of the students’ web choices were appalling, and disheartening, considering the web was actually one of the lessons that was taught in detail.  But practice makes perfect, and from what Cristina tells me, the students ended up doing very well in the course, with their final portfolio, and she has qualitative data to share with me as we forge ahead with modifications for Fall 2008.  I’m looking forward to seeing the students’ comments and brainstorming with Cristina on how we can improve our collaborative teaching.

This process makes me think of Michelle in Oswego who will start working with a theater professor in a similar collaborative manner.  There is no guarantee that a first stab at infusing scholarly research skills into an established course will be a huge success.  Quite the contrary.  Plan ahead as much as you can, but expect the unexpected, work with students as closely as possible, assess, and then tweak.  Ellen Kintz and I tweak ALL THE TIME.  That is really the reason for our Tues/Thurs morning meetings.  Practice makes perfect!  An important tip for anyone starting out in a teaching partnership.

A communication professor and I met earlier this morning  to develop a general set of lesson plans to be used in this summer’s D.I.G. camp.  It was really an amazing experience, working together and seeing how many of the NYS standards our new curriculum, Research & Rhetoric (R&R – formerly C.T.U. for Critical Thinking Unit), hit.  And when you combine our curriculum to that of our teaching partners (Chemistry, Anthropology, Digital Arts, and Math), we really do touch upon all of the intermediate standards as a whole.  The standards addressed in R&R include:

  • English Language Arts, standards 1-4 (Listening & Reading and Speaking & Writing)
  • Social Studies, standards 1-3, 5 (History of US & NY, World History, Geography, and Civics, Citizenship & Government)
  • Math, Science and Technology, standards 2, 5-7 (Information Systems, Engineering Design, Tools, Resources & Technical Processes, Computer Technology, Management of Technology, Systems Thinking, and Strategies)

Meredith and I talked about how, at the college level, we aren’t used to preparing formal lesson plans to guide our teaching practices.  We agreed, however, what a useful tool these completed plans will be when July hits and we start preparing for the students’ arrival on campus.  Where student or novice teachers may begin looking at educational standards and develop lessons and activities around them, we preferred to dive into the lesson planning first and then align our activities to the standards.  From last year’s camp experience, I knew that Meredith and I would work well together, but now that we’ve joined forces, I am thrilled to be brainstorming with her.  Although our current lesson plans are fairly general and will be tweaked as July approaches and while the students are on campus, we have a really good start, including some very specific ideas about how each class will be run.  We agree that ice breaker and self-esteem boosters are essential for the beginning of each class session.  I think Meredith and I make a natural teaching team.

I was expecting to write more of an opening post to my new blog, but considering that I am in the midst of sifting through the NYS standards in order to design lesson plans for the D.I.G. summer program, it seems appropriate that I launch right into librarian-faculty collaboration.  This program has been the epitome of educational collaboration.  Last year, the camp focused on CSI techniques under the premises of a series of fictitious art thefts that happened on SUNY Geneseo’s campus.  Each of the disciplines was dependent on each other, especially in the lessons provided by the Critical Thinking Unit (CTU) – a mixture of sociology, ethnographical and library research, and overall critical thinking.  In the CTU curriculum, students put the pieces of the puzzle together working with interview transcripts, forensic evidence, information found from the web, and tips and additional pieces of evidence left by a secret admirer.  Story boards were used to visually tie the different disciplinary information together in one place.  With this information, a communication professor and a graphic arts specialist worked with the student teams to develop an oral and pictorial presentation to be delivered to a “grand jury.”  Depending on how compelling each team’s case was presented, a panel of three judges ordered an indictment for our four criminals

I never would have been involved in such a fantastic program had it not been for the Sociology professor with whom I had been working in her semester courses.  Because she saw that I was able to weave in research skills to cover the content of her designated lessons, she knew we could work well together to deliver a fun and meaningful curriculum to our middle school students.  You never know what good things will come out of your everyday work responsibilities.

Anyway . . . back to those standards . . . This year’s mystery – an archaeological dig where we hope to find Seneca artifacts – goes even further as far as seamlessly merging academic disciplines.  Archaeology, chemistry, history, math, english language arts, technology, art – each subject will rely heavily on the other in the hope of providing another enriching experience for our young scholars bound for college . . . in about 4 or 5 years.