So, this collaborative effort isn’t so much librarian to teaching faculty, but since we librarians in the SUNY system are considered faculty, I’m going to count this as librarian-faculty collaboration.

Yesterday, I returned from SUNY Potsdam where friends and colleagues within SUNY gather annually for drinks, dancing lessons, drumming circles, kayaking, lots of food, and . . . oh yeah . . . professional development. Despite resistance to attending the conference this year, I am so happy I did. I have forgotten how much I enjoy the SUNYLA conference, but even more, how much I enjoy my friends within SUNY. It’s interesting to me how close colleagues can get when we’re all pretty much doing the same thing (librarianship), but our relationships become so much closer than that. Hello’s and goodbye’s are met with hugs rather than handshakes or waves and conversation over good meals are focused on what’s happening in our personal lives more than what we’re doing professionally. That talk can happen during the presentations. Despite attending the conference without my closest compadres, I had an amazing time and was given the opportunity to get better acquainted with co-workers within my own library and new librarians joining SUNY all over the state. Nothing brings people together like a heated game of foosball. 🙂

The best experience, however, came before the conference. Against all odds, a group of four worked cross state on a 90-minute presentation to be given on Friday the 13th, not once meeting in person. The Membership Enthusiasm Outreach Workgroup (MEOW) did meet once in person last September, but I would say the bulk of the work completed by this group happened online between 4 dedicated librarians that I am fortunate to call friends (excluding myself as the 4th librarian, of course). How did we get the work accomplished? Via phone, e-mail, IM, and the miracle of 2.0. MEOW’s wiki, but more importantly Google Docs, helped us work “as if” we were in the same room. My favorite experience was probably when Nancy and I were simultaneously looking at a google doc, IMing each other as we examined our work, and making instant changes to the document. Nancy told me yesterday that she is now about 1.75 (not quite at the 2.0 level but close!) as a result of this collaborative work, and has even been using some of the tools for personal business.

The other helpful hint is that Gmail can send files of infinite size (or at least bigger than my campus e-mail account can send). That tidbit of info could have helped ease the process of loading my ppts to the LOEX 2008 conference page.

Other google docs allowed the MEOW 4 to maintain a running conversation of thoughts, questions, and suggestions helpful to finalizing our conference presentation. We plan to share these documents with the greater MEOW group, along with suggestions from our audience made during the brainstorming activity of yesterday’s session, before a second in-person meeting. In an effort to get as many of the MEOW members as possible “attending” this meeting, we’ll incorporate a conference call and IM so that those who cannot physically travel can still participate. If we could get Internet2 up and running (demonstrated fantastically during the keynote session of the SUNYLA conference . . . and Geneseo has access to Internet2!), that would be even better, but I’m not so sure we can move that quickly.

The other web 2.0 tool that I’m hooked on is Twitter, thanks to my run-in with Rudibrarian at Computers in Libraries. Being able to take conference notes and write them up later has been a great exercise in reflecting on what I learned at various conference sessions. I love being able to listen to a presentation, takes notes, discuss with Rudibrarian (if she happens to be attending the same session), ask questions of clarification, and even hear Rudy ask those questions aloud. Full circle. 🙂

My final thought on 2.0 for the day is that blogs, wikis, Google docs, etc. have been so instrumental in my work on the RYSAG summer camp. I have been so pleased to serve as the faculty member to lead the planning group in technological collaboration. We are all learning and growing together.

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As I drove into work this morning, I listened to an NPR story about the uranium mining that has been happening in the Navajo Nation, and how it has negatively effected the Nation’s people, for years now. What’s funny is that the name of the Chief/President interviewed instantly rang a bell, before I ever discovered that the report was related to the Navajo. The intro to the story was purely about uranium, in general, or perhaps I just wasn’t listening closely enough yet. Why was that name so familiar? Because I have gone through student-chosen website upon website as a regular assignment in Ellen Kintz’ ANTH 229: Film and Ethnography where his name has come up. The course schedule is divided by different cultural groups that students study by way of documentaries. The Navajo, of course, are one of these groups to be explored. It is a fascinating course (not that I have had much, if any, time to sit in on it when I’m not actually teaching in it) and one in which Ellen and I have been very successful at infusing scholarly research skills. Students are introduced to the Navajo during a time where we are simultaneously focusing on scholarly web skills – searching, evaluating, citing, and annotating. On the first or second day of class, I come in to provide a 75-minute session on web skills that move beyond the typical use of simple Google. After lots of hands-on time in class, students are given periodic assignments (as stated in the course syllabus) to produce short annotated bibliographies (3 sources) on the cultural group being studied, in the scholarly research format that we are practicing (in addition to the web, I teach students scholarly skills for finding books, journal articles, and sometimes multimedia platforms). The goal of these assignments is to have students practice and retain these lifelong search skills while learning more about the culture, beyond what can be taught with limited time in the classroom. The formula and balance of content to skills works extremely well! In a sense, students are learning the course content by using advanced research techniques as the vehicle. As I recently titled a faculty workshop at the University of Buffalo, “Broccoli, Headhunting and the Mayan Universe: Is There a Connection?” I make the analogy of sliding scholarly research skills into the course curriculum and learning goals to make “library stuff” seem more palatable much like parents hide broccoli and other greens under gooey, melty cheese or into sweets like brownies so that kids will eat the vegetables that we know are so good for them yet do not have the appeal of . . . let’s say . . . a hot fudge sundae. 🙂

Anyway, back to the Navajo stuff . . . In the past, I have compiled students’ web “picks” onto a website, but more recently, Ellen and I have developed a wiki where students can progressively post their chosen research sources and I can go in and make comments and suggestions on their annotated bibliographies (not done so well in Fall 2007 due to complete work overload, but a new wiki will begin when ANTH 229 is offered in Fall 2008). An additional benefit to the students’ wiki work is that they continue to learn, from each other in this case, as they tend to catch glimpses of what their classmates have written, with the annotated bibliographies but more so with the class readings and online discussion.

In brief and returning to the NPR story from this morning (boy, I do like to go on tangents!), I think it is amazing how much of the Anthropology taught by Dr. Ellen Kintz I’ve been able to absorb, merely by working with her and her students. I barely ever attend class sessions if I’m not teaching scholarly skills to the students (no time to do so. I wish there was more time for this.). So, all of my education in Anthropology has been gleaned from what work the students provide to me that I then assess and comment upon. Ellen and I have talked about plans for my graduate work in ANTH. I would LOVE to get a Master’s in Anthropology. It’s so funny how this discipline never came onto my radar screen in my undergraduate days (despite my studies in the French language, culture, linguistics, sociology, and international relations, all of which surround Cultural Anthropology). I do need to get serious about putting in an application for a Master’s program at Empire State College. Must look into this today since I know the most recent deadline is coming up.