Flipping the Library Classroom

There has been quite a bit of online chatter recently, (and increasingly so in the LIS field) about the concept

of flipping the classroom. A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education really outlines the premise of the idea.

Students cannot passively receive material in class… Instead they gather the information largely outside of class… [W]hen they are in class, students do what is typically thought to be homework, solving problems with their professors or peers, and applying what they learn to new contexts.
(Berrett, Feb 19th 2012, CHE).

According to the article, one of the most important features of the flipped classroom is that the teacher can correct any student misconceptions at a crucial point in the learning process (and not while students are participating in graded summative assessment).

The infographic on the right by Knewton illustrates the concept very well. (Click to go to source)

Some articles and posts on flipped classrooms have emphasised the importance of, and opportunity for, online videos and other multimedia learning objects. Here’s one such post.

And inevitably, we find ourselves asking if we can flip our library classroom. I especially like some of the questions that Donna Watt asks in her post, Flipped classrooms as an activator for library thinking. Essentially, she talks about the librarian breaking beyond the library walls, and sees the potential for greater outreach. The most recent post in the Association of College and Research Libraries Blog, ACRLog asks specifically if we can flip our IL sessions, particularly, as they point out, when a lot of them are one-shot: Can we Flip the Library Classroom?

For me, the part that most appeals about flipping the classroom is as Berrett suggests; being able to identify and correct students misconceptions. We know that students (particularly higher level students) assume they have little to learn from IL library sessions. We also know that these very same students actually need much more help and direction than they realise. I think flipping the classroom can help bridge this gap.

Sure, we can design and develop a host of reusable online learning objects that the students may or may not refer to before they head into a flipped library classroom. But by far they best thing that students can bring into the flipped classroom is their IL experience. Their bad habits. Their coping mechanisms. I think students build information literacy coping mechanisms, particularly as their undergraduate (and maybe postgraduate) careers progress. By flipping the classroom and asking students to solve IL problems, we engage them in the process of their information literacy habits. When we’re there with them as the facilitator, we can expose them to their shortfalls, and guide them to overcoming these. In the flipped classroom, the process of information literacy is so much more important than the product of information literacy. (I’ve said this before, and will again).

Flipping the library classroom? I think I’m already doing it, in many ways.


An MLIS Degree in 50 minutes: who are we trying to kid?

This tweet today by Aaron Tay made me giggle:


And instantly it reminded me of a couple of things that came up in LILAC.

Was it Megan Oakleaf who said something like our IL sessions can feel a bit like an attempt to give our students a MLIS degree in 50 minutes? (I think it was Megan. If not, someone correct me, please).

And again, in Janet Cottrell and Sarah Faye Cohen’s talk on real-deal information literacy, they posed the question: why do we ‘do’ information literacy? Is it to create mini-librarians? Is it to (try) teaching them everything we know about libraries? Or is it to teach them about information, so that our students can become real life-long learners?

I keep having to remind myself of this every time we look at our IL material. Especially with first years, right in the door, first two weeks of the first term. Who are we trying to kid? Boolean operators? Sometimes I feel they can barely grasp the concept of a database, never mind how to search one.

Of course Boolean operators are important. And everything else that goes hand-in-hand with our notion of perfect information literacy. But sometimes we need to ask; who are we trying to kid?