Library Instruction: No More Lecturing, No More ‘Death by PowerPoint’

How do you ‘connect’ in the classroom? I can remember some of my first library instruction sessions I taught back when I was a newbie librarian. Those sessions were, in a word, boring. It involved “Death by PowerPoint” screen shots of canned searches from the library catalog and databases. The students didn’t even have computers to follow along. They didn’t want to be there, and neither did I.

However, I gradually improved and then became quite comfortable with library instruction. Gone were the PowerPoints of canned searches (hey, it’s actually fun when the librarian fails during live database searches!). I liked asking students for their research topics and using those as search examples. It’s stump-the-librarian time! A new computer lab allowed for more interaction and hands-on training. I also began to diverge from lecturing for a majority of the class time. Turn the students loose, walk around, and conduct mini “research” sessions as you go. I began to see information literacy as my favorite part of the job.

Now when I meet with first-year or introductory courses for library instruction, I start with an activity to help connect with the students, set the stage for what we’re going to cover, and to actually show them that they do possess some of the skills we’re going to use. If I’m remembering correctly, the activity I use was originally posted on the ILI-L discussion list. If you’re the librarian who originally posted it, let me know, so I can give you credit. A co-worker (the awesome Debbie Campbell at Millikin University) and I tweaked it for use in our classes.

Here’s the activity:

On a whiteboard, I write out: Where does information come from? (in general, not just for assignments/class projects)

Students inevitably answer things such as: books, Internet, journals, magazines, newspapers, Google, Facebook, cell phone, TV, people, etc…
We discuss that information comes from a variety of sources.

Then I ask: What do you want your information to be like?

Popular answers are usually: truthful, accurate, authoritative, easy to understand, quick to find, brief (short).
Then I emphasize using authoritative and accurate information. And although it’s nice if the information is “short,” that might not always be the case with the research process. But I point out that we’re here to help them navigate through it!

The last question I ask is: What do you want that information to do for you?

Popular answers include: give me examples, give me ideas, help support my opinion, make my writing better, get me a good grade.
I point out that these are all good examples. Then I make the case that they use the skills of finding and evaluating information everyday (You just showed me up on the board!) and that they just need to take those skills and apply it to the library’s resources.

In total, the activity takes around 5 minutes, but helps get students thinking about the information they use, or are about to use. Then I segue into a demo of the library’s resources applicable to their assignment. I also show them how to get to the LibGuide that I have designed for their class. Don’t throw the kitchen sink at them!  The demo/search examples lasts around 15-20 minutes, and the remainder of the class time is given to the students to do their own research. I supplement the individual research time with a search strategy handout (example I used at SNHU). I rove around the room while the students do their research and complete the handout.

I’d be interested in hearing from other library people on what they like to do in library instruction sessions!

Where does information come from?

Brainstorming with students

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23 thoughts on “Library Instruction: No More Lecturing, No More ‘Death by PowerPoint’

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Library Instruction: No More Lecturing, No More ‘Death by PowerPoint’ « Mr. Library Dude -- Topsy.com

  2. Good questions to ask and I will be trying this in classes this semester. I like that it’s a quick way to get them thinking about why they might need to pay attention during the rest of the class! I also like that it’s very quick to do–important in those 50 or 65 minute one-shot classes.

  3. Great questions and suggestions to engage the students. I just used these in a class and expanded on them to ask them What is a Library? Why would the come to the Library? and What are their expectations of the library? Initially, the students were going to Tweet the answers (experimenting with Twitter in the classroom) but of course there were problems setting up Twitter accounts, so we just did it the old fashioned way. The questions/answers resulted in fewer looks of boredom…for at least a few minutes anyway! Thank you.

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  15. Mr. Library Dude, I really liked your search strategy handout. Would you mind if we used your handout as a basis for our own at Kennesaw State University?

  16. Great idea. Thanks for sharing, I am going to try this in my next session.

  17. Would it be okay if I adapted your handout for my sessions at Northern VA Community College? Thank you!

  18. May I adapt your handout for our library instruction sessions? thanks!

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