Buzzfeed & Facebook in Infolit Sessions: Connecting What Students Use to Library Research

I try to do all the right information literacy “stuff”: active learning, hands-on work, positive attitude, etc… I also make sure I’m prepped for class at least a day before. Yesterday, I decided to throw my lesson plan in the garbage.

The professor emailed me late: Students have been gathering sources from Facebook and blogs and not evaluating what they find. Probably not a big shock to most librarians, but the professor was concerned.

The assignment:
Two sections of an introductory 100-level psychology course work in groups to gather five scholarly, empirical research articles on a topic. The group writes a review of the articles and posts it on a course website.

A new lesson plan:
Why go right to the databases? Instead, start where students are most comfortable and then transition them to more authoritative sources. I can talk until I’m blue in the face about databases, but most of our students (at this point) don’t see the connection between everyday life and academic research.

I decide to comb Facebook, Buzzfeed, and Huffington Post to find articles that had a psychological theme–something students might come across while using social media. I jokingly tweeted:

Luckily, awesome Twitter library folks like @SJLeeman and @dupuisj chimed in with some examples they had:

Now I had a plan!

Dividing the class in to groups, I gave each group a popular topic relating to psychology:

1. Huffington Post article:
Hungry? Maybe Don’t Go Shopping: Academic research shows that people who are hungry purchase both food and non-food items at a higher rate than people who are not hungry.

2. Buzzfeed article:
Watch Six Pairs Stare in to Each Others’ Eyes as Love Experiment (also had a cute video which I showed a portion of in class): Academic research shows that staring into your partner’s eyes can increase intimacy levels.

3. A post that was popular on Facebook, shared by @SJLeeman:
Half of All Children Will Be Autistic by 2025: research by a MIT scientist.

Activity
Sharing the links with the class, I asked each group to read over the articles to become acquainted with the topic. Then I told them to see if they could locate the original research, starting with Google–something they are all familiar with. I stopped by each group to ask them questions and point them in the right direction. We concluded by having each group share what they found with the rest of the class.

For the Huffington Post article:
Students found that names of the original researchers mentioned, but they did not have a title of the original study or a link to it. An initial Google search didn’t find anything useful. Good segue into library databases.

For the Buzzfeed article:
Students found that it mentioned a replication of the academic study in The New York Times. The NYT article had the original researcher’s name, plus a link to the scholarly article. Clicking on the link to the article showed the students that access to it was provided by our library.

For the Facebook post on autism:
Students reported that the headline sounded shocking. They also said they were likely to trust an “expert” at an academic institution. Students found the original researcher’s name and Googled the person only to find that she’s controversial in the scientific community and not trained in the biological/medical field. Students also questioned if the organization that had the post about autism might be biased. They noticed other things on the website, including that vaccines may be “ineffective” or unsafe.

The Takeaways
1. Every day we read, see, or hear about things that involve academic research–on almost any topic imaginable. We just have to do a little digging to get to that research.

2. Google and the general web is great as a starting point, but it shouldn’t be your ending point.

3. The blog posts and websites you find generally won’t be considered “academic” by your professors. You’re going to need to track down the original psychological studies.

4. You need to carefully evaluate the information you find on these sites. I mentioned the “CRAAP” test (currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, point of view).

5. The library has databases to locate the original studies (e.g., PsycINFO). You can search by keyword, by article title, or by a particular author, etc… if you have that bit of info. In addition, only a couple of students in each section reported using Google Scholar before–so I made sure to mention that as an alternative tool to keep in your research “wheelhouse.”

6. We were able to look at the original empirical research article from the Buzzfeed example. Students were able to identify the basic set-up (e.g., abstract, methods, results, references, etc…). This was important as this is the type of scholarly article that students need to find for their project.

From there, we transitioned to the library’s resources: A quick demo of PsycINFO (and some of the other psychology resources) and how to formulate a search strategy: An active learning whiteboard activity where students take a psychology research question (such as from the examples above) and identity the keywords and brainstorm synonyms.

Following that, there was plenty of time for students to do searching in PsycINFO and other relevant sources to gather citations for their group project.

Further Reading:

 

Librarian Personality Types, sans Legos: A Look at Real Colors and StrengthsQuest

My satirical look at librarian stereotypes and personalities using Legos got me thinking about the real thing.

Last week, the division I work in at the university (Information Services: library, academic technology, management information systems, infrastructure & networking, user support, and web services–some 50+ employees) held a staff retreat. Normally, I’m not big on staff retreats. If there are roleplaying games, “trust” falls, or kumbaya songs, I immediately tune out. You’ll see why in a bit.

To get us thinking about our work environment, strengths, and how we interact with co-workers, a facilitator was brought in to administer the Real Colors personality assessment. Real Colors takes the 16 personality types from the Myers-Briggs test and boils it down to four temperaments. Each is assigned a color: gold, blue, green, and orange.

What’s Your Color?

In finding your color, you first examine a series of pictures assigned to each color. After that, you read textual descriptions of the colors, and wrap-up by answering 10 multiple choice questions. You receive a score for each color, ranging from the low teens to mid-40s. The higher the number, the more dominant you are in that color. This is a copyrighted test, so I can’t provide all of the details, but here are some takeaways:

What do the colors mean and how are they applicable to librarians?

Gold: practical, well-organized, punctual, rules, authority, uncomfortable with change. To me, this screams cataloger or circulation worker: where rules and authority are key.

Blue: insightful, caring, compassionate, patient, loves to talk, avoids conflict. I could see many children’s librarians and some instruction librarians filling this category.

Green: curious/asks questions, independent, research-oriented, logical, questions authority, avoids discussing feelings. Reference librarian, anyone?

Orange: competitive, performer, enthusiastic, rule breaker, bored easily. Typified by entrepreneurs. So maybe some forward-thinking library directors belong to this category? It tends to be a small group for our field.

Many of my co-workers scored 40+ in one particular color and teens for their lowest color. A few of us, like me, didn’t have such a wide spread. I came out to:

Green 38 / Blue 32 / Gold 27 / Orange 23 – I’m choosing to read this as an adaptable person who can work well with people of all color types.

After scoring, we were then placed into groups according to our color and examined the meanings more closely. Here’s where I realized that a green personality like myself dislikes group work and staff retreats: greens are independent! (although I do consider myself a team player).

The facilitator asked our groups questions like, “How do you organize your sock drawer?” Many of the gold personalities (being organized) arranged socks by color or type (sounds like a cataloger!), while some orange personalities (rule breakers) didn’t even have a sock drawer at all–or did not care.

In another example, the facilitator asked: “If a friend asked you for advice in buying a camera, what would you say?” The green group (reference librarians!) basically treated it as a reference interview: What kinds of things do you want to do with your camera? How much are you looking to spend? Have you seen the Consumer Reports? – all hallmarks of a green personality.

Approach with Caution

Because this test boils down personality types to just four colors, it’s important to remember that although you may be dominant in one category, everyone possesses qualities of each category. Case in point, the facilitator asked me: “What would you do if you won the Powerball or MegaMillions lottery?”

My response:

I would quit my job on the spot!

Now I like my job and my place of work, but a typical green personality response would be to look at all of your options and to invest the money wisely. Evidently, a little of my orange personality seeped into my response: life is too short, do the things you want to do if you have the money to do it! Being Mr. Library Dude is good, but being Mr. Lottery Winner sounds better. :)

Discussion wrapped up with how we can communicate better with people of different personality types. This is key. It’s not “bad” to be a certain color: we all have strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has something to bring to the table. Understanding how people think and feel is important.

Focusing on Your Strengths

I think a lot of people can be turned off by personality tests because of negative qualities that might be assigned to their personality type. There’s also the risk of being pigeon-holed as a particular type of person. One test that goes in the opposite direction is StrengthsQuest/StrengthsFinder, from Gallup.

After taking a series a multiple choice questions, this survey instrument identifies your top five strengths from among 30+ categories. I did this test with my department colleagues to see how our skills complement each other. Here’s a look at my top five categories as an example:

  • Adaptability: go with the flow attitude
  • Input: likes to collect and archive information (sounds like a librarian to me!)
  • Empathy: is able to sense the feelings of others
  • Individualization: can figure out how people who are different can work together productively
  • Consistency: keen sense of treating everyone the same

What’s nice about StrengthsQuest or StrengthsFinder is that it also generates an “action plan” that highlights how you stand out, plus questions that you might want to ask yourself to help maximize your strengths. This test is great to do in large departments. If you work in an academic library, this might be a tool to use with your student employees to highlight their strengths and to help them develop their skills.

So if you’re thinking of doing a personality test for your library, give Real Colors or StrengthsQuest/StrengthsFinder a try. Of course, being a green personality type: I researched the issue and gave you a couple options to try. That’s the reference librarian in me.