Immersion: My teaching presentation

In my request for travel support to attend the Association of College & Research Libraries Immersion ’12 Teacher Track Program, I pledged to blog about my participation in Immersion. To read more about my Immersion experience, check out my posts tagged immersion or my Immersion tweets.

Before the Immersion program began, I selected an instructional scenario to use as a focus throughout the program. I was also asked to select a 5-minute segment of the class I would be teaching to students in my instructional scenario, and on Wednesday, teach and be assessed by the members of my small group. The goal of the presentation is for Immersion participants “to have an experience that assists [us] in developing more effective presentation techniques, to provide an opportunity to practice methods discussed in the curricular session, and to experience one device for assessing effective presentations… the idea is to give [us] the experience, as well as model a process from which to work and to explore tools for doing this when [we] return home.” Those whose scenarios described learning objects (workshops, tutorials, etc.), were asked to prepare a presentation for a student audience describing the learning object. The presentation could not be supported by any form of technology, although we were allowed to develop a handout.

The focus of my original instructional scenario was a LibGuide, the UA LibGuides Author Guide.  However, after I arrived at Immersion, I realized the scope of my original scenario was too broad; in order to best apply the Immersion program content, I needed to select a single element on which to focus during the week. I decided to make reusable content in LibGuides the focus of my scenario, and I selected a segment of a face-to-face training session on reusable content in LibGuides to teach at Immersion. While most of the Immersion program content can be applied to learning objects, I wanted my instructional presentation to reflect “a segment of the class [I] would be teaching to students,” not a description of a learning object, so the shift made sense.

I opened my presentation by asking students (were I to actually teach this class, the students would be my colleagues) to close their eyes, climb aboard a time machine with me, and travel back in time to when the Libraries adopted the Ebsco Discovery Service. I asked them to think back to all the work they had to do to reflect the change in their LibGuides: changing the name of the system in all their guides, editing dozens of URLs, replacing screenshots, pasting the code for the updated search widget over and over, etc..

I then asked them to open their eyes and take a moment to think about how they felt about having to do all that work. Was it tedious? Repetitive? Were they still finding information about and links to the AquaBrowser tool in their guides?

I related the session to previous instruction (“before the break, we talked about the ‘hierarchy of reusability’ and why one might want to reuse content in LibGuides”) and laid out the outcomes for the session: “we’ll talk specifically about one type of reusable content- boxes- and the difference between linking and copying, and you’ll have a chance to practice both. By the time you leave today, you’ll be able to determine when you should link and when you should copy and feel confident in your ability to do both.”

I then mimed a demonstration of the system dialog box that appears when an LibGuides author reuses a box and described the difference between linked and copied boxes. We then did an activity in which I distributed index cards representing LibGuides boxes and asked students to “reuse my content” by duplicating a smiley face I had drawn on my card. I told half the class they had linked to my box and the other half that they had copied it, then drew a top hat on my smiley face. I asked the students to reflect the changes, if any, that should happen to their box content, depending on whether they had linked to or made a copy of my box.

Some of the students drew a top hat on their smiley face, and others didn’t. I asked a couple of students to hold up their cards and explain what they had drawn and why, underscoring that those who linked to my box had established a connection between the two while those who copied it had not.

The feedback I received was very helpful. In their comments, people were most complimentary of my vocal delivery (pace and pitch) and learner engagement (questioning, eye contact, etc.). Three members of my group spoke positively about the the “attention getter” at the beginning of the session (asking students to close their eyes and travel back in time). That feedback was particularly useful, as I had added the introductory activity after reading Bain, who wrote, “Teachers succeed in grabbing students’ attention by beginning a lecture with a provocative question or problem that raises issues in ways that students had never thought about before, or by using stimulating case studies or goal-based scenarios” (109-110). It was also an attempt to meet the needs of those who prefer to learn by feeling and imagining, something I realized I could do a better job with after Tuesday’s discussion of learning styles (FWIW, I prefer universal design, not learning styles, as an instructional framework).

The feedback also indicated I need to pay attention to my use of speech fillers. Several people noted my overuse of “okay.” I’ll try to do better, okay? 🙂

My teaching hasn’t been formally evaluated by a peer since I was in college, so I really appreciated having the opportunity to receive constructive criticism from my peers. Watching others teach provided some ideas for things to try in my classroom, and it made me feel more confident in my ability as a teacher (I expected everyone except me to get up and give rock star, TED Talk-style presentations while I floundered, which wasn’t the case). In my library, instruction librarians traditionally haven’t been in each other’s classrooms very much. More important than the reasons why this used to be the case is the sense that this is starting to change, and we are becoming more collaborative and receptive to each other’s suggestions and presence.