Higher Education Webinars

Library Babel Fish

A college librarian's take on technology

June 28, 2012 - 9:12pm
I just wrote a memo to a group of budget people explaining (again) why it takes library staff with good technical skills, time, and lots of patience to make sure that when you click on a button in a library database to find an article, you actually find the article. Since it’s all online, now, it’s much less work, right? Well ... no. And why that's so is one example of the issues John Palfrey and Urs Gasser address in their new book, Interop: The Promise and Perils of Highly Interconnected Systems.
June 20, 2012 - 1:07am
I am getting a bit obsessed with the news coming from the University of Virginia.  It is frightening, and it’s all too familiar a scenario. A group of political appointees decide to take the very real power they have and use it under the mistaken impression that they must know better than anyone else how to run a university because, well, they’ve been given that power.
June 14, 2012 - 8:53pm
When it comes to publishing, Charles Dickens was half right. It’s the worst of times, and it always has been. But forget what all the pundits say; there is some good news.
June 5, 2012 - 9:05pm
One of the online communities where I lurk and occasionally shove in my oar is a listserv for writing program administrators (which, lucky for me, is inviting even to those who are no such thing). It’s a virtual water cooler where people who teach writing talk about all manner of things. One comment by Doug Downs, who teaches rhetoric and composition at Montana State University, really struck me as containing a key to many of the frustrations that bubble up in libraries.
May 30, 2012 - 9:08pm
I teach a course in the spring called Information Fluency (rather a lame title, but I was suffering from lack of creativity when I submitted the course proposal years ago; maybe I should hold a “name this course” contest). It’s an upper division undergraduate course pitched to students who are planning to go to graduate school, giving them a chance to learn more about the way the literature of their field works as well as generally how to use library and internet tools for research. One of their assignments is to interview a researcher in their field.                                                                                                                                                               
May 22, 2012 - 8:20pm
If you don’t have time to read this entire blog post, here’s the tl;dr version: if you think, as I do, that the investment we make in basic research should be maximized through making that research accessible to all, sign the petition.
May 13, 2012 - 11:21pm
It’s funny. Tuesday night I wrote a blog post addressed to students in a course I teach about why I find Twitter such an indispensable  tool for keeping up with new developments of professional interest. They had fanned out across campus to interview faculty and pretty much determined that I’m a freak. Nobody else used Twitter for keeping up. Last night, I updated that blog post with a good example: before calling it a night, I checked my Twitter feed and learned that a decision had finally been handed down in the GSU case. This is big news.
May 9, 2012 - 10:00pm
There has been a lot of ferment about the future of information and our cultural record in recent weeks. There are signs that within our students' lifetimes our gardens will not be so walled. It makes sense to focus our teaching on the skills of joining scholarly conversations wherever they will take place, in hopes that those conversations will not always be restricted to those with temporary access to academic libraries.
May 2, 2012 - 9:14pm
Last week I felt depressed about how many automated approaches to producing and grading writing were coming on the market and I ended my gloomy thoughts with an exhortation. Think about your assignments that ask students to find sources and write about them. What are you hoping students will learn? Are they learning it? Is there a way to make the whole process less mechanical? I got an email suggesting that it would be useful if I actually tried to answer that question myself. Fair enough. I'll give it a shot.
April 26, 2012 - 9:55pm
The other day, I was nonplussed to read a recap of a study here that found human and robot graders fared equally well in assessing the work of student writers. The robo-graders, according to the study, do as good a job as humans at assessing clarity, sentence structure, and sometimes (but not always) relevant content. While my initial reaction was “huh?” it’s important to note that this study only compared processes for scoring standardized tests. It has nothing at all to do with what happens in the classroom when students are learning to write. In fact, it really has nothing to do with teaching or learning, only testing, and testing the wrong things at that.

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