Higher Education Webinars

Library Babel Fish

A college librarian's take on technology

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.
April 19, 2012 - 8:48pm
The Supremes have agreed to hear a case that has some troubling implications for libraries. Kirtsaeng v. Wiley is not just about textbooks. It’s about whether any work that is copyrighted and produced outside the United States can be legally loaned or resold in the U.S. without the copyright owner’s permission. We’re talking about the First Sale Doctrine, which is how libraries get away with our profligate sharing.
April 11, 2012 - 8:55pm
A colleague and I are interested in finding out more about how students use library books before we invest a lot of money in ebook collections. Given the unsettled state of the ebook market, there's no telling where we're all headed.
April 2, 2012 - 9:45pm
The bizarrely ill-informed opinion piece by David Levy, “Do College Teachers Work Hard Enough?” in the Washington Post caused a lot of predictable outrage among college teachers. I was reminded of it when I read a new essay by Steve Coffman, "The Decline and Fall of the Library Empire." 
March 29, 2012 - 8:53pm
Last week I was so inspired by John Duffy’s essay, “Virtuous Arguments,” that I sent it to the director of our first term seminar program, thinking it would be worth discussion among the faculty who teach this course. I try not to do this too often; the poor man is busy, and I could easily fill his inbox regularly with advice he doesn’t need. But I was particularly taken with Duffy’s notion that what we really are teaching when we teach first semester writers is how to make an ethical argument. This idea resonated with me because I think the most important thing students can learn by using a library is how to go about making up their minds - or changing the minds of other people - in an ethical manner.  And yet, I’m not sure how well we actually convey that when we help students learn research skills.
March 19, 2012 - 9:05pm
When I listened to Mike Daisey’s monologue on This American Life about the Foxconn factory where Apple iPads are made, I thought about assigning the podcast to students in a research class I’m teaching. It struck me that it would be a good way to consider the environmental and social issues that we tend to ignore when we think about the technology tools we use every day, tools that are essential for research. As it turned out, I didn’t assign it – and was relieved I hadn’t when Twitter lit up with the news that This American Life was retracting the story
March 13, 2012 - 9:50pm
It was a good day in class. We’ve reached the end of the “here’s how things get published and how libraries deal with all those publications” section of the course (a semester long workshop on how information works) by tying off a couple of loose ends. We visited the college archives to get a sense of how archivist organize things and what researchers might get out of using archival materials. Then we took a quick cruise through the reference section, with a special focus on specialized encyclopedias.
March 8, 2012 - 9:56pm
I keep thinking about a couple of blog posts Miriam Posner wrote on gender and digital humanities, particularly on the male privilege that invisibly influences the value surrounding learning to code and the cultural exchanges that will determine who feels comfortable in geek culture.My field, librarianship, is a shot through with contradictions, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that it has long been perceived as a women’s profession.
March 1, 2012 - 8:55pm
Some random observations on the economics of digital information
February 24, 2012 - 3:10am
In my circles, the answer to this question is fairly obvious. But as I was trying to explain to undergraduates how messed up scholarly publishing is, I realized it's hard to grasp unless you already have been bruised by current practices. When you're just learning how information works and have only gotten as far as "you ought to use scholarly sources," it's very puzzling indeed. So I thought I'd try to break it down.

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