How I coped with being #LOEXleftbehind, with a side of Critical Business Info Lit

sunset over river in Pittsburgh, LOEX 2016

There are so many library conferences each year, from local events to ALA Annual. Even should someone have the resources to attend each one, there would not be enough time! The sheer number combined with limited support or funding makes attending many, or any, conferences difficult for a large number of folks in library land. While I am fortunate to receive professional development funding from my institution, I still must choose my conferences carefully. This means there inevitably are events that I cannot attend.

Therefore, I lurk on Twitter. Following a conference hashtag is as close to being there as possible, thanks to the presenters and attendees who take the time to live-tweet sessions, share links to materials, and post their thoughts throughout the conference. Thanks to a tip from a colleague, I have learned to use TweetDeck to follow multiple hashtags or accounts at once. This is especially helpful when presenters have a hashtag in addition to the conference hashtag.

(For those unfamiliar: TweetDeck organizes tweets into columns across your browser. The columns show tweets based on the search you choose, such as a specific hashtag or Twitter user. Recently, my TweetDeck had columns for my feed, #LOEX2019, and the hashtag for a webinar I was watching.)

Following #LOEX2019

I spent two days in May keeping up with #LOEX2019, an annual conference covering all things library instruction. I had great experiences the two years I attended, and I even presented a poster one year. I have hopes of attending again someday, especially since teaching and learning is my professional happy place.

There were a few patterns to conference tweeting that I noticed. Some attendees committed to live-tweeting a session, threading their tweets and quoting or paraphrasing as much content as possible. Other tweet threads read more like a highlight reel and perhaps contained additional commentary, resources, or analysis. Many attendees linked out to presenters’ slides and session handouts as available.

I read the majority of tweet threads and opened so many browser tabs that it took another day to go through them all! I made a doc to organize tweets, online session materials, and any other relevant links. It is very rough, loosely organized by presentation title, but you can see it here.

I collected resources for about a dozen sessions that I found interesting during my tweet-gathering. I paid special attention to presentations on new-to-me ways to evaluate information. I plan to spend time going deeper into these topics and thinking about how I can incorporate new strategies into my practice. Later this year, I’ll write about any strategies I try and how it goes.

Presentations on Evaluating Information

I’m always looking for better ways to teach critical evaluation of information. Two presentations in particular offer intriguing possibilities.

1. “Combating Digital Polarization: Teaching Undergraduates Web Literacy Using ‘Four Moves and a Habit’” was presented by Yan He and Polly Boruff-Jones from Indiana University Kokomo. He and Boruff-Jones are part of their campus’s team in Digital Polarization Initiative from the American Association of State Colleges & Universities, American Democracy Project (from their presentation slides).

From their presentation and tweets from attendees, I learned about “Four Moves and a Habit” as a structured technique for evaluating information on the web.

Four moves and a habit. The habit check your emotions. Move 1 check for previous work. Move 2 go upstream to the source. Move 3 read laterally. Move 4 circle back.
see https://webliteracy.pressbooks.com/chapter/four-strategies/ for text-only

Check out these resources to learn more:

  • Download He and Boruff-Jones’ presentation slides here.
  • Visit the ‘Hapgood’ blog from Mike Caulfield, head of the Digital Polarization Initiative of the American Democracy Project (in which He and Boruff-Jones participate). I especially like this post about how Four Moves has evolved, and introduces the acronym SIFT.
  • The Four Moves blog “contains prompts for lessons” using the Four Moves structure.

One caveat about Four Moves is that it is specific to web literacy. I am curious to see how it, or elements of it, might transfer to business & economics information literacy. Stay tuned.

2. “Treading the Muddy Waters of the Information Ecosystem: Getting Personal with Source Evaluation” was a presentation by Kat Phillips at Penn State University, and Sabrina Thomas and Eryn Roles of Marshall University. They shared how they used the acronym IF I APPLY to reframe how they teach evaluating information in contexts ranging from online courses, one-shot sessions, embedded classes, and more.

Here is what the acronym stands for, from their presentation slides (available here):

Identify emotions attached to the topic
Find unbiased references sources for proper review of topic

Intellectual courage to seek authoritative voices on topic

Authority established: does the author have education and experience in that field?
Purpose/point of view: does the author have an agenda beyond education or information?
Publisher: does the publisher have an agenda?
List of sources/bibliography
Year of publication

Phillips, Thomas, and Roles compiled their presentation and teaching materials here.

As with Four Moves and a Habit, translating IF I APPLY to business information will take some thinking.

Thinking Aloud

Business information is complicated. Whereas literature students may need to search for scholarly articles or literary criticism, business students may need financial data, industry reports, market research surveys, etc. Business information has many more subcategories; a lot of different stuff ‘counts’: data, analyst reports, news stories, case studies, surveys, scholarly articles, and more. Can I use the same framework to evaluate an industry report as I can a company’s balance sheet?

The article “Realizing Critical Business Information Literacy” (Stonebraker, Maxwell, Garcia, Jerrit, 2017) states the other common challenge well:
“Students are generally not at all familiar with what kinds of business resources are available, so they need time for the basics (locating, accessing, and so forth). It is hard to sell the idea of critical theory when they still need so much help with the practical.”

Not only do I need to figure out an evaluation framework, I have to balance it with students’ need for basic instruction to find, access, and use the myriad sources of business information.

I’ve taught information literacy for first-year writing programs, and I see how IF I APPLY and Four Moves can easily be incorporated. As I said above, how to use these models to effectively teach evaluating business info will take some thought, and trial-and-error. My plan is to study the “Realizing Critical Business Information Literacy” article at length and then design a lesson plan for one of my fall business writing classes to test either Four Moves or IF I APPLY.

I appreciate that the two models both start with emotion. The first step is to identify your emotions about a topic, slow down, and consider how they affect your interaction with the information source. Then, whichever model you’re using gives you structure to set aside the emotions and evaluate the information critically. The inclusion of emotion acknowledges that the learners are people who have emotions, and that is okay.

Last thoughts

Obviously, following the conference hashtag is not the same as attending in person. While I missed the opportunity for face-to-face networking, I found new folks to follow on Twitter. As I have follow-up questions, I can reach out to the presenters and tweeters. Though not all sessions are tweeted, all presentation materials are available for download at the LOEX Conference website. I am immensely grateful to all the LOEX attendees and presenters who tweeted and shared materials. Thanks to them, being #LOEXleftbehind ended up being just fine.


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