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What a great journey!

Published Article: Connectivism and Information Literacy

I am pleased to announce that an article I wrote, “Connectivism and Information Literacy: Moving from Learning Theory to Pedagogical Practice” was published in the journal, Public Services Quarterly. This journal article is based on reflection and a research paper I wrote in Summer 2012 for EdTech504 in the Boise State University Masters of Educational Technology program.

The article discusses utilizing the learning theory of Connectivism for library research instruction. I believe this is the first article to overtly connect the principles of Connectivism with the ACRL information literacy standards. When I first wrote the research paper I was struck by the similarity between these two concepts and I argue that librarians should seriously consider the learning theory of Connectivism when designing information literacy instruction.

I hope that this journal article helps to improve the theoretical foundation of information literacy instruction as librarians consider various learning theories to ground their practice.

I am very grateful and excited that I was able to learn about this theory last year, write a substantial research paper about it at the time, and then take the time to expand and revise the paper for formal publication this past Spring. It has been a great experience of actually going through the peer review process for publication that I teach students about every year in First Year Seminars.

Now that I have my first publication under my belt, I’m on the lookout for other topics. And for extra time! I might focus on collection development and budgeting topics for my next foray!

The link to the article leads to the journal abstract only, unless you have an institutional or personal subscription to the journal. I do have a limited number of reprint copies I may distribute however. Please contact me if you would like a copy.

Following Blogs for an Institution

As a librarian, I am interested in reading many kinds of blogs. I currently monitor about 100 blogs through my Feedly reader. One category of blog that I continually add to and monitor are professional blogs from faculty, staff and students at the college where I work. Reading through faculty blogs provides a quick look at what they are thinking about and finding important to their work. I can then make sure that library services are relevant for their specific interests. I consistently comment on their blogs when there is a relevant area of connection to library services. This demonstrates my interest in their professional field, as well as discusses ways that the library can better serve their needs.

Another service I could potentially offer is to collect and curate a list of faculty, staff and students’ professional blogs so that they are more discoverable by others on campus.

Current blogs I monitor written by faculty and staff at my institution:

Classroom Blogging Activity

Class Session Description

This classroom blogging activity is for Introduction to Nursing. This course is the initial nursing course for nursing undergraduate students. It introduces them to the field of nursing, including basic research skills useful for searching medical literature for evidence-based care. As the nursing liaison librarian, I participate in two class sessions for this course. The first session consists of lecture and demonstration about basic to advanced research skills including MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) searching in the leading medical literature online index, PubMed. MeSH searching is a non-intuitive searching technique that eschews general keywords for hierarchical arrangement of specific subject headings, subheadings, limiting to major topics, and “exploding” the search to MeSH phrases lower in the hierarchical arrangement. The second session is completely hands-on. Students use the advanced search techniques to search the medical literature for a topic about an alternative medical subject of their choice. Students are expected to determine the best MeSH phrase, select appropriate subheadings, and limit to the major topic and appropriate limits such as review articles or most recent five years. During the second session, I am available for in-depth personalized assistance in the classroom space.

As might be expected, students are often overwhelmed by these new research skills and often revert to old habits such as searching Google or typing non-standard keywords into PubMed rather than standardized MeSH terms. This leads to irrelevant results and outdated information that could have detrimental effects on healthcare if used in actual practice.

Because I am not the teaching faculty member, but am rather an academic support librarian attending two sessions of a semester-long course, I will need to work closely with faculty on this activity. Faculty have control over all aspects of the course, assignments, activity and assessments. Therefore, I will need their active support to implement any type of activity and assessment. This will involve negotiation with faculty to impress upon them the importance of this activity and its critical place in student learning of research strategies for evidence-based medicine. Because assessment is a tightly controlled department and accreditation endeavor, assessment of blogging content is not a realistic goal. Assessment of blogging participation might be acceptable to faculty. This framework also limits the options available to me when designing this activity.

Learning Objectives

The student will:

  • Select appropriate MeSH terms for alternative medical therapy
  • Search PubMed database with MeSH terms, subheadings and limits
  • Select appropriate, relevant and timely journal articles based on the search
  • Blog about the search experience and future plans for research strategies

Blog Format

Because this activity will be limited to no more than two class sessions and resulting single assignment, it is not worth the effort for students to create their own blogs. Additionally, I do not have the authority to require students to create a blog for this assignment. Unless there is a class blog coordinated by the course teaching faculty member (and there currently is not), separate blogs are not an option. To keep this single assignment as simple and accessible as possible, the best option would be to write a prompt on my blog and request that students reflect and respond to the blog post using comments.


Session One:

Librarian will lecture and demonstrate introduction to library resources, and basic and advanced research skills for PubMed, a medical literature online index. Instruction includes MeSH, subheadings, limits, and accessing full-text of the articles through other databases or interlibrary loan.

Students will sign up for an alternative medicine therapy.

Session Two:

Students will research their topic using keywords, MeSH, subheadings, and limits. The librarian will be in the classroom space for personalized assistance. The librarian will guide students back to advanced searching techniques when they revert to Google and keyword searching.

Blog Assignment:

The librarian will post a prompt on the librarian blog. The prompt will be:

You have learned some advanced research skills in PubMed, and you have selected an alternative medicine therapy to research. Please answer the following questions. Please make sure your name is in the answer so you can receive credit. Add your responses to this blog post through the comments section.

  1. What initial keywords did you use to describe your therapy and search topic? How many and what types of articles do you find when you search with your initial keywords? Do they look relevant? Do you have a reasonable number in the results list to realistically review the most recent five years of articles (titles and abstracts)?
  2. What was the standard MeSH term that you should use for your topic? Is it the same or different as your initial keyword? Did you have any trouble determining a term? Were you surprised by the process of finding the standard MeSH term?
  3. Did you select any MeSH subheadings? Why or why not?
  4. What limits did you apply to your search?
  5. How many and what types of articles did you find when using MeSH and limits? Do they look relevant? Do you have a reasonable number of results to realistically review the last five years of articles (titles and abstracts)?
  6. Compare searching with your initial keyword to searching with MeSH, subheadings and limits. What provided the most relevant and usable results?
  7. What research strategies will you use in your next medical literature research assignment?


I do not have assessment authority in this course. Additionally, assessment in the nursing program is handled at the department level with national testing standards and accreditation considered. Therefore, assessment is limited to participation through blog comments, which I will report to the faculty member. I will track blog responses and respond to questions, concerns and comments as appropriate. I will ask probing questions in response to the blog comments. I will track participation and report participation to the teaching faculty member.

Activity Timeline

Fall 2013

September 30 – Session 1

October 2 – Session 2

October 3-9 – students post blog comments in response to my prompts. Responses to comments as appropriate.

October 10 – blog posts disabled. Participation reported to teaching faculty member.

Blogging Plan

The months of August through November are the busiest time for me during my work year. In addition to my full-time duties of collection development, reference and liaison librarian activities, I often teach more than a full-time professor’s teaching load when considering the number of class sessions per week during September to November for courses in First Year Seminar, Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, Nursing and Nutrition. I also create, distribute, explain, and guide approval of the end-of-fiscal-year budget reports and the library’s materials budget and department allocations of that budget for the upcoming fiscal year. I often feel that I have 2 ½ full time jobs during this four month period!

Therefore blogging often takes a back seat during this time of the year. Any blogging plan must be flexible and realistic given my heavy workload in the Fall.

I will post a mix of list, link or commentary posts. Due to the time and coordination involved, I will not pursue guest blog posts during this timeframe. The format will be based on the topic of the post, and the available time that I have that particular week. Most of my posts will contain links to relevant stories of interest, with commentary or discussion points. I will welcome comments and discussion to all of my posts. I will post links to each blog post on Twitter and Facebook.

I plan to post at least one blog post per week during the Fall. I may be able to increase this frequency in the Spring and Summer when I tend to have more time available. I will set aside some time each Friday afternoon to review content and write posts. I can also make use of the scheduled blogging features available in WordPress. This allows me to write blog posts in advance and post them at specific times. I learned about the feature and used it in the course.

I will gather content through readings and other blog entries that I read throughout the week. I collect blog posting ideas and save them in a “blog” folder in a personal Evernote account.

Possible topics include:

August 9 Use of QR Codes in Libraries. Could include a poll
August 16 Evaluating images in biased reports: based on an environmental report that misused images
August 23 Student preferences for paper or etext. Could include a poll
August 30 Growth of tablets and impact on research strategies
September 6 Outrageous journal prices and relationships with vendors. Include links to Harvard story
September 13 Flipping the library classroom
September 20 Use of cell phone in libraries. Commentary post supporting use of phones and against some library policies banning them as reported in American Libraries magazine
September 27 Finding unbiased health information. Commentary about webmd and their commercial interests that may bias the information they provide or highlight




Providing Reference Using Twitter

Twitter can be a powerful resource for quick reference services. It should be in every reference librarian’s arsenal of resources. Hashtags are a powerful way to search for the best tweets about a common topic (think subject headings!). One way that I use Twitter for reference is determining whether a resource that a student or faculty wants to access is actually down when they are having access problems.

A quick example:

I tried accessing Feedly, an RSS reader, on an ipad. I was unable to access the app. However, I was able to access the site on a browser through my laptop.  I quickly went to twitter and searched for #feedly. I immediately saw tweets that indicated that the feedly ipad app was down, and that some individuals were accessing feedly through a browser while others were not. I was therefore able to narrow the access problem down to the vendor and the ipad app and simply used the browser until the ipad app was again available.

When tweeting about access issues, be sure to use appropriate hashtags and succinct but clear descriptions of the problem.

Poll: How Do You Use Your Local Library?

How do you use your local library?

Embedded Audio: Counting in Mandarin

A recent post on my personal blog about upcoming travel to Korea and China in June 2014 discussed a recent story in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Rosetta Stone claimed that their technological language learning program could replace the first two years of language learning in academic settings. I discussed why I disagreed with this claim.

That said, I certainly believe that technology can supplement important classroom time when learning a new language. One way that technology can help is by allowing a student to record what she is learning to then submit it for review and feedback. The student could also record and post online for feedback by or contacts with native speakers.

Here is a link to a file of me counting from 1 to 10 in Mandarin Chinese. Unfortunately I cannot “embed” an audio file such as an mp3 in WordPress blogs unless I purchase an upgrade to a professional plan. Therefore I am linking to the audio file instead. Here is the policy statement from WordPress: “Note that, if you wish to upload audio files from your own computer, you will need to purchase the Space Upgrade.”

Embedded Video: Using Commercials to Demonstrate Boolean Search Logic

When designing library research skills instruction, I attempt to incorporate popular culture into the sessions to increase student motivation and learning. I use various memes, presentation software, and videos.

After seeing a commercial on TV that utilized Boolean operator words (AND, OR, NOT), I found it on youtube. It is a commercial for the Ford Escape and highlights the difference between AND and OR when determining if something is “good”. It ends by saying “AND is better”.

I often have difficulty explaining Boolean search logic and why it is important to use when creating search strategy and nested searches using AND, OR, and NOT. This humorous take on Boolean logic, even though it is unintentional could be a fun way to improve instruction on this topic.

Additionally, after viewing it, I can ask students to critique the video and determine what is “wrong” with the commercial’s understanding of Boolean logic. For example, OR means that either keyword (either/or) can be in the document to end up on the results list. The commercial instead portrays OR as excluding one of the options rather than including either one.

Embedded Image: Learning Commons

This past year our library building was renovated to include a learning commons space. The Offices of Disability Services, the Learning Center and the Writing Center also moved into the library building to provide a one-stop space for student academic support.

The renovated space in the learning commons area now encourages group and collaborative work. The quiet space downstairs in the main stacks still allows for quiet and focused solitary studying when it is needed. The learning commons space includes technology spaces for group work such as monitors that connect to laptops or tablets such as ipads, greater charging capabilities for technology, and group study rooms that can be reserved online or through a QR code.