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Juniata-Conemaugh Chapter and CRD Workshops June 5, 2012

Posted by Christopher Lemery in CRD, PaLA.
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The week of May 21st was a crazy busy week for me! I had not one, but two conferences of sorts. The 3-day weekend was much appreciated!

On Wednesday the 23rd, I had the PA Library Association (PaLA) Juniata-Conemaugh Spring Workshop at State College. In case you’re not familiar with PaLA, it’s divided into 8 geographic areas which are called chapters (see the PaLA map here). Each chapter has a one- or two-day workshop, which is usually constructed around a theme and features discussions and presentations around that theme. For the J-C Chapter, this is our biggest event of the year, and this year’s Workshop went spectacularly well.

I’m the 2012 Chapter Chair, so, along with vice chair Melanie Phillips, Sherry Roth, Paula Collins, Tracy Carey, and Diane Schmidt, we planned the workshop. Early on, it was clear that we should hold it in State College and center it around the Penn State Pattee Library Knowledge Commons, which now encompasses most of the Pattee’s first floor. The KC is straight-up awesome. It’s got great computers, multifunction group study rooms, a great Mac lab and a one-touch video recording studio. The KC was built in stages over several years and it’s made the Library 5 times better (though, of course, I liked it just fine before)! We wanted to give librarians from all over the opportunity to see the KC because it wasn’t complete in time for last October’s PaLA Annual conference in State College.

We named the Workshop Designing a Digital Media Lab: Low-Cost, Innovative Solutions for Every Library (see the brochure and schedule here). We had a big crowd of 45 people, including 25 or so academic librarians, which is unusual for our workshops, which tend to have more public library attendees. The workshop began with a tour of the KC in the morning, which was lead by KC Head Joe Fennewald. The tour went very well and it was very instructive for all the participants, who got a lot out of it. (By the way, if anyone’s interested in seeing the KC, contact Joe. He loves giving tours!)

The afternoon consisted of presentations about the PSU KC  and the knowledge commons concept  in the afternoon. Two of our presentations were from two public librarians from other states: Rose Faber from Barrington Area Library just outside of Chicago and Jesse Montero with Brooklyn Public Library in, um, Brooklyn. Rose and Jesse came to our attention via some articles on the “knowledge commons” concept and how it’s been used in public libraries. You may have noticed that both Rose and Jesse aren’t exactly next door. We decided to have them present via Skype because it’s easy and convenient. Also,we’d be demonstrating digital literacy, which is one of the pillars of the knowledge commons concept.

I admit I was nervous about using Skype for presentations. I haven’t used Skype much, and when I did it didn’t go smoothly. Therefore, I did an initial run-through with Jesse and Rose to iron out any problems. It’s a good thing I did so, because I discovered that we had connectivity problems and they couldn’t hear me. The connectivity problems stemmed from an outdated version of Skype on my end, which was resolved with some help from the IT department. I thought that would solve the microphone problems, but that was caused by thewebcam driver not being up to date, either. Once the updates were installed, the problems were fixed and, aside from a brief connectivity hiccup, the Skype presentations went very well and no one seemed to mind they were done via Skype.

Rose Faber’s Skype presentation at the Workshop

On Thursday May 24th, I went with Penn State Librarians Joe Fennewald and Emily Rimland to the PaLA College and Research Division Workshop at Bucks County Community College. It was a long haul, but it was definitely worth the trip! The  Workshop’s theme was “Digital Natives or Digitally Naive?: Lessons on Digital and Media Literacy.” The keynote speaker in the morning was Renee Hobbs of the University of Rhode Island’s Harrington School of Communication and Media. Her presentation (the slides for which are here) was very interesting and thought provoking. Here are some of her more interesting points and questions:

  • We’re torn between empowerment from technology and protecting our existing culture
  • Reading is shaped by the tech we read with
  • how will digital media reshape relationships?
  • How will digital media change our sense of identity and agency?
  • We have a “parasocial” relationship with media figures: we know them, but they don’t know us
  • Media literacy requires knowing the economics and politics of media
    • Why don’t English majors learn about the economics of publishing? (Great question!)
  • Messages are representations
  • Meaning is not in a text, it’s in our heads

Renee also defined the learning process (or cycle) of digital and media in these steps:

  1. access
  2. analyze
  3. create
  4. reflect
  5. act

She then had us work in groups to try and prioritize 4 different definitions of digital literacy:

  • Computer and Web access skills
    • Filling out forms on Web, navigation, etc.
  • Authorship
  • Issues of representation
    • How do we distinguish between a high quality and poor quality source?
    • Why do some stories get retold?
  • Online social responsibility

Of course, trying to prioritize these was an impossible task, which was the point. All these competing definitions are intertwined with one another and are used by different people and entities at different times.

I really appreciated Renee’s talk. It was clear that she comes from more of a media and communication theory perspective than I do. However, this was helpful, as it was a different and more critical perspective than I have on a daily basis. A lot of what she said meshes with articles that I’ve read defining and discussing critical information literacy, so it wasn’t entirely new. Her research areas and the Harrington School are interesting, so I’ll try and keep an eye on them.

The CRD afternoon session I attended was a presentation by Shelly McCoy and Hannah Lee of  The Student Multimedia Design Center at the University of Delaware Library. Their design center is located in a knowledge commons very much like Penn State’s. In fact, I later learned that UDel was one of the locations toured by the Penn State Knowledge Commons planning committee early in the design process! Shelly and Hanna’s presentation, “Multimedia Literacy: A Plan to Get Started,” was about their efforts to teach multimedia literacy and integrate it with the broader information literacy program.

One of the most interesting and surprising things I learned from the presentation is that some faculty are assigning multimedia projects with essentially no guidelines or rubrics for such projects! There are some departments that have mandated that at least one project in a department class have a multimedia component, so a few professors are tossing the component in without much thought. Some of them also assume that students know what they’re doing with multimedia, which is not the case with the more sophisticated programs and techniques. One of the main things Shelly and Hanna want to do is get acquainted with faculty and cooperate with them on designing assignments and due dates so they can try and regulate use of the Multimedia Design Center and its associated video cameras which are available for check out. I have heard many librarians talk about the holy grail of helping faculty with assignment design, and that cooperation seems to be very much needed when it comes to multimedia projects!

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