This week I taught my first real information literacy session to a group of students on “Advanced Google Searching”. The following is a before, during and after account of my experience.
I approached my manager in late February asking if I could design and teach an information literacy session on “Advanced Google Searching”. Information literacy is an area I have a keen interest in and I wanted to add “teaching information literacy classes” to my CV. I frequently sit down with students and do one to one sessions demonstrating the use of the library catalogue, databases and information management options but I felt standing up in front of a group of a class would give me more of a challenge. After getting the go ahead from my manager I decided to start my preparation.
One thing I really underestimated was the amount of work that actually goes into planning and designing a session such as this. A 30 minute session took nearly three weeks to plan between researching the information needs of the students, to advertising the class and preparing handouts, feedback forms and the presentation itself. I read some literature on information literacy and analysed different types of teaching methods to best suit me and my audience. For the content I did extensive research on Google’s Inside Search and Power Searching with Google and took ten main search operators and other Google features and then designed these around relevant examples.
Most of the students are Art & Design students so I focused on finding information about painters, sculptures, image searching along with critical theory articles. Credibility of information was key in this session so I demonstrated how to only search educational websites (sites with domain name ending in .edu) for research and how to limit their search results by relevancy. When I felt my presentation was ready I had to start marketing my class. I contacted academic staff to inform them what I was doing, sent out emails, stuck up notices and advertised by word of mouth when students came to the information desk.
The Information Session
Due to the room being occupied by a class until the last minute, I had trouble with the projector at first but after some awkward moments I got started. Even though I never had an issue with public speaking, I was nervous. I knew I was prepared but there was still an element of panic as my audience waited in anticipation. Once I got started I was fine. I stressed the importance of using the libraries resources as a starting point for any academic research while simultaneously explaining how Google is becoming more popular as a research tool with Google Scholar and its other features.
In my head I had prepared for questions at the end of the presentation and got slightly side tracked when I got asked a question bang in the middle of the presentation. After going off on a tangent but still answering the question I was able to resume where I left off. Before I knew it forty minutes had passed and I was finished. I asked the students to answer a short feedback form and inform me where I could improve.
All in all, I felt the class went well for a first attempt but there are definitely areas I need to improve on. Structuring and speed being the two that I feel need attention. Due to the time of the academic year there was a low turnout but it was a place to start and get teaching practice. While I may have lacked teaching experience (and wish to do more in the future to improve on this) other skill sets were vital from beginning to end.
I spent time in the preparation stages deciding how I would present my class. I played around with Prezi, Microsoft Powerpoint, PowToon and eventually decided to go with Google Slides as I am used to working with Google Drive. Pinterest was also very useful for giving me ideas on effective library teaching. And of course I had to research the different ways to search Google and keep myself updated on any changes.
Communication and Networking
Networking and building a relationship with other staff within my Institution was important as I needed to consult with academic staff for advertising my class on the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) Moodle, administrative staff for the booking of the classroom and informally advertising my class with the students when they came to the information desk.
Time Management and Organisational skills
Designing, planning and giving a session like this required me to use my time management skills as I still had to carry out my daily tasks. I was informed that most essays and writing assignments were completed at this stage in the semester and the rest of the time may be spent on practical work so this time in the academic calendar wasn’t ideal. However, at this stage I feel I have a good foundation to work from and this information skills session can be built on.
Tips for first time Info Lit Instructors
- Try and get some teaching practice in College or place of work- it can be intimidating getting up in front of strangers. Class presentations are an excellent way to gain experience in speaking publicly about a topic.
- Network and communicate with others in your institution. Introduce yourself to other staff in your building and inform them you work in the library. You will need to consult with them on advertising your class, booking a room, inviting them to your talk etc.
- Practice your sessions on someone and preferably in the room where your talk is taking place. Arrive early and try and solve any technology issues beforehand so you do not waste any class time.
- Allow time for questions at the end and be prepared for questions at any time of the session.
- Request feedback at the end – Find out what worked? What didn’t work? Where can you improve? Constructive Criticism does help!
- Read some literature on best practice for information literacy training and ask experienced librarians for advice. What style of teaching do they use? Is it formal or informal? Think about your learning style and then think about what you want your teaching style to be.
- And Finally: Do not underestimate the time that goes into planning a class. This was the most valuable lesson I learned in this experience.
Mary Murray, Library Assistant at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology