Teaching Critical Reading

LIB 1015–the really really bad source.docx
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In my LIB 1015 class today, I had a good experience with a new in-class activity I designed that aimed to teach students how to read critically. Over the weekend, the students were to have read a chapter from The Little, Brown Handbook titled “Reading Arguments Critically.” When they got to class, I did a quick lecture to spotlight the key parts of that chapter. After my overview, I handed out an essay that I told them was my own creation. My aim, I explained, was write a really bad essay that they would illustrate what kind of bad writing to look out for as detailed in the chapter they had read.

For the activity, they broke out into groups, read the article, and then identified the passages that raised red flags. After fifteen minutes, I asked them to report back to me on what principles outlined in the book chapter had been violated and where those violations were to be found in my essay. The students really responded well to the activity and found most of the weak spots. We got a lot of good conversations going, too, that dug deeper into the ideas in the book chapter than if I had merely asked them to discuss the chapter on its own. Another way that I could do this assignment would be to require them to each write a really bad essay and identify the offending passages and what rule or principle was not followed.

The inspiration for this assignment came somewhat from Steve Lawson’s post last week, “Bizarro Bibliographic Instruction,” which I highly recommend.

RockMelt Browser

Today, I downloaded the new RockMelt browser, which is supposed to be built with social networking in mind. Here are some quick thoughts:

  • It looks like a tricked out version of Google Chrome (maybe it uses the same development kit).
  • If you are on Facebook or Twitter a lot, then this browser makes it much easier to get to the latest updates (via sidebars). In Chrome and Firefox, I use constellations of add-ons/extensions, bookmarklets, and links in the bookmarks bar to get to sites/services quickly and to act on sites/documents easily (share them, bookmark them, reformat them for easier reading, etc.) I’m not so sure that RockMelt offers much more that is truly useful, as I’m not on Twitter or Facebook nearly as much as FriendFeed.
I have three invites for the browser download (it’s in beta, I guess). If you’d like one, send me a DM in Twitter or comment here.

Class Participation and Course Blogs

This fall marks the second time that I’ve taught my library’s three-credit course, LIB 1015: Information Research in the Social Sciences and Humanities (my course website). I’ve been struggling this semester with how to draw out the students who never raise their hands in class to participate in any class discussions or to ask a question. Classroom participation is a big part of each student’s grade (25 percent), as my class has daily hands-on activities that are intended to create discussion as well as practice in key abilities and strategies connected to ACRL’s information literacy standards and to the overall learning goals for the class.

I’ve had a course blog for the first time this semester and haven’t been quite sure how I want to use it. Now I’m beginning to think that maybe I can offer my students a blogging option for participation. I might tell them that if they are not ready to speak up in class, they can still get credit for participation by posting to the blog or commenting on someone else’s post. I suspect that some people who might have really great things to ask about or comment on in class might be shy; offering them an option to contribute on the blog might give them a space where they feel more comfortable expressing themselves. I should note that I was inspired to think of my course blog this way after reading Erica Kaufman’s post, “The Anxiety of Print This Out” on the cac.aphony blog which talks about times when student writing on blog posts is better than the papers that they turn in.