LTLC Practice Exchange: Activate classroom learning with polling apps

Submitted by Ben Walsh

Overview of the event

The Library Teaching and Learning Committee (LTLC) held their first Practice Exchange of 2018 on March 9th. Kaitlin Fuller (Liaison & Education Librarian, Gerstein Science Information Centre), Margaret Wall (Communications Librarian, Chief Librarian’s Office), and Jesse Carliner (Robarts Library, Reference & Research Services / Communications Librarian, Chief Librarian’s Office) introduced two free polling tools they have been using in recent instructional sessions to engage students and provide active learning opportunities.


Mentimeter is a platform Kaitlin deployed in her health sciences IL sessions as a way of pretesting to determine areas for emphasis and to reinforce key learning outcomes. She also reported grounding recommendations made to faculty in data generated through Mentimeter.

Kahoot! is a polling tool Margaret and Jesse introduced into a large first-year IL session in Convocation Hall. While Poll Everywhere was the app they initially planned to use, Margaret and Jesse did a quick redesign of planned activities after learning that Poll Everywhere had too few seats to accommodate the large number of students expected. Kahoot! has no limit on the number of participants and Jesse and Margaret’s poll had close to 500 students taking part. They used the poll as an alternative to the think-pair-share activities they would normally use in instruction sessions and see the data generated through the tool as a useful addition to our understanding of undergraduate student needs.


Most attendees agreed that Mentimeter’s more formal interface would be a better fit for IL instruction. Questions were raised about privacy and accessibility which led to a rich conversation about student needs in the context of mobile technology in the classroom.

Practice Exchanges happen 2-3 times a year, and the Community of Practice Working Group is always looking for new topics to discuss. Have any ideas? Fee free to contact a member of the group.

LTLC Community of Practice Working Group members 2017-18:
Aneta Kwak, Kelly Schultz, Eden Rusnell, and Ben Walsh


Using short stories and drawings in information literacy instruction

From Navroop Gill:

Yesterday [June 16] at our meeting, I shared a little about the speakers I had seen at WILU, David Brier & Vicky Lebbin who are at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Their approach to information literacy incorporates short stories and drawings which they have found to be highly engaging methods for students.

I’ve attached their handouts which provide ideas of how to structure lessons using these techniques ( just a note: they had read through hundreds of short stories to find ones that were suitable for IL!)

Their articles if you’re interested:

Brier, D. J., & Lebbin, V. K. (2015). Learning information literacy through drawing. Reference Services Review, 43(1), 45-67

Brier, D. J., & Lebbin, V. K. (2004). Teaching information literacy using the short story. Reference Services Review, 32(4), 381-385. doi:10.1108/00907320410569734



Library workshop programming principles

At it’s October meeting, the Instruction in Library Use Committee approved a short set of principles to guide its workshop programming:

Library instruction programming…

  1. Supports University of Toronto student success by providing opportunities for students to acquire digital and information literacy skills to critically assess the information landscape, from production to consumption
  2. Involves the academic community in the formation of its goals
  3. Is informed and guided by the best available research and practice related to teaching and learning
  4. Is informed and guided by the best available research in information literacy
  5. Is informed and guided by locally obtained evidence and assessments from students and faculty
  6. Is attentive to the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education.
  7. Builds librarians’ teaching capacity by creating intentional partnerships with other libraries, campus stakeholders and students to enrich workshop quality and achieve workshop objectives
  8. Provides avenues for students who are unable to attend to receive value from the programming, via online guides and resources
  9. Recognizes the diverse needs of learners in program design and execution.
  10. Incorporates university accessibility requirements into program design and execution.
  11. Reflects changes in the University’s learning practices through periodic review and revision.

The document is also available as a pdf




Authority + Format = … Crossing the Threshold: Workshop #2

Librarians from Ryerson, York, and all three campuses of the University of Toronto came together on July 8th in the second of a series of workshops exploring the ACRL’s threshold concepts for information literacy. The workshop was led by John Bolan of the Bora Laskin Law Library at U of T, and Silvia Vong of the John M. Kelly Library at St. Michael’s College at U of T. Both librarians are currently seconded to the Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation (CTSI) at U of T, and have been working extensively with the threshold concepts since the draft framework was released. Like most of our cross-institutional events, there was a lot of collaboration and practical ideas generated from the discussions.

The workshop covered the third and fourth threshold concepts: “Authority is Contextual and Constructed” and “Format as a Process.” In groups of 4-6, we began the workshop by working through what each threshold concept meant to us, and the challenges that each presents in developing and delivering information literacy programming.

A number of themes emerged from these discussions. There were concerns that authority is constructed, but not contextual. That is to say, perceptions of authority are constructed, and often do not change. For example, authority in peer-reviewed publications should not equate with authority in social media and blogging, but often does. Similarly, our group agreed that for faculty members and students, the concept of authority in academia is often an all or nothing perception – you are either authoritative in your discipline, or you are not, regardless of context.

Our group then moved on to discuss how the concepts of authority and format are intertwined and difficult to consider separately. There are also tensions between the two. In one instance, we claim that authority is contextual and can change. Then we claim that the format (arguably the context) should not dictate our evaluation of the content. Since information creators use formats to express themselves (and by extension, become authoritative), these two threshold concepts are in direct contradiction of each other. We grappled with these issues knowing well that others will interpret these threshold concepts and their relationships to each other, differently.

There were a couple of group exercises to help us work through some of our discussion points. In the first activity, we assumed the role of students in an information literacy class. We were faced with a number of different formats to evaluate for a particular purpose, and tasked with choosing the most appropriate source. Each group had book chapters, journal articles, news articles, primary sources, and more, but each had a different assignment. Ours was to select the best source to support our academic research paper, so we chose the book chapter that was closest to our assigned topic.

After some debriefing, we moved on to a second activity where we applied the two threshold concepts to a teaching scenario. One of our group members works in an academic departmental unit, rather than a library, so we chose to apply the threshold concepts to one of her upcoming sessions for faculty members.

As always, the session was productive and helped us work through some of our concerns about the draft framework. I’m looking forward to another great session to explore the remaining two threshold concepts!

Courtney Lundrigan, MA, MLIS
Instructional and Reader Services Librarian
John W. Graham Library
Trinity College in the University of Toronto


Scholarship as a Dinner Party? : Exploring the ACRL IL Threshold Concepts

On June 3rd I attended the first in a series of workshops focused on the ACRL’s Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, and how the threshold concepts proposed in the document can be translated into practice. This first workshop was focused on two threshold concepts: “Scholarship is a Conversation” and “Research as Inquiry.” 23 librarians participated in the event, including one from York University and four from Ryerson University. UTM Librarians Mindy Thuna and UTSC Librarian Whitney Kemble guided us through group and individual exercises, discussions, allowing for opportunities to offer feedback to them and our fellow workshop participants.

The workshop was a great success with lots of lively conversation and light bulbs going off. Mindy and Whitney started off the activities with some introductory remarks and group discussion about the threshold concepts. We were asked to define the two concepts: “Scholarship is a Conversation” and “Research as Inquiry” to provide context and scaffolding for the rest of the exercises.

We were then directed to choose one of the two threshold concepts and to engage in an individual reflective exercise, brainstorming how we would apply our chosen concept to an information literacy teaching situation through the creation of learning objectives or strategies. This could be a one shot or year-long course, or even an online module or tool like a libguide. The individual component did not last long, at least for the group that I was sitting with! Since the concept that I was brainstorming about was “Scholarship is a Conversation,” this now seems entirely appropriate.

Wendy Traas, Susan Barker, and Eveline Houtman and I all excitedly discussed how to translate this theory into practice in a one shot classroom setting on teaching the difference between scholarly and non-scholarly articles for use in a research paper. Using the framework of “Scholarship is a Conservation,” we asked, whose voice has more authority in the conversation? Whose opinions or evaluation contributed to the publication of an article? Who is the intended audience for the article? Who is the publisher? What is the title of the article? We thought about possible exercises for students to develop a “profile” of an article, asking these questions to determine the authoritativeness and persuasiveness of an article. An article might be authoritative but poorly written and therefore not persuasive. Another article could be persuasive but not authoritative. Is the article an opinion piece? A blog post?  A newspaper article or a peer-reviewed journal article? Written by a leading authority or newly minted member of the field?

Next we were instructed to create a poster presentation of our strategy for teaching our objective. We puzzled over how to translate our discussion into a classroom activity and a poster.  Susan Barker suggested the idea of a dinner party. So “Scholarship as a Dinner Party” it is!  We drew a big table that included some of the different voices in the scholarly conversation, and off in the corner of the poster was a smaller table representing the student’s research paper. We asked the question: “Who do you invite?” We attempted to represent as many types of voices that may speak on a given topic with varying degrees of bias, persuasiveness, and knowledge represented by the heads around the table. After the posters were completed, one or two members of each group stayed with the poster to present it to the other workshop participants. It was great seeing the creativity, knowledge and experience that informed all the posters!

Poster of two dinner tables showing the main scholarly conversation and the student's essay. Figures represent the different types of articles and their varying quality and appropriateness.

It was a very rewarding, thought provoking, and collegial experience. Watch for information on the next two workshops here. Hope to see you there!



All those new literacies, what’s a librarian to do?

Hats off to U of T’s Eveline Houtman for her article New literacies, learning, and libraries: How can frameworks from other fields help us think about the issues?  For many of us exploring and understanding concepts of metaliteracy, transliteracy, multiliteracies, this article provides a useful review of key literature, and explore the intent behind the jargon. Not simply a review article, Houtman injects her own reflections on the concepts and wonders aloud if the new words help or hinder our efforts to participate in genuine student learning:

“Do we really want to adopt a term not recognized by people in other fields? Librarians want to take part in the larger debates and discussions on new digital literacies together with educators, researchers, and policy makers. Our frameworks also have something to say to other fields, but it sometimes feels as if the library world is invisible … Surely we’ll communicate better with our peer communities if we’re not using a term and a framework that no one understands, that separates us from the conversation and muffles our voice.”

Interestingly, the article was subjected to open peer review and is (of course) open access.  Comments are open.


No Simple Solution for Improving Students’ Research and Critical Evaluation Skills

HEQCO | No Simple Solution for Improving Students’ Research and Critical Evaluation Skills

From the summary:

The ability to locate, evaluate and accurately utilize complex information, often referred to as information literacy, is a critical skill for success in school, work and life. A new study by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) recommends colleges and universities implement institutional information literacy strategies to help students develop these skills. While the study examined several different models for teaching information literacy, on their own none proved significantly advantageous, and the authors suggest multiple approaches may be required.

Project Description
The study examined more than 500 students at Georgian College in the diploma, applied degree, collaborative degree and university undergraduate programs. Using four online surveys over the course of two years, students were asked about their perceptions and attitudes towards information literacy as well as tested for their research and critical analysis skills. The project examined four different models for teaching core skills, including providing specific information literacy courses, embedding information literacy into existing curriculum, online tutorials and non-mandatory tutorials. In addition, faculty were surveyed twice on their perceptions of student information literacy and its importance.

The study calls for institutions to adopt information literacy strategies that focus on teaching styles, delivery models, human resource requirements, outcome measurements and defining the benefits to student, institution and employer. Many faculty suggested more time be allotted to skill development as well as additional resources including online tutorials.
As may be expected, students’ comfort, accuracy and ability to utilize information literacy skills increased over their two years of study. While the overall results showed no single method of delivery to be particularly advantageous, the students who had information literacy training embedded in their course curriculum did show significantly higher ability to accurately cite source material.
Students have become increasingly reliant on web-based tools to collect information, with nearly 97% saying they use online sources to find current information. As the use of online research increases, most faculty members said students express confusion over copyright, intellectual property and plagiarism.
Plagiarism, often unintentional, was a repeated concern with several surveyed faculty expressing apprehension over students’ inability to differentiate between it and appropriate behaviour such as paraphrasing. While the vast majority of surveyed students were able to identify examples of plagiarism, there appeared to be confusion on certain “grey areas.” For example, between 40 and 50% misidentified as plagiarism the acceptable practice of placing appropriately credited text in quotation marks. The survey results also revealed citation identification, research process and copyright as areas in need of improvement.

Information Literacy Competency Standards for Students: A Measure of the Effectiveness of Information Literacy Initiatives in Higher Education was prepared by Amanda Duncan and Jennifer Varcoe from Georgian College.



Threshold concepts and information literacy

Interesting blog post by Brian Mathews re: threshold concepts and information literacy –

– with a link to this article published in the current issue of Portal (Volume 11, Number 3, July 2011), Threshold Concepts and Information Literacy (Lori Townsend, Korey Brunetti and Amy R. Hofer)

and this bibliography

(forwarded from Margaret Wall)