Shaping their narratives: ePortfolios in the Environmental Studies senior seminar

CP’s Note: This story about my teaching collaboration in Environmental Studies originally appears in my department’s ‘Teaching with LITS’ nook on the College’s website. It’s a wonderful look at all the fabulous collaborations that enhance teaching and learning at Mount Holyoke.

Over the last three and a half years, eportfolios have become central to my work. I began teaching in the senior seminar during the fall of 2014 with my first cohort. Each summer, I spend a lot of time revising my sessions to incorporate better writing prompts, new framing for why taking control of one’s online presence matters, and tips and tricks for understand what the internet knows about you.

Finally, I wanted to share some of the resources that have been central to my eportfolio teaching practice:

icon-save The podcast Note to Self continues to transform how I teach students about the intersections of humanity and technology but also how I understand my own relationship with technology.

icon-mobile-phone Gina Neff and Dawn Nafus’s most excellent book Self-Tracking from the MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series helps me scratch the surface of the self-tracking movement and how to apply it to integrative learning.

icon-book The New Yorker enlivens my life on so many levels, but the recent article about #vanlife will enrich my teaching this fall. Three cheers for the serendipity of deep and wide reading!

I took this photograph during the DLF Conference in MKE in November, 2016-it’s become a representation of the pedagogical space I want to create in eportfolio classes.

“If you haven’t spent any time deliberately and intentionally shaping your narrative, if you’re unprepared, like I was, then one will be written for you.” -Carrie Brownstein, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

Students in the Senior Seminar in Environmental Studies meet as a cohort each fall to reflect on their studies, internships, and co-curricular activities. Together, they cultivate their online professional lives.This seminar is the start of their online professional lives. They talk about their online presence and consider all the various platforms that they use. They spend time learning what the internet already knows about them and contemplate how they want to reintroduce themselves online. It is an opportunity to integrate classroom learning, extracurricular activities, and LYNK internships into a personal narrative. These are some of the first steps they will take towards life after Mount Holyoke. What is next after graduation?

Enter the eportfolio. It is a tool to collect writings, reflections and summaries of qualifications.More importantly it reflects a process of integrating a student’s whole life at Mount Holyoke. The seminar is a rare opportunity for students to consider how their experiences in college changed them in the company of their peers. Professor Tim Farnham and embedded librarian, Caro Pinto facilitate conversations about social media and online privacy. Students leave with the tools to take control of their digital lives and self-knowledge about how to connect to new communities of practice whether it be professional fields like civil engineering or activist communities.

Students begin to build their eportfolios in WordPress, which is a useful platform due to its flexibility and transferability; students can easily export their content into other platforms. It promotes student autonomy as they create a coherent online presence. The eportfolio is simultaneously a space to write a biography, describe experiences and goals, showcase projects undertaken at internships and a starting point to develop content that can be transferred to platforms like LinkedIn. Students in this seminar learn to channel Carrie Brownstein and to prepare to tell their own stories lest someone else do it for them. Are you interested in helping your students cultivate a professional online presence? Contact your LITS Liaison.

 

That Time I Downloaded my Twitter Archive

After preparing for a presentation about our eportfolio program at Mount Holyoke College at CLAC, I found myself deleting some old tweets after finding some with dead links devoid of context (I will own my memory work). I deleted a few tweets here and a few tweets there until I could not refresh my web view anymore.  I downloaded my archive and began to read through my life as posted on Twitter since joining the service in April 2009. Times have changed.

In April 2009, I was living in Somerville, Massachusetts where I was finishing my library degree at Simmons College. I had a flip phone that did not count my steps.

Today, I live in Northampton, Massachusetts where I am gearing up for my eighth fall as an academic librarian. I have an iPhone that tracks my steps AND pays for coffee.

It was instructive to look back at my life through tweets since 2009 to remember milestones and miscellany. It was also a nice lens to reflect on how I’ve changed since then. Here are some icons and tweets to consider Caro Pinto, a life lived in tweets.

icon-clock-o The time when…

icon-flash I learned about Emoji in December 2011

icon-apple Bought my first iPhone in 2010

icon-foursquare Foursquare was a thing in 2010 (I miss my afternoon walks to Blue State Coffee in New Haven)

icon-twitter Third Party Twitter apps were a thing (HEYYY Brizzly)

icon-magic I still…

icon-heart-o Love The New York Times

icon-heart Love the Red Sox and the Patriots.

icon-clock-o Travel Regularly for conferences. NB: the number of tweets I send spikes when I am at a library conference.

icon-archive I used to:

icon-beer Drink and Enjoy Beer (too bad I can’t tolerate it any more icon-frown-o )

icon-frown-o Mock Myself and Frequently Make Jokes at my own Expense

icon-fire Use so many different tools to read content that I no longer use (HEYYY Feedly & Google Reader)

icon-reply Regularly achieve inboxzero

icon-instagram Connect Instagram and Twitter for a very integrated if repetitive social media presence

I’ve grown a lot personally and professionally since 2009. It was reassuring to reflect on that growth while realizing the road towards self-actualization and maturity is long. I’ll share this exercise with my students this fall as they undertake deep reflection as they build spaces on the internet to connect with others; lucky are those who have communities of practice and camaraderie to reflect on the long and recent past alike.

Locating, Accessing & Citing Peer Reviewed Science Articles

Whoa September, the month that flies the fastest in the world of higher ed professionals, when new students and faculty arrive, gentle learning management system reminders get sent, and unpredictable foibles of technology arise. For me, it is also the month of many one shot sessions. icon-clock-o

Over the last year, I’ve been paying closer attention to how I manage my time, energy, and attention span to make better decisions at work. From using canned responses to quickly respond to common technology questions, to making Trello cards with instructional design to-dos, it’s helped me free up valuable brain space to do bigger experiments with my teaching. I’ve also allowed myself to give into the ‘why not factor’ and challenge my perfectionism in the name of experimentation.  icon-thumbs-up

Over the summer, a working group within my department called Curricular Connections began creating tutorials to use in First Year Seminars to enable our liaisons do the following:

icon-arrow-right Share learning goals

icon-arrow-right  Blend instruction sessions to make time for engaged face to face time

icon-arrow-right Flip sessions completely

The tutorials proved to be an essential proof-of-concept for me such that I was inspired to create one of my own. Enter flipping the basic library session for a foundations class in the sciences.

Over the last three years, I’ve been invited to come into a foundations course in the interdisciplinary Environmental Studies department. This class in particular focuses on science research and methods. The goal of my short(ish) sessions is to introduce students to peer-reviewed materials in science, how to access them using Science Direct and Web of Science and how to cite them using Ecological Society of America style. Generally, this process takes about thirty minutes and I do some to no assessment. This is not a recipe for quality instruction or learning outcomes. Over the last two years, I’ve felt stymied by this class and following the completion of our tutorials in Curricular Connections, I realized I could do something very similar to completely flip this thirty minute session into a thirty minute assignment AND collect some data.

In the spirit of minimally viable products, I quickly moved to build a tutorial in Google Forms to be used within two weeks of deciding flip (in consultation with the faculty member). Two colleagues gave invaluable feedback as I made some revisions and finally linked to the tutorials in the course site in Moodle. I’ve been collecting responses steadily since then.

It’s perhaps too soon to tell how successful this experiment has been, but there’s a proof-of-concept that I am already thinking about how to improve. Below is a link to the Master Tutorial that I hope you will consider using.

Creative Commons License
I Need a Peer Review Article STAT (Science) by Caro Pinto is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1mDrSB28zJf8xBaYzP9EvBroUwbGww7790uiUlDBh2tg/edit?usp=sharing.

Not Your Grandma’s Annotated Bibliography

The annotated bibliography is a stalwart assignment for students undertaking research projects. 1 I frequently encounter the annotated bibliography with the classes I support.

In upper level classes, students know the drill: collect 5-10 ‘scholarly sources’ and write a few sentences about why each source might be useful for their research papers.  Ready, set, go!

Sometimes, this assignment can feel mechanical; as long as the sources meet basic requirements (NOT a Wikipedia entry) and supports a question (I think this article will tell me about what a non-state is) generally, it’s fine. But what if we could transform the classic assignment, aka, your grandma’s annotated bibliography? In this post, I will propose modifying the traditional annotated bibliography into an enhanced ‘learning intervention’ 2 that will push students to give greater consideration to who they are citing, what types of journals are they using and begin to assess the quality of the the scholarship they are citing? An enhanced annotated bibliography is a moment of creating an environment in research education for learning for understanding. 3 

Clearly, this would not be your grandma’s annotated bibliography.

Front Row Center: ACTUALLY my great-grandma

Front Row Center: ACTUALLY my great-grandma

The Enhanced Annotated Bibliography

  1. Collect 5-10 sources that inform your topic using the library catalog (monographs/books) *and/or* the databases discussed in a research session with your librarian to locate journal articles.
  2. Cite each of the sources in the style of your faculty’s choice. 4
  3. Compile a basic dossier about the author(s) (basic author bio, institutional affiliation). If you located a book, locate and cite reviews of the book. What did the reviews say about the book? Provide information about the press that published the item.

If you located a journal article, track if and how the article has been cited. Locate information about the journal in terms of disciplines represented, what is the editorial process like?

For example:

Halberstam, Judith. The Queer Art of Failure. Durham: Duke University Press. 2011.

Judith Halberstam (Jack Halberstam) is a Professor at the University of Southern California of American Studies and Ethnicity and is the author of five books published primarily by university presses in the United States and various journal and magazine articles.

The Queer Art of Failure is a well-reviewed book in American Studies journals, Queer Studies Journals, and Gender Studies journals published by Duke University Press, a leader in the humanities and the social sciences publishing.

Reviews Consulted

  1. Ayu Saraswati. “The Queer Art of Failure by Judith Halberstam (review).” American Studies52.2 (2013): 179-180. Project MUSE. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. <https://muse.jhu.edu/>.

Nishant Shahani. “The Future Is Queer Stuff: Critical Utopianism and Its Discontents.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 19.4 (2013): 545-558. Project MUSE. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. <https://muse.jhu.edu/>.

Tara Mulqueen. “Succeeding at Failing and Other Oxymorons: Halberstam’s The Queer Art of Failure.” Theory & Event 16.4 (2013). Project MUSE. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. <https://muse.jhu.edu/>.

Next, conduct an audit of your bibliography. Are there any patterns that emerge? How many of your authors present as white? How many of them practice in the global north? What disciplines are you encountering? What do you think these patterns of trends suggest about the results you are encountering? Can you find additional sources that diversity the pool of authors you will cite?

My hope is that your annotated bibliography will challenge students to think critically about the scholarly record, read the sources they collect more deeply, and ask questions as they revise the research.

 

  1. “Annotated Bibliographies” UNC Writing Center
  2. Learning Interventions is a term I learned about through a MOOC I am taking through MIT about the history of educational technology
  3. While “routine learning” helps students learn mechanical tasks, learning for understanding aims to foster deeper, conceptual understanding generally through experiential learning.
  4. Chicago, obviously