Sunday, January 13, 2008

Get 'Em When They're Young...And Make Them Laugh

When school started this year, I only had one of the 9th grade English teachers ask me to do a library orientation for the students (Thanks, Stephanie!), and none of the MS teachers were even interested. I was excited to do it, but I must say, it wasn't the most thrilling presentation I've ever done. I mean, how do you make library tours and a review of databases interesting???

So when I saw a pre-conference workshop entitled "Injecting Fun Into Library Orientation," I hauled out the credit card and registered on the spot. I plan to insist that all 7th and 9th graders attend an orientation next year, and I want it, if not actually to wow them, at least make the library an interesting and engaging place for them..

While the techniques discussed at the workshop are not exactly earth-shaking, they will keep students more engaged. Presented by Jacqui DaCosta, a British transplant to the library at the College of New Jersey, and Nigel Morgan, a BioSciences subject librarian at Cardiff University in Wales, the workshop was an explanation of Library Bingo and the so-called Cephalonian Method.

In brief: Library Bingo asks students to generate a list of five questions on what they expect from the library prior to the orientation You might ask, "list five services you expect to find in the library," or "What five things should a library provide?" Then, as you go through the orientation spiel, students tick off their questions as they're answered. When they've ticked off all five answers, they yell "Bingo" and receive a small prize (a Hershey's Kiss, for example).

Now, that's not Bingo as Americans would recognize it, but I do think it would at least keep students actively thinking about the library and how it relates to their expectations, instead of dozing off.

The Cephalonian Method orginated as a spin-off from an orientation one of the Cardiff librarians participated in on a package tour to the island of Cephalonia, Greece. The CM consists of planting color-coded cards with questions in the student audience, and calling on students to ask the questions on the cards.

There's more to it that I'll explain in a minute, but that's the gist. The presenters obviously thought this was revolutionary--allowing students to ask questions! How interactive!--and mentioned many librarians were against it because they feared they would lose control. Now, if any of you have ever worked with our British educational comrades, you know we have VERY different views on education. At this point, I had to laugh, because many British educators have a completely different view of classroom control. I remember one of the British staff in Egypt being proud that he had no idea how well his students spoke English. "Why would I allow them to talk in class?" So a student-questions based lesson, however contrived, is really mixing it up!

(I love my British friends, but we had to ban educational philosophy as a topic of discussion, because it always ended up in a fight. Imagine thinking you might lose control of a class if students ask questions!)

ANYWAY.... (sorry for the side note, but I was vastly amused)

To explain the method more fully. Generate a list of questions you think will cover what you want to present for orientation, then break them into categories such as "basic info," "Finding Items," "Databases" and "Service." Assign a color to each category, and print each question on a sheet of appropriately colored paper. e.g. "basic info" questions on red paper, "Database" questions on green, etc.

Generate the Power Point presentation to go with the questions. Up to this point, I was skeptical, but here's where I thought they really hit on something. Cardiff hired a (very cute) young guy to take humorous pictures to go with the questions. This guy they called "Tyrone" and the point was to phrase the questions in a creative, humorous way that will engage students. Tyrone appeared in various poses and various modes of dress. I thought this would work well in a secondary school if you chose a friendly, popular student to act as model.

Although the questions are color coded, so the topics will be in order, the questions aren't numbered, (though you certainly could). Thus, you don't really know what order they'll come in. You'll notice this slide is blue. That's to show it's a blue question. If you print out an outline of the slides, in numbered order, it's very quick to navigate to the correct slide.

Another key element was to play music at the beginning and end of the presentation, as students enter and leave. The music would vary, depending on time of day. Something classical or new agey in the morning, for example, but something more lively in the afternoon, such as Santana.

I don't know if it's a British/American thing, or an Academic library/school library thing, but, as you can tell I was rolling my eyes a bit at the thought that "planted" questions and music were really shaking it up. Even Morgan admitted the students sometimes "played" with the questions--either asking different questions or none at all, which suggests to me they also think it's a bit contrived.

Nevertheless, I do think the combination of Bingo and the CM work well together. The CM relays content and forces to students to pay some sort of attention, while the questions make them vested in finding answers to questions meaningful to them. And the candy doesn't hurt, either! If you set it up appropriately, and showed the students the method was just a bit of fun and you weren't take it too seriously, this could go over very well.

I'd be interested to hear other's thoughts, or ideas for variations.

If you want to find out more about the CM--which, apparently, is sweeping through British libraries, you can find the Power Point presentation used by the Cardiff BioScience Library here. (Link is on the right) There is also an explanation and rationale of the CM here.

1 comment:

  1. You've got me thinking! My comment turned into a post at I'm wondering what older students would deem important enough to include in an orientation. I know Joyce has played with this idea.