Friday, August 21, 2015

Facebook is Broken

I posted the following as a Facebook 'status update' on August 19, 2015, edited a bit to add an image and links where applicable. It came after a 2-month hiatus I took from the website, and its purpose was to both explain the reason for the hiaitus and to describe my approach to Facebook moving forward. 

As readers of the blog will know, Facebook has been one of my primary objects of research study for six years, and yet I don't think I've blogged much about my personal approach to the site. The following characterizes much of my current position, perspective, and approach to Facebook as a user. 

Facebook is broken, or, dispatches from the bank of the stream...

Facebook is broken for me because my reasons for visiting this platform are no longer supported by the platform's functionality and the values built into its design.

If I could set up my Facebook feed(s) so that I only see original photos and text-based status updates posted manually by the people I care about, Facebook would not be broken for me. Believe it or not, iterations ago these global filters existed on the main News Feed for all of us, as I’m sure many will remember.

Of course they are long gone, because to provide those options cuts against Facebook’s relationship to its paying customers: advertisers.

So, well over a year ago, as a 'hack' to take back a little control, I created 'friends lists' which served as 'channels' where I bypassed two frustrating behaviors of the News Feed: 1) visiting a list enables you to see ALL updates from those added to it (so, no algorithm determines what is worthy of being made visible), and, 2) there were filters for post types that could be applied globally to each list. Oh, and list feeds have no ads.

This set-up worked for over a year for me. Until one day, the filters disappeared. Suddenly, my list feeds started featuring 'such and such [friend] is now friends with so and so [stranger]' and 'help this person level up in their game [BIG IMAGE FROM GAME]'.

Then, politics happened--well, it's always happening, but the news cycle did a thing (a few things actually), and the result was more polarization among and between my multiple communities than the 'normal' amount I had grown to bear in my own way on this site and others like it.

And not just polarization, but the visual rhetorical presentation of positions that seemed (please note ‘seemed’, not ‘did’; this is an important distinction) to resist the fact that every 'issue' in this messed up, broken world is complex. End stop.

Put another way, I began to perceive, through and on Facebook-as-platform, positions on issues in our world presenting themselves as simple, self-evident, and obvious, when in reality they are anything but.

This type of visual rhetorical presentation (writ large, taking many forms, and articulating diverse positions) became painful for me (physically, in my chest, at times)--it's the cognitive and affective dissonance of *knowing*, through lived experience, that something is far more complex than how you’re seeing it rhetorically presented before your eyes--making it hard for me to engage on Facebook and sites like it for a time.

And then I began to realize, this platform--Facebook--is in fact built, designed, and programmed to eliminate complexity in the visual rhetorical presentation of shared information on this site.

[NB: This observation complicates the heck out of all of the research I’ve been doing for six years now with Teresa Grettano about information literacy practices and behaviors on sites like Facebook [Added editorial note: those are five different links btw.]. But that’s okay: 'complex' is clearly where it’s at for me, these days and always.]

So, I just can't do it anymore, where 'it' means trying to get this tool I've studied as both a researcher and a user, since 2009 and 2005 respectively, to work the way I wish it did.

I've decided not to leave Facebook entirely though, because the other thing I realized during my Facebook hiatus this summer is that I do still wish to share things about my home life, my family, and some things about work (though FYI: most of my work-related sharing is on Twitter these days), with the people I've chosen to connect with on here.

I also use this account as a network node where I connect with those persons I want a way to be in contact with, whether they be new professional colleague-friends or other types of cool folks I meet and get to know through and in my days. I plan to continue to utilize the site in this manner.

But, I'm giving myself permission to do something I've never done on here before: I am going to share what I want to share, with no plans to view everyone else's posts *in aggregate* (that is, via any feed-type options this site offers users--because, as I said, they are all broken for me, for one reason or another).

Instead, I'll be keeping up with folks individually, deliberately, and mindfully, by visiting your profiles directly.

Basically, I'm stepping out of the stream, but still want to camp out on the bank and do my own thing at my own camp, so to speak, and visit your camps directly from now on (house calls!), versus trying to have a meaningful meeting while caught up in the current.

And I definitely welcome visits to my little section of the stream bank by folks who are interested in what is happening in my life. <3

I wanted to share this news explicitly because I have never *not* been in the communal 'stream' before on here, except during my two explicit hiatuses, a year ago (for two weeks) and this summer.

Oh, and a related PSA: Facebook messages are now the near worst way to get in touch with me--the worst way probably being via phone (I know, I know). I don’t use the Facebook message app and never will. So, I will do my best to catch up on any Facebook messages that have come in over the summer (when I have time), but all in all, you’re better off emailing me than messaging me on here anymore.

So, now that I've shared my new approach to Facebook, starting tomorrow I plan to begin playing catch-up by posting about all the cool things that have happened over the summer since I took my Facebook hiatus at the end of June.

What’s funny is, I know the Facebook News Feed algorithm isn’t going to favor my posts much, especially since I’m going to be sharing quite a few in quick succession over the next week or so. So consider this post an invitation to visit my profile from time to time to see what I’m up to. :)

And, I'm looking forward to catching up with all of you, in a manner that also protects the peace I've found over here on the stream bank. <3

rocky stream and mossy banks
Image by Flickr user keithius via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0* (human readable version of license here)
*This license requires that remixed, transformed, or built upon versions of this image need to be licensed CC BY-NC-SA as well (the SA stands for "share alike"). Although I don't believe I've done any of these things by linking to the originally hosted version of the image, just to be safe, this post on my blog is licensed CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Making the Information Literacy ‘One-Shot’ Ignatian

What follows is the culminating project I proposed as a result of my participation in the Ignatian Pedagogy Seminar on my campus on August 3-7, 2015, a transformative experience to say the least. It describes the ways in which I plan to incorporate what I learned during the seminar into my instructional activities. 

My experience participating in the Ignatian Pedagogy Seminar this summer has set the direction for the next phase of my broader research agenda into the relationship between pedagogy, technology, and the humanity of learners. As a first step in this process, I propose the following project as a culmination of my participation in the seminar in summer 2015.

My plan is to use the 5-point Ignatian pedagogical paradigm (Ignatian Pedagogy—An Abridged Version [pdf] [IPP], 2014) as a framework for infusing Ignatian vision and pedagogy into the primary type of instruction I deliver as a faculty librarian: ‘one-shot’ information literacy instruction. ‘One-shot’ information literacy instruction refers to instruction by a librarian on information literacy[1] topics, skills, and concepts to students in a course as a guest presentation within the course schedule. The students only see the librarian in the classroom context once throughout the semester, which makes developing a relationship-based rapport with students a challenge. When done well, the ‘one-shot’ can be effective, but it requires that the librarian collaborate in advance with the course instructor on learning outcomes for the information literacy instruction session, assignment design for the research-based assignment(s) within the course, and assessment of student learning as a result of the session. There must be visible[2] mutual respect between the librarian and the course instructor for the ‘one-shot’ to work, but even when collaboration based on this respect occurs, pedagogical choices by the librarian are limited in scope to what can be accomplished in either 50 or 75 minutes.

In the 5-point Ignatian pedagogical paradigm, the first and last points—context and evaluation—are more difficult to apply concretely and pedagogically within the ‘one-shot’ model of instruction, though a few things can be said about each in relation to information literacy instruction that aims to be infused with Ignatian methods and vision.

Context, in which the teacher seeks to “understand the world of the student” (IPP, 2014, p.4) including the context in which learning occurs, is something on the one hand librarians are always doing: we both select and use the same research tools our students will be using to accomplish their research, and we can develop empathy for novice researchers based on that shared experience. Making this shared experience explicit within instruction is one strategy for making information literacy instruction more Ignatian. On the other hand, we often lack knowledge of the course context within which the information literacy instruction will take place: we are not their primary instructors, and we exist outside of the dynamics, rapport, and content knowledge they are developing through and in the course. A simple way to begin to address this is to reach out to the course instructor in advance and request a copy of the syllabus and course schedule, so the librarian can see how their information literacy instruction will fit within the bigger picture of the course as a whole.

Evaluation, which is the final point of the paradigm, refers to teachers evaluating the progress of students toward their learning goals. This is especially challenging for a librarian delivering ‘one-shot’ instruction because we do not typically have access to the student work that demonstrates that progress has been achieved. That being said, there are simple ways the librarian can provide timely and formative student feedback even within the ‘one-shot’ framework of instruction, including building into the session an activity that results in some form of student work—even if it is process-based and ‘unfinished’—which the librarian can review and respond to in the weeks following the session. This kind of feedback loop requires collaboration with the course instructor to facilitate getting the feedback to the students in a timely manner, but is worthwhile in that it would enable the librarian to complete the 5-point Ignatian paradigm in an explicit manner with students so they see the value of all five points and have an opportunity to grow in response to instructor feedback.

The middle three points of the paradigm—experience, reflection, and action—offer compelling analogs to the research process, which information literacy instruction aims to develop awareness of in students, and are the points I plan to incorporate into my ‘one-shot’ instruction most explicitly in Fall 2015 and beyond. I see this playing out in the following manner:

  • Experience: Students need to experience, in a hands-on/applied manner (i.e., direct experience (IPP, 2014, p.5)), what it is like to ‘do research’, even before I’ve taught them anything, since the research process as I teach it is recursive and always happening, whether they are doing academic course work or running a quick Google search to find the hours for their favorite coffee shop.
  • Reflection: Students need to reflect on what they already know, through the research experiences they’ve already had (including those prompted by their instructors), in order to determine if their approach needs revision in order to achieve their goal for the research. Reflection in this context will benefit from facilitation by the teacher (in this case, the librarian), who has already internalized the outcomes students are developing through the activity—we might call this ‘reflection with a purpose’.
  •  Action: Through structured reflection, students can create a revised research strategy in order to better meet their identified need, which they can then ‘test’ by putting it into action. The research strategy the librarian hopes students will develop as a result of information literacy instruction is not the one deployed during the initial experience phase, but the one developed and implemented at this, the action phase. In this way the experience phase serves as a safe space for students to try something, have it ‘fail’, and revise based on what is observed as a result of it not working as expected.
It is also worth noting that this process is always recursive (repetitio): the experience-reflection-action cycle can and should occur many times throughout the research process, with each cycle resulting in a more focused and effective research strategy for the topic or question the student is researching.

Practically speaking, I will try out the following concrete strategies to accomplish making the above pedagogical goals explicit for students:

  • Collaborate in advance with the course instructor, via email and in person if needed. This includes requesting a copy of the course syllabus, as well as any research-based assignment prompts students will be working from at the time of the information literacy instruction. These materials will assist me with the context point in the paradigm.
  • Develop a ‘flipped’ classroom activity, in collaboration with the course instructor, designed to give students an initial research experience from which our classroom session will draw. This initial activity would need to be assigned as homework by the course instructor during the class meeting prior to their information literacy instruction with me.
  • During the ‘one-shot’ information literacy session, devote time to a structured reflection activity in which students reflect on what worked and what didn’t during their initial experience activity (see bullet point above). This could be either oral or written (or both).
  • During the second half of the ‘one-shot’ information literacy session, develop and guide students through a template for developing a revised research strategy they can put into action, based on the ideas discovered communally in the reflection activity. 
  • Evaluation could take one of two forms: either the reflection or action activities may have a written component which I could collect and evaluate in the weeks following the session, or a collaborative assessment of students’ final work for the research-based assignment(s) could be arranged with the course instructor. 
Finally, in order to make the above points of the Ignatian pedagogical paradigm explicit for the students, I propose to develop a short, one-page handout that outlines the 5-point Ignatian pedagogical paradigm and how each point relates to the research process. I am undecided as to whether I would distribute this handout in advance of my instruction (through the ‘flipped’ classroom/experience activity), or at the end of my instruction session with the students, retroactively revealing the connections between the activities we just accomplished together and the Ignatian aspect of their education here at the university. When and how I share the handout will likely depend on how complex and time-consuming the activities wind up being, and the needs of each particular course.

I teach many ‘one-shot’ information literacy instruction sessions, in courses ranging from T/RS 121: Introduction to the Bible to WRTG 107: Composition (First-Year Writing). Upper-level and disciplinary courses I sometimes deliver ‘one-shot’ instruction to are in departments as diverse as English & Theatre, Theology/Religious Studies, Sociology/Criminal Justice, and Women’s Studies. My goal will be to challenge myself to deploy as many of the above strategies in as many of my ‘one-shots’ as possible, understanding that not every instruction context is suitable for every strategy outlined above.

I am excited about this challenge, as I believe it will make my ‘one-shot’ instruction more effective, transferrable (skills- and dispositions-wise), and fulfilling for all involved: myself (the librarian), the course instructor, and of course the students.


Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
Image by Flickr user theologhia via
CC BY-NC 2.0 (human readable summary here)


Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. 2015. Association of College and Research Libraries.

Ignatian Pedagogy—An Abridged Version. 2014. Jesuit Institute. [pdf].

[1] “Information literacy is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning” (Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education).
[2] To students.