This Week in LIS - 22 March 2013

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Headline of the Week: Digital Technology Helping the Liberal Arts?

The Midwest Regional Educause conference was held in Chicago Monday through Wednesday (March 18-20, 2013) this week. The ACM IT and Library Leaders meeting was scheduled to leverage those attending Educause for a meeting Wednesday afternoon.

It is always encouraging and inspiring to get to know others with similar concerns and additional ideas and points of view and alternative perspectives. It is energizing for me to hear others’ good ideas and to have them provide insights on ideas and mental models I have.

I was especially inspired by a talk by David Burrows, the Provost and Dean at Lawrence. David is a cognitive psychologist and teaches a large introductory psychology class. He shared techniques he is exploring to leverage digital technology to provide a more individualized experience for his face-to-face students. This is interesting because frequently digital technology is thought of as an alternative to individualized face-to-face education. In this case the focus is complementing the face-to-face teaching.

David began the talk with enumerating a number of characteristics that we want liberally educated people to have including ability to understand complexity and nuance, ability to deal with ambiguity, ability to make decisions, ability to communicate and especially to write, ability to problem solve, creativity and ability to adapt and be resilient in the face of change. He offered a number of ways he applies digital technology, using cognitive science theory, to improve student outcomes in these dimensions.

One that seemed quite interesting was a collaboration with their Moodle “smart guy” to create and program “layered” questions including fine-grained analysis. Easier questions test whether information has been internalized/memorized such as “How many rods and cones are in the human eye?” From there, success leads to questions that require interpretation. The example offered was “What are the advantages and disadvantages of a vision system with both rods and cones?” This requires a student to understand and articulate an understanding of a system’s features and weaknesses or vulnerabilities. Construction is required if the student is then asked, “What characteristics would you build into an artificial vision system?” This requires the student to abstract the values from the system under study and then re-apply them to a somewhat new context. When such a system provides analysis and opportunities are provided for re-testing, a self-reinforcing learning cycle emerges that guides students on an individualized path to deeper levels of understanding of the topic at hand and more importantly on a path to learn the higher order thinking and learning skills desired in one liberally educated.

The information technology reminded me of the conditional KATIE application that Bob wrote to support the new student placement testing. I am looking forward to further investigating David’s approach to see what we might learn and apply. I hope his slides get posted soon and I can provide a pointer.


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LIS Blog Highlights from the Week

The following articles are sampled from those available on the LIS Blog:

Notes from LIS Council

LIS Council is the leadership team within LIS. LIS Council did not meet this week.

Upcoming LIS Training, Instruction, and Professional Development Opportunities

Click on the event below for specific information and for a link to register. More information on training and development events is available.

Course Format Date Location Enrollment
Zotero Workshop — Grab your research with a single click. Workshop Apr 3 2013 – 7:00pm 8:00pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Open
Luther College Archives: Research 101 Product Demonstration Apr 8 2013 – 2:00pm 3:00pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Open
Who are you According to the Internet?: A Guide to Managing Your Online Reputation Workshop Apr 9 2013 – 12:00pm 1:00pm Dahl Centennial Union – Mott Open
What is Google+ and Why Should I Care? Product Demonstration Apr 11 2013 – 6:30pm 7:30pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Open
Who are you According to the Internet?: A Guide to Managing Your Online Reputation Workshop Apr 16 2013 – 7:00pm 8:00pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Open
Zotero Workshop — Grab your research with a single click. Workshop May 1 2013 – 7:00pm 8:00pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Open

Training and instruction is provided to the Luther Community through Faculty Development Sessions, Library Instruction Sessions, Product Demonstrations, Skills Training, Workshops, 1-on-1 Sessions, and Online Materials. To schedule a session, contact the LIS Technology Help Desk at x1000 or enter your request online at

This Week in LIS is published most Fridays by Paul Mattson, Executive Director of LIS at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

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