Library Carpentry Lessons and Reflections in Instructional Practices

Library Carpentry Lessons and Reflections in Instructional Practices

Last month, I participated in a Library Carpentry Workshop program, and I learned a lot of new instructional practices that I believe every instructor should consider applying. The workshop took place on Zoom across 4 ½ days. It was intense, but it gave me a lot of opportunities to reflect on my own teaching practices. 

Normally, these workshops are scheduled in person, but due to COVID-19, they were scheduled on Zoom. Carpentry workshops generally cover specific technology skills or content, but this online workshop was tailored to support pedagogical skills and to prepare learners to be certified carpentry instructors to teach in the program. The latter was optional. I initially took the class to expand my teaching skills, but I was convinced that I could be a certified carpentry instructor and went for the whole experience! In this blog post, I will highlight some techniques that I learned from the workshop.

Teaching a Library Technology Workshop Online

Now that everything’s online, have you thought of ensuring that your teaching practices and online presentations are attuned to the needs of your attendees? Before you present, make sure your attendees can hear you. You can do an audio sound check using the chat feature or “raise hand button” on Zoom or similar platforms. In addition, you may want to confirm that participants can see your screen (if you are screen sharing) and to inform you if the text is too small. Some devices like Google Slide or PowerPoint have built-in live captioning, which you may consider turning on as needed. 

Start your session with the objective or learning outcome of your session. When you are doing a database demonstration, you should aim to type slowly and speak out on what you are typing. “In the database I am going to search for climate crisis. and here I am typing the words ‘climate crisis.’” At any point in the session, if you make a mistake, you can correct yourself and acknowledge the mistake verbally. You can also say that this is a common mistake (if it is). This promotes a lesson learning moment for all. 

In addition, it may be hard to present and demonstrate while attendees ask questions in the chat box. You may want to pause after each segment/task in your explanation/demonstration and check the chat box or ask for questions. When you ask for questions, be sure to phrase your asking as “What questions or comments do you have?” as opposed to “Do you have any questions?” The latter is not as inviting as the former way of asking. It has been tested that the former way can be more inviting and less pressure-adding. 

Additional Pedagogical Techniques 

In the carpentry workshops, we also learned to describe our attendees/participants as learners and not as students. Depending on your context, you can call them learners if you would like to defuse any power dynamic. “We are all learners” is a good way to acknowledge that this is a learning community and not a traditional classroom setting. 

Have you ever heard yourself or your teacher/classmate say, “This is so easy”? An important consideration is to dismantle and remove any demotivating language that you may often say during a presentation. For example, when you say something is easy, it may not be to the learner. Demotivating language may have a dismissive tone or negative impact on your learners, and it may create more anxiety, frustration, or demotivation. 

To mitigate this, you should aim to incorporate more positive language and to be mindful of your response to learners’ questions. Statements or words such as “we can’t,” “very easy,” “type fast,” “need,” or “must” can be demeaning. Statements or words that include praises, thank-yous, “teamwork,” “together,” “we,” or “choose to” can be affirming and supportive to the learners. Courtney Seiter’s (2016) article explains the impact of motivating and demotivating language, too.  

In addition, you may want to consider a formative assessment for your workshop. This may include a one-minute reflection piece or a short survey/test for open responses. By including an assessment component, you will be able to gain a greater insight into your participants’ learning as well as your own teaching. Formative assessment can also reinforce their learning progress. Here are additional ones to consider, too: Creative Assessments for First-Year Experience

I encourage everyone, if you are into library instruction or library technology, to consider taking a workshop in library/data/software carpentry or to become a facilitator/instructor. You can learn very interesting skills, bond with other instructors/learners, and gain a new perspective to consider!

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