One of the first classes I taught for this Fall Semester was "American Literature 1820-1900 Print Cultures" which I was HYPE about because of my MA background in print culture.
For this class, there had been a worksheet that the students had typically filled out in class after the librarian had demoed the relevant databases. And it's a good worksheet. But the synchronous online class is not a good environment for a worksheet that's designed to be filled out individually at the end of a class.
So I made something new!
The activity I put together for this class was based on an assignment I did in my intro to librarianship course. When we did it, the idea was that we would be practising evaluating databases for purchase. I stripped out a lot of the library school kinds of questions (and I mean a lot it was originally 7 pages) and put together a worksheet geared more toward exploration than evaluation.
I put the students into two groups on Microsoft Teams (not an elegant process, but thanks to these instructions I figured it out) and assigned one group the American Periodicals Series and the other American Antiquarian Society Historical Periodicals. On the worksheet I linked to, you'll also see HathiTrust, which I demoed for them after we'd shared out. From the answers the group came up with, we wrote a cheat sheet that highlighted the differences, similarities, and things to watch out for in each database.
This last part was inspired by a breakout session during the ARLIS/NA 2020 virtual conference. I was in a breakout group in the "Reimagining the Frame" Session where my group imagined an activity based on "Research as Inquiry" where upper-level undergrads in art history or visual arts explored various relevant sources of images and put together a cheat sheet as a class after their exploration. I loved this idea and I was really excited to put it into practice.
What Worked: The students all were able to find answers to all the questions and participated during the share out. I think we were able to learn actively together even on Microsoft Teams and that in and of itself is a success. The two sessions hit about 80% of the answers I wanted them to, and that feels really good. I budgeted 20 minutes for the groups to work together and 10 minutes to share out, and that was more or less the right amount of time for each part of the activity.
What Didn't Work: In a lesson in disciplinary jargon, it didn't occur to me to define all the terms I was using. We ran into some "what the hell is truncation?"
What I'll Change Next Time: In the second class, I used the MLA Bibliography database (which the prof had asked me to demonstrate a little so they knew where to find secondary sources) to define my terms more clearly and that largely solved the disciplinary jargon issue. All in all this was successful though and I'll definitely use the activity again!
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You can also view the current state of these activities on my instruction menu: