Editor’s Note: Kristen Mastel is the Outreach and Instruction Librarian at the University of Minnesota-Magrath Library. This is her first guest blog post for InCommons, and you can continue to follow her on Twitter @KLMLibrarian or her blog.
As a librarian I do a lot of teaching—going into classrooms, creating tutorials, and offering in-person workshops. One of my goals this past year was to redesign my teaching to involve the learner more, or even better yet, be learner-driven. To achieve this, I soaked up every opportunity to learn more about design thinking—from TED Talks, to participating in a design thinking exercise, taking a course, and of course consuming any readings I could find.
Design thinking is a process that combines empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality to analyze and fit solutions to the context. Diving into the deep end of this work allowed me to focus more on learning objectives rather than jumping straight into my box of teaching tools. What I walked away with were some questions in big bright colorful words on my whiteboard—think back to kindergarten and writing in crayons—to guide me as I approached my work:
- Who are the learners?
- What do I want them to accomplish?
- What support can I provide them?
- How will I assess the learners and myself?
- TRY AGAIN!
Everything sounded all good and well, but it’s in the application where the real work and learning begins.
Putting it to the test
In the Libraries, we wanted to assist students in promoting a positive image to the world that could eventually aid them in their professional aspirations. Rather than focusing on the negative stories, we focused on the strengths social media can provide in building your knowledge in a topic and presenting yourself as a professional in the field.
To create this in-person workshop, What the World Knows About You: Online Identity and Privacy with Social Media, a colleague and I worked with our instructional designer to determine the learner assessment and learning objectives. By having an outside voice present, we were able to think of activities, the two of us otherwise might not have brainstormed. We also practiced in front of staff and tailored it more to students based on their feedback.
We included a pre-survey to determine what social media platforms students used and how familiar they were with privacy settings. During the workshop, we had groups look for information they could find on their partner. This opened up great avenues for discussion, such as: what information is public and private; how to share some information to different groups of people; who owns your information online; and what image are you portraying to potential employers.
The big takeaway in all this is that by role playing the learner throughout the design process, we were able to create an experience that was more engaging and useful for attendees, rather than just lecturing on privacy settings. More importantly, this journey of becoming learner-driven through the design thinking framework provided me a context to try new things, regardless of the fear of failure, and the capacity to become a better listener. And in that lies the true learning.