Today was full of fun and informative things. I visited Duke for its instruction retreat and UNC for a research forum.
Data @ Duke
The instruction and outreach librarians at Duke hold an annual instruction retreat and this year’s topic was data in the library. The slides from the presentations will be on their site soon if you are interested.
I missed the first session, unfortunately, but Joel Herndon, the Duke Data Librarian, gave a great introduction to the topic.
- We see data being used more in the classroom. Why? Storage has changed and become more flexible; pervasive computing and ready tools for analysis; better and easier to use websites offering data (eg, data.gov and WDI); emerging cache in academia (sense that a literature review is not enough).
- Data support in the classroom: What are data? What is data support?
- Here he used three great examples of real student questions that typify the major problems: 1) Using data as a container term for all types of information (including potentially articles or printed material); 2) Looking for data that will support a theory or an argument rather than testing a hypothesis; 3) Assistance with coding problems or statistical analysis.
- He noted that his team spends a lot of time working with students on data quality and documentation questions. He related this to Paula Lackie’s term, “procedural pedagogy”. This the tendency for classroom work to be based on canned or pre-structured data sets. Students aren’t equipped to then work with messier data or data that needs to be cleaned in some fashion. They have been given data to do an analysis but they haven’t been taught the skills to get to the point of analysis (in the real world).
He then gave some suggestions for what we can do in the library:
- Include data instruction in library sessions (WOOHOO!)
- Use data bibliographies. He mentioned Dryad archive for science and ICPSR’s bibliography.
- Introduce scholarly communication issues into the classroom as they relate to data, especially citing data (AMEN!) but also including data sharing and archiving. So much research data is created in the classroom, but it isn’t being archived or shared. Library can help with data management issues and training.
- Talk with your data librarian!
- He also mentioned in the discussion time several core questions to consider when working with a student: 1) documentation – what do you have available and how useful is it?; 2) access – what is appropriate to the student’s level and what type of file format is it; 3) coverage – can a single source provide the maximum requirements for a student’s question?
Next up was a panel of faculty who work with classroom projects that involve data (not just numeric data!).
- Victoria Szabo talked about a class related to Digital Durham called Digital Durham 2.0. You can see the projects, but students were using Google Earth and spatial data to map specific themes related to Durham.
- Jennifer Ahern-Dodson, a rhetoric and comp professor at Duke, teaches an academic writing course that includes community-based interviews. She also has an embedded librarian who works with the class to help students develop interview questions and meet with students to narrow their research topic. The interviews are then archived at the public library. These are first-year undergraduates so the work is pretty impressive!
- Charles Becker from the Economics Department talked about his class on urban economics in which students analyze data related to issues in Durham County and North Carolina. His undergraduates have done some incredibly sophisticated work, much of which includes spatial data.
- The discussion centered around the role of the library in all of this and all of the panelists mentioned that helping students refine their questions to doable projects is key. We have tremendous amounts of data available now, but there are still questions that can’t be answered with what we have.
Finally a few former SLIS students presented on some data visualization tools. They approached it like a “tapas”–small selections of delightful goodies. These are the tools they featured, but you can see links to these and a few more on the Duke retreat page (right side column).
- SimplyMap – A tremendous fave at UNCG Dataland!
- Social Explorer – We don’t have this tool, but it has a nice free option for Census visualization.
- Simile Project’s Citeline – You can use a bib file from Zotero or EndNote to create a browsable interface and html page. I can’t wait to play with this!
- Many Eyes – Fun tool overall but the ladies pointed out a helpful page that discusses visualization types! Great explanation for why the pie chart is evil.
- Batchgeo – Not sure how I would use this, but cool tool that allows you to grab table-based data with an address and create an instant map.
- Google public data
- GapMinder – Hans Rosling is a god.
After lunch and hearing a snippet of the closing talk, I left to attend the LAUNC-CH research forum at UNC. The slides will go up soon.
Genny O’Gara gave an presentation on students creating oral histories of former NC State student leaders. They developed a workshop to help train the students in how to conduct the interviews. Her slides have much more information. Rosalind Tedford talked about the implementation of Wake’s for-credit IL program. Jenny and I talked about living-learning communities. I wasn’t sure how useful our talk would be for UNC librarians (because the school is so much larger and very different from UNCG), but several SLIS students attended and hopefully they can use this information for their future libraries.
The posters were also great! I didn’t get to spend much time with them, but I noticed a wonderful thing. Two of our former library interns, Amanda Click and Claire Walker, were cited on one of the posters for their article on ESL students. Rawk stars! Absolutely made my already fabulous day!