There was an interesting thread on the ILI listserv a few weeks ago about "boring database demos". It ended up as a discussion of how to make library instruction sessions more interactive and less show and tell. And while the discussion centered on large classes where students do not have computers in front of them, it got me thinking about the sessions I do in our library's computer lab. I know students are following along with me, typing and clicking when I do, but is that enough? I think the answer is yes. And no.
I think the Follow the Leader approach to library instruction is helpful, but it's most effective when used in conjunction with opportunities for student exploration.
For a recent class, I adopted an idea from my co-worker Lynda where I divided a class into small groups, gave each a simple topic, and told them to find a relevant article in a database they'd never used before. I also asked them to note what they liked and didn't like about the database and how it was like or different from other databases we'd used. Background: I was teaching them America: History and Life (ABC-CLIO), and in a previous session with the same class, we'd used EBSCO databases. This brief exercise led to students having their first successful experience without my help and led to some discussion about the database and its features. I followed up with a more complex search that students seemed to understand pretty well. This is certainly something I would try again.
In my next post, I'll talk about some other activities I've come up with or adapted from my wonderful colleagues.