Like everyone, I’m deep in the weeds of pandemic-era librarianship. Unlike lots of folks, my institution’s classes haven’t started yet. But because I’ll be teaching 100% remotely this Fall (even though some classes will have on-campus components) I’m basically doing a whole ton of my Fall instruction right now, at my dining table, while trying to keep my cat and my bird off camera and off mic.
I’ve been teaching for 15 years — longer if you count the years I spent as a dance teacher. There are parts of this gig that I can do in my sleep. There are moves I’ve learned to make in the classroom as naturally as breathing. Sure, I’m always learning and tweaking and generally feel like I’m not actually teaching as well as I’d like to be, but I’ve developed a style, a pace, a repertoire.
And right now it feels like everything I know how to do in the classroom is varying degrees of useless. I’m back to square 1. Or maybe square 2.
Here’s some of what I’m learning and thinking about right now.
- Accessibility is hard
The vast majority of my video production time goes to captioning, and for other online things I’m working really hard to make them fully accessible. In the face-to-face classroom these issues exist too, of course, but up till now most of my time was spent learning how to make accessible face-to-face encounters work out well for everyone. Now that’s all out the window and I’m spending hours upon hours editing and syncing up captions and click-through tables of contents and alt-text. Super important work, but extremely time-consuming.
- Panopto (my campus’ main lecture capture tool) is both easy and hard
I like that I can relatively quickly capture video of me talking while demonstrating or using a slide deck. I also really like that it produces videos in an interface that our students are becoming pretty used to, so I can more easily assume that they’ll know what to do when they land on a Panopto video page. And I like that as the faculty and I are all re-learning our jobs, it produces analytics that can help me figure out which approaches worked in which situations. (And yes, I always set it up for anonymous access – I don’t want or need individual student information.) So I’m planning to have all of my course-integrated videos served up via Panopto into Moodle. But I don’t like that I can’t do some of the video-clip combing that I want to do for a few modules, and editing the captions is an absolute bear (not only does it take forever for each change to save, but if your caption is timed to start within about a second of a cut the caption won’t show on the public side! Ack!! So much fiddly editing even beyond fixing “in utero” back to “in Zotero”). I also don’t like that I can’t figure out how to do good revisions in Panopto — if I have to change a small thing I have to re-record the video. And of course, then there’s the ominous name “Panopto”…
- So then there’s more video production to learn
Today I’ve been learning iMovie. And how to record my screen on my iPad in a way that allows me to draw things and then import those videos of me drawing things into my screencast. And how to record new snippets of audio to replace audio that I messed up in the original recording. And how to write timed closed caption files to upload to Panopto and YouTube whenever I upload a video.
- Plus I now have a YouTube channel
I was thinking about how to live in a world where help-seeking will look really different compared to the extremely in-person-based methods we generally use at my institution. I can’t rely on people happening to see me when they come to print their papers. I can’t rely on people wanting to email me rather than talking to me on the sidewalk. So in the spirit of “be where they are” I’m trying to be more in their Google results… hence my brand new YouTube channel. I’m planning to put all the videos I make (that aren’t super specific to a particular assignment or class) up on YouTube so that if students Google something research related they’re more likely to find me and then be reminded of the things I taught them in our library session. Right now, it’s home to a playlist I made for a French course on getting started with Zotero. (If you watch it, please look past my stumbles…)
- Moodle Integration
I worked with our Moodle person on campus to get the LibGuides LTI working, so now we can get appropriate guides sucked right into Moodle. I still wish that there was something easier than custom metadata that would allow this kind of interaction, but right now the fiddly custom metadata route is the price we’re paying for more seamless integration into what has become students’ primary classroom. Such is life.
- More chat reference widgets
I made a chat widget to integrate into several of our core database platforms, and our eResources person is working on getting those loaded.
- Custom vs Generic
One big thing I’m wrestling with right now is when to do highly customized instruction (which is our norm) and when to provide generic videos paired with assignments, guides, and/or Q&A sessions. Students here really respond to the personalized, custom, course-integrated work we generally do, and this funnels them into our liaison appointments quite nicely. But I simply can’t do that in the current environment 100% of the time. 6 short Zotero videos took me most of a week’s work… So which things need to be exactly how customized? For example, I have an upper level course in one department where I know students get very few opportunities for library instruction before their senior thesis, so even though they need a pretty generic thing from me, I decided it was important to have that thing delivered all in my own voice rather than in equally good (or better) videos made by my colleague. I want them to know that I’m their librarian. But then for a first year seminar I kind of want to find videos from my colleagues as much as possible so that they come away having learned that there’s a whole team of librarians at this library, all of whom are awesome and available to help students throughout their college careers.
So yeah, nothing earth shattering here, but that’s where my brain’s been for the last while, ricocheting wildly between big things and little things – solvable things and unsolvable things. And now I’m going to go back to story-boarding a couple of videos for core concepts that I teach ALL THE TIME, and that take 5 minutes or less in a classroom, but will probably take me several hours to put into video form… Wish me luck!