Research methods and networks

I was delighted to be selected as a 2019 Institute for Research Design in Librarianship scholar. IRDL “is designed to bring together a diverse group of academic and research librarians who are motivated and enthusiastic about conducting research but need additional training and/or other support to perform the steps successfully.” At the week long institute at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, I met the other 22 scholars and spent each day learning research methods, having consultations with qualitative and quantitative research experts and the two project directors, and basically geeking out over libraries and library research. I learned so much about research methods; I feel confident in my research design and methodology and equipped to carry out my work, which is to create and study a program in which peer Learning Success Mentors share information literacy and learning science tips with new students at my community college.

But the most important thing I gained is a research network. I would have taken a research methods class (although not in a week and not in such a beautiful place). But getting to know other people who are interested in which design will best answer a research question, how to write an in-depth interview guide and develop a codebook to analyze the transcripts, when to use regression theory, and why this matters to librarianship is not an experience I could every have had without IRDL. Knowing I can call on my fellow IRDLers and starting in July, my mentor, an experienced research librarian who will support me through the year’s work, is also pretty awesome.

The coming year will be difficult — I’ll be working harder than I ever have, trying things I’ve never done, working to deadlines, all on a project with a lot of moving parts that may not turn out as I hope. It’s pretty daunting. But so was getting on a plane to LA, being away for nine days, worrying about whether I’d be able to hold my own at the Institute. And in the coming year, the best part is that each of my fellow IRDL scholars will be doing what I am doing — holding ourselves to getting the work done, and standing with each other as we prioritize our research among all the other demands on our time. They are an amazingly talented group. I feel like I upped my game just being with them all for a week. Plus, I earned some pretty cool badges (yes, literal ones, not virtual).

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It’s great to be home, and I am excited to be on this research journey in such good company.

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A Badge for your Mad Skills

My kids are life learners, without traditional diplomas or grades. We helped our older teen translate his experiences into a narrative transcript for college applications, but I am delighted to hear about a new credentialing system in the works that will help people show the world their life experience and skills, no matter where or how they learned.

I think  “digital badges” will be a fantastic tool for college applicants, job seekers, non-traditional learners, veterans, parents who have spent time out of the workforce — anyone who wants to codify skills, talents, and experience. It will also help recent college graduates who want to explain how their lives have prepared them for employment far beyond what their official transcripts and brief resumes show. Check out these examples of two teens whose badges represent what they love to do (which is also quite naturally what they are good at).

MacArthur Foundation, the same nonprofit that selects “genius” grant recipients each year, are sponsoring a contest with Mozilla and a number of other partners to get this new badge system off the ground. Much the way scouts earn badges or gamers acquire achievements, anyone can post badges for their talents and experiences on a website. Essentially, you tell your own story, which is brilliant; so many people aren’t sure what they want to do, and working on badges could help clarify priorities and passions.

Do your mad skills need some polishing to be badge-worthy? Corbett Barr’s essay on “becoming an expert”  is some of the best advice I’ve ever read. May it be a guide to you on your life-learning journey.