Reading assignments - 20%
Response assignments
- 20%
Training assignments - 20%
Analysis assignments - 20%
Presentation assignments - 20%

Reading assignments

There is no textbook for this course.  Instead, each week you will be asked to read four or five scholarly pieces — some are articles from research journals, some are essays from the popular press, and some are chapters from longer books.  Articles range in length from 10 pages to 50 pages.  All of the articles are available as PDF files downloadable from our online repository (just use your normal UW NetID and password, just like your email, for access).

It is always a good idea to "read actively": underline or highlight key arguments and terms as you go, make notes in the margins or in text files about things you agree with or disagree with or don't understand, and write down a sentence or two about the main thesis of each article after you read it.

These articles were not chosen to be “unbiased” texts or to be the final word on the issues of digital tools and information agencies. Rather, they were picked with three goals in mind: they are readable and interesting while still scholarly; they are relevant to current events; and, often, they are polemical in that they argue for a particular interpretation of the world which you may choose to agree with or to disagree with.

You should come to class prepared to discuss all of the readings. 

20% of your grade will be based on in-class participation, which includes attendance and engaged, polite contribution to discussion of the readings.

Response assignments

Each week, you will need to do some homework related to the readings: either producing a blog post on one of the readings, or supplementing the readings with outside material (see below). 

20% of your grade will be based on your completion of these assignments (full points awarded for keeping up with the assignments each week).

Blogging the readings

Several times during the semester, you will write a 500-word research report on one of the articles from your reader, posting it to the class weblog before we meet to discuss the article that week.  (How many times you do this depends upon the total number of readings divided by the total number of students that enroll in the course.)

A blogged article report should briefly summarize the main argument of the article, and then pose a question or comment in response.  You will need to do a bit of extra investigation to write your blogged research report. Your report might include, but is not limited to:

  • a brief description of the main topic of the article (what's it about?)
  • a brief summary of the main thesis of the article (what does it claim?)
  • background information on when the article was published (pre-Web or post-Web?  pre-Google or post-Google?)
  • background information on who the intended audience for the aritcle was (professionals or general readers?), usually based on where it was published
  • background information on the author of the article, and this person's authority or expertise (do they work at a university? a private firm? do they hold a government position?)
  • an assessment of how the article was received by its audience (eg. any book reviews if the article was taken from a book, any audience discussion if the article appeared online)

Remember that anything you post on your discussion section weblog is visible to the whole wide world, through the magic of the Web. We've even had situations where the original author of an article will reply to a student's report on that article. Write in a way that is both serious and civil.

Supplementing the readings

If you are not assigned to write a blog post on one of the assigned readings, then your task is to seek out one outside resource — another article, a book, a web site, a Ted talk, a YouTube video, a Twitter feed, a real live person on campus, whatever — that somehow supplements the readings for this week. Since many of our reading are from "scholarly" sources, you might consider looking for similar themes in "practitioner" resources (like Library Technology Reports or School Library Review or Archives Review).  Post an annotated bibliographic citation to the resource (with a live web-link if possible) to the course weblog.  Your annotation should briefly indicate why this resource fits with this week's readings, and why it would be a valuable resource to other LIS professionals (in a couple of sentences).

Training assignments

Twice during the semester, we will use our weekly class time to take advantage of on-campus training opportunities to go in-depth with a particular type of technology.  The purpose of this training is twofold: (1) to learn something about the technology; and (2) to compare different techniques for technology training. Even if you are a technology expert, you must participate in these training exercises. 

Inventory your technology background (due week 03)

Write a one-page, single-spaced technology inventory to print out and turn in to the instructor, by answering these five questions:

(1) Inventory your current technology skills. What technology are you most embarrassed about not knowing more about?
(2) Inventory your past technology learning and practice history. What was your major before graduate school? What work experience did you
have before graduate school?
(3) Inventory your current online technology persona (social networks, searchable web pages). Where do you participate? What would you
guess people think of your technology expertise?
(4) Inventory your future technology needs. What kind of LIS career are you interested in after graduate school? What technologies will you
need to be familiar with?
(5) Finally, look at your answers to those four questions. How would you define or limit the term "technology" based on the answers you gave?

Choosing a training topic (due week 04)

During the first course meeting, students will sign up for one of two different broad training topics dealing with digital tools in the context of information agencies:

  • data: Learning the fundamentals of structured information storage and retrieval (in this case, Microsoft Excel)
  • interface: Learning the fundamentals of human-computer interaction (in this case, basic web site production tools)

Online training (week 05)

During week 5, instead of meeting for our regular class discussion, students will spend an equivalent amount of time participating in an individual, remote, asynchronous online training session through  You will need to log into with your UW NetID and password, create an account, and seek out web-based, self-paced training in either data or interface.

Hands-on play (week 06)

As busy students and professionals, much of our exposure to and learning about new technology comes from trial and error through self-taught experimentation and even play.  Make some time during this week to find a way to play with the technology you learned about through your training course.  Write a brief email to the professor (NOT a blog post) about the experience: Where were you able to get access to the technology, and what did you try in order to explore it? Do you feel you improved your understanding of the technology through this experience? 

In-person training (week 07)

During week 7, instead of meeting for our regular class discussion, students will spend an equivalent amount of time engaging in an in-person training activity conducted by the DoIT "Software Training for Students" program.  We have arranged for two different courses during our normal class time, to be held in three different locations, on either data or interface.

Training reflection (due week 08)

After your online and in-person training sessions are both complete, you must write a 250-word blog post comparing and contrasting your experience with both modes of learning.  Which was more easier?  Which was more content-rich?  Which, if any, would you advise other LIS professionals to take advantage of?  If your answer is "both," then in which order?

20% of your grade will be awarded for completing both training exercises, sending your "play" email, and writing a suitable reflection on the blog.

Analysis assignments

For this assignment, you will pick one interesting technology and analyze its implications for the provision of information to a particular public within the information agency of your choice.  Note that this means you have three decisions to make: Which technology are you studying?  Which information agency are you using as your context?  And which of that information agency's publics are you exploring?  Over the course of the semester, you will analyze this technology in context and with reference to this public.  This analysis portion of this assignment has four parts:

Choose your technology, context, and audience (due week 10)

You will want to pick a technology, a context, and a public with which you have some familiarity; for example, a technology you have long been interested in, a context where you have worked before, an information public that you can see yourself serving in your career.   Post your picks, and your reasons for picking them, to the course weblog.  Please note that no two students can have the same combination of technology, context, and audience!  It is in your interests to claim your combination early.

Assemble an annotated bibliography of resources (due week 11)

These resources should be drawn from a variety of both print and online sources.  For example: Are there key books on your technology?  Key journals? Articles from sources such as Library Technology Reports or Information Technology and Libraries?  Are there blogs that discuss your technology, or particular experts with Twitter accounts? Submit your file of resources — no fewer than a dozen separate resources, please — to the professor, and post your top three resources (with annotations) to the course blog.

Interview an expert on the technology (due week 12)

Actually, your interview can be with someone who is expert either on the technology, the context, or the audience that you have chosen.  Ideally you will complete a half-hour interview.  This interview may be in person or online.  If in person, get permission to record the interview (audio only is fine) and see if you can secure permission to post the interview as part of your final online presentation. If online, see if you can get permission to post a written transcript as part of your final online presentation.  Whether you get permission to post the full interview or not, please post a brief summary of the interview (who you interviewed, why, and the most interesting thing you learned) to the course weblog. However, as a courtesy to the interviewee, do not post real names; identify the interviewee by role (eg. "a local public librarian" or "a UW-Madison learning technology professional").

Play with the technology yourself (due week 13)

Playing with the technology means just that: get a hold of it and see what it can do.  Form some impressions, and report this in a posting on the course blog.  If the technology is one that you cannot physically get access to, explain why that is the case, and try to seek out first-person reports of others using the technology.

Outline your results (due week 14)

Create an outline of your final online learning presentation, and post that outline to the blog.  Your outline should include, at a minimum, the main aspects of the technology, the possible benefits to your chosen public within your chosen context, and the possible drawbacks.   

20% of your grade will be determined by the quality (accuracy, comprehensiveness, and creativity) of your analysis assignments.

Presentation Assignments

Your technology analysis must now be communicated to a wider audience.  Your goal is to explain your chosen technology, and its ramifications in your chosen conext for your chosen user public, in a way that fellow SLIS students can understand and make use of.  In other words, you will be acting as a technology instructor of sorts.

You will do this instruction in two ways: you will deliver a four-minute presentation on your technology to our class in order to rehearse your findings in front of current SLIS students, and you will create a 2000-word online learning resource on the technology for future SLIS students.

In-class technology presentation (due week 15 or 16)

Your technology presentation needs to be four minutes, which is a very short amount of time.  You will not be able to explore all the nuances of your technology; just strive to explain the main points of potential and concern. 

You may choose to perform this presentation "live".  If so, while you may use written notes or outlines, please do not simply read your presentation verbatim to us.  Engage the audience; perhaps use some visual aids. Use "PowerPoint" type slides if you must, but do not simply read text off the slides during a live presentation.

Or, you may choose to record your presentation.  In this case, you may create a digital film or a narrated "PowerPoint"-type presentation.  Choose this option if you would rather take the time to perfect your delivery and timing in an environment outside of the classroom.  I might suggest a format used in many technology conferences these days, where your slide show presentation auto-advances every fifteen seconds (meaning you have about 16 slides total for a four-minute presentation). 

Whether you do a live or a recorded presentation, you must prepare for up to five minutes of live Q&A after your presentation.

Online technology resource (due at the end of finals week)

In past years I might have asked students to summarize their technology analysis in an eight-page, double-spaced, typed paper, to be turned in to the professor.  However, these days I start with those same parameters — roughly 2,000 words — and ask that the technology summary be written in some sort of online medium that could potentially be viewed by the whole world wide web (or at least your fellow SLIS students). 

You may choose the tool that you like for this assignment.  You all have Blogger accounts through this course, so you may choose to create a small weblog for your learning resource.  Or you may create a rich-media Google document. Perhaps you have access to a wiki system. Be creative.

Since you are producing your final analysis of your technology online, I expect it to be a rich media document.  For example, include weblinks, photos (with attribution), and even videos where appropriate.  Make it visually interesting and usable.

This online technology resource should be professional enough to incorporate into your SLIS student portfolio. 

20% of your grade will be determined by the effectiveness (clarity, comprehensiveness, and creativity) of your presentation assignments.