Our New Best Learning Experience

Greetings from Ruth Larson Bender in Tokyo!   My husband and I have lived here for over 20 years.  We return to the States several times a year to visit our two children (both now in graduate school too) and extended family in Minnesota, Michigan, Arizona and New York.  Eventually, we’ll return “home” but we’ll stay international educators for a bit longer.

My library work experience has all been at The American School in Japan (ASIJ), a 112-year-old international school for preschoolers to high school seniors.  I spent my first 11 years happily immersed in the lively elementary school library. But, five years ago, I moved the the high school library and I have loved it!   My coursework through SLIS and my experiences working with high school students and faculty all dovetail nicely.  One enriching the other, I think!

Embedded librarianship didn’t pop up on my radar until Michelle Holschuh Simmon’s Information Literacy Seminar.  It so captured  my attention that I devoted my final seminar paper to the topic.   I applied findings from a literature review of the embedded library trend to our high school at a time when the launch of our new 1:1 laptop program promised fresh possibilities.  Although the embedded library model is not as often associated with high, middle and elementary school libraries, I believe that it works there too.  I am looking forward to digging deeply into this topic and shamelessly stealing ideas from academia for our high school!  In this week’s lecture, Meredith already mentioned initiatives at Portland State, like Library DIY and Train-the-Trainer, that sound right up our alley.

Best Learning Experience?  Wow!  That’s tough!  With a half century behind me, I have many “bests” from which to choose.  The SLIS program alone has been so uniformly rigorous and top-notch that I almost hate to graduate!  But, for today, I’ll cite these two learning experiences from SLIS that share essential ingredients.

  • Building a Library 2.0 site in Michael Stephen’s TransTech course
  • Being a LIBR 203 Peer Mentor under Debbie Faires

Three elements in common make these two experiences standout for me:

  • The course expectations were so ambitious it was scary!
  • But, thanks to expert scaffolding, the learning environment felt safe.
  • And, perhaps most importantly, the learning products were authentic.  In one, a Library 2.0 package was created and deployed for a school’s library staff and, in the other, 18 student successfully graduated from LIBR 203!

Good learning experiences transform us.  I look forward to collectively creating a new Best Learning Experience with all of you.


About tellthetruthruth

I'm a 12 Thinger.
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8 Responses to Our New Best Learning Experience

  1. mgfarkas says:

    Welcome Ruth! How nice that your Information Literacy class experience led so fluidly into this class. You’re absolutely right that you can adapt a lot of what we’re learning here to a K-12 setting. In fact, if you want to adapt any of our assignments to a K-12 library setting, please feel free to do so (you’re also welcome to check with me on how you plan to adapt it).

    I agree that well-scaffolded and authentic learning experiences are the best kind. I often work with faculty new to teaching first-year students to help them learn how to best scaffold research experiences so that students get the needed feedback and learning to feel a sense of self-efficacy at the end. Some folks who are accustomed to working with upper-classmen and grad students are used to throwing a research assignment at students with little even explanation, but that doesn’t work with first-year students.

    • embendered says:

      Thank you for permission to adapt assignments, Meredith. I will be taking you up on that offer! I’ll definitely bring those ideas forward for your input.

      I ponder this question of scaffolding often for our high school setting. You note that some of your faculty need to learn how to support the research process for their first-years. That is also true of our high school faculty but, what is more, they actually need a refresher course in the research process themselves. Although expert teachers, many are years-to-decades removed from first-hand experience with the research process themselves. While this is not true in academia, is it safe to say that faculty, although actively engaged in research themselves, develop research habits that may mean that they are not necessarily well-equipped to scaffold student research in a varied and up-to-date way? The Ithaka US Faculty Survey 2012 gives some indication of this, I think.

  2. thelibrarianandtheburrito says:

    Ruth! I’m so glad we’re in another class together. I really picked up some good things from you when we were Peer Mentors together… 2 years (or so) ago?

    I also love that your entire family so obviously values education. As an educator yourself, married to another educator with two kids in grad school I’m sure you have some really intellectually stimulating conversations at the dinner table when you finally do get together stateside. Also, there are things that happen to our mental state in higher education that only others who’ve gone through the same experiences can understand. 🙂 Here’s to solidarity.

    Glad to see you again and I’m looking forward to getting to know you better through your posts this semester! Cheers!

    • embendered says:

      You are right, Zem! There is definite solidarity with my graduate student children and my lifelong-learner husband. But I actually feel that bond with all students. Being a student while helping students…..that has made all the difference. Especially since my earlier graduate school days were…well, way earlier! I am now light-years more empathic…..not to mention useful!!!…to the students that I interact with thanks to SJSU SLIS! And, isn’t that what made our Peer Mentoring experience so powerful?

      I am delighted to be in class with you again, Zem.

  3. Hello Ruth!
    I just finished reading your introduction and I’m so excited because I went to Chofu Elementary school in Kanto Mura very close to ASIJ! I also went to Yokota Junior High and High School! Then I moved to the US to attend college.

    Do you know Aileen Thomas Kanoh? She is a teacher at ASIJ! I’m so happy a lot of the “Inter-school” kids have reunited on Facebook and we are a family. Wow! What a wonderful life you lead in Japan! The various embedded librarianship projects you mentioned in your blog about your experience at ASIJ high school is fascinating! Thank you for bringing your real life experience with helping students at your high school, so we can all benefit from it in class!

    It’s nice to meet you! I wish you all the best in this course and graduation soon!

    Warmest regards,

    Patricia Ayame Thomson

    • embendered says:

      Cool! So cool! Yes, I know Aileen! I think of her as Saint Aileen. She and my husband work side-by-side in ASIJ’s Elementary School. She is wonderful. I will let her know we made this connection. I too look forward to learning with you this semester, Patricia.

  4. Claudia says:

    Hi Ruth,
    I just want to say that I love the way that you titled your blog, “tRruthiness” You caught my attention right away and I had to share it with my husband, too. Very clever!

    • embendered says:

      I’m glad you like tRuthiness. I love that word but I better be clear that all credit for its coinage should go straight to Stephen Colbert. I think it will capture, more often then I’d like, what is likely to happen right here on this blog: me presenting my version of truth without a grain of logic or evidence!

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