So… what skill do I want to learn? Chess, for one. Also how to oil paint and how to make a creme brulee that’s as good as Vita Nova’s… On the professional side, I want to be better at using an Access Database, more adept at Skype, a better public speaker. I want to know more about Delaware history and government, how to create educational apps, and how to conduct solid, rigorous assessments in a library context. maybe the better question would be… What DON’T I want to learn…?
Because I’ve been pulled into numerous library assessment activities in recent months, I’ll focus on the assessment piece just because the need is more urgent. This is also a topic / area that I’ve been delving into this semester in earnest, so I have a good basis from which to start.
First, I mined the local expertise by chatting with the folks in the assessment office, and I asked them for some information source recommendations. One of the best recommendations I received was for the book Assessing Student Learning: A common Sense Guide by Linda Suskie. Then I turned to my professional network. I drew up a list of the ‘big names’ in library assessment and looked into their publications, blogs, and books. I have since added their blogs to my feeds and begun following them on Twitter (when possible).
I think one of the most important moments in any self-learning endeavor is that metacognitive leap when you say, I understand X. But what I need to know is Y. For me, a few conferences like the library assessment conference, the occasional webcast, and conversations, emails and phone calls with colleagues was enough to give me a sense of the theoretical underpinnings of the kinds of projects I was interested in. What was holding me back from launching projects in earnest? The statistics.
A word about Meg and statistics. We are not a happy pair. But at some point I have had to realize that it is my fear of learning this that’s kept me from becoming a really self-sufficient practitioner in this regard. One tool that I know is used widely in the field for research is SPSS. I know very little about the program other than some of the basics of what it can do, so I thought I would start there.
I started locally and looked up the UD IT department’s documentation on SPSS
I then went hi-tech and was able to find some great folks to follow on Twitter who offer statistics advice such as Karen-Grace Martin; however, these conversations were invariably too high-level for me to start with, so I tried a few quick searches in Google for SPSS tutorials and located a few good starting points:
Youtube Tutorials: (I learned how to use my comic book software entirely through amateur videos on YouTube, so I thought I would start here.) The following two tutorials are much more accessible to a beginner like myself.
Other websites (more static)
The next steps will be to actually try it out! I can’t do that from home, though, so I’ll likely need to enlist some expert help, get access to the software, and start playing in a ‘sandbox’ of made-up data so that I can learn the basics. More to come, I’m sure….