Georgia Tech Library Tours Promote Writing and Communication Success in ENGL1101/1102 and LCC3403

Georgia Tech Library's Main Entrance

Georgia Tech Library’s Rotunda Entrance

Last Friday, I brought my ENGL1101 (College Writing I) and LCC3403 (Technical Communication) students to the Georgia Tech Library for a tour of the facilities and services (and archives for LCC3403).

I believe that libraries are an incredibly important part of one’s on-going learning, personal development, and professional distinction. Libraries aggregate knowledge for its readers through books, journals, databases, and other media. Libraries make it possible for readers to build connections between sources of knowledge, visualize relationships between books on the shelf or articles in a database, and discover things chaotically, serendipitously, and orderly. Libraries, in their own right, are a university for the self-motivated, curiosity-fueled learner. It is the kind of place where people like Ray Bradbury earn a cap and gown.

For these reasons, I am a firm believer in taking my students to the library early each semester and reminding them of its virtues and possibilities throughout the semester. I tell my students that the library is one place where you can grow beyond your peers and become part of a larger conversation in your field of study (or in other domains of knowledge that might enrich their success in untold ways). Furthermore, the Library is the embodiment of interdisciplinarity, because it unites all the disciplines’ collected knowledge in one place for all students and faculty.

Practically, I encourage them to use the library early and often so that they won’t think that it is difficult or hard later on when it might count a lot more in their studies.

Librarian Sherri Brown

Librarian Sherri Brown

With the help of Sherri Brown, the reference and subject librarian for the School of Literature, Media, and Communication and the Writing and Communication Program, I easily reserved a time for each tour and she coordinated with the other librarians and staff to pull off a well-orchestrated, hour-long tour.

Inside the Rotunda

Inside the Rotunda

We began in the rotunda entrance of the Library for a brief introduction to the library and its computing resources.

Learning about the Multimedia Studio

Learning about the Multimedia Studio

Then, we walked downstairs into the basement to visit the Multimedia Studio and its terrific wide-format plotter.

First Floor East Commons near the Science Fiction Collection

First Floor East Commons near the Science Fiction Collection

We stopped by the first floor, east to see the circulating Science Fiction collection before going upstairs to the second floor, east to see the periodicals and microfiche area.

Second Floor East and Periodicals and Microfiche

Second Floor East and Periodicals and Microfiche

Then, Justin Ellis, Library Associate in charge of Gadgets talked with my students about the many technologies from cameras to laptops to tablets that can be checked out for fun or study (or both).

Justin Ellis

Justin Ellis

Gadgets, like books, are a technology to be circulated via the Library.

Gadgets, like books, are a technology to be circulated via the Library.

My LCC3403 students had a special treat on their tour, because we visited the Georgia Tech Archives where Jody Thompson, the Head of Archives, introduced institute-oriented holdings (e.g., the Technique or planning reports) and how to search them. They will be using the Archives as part of their final project to propose and implement a technical communication solution to a problem that they identify around campus.

Head of Archives Jody Thompson

Head of Archives Jody Thompson

Learning about the Archives

Learning about the Archives

Many thanks to Sherri, Justin, and Jody for helping my students navigate and use Georgia Tech’s incredible Library!

DevLab’s End of Semester Best Computing Practices Workshop, Wed, Dec 4, 2013, 4-5PM

S is for Security!

S is for Security!

Our computers and other computing devices store some of our most important belongings: photos, videos, music, syllabi, research, and manuscripts. We owe it to ourselves to maintain and protect these things through best practices in computer maintenance, security, backups, and training. During the upcoming winter break, I would like to encourage everyone to spend some time putting your cyber-house in order before the spring semester begins.

To help you with this and to promote best practices, I will hold a workshop in DevLab on Wednesday, Dec. 4 from 4:00-5:00PM before D-Ped. Workshop participants are encouraged to bring their Mac or PC to the meeting. Tablets are also welcome.

Before or after the workshop, you can download the first version of my best practices guide from here: ellis-jason-best-computing-practices-v1.pdf

If you have a question for the workshop that I cannot answer off the top of my head, we can use the workshop as an opportunity to learn something new together.

See you in DevLab!

Learning from our Grandmothers: Memories of my Granny Ellis (1918-2012)

Papa and Granny Ellis with me after high school graduation in 1995.

Early Monday morning, I received an unexpected phone call from my Dad. Obviously upset, he told me that my Granny Ellis had passed away during the night. It was hard to wrap my head around this fact. She was 94 years old, and she marshaled on despite numerous health problems–especially later in life. She was from “old stock,” a heartier stock that could weather setbacks and troubles without much complaint or fuss.

She was my last grandparent to pass away. I am very fortunate to have had so much time to spend and learn from my grandparents. Wilma, Papa Gerald, Papa Ellis, and Granny Ellis contributed in so many ways to my emergence as the person that I am today. I feel somewhat disconnected now from the past anchored by my grandparents–grandparents who I spent time with every day, every week, every summer when I was younger and who I called once a week no matter where I might be in: in Atlanta, Liverpool, or Ohio.

There are  a couple of things that immediately come to mind in remembering Granny Ellis. The first has to do with food and the second has to do with the surprising power of memory.

When I was younger, I would usually spend Wednesday afternoons and some weekends with my Granny and Papa Ellis. More often than not, I wanted to “play” with my Legos or other toys, but what no one knew–even myself–was that I was learning. I was modeling. I was thinking through narrative. I was thinking about the possibilities in social interaction, engineering, and creativity.

Granny Ellis let me explore through my play without interruption–except when it was necessary, as she would remind me, to eat. She believed in making sure that I was well fed. With energy stores fulfilled, she would release me from an empty bowl of chili or a now barren plate where once sat made-from-scratch biscuits to return to my building, my thinking, my “play.” In her own way, I believe that she recognized that I needed to do those things to make sense of a world far different from the one she was born into so many years before. She recognized that even play is an important part of learning.

Then, many years after those afternoons on the carpeted floor hunting for the right brick, Granny Ellis developed neurological problems. Papa Ellis would need to guide Granny around. It was like she was there, trapped behind her eyes, unable to express herself as she had when I was younger. However, her doctors began experimenting with different medicines to combat what were ultimately long undiagnosed micro-seizures and dementia, she regained to some extent her old self. You could speak with her once again and she could recall the past remarkably well. Unfortunately, her short term memory was impaired–she could not remember from day-to-day or even minute-by-minute on most occasions.

Due to Granny Ellis’ trouble with short term memory, I expected her to not remember my wife Yufang after I introduced her. To my overwhelming joy, Granny Ellis not only remembered that I was married to a beautiful girl named Yufang, but she also remembered to ask how Y and I were doing. Granny’s face would light up when she saw Y on the too few occasions that we could both travel to Brunswick to visit. Despite these few encounters, Granny Ellis overcame her brain’s degenerative hurdles to hold on to that memory. Did her love for Y and me play some role in her brain’s ability to build a lasting long term memory from her short term memory? This question deserves further investigation. In the meantime, I believe that she expressed her love through her memory of Y, and I am glad that I now have that memory to hold onto in my life.

Our friends and family (and especially our grandmothers) have a lot to teach us. We can learn from them and our experiences. We can reflect on what they did–how they demonstrated solid pedagogical practices for learning and enabling learning–in our own thinking about the theory and practice of teaching.