Friday, February 25, 2011


In the early 1970's the Physics Survey Committee of the National Academy of Sciences conducted an exhaustive study of physics. The results were published in a three volume,1465 page preport Physics in Perspective in 1973. One of the recommendations was: "Graduate curricula for physicists should contain explicit training and experience in the use of modern information tools." The quote is in volume one, chapter 14 Policy Considerations: Conclusions and Findings" in the subsection Concerning Communication in Physics. (page 999).

Now jump ahead 33 years. (Yes, that is 33 years.) While I was serving on the Committee on Graduate Education in Physics for the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), it was decided to again study the field of physics. The joint American Physical Society (APS) and AAPT task force conducted a survey and published their findings in 2005. One of the findings was "The TFGE (task force on graduate education)recommends that departments require communication training and information literacy/fluency in their graduate programs." (page 4) The full text report is available on the APS web page.

A few institutiions have jumped on board and are doing a good job.

University of Illionis Physuics 496 Introduction to Research

Brigham Young University Physics 416AB Writing in Physics

Purdue University Physics 490 Great Issues Course: Special Nuclear Materials Their Science and Impact on Society.

I am currently collaborating on a book chapter and will let you know when the book becomes available.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Information Fluency Quick LInks

Over the past few months, I have twice given a talk to physics faculty titled "Information Fluency: Where to Start?". To go along with the presentation, I have collected a few good resources in comPADRE. If anyone has additional materials, I would be happy to add them.

Pat the Retired Librarian

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Information Fluency and Physics Curriculum

After reading the article "Astudent's guide to searching the literature using online databses" Am J. Phys. 77(12) 1112 - 1117 Dec. 2009, I contacted the first author Casey W. Miller at the University of South Florida. I was delighted to learn from Casey that the physics department at USF has "endorsed introducing this [literature seaerching]to undergraduates as a regular part of sophomore-level Modern Physics, and is providing administrative support to track its impact."

Friday, August 07, 2009

APS/AAPT joint meeting Feb. 20210

I am pleased to say that my session "Information Fluencey and Physics Curriculum" at the joint meeting of APS/AAPT in February, 2010 will have joint sponsorship by the APS Forum on Education and the AAPT Committee on Professional Concerns. The speakers for the session will be:

Michael Fosmire, Head Physical lSciences, Engineering and Technology
Division Purdue University Libraries
PHYS 504 West State Street
West Lafayette, IN 47907-0706

Prof. Andrew Hirsch
Physics Bldg.
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN 47907

Adriana Popescu, Head Engineering Library
Princeton University
One Washington Road
Princeton, New Jersey 08544

Prof. Jean-Francois van Huele
Department of Physics/Astronomy
N151 ESC
Provo, UT 84602-4682

Friday, June 19, 2009

Information Fluency Update 6/09

Update 6/09

When I first started attending AAPT meeting in January, 2002, I started talking about information literacy. I was pleased to realize that several faculty were very interested in my ideas.

BYU was working on curriculum for their “Writing in Physics” class. Steve Turley and later Jean-Francois van Huele agreed to speak on a panel for me before they even had curriculum in place. Jean-Francois was very enthusiastic when he spoke at the summer meeting 2006. He spoke again on my panel at the winter meeting 2008 and will be speaking on my panel again at the winter meeting 2010, which will be a joint meeting with the APS. In addition, Jean-Francois organized a session at the summer meeting 2008 in Edmonton on “Scientific Communication and Writing”. One of the speakers was Dan Budny from the University of Pittsburgh. His talk was “Writing: An active Learning tool in Physics and Engineering Education”. When I identified myself as a librarian, Dan spoke in glowing terms about how helpful librarians are. Actually, a team of librarians, English faculty, and writing faculty sold the idea for the course to the provost for him.

Another “early adopter” is Ernie Behringer at Eastern Michigan University. Ernie arranges a series of session called “Physics at Lunch” . Librarians are invited to speak at these sessions. In addition, Ernie has been organizing panel discussions that high light the importance of writing in physics. Summer 2008 meeting in Edmonton, “Capstone Experiences and Required Upper-Level Projects” included a talk by Prof. Gary Chottiner of Case Western Reserve University “Capstone Birth Pangs”. Gary was kind enough to share his ppt lecture notes with me. He covers everything that I would cover about the literature search. He also points out the wonderful resources available in the library and how foolish a student would be to ignore those resources. Also included in this session were Steve Turley and Jean-Francois of BYU “Highlights of BYU Undergraduate Capstone Experiences”.

I think I am beginning to see a pattern here. These early adopters are helping me carry the banner for information fluency and physics.

On the home front, I have established a tradition of an hour orientation session with new grad students at Cornell. We wait a few weeks into the semester and then the Physics Graduate Society invites them to a pizza dinner at which the librarian introduces the resources available at Cornell.

This year, my colleague Kirsten Hensley has conducted several brown bag lunch time sessions on a variety of topics. Although I will be retiring soon, I am confident that the tradition will continue. The president of PGS for this coming year worked in the library as an undergraduate and is sold on how helpful these sessions are.

Recently I have been spending time cleaning out my desk area. I gave boxes of “stuff” that I had picked up at conferences to the man who teaches in the Cornell Institute for Physics Teachers. Within an hour, Marty came back with an idea for a lesson. A DVD from AIP has a segment on solar energy. Marty planned to show the segment over breakfast, present a lab activity on solar energy, and then have the teachers attending go out and do the activity. This is the perfect example of what I try to accomplish with outreach. I try to make materials like this DVD readily available to teachers.

So---my message is just go out there and get involved. You never know where the path will lead!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Project Information Literacy

Project Information Literacy

The goal of the project is to understand how early adults conceptualize and operationalize research in the digital age. Funding Research for Year One is sponsored through a generous gift from ProQuest to University of Washington's iSchool in support of information literacy research.

The publications section is especially interesting to anyone trying to understand how students search for information.

"Understanding Information Literacy through the Lens of the Student Experience," (May 2008). A short i-movie, produced by the Project Information Literacy Team. Includes student, faculty, and librarian interviews about the 2007 Information Literacy Study, which was conducted at Saint Mary's College of California (4:06 mins.).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

PTEC (Physics Teacher Education Coalition)

Last week (March 12-14)I attended the meeting of the Physics Teacher Education Coalition in Pittsburgh. 110 people registered from 30 US states and several other countries. It was a very intense program.

I gave a poster session "Social Networking for New and Cross-over Physics Teachers". The poster is based on a talk I gave at the AAPT winter meeting, which was held in Chicago Feb. 12-16. I feel that social networking is a good way to promote information literacy. See my blog entry "Free and Easy Professional Development via TappedIn.