Need to provide quick, task-based instruction? Do it with GIFs!

We know that our library users greatly appreciate the Library’s video tutorials. Tutorials allow users to learn research skills on demand, independent of time or geography. These tutorials can also be used to shorten a librarian’s instruction time in the classroom, leaving time for more active learning activities. However, designing, creating, and publishing tutorials can be very time-and-labor intensive. GIFs are an easy-to-create, low-maintenance alternative to video tutorials while still providing visually dynamic instructional content.

What is a GIF?

“GIF” stands for “graphics interchange format.” Released 29 years ago, the GIF provided a way for content developers to share compressed color animations that slow modems could load easily. Early website developers used GIFs to break up content-heavy websites or illustrate that their site was still in progress.

Early GIFs letting users know websites were still being developed

As the internet evolved, so did GIFs. Now, GIFs permeate many forms of digital communication. From text messages to email to social media, GIFs provide a (mostly humorous) way for people to express themselves.

Trudeau awkward handshake GIF
When everyone wants to shake your hand at once

GIFs as Library Instruction

Librarians have started to explore how GIFs might be an alternative instructional media. Using GIFs to display short, task-based activities can communicate step-based instruction more succinctly than images or text. Additionally GIFs can loop repeatedly, allowing users to continuously reference instruction.

Take for example, Sarah’s library guide for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. She wanted a way to communicate how scholars can limit their searches by region in Factiva. Narrowing by region is a seemingly quick process for librarians, but explaining the multiple steps and Factiva’s interface to first-time users can be difficult and confusing. Using a GIF, Sarah could show to process of limiting newspaper searches by region while keeping her LibGuide clean.

Factiva GIF
Limit by region in Factiva

Creating GIFs

GIF creators often fall into two categories: software and web apps. For high-quality GIF options, using software will be the most effective solution. Sarah’s GIF was created by making a screencast in Screenflow, and then producing the GIF in Adobe Photoshop.

However, if you don’t have this software and still want to make a quick GIF, try recording your screen with Screencast-o-Matic and uploading/editing the GIF in GIPHY. This is how I made the GIF embedded in the library news story “Unrequired Reading at the Library.”

FInding Class of 2000 Books GIF
Searching for leisure reading in the library

Notice that Screencast-o-matic automatically highlights your mouse cursor, which can be hard to find in smaller images.

Other GIF maker options are a Chrome extension or

If you have any questions or need help making GIFs, please ask Julie or Kaitlin.


Aleman, Karla and Porter, Toccara (2016, April 21). 10-Second Demos: Boiling Asynchronous Online Instruction Down to the Essentials with GIF Graphics. Retrieved from:

Suhr, K. (2014, October 22). Using animated GIF images for library instruction. Retrieved from:

Creating Accessible and Inclusive Handouts

Jennifer Turner and Jessica Schomberg have written an interested article regarding how to create readable, inclusive, and usable documents for library instruction. Using theories from Universal Design for Learning and Gestalt and plain language principles, the authors provide clear suggestions on how to make the most out of your handout. Check it on on In the Library with the Lead Pipe, or review the TL;DR version on the Chronicle for Higher Education’s Prof Hacker blog.

Looking for rubrics for assessment?

Explore RAILS (Rubric Assessment of Information Literacy Skills) for your rubric assessment needs!  RAILS is a repository of rubrics designed for academic librarians and disciplinary faculty to assess information literacy outcomes in higher education.

In addition to the rubrics themselves, there are links to suggested readings to get started using rubrics, relevant assessment and learning outcomes standards, and presentations on using rubrics for IL assessment.

Also take a look at the AAC&U VALUE Rubric for Information Literacy.  According to the website:

VALUE (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education) is a campus-based assessment initiative sponsored by AAC&U as part of its Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative. VALUE rubrics or scoring guides provide needed tools to assess students’ own authentic work, produced across their diverse learning progressions and institutions, to determine whether and how well students are meeting graduation level achievement in learning outcomes that both employers and faculty consider essential.

Gamifying Library Instruction: A Case Study

The Library Research Round Table (LRRT) of the American Library Association (ALA) recently awarded Eamon Tewell and Katelyn Angell the Jesse H. Shera Award for Distinguished Published Research for the article, “Far from a Trivial Pursuit: Assessing the effectiveness of games in information literacy instruction.” The study finds that students who played online games improved significantly more from pre-test to post-test than students who received a lecture in library instruction.

The games used by Tewell and Angell are openly available: Doing Research (from University of Illinois at Chicago) and Citation Tic Tac Toe (from James Madison University).

The MERLOT Pedagogy Portal

I recently discovered the MERLOT Pedagogy Portal.  MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) is a program of the California State University, in partnership with higher education institutions, professional societies, and industry.  It’s content is licensed under Creative Commons.

The portal’s content is broken down into 5 categories:

  • Learners and Learning
  • Course Instructional Design
  • Teaching Strategies
  • Teaching Challenges
  • Assessment

I am just beginning to explore this resource, but I am excited by what I have seen so far.

Classroom Polling with Google Forms

One benefit of working within a community of practice is learning about instructional technologies together. Last week, Google officially updated Google Forms, making beta features introduced in September the default. The new design makes prominent the ability to display charts and graphs of form responses in real time. This enables instructors to use Google Forms the way we use classroom response systems (clickers) and web-based polling services like PollEverywhere.

Here is an example of how to use Google Forms for polling in a library instruction session:

  1. Create a Google Form containing poll or quiz questions designed to check students’ comprehension and stimulate discussion.

Create a poll question in Google Forms

(View the full poll – and respond, if you’d like – here.)

  1. Distribute the poll to students in class.

Because Google Forms are Shibbolized – that is, integrated with CNetID authentication – you can use a class roster to distribute polls. While this is not a new feature, it sets Google Forms apart by eliminating (1) the class time wasted as students type the poll URL into their devices and (2) the awkwardness and complexity of using clickers. Instructors can email polls to students before or during class using their CNetIDs. Polls are then accessible to students with just a few clicks on a laptop, phone, or any web-enabled device.

Alternately, polls can be embedded directly into course guides.

Screenshot of a Google Form embedded in LibGuides

  1. Prompt students to complete the poll and display the results as they respond.

Display of poll responses in Google Forms

Note that it is necessary to refresh the page to see new responses. Charts and graphs will not dynamically update as they do with clicker systems and PollEverywhere. This is a clear shortcoming. Still, Google Forms is free, familiar, and easy-to-use — all clear advantages.

I have focused above on how to conduct classroom polling with Google Forms. For a review of why to use classroom polling, I recommend 7 Things You Should Know about Clickers from the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative.

During the UChicago custom ACRL Immersion program, we explored techniques to activate our classrooms, to put students in control of their learning rather than in passive, consumptive roles. Polling prompts students to share what they know and challenge and augment their peers’ understanding. By integrating polling into our teaching, we design instruction around students’ actual knowledge, enabling them and us to build on what is already known and actively clarify what is not.

Poll: Will you try classroom polling?

Flipping the Classroom

As Resident Librarian for Online Learning, I am interested in finding new ways to integrate technology into the library classroom. One technique, popularized in 2011, is the concept of the flipped classroom. A flipped classroom is a strategy to deliver instructional content outside of the classroom. Classroom time is devoted to discussion, activity, and collaborative learning. In a flipped classroom, students watch online lectures or carry out research at home and engage in concepts through activities and discussion in the classroom.

Why should you flip?

A flipped classroom’s most highlighted benefits are student-directed learning and an active classroom. Because the course materials are online, students control how they learn: they can pause or rewind videos, retake tutorials, and re-listen to lectures on their own time. Then, in the classroom, students have the opportunity to apply the concept in real-time assignments. The instructor serves as a “guide on the side,” ready to step in and help the students when they encounter problems.

So how does this look in library instruction?

A librarian interested in teaching a flipped one-shot will need to work closely with the instructor. The flip requires that students come to class prepared, so the librarian and the instructor will need to discuss how the instructional materials will be provided to the students.

Next, the librarian should consider what objectives they want covered and how that information will be conveyed. Although sometimes these items need to be created from scratch, we are actively trying to develop online tutorials and libguides that can be used for flipped classrooms.

Finally, think about how time in the classroom will be used. One of the most popular uses of the flipped model has students conducting research on their topics as the librarian acts as consultant or problem-solver. However, flipping the classroom can be any kind of collaborative, student-led work. For example, in one of her library instruction sessions, Sarah Wenzel implemented an exercise where students worked together to create an annotated bibliography.

Flipping means work (but you have friends)

As with any curriculum design, there are inherent challenges. Instructor buy-in is paramount to a flipped workshop’s success. If the instructor doesn’t ask that students engage with the prepared material before class, the students will be unprepared.

Additionally, creating the instructional videos or materials for a flipped class can be tedious. While we have a collection of material, sometimes a class will have a unique twist or unusual element that needs to be addressed.

If you wish to learn more about how to flip your classroom, or have new materials developed for a flipped experience, however, you have a couple of great resources (Julie and I!) who would be happy to help.

Further Reading

Seven Things You Should Read About Flipped Classrooms (Educause)

Flipping the Classroom: How Online Resources Enable Pedagogical Innovation (University of Chicago Divinity School)

Creating Digital Media LibGuide (University of Chicago Libraries)

Advice on bringing the ACRL Framework into your teaching

An Indiana library network, PALNI, has published a LibGuide on ACRL’s Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.  The guide has a page for each of the six ‘frames,’ defining the frames and mapping them to ACRL’s IL standards.  Additionally, the guides include possible learning objectives as well as suggested activities to incorporate the concepts into the classroom.

Not familiar with the Framework?  Read all about it here.