Co-PI Angie Oehrli participating in Library Journal’s Fake News workshop

Interested in how to combat Fake News? Check out Library Journal’s upcoming workshop series June 6 – 20, featuring our project team member Angie Oehrli!

Libraries are one of the few institutions that most Americans still trust. In polarized times, they can serve as nonpartisan, non-judgmental sources of accurate information—and, just as important, help users learn to evaluate the information they encounter every day. Claims of “fake news” have vaulted once-dry information literacy into the spotlight. To seize the teachable moment, this online course will offer up-to-date tools and effective tactics to enable patrons to critically assess sources, facts, and context.

Over the course of three weeks, participants will listen in on live keynote sessions and receive personal attention and resources from a dedicated advisor in an online coaching environment. Participate in online discussion groups, where you can share and gather resources and best practices and with peers from across the country.

Learn more here and register here.


Ethical Data Use & Uber

We’re flashing back this week to Jodi Kantor’s New York Times story on Uber from a few weeks ago to bring up an example of how we might discuss ethics and data use, one of this year’s themes, with our students. A short sample from the article:

“The whole thing is like a video game,” said Eli Solomon, a veteran Uber and Lyft driver in the Chicago area, who said he sometimes had to fight the urge to work more after glancing at his data.

Sometimes the so-called gamification is quite literal. Like players on video game platforms such as Xbox, PlayStation and Pogo, Uber drivers can earn badges for achievements like Above and Beyond (denoted on the app by a cartoon of a rocket blasting off), Excellent Service (marked by a picture of a sparkling diamond) and Entertaining Drive (a pair of Groucho Marx glasses with nose and eyebrows).

Of course, managers have been borrowing from the logic of games for generations, as when they set up contests and competition among workers. More overt forms of gamification have proliferated during the past decade. For example, Microsoft has used the approach to entice workers to perform the otherwise sleep-inducing task of software debugging.

But Uber can go much further. Because it mediates its drivers’ entire work experience through an app, there are few limits to the elements it can gamify. Uber collects staggering amounts of data that allow it to discard game features that do not work and refine those that do. And because its workers are contractors, the gamification strategies are not hemmed in by employment law.

Kevin Werbach, a business professor who has written extensively on the subject, said that while gamification could be a force for good in the gig economy — for example, by creating bonds among workers who do not share a physical space — there was a danger of abuse. “If what you’re doing is basically saying, ‘We’ve found a cheap way to get you to do work without paying you for it, we’ll pay you in badges that don’t cost anything,’ that’s a manipulative way to go about it,” he said.

For some drivers, that is precisely the effect. Scott Weber said he drove full time most weeks last year, picking up passengers in the Tampa area for both Uber and Lyft, yet made less than $20,000 before expenses like gas and maintenance. “I was a business that had a loss,” said Mr. Weber, who is looking for another job. “I’m using payday loans.”

Still, when asked about the badges he earns while driving for Uber, Mr. Weber practically gushed. “I’ve got currently 12 excellent-service and nine great-conversation badges,” he said in an interview in early March. “It tells me where I’m at.”

You’ll want to click through to play with the interactive tools that compare wait times to the number of idle Uber drivers waiting in the area or other scenarios relevant to the “gig economy.

To explore this with students, you might ask:

  1. What are the ethical principles underlying Uber’s practice toward drivers?
  2. What ethical principles do you assume that your future employer might have?
  3. How does this article impact your interest in using Uber (and how might your age — if you are not old enough to have a driver’s license — affect your answer)?
  4. How does gamification motivate you?
  5. Do you think drivers know Uber is gamifying its app with them? How do you feel about that?

Axios Data Visualization on Uninsured

If you’re like me, you’re watching the both sides of the Congressional healthcare debates sling statistics, money, and tweets at one another. So I found last month’s mapped visualization by Axios to be mesmerizing in the way that it did one thing very well: show how the rate of uninsured Americans shifted under Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act. It doesn’t discuss issues of federal costs, personal expenses, or caliber of coverage, but it does a great job of showing one shifting variable over time: percentage of people with some sort of health insurance versus those with none at all.

The screengrab below shows a static image, but click through to the Axios site so you can see the interactive GIF and see the colors change across time.

Then ask yourself some data viz questions:

  • Axios’ graphic measures by county. How might this look different if it measured by state?
  • How does the color palette influence how you feel about the data? Would more emotional colors like blood-red impact your interpretation?
  • Can you track back to the original data source (a division of the U.S. Census) and try out these questions?


Action Research Example

Throughout the first year of our project, team member Susan Ballard has been sharing her vision and experiences with Action Research (AR). She’s graciously agreed to share her report from her district’s AR project on Interactive White Boards (IWBs). I remember when this research was being done and found the results fascinating at the time.

Remember when IWBs were the must-have? But did they work? And why? Ballard and her team found out.

You can read the full study here!.


Decorate photo of silver award cups - publid domain from

Congratulations to co-PI Angie Oehrli!

Congratulations to our co-PI Angie Oehrli, who has been chosen to receive 2017’s LIRT Librarian Recognition Award.

From the ALA press release:

The Library Instruction Round Table (LIRT) of the American Library Association has chosen Jo Angela Oehrli, Learning Librarian at the University of Michigan, Shapiro Undergraduate Library as the 2017 recipient of the LIRT Librarian Recognition Award.  The Librarian Recognition Award was created to recognize an individual’s contribution to the development, advancement and support of information literacy and instruction.  Oehrli was chosen as the 2017 winner based on her contributions at the national, state and local levels in support of information literacy and instruction.  The award will be presented to Ms. Oehrli as part of the LIRT 40th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday June 24, 7-9 PM … during the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago.

Michael Saar, chair of the 2016 Awards Committee, noted Oehrli’s extensive leadership in promoting information literacy, program creation and her strong publication record as determining factors in the committee’s selection of her as this year’s winner.

Congratulations, Angie!

Image: Public domain from


Detail of the book cover to Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps

New Book: Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps

U.S. map showing animals of various states,

H.W. Hill & Co., Map of the United States, Showing the Farm Animals in Each State. 1878. Public domain. Image courtesy to the book by Rare Maps Inc.

Maps are a powerful, time-honored method of data visualization. And pictorial maps are even more fun, because they often superimpose iconography that represents the points of pride, natural wonders, exports, traditions, even the location of bathrooms. Think of historical maps complete with sea dragons or the state maps from the state reports of our youth, decorated with cars and sheaves of wheat.

The Library of Congress and the University of Chicago Press have a new book out to celebrate the decorated maps of our nation. Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps, was out this week, and just from the cover (below and in featured image) and preview pages I saw, I know I’m going to be hooked on these as soon as I can get my hands on a copy!

Book Cover for Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps

Data Literacy at MACUL!

Screenshot of slide deck

Check out our team member Jen Colby’s presentation on data literacy at the MACUL conference this week! She got 60+ converts from this presentation … will you be next?

Speaking of conferences … save the date for the 2nd 4T Data Literacy Conference, coming July 20-21, 2017. Registration opens in a few weeks! Can’t wait? Our parent conference, the 4T Virtual Conference on impactful technology integration, is May 20-22, 2017. Register here!

2017 Conference dates chosen!

Decorative - 4T Data Literacy conference logo

We’re excited to announce that the 2017 4T Data Literacy Virtual Conference dates have been announced! We’ll meet virtually on July 20-21, 2017. This year, we’re focusing our presentations on three (and a half) themes:

  1. Big Data, including citizen science
  2. Ethical data use
  3. Personal data management

Registration and more details will be forthcoming soon. If you registered last year, you’re already on our list and will let you know when it’s time to sign up!