2016 Spring Update at the Information Institute

Building on a productive 2015, the Information Institute has continued the trend through the first half of 2016.  This post will provide an update to changes at the Institute and highlight the activities and accomplishments of our research team in 2016 so far. 

Laura Spears accepts a new position at the University of Florida

After joining the Information Institute in June of 2011 as a Research Associate, Laura Spears quickly became an integral part of the Information Institute and was promoted to Research Coordinator June of 2013.    Combining her previous work experience in leadership and management with her education from the FSU iSchool, an MLIS in 2007 and a PhD in 2016, Laura Spears played a major role in several grant funded projects at the Institute, including the Florida Rural Broadband Alliance (FRBA) Broadband Needs Assessment and Benchmarking of Anchor Institutions; Florida Electronic Library Evaluation; and, most recently, our ongoing NSF ATE project, Assessing Information Technology Educational Pathways that Promote Deployment and Use of Rural Broadband.

In January of 2016, Laura Spears accepted a new position as the Assessment Librarian in the George A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida.  In this role, Laura works to support the library efforts to demonstrate educational impact and return on investment for their stakeholders, which includes students, faculty members, researchers, instructors, and the greater Gainesville community, as well as to aid the library staff and administration in making evidence-based decisions in pursuit of the library’s goals.

On top of all of this, Laura Spears just graduated with her PhD this spring semester!  While we are sad to see Laura go, we know that she will make us proud and prove to be an integral part of the University of Florida’s George A. Smathers Libraries!  Congratulations Dr. Spears!

Jonathan M. Hollister joins the Information Institute research team

Attempting to fill in Laura’s shoes, Jonathan M. Hollister assumed the role of Research Coordinator at the Information Institute in January of 2016.  Jonathan brings expertise with a variety of qualitative and quantitative research methods and experience working on a several successful grant funded projects.  Previously, Jonathan worked as a Research Assistant in the iSensor Lab and also as a graduate lead instructor for courses such as Information Technology Project Management and Multicultural Literature and Information Resources for Children and Young Adults for the FSU iSchool. 

Alongside Dr. Spears, Jonathan also just graduated with his PhD in Information Studies.  His dissertation examined the digital literacy practices of role-players in an online game.  For more information on Dr. Hollister’s research, please see his website here.

Dr. Marcia Mardis returns from the land Down Under

After completing a busy spring, Dr. Mardis just returned from a Brisbane Australia where she gave an international keynote address and taught at master class at the EduTECH 2016 conference’s Future Libraries Congress. Marcia also spoke at the Pearson Australia Executive Networking event.

Later in June, Marcia will lead a session at the joint U.S. Department of Education/IMLS/NSF K-12 Open Educational Resources (OER) Summit and attend the American Libraries Association conference in Orlando where she will continue to chair the American Association of School Librarians’ Standards& Guidelines editorial board and participate in a convening of the IMLS-funded CLASS II research project.

NSF ATE Update

The research team has had a productive spring, producing 4 preliminary reports and preparing and submitting our third annual report for the NSF.  All of these reports can be found on our website here.  Preliminary findings suggest that soft skills, such as interpersonal, communication, and self-management skills, are highly beneficial for new IT professionals and sought after by IT employers, but not a strong part of the IT curriculum.  Both new IT professionals and IT employers see experiential learning, such as internships and volunteering, as a means of developing soft skills and accessing cutting-edge technology, but there are several remaining challenges to attracting and retaining talented IT professionals, building industry partnerships, and funding and expanding broadband infrastructure in rural communities.  The NSF 2016 Annual Report, available on our website here, has a more detailed summary of our findings to date.

Our new Research Coordinator Dr. Jonathan Hollister will be meeting with scholars from three South Korean universities to disseminate and discuss our preliminary findings of the NSF ATE project to build awareness of the issues related to IT education, the Institute’s research activities, and the FSU iSchool, as well as gain feedback, and potentially forge new collaborations.  We look forward to his report when he gets back in late June.

Moving Forward

As the NSF ATE project enters its fourth and final year, the research team has concluded data collection and has turned its attention to a comprehensive analysis of the preliminary findings and the data collected to date.  Based on the results, we will be able to make key recommendation for IT curricula in the Northwest Florida region in order to better meet the needs of new IT professionals, students, and regional IT employers.