Snowball fights and paper pedagogies in LIBR534

This week, the UBC campus was alight with epic snow and a friendly fusillade of student snowball lobs on the Main Mall. The snowball exchange (hardly a fight) made national news. Throwing snow at your neighbours is a rare event here in Vancouver, but it can feel good. It’s meant to be fun, and a way to circumvent social conventions in a stressful term. I decided to replicate this snowball throwing in my evening class at SLAIS, in LIBR534 (health information sources and services) by using a crumpled paper pedagogy. Ask students to write down on pieces of paper what they learned in class AND what they would try to learn by next week.

Crumple the paper with your ideas and throw it back at me (the teacher) like in a snowball fight!

As an academic health librarian, I’m aware of the vital role I play in teaching at the university.  In my LIBR534 class are some future health librarians. It’s a big challenge to teach 13-week courses which is really unlike any other teaching I do. Health librarians across Canada (the world) are regularly engaged in teaching library resources and how to search for materials in the evidence-based literature using Ovid’s interface to MEDLINE (and EMBASE) and EBSCO’s interface to CINAHL (PsycINFO, etc).

Here’s what the student health librarians revealed in their completely anonymous, crumpled sheets that they threw at me. I’ll be using this to design next Tuesday night’s class:

What I want to REMEMBER from tonight’s class on MEDLINE searching:

  • …I’d never really understood the power of explode and focus in a hierarchical vocabulary structure…I’d like to know more about when to use them (or not)”
  • …How to navigate OVID as a powerful interface to perform high-level searches”
  • “…The ability to form a basic search strategy… is something I need to work on”
  • “…MeSH searching is very powerful… and a lot of fun actually”
  • “…Medline and Embase are built on similar but distinct controlled vocabularies”
  • “…Medline’s tree structure is amazing…so are the limiters in OVID”
  • “…The challenge for me is to be comprehensive using MeSH and keywords for my clinical question”
  • “…I didn’t know the difference between PubMed and Medline : I thought they were the same”!
  • “…I want to remember all the cool tricks to get at the medical literature”

What I’d like to LEARN before next week’s class:

  • “…More efficient ways to phrase search sets; keywords to improve recall”
  • “…I want to learn more about those Ovid Commands to be more efficient”
  • “….can you talk more about ‘nesting’ keywords for searches?”
  • “…this is really valuable but can you build confidence in a short time? This is important for me”
  • “…I’d like to know more about what a good search length is; when is enough enough?”
  • “When should I use Medline first over Embase, and vice versa? If CINAHL is covered mostly in those databases when would I go there first?”
  • “….can you talk about PICO next week”?
  • “… floating subheadings; qualifiers, exploding subheadings (never heard of that before!”…
  • “…searching biomedical databases is so new to me, but I want to learn how to do this”




2 thoughts on “Snowball fights and paper pedagogies in LIBR534

  1. I love the paper snowball fight idea! Wish I had been given the opportunity to throw things at you when I was in LIBR534. Kidding, of course! Looking forward to meeting the class next month. -Mark

  2. Hi Mark,
    The student librarians in LIBR534 are looking forward to meeting you.
    We can definitely replicate the paper snowball fight! You are fair game too, lol.
    See you soon, Dean

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