Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Cpd23 - Thing 2 - Exploring blogs

Since starting Chartership, I have been investigating blogs and feeds and have mostly been reading things from CILIP and their Special Interest Groups. Occasionally, I happen across one recommended by someone on Twitter and this has generally been the best way of ensuring I read relevant posts.  However, I hadn't really explored properly what's out there - there seems to be so much it is daunting.

For the next Cpd3 task we have been set the task of looking at a few more blogs. So firstly I have been commenting and reading some of the Cpd23 participants' blogs. The list was getting huge so I have just focused on five for now which feature both further education (because I work in a college) and higher education (because I work mainly with HE students).

Managing a Learning Resources Department which pretty much says it all in the title really!

Behind the bookshelves

Much ado about blogging

Exploring the information world without a map

Alice in LibraryLand

Reading others thoughts, comments and about the type of work people do makes me realise not only that I should think before I type but that it actually really feels like a community. It is very interesting to read about the work which goes on in other sectors and how they got into it.

My next step is to find a way of organising them (the posts not the bloggers) and not getting too swamped with all that they have been up to, then I will try to find more blogs be people offering a service to Higher Education students in a Further Education environment - if anyone fits this bill please let me know.

RSC The e-factor London Showcase

Well it started off well...I arrived with my colleague at Senate House where the event was taking place, sat down, got myself a nice cup of green tea - and then the fire alarm went off!

After the firemen had declared it safe, we all went back inside and carried on with the rest of the day which was very well organised and had no more unwelcome surprises. Below is a brief synopsis of some of the events.
Firstly, Graciano Soares, the manager of RSC London, welcomed us all to the event and then introduced us to our keynote speaker of the day, Paul Wakeling, the Principal of Havering Sixth Form College. He started by saying that at Havering there had previously been central control of ILT but he had been working towards a model of more participation by both students and staff. Paul claimed that IT is needed to enhance education and that if the structure is cut back as an austerity measure students will suffer as a consequence.

Then Paul said something surprising - he doesn't have an office. Havering College has reduced its office space and staff use the whole College, as students are expected to too. The idea behind this is that the whole College should be suitable for learning as spaces are designed with everyone in mind, however, this does put pressure on the IT department. This reduces unused space and encourages people to use their own technologies.  I found his example of students using the canteen to study and as a social space surprising, as my institution had tried something similar and failed. I think we had been too strict with students and tried to prescribe the type of use we expected, rather than letting students use it how they wish. To maximise space, Paul also mentioned that Havering loans netbooks which reduces the amount of banks of computers needed.

Paul asked us a few questions and we answered them using a voting system - it was very effective at seeing results in form of bar charts immediately on screen. One of the questions which stuck with me was whether institutions allowed access to media such as facebook and other social networking technologies - we don't but the result was fairly even between yes and no. Perhaps this is something we should review again in light of this.

After the keynote speech, we all split up and attended our various showcases. My first one was delivered by David from Rose Bruford. This is a small institution with only 1000 students.  He told us about the challenges he had faced at Rose Bruford in teaching Performing Arts using Moodle. Staff there were already using various types of technology but were using them across a range of platforms and it was quite messy; introducing Moodle would tidy this up making it more efficient for staff and students. Dave made the point that students expect college to be even better than how they were taught at school so colleges have to embrace this and stay ahead. A way of encouraging staff to be involved was to highlight that it was going to save them time and not add any more work to their already heavy workload. Implementing Moodle has been good for student and staff collaboration and it really helps distance learners as they can access materials at their convenience. It also speeds up the feedback period so continues to keep students motivated. I liked David's arguments for teaching staff using Moodle and as I am going to be more involved in training staff in this area I will be using them.

The next session I went to was with Graham Francis from Havering College. I liked their mission statement as it included the partnership of both students and staff within it, ensuring that everyone was responsible in the success of the College.  He mentioned how staff have Twitter feeds in their classrooms and can stop the lesson whenever a story looks important. I  can see how this would be interesting and useful in some subjects but I think it may become distracting. Feedback is given in a verbal memo to students which speeds up the process and is liked by many students. They are increasing their loans of netbooks to utilise space better but I found it interesting that they are recognising their EMA students in their approach to technology. I think I may mention this to the leader of the Socio-Economic Committee I am on at work and see what he thinks.

The University of Arts showcased their approach to blogs - they were being used for reflection, community building, archiving, overseas collaboration and to assess essays. I was surprised that they used the blogging tool, the VLE and Mahara - it seemed to me like a lot of passwords and platforms to remember. It would be nice if they can work together in some way, for example, the blog becomes a block on the vle. It seems like it has been successful though in many different ways and it will be interesting to see how they carry on in the future.

For me, the most useful talk of the day was from Rod at Newham 6th form. He took us through the timeline of Moodle and  implementation. Initially they had 'ILT Champions' - we have just set up something similar called Learning Coaches. He said it didn't work because people developed material inconsistently and sporadically, it will interesting to see if the same occurs at my institution. They have an e-learning committee but it isn't recognised as the 'vision' only exists in certain individuals (this seems to be a perennial problem), however, due to this committee there are now standards set for the vle and there are Moodle inductions for new staff. He said the LRC staff run the VLE and they get two hours training a week for a year - we are hoping to also run it out of the LRC but I'm not sure how much training we will get yet. Members of their LRC are linked to a member of each eteam, attending their meetings and showcasing good practice - I think this is a fantastic idea and one that hopefully we can replicate to some extent. Mahara linked into all this by being a collaborative page between the students on each course, staff can also use it for the appraisal process as each member has a separate view or they can use it to enhance topics mentioned in Moodle. There were numerous possibilities. I will be taking his advice to train staff to use them together and to ensure they know how to manage groups and views.

Lastly, John Mclaughlin from BIS closed the session by emphasising the need for constant change and movement. Boundaries are blurring across HE and FE and the HE White Paper, due out on the 27th, may reflect this further. He also stressed that IT  improves people's abilities as it is much easier to use now and doesn't require one to be a techie to use it.

Overall, I thought this was a fantastic day. I had never been to an RSC event before and I found it useful, interesting and well-organised. I would recommend anyone else go if they get the opportunity.

Bye for now.

Monday, 27 June 2011

London Library Teachmeet

What happened?
A Library Teachmeet was held at University of Westminster 20th June for two hours. In this time 12 speakers demonstrated, in either five or two minutes, the tips they use when teaching information literacy to students. Fiona O’Brien and Emma Woods welcomed everybody and explained to the audience how they had had to focus on their main selling points to prove their worth. They claimed that they mainly delivered what they considered was a tripartite relationship – resource development, building relationships and learning and teaching activities, The Teachmeet had been organised to improve the latter as they believed it to be the ‘bread and butter’ of an academic librarian’s role.

Hannah Wood told us how narrative is fundamental to learning. She has collected student examples of researching and  collated them; she then uses these in classroom situations. Students connect more to the stories as they recognize them and they also like hearing about other people’s mistakes. She asks them questions like ‘what would you do in this situation?’ or ‘have you experienced this before?’Students then tell their own stories which in turn activates prior earning and helps them to remember.

I think this is something that can definitely be used in the sessions we deliver. This expands on something that was mentioned at the CoFHE LASEC  CPD event, where it was mentioned that getting positive quotes from students helped them feel more connected. I especially like how it ties in with prior learning, something that my teaching course explained was very important in ascertaining at the beginning of the lesson; it also makes the subject much more relevant. Keeping a log of all stories is a very practical way of implementing this – I think it could also highlight gaps in students’ training needs.

Daphne Chalk-Birdsall gave us an introduction to a database called Archigram Archival Project. She explained that it makes the work of the seminal architectural group Archigram available free online for public viewing and academic study. She maintained that this site was especially important to international students as the high visual aspect of the site helped students’ understanding.
While the site isn’t relevant to our students, the importance of using visual aids is and it looked like an amazing resource for students of architecture.

Alice Cann spoke about the challenges of teaching a class with too much content. She has a two hour period available to deliver study skills sessions to students, which doesn’t include a welcome induction. Rather than giving tips, Alice wanted to know the answers to this. She wondered whether it is best to give the basics, i.e. the most important pieces of information or to give a little bit of everything.
This is a continual problem. I think that Alice is lucky to have a two hour slot as she can incorporate a lot into this, however, students may get bored in the meantime. Ideally, the sessions would be split up throughout the year in a drip-drip approach. I think the answer to this question is to give students practice of the most relevant databases to their course and ensure they understand why to use them. The trainer can then very briefly give a description of other sites and how to access them. Overall, the most important pieces of information they take away, in my opinion, are how to access resources and where to get help.
Sian Aynsley demonstrated the new NHS Librarians’ website London Links . It is a site where all NHS librarians share good practice with a trainers toolkit and have a coordinated approach to discussing issues of mutual concern and to planning and implementing strategies.
The site looked clearly laid out and professional and I can see how having such a site raises the librarians’ profiles across the sector. It has a few links to interesting articles relating to mobile technologies and students’ learning.

Deborah Lee  introduced the quick quiz. She uses this when training staff and students. It assesses factual understanding before going on to exercises or practice – these can be adapted to reflect what happens in the quiz. The questions should be closed, e.g. yes or no, right or wrong etc and she throws in a few difficult trick questions at the end. This all helps to review what students have learned but also to reinforce their learning too.
 Our LRC team has done this to a certain extent with Quizdom and I have used it myself to check that people have been listening. I think using closed questions is something to remember as this will speed up the process and stop rambling. I think that care should be taken not to pick on people though as it can be unpleasant to feel under scrutiny and the ability to parrot something back does not necessarily mean that understanding has taken place.

Stephen Johnson  spoke about improving Information Assurance in central government. He mentioned the recent cases of HMRC losing data because it was not secure, how the Transplant service had inaccurate data which caused problems and how the Victoria Climbie case showed that vital information was not available when it was needed. Stephen claimed that security, accuracy and availability were the key factors to instill in people when teaching them to be responsible for information.
A useful reminder that as librarians we have access to a lot of student data and we should take care not to let it get into the wrong hands.

Angela Young and Zoe Thomas focused on self-reflection for trainers of information literacy. They gave out a checklist of things to do during a workshop, e.g. assess prior knowledge, gave contact details and so on. This served both as an aide-memoire and as a place for self-reflection as it included questions such as ‘how were the participants?’, ‘how did you feel?’ etc. It also gave them a place to record any tips for progress. They said that having an induction mentor was really useful and that by collating the self-reflection sheets they could assess what progress had been made.

The LRC does this to some extent already by using a feedback spreadsheet. What this has emphasised is the need for us to do something with the information that we already have, for example, the students’ comments, before we put together a programme for next year. I do not think we need an individual induction mentor, however, it would be good practice to share what works well and what doesn’t in each of our inductions, perhaps we should include a little column for each on the spreadsheet.

Paula Funnell and Roddy Lander spoke about Information skills drop-in sessions they had recently implemented as a response to a low uptake of their organised group sessions The previously delivered sessions weren’t compulsory and required students to sing up – either not enough people would sign up or they would forget they had done so. They sent a questionnaire to students asking them how they would prefer for the information to be delivered and the response was mainly at drop-in sessions. They now deliver the sessions at the same place and at the same time every week where they often get a variety of numbers and questions turn up. Other suggestions from students were to have practice exercises to take away, online tutorials and/or a simultaneous online presence, for example, the librarian could be in a chatroom with students asking questions.
Even though this is what the students say works I think there also needs to be complementary alternatives. Many students don’t think they need help, are too shy to ask for it or are part-time so find the set times difficult. I think information skills need to be delivered in a variety of ways, by all means have the drop in sessions but don’t limit it to that – have simple online tutorials too to complement them. I like the idea of a chatroom but it could make it difficult to answer more complex enquiries.
Rowena Macrae-Gibson demonstrated a new website called Upgrade at City University The site is a one-stop shop for all information, including careers and welfare, however, it is completely led by the library and contains referencing and information skills information. It used to be on Blackboard but after experiencing problems with it the content was transferred to a website – this also means that anybody can access it, including potential students.
 We seem to be going in the opposite direction – from a website to the VLE – Moodle. I like that this site integrates all the main services the students need and simplifies everything for them The site is clear and easy to use,  it ensures that things like information skills are given the same level of importance as everything else on the site and it gives students a cohesive approach to their institution.

Ruth Harrison’s inductions consist a 20 minute basic introduction followed by a 15 minute treasure hunt in which they answer questions set by the library. Whoever gets most right answers and the quickest time will win a box of chocolates and all those who took part receive one chocolate. The students like finding out about the library by themselves and feel a sense of ownership.

I think it could be difficult to financially justify this even though it may help students to remember where things are. However, I have seen our students doing this set by their teacher – it would perhaps be a good idea to send a questionnaire to staff who do this so we can highlight the most important parts. In Ruth’s induction, staff weren’t allowed to give answers – we may have to review our signage and leaflets if we did this.

Edith Speller  maintained that doing exercises in class was very important for students to retain information. It also made it easier to gauge the level of students.
This is important for us and something we usually do. The Quizdom exercises may have given the students less chance to practice with their resources but they did make them more fun and acted as a memory recall device.

Hannah Bennett devised a quiz called ‘What kind of LRC user are you?’ This was based on games she had seen people playing on facebook, such as ‘what kind of friend are you’ or ‘what sort of cheese are you?’ The results would range from library superstars to newbies. She used a site called which also produced statistics of the number of students and their results. She said that students became quite competitive and they enjoyed it.
As we already have Quizdom, we most likely don’t need to use the site, especially as it formulates statistics too. The quiz idea sounds interesting and wouldn’t take too much time up- it could be used at the beginning of inductions. It could also be used in the online tutorial pages to encourage students to use the resources if they don’t get a superstar rating.

Action Points for Kingston College LRC:
·         Collect examples of student’s comments and experiences of searching prior to getting help as well as inspirational quotes when something has gone well.
·         Consider what the most important information is that students leave with in all inductions.
·         Review each year of all inductions, how they went, comments etc. Possibly keep a log of how inductions go – maybe just for new staff to help them improve and they can discuss this with their mentor.
·         Online induction presence, including mini quizzes to assess learning and needs
·         Find out which teachers do treasure hunts and be involved.

Well, I think I have enough covered! Any questions or comments on any of my observations or reflections do feel free to comment!

P.S. It was lovely to see all the people I know and some that I don't, plus those who I follow on Twitter!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Cpd23 - Thing 1: Creating your own blog and the start of 23 things for professional development...


My first ever blog! I've been meaning to write a blog for a while but I've alway been a bit nervous about it. I thought I would just be adding my thoughts to the big rubbish bin in the 'cloud' . This is probably the case, however, I have signed up for 23 things for professional development and the first 'thing' is blogs and blogging - the perfect excuse to give it a go.