To Google…NO!

google

The above quote comes from that amazing advocate of all things library, Neil Gaiman. I researched extensively to ensure that the quote does originate from him and the answer seems to be a resounding yes. How did I do my research? On Google, of course. Who wouldn’t?

On Sunday last, the other half and I watched a film called AntiMatter, a film about a PhD student at a certain University in the UK who discovers how to move matter – wormhole technology, apparently (that’s the simplistic, non-scientific explanation because I don’t understand it!). If you want to know more, watch the film. It’s really very good.

The reason I have injected this non sequitur is that there is a scene in the film where the main protagonist (we’ll call her PhD 1, to align with the film’s scientific theme) asks a fellow student (PhD 2, D’oh!) a question about where to find some research on a neuroscience topic. Let’s set the scene: PhD 1 and PhD 2 are in the library. We know it’s a library because there are books on the shelf. This, in and of itself, doesn’t necessarily mean that they definitively are in a library, but we know that they are because of several other defining features on the set:

  1. They are both holding books…
  2. There are lots of books on the shelves…
  3. There are other students looking at books…
  4. There is a card catalogue next to PhD 2…

Hold on…a card catalogue? Either this is a very hard-up library (and, given the institution, I doubt that very much!) or the director of the film has a very narrow view of what a library is. But that aside, much as it annoyed me and then annoyed the other half because I ranted, the worst thing about this scene is the answer PhD 2 gives PhD 1 about finding neuroscience research…I’m hoping you guessed it? Yes, she says ‘have you tried Google?’.

Again, this just goes to show that the director, script writer, whomever has no concept of the information landscape or the resources we offer as libraries. Ok, if you are doing some generic research on a particular subject, Google et al would be good places to start. However, neuroscience research would be supported by the most up to date resources imaginable, available via the library and provided to the students through database and journal subs. It would contain authoritative and evidence-based information that Google can’t access as it’s hidden behind the passwords that are provided to staff and students to access the University resources.

So. An example I use with my first year students when trying (sometimes even successfully!) to get them to think outside the Googlebox (see what I did there? I’ll get my coat…) is, think of the web as an iceberg. The bit you can see is the bit that Google etc can see. But this is just a little bit of the information that is out there in the digital environment. Think of all the staff intranets around the world; all the company resources that are provided for staff; all of the medical information contained in secure online repositories, ad infinitum. The majority of this isnt available to search engines because they cant ‘see’ it. It’s hidden.

And that is just it; for these two, Google definitely isn’t the answer. What I would have liked to see would’ve been PhD 2 to sit down at one of the (non-existent) computers and say ‘hey, why don’t you try PubMed?’.

This is why so much of my job is teaching information literacy, or information skills, if you like. So that people (staff, students, users, etc) know how to access the most authoritative information for their research or information need. It’s not all about Google, although it can, as I have stated, be a good place to start and it definitely has its place. But it’s a real eye-opener for some students when they see that they can do so much more with our resources than with normal searching. And it adds such value to their studies too. I think more on this will be forthcoming: watch this space…

Some TEL Reflections…

Next week is my last full week before the new students begin arriving (feels like two minutes since they were finishing). After that, I’m off on a holiday – the last for quite some time! I’m really looking forward to my holiday and intend to relax and refresh after a busy academic year and what feels like an even busier summer! But we don’t really get a summer here at Collegiate as we have students all year round, with March intakes still being on campus until well into August…

So I’m well into prepping for next academic year, and have most of my teaching booked in (a few fingers are being waved at certain folk!). And I am also getting to grips with the TEL applications I am going to use to support my staff and students, but not without problems.

I’ve been using Storyline to create a resource to support our level 6 students; however, as this is a licensed product, we purchase a certain amount to be spread across the university and recently, in the middle of using the product, IT services decided to remove all of the licenses from our department for no apparent reason. Our very wonderful systems team and TEL person are working hard to get them back but it is going to be a very tight schedule to get this finished and up and running for the start of term. My approach to addressing this has been two-pronged: to make sure all of my material is ready to be put into the product when it comes back online; and to ensure we have a fall back resource, in this case I have put together a playlist in Lynda.com that we can direct students to should the worst happen and we don’t have it ready. I really have no idea why IT would do this and no explanation has been forthcoming, either to us or to systems. When they asked, they were told there had been some communication breakdown (cue song…) and the message that our staff were using the product and on a tight schedule had been missed…This is always an issue in a large organisation but surely there should have been some comms from IT going out to staff to enquire about usage? Or is that just me being naïve…?

But I have also had some success with TEL. My video on youtube now has it’s subtitles and I only need to correct a little bit of it. In spite of my fear that the voice recognition software wouldn’t understand my accent, it has proven me (mostly!) wrong. I have to edit the part where I am talking about alternative names (it’s a cob!) as the VR software cant seem to get its AI around the term ‘barmcake’ (bomcake) or ‘teacake’ (tk)! 🙂 Oh how I laughed!

Another success this year, is I began using an app as part of my teaching at level 5 (2nd year). We do a lecture for these students and we talk about identifying the type of academic literature they may encounter, namely primary versus secondary. Previously we have just put up a powerpoint slide and the students shout out what that type of literature is (systematic review = secondary, etc). One of my colleagues discovered Kahoot and so we trialled using it for this activity – with great success! It’s an absolutely hysterical exercise (well, in my class it is!) with the students either discussing it with each other, or, more realistically, taking light relief in gentle banter with their friends (aka taking the mick!). I had two learning points with this though, after the first time:

  1. Make sure you explain the technology properly! The question comes up on the main screen NOT on the students (players) devices. This led to the first question being a non-starter, so I am going to amend the quiz for this year to include a test question.
  2. Tell the students to use a nickname (ok) but remember to tell them to keep it clean and family-friendly! Naughty students! 🙂

One of the reasons for using Kahoot is that it is (apparently) easy to use and understand. It’s very easy to create content, so for a dinosaur like me, it’s an absolute godsend.

Next up is an adventure with Adobe Spark which I am using to create a quick video on why you need to reference material and also one with Screencastify; an add on in Chrome that allows you to record your desktop live, with audio, and upload it as a video to wherever. Much excitement! Watch this space…

In the Summertime, when the weather is fine…and other TEL adventures!

Margate in the sun

So, over the past few weeks I’ve had a bit of a hiatus as I’ve been away on holiday, as you can see from the photo above. It was so lovely to see one of the places I love best and have some incredibly happy memories from, come back to life after quite a long time in the doldrums. The regeneration of the SE coast seems to be going well and to see so many people enjoying the lovely weather and each others’ company brought back many happy memories of my childhood, youth and young womanhood that I was blown sideways a few times. Goes to show what you can do when you put your mind to it…

However, it was back to work and the work still progresses as we are currently working on preparing teaching materials for the new Academic Year…particularly as we have changed our teaching offer to the faculty and are now working towards a more ‘flipped classroom’ model. I piloted this with two of my departments last year, with some success. Having the academics on board and reinforcing the need to do the prep work also helped!

My pilot involved turning our one hour introductory information skills lecture for the first year undergrads into two short videos that they needed to watch before coming to the sessions. On the whole, the students did this work and for this year I have suggested to my Radiotherapy lead that we include this in the induction sessions (waiting for a response, still). The technology I used to create the videos is called Camtasia, and I have to admit I struggled a little with it…however, that said, it does create very polished videos! Last year I merely sent the videos out as an mp4 link, but this year – after a bit of faff that included the dialogue going missing in transit –  we’ve uploaded it to youtube. So I am a youtube star! (Well, a little fame and all that…). You can view it in all its Brummie-sounding glory here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpFHkG0VT7

So next week I am going to be using another TEL platform called Adobe Spark to create a couple of very quick videos for referencing and evaluating information. I’ve just come from a quick update with a colleague on how to use it and have to say that it is remarkably easier to use than Camtasia, and, as it isn’t a licensed product (yet…), I don’t have to use a special machine. I can simply find somewhere quiet to go and record it! 🙂

I’m really looking forward to doing these now, after putting it off and procrastinating because I thought I would have to fight with Camtasia again. Now that I have mastered the technology (I am as a god!), I just need some elocution lessons to sort the accent out. Watch this space…

Another quick update…

Well, it’s that time of year again where everything stops for one hour in the evening to watch the highlights of the Tour de France. Froome is chasing his third consecutive win (and avoiding the ubiquitous questions about performance that always seem to follow him), but at time of writing Geraint Thomas is in yellow – first ever grand tour stage win and first time in the yellow. Go G!

Anyway, now that excitement is over, I suppose I’d better do a quick update on where I am currently. I was a poorly bunny recently and ended up having a bit of time off, so that’s put me back a bit. Even though it’s the summer, I am busy-busy, doing all the jobs I don’t have time to do the rest of the year, and so that’s caused a bit of a problem with being off sick – there’s no-one else to do it!

Since I came back though, I’ve found my motivation lacking. I’m working on a couple of projects – a support resource for dissertation students and a toolkit for referencing – but have really found myself struggling to get on with them (I’m currently writing this as avoidance behaviour tactic). This really isn’t like me, at all. I love my job and enjoy challenges but I really feel like I am fighting an uphill battle. I’ve got a meeting with my manager this afternoon and I’m going to mention this issue. Not sure what she can do about it, but at least she’ll be informed. One thing that may help though, I have some time off after today and am hoping I will return to work invigorated and inspired…Watch this space…

New University Strategy…

 

https://staff.shu.ac.uk/universitystrategy/

We had a new VC early last year and, as a new broom sweeps clean(er), he has worked with the management team to propose a new University Strategy, which focuses on three key areas: https://staff.shu.ac.uk/Documents/Strategy%20-%20final.pdf

Leading Locally and Engaging Globally

Shaping Futures

Creating Knowledge

There’s a top ten priorities for the next 6-12 months that I have identified some areas that I will be specifically involved with:

5 Drive long term improvements in the educational health of the region by working with partners to improve attainment and aspiration from early years through to further and higher education.

  • Engaging with college visits – tours of the library; pre-arrival information
  • sheffield College induction 1st November 2016

6 Strengthen our leadership role in the region by:

c. Creating a high quality and efficient Degree Apprenticeship portfolio, embedding the University’s position as the leading Degree Apprenticeship provider.

  • Engage with new apprenticeships in terms of providing resources, skills training and support for students and staff – this may mean a reappraisal of our skills offer, as these students will have different needs, backgrounds, level of skills and knowledge.

7 Develop as a globally connected and influential university by integrating an international perspective into the curriculum and wider student experience, and strengthening our international partnerships.

  • Develop and deliver webinars for DL students – this has been discussed at the meetings I have had with course leads re the new skills offer. Need to take up early Sem 1 17/18

Other priorities I can have no direct input although my role will support the wider university context in terms of student satisfaction. I will endeavour to engage with these wherever possible – the VC is running a series of road shows that I unfortunately cant physically attend but one of them is being videoed so I will watch that when it becomes available. I’ve attached the top ten priorities annotated document to this post.

I think the strategy will be of benefit to the University, however I have experienced much in nearly 30 years of working for Public Sector (including the Compulsory Competitive Tendering introduced in the late ’80s which was the effective death-knell for community services) and I am always slightly cynical about the reasons for this type of sweeping strategy. Obviously the new VC wants to make the job his own and stamp his mark. It will also inevitably mean a restructure at some point in the future – impact on job roles, security and longevity unavoidable, methinks…As to my role, hoping that getting my Chartership will help if I have to reapply for my job…

‘Flipped Classroom’ and ‘Flipped Learning’.

Changing the way we do things…

Previously with our first year undergraduates we have had a one hour introductory lecture to research skills. This lecture has never really worked well for me – I felt it was not interactive enough and that it was very dry…however, I persevered.

This year, I couldn’t get the lecture timetabled for two of my courses – the usual packed timetable for Level 4’s couldn’t accommodate me. However, the students need this input before they come to the workshops in order to have some context in which to work.

So, I decided to turn the one hour lecture into two short videos: the first about searching for information and the second about evaluation, information management and referencing. These would then be sent to students a week prior to the workshops with the instruction to watch them. Below are some of the responses I had in the workshop evaluation, to a specific question on their learning outcomes:

Level 4 responses to workshop – some examples

What is the most important thing you have learned today?

  • Useful information on how to refine searches effectively and efficiently. Also, clearer understanding as to how referencing should be practiced.
  • The important thing I have learnt has to be knowing where to find hidden articles and journals for my modules/course and also having knowledge to reference.
  • Being shown how to use ” and * in the search box to help find as many primary and secondary sources as possible to help with assignments.
  • How to search a database to find accurate resources
  • How to search through databases and find journals and books
  • how to find the resources for my course
  • How to search a database properly
  • How to refine searches and search for specific phrases and truncations.
  • How to find appropriate literature for my course.

 

These comments highlight how important it is for our students to have these skills. They will go out into practice and need to use these skills to make clinical decisions and find evidence-based practice to make these decisions with.

I found that providing them with introductory videos before the session worked really well – I had the academic tutor’s support and reinforcement that they adhere to the ‘flipped classroom’ approach, which helped. We could then focus on applying the knowledge they had gained from watching the videos to their assignment topics.

With the positive comments I received, I will definitely be using this approach this year with all of my first years. I plan to develop the videos a bit more (we use camtasia) to include our new look interface for Library Gateway, so that students are familiar with the functionality before they attend the workshops. Watch this space…

A quick update and all that…

So, having had a bit of time off over the last few weeks, little progression has been made with the Chartership. I did have a meeting with my mentor last week, which was productive. The outcome being that I now need to focus on beginning to write my evaluative statement and also to update my CV. I’ve decided, for the obvious reason, to begin with the CV (that being far the easiest task to accomplish…).

However, a couple of interesting things have happened to me along the way (in the last few days). Firstly, my manager has asked me to work with her to submit a paper for the Northern Collaboration Conference in York in September: https://northerncollaboration.org.uk/content/2017-call-papers#overlay-context=content/welcome

The conference title is ‘Digital Transformation – responding to the challenge in academic libraries’ and the focus of our paper is how we have used TEL to help our students with referencing. Last summer, we produced an online resource aimed at teaching students how to reference, which they could tap into at point of need and become independent learners: http://library.shu.ac.uk/introreferencing/story. We’ve got a meeting this afternoon to thrash out the preliminary 300 word abstract, and we’re going to focus on how we promoted the resource to the staff and students and the necessity of producing it in the first place. It also involved a certain amount of staff training as we developed it in an application called ‘Storyline’. It’s actually quite easy to use, once you know how! I’m really looking forward to doing this, even though there’s a good chance I may have submitted my Chartership by then, but I can at least reflect on how the process of developing the proposal etc has gone. My first ever conference presentation! 🙂

The other thing that happened is slightly related to the OT reading group (see previous post: https://kdolman.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/a-little-bit-of-what-you-fancy-2/). One of the lecturers asked me to join our internal social media platform, Yammer. Well, being me, I immediately did, what with being nosey and a librarian and also a social media addict. It’s very similar to LinkedIn – not may folk on there yet, but it offers opportunities for group working and interaction that mere email doesn’t. I need to play with it a bit more, but I see it as another way of getting myself embedded within my faculty, making myself more visible and also letting my faculty staff get to know the ‘softer’ side of me, outside of the librarian image they may have (those who follow me on Twitter definitely wont have any misconceptions! https://twitter.com/Podling). So I’m going to spend some time engaging with this today, before the meeting this afternoon. I’ve also tried to get my colleagues on board as I think it would be a good way to bond as a team and also break the ‘silo’ working we have, being at two different campuses (campi?). Watch this space…