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…

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:

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:

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: 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: 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! 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…

Reflections of a conference-goer!

So, recently I attended two conferences. The first, a teachmeet at Staffordshire University, on Accessibility in Libraries: and the second, the Social Media in Higher Education conference held at SHU:

There’s even a twitter hashtag! (Of course! :)) #SocMedHE16

Both conferences were vibrant, exciting and full of good and useful ideas! I cant possibly cover all of the stuff that I experienced and contributed to so I will choose carefully and give the highlights from both, for me…not forgetting to talk about what I am going to do with my newfound knowledge and skills!

So, firstly we had a Key-NOT (not a Key Note) speech for the SocMed conference, which involved us having to work in teams to produce a bitesize online resource, addressing one of three principles:

  1. Learners are active producers AND consumers of knowledge
  2. Learners maximise on community and networks: personal/learning/professional
  3. learners take ownership and responsibility for aspects of their own learning

Our team (The Blue Fridays) decided on a padlet, which I created, that could be shared throughout the learning community, with the idea that people contribute good ideas/time-saving tips/online information and resources that support learning. Padlet here: None of my team had used padlet before, so I had to explain how to use it and the benefits of the collaborative nature of the application. We didn’t win, but it was a good idea and I will definitely use Padlet again for this type of thing – ideas sharing.

At the teachmeet, the thing that really jumped out at me was that I hadn’t really thought about accessibility in the HE setting. We have a Disabled Students support team and also a team that supports students coming from care and those with caring responsibilities, as well as those who experience hardship during their studies. These latter are supported by the wellbeing service. But it was such things as ebook accessibility that really got me. How had I never thought about the fact that some students would find ebooks challenging? Not only from the ‘I don’t like to read things on a screen’ viewpoint, but for the fact that not all platforms provide accessibility functions (such as ability to make text larger etc). I also encountered the phrase ‘print impaired’ which means not only people who are visually impaired but those who, for whatever reason, have little or no ability to process print in any format. Ergo, simply making the text larger isn’t helpful…

So what do we do? Well, there’s a project happening at the moment, that an ex-colleague of mine is involved in, called the Ebook Accessibility Audit I passed this information on to our Library Support Team (LST), who also deal with accessible formats. For me, I just need to be aware of it and, when I am told that a student requires accessible formats by the LST, ensure that we can support the student to the best of our ability, whatever they require. This includes me factoring in providing teaching materials in accessible format for that student, so keeping a record of the name and the course is definitely something I need to do.

The other biggie for me from the Teachmeet was the Universal Design for Learning, which really we began with our project to build up a series of core slides for teaching. The UDL takes it a bit further though, incorporating the need to address different learning styles and formats and different levels of ability. Techniques include scaffolding, familiar from my teacher training days and also developing and keeping engagement. This week I had two very long sessions with the Paramedic students – 3 hours each – and I decided to try something that I used to use with the FE kids: get them on their feet and moving about, during the session. So, in the break between the induction and the intro skills, I put up three pieces of paper on the subject of how confident they would feel at that point if they had to search for a piece of academic literature (this was before I had said anything about authoritative sources). They each had a post-it and had to put it onto one of the sheets. The three themes were ‘confident’, ‘ok-ish…’ and ‘not confident’. I mostly got the ‘ok-ish’…

The activity worked well and helped to raise the energy again of the session – after they had been seated for half an hour, getting up and moving enabled them to stretch their legs, get a bit of oxygen flowing again and wake them up! 🙂 This is a tried and tested teaching strategy and one I have used before. It worked well this time with the added bonus that it got them chatting about how they search – good for me because the first question in the next part of the session was about where they would go to find a resource they have been told by their tutor to read.

I was telling a colleague about this stratagem after the sessions and he has now asked me to guide him through it so he can use it with his first years. I reckon you could do it on Kahoot, but for my purposes it was about raising the energy in the session and waking my students up. I challenge anyone to sit through three hours on a PC without their attention wandering at some point! 🙂 Anyway, it’s something I will definitely use again and it also served to help me know what level to pitch the class at – if I’d had mostly ‘not confident’s I would’ve pitched it to the lower end and slowed down. As it was, I showed them some tools that we wouldn’t normally with first years but I felt that they would be able to cope. The feedback so far has been good, but…watch this space…


A Little Bit of What You Fancy…2

So, I am very, very excited. As I mentioned before, I’ve been attending the Occupational Therapy book group this academic year and, although the turnout hasn’t been brilliant, it’s been a fantastic insight into what my OTs think, do, work with, are up against, ad infinitum…However, due to how our courses work, the current lead is now on placement and will be leaving at the end of this academic year. Boo…

But, the other day, I got a message from the lead, asking me if I would be willing to take over facilitating the book group. WOW! was my immediate reaction (one of the lecturers had asked her to ask me if I’d be willing). I’m incredibly humbled and thrilled to have been asked, but had reservations about whether it would fit into my remit or not…So I answered that I would be privileged to take over, but would have to discuss with my manager about time, relevance, etc.

My manager was likewise thrilled and asked me a few questions about how much time it would take etc. As it’s already established, it shouldn’t be too much trouble to hand over and after that it is simply about doing the admin and promotion (which I have in the bag as our management services team agreed to tweet/disseminate through our comms channels at my instigation a couple of months ago…). So I have the go-ahead to try it for this year.

Immediately, though, my librarian head kicked in and I began thinking of how I could support this. I searched for some information on running a successful book group and found a very interesting Radio 4 site: which I am going to investigate before I begin. There’s lots of other stuff on the web, but it is mainly about target audiences and the idea for us is that we open it out to people who aren’t necessarily Health and Wellbeing folk, but who are interested in reading as therapy and mental health issues…quite difficult. I think the first thing I need to do is to either find the remit (which the handover with the current lead may contain) or to write one…(poss with help!).

Anyway…it’s all quite exciting and I talked with my manager about how it reaffirms our role in the University, how it can help me create greater links within my faculty area (they’re good, but could do with being better) and how it also links us in with the wider profession (coming from a Public Library background I have much experience with Reader Development activities – I can bring in my previous experience of working with reading groups in my branch library days!). But first, have to get a meeting together with the lead…hopefully the Chinese curse doesn’t hold true – May you live in interesting times – because it is getting very interesting around here, with the new Uni strategy and my extra-curricular activities! Watch this space…

Techno-whizzy and team planning…

So, yesterday, we had our team away day…teaching planning and what to stop, start and continue doing as a team. Some really good ideas came out of that session – not least about how we continue to support referencing…Our team padlet here:

The second part of the day was ‘Show and Tell’ (or as I, in my semi-senile state termed ‘Bring and Buy’! :)). I made a contribution, talking about the Universal Design for Learning that I heard about at the Staffordshire University Teachmeet in December ( (UDL, Carol Keddie, DMU:

The third, and the most interesting (for me!) part of the day was learning about two new pieces of software that we can use to make our teaching more fun. The first was Piktochart, which allows you to make infographics – useful for our SSCs and staff meetings (particularly for getting large amounts of data across in smaller, more accessible formats – teaching stats, for instance). My piktochart is a practice one, on the theme of cycling the Alpe d’Huez!

The second piece of software was Adobe Spark (not to be confused with our internal messaging service, Spark!). This allows you to create videos in a simple format, which is useful if you find Camtasia particularly cumbersome (as do I…). My video is a very short one on climbing and health:

As someone who doesn’t find making videos particularly easy, Adobe Spark is definitely something that I will use in future, as I found it very easy and user-friendly (apart from the image that kept turning itself around!). I’ll definitely be using it for quick hits, such as if I am asked for anything for a DL course, etc…

So, having dipped my toe into the waters of new tech, I am feeling very enthusiastic about my new skills. Future development within the team will enable me to utilise them, although I have to get through Sem 2 first, before I have time to think about particular instances where I can apply these new skills. Watch this space…