Reflections of a conference-goer part deux!

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The other thing that happened recently is that I presented, with my line manager Alison, at the Northern Collaboration event on using TEL in our work. There’s a storify with my contribution which can be found here: https://storify.com/NorthernCollab/northern-collaboration-conference-the-ron-cooke-hu – and the picture above, with little me in it, is kindly taken from the NC twitter feed.

Our presentation was on the use of Articulate Storyline to develop an online teaching tool for referencing. Our presentation was good, and we had quite a few attendees and questions too! (All a bit daunting, but we got there!). In the course of the previous presentation though, we found that some Universities have done with Articulate as they don’t find it useful. I must admit, learning to use it was a little arduous, but once you master the basics, it really is quite intuitive. And I am certainly not going down the road of one librarian and learning how to programme to do this sort of thing! 😦

The day was really good though. As well as presenting, there were many opportunities for collaboration and knowledge-exchange, as well as catching up with old friends and making new ones. I also bumped into the Mentor Co-ordinator for the NW and spoke with her about becoming a mentor once I am fully chartered myself. This stems from a desire to do some staff development which I always enjoyed as part of my management role. As I don’t line manage anyone any more, this seems like a good way of keeping my skills up to date, without the nasty PDR and sickness monitoring etc that comes with being a manager…I suppose it’s a bit like being a Grannie – you get to do the nice things and give them back when they do something icky…

The other upshot of the day is that I am now going on a knowledge exchange to MMU (you cant keep me away! :)) about reading for pleasure outside the academic texts. This has come from attending one workshop with a staff member from MMU who talked about their project working with Manchester Public Libraries to promote their collection and to get students to read for pleasure and mental wellbeing. Well, this struck a chord right away, what with me leading our bookgroup this year and the work I have been doing with our student wellbeing service in providing access to their books via the library catalogue! So Gopal has kindly invited me for a jolly over on the 15th November to speak with likeminded colleagues about this. It also gives me a chance to catch up with the MMU lot! I’m really looking forward to talking about something that is very close to my heart – the therapeutic benefit of reading for pleasure on mental wellbeing. More will definitely be coming on this subject so watch this space…

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To Google…NO!

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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…

‘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…

Reflections of a conference-goer!

So, recently I attended two conferences. The first, a teachmeet at Staffordshire University, on Accessibility in Libraries: http://libguides.staffs.ac.uk/teachmeets/dec2016 and the second, the Social Media in Higher Education conference held at SHU: https://blogs.shu.ac.uk/socmedhe/?doing_wp_cron=1482161724.6725330352783203125000

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: https://padlet.com/k_dolman/8u9xm9jld8m1 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…

 

long time, no post…

Well, after putting this on hold for the past year, I’ve decided it’s finally time to take up the reins again and get back on the Chartership wagon. I had my first meeting with my new mentor last night and it was very positive. I’m happy to say that I now feel incredibly motivated and have tentatively suggested that in one year’s time I will be able to submit. Let’s see if I can do it third time around!

In terms of what I have been doing, though, I haven’t exactly been idle. We had a massive restructure at work, which saw me take ownership of all of our Allied Health courses, as well as retaining my responsibility for the post-grad Specialist Practice Nurses and some of our CPD courses. So I now have new areas to get to know (ODP, Para, OT and Physio) – liaising with the staff, committing to teaching, getting to know the different styles of studying…

It’s all very challenging and has sometimes pushed me way out of my comfort zone. I’ve learned not to automatically say yes to everything (which is my nature – I’m a librarian!), but to consider requests carefully and respond with the best possible solution for all. One example was very trying –  L6 lead wanted me to do four, two-hour sessions for the students, who had already had our L6 content at L5. Lead eventually acquiesced when I suggested that the students wouldn’t find a repeat useful and that I would provide a drop-in session for those who really needed help. I wasn’t saying no, I just didn’t think that this was a good use of mine and the students’ time.

On a professional note, the other reason this went on hold for some time is that I was encouraged to get my Fellowship of the HEA. I already do have a teaching qualification but it is for FE. SHU has a strategy that all staff involved in teaching should have a requisite qualification for HE teaching. Ergo, I had to do it. So, I did the Associate Fellowship route, as I don’t do any formative or summative assessments in my teaching. While I was going down this road though, I spoke to the lead for the Post-Grad Radiotherapy course, who said that she would be happy for me to be involved in the assessment side of her course. So now the dust has settled, I think that will be something I will pursue with her for next year…one of the elements I am looking at developing with this is my involvement in teaching. So, this is a good excuse!

I’ve also done a bit of cycling – did the Way of the Roses last summer over 4 days…181 miles up some very steep hills! I also fractured my shoulder 6 weeks before attempting this epic, after cycling into the back of my partner and not getting out of my clips quick enough to avoid hitting the deck at 20mph! Ouch. Learning point – got rid of clips. I’m obviously far too accident-prone and clumsy to cope! 🙂 Loads of cycling over this summer, including a few days in Lincoln, which we cycled to from home (and got lost!) and loads of tours of the Peak District!

So, what next? Watch this space…

Reflections on my job (part 1)

I was recently linked into a blog post on this site: https://23librariansengland.wordpress.com/2015/02/ through the Jisc email I subscribe to. The blogger, Virginia Power, was asking for volunteers to be featured on the site and, being a busy-body, I thought ‘why not’. (The other hook was that she mentioned the magic word ‘Chartership’!).

I had to submit a photo (yuk!), and answer a few questions, which gave me the opportunity to reflect on my career, choices, pathway and current position, which is really what I need. The structured approach to the questions allowed me to focus, where I usually find this difficult in the extreme!

So, here’re my answers. I’ll be linking to the blog post when Victoria does it, but wanted to also have a post here:
How did you first get into the information and library profession?
I began working in Libraries as a part-time Library Assistant with Wolverhampton MBC (as it was). I had been training in Accountancy and Finance with WMBC but fell pregnant I couldn’t go part-time in this job so I got a part-time job in the library service.(Can you imagine not being allowed to go part-time for childcare reasons now?!). It was going to be temporary until my son started full time school. That was 24 years ago!

After a few years I moved to Walsall MBC to take up the same post but on a higher scale. I stayed there for 13 years, moving around different areas of the library service, including Acquisitions, before I decided I really wanted to become a qualified librarian. This was quite ironic as I had told my manager in 1997, when he offered me the opportunity to do the BA day-release at Birmingham, that I didn’t want to be a librarian! Since then my career has been varied; working Local Studies and Heritage library roles, college and schools roles and finally moving into academic librarianship.

What qualifications did you take?
I got my Masters in Librarianship from the University of Sheffield in 2007. I uprooted my Black Country family to the wilds of the Peak District to get my qualification! Prior to this I took a career break and did a PGCE to enhance my career prospects. Even back then I could see that teaching was becoming a big part of my job.

I am currently pursuing my Chartership, as well as an FHEA qualification. I don’t believe in letting the grass grow!

What is your current job title?
I’m an IA, Information Adviser (Subject Librarian!) for the Health and Wellbeing Faculty at Sheffield Hallam University. I am responsible for Radiotherapy and Oncology and also for our Nursing courses, which I share with two other colleagues as the cohort is huge! It’s my dream job and I still can’t quite believe I got it!

What does your job involve?
I work with students and staff in the University, teaching information literacy showing users how to get the best from searching databases/library catalogue/etc, and providing resources. I do a lot of promotion work, liaison and PR for the library service, to staff and students as they are often unaware of the value we add to their studies. I don’t work on the frontline any more, but I do see both staff and students for class and individual sessions to either build on teaching I’ve done on their course, or to support them using some of our resources, such as our reading list technology.

I manage the physical and online collection for my area, making sure we have all and enough of the necessary resources to support the courses we provide. I make sure we have enough copies of texts for the amount of students we have and, where possible, I buy e-books, as we have a lot of distance and at-distance learners. So I do some acquisition work in buying in resources for the subject areas I cover (books and journal subs). I also support staff by advising when new resources and new copies of resources become available.

While we don’t work on frontline any more, we still have to provide back-up support for the helpdesk staff. This role is called ‘Duty Adviser’ and is basically ‘Ask A Librarian’! Any helpdesk enquiries that the helpdesk staff feel they should pass on will come to me. I will either deal with them if I can, or I will pass the enquirer on to the relevant person; ie if it is a specific subject enquiry I will log the query and this will then go to the IA for that subject. I will also check to see if there are any enquiries for me, such as students in my subject area requiring subject support.

Can you describe a ‘typical’ day?
Ha! I don’t think there’s such a thing as a ‘typical’ day in library and information work, although mine tends to involve quite a bit of tea-drinking!

Due to the nature of HE our work tends to be cyclical. Some times of the year (September and March) we are much busier than usual, due to the amount of teaching we have to do. At this time of the year (February) we are concentrating on purchasing and spending our budgets to enhance our collections and gearing up for the Mad March Teaching Chaos.

Currently then, my day involves answering a lot of emails, generally first thing in the morning. Then I will drink some tea and get to grips with the day. Today I have a teaching planning session with a colleague with whom I team-teach. Then I have two sessions with academic staff; one to do some teaching planning for her MSc students, then to help another colleague to put together a list of resources for a module which will then go into our reading list management system (RLO). I will help her do this too.

After lunch I will return to emails, check there is nothing I need to follow up, and then I am Duty Adviser for the rest of the afternoon. So I go into the ‘dungeon’ and wait for contact from the outside world…during this time I will check the queries system and allocate any outstanding enquiries! I may have to stay to deal with enquiries, as you would on a helpdesk, but if there aren’t any I will have some more tea and go home…

What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professional?
You have to be flexible in this job. The nature of library work is such that it is always seen as a soft target whenever budgets get cut, and if you are flexible, you make yourself indispensable by being prepared to try anything.

A certain ‘gung-ho’ attitude is also invaluable, in all areas of library work. I thought when I moved into academic librarianship I wouldn’t be asked to be everything to everybody, as is the case in public libraries, but I soon found out I was being naïve! One evening shift included a student coming to the helpdesk with a tin can stuck on his finger. He asked me for some scissors to cut it off, but I got security to come and sort him out, after which I commented to him that my five year old son had once done the same…so, be prepared to deal with anything and everything. It’s not just about books!

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in Information Management?
For new professionals I would say be prepared to do jobs you might not have envisioned doing when you decided to qualify. I had a really limited CV when I went to do my qualification so I decided to take on roles that were outside my experience and comfort zone. Working in the school and college library was certainly character-building! I took on short term roles as well, a strategy I know a number of friends have also adopted post-qualification. It worked for me, but you have to be prepared to have a certain amount of uncertainty, and gumption, to make it work.

Network! Get to know your colleagues and also other people working in libraries in your area. A good way of doing this is joining CILIP as you can participate in your local group. Also, get to as many training courses as you can; this is good for your CPD as well as networking opportunities. I wouldn’t have the job I now have if I hadn’t followed this advice!

Also, be prepared to be exhausted and frustrated some of the time, as you will sometimes find yourself in situations that you may find challenging!

BUT…it’s rewarding and gratifying work and I would never in a million years consider going back into Accountancy, even though it pays much better! I wouldn’t change my career decision for all the tea in China (or all the wine in Chile!)…

So, as I am constantly asked what I actually ‘do’, when I meet new people, here’s the answers! We’re going through a restructure soon, too, so my job will doubtless change again…watch this space.