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…

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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…

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…

 

New Job

This is a really quick post (where’ve we heard that one before?!) to share an update. I’ve started my new job and it’s really enjoyable. Still a little uncertain about some things but my manager and I had a review of the first two weeks on Friday and she is happy about how I have done so far. It’s a very different environment and the way the library interacts with the faculty is different too. But I’ve been assured that this institution is unique in this respect and not to try and benchmark it against what I have experienced before.

 

Learning activities this week include: introducing myself to my new faculties, getting to grips with my programmes and a different way of teaching, learning how to use sharepoint (not something I’ve ever come across before but similar to googledrive), remembering people’s names!

 

I’ve a fair way to go yet, but am looking forward to the challenge. Need to get going on the chartership again but, having lost three weeks of my life to the TdF, it’s hard to get going again! Watch this space…

Post-script to Miss Moore thought otherwise…

Re-reading my blog posts, in the spirit of research and reflection, I realised I made an unforgivable error in the post ‘Miss Moore thought Otherwise’. I mentioned that I got my first library ‘card’ aged 5, completely forgetting that, at this point, libraries still operated the browne card issue method! So, I didnt get a ‘card’, I got a little brown envelope where the issue cards from the books were kept, that had my name on the front of it and lived in a little drawer in the main library desk. No bar codes in 1975! They looked a little bit like this: browne issue system

I was totally obsessed with these little cards and the drawers they lived in. So it’s no wonder that I became a Librarian, really. But it’s got me thinking about how much more there is to the profession, even then. I saw the Librarian at our little branch library as almost Godlike in her ability to know exactly where a particular book was, and if they didn’t have it, she could get it for me! I thought it was by magic, but now I know it was simply the reservation and Inter-Library Loan systems that produced the eagerly awaited volume. She had the power to make or destroy my day/week.

I distinctly remember the first ILL I ever had: it was a copy of ‘The Blue Lagoon’ by Henry De Vere Stacpoole. I had recently watched the film, aged about 12ish, and was determined to read the book about two children cast ashore on a desert island with no adults to tell them what to do (every 12 year old’s dream, I think)! As it was an old book, which I didn’t know until I spoke to the Librarian about it, we didn’t have a copy in the local library, but never you fear, young Karen, she got it for me!

By today’s standard, the investigation she would have to do to find a copy would simply be to type it into Copac and send off for the text in question. In 1982, the process was much more arduous. It would’ve involved microfilm, I daresay. I don’t think I ever expressed my gratitude properly to her, or her very well-trained staff, so, belatedly, thank you to all Bilston Library staff from 1970 to the present day! I wouldn’t be where I am today without you…

Well, where does that leave me? I hope that, in my customer service dealings, I give as much to my customers as I received from the Bilston Library staff. The profession has changed beyond what Mrs Morgan would recognise now (and I know she retired about 1994). But the ethos remains the same: we facilitate access to knowledge and information, we do it with a smile on our face and we have a dedication to our profession that most occupations will never see…I thank my lucky stars I have been allowed into such a great institution and have such enthusiastic, wonderful colleagues and compatriots! Hats off to all Librarians everywhere! 🙂