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…

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…

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…

A little bit of what you fancy…

Well, having got this Chartership off the ground for round 3, I’m not doing very well with keeping my blog updated, am I?!! 😦 So, here’s what I have been up to over the past two months, bar holidays, Christmas, Birthday and life!

I decided that one course of action – having inherited new subjects last year – would be to better understand the areas I support and get better links with the department and, fundamentally, the students. So, I saw that the OTs have a book group, hosted in the library, which I promptly invited myself along to (being a great reader!). The book group looks at both fiction and non-fiction, through a mental health lens (so either the content is MH related, or we look at books as therapy). I’ve read some very strange stuff, in consequence, which is what I want to talk about here.

Our current text for January is ‘The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt and considers PTSD in relation to the main character, Theo, losing both his parents at a quite young age. He staggers about in society, moving from place to place and is almost like a piece of flotsam, at the mercy of the state, institutions (like school) and people; his best friend Boris, for example. Initially, I felt quite sorry for him, but as the book has progressed, I’ve just now got an apathy to see what exactly is going to happen. Is this a bad thing? He doesn’t wallow in self-pity, but he also doesn’t really help himself either. As well as the PTSD (or in consequence of it) he is a drug-addict, semi-alcoholic and clinically depressed. On one level the book is a commentary on the system and how it can not help, sometimes, but on the other it’s just a little bit depressing.

The previous book I didn’t even finish – Paulo Coehlo’s ‘The Pilgrimage’ – because the main character irritated me so much! How, I wonder, is it that we can engage so with some texts, while others leave us so unconnected? There’s a wealth of literature out there (I know, I have a lit degree!) about author assumption, but I think we engage because it is familiar, and if it isn’t then we don’t (hence my disillusionment with Theo – I want to shake him up!).

So, as well as having read some interesting/not so interesting books, I have also met more of the team and the students, which has really helped. And hearing their stories about how they use reading as therapy with their clients is really great. It also prompts me to make a case for libraries and the value they hold for the population as a whole – MH issues aren’t the sole province of the disadvantaged – however, there’s a section of society for whom literature isn’t immediately accessible and this is what libraries do…

More to come on this subject…watch this space…

Epic Blog Fail and Reflections on Bioscience Teaching

So, another epic blog fail…I blame being too busy, wine, Xmas, wine, family commitments, wine…ok, so it’s mainly (probably) wine’s fault! (Who is it, where do I find it and what can I do to stop it?!).

Actually, I have had a busy few months, jetting around the country (ok, so it was National Rail, not BA) attending training and conferences on this that and t’other, just generally being a busy librarian-bee! Add to this the heavy teaching load at work, and then lots of committee meetings and this adds up to me not being able to keep on top of reflecting on my experiences…

So, here are just a few musings on teaching on a subject that I have never covered before and is very different to how I teach now and in my last job…

Teaching on Bioscience isnt covered by our IL framework, and so the teaching methods are different. Also, there is different content to be delivered, owing to the module make up.

So I have been teaching content I have never taught before, which is very new to me as a teacher but obviously concepts I have encountered in my own research. The two sessions I have taught so far have been quite different: a one-hour session on journal critique and a one hour lecture on how to turn a presentation into an essay. The IA responsible for the subject put the material together; it was just up to me to deliver it with the proviso that I made it work for my own style and pace.

The first session, a one-hour session on journal critique (delivered twice), is something the level 5’s have to do for part of their assignment (500 words critiquing a particular journal). It’s very different to the information seeking skills I normally teach as it focuses on one particular journal article. I gave out three different types of journal (article, systematic review and review). They all covered the same content but with different methodologies and results (looking for inconsistencies). The session went well – I prepared a little and, although I was nervous to begin with, soon got into my stride.

The class were good for the main part, although one group had to keep having their attention bought back to the tasks in hand. However, they did the work and the evaluation at the end was positive. I believe they met the learning objectives set out at the beginning of the session.

The second session, how to turn your presentation into an essay included investigating authoritative material, mostly focusing on finding and using journal articles. There were activities included in the lecture, which is very different to anything I have done/encountered before, either in my work or as a student! They worked really well though and it was very interesting to deliver something that was so far removed from our traditional teaching. I feel I managed to acquit myself well – large lecture theatre, approximately 90 attendees who all congregated at the back (thank goodness for mikes!), no behaviour issues and they were very engaged. It was amazing how they all went immediately quiet when I began speaking, as I am used to having to quiet a noisy class of nurses/AHP’s who tend to be more active learners!

It was good also to show how this learning was relevant to the previous piece of work by making the students reflect on the research process for that assignment.

I always struggle with delivering material that I haven’t put together myself, so the second session went better than the first (in the first teaching activity). I learned how to pace myself as I ran over in the first session by 15 minutes; fortunately the students didn’t have anything afterwards and the room wasn’t booked! Also, I was more familiar with the material and had an idea of where the pinch-points for the students would be. I could then focus on those parts of the session that they struggled with, rather than worry about time.

With hindsight I think I needed to allow more prep time than I did. That said, it was an interesting session to deliver as it deviated away from the traditional lab sessions we run, with no work on the PC, no searching databases etc. With such a specific focus it was possible to talk through the content and relating it to students’ course work is always really good. I tried to reinforce this as often as possible.

I have some more sessions to teach for Bioscience in the near future. I think I will definitely prep more with not being familiar with the subject area. Also, there are things that I can take into my own teaching potentially (critical appraisal checklist? pointing out that conclusion can be positive or negative) to give more meaning to my sessions. After all, we show the students how to find the material; shouldn’t we also start them on the path to knowing what to actually do with it?Also, I will investigate whether any of my modules have this critical appraisal element in them and offer to do some support for that if necessary.

I really like the idea of embedding the learning in something they have already experienced as this is something I learned while doing my PGCE. This will definitely form part of my feedback in our teaching sessions as I can bring this experience of teaching something different into our team.

Epic Blog Fail…

Well. Here’s a turn-up…it’s been MONTHS! Feeling very guilty about not posting anything, but that’s because life got very busy for a time. We had holidays and then straight into major teaching. Over 3 weeks, I’ve taught 56 hours and seen near enough 600 students, so very busy indeed. But hugely enjoyable.

I’m now thinking about my Chartership again, and this Friday I’m going to the portfolio building event in Liverpool (get to see the lovely new library too…). So, probably will have a bit more oomph after that!

In the meantime, I will leave this post with another epic fail…I haven’t been on my bike for over a month, so it isn’t just Chartership that’s suffered!

Watch this space…

Postscript: Just done my stats and in 55 hours I taught 726 students (plus about another 20-ish as we didn’t have a tally for that class) adding up to a whopping 1,023:30 hours of teaching per person…whew!!

Tour de France fever

I realised a while ago that most of my posts have been about libraries, with very little of my other obsessions covered. So, today’s post is going to be about the sport I have taken to over the last few years…

There’s a little bike race coming to the North of England this weekend, which I am a little bit excited about. Those of you who follow me on twitter, or facebook, may already have realised this, what with the inordinate amount of tweets, retweets and shares I have been slathering my pages with recently…I think I have been remarkably restrained but that’s just me…

The original plan was to go to Harrogate on Saturday to see the first stage finish, then cycle up to Woodhead on Sunday (only about 10 miles from our house, but a good bit of ‘up’ involved; down on the way back!) to watch them flit past after coming down Holmes Moss. However, yesterday, not only did I realise the weather is going to be fairly inclement over the weekend (Yorkshire + summer = what do you expect?), but that also that I would be standing around for hours, in the (possibly) wet, without access to any facilities (get the drift?). Ok, I am a seasoned camper, I dont actually need the physical thing, I’m happy with a bush or a tree. BUT (and it’s a big but, no pun intended), this is the Peak District, renowned for the mass clearance of trees during the last few hundred years to allow stock grazing to flourish and rich noblemen to hunt on horses…ergo, nothing to hide behind (or under) for a call of nature…

So. Reflection. ITV are showing the whole of the first three stages in their entirety, live. It’s a no-brainer. I will happily watch the TV coverage, knowing that just a few miles to the North, lots of fairly fit (in more ways than one, with some possible exceptions) young men are tearing round the countryside on one of the most iconic races on the planet, being treated to a good sample of English meteorology, while I stay warm and dry in the house cheering them on!

Who will win, though? My money’s on Cav for the first stage, but after that it’s anyone’s race. Froome will put on a good show, but there are plenty of good GC contenders and only three British riders in the whole Tour. The non-Brits will be looking for a win, after the successive two years going to a Brit, so I think we’re in for exciting times this year. Watch this space…