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…

 

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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: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/book-club/running-a-club/ 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: https://padlet.com/shu1/stopstartcontinue1

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 (http://libguides.staffs.ac.uk/teachmeets/dec2016) (UDL, Carol Keddie, DMU: http://libguides.staffs.ac.uk/ld.php?content_id=27652396).

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! https://magic.piktochart.com/output/20074562-practice-piktochart

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: https://spark.adobe.com/video/1QKE28o7LjDGB

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…

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.

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.