Reflection on ‘Collaborative Approaches to IL’

I recently attended a conference entitled ‘Collaborative Approaches to Information Literacy’ hosted at MMU by the CILIP Information Literacy Group. The day comprised five presentations/workshops from librarians and practitioners working in IL. Below are some musings on some of the issues that I found particularly interesting/stimulating/worth pilfering.

What happens when your degree doesn’t make you fit for the workplace? An interesting story was told regarding an English Graduate who was going for media jobs. Are we teaching students to get a job or expand their knowledge? For me, we should be doing both, really and this is where IL comes into its own as it is a transferable skill that feeds into the workplace.

UoM talked about ‘clarity’; making students aware of what we already do, what their skills are and how they can transfer these into their wider life. Their ethos is to facilitate students into being what employers want, rather than just telling them what employers expect. They realised students waited until crisis point before asking for help and so their strategy is based around developing student skills to help them support themselves: essentially being independent learners.

They talked about the value to the session is in using prior knowledge (what do they already know) and exploring what happens after (where do they go with it?). Their focus is on positives: not about where the gaps in student skills are are but about positive improvement; no levelling – they wanted to open out to learning that might happen, rather than pedagogical learning. Also considered in the strategy is to promote the positives of referencing – it’s badged as joining a tradition hundreds of years old; the correspondence of the learned population was merely them holding up their research in the light of other’s findings. Essentially a form of gossip as it showed whom they had been ‘talking to’! Ergo, non-negative badging…

After the degree? We teach IL using Uni resources, but what happens when students go into the workplace and don’t have access to subscribed resources? ‘Outduction’ at UoD (Buxton) are sessions on how to use the knowledge and skills they have developed in three years at Uni, turning them into real world skills. Edge Hill’s ‘Steps to Success’ programme includes session on how to find information in the workplace, covering things such as how to adapt to the information environment in the workplace, finding and recognising credible information and accessing resources as an EHU alumni. The programme also includes sessions on how to promote yourself online and report and presentation writing skills.

So, there’s some very innovative work in IL out there. I like the idea of an ‘exit session’ like the outducting of UoD. I’d be interested in taking something like that on, to build on my experience of teaching on the basic skills sessions in my PGCE, as they are very similar in application. I’m resolved to looking into this in more detail, possibly contacting the folk at UoD to ask some more questions and then mention it at my next review to see if it would be feasible to pursue. Watch this space…


MOOC(ing) Around Again!

I’m doing a MOOC again, this time about Technology Enhanced Learning. I have to admit, we don’t do a lot of this at my institution; the focus is still on face-to-face or traditional lab learning. However, some colleagues have made inroads into webinar teaching, with varying results.
My impression of TEL is that it is very subjective to the area of study. For example, our A&D students (unless they are doing GD or some such course) probably won’t be using much in the way of technology as most of their stuff is still in printed form (I know this because, as manager of the serials collection they cause me some considerable headaches!). Whereas our tech students in Computing or Science, say, do engage more with the use of technology for learning.
So saying, I’m part of the Social Media Team and we are very aware that our students don’t use these platforms for studying. They will tweet if it’s too noisy in a study area, but generally if they have an information query they will come to the helpdesk to speak to someone. I’ve encountered very few information enquiries via twitter or FB, and these tend to be from overseas or distance students who are using these communication channels generally to be pointed in the direction of the relevant subject librarian.
One of the reflective questions this week is ‘[Am I] leaning towards one approach in particular on ocTEL, and if so why might that be? Perhaps you are employing strategies from more than one approach?’. The approaches to learning under discussion are ‘deep’, ‘strategic’ and ‘surface’.
I’ve always been a strategic learner: maximum gain for minimum effort. So, I use knowledge already acquired and assimilate this into a strategy for expanding on this learning without too much effort! Ergo, this blog post! I know quite a bit about social media and learning and so I am reflecting on this bit of TEL; the use of social media as a learning tool (discussed a bit further down in the post The Joy of Facebook).
For the purposes of this MOOC, my approach is mostly strategic, with a bit of surface thrown in, as I havent got too much time to devote to it. Plus, I wont be graded on it, so I am not too worried about being top of the class, as that isn’t the point.
As to social media being a valid learning tool…well, again, I suppose this is completely subjective and moves into the area we will be exploring in more depth next week. Watch this space…

(What) to blog, or not to blog, that is the question…

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but I am currently working towards Chartering and a part of the portfolio is a reflection of where you are at the beginning of the process and where you are at the end…now, I found out I’m not very good at this type of study while I was doing my teaching portfolio. I can write descriptively, but not particularly analytically. Part of the reason for this blog is to set down my thoughts on issues that affect/stimulate/annoy me, and to reflect on them – as I used to in my diary as a younger person (but without the wistful sentiments about a certain rock god, music and boys in general! )

So to help me with this, I’ve decided to start a reflective journal, as well as this blog. However, I immediately hit a stumbling block: what to transfer to my blog? If the idea is to be able to organise my thoughts for my blog, and to use that as a tool for reflection, what should I blog and what should I avoid?

The impetus for this musing was one of the issues I tackled in my reflective journal last week: a sensitive issue regarding a member of staff who I manage…so, having made the decision to stay away from such sensitive material, is this defeating the idea of my blog? Given that my posts go straight to my twitter and FB feeds, I think I must be very careful of what I transfer to my blog.

…and, as usual, this has sent me off on the tangent of how we teach information literacy to our students! We teach them how to construct effective search strategies, but it has only become apparent recently (after some high-profile cases in the media) that we need also to teach them how to use social media responsibly.

…and, also as usual, this task has fallen on the library profession (because we are innately responsible or because we are at the cutting edge in technology terms?). As mentioned before, we have problems getting our students engaged in social media for study, but we can turn it on its head and show them how to behave sensibly online. Recent research suggests that potential employers now look at our online presence before they even meet us and so giving a good impression very important.

BUT…this then leads to debate about freedom of speech, prejudice, etc. Should we really be so wary of stating our beliefs for fear of such reprisals? My initial answer is no, but I believe we can be honest about our values without compromising our online presence…something that’s just a bit alien to me is tact (on occasion!) but I know I can be true to myself and my values and opinions in a way that isn’t offensive and wont compromise my future career! Watch this space…

Discovery and more…

Earlier in the Summer (and how glorious? Lots of cycling miles done this year!) I attended the InfoLit and Summon Conference, held in Manchester. I found it really inspirational and came away with some great ideas around how discovery tools can make teaching information literacy even easier and more engaging.

As we all know, it’s very easy to lose your students when the material is dry…a few years ago, we experimented with using a different presentation platform for our inductions but it didnt quite work out. So, if using powerpoint is the only way to present your material, how do we engage the students and move away from death by powerpoint? This got me thinking…and it got me thinking about the ‘flipped classroom’.

I really like the idea of turning the traditional ‘teaching’ role on it’s head, where the students are given the material for the class before they come and you effectively do their homework with them. But I realise it wouldnt work for all subjects, only those really where the emphasis is on traditional study skills. But, that got me thinking too…what about games? We all start our learning journey as young children through play, so why should that be any different as adults? And also, our students are coming to us from a world of games (WoW, Angry Birds, CoD etc…). Why not teach them through a medium they are used to and enjoy? Well, when next I have to design any kind of learning resource, there will definitely be an element of ‘play’ about it! Watch this space…

MOOC(h)ing around in the Library!

It’s a big thing at the minute, the MOOC. My institution hasn’t yet jumped on the bandwagon, possibly due to a number of reasons around restructuring courses and so on. However, it’s a distinct possibility in the future and it’s something that all librarians are going to be thinking about regarding how we can get involved and support delivery of MOOCs.

Of course, it’s not just going to be Academic Librarians who are affected. Anyone can sign up for a MOOC – you dont have to be at University to do them, and lots of private companies are offering them too ( So, public sector and college librarians are also going to be affected, with possibly little or no knowledge of how to support the students! However, we librarians are nothing if not helpful and there are many resources and opportunities to develop skills and knowledge to support users.

Problems arising for librarians however, abound. How do we engage and support people participating in MOOCs? How do we get ourselves into a position in our institutions to show that we can be an asset to these courses? The courses themselves present problems: in a study of learning communities and online resources within the neurological module of the BSc Physiotherapy at the University of Birmingham, one of the key issues raised was the disparity of information literacy and IT skills (Davies, Ramsay, Lindfield and Couperthwaite ‘Building learning communities: foundations for good practice’ British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 36 No 4 2005 pp615–628).

Of course, as librarians, this is where we come in with the offer of teaching these skills. But how do we do this when the students are only learning online? Cue the VLE. Host podcasts and video training on your institution’s VLE (we use Moodle). Put links to these on all of the MOOC course sites. Embed them in the teaching modules. Use webinars and get them embedded in the MOOC as part of the course. 

So. How do we progress? In my opinion, libraries, as ever, are well-placed to support this development in learning and teaching and should be promoting themselves as viable partners. It may be scary; change ever is! But we’ve proved before we can rise to the challenge (PN, development of online learning, VLE’s etc) and will do so again! Watch this space…