(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…

Conferencing Madness

lilac presentation – KD

This year I attended the LILAC Conference, held in Manchester. It bought together a range of library professionals from all areas, not just HE/FE and this was great because I have had a wide range of library experience: from working in Public libraries and teaching information literacy skills to ‘silver surfers’ to working in a college library and teaching ‘digital natives’.

I loved this conference; I think it’s the best one I have ever been to (creep, creep). I got to see lots of innovative stuff being done with teaching and learning materials, and also with implementing and embedding information literacy into key skills and other curricula.

Colleagues who attended from my institution were invited to present at an exchange of experience event to pass on to staff, who didnt have a chance to attend, valuable good practices and lessons learned. My presentation is attached to this post. I focused on what I had learned, what I had come away with as a holistic whole, rather than focusing on the minutiae of the how and the why. This is me though, big picture girl, ideas girl; throw it out and sit back to watch the fun! (You may notice a theme running through my presentation!).

So, given the wealth of experience and innovation out there, why is it still so difficult for those outside of the library and information profession to value our worth? My own feeling is that we are still considered somewhat twee, a little behind-the-times (blatantly untrue!), be-spectacled do-gooders who guard knowledge possessively. As we know, and are endeavouring to promote, this is far from the mark of a librarian’s true goal. We must be more in the vanguard rather than bringing up the rear and perhaps a little more vocal (and dare I say it, pro-active?) about the range of skills we can support that are transferable across all sectors and walks of life and that can lead receivers to achieve that bit better a life. 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.

http://summonil2013.wordpress.com/

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 (http://www.educause.edu/library/massive-open-online-course-mooc). 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…