I rolled out a new user education session last week – yes, you could call it information literacy (though you know I’m a bit conflicted about the expression, because I always fear students will find it patronising!)
A colleague had related anecdotally that students seemed to have picked up the impression that everything on our library discovery-layer was authoritative “because the librarian said so”. Proud that we had been quoted as such an authority, I was nonetheless a bit alarmed. EVERYTHING? Had we told them to place blind trust in EVERYTHING there, recordings, digital scores, the lot?
It was time to sort things out. I offered a seminar about primary and secondary research sources, authoritative and less authoritative ones, what you could trust, and where you needed to tread with caution. What might be “authoritative” in a sound recording, and why “online” is actually just a format – it’s the content that matters. It seemed to go down well.
Throwing caution to the wind, I let the students know they were trialling this session, – although I would never usually TELL students they were guinea-pigs – and sought feedback about my Biteable reminder at the end. I was convinced they’d find the bear cartoons childish, but apparently not – he went down perfectly okay! However, I do intend to have another look at the cartoon options, because there’s a limit to how often you can employ the same bear!
Readers of this blog will recall that I spoke about training students in effective electronic resource research at the ARLGS (Academic and Research Libraries Group, Scotland) teach-meet a couple of weeks ago. In a timely confluence of meetings and publications, my article on the same topic has just been published in my professional association’s journal: ‘Coffee and Collaboration’ appears in the Nov/Dec 2018 issue of Information Professional, published by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. I’m a chartered Fellow of CILIP, but I don’t think I’ve ever had more than a single-column news announcement in this journal before, so I’m quite pleased to have achieved this in my final decade before retirement!
Coincidentally, yesterday afternoon saw me arranging the second iteration of this information literacy training for early next year. And so the wheel comes full circle ….!
We’re having a three-day Learning and Teaching Conference here at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland this week. Today, Information Services department gave some quick updates. Here was my invitation to teaching colleagues to make the most of the skills that we Performing Arts Librarians can share with students at appropriate points in their courses. I am quite keen on the Biteable format – it’s quick and snappy, and it seemed to go down quite well!
Librarians as a Learning and Teaching Resource
I have often thought that when students have problems using Shibboleth institutional logins for our e-resources, the best solution would be to go for a Costa coffee – then we could practice logging in and searching the different resources. There’s only one problem – I can hardly ask students to take me out to coffee, and also, they’re often distance-learners.
Yesterday, we solved one of those problems. We took a class out to coffee, admittedly not Costa, but by arrangement with a nearby cafe – they sold 30-odd coffees, and we all played with our various electronic devices in search of specific keywords that I had set the students in advance. I won’t go into detail here – it might turn into an article later! – but suffice to say, I was delighted by how well the exercise went. It had involved a bit of advance preparation, first on my part and then on the students’, but it was certainly worth the effort. Away from the usual instant access via Eduroam, there was no option but to engage with the institutional access process, and these students had remarkably little bother with it.
Funnily enough, in years gone by, when I tried to teach catalogue use in a computer suite, there seemed to be too much temptation for students to play with Facebook or other social media. But yesterday, I didn’t give that possibility a thought, and because the students had an engaging task to do, it didn’t seem to happen. (If it did, then certainly not to any noticeable extent!)
Active learning? Certainly. Scaffolded learning? Arguably, yes. We started with what the students knew, then I offered some more suggestions, and these were added into students’ own search strategies, with improved results.
The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals – my professional organisation and to which I’ve been elected a Fellow – has a group specifically dedicated to Information Literacy, so there’s plenty on the CILIP website that is worth my attention! For example:-
“Information Literacy Group | CILIP
A CILIP Special Interest Group which encourages debate and the exchange of knowledge in all aspects of Information Literacy.
The Information Literacy Group is pleased to announce a forthcoming workshop called “Play, Games and … What’s happening with World Book Night this year?
22 Aug 2016 – The Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (the Association of …. Teaching Information Literacy Reframed – book cover … “
Indeed, I saw a flyer for a new book which very much appeals to me, but it won’t be published until later on this summer, so it may be too late for me to make use of it in my PGCert project:-
KEVIN MICHAEL KLIPFEL and DANI BRECHER COOK, Learner-Centred Pedagogy: Principles and Practice
(London: Facet Publishing, 2017) Details here
I thought I’d glance through my Diigo and Mendeley accounts to track recent serendipitous reading. Here goes! These all reflect my professional preoccupations, not surprisingly – information literacy, online learning, point-of-need ‘learning experiences’ – whether a podcast, blog, screencast or whatever – learning styles, distance learners …
- CILIP Information Literacy Group: a forthcoming event in Aston (2017-07-12) that comes too late for my project, but maybe I might come across a similar one in Scotland some day:- ‘Supporting online learners, what works? A discussion of innovative methods in providing distance learners with information literacy and library skills.’ An Aston University Library Teachmeet. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/supporting-online-learners-what-works-a-discussion-of-innovative-methods-in-providing-distance-tickets-33991143425?utm_source=eb_email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=order_confirmation_email&utm_term=eventname&ref=eemailordconf
- Earp, Jo, Classroom layout – what does the research say? (Teacher Magazine), 2017-03-16 [Australia] https://www.teachermagazine.com.au/article/classroom-layout-what-does-the-research-say My annotation:- About collaborative learning spaces, in schools. A couple of times, Earp cites an earlier scholarly article:- Fernandes, A. C., Huang, J., & Rinaldo, V. (2011). Does where a student sits really matter? The impact of seating locations on student classroom learning. International Journal of Applied Educational Studies, 10(1), 66-77. Perhaps not surprisingly, seating arrangements contribute to different environments – in rows, to paying attention and not much interaction. In groups for collaboration and engagement in an activity. Other factors, eg draughts, daylight/overhead lighting, even seating position in a classroom where pupils sit in rows, can have an effect. However, as I’ve mentioned before, I generally have no say in room arrangement, and only limited opportunities to encourage collaborative group work.
- Amy Mollett, Cheryl Brumley, Chris Gilson and Sierra Williams, By producing podcasts you can reach wider audiences, occupy your niche and create new items of research (London School of Economics blog), 2017-05-16 http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2017/05/16/by-producing-podcasts-you-can-reach-wider-audiences-occupy-your-niche-and-create-new-items-of-research/ – My annotation:- a podcast is basically ‘on-demand audio’, and enjoyed a renaissance with a radio podcast, Serial, itself a spin-off from an American radio programme, This American Life. Everyone has a mobile phone so potentially large audience. Here’s a summary of reasons why to podcast research:- Now, I sometimes worry that I’m too prone to be negative. I don’t see myself as negative so much as just tending to spot where things might go wrong/ not be an ideal fit. However, whilst I can see the value of an audio podcast for my research, I can’t see it working well when I’m teaching students how to access an online resource, construct a citation, or practice search skills. I need the visual element. Moreover, some of the comments in my project survey quite specifically ask for more visual formats, cartoons, video, webcasts, etc. The authors cite ‘what writer Chris Anderson calls the “long tail”, with a plethora of novice and niche podcasts sitting at the tail end of digital audio offerings.’ So, we’re looking at podcasts as having a place in a diversity of audio formats, and reaching out to new audiences. There was also mention of the podcast interview as a form of research in itself, an interesting idea but not applicable in the present context.
- Pun, Raymond and Meggan Houlihan, Game On: Gamification in the Library (Credo Reference Blog, 2017-02-19) http://blog.credoreference.com/2017/02/game-on-tips-tools-to-make-instruction-more-engaging – My annotation:- I often read about activities like these – quite complex, and involving quite a lot of preparation – and reflect that it would be difficult to construct a game that could be included in a 15 minute presentation in our usual live delivery context – a lecture theatre or seminar room. Firstly, I can’t set assignments. I couldn’t imagine students willingly doing a collaborative project using Googledocs, uploading answers and photos, all in the name of gaining information literacy skills. Secondly, I have a much wider remit than the author of the article, who is responsible for first year student engagement, whilst I am responsible for the information needs of any musicians in the entire institution, and anyone else who needs my assistance. And thirdly, I still recall the year when I was persuaded to set up a library quiz using QR codes, all tucked into copies of textbooks on the library shelves. When it came to it, I wasn’t left enough time to get the students to upload QR code readers to their phones, so by the time we got to the library, no-one was able to access the QR codes to make a start on the treasure-hunt. Am I being negative, or realistic?! And yet, I don’t deny that these are innovative and modern ways of tackling longstanding problems.
- Rempel, Hannah Gascho and Anne-Marie Deitering, Sparking Curiosity – Librarians’ Role in Encouraging Exploration – In the Library with the Lead Pipe (blogpost), 2017-02-22 http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2017/sparking-curiosity – My annotation:- about information literacy, students selecting topics, referencing, writing style. This is written in the context of American first year students selecting a research topic for their rhetoric and composition class. However, our students don’t have a written ‘composition’ component (think essay, not music) and don’t study rhetoric. The paper is interesting and well-written, but doesn’t really sit comfortably alongside the kind of learning expected of our students, or the kind of information skills teaching expected of the librarians.
- Screencast-o-matic – recommended by our learning technologist, whom I consulted when one of my survey respondents said that the links were very big to download. My annotation:- Fred suggested that another time, he could render the videos into “best quality”, average, and small-size file, so users would have a choice. Another respondent asked for more technically complex videos than I had produced, so I sought advice to help me make a better product next time. Despite my feeling that a powerpoint-with-commentary would be technically straightforward and much more informative than a podcast, it seems that some readers have more demanding requirements – they wanted to see my face simultaneously; they wanted cartoons or animation; and they wanted screencasts of search techniques or using bibliographic software. All good suggestions for future “learning experiences”, so this link should prove very useful:- Help Tutorials: http://help.screencast-o-matic.com/
- Tech skills are seriously lacking in universities – take it from the IT guy | Higher Education Network | The Guardian 2017-05-26 (By an anonymous learning technologist, includes concept of gamification.) My annotation:- I think I would need to collaborate with our learning technologist, and I’d first need to work out one particular problem that would lend itself to experimental gamification. (A game about using bibliographical referencing tools? I’d have a ball, but the mind boggles when it comes to getting the students to join in collaboratively in a game-like way.) The author is right about there only being pockets of interest in technical solutions. I like the summary at the end of this article, especially the very last sentence:-
“Alongside the reading list, how about a list of games to play? I have not yet thought of a subject that could not be taught through games. Instead of an essay submitted in Microsoft Word, how about an Adobe Spark digital multimedia story? When degree programmes are being developed, how about having a technology adviser present from the start?
“Get technology at the heart of every programme specification, and get students and lecturers using it every day. Only then will skills truly develop.”
- Weale, Sally, Teachers must ditch ‘neuromyth’ of learning styles, say scientists (The Guardian. Teaching. 2016-03-13) https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/mar/13/teachers-neuromyth-learning-styles-scientists-neuroscience-education?CMP=twt_gu My annotation:- If learning styles are a myth – and they might well be – then the concept is deeply embedded into many teachers’ and learners’ psyches now. I note that from the responses to my survey, with learners stating that they learn best if they imbue information a particular way or in a particular medium. In a sense, we can’t argue with individual preferences. However, I’ve always thought that we probably all benefit from a blend of different learning experiences, depending on the topic, setting and circumstances. It is a little alarming, if learning styles have become a ‘neuromyth’ – pop psychology, if you like.