Category Archives: Learning

Not Quite Jimmy Shand!

A DIFFERENT KIND OF LEARNING2019-01-25 17.35.25.jpg

It seemed appropriate to have a ‘bucket list’ for my 60th year.  (My 61st year, I suppose, if you consider that my birthday marked the end of 60 years!)

So, I thought a modest bucket list would be achievable, and made a mental list.  It only had three things on it.  Halfway through the year, I hadn’t achieved one of them – it wasn’t looking good.

  1. Visit Bath
  2. Visit Chawton House (the Jane Austen museum)
  3. Learn to play the accordion

Why the accordion? Well, I feel that it’s all very well being a musicologist who plays the piano and arranges Scottish and Regency tunes, but as a musicologist with a PhD in Scottish Georgian and Victorian tunes, I occupy a strange, liminal existence where I’m neither a Classical nor a trad musician.  I’m not a virtuoso performer at all, to be honest, though my piano and organ-playing have stood me in good stead in a number of different contexts.  And as for trad – well, a sixty-year old will never learn the fiddle nor the flute, nor pick up the bagpipes well enough to play with other people.  Yes, I have recorders, and I suppose I could learn the whistle, but I wasn’t particularly drawn to this option.  Neither am I likely to be invited to play keyboards in a ceilidh band.  What to do?

Of course, there was another consideration … I’m the Honorary Librarian of the Friends of Wighton in Dundee, and I’ve been cataloguing Jimmy Shand’s music.  Now, this wouldn’t have influenced my choice of new instrument, would it?!  As it happens, Jimmy played a button accordion. That WASN’T in my calculations!

Yes, I decided to teach myself the piano accordion.  Not to play Georgian and Victorian tunes of any description, just to be able to play something that I might one day be able to use in some kind of  amateur group context.  I was generously lent an instrument from the Traditional Music department at work – a 48 bass Parrot.  It’s quite old, but fully functional (though there’s a rotating wheel thing that I would have assumed was a volume control – and it does nothing at all!) – and just needed new straps.  That done, I found a chart, and now understand the cycle of fifths that determines the pattern of the chord buttons – and what each row of buttons actually does.  Borrowing an instrument has been a good idea, not least because I now know that if I were to buy a secondhand instrument, I will need more buttons. At the moment I can play major and minor chords, but not diminished or 7th ones.  So The Parrot has prevented me from buying something that I would later find limiting!

I borrowed the instrument a little over a week ago, and brought it home last Saturday afternoon.  I’ve devoted quite a few hours to my self-instruction, and have recorded the results. I’m not a prodigy!

Weekend 1.

Weekend 2.  (Believe me, if all those endearing young charms)

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Librarians: Part of your Learning and Teaching Strategy

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

2017: New Year’s Resolutions

My boss found a useful MOOC, so I’ve signed up!  After all, I’ve already got our surveys from 2009-2016 to look at, so this does seem more than relevant.  No time to blog about it now, but at least this ensures I won’t lose the link:-

Researching learners’ experiences and uses of technology using action research #LERMOOC

That idea didn’t work.  I had too much on my plate to commit to a Mooc as well as the PGCert.  Eventually worked out how to disentangle myself.

Lectures versus active learning

Pickles, Matt (2016), ‘Shouldn’t lectures be obsolete by now?’, BBC News: Business, 23rd November 2016 (oneline) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38058477 [accessed 23.11.2016]

I read an article on the BBC News Business pages today.  The author, Matt Pickles, expresses surprise that the lecture format persists, despite demonstrable evidence that they’re often not the most effective way of teaching students, and that active learning works much better.  Some universities are catching on, but it seems others aren’t bothered, because they’re more concerned about their scholars’ research profile than their teaching skills.

That’s not true at my institution – for a start, we’re a conservatoire, so whether you “do research” or are an expert practitioner and perhaps don’t consider your practice as research, much of the work is practice-based in any case.  And secondly – we wouldn’t be studying for PGCerts if we didn’t think teaching was important!

I’m a bit atypical in being a musicologist, and although I like to get my research performed, my research isn’t actually in performance or composition.  I’m also atypical (oh, I love being a nonconformist!) in studying for a PGCert with the aim of improving my teaching for the librarianship side of my work first and foremost. My research takes place on one day a week, and any spare home time I can fling at it, but I only get rare opportunities to teach my research interest.

But what I can say is that I much prefer to speak to groups small enough to be able to converse with students rather than lecture them.  And if I’m teaching how to use e-resources, or bibliographic /referencing skills, it’s infinitely easier with a group or even a single student.  You can’t converse in a lecture, and my minor hearing impairment makes it even more difficult.  (Why would I pose a question to people at the back of a lecture theatre, when I probably couldn’t hear their reply?!)

When a Tweet Provokes Thought

I’ve just found this tweet in my feed, and it set me thinking.  The person who posted it (Cristina Costa, at the University of Strathclyde) has been at a Scottish information literacy event.  I was aware of it through following Twitter, but didn’t hear about it in time to consider attending.

The image attached is a circle divided into four quadrants:-

  • Develop Skills – Educators, Skills and Confidence
  • Improve Access – Learners,  Access [??]
  • Empower – Leaders, Drive Innovation
  • Enhance – Curriculum and Assessment

So, in my rather unique position as simultaneously academic librarian, postdoc researcher and PGCert student, where do I fit in?  Today, I was talking to third year undergraduates about online resources, referencing and bibliographic referencing software.  We didn’t go into any details about how exactly RefMe,  Mendeley or Zotero work – in an hour to cover all the above, it was enough to mention that they all do roughly the same thing, and are worth considering.  In a sense, it was ME developing my skills as an educator (1), at the same time as I was improving the learners’ access (2) by informing them about what was available and how best to exploit it.

Their regular course-leader was sharing the seminar with me, so I like to think that sharing knowledge about the library’s online resource provision was empowering my colleague (3), whether by providing reminders about facilities or imparting new knowledge.  That, naturally enough, would (hopefully!) enhance the curriculum (4), and the assessment of student projects will in due course also demonstrate just how much they used the information we had given them (4 again).  However, I am not involved in the final assessments, so on this occasion I just have to hope that what I shared will prove worthwhile.

AN ASIDE, ABOUT REFME

On the subject of RefMe, I should mention that although we looked into the institutional, enhanced version, the cost was too high, so students will have to make do with individual free access.  RefMe does have impressive capabilities, and is easy to use.  I haven’t embraced it fully myself, because really, one needs only one bibliographic referencing tool, and I have Mendeley on every single device I ever use.

However, I downloaded RefMe to my android phone earlier this week.  I wanted at least to be able to demonstrate it to students.  Disappointingly, it wouldn’t scan ISBNs, wouldn’t retrieve details of books that I was pretty sure should have been retrieved, and although I’ve emailed the RefMe helpdesk, they haven’t responded yet.  I hope there will be an easy, obvious answer, because I hesitate to recommend it to students if there’s an android glitch that isn’t being talked about.  Meanwhile, I’ve uninstalled it, and await a reply!  I’ve also tweeted a query. No reply to that, either.

I downloaded a research paper about RefMe, a couple of months ago. Sat down to read it properly just now, and – well, yes, I had already added it to my Mendeley bibliography. (Shh, don’t tell RefMe!)  But it’s impressive, it really is.  The accuracy rate is hugely better than asking students to do their referencing manually using sample templates.  Here’s the report.

Hakim, Yaz El et al, 2016, The impact of RefME on the student experience. Online. https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/719144/Time_Saver_Whitepaper.pdf (Accessed 2016.11.20)

 

 

But I’m still waiting for my reply as to why I can’t scan barcodes or search for items on my Android. So I’m still wondering whether I ought to recommend it to Android users!  Frustrating.