Recent Reading

books-21849_640I 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.
  • Earp, Jo, Classroom layout – what does the research say? (Teacher Magazine), 2017-03-16 [Australia]  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 – 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:- LSE why you should podcast your research image 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) – 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  – 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:
  • 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)  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.

Completing and Commencing Projects

hurry-2119711_640June 2017 sees me working towards completion of my PGCert project (Postgraduate Certificate, Learning and Teaching in Higher Arts Education), and towards the commencement of my AHRC-funded networking project, Claimed from Stationers’ Hall.

I’m very prone to starting one thing before I’ve fully finished another.  My first attempt at a PhD foundered because I rushed into a postgraduate librarianship diploma course when I should have allowed at least a year for writing up my doctoral thesis.  (And look where that got me.  There’s no kudos in a Ph without a D, none whatsoever.)  I eventually started and actually completed a different PhD a quarter of a century later.

This time, although I’m setting things in place for the postdoctoral project, I’m hopefully going to have the PGCert written and submitted before the postdoc network kicks off.

The PGCert Project

target-418917_640For long enough, I’ve been focused first on getting my practice-based project research proposal written and accepted, and then getting it through the ethical approval process.  Between those two milestones, I devised my project questionnaire and two ‘interventions’ – experimental mini online tutorials that I would share with my chosen project cohort, asking them targeted questions to elicit their reactions to my efforts.

Finally, I was able to get the project under way.  I shared the questionnaire several times.  I set a deadline of the end of May, to allow myself time to evaluate the questionnaire responses.  Finally this week, with the deadline past, I was able to start my analysis.  I had 18 sets of responses, and decided that would do.

Some of my questions were multiple choice (eg, Did this help? Yes or no.)  Others offered the opportunity to give free-text answers.  When it came to analysis, the multiple choice questions were easily turned into pie charts, whilst the free-text ones lent themselves to textual analysis.  Having sorted the answers into rough categories, I even managed to make some more pie charts.  (My study was more like a pie-shop this morning!)

Next steps

  • Write something about my findings
  • Arrange interviews with the survey respondents who expressed willingness to help
  • Borrow a recording device for these interviews!
  • Transcribe the interviews – luckily they’re only intended to be five minutes long, and I only have five possible interviewees,  not all of whom might be available when it comes to fixing up appointments.

Towards completion

I’ve been  studying the list of components for my ultimate submission, to ensure I don’t miss anything.  This thing should have been submitted months ago, but there was a blip in my studies last autumn, so I currently have an extension, with the end of July as the final submission date – and the end of June as my preferred date if I can pull it all together in that time! According to the Project (PG Cert) Module Assessment Pack 2016-17*, my e-Portfolio requires various clearly defined components.  Underlined text is quoted from the assessment pack document:-

  • Literature review (1500 words)
  • Delivery mechanisms and learning environments, ie the educational resources (aka interventions) that I have provided for my learners (1000 words).  This includes:-
  • (a) lesson plans and theoretical accounts.  I have no lesson plans, because my interventions are online mini-tutorials for use at the point of need – but I can certainly provide an account of why I chose the interventions that I did, including my earlier analysis of last year’s library survey.
  • (b) resources (handouts, digital resources, learning activities).  I can provide the links to the interventions themselves.
  • (c) Learning Technologies. If the links constitute ‘digital resources, learning activities‘, then I’m somewhat confused about what the ‘learning technologies‘ are, but I can write about the experience of compiling the interventions and other related technical considerations.
  • Evaluative tools (no associated word count).  This is for documentation of my ‘research mechanisms‘ eg ‘questionnaires, focus group questions, student feedback tools, assessment tools‘.  I’ve got my email dated 8 May 2017 with the project outline, and my questionnaire and my interview questions to include here.  [DONE]  Also, presumably, the interview transcripts, which will be quite a lot of words.  What a good thing there’s no word count!  I have closed the questionnaire so that no-one else can answer it, but this renders the link inaccessible to my examiners, so I shall put the text of the questionnaire here instead.
  • Analysis of data (2000 words). This falls into two clear components:-
  • (a) Presentation of results (tables, graphs, narrative, depending on nature of results)
  • (b) Discussion of results – critical reflection, comparison with prior expectations, and I must synthesise the evidence gathered towards identifying what [I] have learned from the analysis of this data‘.
  • Project conclusions and recommendations (2000 words):-
  • How successful were the ‘learning experiences‘ that I designed?
  • Did I deliver ‘learning experiences in line with [my] aims‘?
  • Did I ‘support learners in their development‘?
  • Did I ‘assess and provide feedback to learners to aid their development‘?  Given that my learning experiences weren’t in a classroom or assessed setting, I’ll probably be able to say what I need to say in answer to the earlier questions.
  • And did I ‘Engage in a meaningful development of [my] knowledge and skills in research, effective pedagogy, scholarship and the evaluation of [my] professional practice‘?
  • I also need to include recommendations for my peers, line managers and the sector, arising out of my conclusions.
  • There is more.  I need to submit a Journal Summary (1000 words) with PDPdetailing where my learning development has changed with regards to ‘Pedagogy, Research, Scholarship [and] Professional Practice‘ – and I need to refer to key journal entries in that regard.  The PDP shouldn’t go past 3 A4 pages.
  • And a Bibliography
  • And complete the UKPSF Checklist

If I were to write four days a week, then I would have sixteen writing days until the end of June, requiring 625 words per day.  This may be unrealistic, given that I still have to do and transcribe the interviews, and much of the above requirements necessitate gathering material together as well as writing it up.  On the other hand, it’s something to aim for, and would mean that by the start of July, I’d know what was still outstanding.

New Blog for AHRC-funded network

Stationers' HallClaimed from Stationers’ Hall

On my research day this week, I did some preparation for the AHRC-funded networking project that I’ll be starting in August 2017.  Behold, a project blog!  Please do visit, follow, and keep in touch.  (There’s also a new Twitter account: @ClaimedStatHall )

And yesterday, there was a piece about the Claimed from Stationers’ Hall project in the RCS Research Exchange News (June 2017).  I’ll repeat it here now, in case you’re curious as to what it’s all about!

AHRC Networking Grant Awarded to the RCS

Dr Karen McAulay has been awarded an AHRC Networking Grant. The title of the 14-month project is: Claimed from Stationers’ Hall: the United Kingdom’s Historical Copyright Music Collections.

The project concerns sheet music surviving in British legal deposit libraries during the period 1710-1836 under the 1709 Copyright Act legislation.

The project seeks to identify the patterns of survival in different libraries, and to establish how accessible the material is through online catalogues.  Exploring the history of British-published music in all British legal deposit libraries, this project also offers an opportunity for networking from all relevant disciplines, e.g. musicologists, music and rare books librarians, book and cultural historians.   What happened to the music? What was sent to libraries? What was retained in libraries?  And what use was made of it once it got there? Follow this fascinating project on Twitter (@ClaimedStatHall) and the dedicated blog.



Podcast Your Research?

Flushed with anticipated success, I blogged for the library about disseminating your research via social media.  I’ll reproduce it here (after all, they’re my words!)  This afternoon, I’m meeting up with our learning technologist for a personal tutorial in devising podcasts and related formats, so I’ll probably have more to add to this later!  I have two reasons for needing to know – disseminating my own research, and sharing “how-to” videos etc for people using our library resources.

We’ve just found a great blog post on the LSE Impact Blog, about the benefits of disseminating your research using social media – and, specifically, by using podcasts.

Podcasting is like broadcasting, over the internet.  It tends to mean an audio recording, and means your research can potentially reach a much wider audience.  Have a look at this!

There’s a book, Communicating Your Research By Social Media, which looks really interesting, but we’ll get that later on this year.  For now, read the LSE Impact Blog and see if it sets you thinking!

  • What could you podcast about?
  • Or would you use a blog (with or without video)?
  • Or a powerpoint (ditto)
  • Or a powerpoint with voiceover?
  • What technical expertise would you need?
  • Would it be worth learning these skills?  (Rhetorical question!)

Progress of a (PGCert) Project

It’s a week since circulating my survey for my PGCert project into improving user education for using electronic resources and other related library skills.  With bated breath, I bravely revisited the survey site yesterday, to see all the responses that I imagined would have accumulated.

Nothing.  fjord-647078_640

I knew the links worked – at least, I thought they did.  The chill fear of doubt entered my heart …

Another email went off to my chosen cohort.  Today, with even more bated breath, I checked again.  Thankfully, I now have six responses.  Obviously, I can’t just sit back and wait for surveys to be completed – I need to nudge people with a combination of charm and persistence!  However, I’m relieved that the survey “works”, technically, and I already have some useful comments and suggestions.  Phew!

Practise What You Preach: Research Impact

If we researchers want to have impact, then we have to get out there and make it happen.  Today, I played at a concert in Dundee City Library’s Steps Theatre.  The Friends of Wighton, of which I’m honorary librarian, held an afternoon concert because it’s Voluntary Arts Week, and at the same time to commemorate Jimmy Shand, because we’ve now got some of his old music scores.

Several music tutors led spots for their classes – fiddles, whistles, singing, and a youth trad music group.  And a couple more of us played solo.  Most of us tried to use tunes out of Jimmy Shand’s collection as part or all of our contribution.

I wasn’t directly working with community groups like the music tutors, but as it happened, I chose to play early 19th century piano variations based on EXACTLY the tune that the fiddlers commenced the afternoon with!  How’s that for serendipity?  Their tutor had spotted Isaac Cooper’s tune, ‘Miss Forbes’s Farewell to Banff’, copied into one of the antiquarian music manuscripts that the Friends of Wighton recently bought at auction.  Meanwhile, I had found Schetky’s piano rondo on the tune in a different book, also from the Jimmy Shand collection.  Schetky was a German musician who moved to London and then Edinburgh.  His piano rondo is really rather nice.  We’ve got the only traceable copy in the world, apart from the copy that Schetky’s daughter took to the USA, which has ended up in a sizeable collection of her music now in the Library of Congress.

Even if I hadn’t been working with an amateur group, I did take the opportunity to talk just a little bit about the music I was playing, so it gave me the opportunity to expose the music to a different audience and to explain why I thought it was important.

I recently ordered a book for the library – Mark S. Reed’s, The Research Impact Handbook, because it’s plainly vital to ensure that research doesn’t get locked ‘in the ivory tower’, but shared more widely – particularly with something as suitable for sharing, as Scottish songs and dance music.  Right now, it’s on my desk to read quickly before I release it onto the library shelves!

I'm a musicologist disguised as a librarian. I've been writing this blog as part of my PG Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Arts Education, at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.