UoL Library Blog

Develop, debate, innovate.

Posts Tagged ‘information literacy’

Teaching reference management

Posted by knockels on 22 June, 2010

Or perhaps, teaching using reference management.  I went yesterday to the second Innovations in Reference Management event, organised by the TELSTAR project, in Birmingham.   It was all very useful and interesting, but a couple of things caught my eyes and ears.  Here is one.

Helen Curtis, of the University of Wolverhampton, spoke about the University’s inclusion of digital literacy in the list of attributes of a graduate, and the opportunities that this afforded the Library.   I was very interested in how they taught and assessed reference management, trying to concentrate not on teaching one particular tool but on more generic skills.   

One example was an assessment that got the students looking at a list of references and transferring the data into EndNote.  This needs them to be able to identify what the parts of a reference are, and shows them which fields in EndNote are the most important. 

Another example was where students had to include in their project a piece of writing that reflected on their use of information sources, and this had to be submitted alongside the project and the actual EndNote library.    No more finding all the references at the last moment to make sure that no one thinks you are plagiarising!

A third example was the use of virtual reading groups (using EndNote Web).   Students had to add material to a shared folder and then add summaries and comments.  They had to indicate what they had been able to find out about the authors, as well as how they would describe the information source, as well as why the source was useful.   (This reminded me of the exercise that Sarah and I were involved in with Alan Cann, where second year biological science students had to use Cite U Like to store relevant papers and their own appraisal of those papers).

Of course, in the midst of this the students are learning the use of a particular software tool, but they are seeing it in a larger context.

Posted in Referencing, Training | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Information Literacy within our Institution: Thoughts from LILAC

Posted by katiefraser on 15 April, 2010

LILAC Tweet Wordle

Word Cloud of tweets during LILAC 2010 courtesy of

Just before Easter I attended the Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference, held this year in Limerick, Ireland. It was my first chance to step back and think about my new role as an Information Librarian at the university, so great timing for me.

I attended a range of different talks on areas relevant to my own personal development (on librarians’ roles as teachers, and case studies of online tool use), but in this post I’m focusing on talks which I felt had institutional significance in terms of what we’re doing with information literacy, how we’re doing it, and what else we can do.

What are we doing?
The amount and kind of information literacy teaching inevitably varies within as well as between institutions: different courses and different disciplines have different needs. However, when responsibilities for information literacy are split between different departments and services across a university there are obvious benefits from tracking who does what: to make sure students acquire key skills, and to identify opportunities for collaboration. I believe librarians, as specialists in the area, have the responsibility to make sure these skills are developed, even if we are not always responsible for delivering them ourselves.

Gillian Fielding’s presentation on The Information Literacy Audit at the University of Salford described an institutional audit as one way of doing this. The team at Salford took a checklist of key information skills to programme leaders across the university to determine what training was provided, how it was provided, at which level (pre-entry, induction, year 1, 2, or 3, or at Masters or PhD) and by which department / service. Despite difficulties with timing of the audit 70% of undergraduate course leaders participated, and it seemed like a really good way of opening up dialogues between central services and departments about what needs covering and how it can be offered. It certainly sounded like information I’d find useful, although they did have large number of subject specialists to carry out the audit compared to us!

How are we doing it?
One of the big themes of the conference for me was about how the library collaborates with others in the university. In fact, the workshop I was at the conference to lead (focusing on central services’ roles in supporting research student communities of practice) was looking explicitly at the library’s role in the wider university community. Sophie Bury from York University in Canada covered a similar theme in her presentation on academics’ views of information literacy.

The academics she surveyed pretty universally agreed that information literacy skills (as defined by the ACRL standards) were important. Furthermore, the majority thought librarians and academics should be working together to deliver sessions, a finding that she noted was echoed in some previous studies, with others suggesting that librarians should be handling this area. However, she also found a fairly even split between academics believing that sesssions should take place outside or within class time. This is an ongoing issue: sessions which take places outside of class time are not as well attended, but it’s easy to understand why academics are reluctant to jettison discipline-specific content for more general skills. How we fit information literacy into the student experience AND the student timetable is something I’ll be thinking about more over the summer as I look at my teaching for next year.

What else can we do?
Finally, as well as more ‘traditional’ information literacy, the conference also got me thinking about ways in which information literacy teaching can impact on a broader range of skills (see also Selina’s previous post about Critical Appraisal). Stephanie Rosenblatt from California State University gave a talk entitled They can find it, but they don’t know what to do with it looking at students’ use of academic literature and found that students were already competent enough at finding scholarly literature (the main focus of her teaching) but that they didn’t know how to use the academic materials. Should librarians be developing a more rounded approach to teaching information literacy? Aoife Geraghty and her colleagues from the Writing Centre at the University of Limerick discussed a way in which centralised student services could work together to support such activities.

Lastly, Andy Jackson from the University of Dundee ran a workshop on generic graduate attributes, challenging us to develop attributes such as ‘cultural and social and ethics’ into teaching Endnote and Refworks use. This was immense fun (once we’d worked out that attribution and intellectual property could be seen as cultural and social ethical issues!) and made me think about all the different angles and educational opportunities that even the most basic software training workshops offer.

Where Now?
The conference ended with a Keynote from Dr Ralph Catts talking about developing our research methods and evaluation (in time for the conference next year!). The appeal for librarians to involve educational researchers in their planning and evaluation was a little misplaced for me (I have a background in educational research, and was rankled by the implication that librarians universally lacked the ability to evaluate, rather than the resources to do so). However, I think his message about the importance of evidence in instigating, developing and evaluating our practices was sound. I definitely hope to use the research I learnt about at LILAC in the next few months, and I hope to do more reflection and evaluation as I settle in to the post.

Posted in Staff training, Subject Support, Training | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Critical Appraisal & Evaluation Skills

Posted by selinalock on 14 April, 2010

We had an interesting training session on Monday, run by our colleague Keith Nockels about critical appraisal. Keith went through the session he teaches to various medical and science undergraduates and postgraduates.

We had a really good discussion about based around appraising paper on crows using automobiles as nutcrackers!  Keith had found one of the difficulties with teaching critical appraisal was finding papers which people from various disciplines could discuss, hence the crow paper.

It made us think about whether the medical/science criteria could be applied to other subjects. For example, arts might be more interested in who’s writing the paper and their reputation, over the exact nature of the paper.

We would like to place more emphasis on appraisal and evaluation skills in future. Especially as studies, such as the Digital Information Seeker Report, still suggest that information literacy skills are lacking.  Plus, search technology is still moving towards resource discovery and single search boxes to search across many resources. To user the search seems easy so we need to make sure that they look more closely at the results they are finding.

We already include some evaluation skills in our sessions but there is certainly room for more, and more in-depth skills for postgraduates. At the moment we’re going to carry forward the critical appraisal discussion in our College Teams and look at what we can offer via a subject-specific route.

Some issues I thought we might want to consider were:

  • Do people need to understand better the type of information they’re looking at? E.g. website vs e-journal vs pre-print.
  • How about new ways of disseminating information like blogs or YouTube?
  • Are critical appraisal checklists useful? I thought it might be good to encourage people to write notes as they appraise and then use a checklist to ensure they haven’t missed anything.
  • What are the most effective ways of teaching evaluation/appraisal skills?

I’d be interested to hear what people out there think. What training do you think would be useful? Or what training do you provide?

Also love this little tutorial from our Student Development service on Being a Critical Student. We need to go pick their brains and see how we can offer complementary training.

Posted in Research Support, Subject Support, Training | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Teaching with online documents

Posted by selinalock on 27 November, 2009

A few weeks ago I asked if anyone could recommend an alternative to using wikis in a teaching session.  A few ideas were suggested including using twitter to get comments from, and interaction among students. An appeal to twitterers also yielded the idea of using

I decided that I would try out etherpad as it allows simultaneous (real-time) online document editing, which would allow me to achieve the same kind of aim as I had with using a wiki. That is to set students tasks using the online document and then get them to make comments on the results of those tasks during the session. The free, public etherpads expire after a week, but I wasn’t expecting the students to go back to the documents after session. I was just after something that could be used as a primer for thinking and talking online about issues surrounding the use of Wikipedia, tips for using search engines, sites they would recommend for their course etc.

Etherpad itself turned out to be a very useful tool with interesting features: I created 10 version of the same document and split the class of approx 68 (I think only about 40 actually showed up) into groups. The software coped very well with the simultaneous editing and there were other useful features such as a chat function at the side of the document, and a time slider feature so you could review all the changes that had been made.

Some of the students thought it was an interesting way to run a session, but I had not banked on the anonymous nature of the software causing issues. Basically, once the students realised it was anonymous because they didn’t have to register to use the documents there was a lot of inappropriate behaviour – posting of inappropriate links, deleting of the whole document while other students were trying to use it, using the chat facility to comment on one another etc.

So, overall I think Etherpad could be used in interesting ways in the classroom, you just have to be careful what ground rules you lay and what groups you use  it with!

Posted in Training, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Alternatives to using a wiki to teach?

Posted by selinalock on 29 October, 2009

I’m looking for some advice or suggestions on alternatives to using a wiki during a session.

Last year I blogged about my experience using a wetpaint wiki with 1st year computer scientists which overall went well as the students liked the option to interact online, rather than interact verbally in the classroom. We found last year and so far with the group this year that they are far happier doing things in front of a computer!

Anyway, there are up to 70 students and I would like them to comment on issues such as the pros and concs of wikipedia during the session. The wetpaint wiki would not allow several people to edit at once so most of the students entries were lost or overwritten last year.

If anyone can recommend an alternative solution?

– wiki software that will let multiple people edit?

– chat room software that can deal with a big group?

– discussion forum software?

– would a blog allow lots of people to comment at once? Or would it fall over?

I only really need the software during the session, as I’m not expecting them to add to it afterwards, so it needs to be free and easy to use/register for. I would have used a Blackboard discussion board but this module isn’t using Blackboard!

Posted in Subject Support, Training, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Visualising Information Literacy

Posted by sarahw9 on 23 October, 2009

Getting across to students what information resources they need to use and when

cc luisvilla
cc luisvilla:

to use them can seem a thankless task.  Its often pretty dry material and training sessions aren’t usually scheduled to link in with the point at which students immediately need to use the resources.  Medical librarians at the Clinical Sciences Library are in the halfway through running some sessions this year which we hope begin to address this problem. 

We have been experimenting with a new approach to our library training with our first year medics giving them a mindmap of information resources they need for their course.  The School of Medicine invited us to get involved in their new ‘clinical problem solving’ module, which aims to get new students making connections between their modules and understanding deeper processes rather than trying to get by learning by rote.  The students have to solve problems by making these connections and they are expected to be able to do their own research to before they can work out the answers. Google and Wikipedia alone won’t do this for them. This is where our information literacy training fit in. 

Previously we have dived straight into Medline to get them conversant with the research literature and how to find it.  This time we created a map of information resources.  The map links directly out to the resources and is organised to help the students see which places to go for either an overview of a topic or for more detailed information.  The resources range from dictionaries and clinical guidelines to statistics and bibliographic databases.  It is hoped that the students can return to this map to help them clarify where to look for information at any time within their course. 

In our training session the students are introduced to the resources on the map by integrating voting questions using Turning Point to ensure they understand them.  Later in the session they are given the task to find the answer to a clinical question using two contrasting resources, explaining where they found the information to support their answer and also how they found it. 

Its early days and when we have finished our sessions we will compile our feedback from the students and the course tutors.  We are hopeful that the map has the potential to be developed into a more ambitious elearning tool useful for many different contexts.

Posted in Service Delivery, Subject Support, Training, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World Reprise

Posted by selinalock on 1 June, 2009

Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World: Cover

Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World: Cover

Following on from Gareth’s earlier post on this subject, here’s my thoughts & questions:

  • Information Literacy is a major component of this report – it argues that it is a growing area that students are deficient in. Recommends that it is a high priority for HEIs to train their students in & keep their staff updated on.
  • “Information literacies, including searching, retrieving, critically evaluating information from a range of appropriate sources and also attributing it – represent a significant and growing deficit area”
  • However, no mention anywhere of how to do this or that libraris have been struggling to get this on the agenda for years.
  • Q: What do we do with this report? Take it to VC? Take it to teaching & learning committees? What strategies & solutions do we suggest for training students & staff? Do we take a take roots approach with lecturers? Do all of the above?
  • Web 2.0 skills (communication, networking, sharing) are becoming employability skills.
  • Students are living in a Web 2.0 world and might expect Web 2.0 solutions in the future – though at present they expect a traditional face to face approahc in HE and do not equate social software with learning. This may change as the next few generations come through the school system.
  • Students are currently consumers of content in the Web 2.0 world rather than creators – we need to find hooks i.e. show them how the technology helps them.
  • Q: What are the hooks for staff and for students in using Web 2.0 in a learning context?
  • Three types of online space: Personal (emails & messaging), Group (social networking sites) and publishing (blogs, wikis, youtube).  Students will not want us in their personal space but there is scope for utilising group and publishing space for learning & teaching.
  • Information literacy should incorporate other web awareness issues e.g. plagarism, data protection, personal data on the web and online identities.
  • Q: How do we do this? How do we work with others in the institution who teach/train on these issues? How do we update ourselves in all these areas?
  • Upskill staff on e-pedagogy: as this will be needed for them to take advantage of using Web 2.0 technologies.
  • Q: How skilled are we as librarians in this? What training do we need in order to offer the information literacy teaching the report advocates?
  • Report suggests there are already examples out there of good practice in the use of digitised materials and online learning resources at module level. Though no specific examples included. It asks how these can be supported and used on a wider/larger scale.
  • Q: What good practice are we already using or aware of with regards Web 2.0? Does it upscale? What opportunities are there for us to work with other colleagues inside & outside the institution to provide services?
  • Take into account the prior experience and the expectations of students.
  • Q: How do we do this? Do we cultivate more links with school librarians in the UK? What about overseas, distance learning and mature students?
  • Digital divide still exists – don’t forget that!
  • “Means of access will be multimedia, mobile and pocket-sized”
  • Q: Are we prepared for the next wave of multimedia and mobile type resources?

Overall, this report is good for librarians and the information literacy cause as long as we DO something about it. Take action & not just talk about it!

Posted in Service Delivery, Staff training, Training, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Higher Education in a Web 2.0 – some thoughts

Posted by gazjjohnson on 12 May, 2009

I’m currently reading through the the HEA and JISC’s report “Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World “ that’s just been published on the Web.  A few thoughts and highlights follow.

p8 – “Students are looking for traditional approaches, notably personal contact, in a modern setting…The bridge between Web 2.0 in social user and in learning is as yet only dimly perceived by students“.  I’m taking this to mean that students are viewing Web 2 as more of a social thing, and not a learning activity.  I know talking with people like Alan (Cann) that students can take a dim view of our intruding on what they view as their “personal space”.  There is the broader debate of the where the divide between private/public lies in social media (mine are certainly blended and intertwined) that has to be remembered – do the students really want us being their “friends” on Facebook or following them on twitter – or vice versa.

p10 Recommendations “HEIs to take steps to keep abreast of the prior experience and expectations of their student bodies“. Er yes, always useful – question is how? In the past I’ve been involved in pre-assessing students (for future ICT skills training) and the picture has been spotty and incomplete. Asking students about their skills base is not a good metric, most of them either considerably over or under estimate their ability.  On the other hand, this might mean HEI has to work more closely with secondary education – OK for the UK, but what about for our thousands of overseas students?  Sounds quite a job.

HEIs support staff to become proficient users of an appropriate range of technologies and skilled practitioners of e-pedagogy” Well yes I agree, but this might be with some considerable reluctance – going on the experience of people I meet at conferences, those of us up skilled and enthusiastically engaging in this area is still very much in minority right now.  A lot of time and resource will be needed in training, and from senior levels in advocating staff to really engage here.

p15 I see in their definition of Web 2.0 and social software that “Media sharing” is mentioned, but doesn’t include “file sharing”. I wonder as I delve further in, if the culture of free/open access sharing of information, music etc is going to be included as a consideration.  It might breach (c) laws left right and centre, but I bet a lot of students are doing it, and don’t see if as a problem.  Online essay banks might be the least of our worries.

p19 The Five principal perspectives on the Social Web.  I’m a point 4 man myself (force for good and offers possibilities – IDIC I say!).  I seem to know a lot of people who’ll embody the other points though.

p20/21 Ah good, access and the digital divide is getting  a look in.  I keep worrying that we’ll get to a point of assuming students have a certain skills/access base but won’t require them to have it to join an institution.

p23 “Students may think they are doing this [checking validity of courses] although their methods may not be sufficiently rigorous”.  Oh yes indeed, as I said about p10 – self perception of ability can be seriously flawed.  On the other hand on the same page there’s a good quote in support of peer-peer enabled support.

p24 “Information literacies…represent a significant and growing deficit area“. Not news to we librarians who have (all of my professional working life at least) been striving to get these onto the agenda across institutions (with mixed results).  This might well be the single most important point for us LIS types

p29-32 Focus is on current Web 2 being used, bit thin on details to be honest “Facebook and Second Life presences for most HEIs”.  Would have preferred a few exemplars in here, maybe even some best practice models.

p34-35 Back to focus on information literacies – will it actually mention the key role librarians have been playing here? Nope, they raised my hopes.  All the same what the report stresses are important considerations are well worth the read (if nothing else) for librarians involved in supporting learners.  Which is, let’s face it, all of us.

p37 Some very timely comments about the danger to HEIs in the UK if they continue to focus on throughput and efficacy, rather than excellence and relevance.  I’ve commented elsewhere on this myself, so it is sobering but timely to see this appearing in black and white in this report.

p40 The new learners and the old HEI structures currently co-existing, but for how much longer? One of the themes of this report that it keeps coming back to is that the learning styles and mores of school carry over into HE.  I don’t think personally I’m familiar enough with how secondary (or even primary) educators are training their students in terms of information literacy and ICT skills, let alone their approaches to study and learning.  I’m sure I’m not alone.  Perhaps that’s the key lesson I’m taking away from this report – a need to understand the adjacent educational realms more.  The stark phrase in the report “The next generation is unlikely to be so accommodating” – sent more than a few shivers down my spine.

This is a very readable report, with a lot of very interesting points made in it – if you do get the chance, I’d certainly advocate reading it yourself; don’t take my interpretations for gospel in any way!  Access the report directly here.

Posted in Staff training, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies, Wider profession | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Librarians Information Literacy Annual Conference Cardiff ’09

Posted by sarahw9 on 1 April, 2009


 I’ve just come back from an all too brief visit to the LILAC conference (Librarians Information Literacy Annual Conference) at Cardiff University.  Sadly I could only be there for a very short visit, but its still great to hear about everyones ideas and developments, and I came away with lots of ideas. 

 For those who either were or weren’t there, the #lilac09 Twitter stream has lots of interesting snippets and comments tweeted live during the sessions. 

There was a heck of a lot more I would have love to have heard and seen, however from my brief visit the following will stay with me:

  • Andrew Walsh from Huddersfield University talked about how he has experimented with mobile phones during his information literacy sessions.  I absolutely love the idea of using mobiles during classes.  It can also feed into the ‘text a librarian’ service at Huddersfield (as a way of making sure they know about it).  I wondered what the benefits of using mobiles were compared to clickers, as most of the uses seemed to related to polling people.  It seems like clickers have less technical problems and problems with take-up.  There is something slightly more fun and personal about the idea of using phones though. 


  • Patricia Iannuzzi emphasised how we must align ourselves with the percieved needs and trends of Higher education as set out in policy and government reports – so that its the influencial people and not us librarians saying information literacy is essential. 


  • Leslie Burger gave an inspiring talk on how information literacy changes people lives, focusing in information literacy and digital citizenship from her background in public libraries.  This made me realise how the work of libraries in all sectors overlapp – public libraries have seen the students we later have in higher education, who then often will go back to public libraries.  It was also interesting to hear that public library membership is at a record high in the US (contrary to what you might expect). 


I also gave a paper ‘Using Web 2.0 to Cultivate Information Literacy within a Medical Ethics Course’ on the PLE project here at Leicester.  We ran simulataneous twitter debate – although in truth all the people there with laptops already seemed to be twittering, so perhaps there was no need to ask them to! Its interesting to see what people pick up on, in this case people picked up on the issues around getting students to comment on each others’ work for the blog and wiki during the project.  The reasons are partly that this particular set of students already comment face to face in their sessions, and also as they don’t like to be seen to be ‘criticising’ their colleagues.  We will be looking at this as we develop our resources.

Posted in Projects, Staff training, Wider profession | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Using a wiki and peer evaluation with 1st year medics

Posted by sarahw9 on 12 March, 2009

wiki on BlackboardThis is our second year of using a wiki in our session with 1st year medics ‘Finding the Evidence’.  The purpose of this session is to make sure that students understand both where to find and how to use resources that support evidence based medicine.  This exercise also aims to support the students as they embark on their 10,000 word dissertations where they follow a real patient for two years, looking at the the patients’ medical condition, treatment and their social context. 

We set the students a clinical question, for example, they may be asked if a particular drug helps a medical condition or what evidence there is to support a particular type of treatment (I don’t want to give away of our real questions here!).  

Before the training sessions the students are given an assignment which they complete in groups of 3.  In the wiki there is list of resources they have to search.  They have to record their search strategy (keywords and more detail if relevant), and what they find in answer to the clinical question. Then they have to write a conclusion based on all the evidence they have found, and make any observations about differences of opinion they find in the literature. 

The resources they search are: Clinical Knowledge Summaries; Intute; Medline; The Cochrane Library; and the British National Formulary.  This is to familiarise students with guidelines for physicians, prescribing doses, patient information, as well as the literature at the highest level of evidence and the more exploratory (but still peer reviewed) levels of research literature. 

When they arrive at the session the students are given some further background to evidence based medicine and are shown some extra tips on searching these tools.  We hope they actually take it in now they have used them the tools for themselves.  We discuss the ‘answer’ to the clinical question they were asked and give feedback to the students on their assignments.  Then the fun starts as they are asked to look at another wiki and enter comments on each others wikis, noting three things another group did differently to themselves.   I think this is quite eye-opening for them – to see that another group answering the same question using the same resources finds different results and emphasises different aspects of the question.  They should (and virtually all did in fact) find the same basic bottom line answer to the question, but there may be a few subtleties for example different situations where different treatments are applicable or where the evidence is unclear.  We also ask the students to say what they would do differently if they were going to do this exercise again.

We are still compiling our feedback from the sessions, but so far it it mostly good, and amazingly the students say they can see the point of the exercise.  I think in future we need to consider ways to focus the students’ comments more.  Some have put in alot of detail and constructive comments, others are more along the lines of  ‘ours was better than yours’. 

Overall this is a good way to focus students on particular resources.  It is also very specific to a particular question and plugs straight into resources they are going to be using for their dissertations (or they should be using).

Selina has also used a wiki with the computer scientists if you want to compare notes and outcomes.  Interestingly different groups of students have different characteristics as a whole. This type of exercise may be working for medics and computer sciencists, but would it work for others?  Perhaps its time we tried it.

Posted in Subject Support, Training, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

EMALink seminar on Web 2.0 & information literacy

Posted by gazjjohnson on 12 March, 2009

Yesterday I was a at a well attended and quite sparky EMALink event.  EMALink if you didn’t know is the East Midlands Association of Librarians, an informal events programme arranged by the universities within and between the East Midlands HEI universities, including a few unis who are perhaps on the friges of this region (e.g.Warwick).

The two chunks yesterday were a framing talk from Joanne Dunham and then a longer talk about her and Alan Cann’s work by Sarah Whittaker.  There was also a couple of group work exercises for us to get our teeth into; including planning the ideal information literacy training event’ and reflections on our own Web 2.0 experiences.

I wasn’t originally going to go along, thinking that being a bit clued up on Web 2.0, that I wouldn’t be able to take much away from the day (doubtless I’d have much to say as usual, so apologies to anyone who struggled to get a word in edge-ways over me!).  Actually I was dead wrong, as there were several brilliant ideas that people in my group talked about that I fully intend to steal…erm, re-purpose!

One solid output from the day was the suggestion that we ought to have a directory of sorts for all the Web 2.0 networking librarians in the region.  unfortunately once again my loud mouth/native enthusiasm resulted in myself being tasked with the job.  Not that I really minded!

And so I am proud to roll out the East Midlands Librarians Networking site – a directory for EM librarians to share their social networking IDs (or at least as many as they want to) and to help us forge some strong local routes of communication.  The site, such as it is, is here.

Posted in Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies, Wider profession | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Information literacy at Staffordshire University (SUILCoP event)

Posted by gazjjohnson on 5 March, 2009

I went over to University of Staffordshire on Wednesday to take part in one of their information literacy scholarly community events SUILCoP. It was a really worthwhile session and I was deeply privileged to take part. After a spot of networking with the senior librarians at Stafford the day kicked off with an introduction by Alison Pope (Staffordshire University). This was then followed by myself speaking about the practicalities of making and using videos for information literacy, along with my now streamlined scriptwriting for beginners 101 course. It’s a development of my highly regarded workshops from last year’s CoFHE/UC&R Conference. It was quite a packed and enthusiastic room at the start of the event and thankfully still was at the end. Hopefully all the folks there will go onto televisual greatness and continue to develop their scripts to fruition.

After my workshop Chris Wakeman (Centre for Professional Development, University of Staffordshire) spoke about information and its implications for contemporary facilitation methods in HE. Chris asked us to think about our perspective of information literacy (something that immediately made my mind go blank), something that he was coming at from a practitioner’s point of view. He mentioned paper by Bruce Edwards & Larson on information literacy that defines the topic. Chris suggested that he was going to focus on information literacy as dialogue between two people – to consider modern facilitation methods in higher education and to ponder how information literacy skills may influence ultimate success of failure for students. He looked at dialectic (including Socratic dialogue) and teaching by asking/discussion (assuming students bring with them a knowledge base) teaching. There is also enquiry based learning that covers a whole range of other techniques including cognitive problem solving and Webquests (a technique now used in modern schools). People discussed what they thought information literacy was – a variety of concepts were aired and I was very impressed by the deep level of scholastic thought demonstrated by those present.

Chris described himself as a social constructivist in terms of IL, which wasn’t a term I was overly familiar with; which didn’t help with my following of his talk. Glancing at the faces in the rest of the room I sensed I wasn’t alone in this. Chris’ talk was at a very high level, considerably more academic than I’ve come to expect for a workshop session. Whilst it is good to be pushed sometimes, unfortunately there was just far too much to take in, and delivered at a pace and professional lexicon that didn’t help the audience to pick up the threads.

I did later have the opportunity to read a paper on constructivist learning (or at least skim through it while he talked) and discovered that it is the concept that “humans can understand only what they have themselves constructed” – and involves the learner learning through developing their own problem solving techniques and solutions. This helped a little in following the session, but obviously whilst reading it Chris had bounded onwards to talk about more exotic concepts and definitions of IL.

He provided various definitions of information literacy, including the Australia & New Zealand Literacy Framework ANZILF one which defines IL in terms of people whom are information literate and skills and aptitudes they display. The idea that an IL citizen “used information and knowledge for participative citizenship and social responsibility”; was at least an interesting concept. Even more important was the idea that IL is embedded within teaching and skills delivery rather than being taught as a separate skill. There was a nice juicy algebraic problem on Chris’ slides, which I ended up solving in a minute or two for personal satisfaction, though as he explained this would have been previously taught by showing the solutions, which means only about 20-40% of people would have learned it. For enquiry based learning the learner would experiment with solving it themselves, which should ensure their memory of the learning experience would be much stronger.

Next he talked more about Webquests and explained how students enjoy this sort of activity, though it is very much one that cannot be run in a single session; rather it is one that takes place over a period of time. They sound a very attractive approach, but I can see some significant practical difficulties with the way teaching sessions at UoL I’m involved in applying them. I think as he talked about how they could be used over a course stretching over a term, this rather illustrated just how little Chris understood about the environment and opportunists that librarians have to teach in. To have the luxury of more than a single hour on a module is rare and hard won treat, and much as I would welcome the opportunity myself to make use of this kind of training strategy, none of my current departments are set up to embrace it. There is clearly a long way to go for academics themselves in understanding the importance of information literacy and the vital importance of ensuring sessions from librarians are not seen simply as box ticking skills sessions.

Indeed the audience politely made the point that Chris’ POV of the traditional librarian was somewhat blinkered, and didn’t encompass the wealth of what modern librarians teach. Personally I think the truth lies somewhere between the two points of view.

Chris followed the session up with a somewhat bewildering workshop exercise matching training styles to statements. Frankly since he’d pitched the whole session at the wrong level for the audience the room was filled with baffled faces, I think if he’d cut his lecture down to about half the length, and tried not to go for information overload (as I’d warned against earlier in the day) and given us a good half an hour on the exercise, that the participants wouldn’t have been able to work through it using their own learning and problem solving styles. As it was in the time allotted there was little our group could establish in coherent form, or take from the work. This was a pity as correctly pitched Chris had a lot to say that was of interest.

So whilst this might have been a slightly odd counterpoint to my advocacy and communication session, it did give me plenty to mull over and consider on the long drive back home. If you get the chance to attend one of the future SUILCoP sessions, I can highly recommend them as they are pitched at a higher level than most EMALink sessions I’ve attended.

Posted in Staff training, Wider profession | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »