Last week has been really interesting and productive in terms of reflective practice and starting to think about how I want the second year in my role as a subject librarian to go. I have said several times this week that I want to ‘do the same as last year but less terrified”. This is largely true but attending both an internal training day and my first every library conference has brought home to me that there’s a lot more to consider than just being less scared.
So taking events in reverse order : Last Thursday’s London LibTeachMeet 2014. This was my first LibTeachMeet and first librarian’s conference for that matter – slack professional. I have always been intending to attend things like LibCamp or LILAC but I have been unlucky with finances and timing. I also suspect a little bit of cowardice and imposter syndrome – what if I pay that money and they realise I don’t know everything there is to know about Librarianship??? (Silly, I know.) My manager encouraged me to go to this event and, since one of my colleagues was also attending & teaching is such a core part of my role, I decided it was time to get some backbone. Before I even say anything else about what was covered, I just like to not again how silly I was being. Of course nobody was out to ‘get’ me and prove I wasn’t a real librarian. Everyone was friendly, welcoming and eager to share their knowledge and to learn. Conference fear conquered! Also huge praise to the impressive array of cakes provided by King’s College Librarians who were hosting.
So the theme of the day was interactive teaching and this is a really big thing at Middlesex. Given our high numbers of overseas students we place a lot of emphasis on finding ways to get our students to engage, learn and contribute confidently rather than letting a wash of library information go out one ear and in the other. First up was Jane Corder of Brunel talking about using LibGuides within teaching sessions in a more interactive way. Examples include library quizzes and journal activities embedded on the LibGuide so students can test themselves and using the Padlet app to let the students send messages. The use of embedded quizzes on the LibGuide particularly interested me as we use libguides and have been looking at using more online quizzes in our teaching. WE have been looking at using Socrative and the space race feature to encourage interactivity and competition (definitely a key word for the day) so it was really interesting to see ways in which we could adapt the Libguides and involve them more in supporting the students – I must remember to go and have a look at the Brunel Journals quiz. I have been trying and failing to write a journal’s quiz for ages. Next up was Linda Humphries from University of Bath with ‘Making the web of science fun’. This was another interesting session with great ideas of using cards with the faculty members’ names and research specialities to starting thinking about citation searching.
Eleni Zazani of Birkbeck showed us her dice based approach to induction – a die printed with 8 different questions including an ‘ask your own question’ side. By getting the students to roll the die and ask the question, induction was transformed from the information dump it can so often be to a fun interactive and unpredictable session. I was really excited about this idea and so were the colleagues i have discussed it with. Although we are a little uncertain as to whether it will adapt well to our inductions which can be for up to 200 people – watch this space. UCL’s Zoe Thomas demonstrated a Bingo game using icons from key resources and Prezzi to take advantage of the zoom in/zoom out functionality it has. The players were given bingo cards, initially just crossing off icons as quickly as possible and then returning to the icons after a player has shouted ‘Bingo!’ In the second stage, Zoe encouraged us to identify the icons and discuss our usage (or lack of use) of the database and resource. This is an idea that has a lot of potential but it is a shame that it has only been tried on Librarians. I would be interested to see how it would work with students – but I am thinking about trying a variant of it with my postgraduates to gauge what resources they are already using in Literature Searching and Dissertation researching skills. The final speaker of the first half was Louise Ellis-Barrett who is a school librarian and brought a fascinatingly different perspective – competitive reading to win sweets and acting out gothic literature in the library! Sadly a lot of her wonderful ideas wouldn’t work with our students but she lead into a group discussion which produced a very useful checklist of what an interactive session ideally would be like – Timed, Competitive, Relevant, with real-time feedback and appropriate functioning tech. Definitely a checklist to bear in mind!
After the break – The first was Bernadette Martin from the OU discussing the challenges they face running library sessions over the web for up to several hundred students! Her demonstration of the web conferencing technology they use was all new to me and really fascinating. I am not sure though, that I would be keen to try and teach several hundred students all at once online. Michael Gainsford did a history of the plagiarism quiz at Imperial, starting with pen and paper, to clicker technology to using Survey Monkey and finally an intended move to a quiz embedded on the VLE. Like Jane Corder, the first speaker, this was a really interesting opportunity to consider how we can better and more interactively use the technology we have. Ellen Wilkinson from LSE discussed their first year trial use of Student Ambassadors to cascade information literacy skills as a route around low attendance to library sessions. Their successes and failures were very interesting and I would like to know if their new idea, using a Facebook group to disseminate this kind of information is successful – as a Library Grad, we had a Facebook group which we used to get help with references and essays and I remember it being very useful, although this was a student-only group. Finally Marlene Blackstock & Kevin Bryant presented a video presentation looking at visual aids for teaching academic writing which was a really fascinating look at how these skills are taught. It made me think about the possibilities of shadowing the academic skills staff here at Middlesex to make sure we reinforce their teaching with the students as we often get asked writing questions in our info skills session.
Very quickly as I am running out of space! Last Tuesday also had librarians’ day which is an in-house training day at Middlesex. This year was run by the art staff and the first session looked at visual learning and we all crafted our own book to create a visual record of the day. A really fascinating idea but very scary for art & visually challenged me! We also looked at BoB, a recording service we are subscribed to and the work done by the Health Team to support systematic reviews by academics. This session was particularly fascinating as I was not really aware of systematic review – a review of all studies done to look at overall trends – nor the role my colleagues played in facilitating this. My team did a session on quizzes on Socrative – of which more in a later blog perhaps. Finally in the afternoon we took a tour of both the robotics and the art departments which was very interesting. I had never really considered the many medical applications for robotics and it was really eyeopening to met students working on devices to assist stroke victims, amputees & people with dementia. The art department including fully functional TV studios, radio studios and rooms for green screen was both fascinating and overwhelming. I do feel, however, that the tour was a great opportunity ti get a sense of the wider university rather than just being focused on my own little area and contribution. To be the best librarians we can be, we need to know what our university is doing. So , as this post is nearing an essay. I shall draw it to a close.