Experimenting with Info Skills

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Here at the University of Warwick we are really lucky to have a facility called the Teaching Grid. This space is for teaching staff to use to develop their teaching practice using space and where appropriate different technologies. In a previous life I worked in the Grid but yesterday I used it in my capacity as an Academic Support Officer and it was a good opportunity for me to develop an understanding into the possible benefits and disadavantages to this approach to teaching information skills.

The session was targeted at MA History students and was designed to explore different resources available investigating both the negatives and positives to each resource together with how it could be incorporated into their work. I worked with the History librarian in identifying the resources she wanted me to promote – these included one bibliographic database, one online collection of historical books, one online collection of news footage and Google Scholar.

Traditionally I have usually provided a demo for students on specific resources followed by hands-on opportunities to work through the resources available. This time however I wanted to hear what students thought and how they used/ or would potentially use the resources available.

The session itself took the format of an introduction highlighting what services were available within the Library. This was followed by group work – the students were divided into four groups randomly and then told to work in a specific ‘zone’ within the Teaching Grid that focused on one specific resource. They were told to look at the possible advantages and disadvantages of each resource together with how they may use it in their research. After 15 minutes or so we all came back together as a big group and discussed how people had found each resource. Google Scholar proved a familiar and popular resource already but there was a good deal of interest in the other resources on offer. Interestingly the issue of refining searches was one that students seemed to recognise and had developed their own ways of dealing with. Several used limiters, others preferred refining using the advanced search features. Some looked through results and then selected new keywords to search.

The session concluded with a quick introduction to tools that they may want to use to help manage their information including reference management resources such as endnote web and tools like delicious.

It was an interesting session – particularly from hearing about different peoples ideas and experiences when using the resources. If I ever get the opportunity to run a session like this again in the future there would definitely be some things that I would change – including the opportunity for students to experiment with more than one resource. It was good to see the interaction between students when using the resources – many who attended were at Warwick for their previous degree so maybe a different approach would be needed for people completely new to the library?

One thing is for sure we are definitely lucky to have a resource like the Teaching Grid and I hope to use this resource to develop my teaching practice and experiment with new ideas in the future.

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