Teaching with blogs

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Last Wednesday I attended a really interesting session as part of Warwick’s Windows on Teaching events. The talk was from two Postgraduate Researchers who have teaching responsibilities and focused on how they utilised blogs in their teaching. Peter focused on his experiences of using blogs for seminars whilst Dilip spoke about the broader social media context and how other tools have been/could be utilised for teaching and learning. A video of the presentation can be found here.

The idea of a flexible “third space” for teaching and learning really appeals to me  as it gives that flexibility to the learner and provides a resource bank of organised information. It is no new idea – a quick Google search found numerous presentations and resources on the subject (one of which I have shared below).

The Windows on Teaching session got me thinking – I have used blogs in the past for my own cpd or as a participant on a course whereby our contributions were assessed. From a personal point of view I have found them really useful but the main challenge has been keeping them up to date. My experiences of being involved in blogs is from the perspective of a participant – the idea of a blog as a dynamic information resource really appeals. But how do you measure the success of a blog for teaching and learning also intrigues me – do you base the success on the number of comments or hits to your blog? Is it more about informal feedback you receive?

Ultimately the session re-inspired me to get back to blogs and Twitter more for my own reflections but also how I can these tools in the future.

New Beginnings…

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This is a fresh start for my blog and coincides with new beginnings within my career. After a number of enjoyable years within the Library sector I recently left and undertook a new challenge working to support academic and professional practice within a Higher Education institution.

Some rights reserved by lululemon athletica

In my former Library life I was a keen blogger for my chartership and more recently I re-started my blog for my professional reflections. This time the focus will be on issues relating to teaching and learning. Getting back into blogging is going to be a challenge – but I am full of inspiration and motivation. Here goes to a fresh start at work and within my blogging experiences.

Saving Libraries

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Did my bit for the “Save our Libraries Day” campaign on Saturday – and for the first time in a while I visited my local library to lend my support and borrow some books. Since my last visit the Library has been refreshed – and the different spaces create a really comfortable environment. It was also great to see the different range of people who were there young and old, sharing stories, catching up, playing, reading newspapers, accessing the internet, browsing the local history collections. I was also really impressed with the e-books and on-line resources available. There is so much more to these cultural hubs than simply books and I do sometimes worry that the media miss this point in their coverage of the various campaigns.

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License by  Phil Bradley

For me libraries have been an important constant through my journey from borrowing books as a young child, to educational study, cramming for exams to applying for jobs. It fades away for a few years but then comes back – and the idea of some shutting (especially at a time when many community services are under threat) is so sad. And they are so much more than books.

Library Day in the Life (Round 6) – Friday

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I work as an Academic Support Officer at the University of Warwick Library. This role sits within Academic Services and I work on an array of exciting research and development projects and support the Academic Support Librarians with enquiries and information skills sessions. This job is certainly never dull – everyday is different.

The final day of blogging for the ‘Library day in the life’ project – Friday proved no exception and was as busy as ever. I had the afternoon off so the morning was pretty manic getting things completed and setting things up for next week.

The day began with the creation of some webpages to promote a new generic session that I have put together with a colleague on Endnote Web. In various workshops I have run or been involved in over the past year reference management seems to be a hot topic so we have set up a number of workshops for people to find out more and surgeries where people can pop in and ask for advice or talk about any issues. We focus mainly on Endnote Web as this is a product that the Library supports but I am also interested in increasing the scope to cover other systems including Zotero (which I really like although I wish I could use it on the Google Chrome platform.)

Webpages created and forms to book onto the sessions completed – I turned my attention to emails and followed up on a few issues from this week. It was a fairly busy morning – enquiry wise – I think it may be because the office is so quiet so I helped out where I could. Examples included responding to an enquiry from a Maths student about resources and one from a research student about the Research Exchange.

I also spent a short time looking over the Warwick 23 things blog – I am on the team but also keeping a blog for this and need to update my entry for this weeks activities. It is a really useful course – I know about the resources being covered but it is a great excuse for me to allocate time to sorting through resources and prioritising ones that I will use more regularly.

A quick discussion about statistics gathering with a colleague and planning for a meeting looking at some ideas I have about the webpages rounded the morning off. Overall it has been a productive week and reflective of the different projects and tasks that my role covers – there is certainly never a dull moment in this job! 🙂

Now I am back into blogging mode I am hoping that this momentum will continue. It is useful and great to reflect on things – I found my old chartership blog by chance earlier this week when I was sorting out the Facebook/blog issue and it was really interesting to see briefly how much has changed since I last used that blog. Lots of good intentions – now I just need to put them into practice.

Library Day in the Life (Round 6) – Thursday

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I work as an Academic Support Officer at the University of Warwick Library. This role sits within Academic Services and I work on an array of exciting research and development projects and support the Academic Support Librarians with enquiries and information skills sessions. This job is certainly never dull – everyday is different.

Another bumper packed day – the general theme being videos. The day began with the usual sort through emails and responses/ referrals to relevant people. A quick look over some paperwork for this mornings team meeting which focused today on plans and introductions from two new members of the Enquiry Support team.

The Teaching Grid kindly lent me a camera to capture some footage from a lunchtime session in the Research Exchange – so a quick trip to collect the kit followed the meeting. I then had a look at the Research Exchange Facebook page – there were a few problems with the feed from the blog – but fortunately this problem was easily fixed.

Coffee break was spent at my desk going through the work plan for the Career Development Group, West Midlands. This was followed by my first ever session in the Research Exchange.

Armed with two video cameras and tripods I set up the video recording of a Windows on Research session that was taking place over lunchtime. Once completed I assisted in setting up a room for a seminar and found out a bit more about the general operations of the facility.

A very late and quick-lunch and then back to more general tasks including responding to further questions from the team about statistics, checking through a plan for a Digital Literacy workshop that I am helping LDC out with, uploading the video footage from this lunchtime session and finally looking over the tasks for this weeks 23 Things. Just need to update my 23 things blog now…

Library Day in the Life (Round 6) – Wednesday

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I work as an Academic Support Officer at the University of Warwick Library. This role sits within Academic Services and I work on an array of exciting research and development projects and support the Academic Support Librarians with enquiries and information skills sessions. This job is certainly never dull – everyday is different.

Image from Microsoft Images

I was out on my travels today – down to London for a SCONUL Focus Editorial Group meeting. The day started with a few technological challenges  – the wireless internet at home decided to play up and my iPod died – but armed with an Ethernet cable I was able to sort through some emails and print out several to muse over on my journey down to London.

The train journey down was productive – catching up on reading articles and doing some preparation for the LILAC conference –  I am presenting a session on creativity and space with Antony Brewerton.

The meeting took place at SCONUL HQ – I have been involved with the web side of things for SCONUL Focus for several years and recently joined the editorial committee. It was good to catch up with colleagues – and was very productive – lots of ideas for future issues and the latest edition to upload onto the website .

Epic journey home on the train – it took hours – not sure why? But it was another opportunity to catch up with some reading. Lots to follow-up on when I get back to the office tomorrow.

Library Day in the Life (Round 6) – Tuesday

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I work as an Academic Support Officer at the University of Warwick Library. This role sits within Academic Services and I work on an array of exciting research and development projects and support the Academic Support Librarians with enquiries and information skills sessions. This job is certainly never dull – everyday is different.

Planning in the Teaching Grid.

Today has been bumper packed with lots of planning and statistics. This morning started with the usual sorting through emails. I am determined to keep on top of my emails this year and have managed to reduce my inbox from 3,000 to 3 – so far so good. The main theme of the morning was planning – I booked some space in the Teaching Grid to go through some of my teaching related activities, brainstorm and prioritize project work.  Lots on the go at the moment from video projects, to webpages, info skills pilot sessions to focus groups.

Whilst in the TG I caught up with Hannah – the Teaching Grid coordinator to see how our collaborative video project promoting the possible use of space was going. Looking forward to the final result – it  should be good!

Also caught a little bit from the #haggisandmash event – and bookmarked some interesting resources mentioned.

A quick-lunch was followed by the first ASD team meeting that I decided to set up earlier in the day as a way of sharing ideas and updating each other on what we are doing. My role is split across the division and for some of my time I work under the umbrella of Academic Services Development (ASD). We are a relatively new team of 3 and all work on different projects so it is good to catch up and see how we can work together.

The day ended with my nemesis – statistics! Inspired by an earlier enquiry about user education statistics I decided to sort through this years user education stats – lots of information to go through.

Library Day in the Life (Round 6) – Monday

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Whilst this is the 6th round of the ‘Library Day in the Life’ project – it is my first experience and I thought it a great (and much-needed) way to kick-start my blog in 2011.

I work as an Academic Support Officer at the University of Warwick Library. This role sits within Academic Services and I work on an array of exciting research and development projects and support the Academic Support Librarians with enquiries and information skills sessions. This job is certainly never dull – everyday is different.

My role is quite diverse and in an attempt to be organised I try to spend the first part of Monday mornings setting out objectives for the week and blocking out time in my calendar for various project work. This is only something I have recently started doing – but I find it really helpful in meeting deadlines and setting targets.

This is followed by a meeting with Emma to talk about developing  a web2/ managing your information session that we held for researchers last term and submitting it as a possible generic skills session for students.

A quick cup of tea and catch up with colleagues and then I focused on the main task of the day – developing some persona’s for research support. The area I was investigating focused on the Early Career researcher and what support they may need from the Library. So the day has been spent reading through reports, creating identities and testing my persona against other literature and notes from focus  groups.

My project work was neatly divided by a late lunch with Katharine – great to catch up on the exciting projects she is involved in both within her team and with CILIP West Midlands.

The day also included ad-hoc responses to enquiries both via email and the phone. (Although most of these were referrals for other members of the team.) I also read through updates from the Career Development Group West Midlands meeting that I was unable to get to last week – lots of exciting things in the pipeline including a future LAT11 and a pilot ‘Course in the Box’ session on building portfolios.

Overall a good productive start to the week.

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.

‘What are Libraries for?’

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Last week I attended a very lively and engaging Library organised by Birmingham Salon and  CILIP West Midlands. The discussion focused on the future role of the library against a backdrop of the new Birmingham Library development and the current financial challenges. It was really well attended with about 80 people there from both library and non-library backgrounds in roughly equal measure.

This event was also my first experience at tweeting updates for @CILIPWM (#libdebate). Whilst I am a Tweeter – I thought it would be difficult to get my head around tweeting whilst trying to concentrate on what is being said. The experience disproved this – it was great – not only did it make me digest what was being said but I was also able to see what other people’s reactions were about the debate. It was great to see lots of people both at the event and elsewhere in the country engaging with the debate. Lots of questions were generated from the debate including the following:  Are Libraries still relevant? Are libraries more than just buildings? Can libraries work based within supermarkets or pubs? What role is there for books v’s new online resources? Should libraries be silent spaces or should they include spaces for collaboration and events? What do library users want from libraries in the 21st century?

Overall the event was a great success – and certainly made me think about my own use of public libraries and how libraries have changed over the years from going as a young child to pick out the latest ‘Topsy and Tim’ books through to  work in the Library on educational projects and then utilising the internet at the library before I had a computer. In recent years my use has tailed off – but I definitely intend to change this trend and revisit my local library soon. Libraries seem to have a tradition of reinventing themselves to maintain their relevance within society and no doubt this will continue. One question asked related to whether the library should be about silent spaces for people to muse over the books there or a community resource – I think the library can be both. Even in a time with increased access to e-books the role of books still has its place and the library is an essential local service. I believe books can co-exist beside technology, spaces for collaboration and community meetings.

I have written a more detailed account of the event for a guest posting in the CILIP WM blog. There are also lots of photographs from the event on CILIP WM’s Flickr pages.