Education, intelligence and skills…

From 1st – 5th June I was at Northern College studying for the Level 3 Education and Training qualification (formerly PTLLS) thanks to the lovely folks at CILIP Information Literacy Group http://www.cilip.org.uk/about/special-interest-groups/information-literacy-group


Side of Wentworth Castle on a gloomy day

Before I get to the focal point of this post I simply have to say if you ever get the chance to study at Northern College then grab it with both hands. It is part of Wenworth Castle near Barnsley which is a beautiful former stately house and gardens. The course was excellent, the content was interesting and the sessions were engaging. Jill Wilkens was our teacher and is probably one of the best teachers I have ever met, her enthusiasm for the course and in her teaching style was very inspiring. What was really useful about the week was that myself and the other students now have our own little network which we can draw upon for support and advice.

  
The beautiful victorian greenhouse in the sun

Central to the course was the concept of “Social Purpose in Education” broadly speaking it means that education needs to be based on more than just passing exams and getting qualifications. Education should develop well-rounded members of society not just CVs with skin.

Education for me was a series of stepping stones to the next qualification, and another and another. I was actually quite aware of this from about the age of 11 or 12 when our end of year 7 exams determined what sets we would be in for the following years. I was put in set one (top set) for most things but set two (middle set) for Maths; this never bothered me I had never ‘got on’ with numbers.

However, when I entered year 10 I was told that because I was in set two I could only be entered into the intermediate paper for my Maths GCSE which would cap my score at a B. At the time that was fine by me – I never expected to get any better, I was only aiming for a C. But looking back it seems strange that examination boards would ‘cap’ anyone’s potential. I do vaguely recollect a teacher saying to me that “it’s easier to get a B in the intermediate paper than it is a C in the higher paper’! Which seems very strange to me, but that’s our odd education system. FYI – I got a B in Maths in the end! I got 96% in my coursework but this was also capped at a B!

The stepping stone analogy really has underpinned my education. I can remember thinking “just get through these exams/coursework/essays so you can do A Levels/ go to uni/do your MA” – I think it’s the same for a lot of young people today. No wonder there are so many panicked graduates looking for work in these difficult times. If you have been told for most of your life that you just need to pass these exams etc and you’ll get a good job and then there isn’t one immediately available it causes you to doubt yourself.

Society at the moment is full of people working in jobs that they are over qualified for, they have achieved very highly in education but what does that actually mean in the context of the working world? I know a lot of people who were duped by the promise of a bright future if they got good grades, some purposefully didn’t get part time jobs growing up so they could focus on their studies. Needlessly to say they did excellently in their exams etc but they struggled to find work because of their lack of experience.

I grew up in a working class family and I still consider myself working class, both my parents are very intelligent despite only having what is considered to be a “basic education” i.e. they have O Levels. One of my dads favourite phrases is “education doesn’t mean intelligence” and he is right. If you look at today’s students (from secondary education up) they are trained to be exam and coursework clever, if you ask them to think outside the box they struggle. I think this is one of the reasons why there are so many unemployed graduates (or graduates working in non-graduate jobs) they have focused for so long on exams etc that they forgot (or didn’t have time) to expand their horizons; there is more to the world than what is on your exam paper.

Our education systems needs to focus on breeding inquisitive creative thought not exam passing robots. Although I still believe students should have to complete some form of examinations – I do not think they all have to be formal exams and coursework.Yes, this is a rather Utopian view on the matter but I am OK with that. One can dream. Also I know the government is trying to focus on employability, skills and work placements but in my opinion it is a half-arsed attempt; because they are currently in the process of removing assessment by coursework from GCSEs and A Levels – how can you demonstrate skills in a silent exam hall?

Our education system’s reliance on league tablets has crippled us, I do believe there is a need for monitoring schools and maintaining educational standards but it leaves teachers little scope for imaginative teaching practices or new topics because they have to stick so rigidly to the curriculum. I can’t remember where I read it but I think the attrition rate in teaching is one of the highest for any profession, having spoken to friends in teaching they often say they don’t enjoy it because they have no freedom. I don’t understand why the government won’t listen to the teaching unions and organisations – when the professionals say something needs to change then it needs to change.

The education system in the UK is seen as one of the best in the world, sometimes I struggle to see why. There is disparity between what the government thinks the education does and what the education system can actually achieve in the shackles the government has placed upon it…

Sorry, rant over.

#C8A2C8 2015

This year I got to go to #C8A2C8 or LILAC (there I have got the attempt at humour out of the way) for the first time!

In the past when I have attended conferences I have tried to tweet or write notes throughout all the talks and workshops I went too, which often led to me missing key points (because I was busy writing down the last thing). This year, in my first time at LILAC – I decided NOT to tweet and to only make minimal notes. I wanted to make sure I was taking everything in and I did not want to get too tired. I do not care what anyone says conferences are hard!

I did succeed (mostly) with those goals – I hardly tweeted throughout the day, and if I did it was very brief. Check out #lilac15 for all the tweets, and the CILIP Information Literacy Group’s slideshare for all the presentations from the whole conference. I did still make a lot of notes but not as many as I usually would, but one thing I did was to try to relate what was being talked about to my role, and how I could use the information practically.

So, in order not to regurgitate the conference talks I went to, I going to write about what I learnt from the conference as a whole and the thoughts it inspired:

1. Threshold Concepts – this was discussed in two of the keynote speakers: Ray Land and Barbara Fister. It was also mentioned in a few other talks. Without going into too much detail I will try to explain what they’re all about. Threshold Concepts have grown from discussions about the development of learners and the education system as a whole. Students are often unsettled when they move to university/college and are scared by not knowing “stuff”, they hold onto existing knowledge and often do not have the courage to “let go” of previous studies. I hadn’t really heard of HE being talked about in this context before so it really stuck out in my mind. I forgot how lost I felt when I first went to uni, I will try to keep this in mind when working with students in the future.

2. Education should not be a tick-box exercise – it is a conversation. All throughout the education system in the UK students are trained to pass exams, although this is a marker of understanding it is not enabling learners to develop fully. Students need to learn how to think like professionals in their chosen field of study, not just how to regurgitate facts, for example biology students will need to think like biologists and history students will need to think like historians. Information Literacy skills help students to develop their inquiring minds and support their studies but I have noticed that we (LIS professionals) are often drafted into sessions to talk about how to do something, we are very rarely given the opportunity to discuss why.

For example, I consider myself to be very lucky that I have four timetabled sessions with first year Law students in their first term. Each of these sessions is one hour long and I have to do this with six separate groups of first years – that’s twenty four hours in total! The sessions have to cover – an introduction to the library service as a whole and train the students how to use LexisLibrary, Westlaw UK and JustCite. Because of the volume of sessions I make good use of the trainers from the databases and try to organize it so they can deliver some of the sessions for me. As most library staff are just parachuted in for a session or two we have to focus on how to access information, we have no time for contextualisation. I have tried in some sessions to create more of a dialogue with students in the groups e.g. why legal information is so expensive and why they have to go via databases and not via Google. But the academic staff have a very firm stance on what I can cover and have told students that they are only in the sessions to learn how to access the information and the time is too limited. I think this is the reason why I get A LOT of emails from students puzzled as to why you have to take eleventy million steps to get to something.

In the next academic year I’ll aim to reformulate the way I approach the sessions to try to answer some of the common “why” questions before they are asked and I will create a “legal information FAQs” document for students. I have thought about “flipping the classroom” with these training workshops to give me more time to discuss scholarly process but it is something the Law lecturers are not keen on. However, creating more guiding materials (e.g. a workbook) for the database training will give the students more practical time and also the chance to ask wider questions.

3. Librarians are not gatekeepers they are tour guides – everyone knows that the days when libraries were only places for books are long gone. Training is a key part of all LIS roles, whether that is showing users how to use an OPAC or running an information skills session. An interesting question got raised in one of the events I attended, it related to the education sector but it could be transferred to any:

“Do we really want students to learn how to think like a librarian?”

My gut reaction was NO – I’LL BE UNEMPLOYED! But after a second I realized that I was getting into the territory of “we’ve always done it like that” which I think is the most dangerous phrase in the workplace. Equipping students with the tools to fulfil their enquring minds is what I believe my role to be, if that means that by their second or third year that they no longer require support that’s fantastic – job done. In the HE sector there will always be a fresh batch or students, researchers and lecturers to support, so I will always be involved in training. However if I can aim to train users more efficiently to help them become more independent learners quicker then that gives me more time to get involved with project work or to look forward to develop the support the library provides. We need to evolve with students needs, if not a little bit before. I think being in such an innovative, forward-looking profession is really exciting and inspiring.

4. Reflection: a skills selfie – I have and I will continue to bang on about reflection until the cows come home. In my opinion it is THE most important thing to do at work:

plan – do – reflect – improve – repeat

Pretty much all the talks I went to at LILAC referred to reflective practice even though it wasn’t the focus of the talk, it just goes to show how embedded it is in our practices; and back up my personal view about how important it is.

Recently, whilst at work I have had a few students come to the enquiry desk asking for support in finding items to help them with their reflective assignments, one student was very confused by the concept so I decided to try to help them understand. In a moment of sheer brilliance (read: madness) I said “reflection is just a skills selfie, how many times do you check a picture before you share it? You go through a mini review process right?”. As you can imagine the student looked baffled for a minute, but it then it just clicked – they got it, just like that! In this case the students work was all about their skills; obviously reflection is not just about skills but you can substitute that word for whatever you’re reflecting on e.g. “project selfie”. It might be a bit basic and juvenile but it works for me! You will be pleased to know that I still directed the student to the best (in my opinion) book on the subject: Reflective Practice by G. Bolton

5. Don’t overload yourself at conferences – even if you have signed up to go to a session in every slot, make sure you take a break. Three days at a conference is harder than three days at work for me. This year I picked a brilliant morning to take a break, I took a lovely stroll down to Newcastle Quayside and had an ice cream. I then returned to conference with a sunny disposition and slightly sticky hands. 

  

So that’s my (not so) brief look at my first LILAC experience.

:)

First timer!

Last weekend was my first ever trip to Dublin, actually it was my first trip to Ireland! It was also my first time as a solo flyer.

[FYI airports are even more boring on you’re own so make sure you have a good book or lots of smartphone or tablet charge]

Last weekend was also the first time I have presented something of my own at a library event! I have previously presented the results of a work project at UHMLG: https://ladypenland.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/professional-chatterer/ I am happy to report that I survived and I received some great feedback from attendees.

The event I presented at was NPD Ireland‘s SHowcase your Information Expertise event, which had the #npdishine14 – so please do have a look at tweets from the day. I had applied to present (& display my poster) so I was super chuffed to be asked to do both!

The event was held at the lovely Pearse Street Library

My poster & presentation covered the same topic which I will briefly outline now, it is the idea of a CPD (continuing professional development) diary. I know I am definitely not the first person to think of this (and I have blogged about mine before) but I wanted to share it with others, particularly new professionals as I have found it so useful in the first few years of my career to help with job applications; and I will continue to use it to help focus my CPD activities.

The basic concept is:

THINK – about your: skills, experiences, projects, abilities, qualifications etc. [they do not have to be LIS related]

WRITE – keep a record! [so you you can use it again] Choose the best format for you: pen & paper, MS Word, post-its etc.

USE – Remember it! Read it! Use it! [Reflect upon it – use it to identify any skills gaps, you can then target your own CPD]

See, it is common sense really!

Creating my CPD diary really helped with job applications because I could easily map my experiences against the personal specification for the post I was applying for, it really did save a lot of effort! I am now happy in my current post and not looking to move on but I still use my CPD diary to identify areas I may not have much experience in (or of) so I can development my own CPD goals.

So thank you to NPD Ireland for helping me achieve one of my CPD goals.

For anyone considering applying to present at a library event I would say GO FOR IT! I had a great time as everyone was so welcoming and supportive. Thanks again to the organizers and attendees for making it such a fabulous day.

[I will be making the slides from my presentation available as soon as I can, I will link to them from here once they are up.]

All change…again!

I have moved jobs again! I am now a Subject Librarian at the University of Huddersfield (UoH). I started at the very end of April so I have been in post almost 3 months now; so I thought it was about time for a bit of reflection (which I actually like to do). The subjects I am responsible for are: Law, Computing & Accounting – I have no previous experience with any of these subjects as a student but I did work with Computing & Accounting at FE level.

law-158356_640Cloud_computingFeel free to use this image just link to www.rentvine.com

My view of my subjects – I do realize there are complexities to these areas that I will probably never understand.

Law is a completely new area to me, despite a few references to various Acts during my Sociology BSc, so I am still quite bewildered by the legal language and process (to be honest it terrifies me). But I love the challenge and in the short time I have been here I have already picked up so much. It also helps that one of my best friends is a trainee solicitor so can help me out with all her legal knowledge and insider info about life as a law student. UoH are really supportive too and they funded my attendance at the BIALL (British and Irish Association of Law Librarians) Annual Conference in Harrogate (and I am heading to Oxford in August for the BIALL Legal Research course). It was great to meet new people who also work in the legal world. I got to meet key publishers and content providers and as the “newbie” it was easier (but still daunting) to walk up to them and ask what they could do for our law staff and students. I haven’t had chance to do a write up of the conference but please check out  #BIALL2014 for all the thoughts/ideas that came from the talks and presentations.

All the academics I have met from all 3 of my departments have been friendly and welcoming and are keen to use the library services and I have a lot of sessions booked in for the new academic year. They are all happy to listen to my ideas and proposals of the different ways I can deliver skills sessions for them and their students; it is quite empowering.

As I started towards the end of the academic year I have had some time to be fully introduced to the systems we use at UoH and also have had chance to meet a lot of staff within the library and my departments. In previous roles I have started in September which, in the education world is like jumping onto a moving train; so it is nice to start at a less stressful time. However, I do realize I have been lulled into a false sense of security and the mad rush of September/October inductions is going to hit me like a brick. Largely my role is that same as my last job – I connect staff and students to the resources they require and I also train them to access and use that information in an academic context. Well that’s the bread and butter stuff, there’s all the other facets to subject librarian work too: budget management, project work, department liaison etc.

As I have had such a good start, my confidence has grown and I have become more passionate about the profession as a whole. I have mentioned previously that I am not currently a member of CILIP and this is largely to do with the fact that I disagree with their subscription and pricing structure – for me at the moment £20 a month is too much – when I have other important things going on in my life i.e. attempting to get a mortgage! But I do want to become more involved with the wider profession; I am looking into SLA membership in the first instance as I think it is more reasonable and the SLA community seems really vibrant, exciting and vibrant. CILIP at the moment seems slightly lack-lustre but that it probably because I am SO out of the loop on what they’re doing etc. I do want to rejoin because I think CILIP has the potential to be more than it is, also with current issues and turmoil on the council I want to see how CILIP reacts to the situation before I invest my money and time in membership.

I am going to try to keep this blog reflective, as I tend to benefit from the process, so here are my goals:

  1. Go to all available training opportunities (“new” doesn’t have to mean scary)
  2. Get more involved in the UoH community
  3. Get more involved with the professional community
  4. Look into project management courses/qualifications (I mentioned this in my last post, it is still something I find intriguing).

And finally…

As this has been quite text heavy here’s some pictures of the pets (don’t worry my tortoise isn’t a giant! He is only 7cm long!)

jerry3 freyja

Jerry Sheldon and Freyja

Image credits:

OpenClips http://pixabay.com/en/law-liberty-scale-weight-balance-158356/ gsagri04 http://openclipart.org/detail/170263/cloud-computing-by-gsagri04 Ainali http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Analyzing_Financial_Data_%285099605109%29.jpg

Musings

I have been having a few thoughts lately…I know I ought to be careful…and I decided I wanted to share them will you all.

  1.  For those of you who haven’t already seen it – here is my review of the MA in Librarianship at Uni of Sheffield (2011-12) http://traineenetwork.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/it-involved-posters-moviemaker-reflection/
  2. I am NOT a Careers Advisor – in the Learning Centres we provide support with formatting CVs, UCAS statements and covering letters for job applications, unfortunately that is all we know. Students (and staff) are sometimes baffled that I cannot recommend a career path for a BTEC Health & Social Care student that has decided working with people is not for them. Being a Careers Advisor takes expertise that I just do not have. [Please read: hurry up college and take it more seriously].
  3. Mature students never stop apologising for not knowing something – seriously guys come on, you’ve come back to college to learn that means it is ok to ask questions. I enjoy working with the mature students probably because they are normally more grateful for your support than the younger ones; and also you can see the difference you have made almost instantly.
  4. Pricing of eResources – seriously providers/publishers stop picking silly numbers out of thin air! If I haven’t already got your resources it is probably because I do not need or want it – don’t send me scoping emails with high figures and comments like “five other institutions in your area subscribe to…” If I ain’t got the moulah there’s not a hope in hell (no matter how many competators have it)….sorry.
  5. Winging it isn’t all bad! On Monday this week I had a session with half a Level 1 Catring & Hospitality group regarding print resources (e.g. where to find, why they’re sometimes quicker/better than google). Last week I had a 5 minute conversation with my manager about the structure of the session, as he has delivered it to the first half of the class the week before. I had planned to plan it in more detail at the end of the week but unfortunately I was too ill for work. This results in me having 30 minutes on Monday morning to remember the conversation and write out bullet points for me to do the session. I did manage this and the session went well. I think this is because I let them ask me questions and have discussions about where they would get information for their current projects. [I do realise I was probably very fortunate to have a chatty and polite group].
  6. I have recently decided that I would love to do some more in-depth project management….I know I will probably kick myself for this but I am hoping to get more “project work” done in 2014. Yes, I think I have been watching too much Grand Designs.
  7. This is a picture of Jerry Sheldon – my beautiful baby tortoise!

jerry

 

 

Marketing with origami

In my last post I mentioned I had a marketing project. I had decided that in the new year we needed to “push” the support we provide in the Learning Centres (LCs) so I decided to work on a new leaflet. Then I decided leaflets were boring and ‘old hat’ so I decided to put the content in a different format, that of an origami fortune teller!

origamiThe LC “fortune teller” (back of)

I thought this would make it stand out a bit more, and obviously it would be interactive, which in turn may make it more memorable.

When I came up with the idea and mentioned it to immediate colleagues they all thought it would be a good idea, some even gave suggestions for topics of future fortune tellers. So I was very upbeat about the whole process. I worked out the fiddly design, wrote the content, decided on colours (very important indeed) and finally sent them out to be printed by our in-house print service.

origami1

We have multiple staff rooms at both sites so I got 70 printed and folded (all folded by myself – bit of a nightmare after a while) and I was really impressed with them. On 2nd January (a non-teaching day) I decided I would distribute them throughout the staff rooms, as mentioned in my other post – more tutors were in than I expected so I couldn’t leave the “fortune teller” in the strategic spots I had thought of: on PCs, by the kettle and in the fridge (these of the most used items in most staff rooms right?!). I had to settle for more standard places: on desks and in-trays. I did, however, hand one directly to each member of teaching staff that I saw. Most were impressed and “ooh, I remember these from when I was younger” was uttered more than once.

Being a hello-look-at-all-the-amazing-things-we-do librarian I also sent a “fortune teller” to each member of SMT, individually addressed with an individual, hand-written note. I like to make sure “the powers that be” fully understand the support we provide and the way were advertising them.

Sadly, I have heard absolutely zero (apart from the teaching staff I spoke to when handing out, and the few who I asked about it afterwards – FYI: they were all positive) from anyone. Even, SMT ignored all the effort I had gone too – I wasn’t expecting a prize or even a pat on the back but an acknowledgment email from a PA would have been nice. I guess they are just too busy.

I knew we wouldn’t suddenly get a surge of overwhelming support for the LCs or masses of requests for info skills sessions (we are level pegging with last year stats wise) but I did think there may have been a comment or two.

Never mind, at least we got our message out there in a new and different way – it is hard to measure the impact of marketing schemes. It certainly won’t put me off doing more of the “fortune tellers” – perhaps targeting at different departments, I also may include a reference to them in the service evaluation that I am hoping to do before the summer – so that may give us more of a picture.

Please don’t let this post put you off trying new ways of marketing; all good ideas are worth a try.

First term reflection

I have just (20th Dec) got around to adding my name and contact details to the individual subject resource pages on Moodle, it has only taken me four and half months!

The past four or so months have flown by, so I though it was about time I reflected on my second professional post and my own development.

In all my library jobs (apart from one temp ‘shelf-elfing’ contract) I have started at the beginning of a new academic year; this switch to FE (&HE) has definitely been the hardest. Due to a combination of things out of my control for the first few weeks of my job I felt completely lost, frustrated and annoyed but after airing my views and concerns with the necessary people, all of them have been addressed.

Speaking to my manager was the best thing I have done in this job, he now understands how unhappy I was at the start and is making sure I have enough work and the appropriate training for that work (where required).

I am now 100% more confident in discussing my “issues” with management and have even had a meeting with HR to discuss how they could have made my induction process better. I think being open is always the best policy. If you don’t tell people you are unhappy then nothing ever changes.

Also, this has given me the guts to suggest new ideas and to really “push” for things when I believe they are right, of course I listen to the other ideas too but if I feel strongly about something I am not going to let it go without feeling like I have tried my hardest.

I am the type of person that works better when I have loads to do, I quite like pressure – it makes me work faster and harder. So far amongst my “normal” responsibilities I have been given a couple of big (ish) projects:

1. Putting together a proposal for a redesign/ reorganisation of the LC Moodle pages – this was done in conjunction with a colleague but now I have the task of implementing the new format. This has developed my Moodle-related skills (I am now one of the ‘go to’ people for any staff with Moodle queries) and my time and work load management skills have also been tested and improved.

2. Marketing – I told my manager I wanted to do a marketing push in the new year to reengage staff with the service. I didn’t want to do yet another leaflet or to hold meetings whilst they are busy getting back into things; so I decided to redevelop one of my favourite childhood games/toys/trinket: the origami fortune teller. Instead of containing your future it has information about what services the LCs provide e.g. Info skills, drop-ins, Moodle support etc. I got them all printed and folded and they are awaiting the 2nd Jan when I will drop them in staff rooms across the college. On the outside of the ‘fortune teller’ there is none of the LC branding so I am calling it semi-guerrilla marketing! I will do a post reviewing it in the new year.

3. Reading list submission – this is very much a self imposed project, I got very frustrated about how lists would be given to us (if at all) so I am in the process of attempting to standardise and streamline the process to make it easier and more efficient. I will provide an update nearer Easter as that’s when we start the collection of lists for next year.

Overall, despite my grievances at the beginning I am really enjoying my work and finding it very rewarding. I think it has been a good career move as I have more responsibility, autonomy and have learnt many new skills. I work with a great team and I am looking forward to new challenges and opportunities that this role will provide for me.

One day in my role

This post was inspired by this post by @librarylandL.

Name: Penelope Dunn

Role: Learning Resource Specialist (LRS)

Location:  Rotherham College of Arts & Technology

Additional info: approx. 12,000 students – FE & HE courses

Time in post: 12 weeks

[I chose to write about this day as I think it includes virtually every aspect of my role]

Thursday 7th November

08:30 – start work: check emails & cluster of post-it notes I left myself from the day before

09:00 – 09:35 meeting with fellow LRS and two Library & Information Officers(LIOs) to discuss drop-in workshops.

We run these from October half-term until Christmas, in all Learning Centres (LCs), they have primary focus on Personal Statements but anybody can drop-in with any query. Discussed structure and identified useful UCAS produced resources to use (here’s the link should anyone else need resources for this: http://www.ucas.com/how-it-all-works/undergraduate/filling-your-application/your-personal-statement). We also confirmed days and times.

10:15-11:15 – meeting with LC manager: discussed a long-term project for myself.

Creating a proposal about how to reorganise and modernise the LC Moodle pages. I was given this project as Moodle is one of my responsibilities (the student and staff training side NOT the techy stuff, although I can do a little of that) and as the new member to the team I have a fresh outlook on things.

I will be required to look at the information about the LC from all perspectives: college website, student portal and Moodle and try to create a cohesive message and format. I am hoping to make the LC Moodle pages more user-friendly by removing any jargon e.g. library catalogue. I hope to look at it through students eyes and focus on what they want from the LC (and how they’ll approach getting it) to make it more obvious where (and how) they can access resources and help.

I am looking forward to working on this as it will be “my baby” (my own little piece of strategic service development) until I put the proposal forward to colleagues where it is possible they’ll reject it. It also gives me the opportunity to explore different ways of delivering the information on our LC pages – I am currently looking at various online tools such as Padlet, Scoop-it and Popplet. I think by varying the ways we deliver information to students we can engage them more.

11:30 – 12:00 Information Skills session:

Planning and teaching information skills is the “bread and butter” of my role. This is the last of three sessions I have done for this particular group (BTEC Level 3 IT) – it was a quick session on ‘Academic Writing’ I started by getting each student to read two newspaper articles – the same story from two different newspapers (The Mirror & The Guardian) – then I asked them to tell me which one they preferred to read; largely it was The Mirror article because it was “easier and shorter”. I then asked them which they’d hand in for homework, most switched to The Guardian article because the language was “fancier” and “more formal”. We then discussed what made the articles so different and I talked them through some general tips e.g. use formal language, no slang, don’t overcomplicate it, don’t use first or second person etc.

I cannot take any credit for the newspaper activity – it is one I borrowed from colleagues.

12:00-12:50 check emails, respond where necessary. Double check presentation for later in the day, check which room the session is to be held in.

12:50-13:50 LUNCH

14:00 – 14:30 Meeting with colleague from Quality Assurance (QA) re: Staff training day

My colleague from QA and I are running three workshops on the next Staff Training Day (22nd Nov), they will be about Moodle. The college has produced a list of four minimum standards that every Moodle course should have (e.g. course handbook) – our session will aim to walk/talk staff who haven’t already reached the minimum standards through the process. It was quite a brief discussion as we have both ran sessions on this before.

I had prepared instructions for staff on how to add files etc to Moodle so we discussed any necessary ‘tweeks’ and sending it off to the college’s design and print team for branding.

15:00 – 17:00 Shift on LC reception desk.

I am required as part of my role to staff the reception and enquiry desks at the town centre LCs – this is organised via a rota and I normally only do it 3-4 times a week. I really enjoy having the chance to work on the desk because I get to build a rapport with students and also develop my skills in using the LMS Autolib as well as any IT troubleshooting and general enquiries. This particular shift largely involved: returning, renewing and issuing stock, but I also had to solve a few IT issues (mainly forgotten passwords). A student on the GCSE English course also came in wanting a book to help her with a descriptive writing assignment; it took me a bit of time to explain that we didn’t have a specific book on it but we have books with chapters on it (it always amazes me that students expect a single book to cover everything they need for one assignment) – so I got her the books and showed her how to look for specific information within it via contents page and index. She borrowed one of them and also took a poetry book so she could see how others use descriptive language and to extend her vocabulary.

Also on the odd time where it is quiet I get to work on other things, this time I ‘tweeked’ the Moodle guide and sent it to design and print.

17:00-17:30 I would normally go home at 17:00 but this week I had to stay to teach an evening group. I rang ProQuest (in the USA) to pay for some e-books via credit card.

17:30-18:15 Information Skills session:

Using Prezi for Level 2 Supporting Teaching and Learning Students, I found this session very difficult to plan as it was mostly going to be a demonstration session, and even thought I knew what topic the students would have to create their own Prezi on – I didn’t want to focus on that because I didn’t want them to copy me.

First of all I explained what Prezi is and how to get an account. I then showed them the Prezi “getting started” tutorial video – although the sound didn’t work very well so I had to talk over it. I then started a new Prezi, pointed out all the features about how it works e.g. frames and the path; we then started to create one as a group, using a template (I think the Prezi templates are great!). I showed them how to add images and frames and how to zoom in and out. I didn’t want to show them everything because it is pretty much impossible as the software is so flexible and also it would take longer than I had!

I rounded up the session by telling them to “play around with Prezi” before they have a go at their actual assignment and to come to the LCs if they get really stuck.

18:15 HOME TIME

[Any gaps in time are because I can’t remember or I blacked out from excitement]

Voices for libraries – FE

On the 21st October I tweeted for a week as @VoicesLibrary my intention was to spread the word/raise awareness of the problems FE libraries are facing. I did this because in my time working in FE (granted this is my 12th week) I got the impression they sometimes get forgotten by those facing more pressing problems (e.g. public and school libraries) or by those with more money and resources (e.g. HE or specialist libraries).

I wrote about this in more detail here.

What I learnt from tweeting for Voices For Libraries for a week was that not many people knew FE libraries were having problems or what types of issues they are facing. some people were shocked as to how minimal our budgets are compared to universities, especially as we (at Rotherham College of Arts & Technology) support HE courses too. I hope my one-person tweet crusade raised awareness of these (and other problems).

Overall, I think I need to continue my little crusade in order to get FE libraries some distinction recognition of the issues we face, often we are lumped in with “academic libraries” (which to me means HE) – but I think this is wrong we are a completely different entitity with some problems that HE will never have (e.g. severe staff reluctance to promote/use the service).

I will continue to fight for FE libraries and I hope to post more about it in the future.

Thanks to the @VoicesLibrary team for giving me a chance to air my views.