Tag Archives: ESL


Here at MPOW it’s nothing to get involved in projects that are technically a little (or even a lot) outside one’s area of expertise and professional knowledge.  I’ve blogged before about this so it’s nothing new.

The particular ‘things’ that are taking up my time at the moment include teaching academic skills as our usual tutor is off on maternity leave, helping to put together an application to run a Masters of Professional Accounting at MPOW, worrying about the specific language and cultural issues that our students face and how to best put together assistance for them, training teaching staff in the use of the student management database system and trying to find a way to fit some sort of infolit training into our students’ very packed timetables.

Top of my worry list is the academic skills stuff.  One of my (many, I’ll admit) soapboxes is the absence of teaching pedagogy in our training as librarians.  Infolit I’m reasonably comfortable with, I teach that to my own kids all the time but academic skills is a different thing, particularly here when it is often combined with some English language difficulties as well.  In addition, our academic skills program seems to be largely contained in people’s heads so I’m trying to get it out onto paper and into some sort of formalised course structure (or at least some lesson plans!).  This caused my first headache – I had absolutely no idea how to start going about doing this.  I’ve since read and read and read and feel like I have done enough reading to award myself a GradDipEd but was still a bit lost.  Until……

I tweeted the other day about my joy at finding the UTAS Teaching & Learning site:

Just found this wonderful UTAS site – has answered most of my questions, could be pedagogy love http://bit.ly/9KjfAL

I feel like I’m on a roll now (well I was until the MPA application stuff came up and took up most of my week)- this site tells me what I need to know, as opposed to what I need to be teaching others – and this is what I was having trouble finding.  Tick that box.

The other major issue filling up my ‘thinking’ time is the lack of information and evidence based practice (or even questions and thoughts!) relating to organisations like MPOW.  We are small and highly specialised so while I have learnt SO MUCH from my colleagues/tweetmates in the academic world little of it actually fits well with what goes on here.  Similarly, although we share many characteristics with Specials, I don’t have a special library – I have students with academic needs.

I know there are other private higher education organisations out there but by the very nature of the private, for profit-ness of these organisations, we don’t collaborate or share ideas.  A project I would love to get my teeth into is whether in fact the libraries and information centres from these organisations could do some collaborating or idea sharing without jeopardising any commercial-in-confidence stuff and bringing the wrath of investors down on our collective heads. Sort of like CAUL for minnows…

This turned out to be a bit deeper than I thought it would be for a Friday afternoon post – particularly after the brain-frying, depression-inducing, mind-numbing and painful processes of proofing, correcting and assembling I’ve been doing this week!

image: Be Prepared by Mykl Roventine via flickr

Inspired by others

We had another orientation session for new students here at MPOW today.  Today I chose to sit in on the entire 90 minutes, usually I just arrive in time to do my bit and then leave again.  I’m so glad I was there for the whole thing today.  We had a great presentation by the college principal on what he has managed to achieve after arriving in Australia as an international student in 1984 – I don’t know if it inspired the students but it did leave most of the staff going ‘wow’!

Then, we had an ex student talk about her experiences.  This particular student started off studying with us and followed an articulation pathway to a major university to finish her degree.  Along the way she collected a GPA of 3.93, clocking up 13 HD’s out of a possible 14 subjects!  Better still, she is able to identify how she did that and  shared with our incoming students her secrets for studying success.

  • find out what you are required to do
  • make a plan
  • stick to it
  • plan to have time off and plan what you will do with that time so you don’t waste it and miss out on the fun of studying in a different country
  • prepare for your classes
  • follow up after your classes
  • question, question, question until you understand

It was a power packed 10 minutes from this ex-student, who thankfully is spending some time at MPOW as a tutor over the rest of the year.  I will need to pick her brains for the academic skills workshops I’m now writing as part of the multi-skilling everyone gets into here.

image: Sunrise Tracks by Caza_No_7 via flickr

A book related hobby

I love books.  I love print books, e-books, audio books, old books, new books, kids books and all the books in between.  This, incidentally, is not why I am a librarian – but that is a story for another post.  Growing up I wanted nothing more than to own a book shop (or a deli, food being another of my obsessions) – I am more or less over both of those now you will be pleased to hear.

At the moment I particularly love audio books.  I don’t need my glasses, I don’t need an extra bag to carry my book, I can ‘read’ from the moment I walk out of the front door to the moment I arrive at my desk, without having to worry about being run over on the way to the station because I have my nose in a book.  I’m not that fussed what I listen to and am more likely to finish an audio book, simply because it’s harder to succumb to the temptation to flick to the last page to see if it’s worth persevering with a difficult or just plain bad book.  I can ‘borrow’ them free from my local library or at a pinch, buy them from iTunes if necessary.

As another free source, I’ve recently discovered Librivox – their goal is to record all public domain literature as audio books and push them out there for anyone to listen to.  As a librarian in a college full of ESL students I am all for free access to audio books, they are a great way for students of another language to improve their listening skills and we don’t have the budget at MPOW to supply licensed ones.  Now, the catch is that as Librivox is only working with public domain material, effectively this means only books published before 1923 in the US.  However, there is a great collection of literature that falls into this category and as a way of accessing and comprehending some of our ‘classic’ literature, audio books are a good way to go.  I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of understanding Shakespeare in high school much better by hearing it read in parts during our English class than by studying it alone at home in silence.  My son tackled  The Hobbit at quite an early age, by reading the book with the audio book playing at the same time.  The same son recently struggled in Year 12 with Pride & Prejudice and used the same tactic – listening to the book freed him up to do something else at the same time (playing pool if I remember rightly), allowing him to see it as an acceptable activity rather than resenting having to sit and read the book.

So, a new project for me (the ultimate point of this post).  I’m investigating becoming a volunteer reader with Librivox – it combines two of my skills (reading and talking!) and gives me the warm and fuzzies you get from contributing to a worthwhile project.

image: No 315 25 Nov 2009 MP3 by mcfarlanemo via flickr

Miss, how do I cite a YouTube video?

I’m currently writing the Plagiarism and Referencing part of my online library modules for our Moodle here at MPOW.  Delivering information literacy instruction entirely online is a challenge, I would far rather be in front of the students talking to and working with them, particularly bearing in mind the ESL status of our students.  I am mindful of the need to keep my online lessons engaging and interesting so use a variey of learning objects to really mix up the delivery. I am grateful to Jo at Macaronic for introducing me to Xtranormal – a simple video making tool that allows me to introduce each new topic using the words that I want to use, delivered in a way that is slightly quirky and hopefully engaging for students.

Because of  limited resources and being reluctant to re-invent the wheel anyway, I went trawling through YouTube looking for a suitable video that someone else might have prepared earlier.  I admit to being  fairly critical of most of the videos I find – there’s usually something about most of them that are not quite right for my purposes.  Either they are too complex for my ESL students,too American, too institution specific or just plain old too long.  Too long is a real issue – not only are my students Gen Y 18-21 year olds with short attention spans and more mobile devices to distract them than the average modern tweeting librarian – but they are learning in their second (or third) language and a long video simply puts them off.  Australian content is also an issue.  I’m not an accent snob, I’m happy to use a US video if it is appropriate, but I would rather use one with Australian voices if possible, after all, our students have come here to learn both Accounting AND something about the Australian culture and way of life.

To cut an increasingly long story short, I found an appropriate video, used my newly found embedding-in-html-code skills to include it in my lesson and bob was theoretically my uncle.  Huzzah!  It then occurred to me that I had absolutely no idea how to correctly cite a video from YouTube in my references.  Nothing in my 9 year long undergraduate slog had prepared me for citing a video – I’d never used one in any sort of assignment or paper.  Google to the rescue!  I threw ‘citing youtube videos’ into search and of all things, up popped a post from our very own 30-day-blogger moonflowerdragon on this very topic.

Gotta love this online community.

image: 8.00am class by Robert S. Donovan via flickr

To market, to market

Today I’ve been focussing on marketing.  A few weeks ago I developed a library user survey for the students using Survey Monkey. Due to a whole lot of technical issues we only managed to send the link out to our students today so I’ve yet to see how useful that is going to be.  I am bribing encouraging them to participate with a draw for an iTunes voucher so I have my fingers crossed for at least SOME responses!  The survey isn’t aiming for any in depth statistical information – I’m looking to elicit some feedback on services they may like to see the library offer (because at present we don’t offer very many, believe me) before I go putting together a business case to spend yet more money!

I’ve also plastered the library and computer lab with posters of my latest idea, the Website of the Week or WOW.  You can see an example here (sorry if it looks a bit truncated, I cut off the identifying MPOW stuff from the bottom).  The idea for this came from a webinar I attended last week, from Library Journal and Polaris Library Systems called Gadgets and Tools and Apps, Oh My! I found out about so many cool and useful websites that I just had to share them as many are relevant and useful for the students here.  This week’s WOW is forvo, an online pronunciation tool – perfect for our 100% international student body.

The WOW posters join other ‘What’s new?’ and ‘Did you know’ posters on the library door and walls – in an attempt to keep the library and its services front and centre in the minds of  students (and staff!).

I’m still waiting for the library’s online presence to get up and running – I’ll have my own course in the Moodle LMS when it gets up and running, but I’m also still hoping for a web page….

If I build it, will they come?

I am heartened by the fact that other staff at MPOW seem to think that student patronage of the library has increased tenfold since it has been staffed full time (about 6 weeks now).  I like to think that the fact that I am bombarding the students with messages, information, classes and emails is helping.  If I bang on about the Facebook page long enough surely some of them will take notice?

Collection development has been my focus this past week – taking a break from lesson planning and writing of objectives.  Collection development is tricky without a budget of course – but I am slowly building an argument for aforementioned budget and a workable, measurable collection development policy is an essential part of that argument.  There is a collection development policy in place, but I want to take the library in a slightly different direction so a rewrite has been called for.  It happens that collection development is something I have had some experience with so I am reasonably pleased with my efforts thus far.

I’m also joining the team of staff developing our online course management system, using Moodle as the platform – the idea (well, my idea anyway) being that the library and associated ideas of information management and resource discovery are included in the system as it is built from the ground up.

The library here is isolated from the computers – partly because of space restrictions but I think also because it just didn’t occur to anyone to put them together.  So, students can either look at books OR search google – they can’t do both easily.  Co-locating the library and the computer lab is a high priority for me, reinforced by some reading I did today on user behaviour in digital information seeking.  Essentially, this JSIC/OCLC study points out what we already know anecdotally – users see libraries as being about books – and my library is reinforcing that stereotype by keeping the books separate to the information source they prefer to use.

Re-inventing the wheel

Welcome to my ramblings as a first year graduate (at 43) librarian.  I wanted to use this blog to record my achievements, efforts and successes (and yes, I guess my failures too!) so that I would have some way of being able to measure how far I had (hopefully) come in my first year of full time work in nearly 18 years.  You are cordially invited along for the ride.

At MPOW (My Place of Work – a very useful acronym I first saw on KG Schneiders ‘Free Range Librarian’ blog) I am charged with the somewhat vague task of increasing student patronage of the library and assisting with improving their academic English and information literacy skills.   I also maintain the collection and manage circulations (after all, isn’t that what librarians do all day anyway?).  Oh, and I am the Records Manager at the organisation as well – just for good measure.

This is not too onerous a task for a librarian – after all, isn’t this what I spent the last 9 years of my life studying for? (the length of time it has taken me to get my degree is a discussion for another time).

Let me add that MPOW is a small higher education institute with a student population of about 200, all of whom  are international students, mostly from mainland China.  Like most librarians, I have little or no training or experience in teaching or educating – let alone to ESL students.  Do you start to get some idea of the challenges?

So, my days thus far have been filled with reading, reading and more reading.  I understand the basics of information literacy training, I’ve been training my own kids for years for one thing.  Bringing some of that experience, bits and pieces from other parts of my extensive background in administration and project management and dredging up memories of my library science subjects (finished long ago, it was the dreaded non-library major that took up most of the past 3 years) I managed to cobble together a passable effort and present a few topics to the students in my second full week on the job.

Well, so I thought anyway.  I realised after the 3rd session, when we had a practical application lesson in the computer lab that they hadn’t understood anything I’d said and as I had failed to tie the sessions to any measurable outcomes, I couldn’t work out where I had gone wrong with them – at what point had I lost them? Welcome to the world of teaching I guess….

We have another intake of students starting in mid year – this first lot will have to be satisfied with the knowledge that my first experiments in teaching have yielded much that will benefit those to come after them!  In the meantime, I have gone back to basics in an attempt to write a course from the ground up that will meet measurable outcomes and take account of the particular ESL aspects of teaching this stuff.

I have started with the obvious – the Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework standards and a wonderful article from some library staff at the Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland on the challenges of their pilot information literacy course with international students (Hurley, Hegarty & Bolger 2006).  Over the next few weeks I am immersing myself in the world of outcomes and lesson plans as I attempt to get this right.  I’ll be posting on this fairly reguarly – even if only to convince myself of my progress!


Hurley, T., Hegarty, N. & Bolger, J. 2006, Crossing a bridge: The challenges of developing and delivering a pilot information literacy course for international students. New Library World, vol.107, no.1226/1227 pp.302-320