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
This past couple of weeks has seen me working on a website for the library, within the Google Aps domain that we hold at MPOW. Google Sites is a wiki based ‘put the modules together’ platform and really easy to use (once you get the basics sorted out in your head!) While there are all sorts of limitations with this structure, it has been an ideal solution for me – the library desperately needed a web presence and our resident IT support (yes, there’s only one of him) is run off his feet with day to day stuff. With Google Sites, I have been able to construct a web site on my own that does the job and gets the information about the library services out there into the student’s preferred domain (and looks a bit snappy too).
Along the way, I have been able to play with lots of different learning objects – with varying forms of success. I have used Jing to create short video screen captures of different Google search functions (namely Wonder Wheel and Timeline) and link to these from my web site. In anticipation of a new intake of students in a few weeks, I have spent today putting together a short virtual library tour using Window’s Photo Story software (that I then uploaded to YouTube because Google sites has an automatic YouTube plug in and I don’t need to worry about html code embedding). Photo Story is a really simple little piece of software I came across while doing my practicum at TAFE last year (I did a virtual tour of the library as one of my projects). It doesn’t need any special equipment other than a camera and a microphone, so I whipped out the trusty iPhone, snapped a few pics of the library and surrounds, uploaded them to the computer, donned the headset/mic and away I went. Photo Story strings your pictures together in a kind of power point display, adds your narration and some funky background music and you have a little video without having worked with any kids or dogs.
While this ends up sounding like an infomercial for Google, the fact is that they are out there providing simple, low cost solutions to technology issues. MPOW has limited budget and resources, Google Aps allows us significantly improved collaboration and the ability to provide services to our customers (both staff and students).
image from Flickr Creative Commons user dullhunk
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.
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