Last month I had a strange experience. Strange for me anyhow. If you follow me on twitter you’ll know I am @newgradlib – that is, a newly graduated librarian. I don’t really know anything. I’m new. I’m learning. I offer words of encouragement and lots of nods & smiles but no real advice (except on parenting, I’m pretty experienced in that department…).
This, however, has not stopped three individuals recently asking me for my professional opinion in three different areas of my professional life. Yikes!
The first is another new graduate. I sat on an interview panel for a job she applied for and was instantly drawn to her – like me, she had little or no library experience yet had written a job application that convinced the panel we needed to see her. Like me, she was offered the job. Like me, she is starting her professional career in a very small, one person library (in fact, the very library I have just left).
I’ve found myself communicating with this librarian partly in a handover type way but also in a “why don’t you try this or this or this to help yourself get started in the profession” type way. You know, suggesting she get going on twitter, establish a PLN, start a blog, all that stuff. Perhaps I should have invited her to blog every day of June.
Next, I found myself being asked about my involvement with NGAC by someone potentially interested in nominating for a position on an ALIA Advisory Committee – expressions of interest were called for several committees during May. What did I think? Had I found it a worthwhile experience? How much work is really involved? Was it interesting?
Last, I had an email from someone who has recently started following me on twitter and is also reading my blog. This person wanted to ask me about studying LIS by distance. How had I found that with a family? Would I recommend one LIS school over another? What had my experience been with juggling time, motivation, kid wrangling and lack of library experience?
It feels strange to be the person being asked – I’m used to the mentoring thing working the other way around for me. It’s a bit daunting to know that people are seeing me as someone with knowledge they can tap into – but also kinda nice.
I’ve taken a few thoughts about public profiles and participation in a personal learning network out of this experience that I’m saving up for another post – after all, I do have to come up with one every day this month!
Last week, @acrystelle tweeted the following question:
PLN & PLE – Same thing? Or different? What do you believe to be definitions for these terms? Any opinions or thoughts?
I had to ask what exactly a PLE is, but now that I have an answer (it’s a personal learning environment, as opposed to a PLN which is a personal learning network) I thought I’d respond to the question here, as I have a bit more than 140 characters to say.
My initial reaction was that of course they are different – one’s a network and one’s an environment. Then I started worrying that I had oversimplified it, which led me on to giving the question considerably more thought. After tying myself up in knots about this several times over the weekend I can say I think I ended up overanalysing it and that my initial response was, in fact, what I wanted to say.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me explain.
The term PLN is fairly new to me, I didn’t come across it until I started to be active on twitter and joined in the conversation between many like-minded LIS professionals. On reflection though, I realise I have been developing and engaging in PLN’s my entire life. They just weren’t called that. They were called mothers groups, or running partners or fellow committee members, or book clubbers. Each of these networks has contributed to my knowledge and has enabled me to share my experiences and knowledge as well. Each of these networks is part of my PLE – a subset if you like.
So, how do I define them? My PLN’s are issue specific (although with considerable crossover between some) and comprised of individuals whereas my PLE is broader than that. My PLE encompasses both private and professional connections and importantly, it includes place. The classic example of course is that the local library is part of my PLE but not my PLN. When faced with a question, a difficulty or a need to share some news, I consider which part of my PLE is the most appropriate vehicle and select one or more PLN’s based on that assessment.
A long answer to a simple question.
As I mentioned last week, I was able to participate yesterday in the 2020 Academic Library Symposium put on by UTS, to look at some of the possible incarnations of the academic library of the not-too-distant-future.
The reason I attended (as I’m certainly not a bigwig librarian such as most of those invited to take part) was to co-present (with @pinkfairaedust and @alysondalby) the findings from the ALIA Sydney Horizon workshop on what we thought the academic librarian of the future will (should?) look like. Originally I thought we were attending as observers only, but arrived to find we had been colour coded into small groups along with the other participants and so actively took part in the breakout discussion sessions.
I had a University Librarian in my discussion group and a Deputy Director from another University library as well as a collection of other senior staff from different institutions. Because I work outside the rarified, bureaucratic atmosphere of a University Library structure I was able to ignore the combined weight of the authority in the room, both in discussion groups and when presenting (twice – I ended up presenting back our small group discussions in the afternoon). Sometimes ignorance is just sheer bliss.
Presenting and public speaking have never really held many fears for me. I get a twinge of nerves just before going ‘on stage’ but I am confident that my communication skills and speaking ability will get me through, so don’t have that debilitating fear of speaking in public that many others seem to get. Maybe it’s because I did a lot of public speaking at school – I was in debating teams in primary school but my forte was the speech and drama sections of the Canberra Eisteddfod. For years, I learned poems and recited them in front of adjudicators, read pieces of prose I’d only sighted moments before (from memory, I may have even won that section) and participated in school ‘speech choirs’, which were the same thing, just in a group.
In my current place of work, I don’t get very many opportunities to present, even my IL classes are usually only delivered to very small groups of students at a time, so it was good to be up in front of people again. I love the interaction with an audience, trying to engage with them, settle into a rapport with them and hopefully, even impart some information to them.
Then of course, I got to network, meet new people, eat UTS’s delicious lunch again (the morning tea was a bit special) and have a relaxed drink with all the folk at the end of the day. All in all, it was a good day.
The virtual ‘water cooler’ chat that is twitter is still running hot on the subject of the TEDx Canberra event held last weekend. For a pretty good look at what TED is, try the wikipedia entry here, or check out some of the many TED talk videos available free of charge here. The little ‘x’ indicates an event run independently of ‘big’ TED but with the right to use the name, subject to conditions of format etc (anyone spot the Playschool reference in there?).
You can find out what some others attending TEDx Canberra thought by checking out a few of these blog posts:
The thing that struck me the most about each and every one of the speakers at TEDx Canberra was their passion for their subject. All of these people had an idea they passionately felt was worth sharing. Those ideas included suicide awareness and prevention, future proofing the security of Australian banking, helping teenagers realise their dreams, tapping into the power of our minds, our communities and our networks and many, many more.
As I start to gather speed in my chosen profession, the concept of ‘what am I passionate about’ comes to mind regularly. There’s passion about one’s field of work, demonstrated by William DeJean and Mitchell Whitelaw (I’ll bet I wasn’t the only information worker in the room hanging on his every word) and then there’s passion for something outside that – in the volunteer or social sector – unrelated to how we make our daily dollar.
TED is about ideas worth sharing. TEDx Canberra shared many such ideas and has given me much to think about, write about and shape the things I am passionate about into something worth sharing too.
image: @newgradlib & @KatieTT braving the dark Canberra sky for a #tedxcanberra pic
image: audience pic featuring @alearningthing, @newgradlib & @KatieTT at #tedxcanberra by Gavin Tapp via flickr
Telling and creating stories as part of #octshowntell has been the fun, creative and almost easy part. However, as @restructuregirl has pointed out, sharing our collective storytelling has turned out to be harder than we thought.
YouTube groups were considered and then found to be no longer supported or available. Setting up a group within vimeo caused headaches for the creator and difficulties for the rest of us in finding it. These technical difficulties aside, the other problem with groups in video based cloud services is that you can only post, well, videos. Those of us creating stories using other formats can’t post our stories to these groups anyway.
Enter the idea for a google sites project. Easy to set up, quick to add things, accepts flash so that we can embed storybirds that can’t be embedded in lots of other places (like here on my wordpress.com blog), even looks a bit fancy thanks to easy to use templates and drag ‘n drop formatting. However, once I had set up the google site I came across the problem I have also had at MPOW with my library website – other people can’t edit or add to the site unless they are first added as owners.
This is a straightforward problem on the surface, just email an invitation to the person you would like to add, they establish a google account and then they are away. Of course, as my PLN is largely a twitter based group, I don’t actually have email addresses for most of the people participating in #octshowntell and while I’m a big fan of google sites, they are not yet so advanced that you can send out invitations via twitter handle!
What I love about these group collaborative learning projects I have been involved with is the opportunity to learn by doing and to learn by playing. Michael Stephens from Dominican University in Illinois uses learning by playing as a recurring theme in both his teaching and presentations. Sophie McDonald from UTS Library in Sydney also presented on this at the recent ALIA conference in Brisbane, talking about Transforming information literacy through play. I love the idea that playing is learning and counts as professional development at the same time! Most of the 2.0 technologies that I use I have learned how to use by sitting down and playing with them – learning as I go, asking the twitterverse for advice when needed, using YouTube to find more information and a demonstration.
I have been passing on my knowledge to other staff at MPOW and was thrilled to have an older, self acknowledged luddite teacher tell me the other day that he’s excited by the tools and possibilities the college moodle is opening up to he and his students and that perhaps he is ‘never too old to learn’. Music to the ears of one so recently committed to a profession of lifelong learners.
image: Stories by _Ricky via flickr
Yes folks, it’s another creative, collaborative, fun learning challenge from my libraryland PLN. This time it’s story telling. #Octshowntell is designed to get us thinking about and using Web 2.0 storytelling tools.
To be honest, I was at first unsure whether to post this new activity here or on my personal blog but in the end I have decided that it’s a professional activity based around learning & using new tools, so it belongs here – even if the content of my storytelling isn’t work based (and so far it’s not).
My first effort is here then. I’ve used xtranormal because I’m familiar with it but I’ll use something outside my comfort zone before this 4 weeks is up, I promise! I’ve already started playing with Storybird and doing some collaboration with some small members of my extended family as a way of creating a connection with them and am keen to have a look at animoto as well.
image: Get Your Learn On by Hryck via flickr
I thought about just writing
“Twitter. That is all. #microblog”
and leaving it at that. However, I’m going to assume that some people who read this post may not be twitter users and the aim of this post is not to a) spruik twitter or b) alienate anyone who doesn’t tweet.
Having said that, I will briefly digress into an explanation of the twitter hashtag system I have already used to those not in the know before I talk about microblogging in general. Twitter isn’t easily searchable and its freeform, writing-on-the-fly format makes it almost impossible to categorise tweets in the same way as you might categorise your blog posts for example. Hashtags are the twitter community’s way of keeping like posts together. During the recent Australian federal elections the tag #ausvotes was used a lot and future social researchers will be able to search under that hashtag to find out what people thought at the time. The important thing to realise is that hashtags are user created. Twitter users make them up, there’s no prescribed tags. For example, a quick search on twitter reveals posts about the same election under #auselection.
Twitter is a major part of this post about microblogging but by no means the only part. Status updates on Facebook and MySpace, tumblr and photo sharing groups on sites such as flickr and picasa are also examples of microblogging. Moving along, I’m sticking pretty much with Wikipedia’s definition of microblogging which says that:
Microblogging is a passive broadcast medium in the form of blogging. A microblog differs from a traditional blog in that its content is typically much smaller, in both actual size and aggregate file size.A microblog entry could consist of nothing but a short sentence fragment, an image or embedded video.
By way of a bit more history, in June I participated in #blogeverydayinjune which was a project among about 30 or so library folk to write a new post every day for a month. Word spread (mostly via twitter, hence the hashtag) and it was a fabulous networking and personal development exercise. If you’re interested, you can find links to most of the participants here.
The blogging exercise was time consuming, but nonetheless the enthusiasm of a core group of 30-day bloggers and an interest in finding out more about flickr led to #1pic1thoughtinAug as a group microblogging exercise. The idea behind this exercise was to post one picture a day to a flickr group set up for the purpose. Gradually, over the month of August the number of pictures in the group grew to over 600 and most of them come with a few words, a sentence or a brief paragraph describing why that particular picture had been chosen.
Just as twitter enforces brevity by its 140 character limit, so too did this exercise – more by it’s ‘everydayness’ than anything else. Gradually, bit by bit, those in the group learned a little more about both flickr and each other as the photo stories unfolded. Some photos were viewed by many but no comments were made, some were added to personal favourites, others inspired long ‘conversations’ in the comments. So grows my (professional) personal learning network, (PLN) day by day.
This week my libraryland twitter group has started talking about something called 12 second tv. I haven’t looked into this in much detail but the idea is to make a 12 second video, supported by the website that is then able to be used as video messaging and/or uploaded to twitter or facebook.
So, why do I love microblogging? After the very interesting but very time consuming #blogeverydayinjune (writing, reading and commenting on posts took a lot of time) I have found the microblogging of twitter and the flickr group a much easier way to keep up with professional colleagues. On a personal note, I realised that I have microblogged for years using my Facebook account and that status updates from far flung friends and family are the single best reason to stay as a Facebook user (I just didn’t know it was microblogging!). In terms of developing and keeping networks, whether professional or personal, microblogging options are quick and easy. The one-to-many nature of the tools makes keeping in touch with large networks easy.
My microblogging journey is only just beginning. Of course, I’d like to thank my PLN for much of my introduction to this stuff and for the things I know I will continue to learn from you – mostly through microblogging interactions. What do you use?
Yesterday I took myself on an excursion to UTS to hear Heidi Julien from the University of Alberta talk about information literacy. As part of preparing to write this post with my comments on the talk, I thought I’d revisit Miss Sophie Mac’s recent blog post on information literacy in context. Sophie says of information literacy (among other things):
I believe first and foremost that it’s important because information is experienced in socio-cultural context and outside this information has no meaning.
In the room yesterday, there was much debate about the many-sided subject of information literacy. Heidi Julien feels strongly that information literacy must always involve some aspect of learning as surfing the net for 20 years does not develop IL skills. However, the resource issues in libraries and the vast percentage of the population that do not have regular contact with instruction librarians (either academic, public or school) means that instruction cannot be the only way to deliver information literacy skills. Given that Heidi presented some pretty compelling research into the cost to business and community of low information literacy, it would seem that it is an issue for the wider community – leaving the question of how do we reach everyone?
Here’s some of the highlights (from my perspective) of the session:
- Does information literacy suffer because of it’s name? Who wants to be considered ‘illiterate’?
- If info lit = instruction, then we have to address the issue of pedagogy of teaching in library education, ie we don’t get pedagogical training yet we are expected to take on the role of librarian as teacher (hopefully the Reconceptualising LIS Education project will address some of this?)
- I met @misssophiemac
- Spotted @malbooth in the crowd tweeting away
- let’s work with Google, not against it – the students (and community in general) will use it, they may as well learn to use it properly and effectively evaluate the information they get out of it
- more networking! Got chatting to one new person, re-established contact with someone from the past
All in all, I had a great afternoon, was good to get the brain working on some abstract ideas, was refreshing to get out of the office and hear the thoughts and ideas of others. Oh, and I walked there from MPOW, so along the way snapped this pic of the old Mortuary Station on Regent Street at Central for the #1pic1thoughtinaugust project. I love this building.