Over the weekend I listened to the May instalment (ok, so I’m a bit behind) from the crew at Adventures in Library Instruction. If you haven’t heard this podcast and you are in anyway involved in information literacy training and/or instruction it’s worth at least having a peep (or hearing a peep if you want to be really technical).
As a learning tool, podcasts appeal to me for several reasons. I like audio and can engage in it more easily than reading (witness my raving about audiobooks), I can listen to it in the car which is good use of time that is otherwise dead to me and I get a sense of the personalities and people behind the information. I’ve been listening to ALI pretty faithfully since they started (well, since I read about it in PD Postings anyway – but I have heard all podcasts up to and including May this year now) and feel I’ve not only learned a lot but have had good insight into how other people do their jobs and WHAT they do for their jobs. This is particularly important for me as an OPL.
So why zombies? The May edition of ALI featured 2 librarians from the University of Florida who had organised library involvement in a campus wide zombie themed alternate reality game (ARG) and developed a libguide to zombies as a way of tapping into what the students were interested in but also getting some library and information literacy instruction into them as well. Have a look at this video the library produced as part of their involvement in the week long ARG:
It was a great episode of the podcast and this post doesn’t go even close to doing justice to the level of detail and involvement that went into this. While I can’t do anything like that here at MPOW (University of Florida has about 50,000 students and we have about 300!), the take home point for me was tapping into student culture – whatever that may be in your neck of the woods.
image: How to survive a zombie attack by Hryck via flickr
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
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
MPOW is a small organisation so when a problem calls for a fix-it team it’s not unusual for just about anyone who can contribute to end up on that fix-it team regardless of one’s actual role in the organisation.
And so I find myself on a marketing team of all things. We are commencing a marketing blitz for the SMIPA program I blogged about a few weeks ago and because I came up with a few suggestions in a casual conversation I’m now a member of a team that has been hastily thrown together to take advantage of some changes to the student visa rules this month.
I have done so much reading, research and application of new ideas this year on marketing the library, working with web 2.0 technologies, reaching the students, promoting library services to staff etc etc that I have had the confidence to speak up and propose some ideas. More importantly, I possess the skills and knowledge needed to implement those ideas, when other (mostly teaching) staff are scratching their heads wondering how to go about it. What a long way we have come from the ‘shhhh’ stereotype.
image: talk shows on mute by katie tegtmeyer via flickr
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
While this blog is meant to be recording such things as may be suitable to appear on my CV one day, I am taking the opportunity today to write about some of our students. One of the programs we run here at MPOW is called SMIPA. It’s a professional year program under the skilled migrant policy designed to assist accounting graduates in Australian cultural and workplace readiness and the all important final extra points needed to gain their PR (permanent residency for those of you not immersed in DIAC acronyms and abbreviations all day long like I am).
SMIPA is a great program. It runs for 45 weeks (part time, 2 days a week) and includes a 15 week internship out in the real workforce in the middle of it. We are certainly not the only SMIPA provider in the country, and nor do we run this program as a community service. Make no mistake, it’s profitable program and the competition for student dollars is very fierce.
Today, our 4th SMIPA cohort graduated. Within a week, these young adults will be able to submit their final PR applications and go on to enjoy their life in Sydney with a bit more certainty than they had under their student visas. While all our SMIPA students have at least an undergraduate degree and usually a Masters, this particular cohort of 15 were a particularly intelligent, lively, articulate, funny and friendly bunch of people and I sincerely wish them all the best in their endeavours. MPOW will be much quieter without them around.
image: Graduation Cake Guy by CarbonNYC via flickr
News today from the Library Journal’s Digital Libraries blog predicting the ultimate death of Amazon’s Kindle, particularly given the successful introduction of the iPad world wide. DL’s Roy Tennant argued in 2008 that he knows
“plenty of early adopters and none have confessed to having popped for something that simultaneously looks dorky and costs way more than an iPhone, which is arguably way more functional than a Kindle — including being able to read books.”
Some of this superior functionality is being taken up at academic institutions across the US, as faculty and libraries alike use the iPhone to help deliver lessons, materials and communications with students. As a librarian, I kind of like the idea of the students being able to look up my really handy guides to referencing while they are out and about or finishing an assignment in the wee hours. I just hope they’ve all got PDF converter apps on their smart phones so they can read said handy guides!
Now, I’m a newly converted iPhone fan, I held out for a long time, tutting that as I already had a mobile phone and an iPod I couldn’t possibly need an iPhone. I admit to some 8 weeks later being unsure what I would do without it. One of my colleagues came in to work on Monday this week with his brand new, shiny iPad and while I agree with fadgetry that yet again, Apple have managed to invent something nobody knew they needed until it came along, it’s not exactly handy, is it? Have you seen one? They are enormous (relatively speaking of course). I’ve seen smaller laptops and it certainly isn’t handbag friendly. The beauty of my iPhone is the capacity to stick it in my pocket, listen to an audio book on the train and not miss any phone calls (I am notoriously bad for not hearing the phone ring if it is more than 3 inches from me, just ask my kids) or messages, because it’s all integrated.
I can see that the larger sized iPad would make reading and watching videos easier than doing that on say, the iPhone – but I figure that that’s what I have books and a DVD player for…..
image: green apple by Y via flickr
Reading a post from World’s Strongest Librarian this morning, I was struck by the issue of communication in all its forms. Essentially, Josh (WSL) is cautioning us to listen to the question before we leap in to answer it, thinking that we know what they are asking. Often our own prejudices, judgements and experiences combine to give us what we THINK is the context – which doesn’t allow room for the other person to set their own context. There is a technique in the psycotherapy and coaching world called Clean Language that attempts to address these issues and I do not pretend to know anything more about it than I have read on those few pages.
However, the concept of ‘clean language’ in the sense of being clear, unambiguous and therefore unlikely to cause confusion fascinates me. As I posted yesterday, I am in the process of writing a glossary of library terms for the moodle course in information literacy at MPOW. There are dozens of glossaries available on the interwebs (and I have freely adapted and cribbed from most of them), so why am I going to the trouble of writing my own? Simply, the students at MPOW are all international students and most of the glossaries out there make assumptions about knowledge that I know my students don’t have. Back to ‘clean language’ – the more I read and adapt for the student population here, the more aware I am of the jargon we use unthinkingly in libraryland.
Everyday I face the challenge of writing for and speaking to our students in a way that doesn’t set out to confuse them, yet is respectful of their intelligence, articulate-ness and well read backgrounds – just not in my language. My motto is K.I.S.S.
image: communication by krossbow 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).