LILAC12: day 2

The first day at Librarian`s Information Literacy Annual Conference (LILAC) had been great and I was really looking forward to day 2! .. and here are my notes from that day.


I admit that I had never heard of Lord Puttnam of Queensgate until I read about him in the conference programme. He had several “groupies” in the audience, though, and as I followed the twitter stream I understood that I had been very ignorant indeed, not to have realised the fame of the man at the podium in front of us. Lord Puttnam started his keynote by saying that access really is not the issue anymore. Being able to use the information, though, is a currency – a currency that cannot be printed. The schools and libraries are vital to this point, Lord Puttnam said. The digital society is just that –  a society, and it is a learning society. We have yet to master all the conventions.

We need to teach our students the art of great oratory, Lord Puttnam said. It is like going back in time to the Ancient Greeks who put great emphasis on oracy. It is an art that must not be forgotten.

Technology has had very little impact on the educational sector, Lord Puttnam continued. A surgeon from 1912 would have no business in a modern operating theatre, but a teacher from 1912 could easily teach in many classrooms. If a teacher only uses technology to improve already existing methodology, there is no reason to suspect that she will get better results. We need a whole new digital pedagogy, not just a technology enhanced pedagogy, Lord Puttnam said.

Even though Lord Puttnam gave a good keynote, there was very little new there, I thought. No revolutionary new ideas and no real practical solution to some of the problems he mentioned. So, all in all.. ok, but nothing more, IMHO.

600 years and not standing still

St. Andrews University in Scotland is the third oldest university in the English-speaking world, and the librarians from St. Andrews were talking about the new start the library got about 5 years ago, when the leadership decided to invest in library and IT services as part of their research support “upgrade”. St. Andrews is a research intensive university and the leadership saw the need to improve academic support. The library got resources to get more staff, and they put together a liaison team to support the researchers. St. Andrews use a system called PURE (used by three libraries in the UK), which is a research information system. St. Andrews emphasises the use of and publishing in Open Access journals, and has put together a “Simple guide” as a starting point to discussions with researcher about these issues. They have also made a resource web site with information on publishers, open access, permits etc. They do not expect the academic staff to read all this information, but it is a place of reference where the librarians can advise the staff to look.

St. Andrews also have a journal hosting service. Second-year students are encouraged to send in articles to the journal “Ethnographic encounters”, and the articles are peer reviewed by fourth-year students. (What a great idea!)

Lesson study: Collaborating with fellow teachers to plan, observe, and reflect on lessons

Eric Jennings at University of Wisconsin(UW) presented findings from a project called “Lesson study”. A journal article from the project has been accepted to College and Research libraries, and will probably be published within a year. I`ll be on the lookout for it. This lecture was really interesting, and I can`t wait to test some of the ideas I got.

Lesson study originated in Japan, but has been embraced in the US. It is a method that looks to planning, teaching and observing and revising a specific session. (Cathrine Lewis is a well-known theorist within this field, and I will try to find the time to read at least “The essential elements of Lesson Study” published in Northwest Teacher in 2003, and “Lesson Study comes of age”). At UW, the librarians had observed that many of the students in “Freshman English”, who attended an information literacy session was overwhelmed by the jam-packed information load in the sessions. The students couldn`t keep up, thereby getting bored and lost interest. (A common problem for all who try teaching information skills on a “one-shot instruction” based programme, I think. We try to make the students “mini-librarians” in one hour= impossible.)

At UW they put together a team of librarians and teachers who decided to have a look at this lesson. They worked systematically and agreed on nine goals for the lesson. This was soon “boiled down to” two main goals that they called “focussed goals”. Basically it was about teaching the students where to go to search, and to be able to search for different topics. The students had to have some common ground before the lesson, and they therefore had to watch a movie on the Information cycle (made by Penn State University) before coming to the lesson. They also had to decide on a subject for their paper. This is important. They have to have an information need before class! (Couldn`t agree more, btw. How will you know where to look, if you don`t know what you`re looking for?) I cannot go in to details here about the content of the lesson. I hope that Jennings` slides will be available on the Lilac webpage, and you can have a look.

The students responded about there being too much talk/information from the librarian at the beginning of the class, and the librarians revised, breaking the lesson into shorter bulks. The students liked that they were able to find better keywords with real world examples, and the good discussions during the lesson. Most of all they liked the active learning. And that, said Jennings, is the most important thing.

One thing that I liked, and that I have actually already tested here, is that they paired the students in class, and the students got some minutes to explain to their partner what subject they were interested in. The partner then searched for articles that could be relevant, and chose one article for their partner. Great idea!

Reinventing classroom space to re-energize IL instruction

Suzanne Julien from Brigham Young University in the US talked about how the librarians at BYU had transformed the classroom that they were giving IL instruction in. The traditional instruction had been boring and the teaching librarian had felt “trapped on stage”. The library had recieved funds to buy chairs (have a look at them here) with table for laptops and “shelf” (in lack of a better word) to place bags on. They then removed all the traditional chairs and desks, and let the students organize themselves in groups (they could just roll around with their chairs:-). The classroom became much more flexible, the teaching librarian could move freely around and was able to guide the groups.

BYU also bought iPads that were used in these classes. The reason was that they wanted students to be able to move around without thinking about chargers and so on. Besides, having everyone on the same platform made it easier to teach. The iPads were charged on a separate charging trolley in the classroom, and the students handed in their student cards as a deposit for the iPads – this was to avoid spending time on checking the iPads in and out every time. One problem on the iPad, though, was that the students couldn`t take personal notes on them. The iPad is intended for personal use, and they do not work that well for multiple users. At BYU the students now use their own laptops most of the time.

The room`s layout now makes the students much more participatory and “chatty”, with each other and the librarian. The librarian is seen more as a guide than a traditional teacher now. BUT: demo takes more time. The students are looking down more, and it takes some time to get them to look at the screen.

Julien talked so well about this that I wanted to call my boss right away and ask him to buy these chairs and to get me a classroom where I could have them:-)

Conference dinner at the Old Fruitmarket - Glasgow

Conference dinner at the Old Fruitmarket - Glasgow

The last two lectures I attended that day where not that helpful to me, and I hardly have any notes about them, so I think I`ll leave them out.

Another great day at LILAC12! What a great conference this turned out to be!

The conference dinner that night was held at the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow, a really cool venue. The food was excellent and we had fun! Way to go, Lilac committee:-)

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