Archive for May, 2007

Cascading day

May 28, 2007

I recently attended a cascading day in our team at the end of May, which consisted of presentations and some discussion with the intention of passing on our pearls of wisdom to each other!

The first session was on International students. At this university one in 9 students is international and they pay more than twice the tuition fees of a ‘home’ student. For this reason, the university has a duty of care and an ‘enhanced duty of care’ to its international students. “C” went on to talk about guidance tutoring, the Chinese learning environment, and good practice.

What I learnt from this is that all of us who work in the university library have an obligation to make a special effort, be sensitive and responsive to any language difficulties and be patient and give additional support if their IT skills are not so good.

The next session was mine on ‘Diagnostic testing’. My presentation was a tad short at just under 15 minutes, but this ensured I held the attention of those listening! This covered the reason why we use it; what it is and some examples of good questioning technique. What I did learn from the ensuing discussion was that PDPs (Personal Development Portfolios) are political: the institution may consider them a useful indicator of a student’s development; whereas the student themselves may have other ideas!

A session on ‘Delivering Library Inductions via Streaming Media’ followed. I was a bit jealous of the presentation slides as I thought the template was better than the one I used! I learnt quite a lot from this session as the topic was new to me. “S” talked about what streaming video is and gave an example of www.youtube.com A case study was presented: CAETE at the University of Colorado where lectures are recorded for distance learning students using Tegrity software (which apparently, is similar to Microsoft Producer).

The methodology was to choose two different courses for delivering a pilot library induction for Engineering and for Telecommunications students. The satisfaction responses indicate that the results were the same for ‘live’ induction and for streaming video sessions. There are both advantages and disadvantages of both systems, but video streaming is something our team could consider to supplement our face to face induction sessions.

The next session started with a summary of ‘what is a normal student’? This opened up my eyes to what definitions fit the concept of diversity, the most obvious of which are international, disabled, single parent, but the definition was a lot wider than this. “J” asked each one of us to talk about our school/college/employment experience/professional development/major life events – presumably to illustrate how different we all are. I didn’t get so much out of this session other than to have a nosey into people’s lives!

By this time (phew) you must be exhausted by reading all this, we had a very welcome interlude, a welcoming lunch and a short trip outside into the sunshine.

The afternoon kicked off with a session on ‘E-learning programmes – designing and evaluating.’ I was a little sleepy after lunch, but it was a useful session which consolidated what I already knew on e-learning.

The most uplifting and dynamic session of the day was the penultimate one on ‘Interactive Whiteboards.’ I was impressed by the demonstration as I’m not as offay with the technology as the presenter was! I can see how our inductions can sometimes be a bit dry and static and how this technology could make our induction sessions more interactive and fun for our students. For example, the traditional problems of whiteboard demonstration ensued, when volunteers started to spell words incorrectly and when some hand-writing looked like that of a three year old!

The last session was a photo presentation of different examples of interactive technology for collaborative learning at two different universities in the West Midlands. This was quite interesting to see how other university libraries address this need for collaborative learning and some lively discussion came out of this.

All in all, a useful day’s training but somewhat exhausting. Lots of food for thought to take away with us. The sessions I got the most out of were the ones on streaming media and interactive whiteboards as these introduced me to technologies I was not so familiar with. But I could see how both could be used to make induction sessions more dynamic and engaging for students and hopefully create an atmosphere in which students want to learn about what the library has to offer!

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Windmill for Skills Workshop

May 20, 2007

I attended a CDG workshop recently at the end of April about skills. The trainer “Claire” outlined her varied career history from college to industry, from university to consultancy. She challenged us to start thinking about the skills we need to acquire in our profession and to get us thinking beyond our daily job to broader skills.

 She introduced us to a Business Excellence Model which describes a useful framework of 4 P’s:

  1. Product
  2. Process
  3. Partnership
  4. People

She used the analogy of a ‘windmill’ (hence the title of the workshop) to illustrate the 4 P’s in this framework. It was explained that skills are what drives the processes in an organisation, and without this, the organisation would end up with a deskilled workforce, it could lose its customer base, and staff would not be able to learn new skills.

At the beginning of the workshop, the participants were asked to stand on an imaginary line between 1 and 10 according to how aware they were of the skills they need to acquire. Needless to say, most people congregated down the lower end showing they had little knowledge of the skills they need to acquire. Hence the need for this workshop.

 After the presentation, we were each given a paper windmill on which to write the 4 P’s on each blade. I realised that I wasn’t very good at putting together a paper windmill! Thankfully, we were asked to swop ours with one belonging to someone else – so I gave my tatty one away to get a better one back!

 We broke up into 4 groups and circulated to cover all 4 scenarios/case studies of the workshop.  Each case study represented one of the 4 P’s and outlined a situation where you had to consider which skills you would need to make it work well.  One example, which represented Partnerships, was a Polish Information Day and the skills needed by library staff to make such an event work.

 Our group thought of these ideas: to try and find out who was head of the Polish community, so research skills and networking skills; talking and listening to people; planning and organisational skills; marketing and publicity skills. Events which could be laid on include dances, national costume, food etc.

After feedback on this group work, we reconvened to stand on the line again of knowledge of the skills we need. This time, many more people congregated near the upper end, near the 9’s and 10’s showing that the workshop had met its objectives. To reinforce what we had learnt, we were asked to write 2 skills on the back of each blade of the windmill. What was a bit scarey was that we had to write 2 of these skills on the back of a self -addressed postcard, which was going to be posted to us 6 weeks after this training session, to remind us of what skills we should have been developing.

Overall, a thought-provoking and imaginatively designed workshop which encouraged us to think about broader skills beyond our daily job. A tasty buffet (I felt rather greedy as I’d already had lunch) rounded off the afternoon and an opportunity to network with other participants from other information sectors.

A design course, but without the software

May 12, 2007

I recently attended a ‘How to Design Attention-Grabbing Brochures and Newsletters’ course at the end of April. An earlier rise than usual, I had a brisk walk down to the training venue. I was hoping to pick up some useful tips and ideas of how to improve my design work. Before attending this course, my previous experience of design work had been to use clipart in Word!! But as I was soon to discover this course was about good design principles, but had nothing to do with software.

Our trainer was an American from Wisconsin, (I’ll call him Gerry) who had flown over first class on his frequent flyer miles. At first, I noticed his ‘funny’ American accent, but after about an hour or so, this didn’t matter any more.

The first part of the day covered the planning stage of the design process, most of which was not new to me.  After breaking for lunch and a delicious Panini in a nearby pub, the afternoon got down to the nitty gritty. The trainer, Gerry, covered with us other aspects of the design process, including how to create an image; type and the difference in readability between serif and sans serif font; design space such as white space and sidebars and layout.

 

Gerry had plenty of examples of leaflets, magazines and adverts to show us, some of which were good examples of design and some bad! When there was a fire alarm test, that temporarily knocked out the power supply and Gerry’s Powerpoint presentation, Gerry ably showed us how a trainer needs to be flexible, and how you need to have something up your sleeve when technology lets you down!

 

There was one group activity, which involved three different groups thinking up a snappy headline for three different gadgets, based on FAB analysis ( Feature – Advantage – Benefit). I think the snappiest headline that one group devised for ear plugs for an MP3 player was ‘Orchestra in your ears’ and the headline for a digital camera was ‘Powerful petit performer’ (which may be more suitable for a car!)

 

The course participants came from a very diverse range of organizations, including schools, libraries, GP surgeries, an insurance company, and so I thought it was a shame that there wasn’t more group work – where we could have benefited from each other’s experience.

 

The last aspect of design work covered was the importance of colour and how colour can enhance a publication. It was also interesting to learn how different colours mean different things in different cultures. For example, in the UK, the colour black is worn at funerals, in Japan it is white and in South Africa it is red! I learnt that the colour blue is the least offensive colour and this made me realize why in the library where I work, we often use blue for our publicity posters, so that it is fitting for a diverse international student group.

 

A brisk walk back home, it had been a useful training day and I hope that I can take ideas from this course and apply them to my own projects I will work on.