Andrew Eynon’s Library Blog

A blog about librarianship in Further Education

Archive for the ‘Information Literacy’ Category

Simplified Digital Literacy skills audit

Posted by andrewey on August 12, 2011

Having conducted our intial Digital Literacy Skills audit with a number of students – both peer e-guides and their fellow student cohorts – we have significantly revised the initial set of audit questions.

The main issues with the initial audit were:

  • Too many questions – students found the initial 23 questions too long and repetitive (with questions seen as being  to similar)
  • Questions not linked closely enough to training/support materials – the new set of questions is clearly linked to support and training on offer making a much clearer diagnostic tool and providing a more manageable PDP for learners
  • Did not concentrate on core skills – web 2.0 skills were seen as cutting across other Digital Literacy skills and are no longer audited separately
  • Did not differentiate between different skill levels – the initial audit included questions relating to skills at different levels, these were unclear and contributed to learner confusion 

The initial results were surprising in that the weaknesses in Digital Literacy skills identified related to searching for information and effective use of Moodle rather than the expected areas which were Web 2.0, e-safety and use of the College ICT network. However given the survey was conducted in the spring then most students will already have acquired skills in relation to the basic use of ICT, Moodle and a greater awareness of e-safety issues.

The new audit includes only 7 questions but now has two skill levels built in (essential and desirable) with room to expand to a third level (‘nice to have’ skills). If learners positevely respond to the level 1 skills set then they will be prompted with the level 2 questions. Those who score weakly at level 1 will only be presented with those skills questions and corresponding PDP (of suggested training needs).

The initial and revised audit questions are contained in the attached spreadsheet

eGuide Audit v2 criteria

Posted in Digital Literacy, Information Literacy, PEDL | Leave a Comment »

Digital Literacy Skills Audit

Posted by andrewey on February 24, 2011

As part of our PEDL project we have developed a skills audit to give a baseline measure of the digital literacy skills of both our peer e-guides and their student cohorts. The e-guides and learners will retake the skills audit at the end of the project to measure the distance travelled.

We wanted a skills audit which was brief , simple to complete but which also indicated future training needs. We found the style of the skills audit used by Salford University ideal. We have now produced our own set of questions, based around the definition of Digital Literacy we are using, covering:

  • Use of College network ICT services
  • Moodle
  • Digital skills for learning – use of common application software
  • Information finding skills
  • Referencing and plagiarism
  • E-safety
  • Web 2.0 technologies

We are currently piloting the audit but aim to make it available online to learners for September.

Posted in FE Libraries, Information Literacy, PEDL | Leave a Comment »

What is Digital Literacy?

Posted by andrewey on February 18, 2011

For our PEDL project we have used the term Digital Literacy to represent a broad range of skills – specifically basic ICT skills, information skills and e-safety. This offers a potentially broader remit than Information Literacy. Furthermore, Digital Literacy is probably a more widely understood term outside the library community (particularly with the link to Digital Inclusion).

With regard to basic ICT skills we are focussing on the skills needed to make the most effective of the college ICT network (eg e-mail, file handling, basic applications software) and our Moodle VLE.

The Information skills strand will cover making effective use of internet searching, accessing e-resouces and referencing/plagiarism.

We will also have a cross cutting strand on the use of Web 2.0 tools in a teaching and learning context.

We found the following documents useful when defining Digital Literacy:

Digital Britain (DCMS and BIS, 2009), The Heart of Digital Wales (WAG, 2009), Digital Inclusion in Wales (Welsh Affairs Committee, 2009), Delivering Digital Inclusion – A strategic framework for Wales (WAG, 2010) and Thriving in the 21st century: learning literacies for the Digital Age (JISC, 2009).

Posted in Information Literacy, PEDL | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Peer E- guides and Digital Literacy (PEDL)

Posted by andrewey on February 15, 2011

Firstly, apologies for the lack of activity on this blog over the last 12 months or so.

However, I am going to make regular use of the blog to post the findings of a JISC e- learning project I’m currently managing.

The project works on the assumption that learners gain much of their ICT knowledge from their peers rather than from formal training.

Consequently we will train up student peer e-guides to provide informal ICT and information skills support and, most importantly, to use the e-guides as advocates for the support available through the Library & Learning Technology Service.

Posted in FE Libraries, Information Literacy, PEDL | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Delivering information literacy in FE

Posted by andrewey on January 29, 2009

Sharon Markless, Kings College London, delivered a thought provoking session on developing a strategic approach to delivering information literacy at a North Wales Libraries Training Group event (at Coleg Llandrillo on 28 January).

Sharon started her session by defining what we mean by Information Literacy (IL) and discussing ways of selling this concept to senior managers or academics. This included what we in FE would normally describe as information literacy ie finding, evaluating and comparing information sources. Sharon also defined IL as critical thinking and metacognition (enabling independent study).

Sharon hghlighted some important common failings of IL delivery in FE and HE:

  • Emphasis on searching (rather than evaluation)
  • About promoting library resources rather than meeting the user’s needs
  • About  ‘how to do’ rather than engaging in critical thinking

Sharon dispelled some common notions of IL delivery such as the idea of generic or transferable IL skills. Sharon highlighted research which has shown that IL mush be contextualised in order for students to learn the skills and to see their relevance/application. In order to achieve this it was  argued that IL resources and sessions should not be sequential but rather should allow users to select elements that were relevant to them.

In terms of practical delivery it was suggested that demonstrations (of software) should be given after the student has had hands-on experience or undertaken an activity, as that is a better method of reinforcing learning, rather than at the start of the session. In order to produce ‘constructive learning’ IL sessions the following techniques were suggested:

  • Encourage discussion to share ideas
  • Set ‘real world’ tasks
  • Provide support material in a variety of formats (including videos and podcasts)
  • Enable ‘focused feedback’ 
  • Encourage reflective practice

Sharon also made some suggestions as to how Web 2.0 tools can be used in delivering IL:

  • Wiki subject guides
  • Student created podcasts to guide others
  • Genre based social networks
  • Tagging to personalise searching
  • Virtual Tutorials (using Second Life)
  • Use of video/photo sharing

Finally the importance of collecting evidence to demonstrate the success of IL delivery was discussed. These were divided into quantitative outputs and qualitative impacts. Both of which avoided the ‘busyness’ (ie usage) type statistics usually favoured by libraries:

  • Evidence from student work/assignments
  • Focus groups with tutors and students identifying qualitative benefits (we have used the MLA’s ILFA framework to good effect in this context)
  • Activities/tests undertaken as a result of the IL sessions to gauge competency
  • Evidence of engagement with the curriculum eg take-up
  • Change in nature of student enquiries

Posted in FE Libraries, Information Literacy | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

How FE libraries can help develop critical thinking skills and support independent study

Posted by andrewey on January 8, 2009

Developing critical thinking skills and creating a culture of independent study is seen as central to higher education studies – and it could be argued that it is the development of these abilities which distinguishes study at HE level from that at further education level.

There is an article in the current issue of Journal of Information Literacy: C. Gunasekra ‘Fostering independent learning and critical thinking in management higher education using an information literacy framework’  Vol 2 (2) Dec 2008, which looks specifically at developing critical thinking skills amongst HE level management students. I would argue that some of the skills identified in the article, which are central to critical thinking and independent study, also have relevance to FE students  – so what can be be done by FE libraries to develop these skills?

The article refers to the Australian information literacy standards, which seem very similar to the SCONUL 7 pillars model, but makes particular  reference to collecting and using primary sources of information – which unfortunately is uncommon in FE but the information literacy standards themselves are still relevant.

Firstly students need to know what information they need to find. This can be very difficult for library staff to support if a student is unclear (or not specific enough) about what it is they are required to find information on. However standard library enquiry/interview techniques should produce some search terms/parameters. An excellent guide to library enquiry techniques for frontline staff is Tim Buckley Owens’ Success at the enquiry desk, 5th ed, London: Facet 2006. Interview techniques are also covered on the Applications of ICT in Libraries course.

Secondly, finding the information. This may simply require instruction on the use of the catalogue and it pays to have links on your catalogue to e-books, electronic subscriptions and other useful e-resources.

The weakness with information seeking could be that we rely on promoting the resources we’d prefer the students to use (particularly those we’ve paid subscriptions for) and offering instruction only on those. However the reality is that most students are probably heavily reliant on using Google to find information. Studies (such as those carried out by Ofcom) have shown that young people are very confident using the web but are not necessarily very competent,  so do require instruction on how to search for and evaluate online resources.

Personally, I have always found that information searching sessions work best where the students have something specific to search for, rather than trying to use generic examples. It’s also worth waiting until the students need to search for that information rather than putting on sessions at the very start of a course before they have had time to ‘find their feet’ and may be suffering from ‘information overload’. When delivering sessions the inclusion of subject specific resources is obviously better than relying solely on generic resources such as Infotrac etc but just getting students to follow the relevant Virtual Training Suite tutorial will give the session a more ‘tailor-made’ feel.  

Thirdly, how are students taught to evaluate websites? On the ICTL course for library staff most units involve evaluating online resources in terms of their authority, bias, currency, relevance, level, sufficiency etc. So although library staff may be well versed in evaluating resources how do we encourage students to do so? A simple method is to encourage students to use a checklist, like the one produced by Cardiff University. Cardiff have also produced a very useful flow chart for students to use when searching for information.

Fourthly, collecting and managing the information. This is important to avoid students being overloaded with information and to make sure that sources are correctly cited (and can be located again). Libraries can support this through the use of citation/referencing tools (some of which are free like Citeulike and Connotea) – although this may be too formal for many FE students simply wishing to reference web based sources.

Fifthly, applying the information and comparing/contrasting different viewpoints. This is probably the most challenging skill to teach – HE students at Coleg Llandrillo are encouraged to use Alastair Bonnett’s How to argue, 2nd ed, Harlow: Pearson, 2008 which offers clear advice on presenting an argument and dealing with conflicting viewpoints. 

Finally the students need to be able to understand the context of the information, particularly in terms of issues such as culture, law, ethics, economics and social mores. This is probably best left to teaching staff in order for them to provide the correct contextual information to the students.

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Information Literacy in Further Education

Posted by andrewey on November 11, 2008

I was speaking at an event ‘Developing information literacy’ at Cardiff University last week, which looked at how different sectors were approaching the issue of delivering information skills.

In FE although we do sessions on information skills which are very similar to those run in HE (particularly on what might be regarded as ‘research skills’) we also offer more general support in the realms of information skills.

Some of the areas I highlighted of relevance to FE were:

  • Raising awareness – learners need to know which resources are available (before being shown how to use them)
  • Finding sources of information – knowing where the resources are
  • Access arrangements – which can be accessed on campus, which require Athens authentication and how to get an Athens account
  • Using the library catalogue – how to search, how to renew/reserve online, how to find and access e-resources via the catalogue
  • Library Orientation – finding your way around the library, gaining a basic understanding of how material is grouped under Dewey and why material relating to a course may be in more than one location.

 These issues were echoed by the speakers delivering information skills to school pupils.

By contrast there were case studies of information literacy delivery at Cardiff University (which pioneered the Cephalonian method of induction). The definition of information literacy used there is based on the SCONUL 7 pillars model (derived from Bloom’s taxonomy) – which places the emphasis on ‘evaluating’ and ‘understanding’ information sources.

In most cases the average FE library user is at or below the lowest level of the SCONUL model in terms of their prior knowledge of information skills – hence the emphasis required in FE on awareness raising of the resources available.

Of course with the high number of HE in FE students that we also cater for there is the challenge of raising their information literacy to level 6 on the SCONUL model (assuming level 7 relates to research students). 

Cardiff University does provide an impressive range of resources to support information literacy including an excellent handbook on teaching information skills and good use of web 2.0 tools such as podcasting.

In terms of tackling information skills delivery there was an interesting post on Mark Hepworth’s blog –  ‘Information Literacy diagnostic questions’. Many of the questions Mark poses would also apply to information literacy with students in FE such as knowing which key words to use and how to correctly search the information sources available (and Mark gives many examples of search strategies). I also like the point about using informal sources of advice first such as friends, family etc. It’s noticeable that resources recommended by friends (as well as tutors) are the ones most often requested.

If you have found any particularly effective ways of delivering information literacy in FE then please leave a comment.

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Using screencasts in Information Literacy

Posted by andrewey on August 14, 2008

There seems to be a great deal of scope for video material to be used to support the delivery of information literacy/skills within FE – as a backup to face-to-face support/sessions. As noted in an earlier post, there is little on YouTube on information literacy. The time commitment involved in producing videos has meant that we were only actively considering making an induction video. However, in looking at the development of Web 2.0 tools I have come across a quick and simple means of producing information literacy videos (relating to the use of online resources) – screencasts. This medium is already widely used – and there are examples of FE library services using it eg Carnegie College (Dunfermline).

In essence this involves the use of screencapture or screenshots to create a video. This can be done far cheaper, simpler and quicker than producing a film. This method still allows for the addition of an audio track (although this is not essential) but does not require any filming as such. This can result in fairly sophisticated videos being produced using screen capture or using screenshots as stop frame animation. In their simplest form the videos are akin to an automated Powerpoint presentation with an audio commentary.

Although sophisticated packages are available to capture images of keystrokes and produce professional looking videos I’ve been using the Microsoft Movie Maker software which is bundled free with Windows XP and Vista. The software is very simple to use – I’d made my first video within an hour of opening the software. The version with Vista does seem to produce better quality videos and includes more features (such as the ability to zoom in on an image). 

For the screenshots I used Paint Shop Pro simply so that I could capture parts of the screen and save the images in a variety of file types (png seemed the best for quality and file size). Again screenshots can be made using Windows (Prt Sc/Alt Prt Sc) without specialist software and Microsoft Picture Manager can be used to crop the captured screenshots (and save them as jpeg or png filetypes). If you want to add audio, all you need is a microphone because Movie Maker includes the facility to record the narration. I used a digital voice recorder, as we have one in the library to record our focus groups, which allows you to record segments of audio which is easier to sync with the images.  There is also the facility to add titles before, after or superimposed on any image.

As a Web 2.0 tool the screencasts can be shared (via YouTube or similar) and commented upon. They are highly accessible given the ubiquity of YouTube – you can also access the videos on mobile technologies. The quality of the video material when it has been compressed on YouTube is not as suitable for demonstration purposes to a group but it is perfectly adequate for individuals to follow. There is also scope for colleges to share the Movie Maker project files so that videos can be customised and produced very quickly (particularly given the relatively small range of online resources that most FE colleges subscribe to). File sizes are manageable- the high quality version of a four minute video is around 10 to 12Mb so can be held on a VLE and accessed easily.

 Here is my first attempt at creating a screencast video with audio (and only the second time I’d used the software). The whole process took no more time than if I’d have produced a written guide including screenshots.

The library service is producing similar videos on our key online resources:

  • Athens authentication system
  • Talis Prism library catalogue
  • Infotrac – online journals and newspapers
  • Dawson Era – E-books database
  • MyILibrary – E-books database

When the videos are finished I will post a link to their permanent home. If you can recommend a reasonably priced screencasting software package which can follow the pointer/cursor and allow for the addition of a separate audio track and/or you have used screencasting successfully in your library please leave a comment.

Posted in Information Literacy, Inspiring Learning | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »