Andrew Eynon’s Library Blog

A blog about librarianship in Further Education

Posts Tagged ‘Information Literacy’

Carrying out the library educator role

Posted by andrewey on February 5, 2009

Unit 7 of the Applications of ICT in Libraries qualification is ‘Carrying out the Net Educator role’. This unit is where library staff examine ‘teaching’ in the context of libraries.

The ‘net educator’ was a particular facet of the Peoples Network training in public libraries but given that many students on the ICTL course are from non-public library backgrounds I have generalised the title here to ‘library educator’.

The importance of this unit lies in the expansion in information skills/literacy delivery by all library sectors and the corresponding need for library staff to acquire ‘teaching skills’. 

The first element of the unit looks at identifying ‘training needs’. In fact the same principles can be applied to identifying any learner’s needs.  The tools that can be used to identify the learners needs include:

  • Direct observation – leave the learners to get on with the task and see how they fare without (much) prior instruction
  • Tests/questionnaires – can also be used to see how much learning has taken place if this is a follow up session
  • Consultation with tutors – ask the tutors about what skills/information the learners need most
  • Interview – ask the learners beforehand what they want from the session
  • Student work – see how the students are already applying information skills in their work
  • Appraisal records – for staff training, check if information skills are being  identified as a training need

The second element of the unit looks at learning styles, delivery methods and motivation of the learner. As regards learning styles many in FE will be familiar with the works of Honey & Mumford on this subject, who identified the following types of learners – activisits (those who learn by doing), reflectors (those who learn by reviewing what they have been taught), theorists (those who learn by knowing why something is done) and pragmatists (where learning varies according to what is being taught). For an interesting discussion of learning styles and strategies see Felder and Soloman. There is also a free online learning styles profiler.

It is best to use a variety of delivery methods when running information skills to cater for different learning styles (see my post on Sharon Markless’ recent “Developinging information literacy strategies” event for more ideas):

  • Demonstration – Sharon Markless suggests using demonstration to reinforce learning ie after a practical exercise rather than as an introduction
  • Group problem solving – facilitating discussion helps reflection and learning
  • ‘Chalk and talk’ – useful for imparting knowledge but not very proactive
  • Role playing – this is often the bete noire of library training but has it uses for staff training particularly using Library Management Systems, dealing with challenging behaviour, customer care etc
  • Practical activities – hands-on sessions enable learners to practice what has been demonstrated or taught 
  • Individual learning – particularly through the use of online content such as podcasts, video tutorials or other training material

It is also worth considering models of learning. The behaviourist model is best typified by Bloom’s taxonomy– which you will notice has similarities to the SCONUL seven pillars model of information literacy. A constructivist model is seen as more effective and enables more autonomy of learning ie learners don’t have to follow a sequential learning path. The constructivist model is best typified by Kolb’s learning cycle.

The unit also stresses the importance of keeping the learners motivated – issues to consider include:

  • Make sure what you are delivering is not at too high or low a level
  • Have the learners been compelled to attend?
  • How relevant is the session to each individual learner?
  • Does the session have clear learning objectives and have these been communicated to the learner?
  • How suitable is the learning environment (too noisy, dark, not enough computers etc)?

The unit also covers creating learning materials and support for learners. The final element of the unit looks at evaluating sessions and assessing the learner’s progress.

When evaluating sessions you need to consider quantitative and qualitative measurements:

  • Observation
  • Tests
  • Feedback forms
  • Learner competence
  • Learner confidence
  • Level of integration with the curriculum
  • Focus groups – of staff and students asking qualitative questions
  • Impact on student work

A very useful guide to delivering information literacy sessions (including many practical tips) is Cardiff University’s teaching Information literacy handbook.

Please leave a comment if you have any examples of  particularly effective ways of delivering information skills/literacy.

Posted in FE Libraries, ICTL | Tagged: | Leave a 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.

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

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.

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

Library 2.0 and English FE Toolkit dissemination events

Posted by andrewey on October 17, 2008

I’m doing a case study on our CyMAL Library 2.0 in FE project at the rescheduled ‘Sharing Made Simple‘ event at Bangor University on Thursday 6 November. There is a wiki with information on the previous ‘Sharing Made Simple’ event held at the University of Wales, Newport in September.

I’ll be talking specifically about the use of Web 2.0 in Information Literacy in FE at the ‘Developing Information Literacy – sharing good practice’ event at Cardiff University on Tuesday 4 November. Further details on this event can be obtained from Christine Clark, South East Wales RDO.

Steve Cropper from Wirral Metroploitan College and myself are doing a presentation on peer review and the new learning resources quality toolkitfor FE colleges at a CoFHE North West event at the Carlett Park Campus of Wirral Metropolitan College on Thursday  20 November. Details on this event should appear on the CoFHE NW webpages in the near future.

Posted in FE Libraries, Library 2.0 | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

September FE library update

Posted by andrewey on September 30, 2008


There were a couple of interesting articles on Web 2.0 in academic libraries published this month:

Sarah Cohen, ‘Taking 2.0 to the faculty‘, C&RL News, September 2008 – about persuading academic staff of the educational value of Web 2.0 tools.

Karen Markey et al, ‘The effectiveness of a web-based board game for teaching undergraduate students information literacy concepts and skills‘, D-Lib Magazine, Vol 14 (9/10) Sept/Oct 2008.


TechDis have published  a ‘Guide to obtaining textbooks in alternative formats‘ – there is also a database of publisher contacts to obtain such titles.

Information Literacy

Some useful sources of information on information skills delivery:

Journal of Information Literacy – full text is freely available, some useful book reviews in the current issue

ALISS (Association of Library & Information Professionals in the Social Sciences) – includes some good links on delivering information skills

The Internet Detective is now available as a Welsh language download to import into your VLE.

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

August FE library news update

Posted by andrewey on August 29, 2008

I’m going to post monthly updates providing short library news items which may be of interest to other FE librarians:

The new occupational standards for the Library Archives and Information Services (LAIS) sector have been published (LLUK have indicated that the standards will also be published in Welsh – depending on funding). As an NVQ co-ordinator I’m hoping that we will have the new qualification standards in place for the start of the 2009/10 academic year. The new standards also mean that staff working in the archives sector will be following the same qualification as library staff rather than having their own distinct set of occupational standards.

There is now an international Information Literacy logo which can be downloaded and used freely.

The new edition of the CoFHE Bulletin (No. 113) includes a write up of the CoFHE/UC&R conference workshop on using podcasting in education. If you would like to submit an article for the Bulletin please contact me.

The Learning resources quality toolkit for English colleges (which I have been working on with colleagues in England) is due for publication in September. The toolkit has been a joint venture between CoFHE and CoLRiC and was based on the successful toolkits produced for FE library services in Scotland and Wales. The English toolkit will be made available electronically via the Centre for Excellence in Leadership as well as CoFHE/CoLRiC. CoFHE also intends to publish the toolkit in hardcopy and to distribute it to all colleges in England.

I have also contributed to the revised Welsh learning resources toolkit which is due for publication, by fforwm, before Christmas (again the toolkit will be made available free of charge electronically and in hardcopy, in both English and Welsh, to all colleges in Wales). 

Work is also underway to revise the Scottish learning resources toolkit, which will apparently make reference to the use of Web 2.0 technologies – I do not know when this is scheduled for publication.

Posted in FE Libraries, Monthly news updates | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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 »

Library Web Quest week 7 YouTube

Posted by andrewey on July 30, 2008

This is the penultimate week of the Web Quest.

We are looking at producing a library induction video (which can go on YouTube) to support learners who are not able to attend a face-to-face induction. We have been using the Cephalonian method of face-to-face inductions for the last couple of years successfully – in the form of an interactive tour.

I have found a couple of FE library inductions on YouTube:

Stratford upon Avon College uses LRC staff and students to successfully promote the service.

Norwich College has a general college induction on YouTube, which includes a segment on the LRC. The video uses prompt cards rather than dialogue.

There are a couple of good examples from HE as well. The Library induction video from UWIC uses a member of library staff to talk through the facilities available.

There is also a very professional looking video from De Montfort University which uses students to promote the library service.

The other main potential use of YouTube (or other video clips) would be to teach information skills/literacy. At present there appear to be relatively few examples of this on YouTube and there seem to be none from FE. In terms of style there is a ‘talking head’ series from Bob Baker in the States on information literacy, much of which would be relevant to FE in the UK.

Or if puppets! are more your style try the humorous approach of Gareth Johnson. Gareth covers library staff training as well as information skills training for academic staff and students.

There are plenty of YouTube clips suitable for (library or academic) staff training. A good series on Web 2.0 which could be used by staff or students are available from Commoncraft.

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