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Padlet and Flipped Learning in Information Skills Training (by Emma Shaw)

Emma Shaw is the Library Manager and Liaison Librarian (Medicine) at Imperial College London. I while ago I saw her tweeting about the use of Padlet in her teaching sessions - students were using it in groups to come up with search strategies for healthcare-related databases. I like Padlet anyway, but I loved this use of it - so immediately beneficial, practical, and indeed stealable! So I asked Emma to write a guest post about the whole process, and she kindly agreed. Here's an example of the use of padlet she examines below.


I’m a Liaison Librarian at Imperial College London supporting medicine, along with another 4 Liaisons. Amongst a heavy timetable of information skills training for undergraduates and postgraduates, we have for several years been running a couple of Library skills workshops which are embedded in the MBBS Medicine course timetable for the 1st year medical students. We were using the traditional presentation slides telling them about the Library and how to access it, along with a hands on database searching component using the PubMed database. The database searching was taught in the form of a paper based tutorial handout. The students would sit in the computer lab and work through it for 20 minutes whilst also having the opportunity to ask questions. More recently I would go away and wonder whether they would really apply what we were teaching, in the format we were using. I asked myself if it was really meaningful for them, particularly as it was all new to them and we were teaching them how to look up research on a database, when they hadn’t even started using journal articles yet.

The other reason it got me thinking was, Information literacy is not an obvious skill that screams out ‘you need me in your life’ so you therefore need to convey it to the students in a way that makes them realise that they do. Especially when they have other priorities and a timetable jam packed with medical training. I’ve learned and observed over the years of teaching information skills that, in order for them to understand its direct use, to see its value and engage, they need to see it in context. When I say in context, I mean actually directly relating what they are learning in front of them, to a specific area in their coursework or even clinical practice. Rather than just telling them this is stuff they need to know now and in the future. This led me to question if, our presentation slides and paper tutorial were engaging and putting it in context enough. Could there be a better way of delivering the content so they engage with us, and see its direct value?

Feedback from the students about how we could develop the session included comments like:

“Maybe have an example of an assignment similar to what we would have this year and show how we might use online resources for researching that assignment.”

 

“Interactively doing it together with the students instead of following instructions on a page.”

This made it apparent that we were right to question this, and that it was a good time to reconsider the delivery of our training. We could see why PowerPoint slides were just not cutting it anymore, they needed interaction and context to stay engaged. On top of this, in the MBBS Medicine course, they were already being presented with e-learning modules, and using different teaching methods and technology. I could then see that very shortly our presentation slides and paper based database tutorial was not going to be enough anymore, and that our sessions were in danger of becoming irrelevant. We needed a fresh and new approach.

I had various sources of inspiration for revamping the workshops. We just so happened to have a visit from Caroline Pang, Director of the Medical Library at Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Singapore. One of Imperial College London’s partners. She demonstrated what library training they offered for Medical students. This consisted of initial training on the Library and database searching. They were then given a clinical question from the course tutors, and had to work together in groups to form the best search strategy to answer it. She had a whole day dedicated to this project as well as the presence of the tutors. This looked like a really good approach, not only was it more engaging by getting the students to actively search for a given question, but it was also relevant to the course content so they could directly see its value. If we wanted to do something similar however, the problem we faced was we only had 1.5 hours for each session!

It was then one day at a meeting with tutors from the MBBS Medicine course that, the idea of Flipped learning was presented to me. I won’t go in to too much detail about it as you can find a very good definition here by Professor Dilip Barad (Ph.D.). It’s essentially where work is given to the students to be done before the session e.g. a video lecture, or tutorial to work through. The session is then dedicated to applying the knowledge they have learnt from the pre-sessional work, through activities and group work and allowing them to ask questions. In this way it becomes student centred learning as opposed to trainer centred.

To be honest the flipped learning approach initially filled me with dread! There was the worry of giving them pre-sessional work to do with the risk of them not doing it.  It also seemed like a lot of work and preparation, as well as the fear of having to get the students in to groups and managing them. Also having many other duties aside from training, it’s very easy to just slip in to the habit of repeating the same old slides each year. It’s easy, it’s safe. However, if it would improve engagement it was worth a try, and I thought this would be an excellent model for our teaching. It would allow us to save some time in the session by getting the students to do the straight forward PubMed tutorial before the session. This would then allow us to try out the database searching exercise in groups, which we didn’t think we would have time for. We could dedicate time in the session to getting them to do real searches on PubMed, using related topics in up and coming assessments, with the trainers feeding back to the groups as they did the searches. This would allow for more engagement and they would directly see the use of searching a database, by pulling up relevant articles that could be of use for their assessments.

The final plan for the session consisted of an online PubMed database tutorial created using Articulate software. This was essentially a series of online slides taking the students step by step through using PubMed, which we hosted on the Blackboard platform. We emailed the students a week in advance via the Medical School to ask them to do the online tutorial before the session. To encourage them to do it, we mentioned that it would be for a group exercise in the session. We then sent a reminder a couple of days before the session for good measure. Some good advice I got from an e-learning technologist was to give them an approximate time of how long the tutorial would take, so they could plan it around their schedules. We aimed for 30 minutes which we thought they would see as achievable.

For the session, we refined our slides on the Library induction section. We then did a brief summary of what they should have learnt from the PubMed tutorial and gave an opportunity for questions. There was some debate on what to do if the students didn’t do the tutorial before the session. Should we include a more detailed summary in case, or would we run the risk of disengaging the students because of the duplication of information? We decided to go with a very brief summary just confirming points from the tutorial. We would then play it by ear and adapt the session if necessary. We then presented them with a search question related to a future assessment and arranged the students in to small groups and asked them to come up with a search strategy for that question. To provide the students with more feedback in the session and to give it a competitive edge (another bit of advice from a tutor that they liked competition!), we added some blended learning in to the mix. We used an online tool known as Padlet for the groups to add their search strategy to, for which we could then feedback to all the students how they all got on with the task. An example from one session is below.

 An example of a Padlet board, used by the students to detail search strategies

An example of a Padlet board, used by the students to detail search strategies

The first sessions we ran in 2016 went very well and we had over 80% of the 320 students do the pre-session tutorial. As it was successful we ran it again last year in 2017 and over 90% of the students did the pre-session tutorial. The group exercises went well, and we could really see the students engaging with the task and coming up with good search strategies.

The feedback was mainly positive and gave the impression that our new teaching method was working. The following comments were from 2016:

“Clear explanations; the delivery was concise. The activities helped us put the skills into practice.”

“It's really nice to practice searching in class and in group and it really helps when comparing different searching methods within groups.”

Some Feedback from 2017:

Expanded on the pre reading material and explained things more clearly and gave sufficient exercises to ensure I actually understood the methods of searching databases”

“Learnt new and useful techniques for searching up articles. The session was interactive and fun. Everything was explained well and thoroughly.”

In terms of negative comments, in 2016 we had a few to do with some of the session’s content repeating parts of the pre-session tutorial. As these were our first sessions, we hadn’t yet got the balance right in terms of summarising the tutorial, so we then adapted this for the sessions in 2017 to avoid this. For the 2017 sessions, a few comments said it was a bit rushed, and they wanted more searching examples. They also struggled with some of the concepts like Subject Heading searching, and found it too advanced. This could potentially be because some of the students did not do the tutorial beforehand, but I think we perhaps also need to consider more about those students who learn at different speeds. This is a challenge when teaching 45+ students per session and with the time constraint. However, this is something to bear in mind for the next sessions, and to perhaps offer opportunities for optional follow up training on a 1-2-1 basis for those who require it.

Overall it’s been a real success. Not only do I put this down to the hard work by the Liaison team but, also down to the fact we had really good support from the tutors from the Medical School who always ensure to make it clear to students that information literacy is a crucial part of the curriculum. For anyone wanting to try Flipped learning, I would therefore always recommend getting the faculty on board. Despite all the preparation work, we also enjoyed delivering the session. It was a really good experience actually going around the room and engaging with the students and giving feedback, instead of mainly stood in front of PowerPoint slides and answering questions.

For anyone interested in looking at the session content, such as the online PubMed tutorial please feel free to get in touch.

A UX in Libraries Reading List

There's a new page in my navigation bar! UX is here.

Earlier in the month I called upon the ever-awesome network of twitter info pros to help me create a reading list to introduce someone to UX in Libraries - the part of User Experience focusing on ethnography and physical spaces rather than primarily on the online experience.

UX is a growing area but lots of people are still unfamiliar with it, so the aim of the list is to take a structured approach to introducing the topic, taking someone from a fairly straightforward definition right through to books, blogposts, presentations and journal articles that go into a lot of detail.

Lots of people came back with great suggestions and I said I'd make the list publicly available upon completion, so here it is. When you're looking for UX literature there's obviously a huge amount on website UX, so it's nice to have a concentrated list that's just about the library context.

UX in Libraries Resource List: A Structured Introduction to UX and Ethnography.

If you're wondering about tweeting a link to this blogpost you can use the sharing button at the bottom of the post, or you can use this one to tweet a link directly to the reading list itself instead if you'd prefer!

I created this primarily for the UX Intern about to start work at York for six weeks, who I'll be managing. I'm very excited about this - it's such a great opportunity to hit the ground running with some ethnography, and turn the ideas from the UXLibs conference into results for our own institution. The intern starts in August - I'll blog about how that all goes at a later date.

If you can think of a way to improve this reading list, please let me know! I've created a copy for our intern which I'll leave alone for the moment, so this public version can be amdended to and added to as much as people feel would be useful. I'm particularly keen on additions that you have specifically read / watched / viewed and found helpful, rather than 'I've heard this is good' type suggestions which might end up making the list too long and unwiedly...

REVY Article on saying 'no'

I like REVY, a very stylishly put together magazine / journal for info pros. They asked me to rework my just say no blogpost (which had some really interesting comments) from a while back into an article, which I was very happy to do! You can see the issue embedded below - mine is the first article - or find it on issuu.com here.


10 top tips to take your organisation's Twitter account up a level

My current column for Library Journal is all about taking a Twitter account to the next level. It's hard to keep organisational accounts progressing - a lot of them plateau after a while - so there's 10 golden rules to get you past that point.  

Image of the LJ column online

 

The 10 golden rules in brief, are:

  1. Only tweet about your library one time in four
  2. Analyse your tweets
  3. Tweet multimedia
  4. Tweet more pictures
  5. If something is important, tweet it four times
  6. Use hashtags (but don’t go mad)
  7. Ask questions
  8. Get retweeted and your network will grow
  9. Put your Twitter handle EVERYWHERE
  10. Finally, avoid these pitfalls .

Read the full article with expanded information about each rule, here.

Ridiculously excited to be interviewed in SLA Information Outlook

I love being a member of the SLA - although the word 'Special' in the title implies that it will be solely aimed at legal or business librarians, it actually has a large percentage of its membership coming from academic institutions like mine. Part of membership includes getting the magazine, Information Outlook. This is a really good trade mag - there's a lot of useful, intelligent, grown-up content there. My favourite part of it is the member interview section, 10 questions with... I've learned a lot from it (and loved reading Bethan Ruddock's one when she did it) so I was ridiculously excited to be asked to participate in it. I've done a few interviews now but, with the obvious exception of Circulating Ideas, they've all been via email. This one was a proper telephone conversation with Stuart Hales in Washington, which was taped and then transcribed. It was exciting doing it this way. I got a copy of the questions in advance, although we went off on different tangents in the conversation itself (Stuart told me a great wedding-crashing related tale which you should force me to tell you should we meet at a conference or in a pub...). I was a little bit apprehensive in the lead-up to it because the questions seemed slightly passive-agressive in a weird type of a way, but Stuart wasn't remotely like that in the actual conversation, so I think I just got an incorrect impression from them on paper!

We talk about marketing, the SLA itself (more on that below the interview), the Buy India a Library project, professional development, new technology, and taking a step back. (Whimsical tales of my ability to lead a walking tour of York are greatly exaggerated. :) ) Anyhow, here it is - it specifically says at the bottom of this page that it's for personal use only and not for reproduction, but I've got proper permission to use it, I promise...

 

Ned Potter Information Outlook Interview by thewikiman

 

If you're an SLA member you can read the whole July-August 2013 issue from which this came by logging-in here.

On the subject of the SLA, at the weekend I read this absolutely brilliant post about the organisation and the annual conference, by Penny Andrews. It articulated things I value about being a member which I didn't know I knew... It certainly seemed to chime with a lot of people judging by the Twitter response, so particularly if you're not an SLA member but have wondered about it, have a read.

I'm a member of both CILIP and SLA, and will continue to be so. I get different things from them - in some ways I feel that CILIP helped me more as I was growing up (which is partly why I'll keep paying my membership fees; I owe them) and SLA helps me more now I'm grown up. The SLA is / are a confident bunch, and very positive - perhaps this is partly because they are under less obligation to 'save libraries' than CILIP or the ALA, so there's a lot less hand-wringing. (Incidentally, I LOVE Penny's comments about MOOCs and gamification in that article!) There's a lot of money in the organisation (they work hard to build and maintain relationships with corporate sponsors) and quite honestly it's nice to be part of an organisation that can afford to do things with style and without an ever-present sense of worry about finances. The downside of this is that it is if you don't like wearing suits for work-related things, and aren't going to do so just to fit in (*raises hand*) you can feel under-dressed at the London SLA-Europe events! Penny talks about being treated as an equal at the conference in the US, regardless of the status of the person you're talking to - I'd agree with that, but if you start mixing with the sponsors in London, expect at least a couple of them to be baffled that dressing in a suit and schmoozing isn't your number one priority...

What the SLA does (in my view) is focus on making us into better, more effective information professionals. They can afford to focus on improving us, and let others worry about the Latest Big Library Crisis besetting the profession. Part of the way we can endure in libraries is to be really brilliant at our jobs - it feels like the SLA addresses making a practical impact in a very hands-on way, all of the time, rather than being side-tracked. The conference itself remains the greatest experience of my professional career - I'm over the moon to be going back, to Vancouver in 2014, to give a few talks and see everyone again, and generally drink up the atmosphere of niceness and happiness.

Here's the link if you're thinking of joining; I wish I'd done so earlier. I didn't sign up to the SLA previous to winning the ECCA which gave me a year of free membership, because of the cost. To spend a big chunk of money on something work related, especially after already paying for CILIP membership, is daunting. But it's based on a sliding-salary scale so you pay less if you earn less, and now as a proper fee-paying member from my point of view (and from that of all the members I've talked to), it's worth it.

Librarianship can be tough these days, but the SLA makes you feel good and gives you confidence - that's not a trivial thing.