Tuesday, 28 July 2009

M-Learning Au Revoir.....(hopefully not for too long!)

Well I can’t believe how quickly nine months has come and gone. This week is the final week of my (official) m-learning research for LJMU and I must admit I’ll be sad to see it go…

Hopefully I will be able to continue with an element of m-learning research upon return to my substantive post. I will definitely continue writing my blog but on more official terms I have been put forward to complete a SEDA Accreditation in Supporting Learning with Technology so fingers crossed that I am able to see it through! Further to this, I have been asked to write a couple of short articles about the mobile roving pilot I have overseen here at LJMU over the past 3 months (Refer and MmIT – CILIP stuff!) so all being well I should be able to start disseminating the project to a wider audience.

So what have been the highlights over the past nine months?

*Starting a blog
*Overcoming the hurdle of my first non-LJMU presentation
*Overcoming the hurdle of my first non-LJMU presentation at an international conference
*Attending LILAC for the first time (and getting my first article published)
*Attending m-Libraries for the first time (and going all the way to Canada in the name of hard work – with the possibility of having a paper published in the next m-Libraries book)
*Graduating – MSc Information and Library

Over the course of the research I have developed professionally on a huge scale, I feel as though I have found my ‘niche’ in the library/educational technology world and would love to be able to follow the m-learning route in a library, learning and development setting. I have gained great confidence when delivering presentations and would love the opportunity to develop these skills in student support contexts also. I love keeping a blog and interacting with fellow ‘tweeters’ on Twitter also – tweeting at conferences is definitely something I have started to see the benefits in!!!

It’s such a shame all good things have to come to an end. Hopefully it won’t be for too long though…

Monday, 29 June 2009

M-Libraries 2009 – The Round-Up

Last week I was in Canada for the m-Libraries Conference 2009…so was the 13 hour travelling time worth it…was the jet-lag an okay price to pay…were the extensive call charges back to the UK worth their money…OF COURSE!! I have not been to many residential conferences but I would have to say that m-Libraries have really pulled it out of the bag. Previously I have had experiences of being ‘conference snubbed,’ that is, you begin talking to someone, when they find out you are not quite of the stature they had anticipated they hastily make their excuses to go and find someone that more suits their ‘mould.’ M-Libraries was not at all like this, other delegates were genuinely interested in hearing about my work and there was a sense of solidarity amongst delegates in their quest to adopting more mobile futures within their institutions. Everyone was keen to share knowledge and experience and that is something that will stay with me for a very long time.

The conference was organised yet laid-back. Let me explain. The registration desk staff were always extremely helpful in advising delegates on the UBC Campus, m-Libraries Conference or Vancouver itself. They knew what was happening and where and were always happy to help. There were tours to attend, an evening trip out to Granville Island and a Conference Banquet. There were bountiful breakfasts of baked goods (not good for the waistline!), plenty of fresh fruit and local produce and lots and lots of strong black coffee!! The days were packed with numerous sessions in which delegates were free to chose which path they would like to follow – you didn’t have to book into particular sessions, you could do as you pleased. There was a fun Twitter back channel tweeting the event – through which I met new Twitter friends, and actually got the chance to meet in person with a few ‘old-time’ tweeters that I’ve been in contact previously with. There was no mad rush for the dinner queue with elbows out as with some conferences, nor was there actually much of a wait time as everyone ambled along, talking to old friends and new.

I presented on the second day of the conference and was pleased to have attracted a friendly looking crowd – many of whom I’d sat with over breakfast, lunch or tea and already given insights into my research – it was lovely to have their support.

The sessions I attended were thought-provoking. During the conference I realised how well we’ve done at LJMU in actually trying to drive a more mobile agenda forwards…I would say we are now at the forefront of this m-learning group which is obviously brilliant for us as an institution. Furthermore, this gives us the opportunity to lead the way, rather than simply follow others. Already, I have several contacts who would like to read the project report and follow up bits and bobs from the conference. The second strand of the m-learning research (student support with mobile devices) has also really created a stir with a lot of people requesting access to the second report when it is finished.

The m-Libraries experience has really raised my confidence in my own ability. I had a lovely time, met some lovely people and hope to keep in touch with lots of them, helping to raise the profile of the m-learning project as much as possible.

The m-Libraries week was a funny old week. There I was half way across the world, in a brand new country, presenting at an International Conference, I had notification that I had been awarded a 1st for my MSc dissertation – I was on a mid week high. Then the following day whilst sat at the airport waiting to return home, the tragic news of Michael Jackson’s sudden passing flashed up on a TV screen. I think it would be imprudent to gloss over such a monumental moment in history, even though it does not directly relate to the m-Libraries Conference, I will never forget where I was when I found out Michael Jackson had died.

And on that note, I must say a massive thank you for Sue Thompson for her continued support of the m-learning research, without her faith in the project and kindness I would never have been given such an amazing opportunity……

M-Libraries 2009 - The Concurrent Sessions (Day 2)

Day 2 was a day of interesting facts – good for those who enjoy a bit of trivia or like to partake in the odd pub quiz…

Parveen Babbar and Seema Chandlock from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), India
On the second day I attended a very interesting session delivered by Parveen Babbar and Seema Chandlock from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), India. Firstly think about this for an amazing statistic – IGNOU are the largest University in the world with 1.85 million students. Phew!

India is the 2nd largest mobile market in the world with approximately 10 million new subscribers per month. The mobile market benefits from information access, wherever, whenever and this limitless access provides unique opportunities for the education sector. Furthermore, the interactive capabilities of such devices offers up an interesting dynamic also.

Research at IGNOU indicates that their users want to be able to access a whole host of things via their mobile phone. They want to know (amongst others) their enrolment status (82%), exam times (82%), previous year question papers (90%), library OPAC (60%). They want to access services such as library databases, reference/enquiry help, mobile library circulation, moblogging and video conferencing. As you can see the scope for more mobile mediums is huge at IGNOU. This is even more advanced that the types of m-learning content/activities students at LJMU are asking for.

With all this in mind, IGNOU recognises that the small screen of a mobile phone can cause issues, therefore when adopting more mobile mediums institutions must be careful about visibility and presentation of content. A good example of this is the IGNOU mobile web site through which the following key points are accounted for:

*keep it simple
*test on various platforms
*keep customization on the desktop
*incorporate search
*remember usability
*clean up images
*create more mobile suitable content

The provision of mobile access at IGNOU strengthens the learning in distance education and improves the overall student experience. IGNOU have been successful in making steps to more mobile futures for their distance learners, similarly to the Open University in the UK and Athabasca University in Canada. Traditional universities have a lot to learn from their distance education counterparts.

Elizabeth C. Reade Fong from the University of the South Pacific, Fiji
The other session I was particularly excited about was that given by Elizabeth C. Reade Fong from the University of the South Pacific, Fiji. Now I must admit that my initial reasoning behind attending this session was as a result of sitting with Elizabeth during one of the pre-conference sessions, she was such an interesting and lovely lady I just had to go and support her work by attending her session. I was also intrigued to find out about the culture differences between the UK and that of Fiji with regards to mobile technologies in teaching and learning.

But next, the second interesting fact: the University of the South Pacific covers 33M sq km in 5 time zones (and 2 days)! Now THAT's distance learning if ever I saw it!!!

The University of the South Pacific are made up of a 44% distance and flexible learner mode, they have learning content delivered in a variety of formats such as video conferencing and audio lectures. A number of students were surveyed to ascertain opinion of a possible m-learning future, of those surveyed 94% owned some sort of mobile device with Nokia being the most common brand, there was a minimal 3% ownership of iPhone/PDAs. These finding parallel those here at LJMU as a result of the student surveys I performed earlier this year. Fijian students expressed a preference for 2 way communication (63%) also yet they do not want to pay for mobile learning, this is a major problem as connectivity in Fiji is very expensive. Major financial and management decisions would need to be made at the University of the South Pacific before any m-learning venture could be explored. Consideration would need to be made of a LMS upgrade or even a new LMS altogether to deal with the shift in service delivery and an overhaul of the technical infrastructure would need to be rolled-out also, furthermore there would need to be a revision of library policies. To be fair, up to this point there is not really any culture difference to note between Fiji and the UK with regards to a possible m-learning future, the next point that Elizabeth made however exposes the underlying cultural differences in that the Fijian students feel extremely strongly about the library being a quiet study space, enforcing such rules in due course (unlike many academic libraries in the UK in which you say students flouting the rules of quiet study areas). Fijian students can not get access to a quiet study space at home so it is imperative for them that they get this space whilst at the library.

So what next for the University of the South Pacific? Well ‘mobile learning’ is already in the library strategic plan, the next step is to get it into the university strategic plan in order that a more top-down, rather than bottom-up approach is maintained. The library service at the University of the South Pacific is definitely looking to go ahead with an m-learning environment – students are keen to explore this venture as are the library staff, echoing the findings here at LJMU also.

The second day of the conference made me realise that there are not as many cultural m-learning differences as I had initially thought; universities across the world are faced with similar challenges no matter of time and place. The issues of centring the learner at the forefront of developments, ensuring usability of content and services, and providing parity of access are all key issues for everyone striving to move into the m-learning domain. The sharing of experience at conferences such as m-Libraries is a key player in ensuring that we can draw on others experiences, preventing us from time and time again 'reinventing the wheel' and helping the transition to more mobile mediums be as smooth as possible.

M-Libraries 2009 - The Concurrent Sessions (Day 1)

The concurrent sessions at m-Libraries this year were split into 6 streams:

*Mobile Technologies
*New Mobile Services
*Mobile Libraries for Learning
*Mobile Users
*Mobile Technologies Supporting Development
*Mobile Services For Distance Learners

I attended 3 sessions within the mobile users bracket, 2 sessions within the mobile services for distance learners bracket, 1 session within the mobile libraries for learning bracket (in which I also presented my own paper in this stream) and the final session I attended was in the mobile technologies stream.

The concurrent sessions were diverse in subject matter – from roving reference with iPods in America to changing m-learning models in Spain – everyone that presented was passionate about their ‘mobile’ area.

I have identified a few key sessions from each of the conference days…

Day 1

Faye Jackson and Phil Cheeseman from Roehampton University, UK
One of the most unique sessions I attended was that presented by Faye Jackson and Phil Cheeseman from Roehampton University, UK who presented on a social learning space for faculty staff called the Green Room. This was the first time I’d heard of a university library providing a social space for ‘staff only’ in order that faculty staff can engage and experiment with educational and mobile technologies. Furthermore it allows faculty staff members to share ideas about how best to use such devices in academic arenas (over a cup of coffee in relaxing, chilled surroundings of course…!)

A key aspect of the sustainability of such a space is that the library initially ‘buys in’ specific technologies for staff to experiment with and trial, then, if the faculty staff see its educational value, they ask their faculty to buy in their own batch of useful devices rather than having to use the libraries. Furthermore, the success of the Green Room is as a result of faculty staff recognising the value of mobile technologies from their colleagues, which is more than the library staff could engender if they tried to run the Green Room as a direct service solely from library staff to faculty staff. The unique aspect of collaboration and sharing amongst faculties colleagues resonates well with this group of people.

Of note, the Roehampton team turned to the university learners of tomorrow (school children) to discover the ‘ideal’ learning space…this quote from one imaginative young soul is definitely worth a mention…

“We’ve got the MyPod, it’s like your bed, you fall asleep in it and in your sleep learning flows into your brain and its only £15,000,000!!”

I really enjoyed Faye and Phil’s session and genuinely feel such a venture would definitely be worth considering at LJMU, either instigated here within L&SS, or maybe even by the LDU…??

Fred Rowland and Adam Shambaugh from Temple University, USA
Perhaps most pertinent to my work at present was the session delivered by Fred Rowland and Adam Shambaugh from Temple University, USA who presented on their roving reference initiative. The results of a LibQual survey were a driver for this trial project which registered that there was a distinct dissatisfaction amongst their student body with regards to the library service provisions, furthermore changing user needs and expectations needed to be addressed. At Temple, the student shelver’s were asked thousands of questions a month and it was felt that such questions would be better answered by professional librarian. The guys at Temple had a set timetable for roving (4 hours per day, Tues-Thurs) which followed a specified route and would be facilitated by an iPod Touch device. Unfortunately the trial period produced extremely low statistics, and Fred and Adam made some very broad claims about how students don’t like being approached and that out on the library floor was a student occupied territory, they highlighted that very little browsing was evident and that the use of the library space very directed and intentional. I would have to say that I disagree with the fact that students do not like being approached, having roved here at LJMU I can honestly say that students really appreciate library help at their point-of-need, especially during assignment deadline and exam times, the key is to recognising which students need your help and which do not. I feel that it was maybe a lack of roving training in identifying tell-tale signs of puzzlement and readjusting your body language to show the students you are available to be approached without being overbearing…

I got the distinct impression that the guys at Temple viewed their trial period as a bit of a failure which is a shame as I have seen first hand here at LJMU how effective roving can be if it is done correctly.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

M-Libraries 2009 - The Plenary Sessions

There were four plenary sessions after Lorcan Dempsey’s keynote at m-Libraries 2009. First up was Ken Banks who spoke about the role of mobile phones in the developing world. Ken was followed by Carie Page who focused on engaging the 21st century learner through mobile technologies. Next up was Paul Nelson who highlighted some initiatives in which the NHS have been involved aiming to improve people’s health via the use of mobile devices. The final plenary for the morning was Joan Lippincott who made steps towards realising more innovative libraries through the utilisation of mobility.

My favourite plenary session was that delivered by Ken Banks. Ken gave an extremely inspiring talk about how mobile phones are being used to transform and even save lives in developing countries, such as in Africa. FrontlineSMS is the means to achieving such amazing feats. Ken, did however, keep his session grounded, enforcing that even thought it’s very easy to get carried away with the technology in a mobile environment, helping the people in the developing countries always remains at the heart of his work . This is something that I think we also need to continually reiterate when we look to explore the possibilities posed y technology in education – the learner must always come first – not the technology.

I would have to admit that after an engaging start, Carie Page lost a bit of respect from her audience (reflected in the Twitter backchannel) through her overly focused stance on the “digital native” concept, over-egging the fact that young people are so self-assured and fluent with technology compared to the older generations. I think in a very general sense, the digital native concept does hold some weight, however it is important also to acknowledge that there are many other factors that effect people’s uptake of technology. It would’ve have been nice to have heard something new from Carie Page, rather than just a reiteration of a common concept. I felt it was a shame that she didn’t expand the topic, taking it somewhere new, as she was a very engaging and enthusiastic speaker and I feel that she didn’t quite do herself justice…

I think that Joan Lippincott fell into a similar trap – she didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know. Joan spoke about how libraries now need to try and meet the challenge delivering digital information to a mobile phone, expanding on ways in which libraries can make steps to overcome such a challenge.

Maybe the lack of depth to the plenary sessions was a result of the short time slots that the speakers received, each only having 30 minutes to get their point across – maybe if they had had more time, they could’ve dived a little deeper into the subject area?? I must admit I was hoping for a little more from the plenary sessions, I just hope that for the 3rd m-Libraries Conference, they reassess the time slots in order that their speakers can do themselves justice. I could’ve listened to Ken Banks all morning after all!!

M-Libraries 2009 - The Opening Keynote

Lorcan Dempsey gave the opening keynote for this year’s mLibraries Conference 2009 – ‘Concentration, Connection, Diffusion: Mobilizing Library Services.’ Lorcan eased us into his session through the ‘Obama’ gates starting off with a picture of a dead fly…on a more serious note, Lorcan began by highlighting how the 08/09 presidential election was a watershed for the power that social networking can harness. A result of such high profile acknowledgement is that, now, people can truly understand such technology’s (i.e. web 2.0) potential to communicate and connect people in a way unheard off prior to its rise into the ‘mainstream.’

Lorcan highlighted three key drivers for more mobile and technology-enhanced delivery within education…

Expectations – students and faculty staff have increased expectations in this field as a direct result of consumer/personal experiences with mobile technology
Consumer switch – entertainment/leisure experiences of technology are growing at a rapid rate, now overtaking those experiences in the work environment and education sector, through a greater investment and innovation
Workflow switch – ‘you need to fit into my workflow. I won’t fit into yours’ – users now expect to have delivery of learning in terms that suit their needs, not that of the education provider, including library services.

This leads one to ask, but how do our library services fit into people’s workflows? At the moment, not very well I would have to say. Furthermore, there is now a growing tension between the provisions of technology that the education sector provides and the unprecedented access people now have to technology in their personal lives. The web 2.0 boom and cheaper availability of hardware is becoming a serious issue for education as students increasingly can provide themselves with better equipment and resources than that of their institutions.

Lorcan continued by invoking that mobile communications is more about communications than about mobility. This is interesting as during the m-learning focus groups that I conducted, the students placed a massive emphasis on communication and collaboration in teaching and learning – on par with the importance of convenience and flexibility, with regards to learning, for their 21st century lifestyles. In the last few years, mobile communications has been the fastest diffusing technology ever whilst mobile technology has a resonance with the ways in which young people want to communicate. If this isn’t a huge indication of how education can cater for these learners in relevant formats, I don’t know what is…

Lorcan then moved on to discuss ‘clouds and crowds, concentration and diffusion’ or in ‘plain English’ a 21st century network, connecting people via web 2.0 tools and mobile technologies, allowing them to not only connect, but to collaborate, share, store, develop, create, publish and rework. Interestingly within this mix, Lorcan highlighted the importance of acknowledging that different mobile devices are optimised for different purposes, particularly pertinent for m-learning in education I would say!

Next, the trusty institutional web site came under fire. Lorcan spoke of how the means that an exclusive focus on the institutional web site as the primary delivery mechanism and the browser as the primary consumption environment is increasingly partial in the current technologically rich climate. Lorcan elaborated upon this point in terms of the ‘networks’ that are ever-present in the 21st century learner’s life. Atomization, attention, action-orient and aggregate are the four key characteristics of today’s learners with relation to their information seeking habits:

Atomization – they want small snippets of information, delivered to a place suitable to their needs (an RSS aggregator for example). Furthermore the ‘skimming’ culture that is on the rise across education (including faculty members) has led to metadata being viewed as an important element, as are abstracts.
Attention – they want to be able to rank and recommend, find relevant information quickly.
Action-oriented – they want to be able to find things quickly, retrieve and share sources.
Aggregate – and they want to be able to utilise multiple platforms as necessary

I think what Lorcan was trying to demonstrate was the ways in which networks have changed how we coordinate our resources to reach our goals – it is no longer a linear process, it is now, a more multi-faceted experience. However, integration of networking resources into our everyday lives is resulting in a degree of fragmentation with regards to behaviours, grades of experiences and preferred communication channels, and obviously this is something that education providers also need to consider when rolling out new ways of delivery.

To finish on a library theme, Lorcan recognised that the challenge for libraries is to make themselves invisible. In the current information and technological rich world, users want seamless access to resources delivered in formats that fit into their workflows - hence the popularity of Google amongst many student groups. Single sign-on is a must for academic libraries if they want to make sure that their students are satisfied with the functionalities of electronic access to resources – for many, access to electronic resources is long-winded and at times disjointed, with some students not understanding where they are or what they should be looking to achieve within a given search. I feel that this would further increase the libraries relevance to 21st century students thus helping them to demonstrate how they are of value in the context of growing competition for resources. Ease of access will inadvertently impact on popularity - we live in an ‘I want it now’ culture after all.

Lorcan finished by looking to the future, alluding to increasing availability of eBooks and new output methods for institutions.

Lorcan’s talk was thought provoking, and at times I would have to admit, slightly overwhelming. There is so much that needs to be done in HE at the moment to meet the expectations of current and future users. The library also, need to reassess their content, access and delivery – after a talk so ‘big’ on content, I have been left wondering, where to start with all this? It is such a huge mountain, I just hope that at LJMU we can start to successfully chip away at some of the lower-ground stuff, edging us on our way to overcome some of the massive changes to cultures and traditions of our current education system.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

M-Libraries 2009 - The Beginning

Well after a long day travelling I arrived in Vancouver on Sunday at about 4.30pm local time (12.30am Monday England time…). I was glad to breeze through customs and obviously thrilled when my suitcase came trundling along the carousel pretty sharpish too!! It was a half hour taxi ride to the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus (unfortunately however, with a taxi driver who didn’t quite know where he was going – or maybe he was trying to fleece the ‘tourists’???) It was about 6pm by this time so I got registered for the conference and then checked in at the accommodation, glad to be able to have a shower, stretch out, watch some TV and sleep…I must admit I did try and read the conference programme but I guarantee this was not a good idea at what my body thought was 3am (even though it was 7pm, anyway enough of the time difference moanings, for now anyway)!!

Monday saw the start to the pre-conference workshops. The day had a bit of a shaky start (this next bit is for girls only…my hairstraighteners won’t work here in Canada…argh…!) but I soldiered through and headed down the UBC Irving K Barber Learning Centre. Here, the day kicked off with some lovely fresh fruit and monstrous baked goods, setting me up for my first full day in Vancouver.

The first workshop I attended was hosted by the Open University and here, I was able to create a mobile information literacy learning object. It was a brilliant experience, and the first time I had actually tried to create mobile content (I tend to just talk about it and write about it), and it enabled me to put all my m-learning knowledge into practice. The second workshop I attended was hosted collaboratively by Athabasca University and the Open University and looked to discuss the challenges and opportunities that m-library technical development can pose. This was an intensive and thought-provoking session which covered an awful lot of material; it really helped me to look at the bigger picture with regards to the back-end work of m-learning. This is not an area my research has taken me and the session taught me that collaboration with other institutions is definitely a worthwhile venture with regards to m-learning – there is no point reinventing the wheel after all!!

The evening saw a trip to Granville Island, about a half hour drive from UBC. The coach driver kindly gave a humorous commentary, pointing out some $10,000,000 houses on the way (eek!). I had a lovely walk around Granville Island which readied me further for my evening meal - a lovely 3 course sit down meal at the Dockside Restaurant. I must admit by this time I was flagging, I was sat next to a lovely lady from Australia though so I tried not to complain too much, as she rightly stated, she had the ‘rights’ to jetlag after all!!

So now it is Tuesday, the first official ‘conferencing’ day. I was up at 5.30am – I just hope I can hold out until later for some much needed sleep!! I’m looking forward to the opening keynote by Lorcan Dempsey – I have it on good authority that he is definitely worth getting out of bed for…!

Watch this space for individual blog postings about particularly interesting sessions…

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Where will it all end? - Emerging Technology in the Library: part 2

The afternoon sessions kicked off with Fiona Emberton talking about RFID and how libraries have the choice as to whether they let such technology automate their service or transform it. As with Les Watson’s morning session, this session was particularly relevant to me as LJMU looks to implement RFID as part of the Aldham Robarts Refurbishment project this summer. So far, assistants have been slogging it out all day everyday for the past 2 weeks tagging the book stock to get it ready for the opening of the new Aldham Centre in the autumn, running totals so far have reached 36,737 books with the overall target standing at 251,000. But anyway, that’s a whole different story…!

Fiona began her session by advocating that you should never let technology push you along or push you into doing something – there should always be a need for it first. Fiona claimed that RFID has gone beyond bleeding edge and leading edge, and is now very much a mainstream occurrence. RFID helps with security control and stock management, it has the capacity to read multiple-items making the issuing/returning process more efficient for users and it is good for instilling independence in users with disabilities. So why RFID? What can 21st century libraries gain from RFID? Fiona felt strongly in her view that in the current economic climate, libraries must invest to save and that an investment in RFID would have long-term economic benefits. RFID implementation results in an increase in staff effectiveness, freeing up staff time from routine functions in order that they have the time to provide a more personalised service, making better use of their complex skills set. I have encountered this notion during my current research into roving reference librarians equipped with mobile technologies also. The self-service nature of RFID is also compliant with information commons/social learning zone study environments as it allows these spaces to remain student-centred, without the need for imposing service counters/desks. Furthermore, RFID allows for opening hours to be extended thus providing a more relevant library service to busy 21st century learners who do not have the opportunity to study within the traditional 9-5pm time-scales.

Fiona highlighted the opportunities for new approaches to ways of working as a result of freeing up staff time and new learning opportunities also. For example, the STAR (strategic training for accurate reference) system of answering enquiries ensures that over 95% of enquiries are dealt with effectively and efficiently in the first instance (I think Fiona said typically, without the STAR approach, this number is as low as 55%).

And Fiona’s final words of wisdom (which I absolutely love by the way!): We should entertain a bit more humour in our libraries, students respond to it and appreciate it (rather than our current ‘just say no’ attitude…)

The afternoon drew to a close with an interesting session lead by Nick Woolley centred on e-learning and the role that web 2.0 can fulfil within the e-learning environment. Web 2.0 has been a bit of a buzz word for the last few years now, in terms of the ‘hype cycle’ Nick questioned as to whether we are now on the ‘slope of enlightenment,’ and if so, if now is the right time to adopt web 2.0 in libraries…??

When considered against an e-learning back-drop, it is fair to say that e-learning has never quite reached its full potential – since its emergence it has remained quite a passive approach to learning with virtual learning environments generally being a place for retrieving and reading text-based documents. There is little or no interaction the majority of the time…is this the place where web 2.0 technologies can be integrated to improve the e-learning experience?

Nick indicated that we (as librarians but educators also) need to take the initiative with web 2.0 or we will continue to face disintermediation. Furthermore, students are now paying customers and they want value for money. Some of the key points Nick highlighted about today’s students include:

· Students are part of an instant gratification culture
· They are assessment orientated
· They are competitive
· They hold a different view of intellectual property as a result of the digital age
· They are prepared to be educated.

The possibility of librarians losing clout, coupled with student expectations are key drivers to a more web 2.0 orientated library (and indeed education) system. I personally feel now is the time to adopt more interactive and collaborative working environments, and having completed the Learning 2.0 @ LJMU 12 week training course feel that library staff at LJMU are well equipped to take the lead with such trends.

Where will it all end? – Emerging Technology in the Library: part 1

Yesterday I attended the MmIT North West Summer Conference hosted here at Liverpool John Moores University. The day’s sessions were focused on how new and emerging technologies can be exploited in education to enhance the 21st century student’s learning experience, with particular emphasis on the libraries role within this mix. This first posting highlights the morning sessions, I will blog the afternoon sessions shortly.

Morning Sessions
The day kicked off to an enthralling start – a dazzling array of Russell Prue’s gadgets and gizmos – not to mention Russell’s rather striking orange bow tie and braces! Russell started off with a rather tongue in cheek request for us delegates to turn our mobile phones to silent, or at least sit on them, he didn’t want us to turn them off as we would be expected to use them in the session – yes as teaching and learning aids!!! Russell gave good insights into some of the current problems with our education system (that is now surrounded by a technological world)… educators are doing what they have always done regarding certain technologies, with many schools having restrictions on use of technology in the classroom. From banning mobile phones to filtering internet access, the UK is extremely strict on its allowances of personal technology use within schools and the education system. This is nonsensical though when considered against the fact that ‘Blogging’ is now a paid job in the US. In fact, the job of a ‘Blogger’ brings in a salary of $75,000 a year with approx 452,000 ‘Bloggers’ being paid for their work: the shift has happened. The education sector tends to talk about ‘this shift that is happening’ in relation to emerging technologies, but this is not completely true, we are already there.

Technology has inadvertently changed the landscape for the education system but how is the education sector responding to this shift? It appears that we are always doing what we’ve always done and not allowing technology to pervasively change it as it has the power to do so – engaging students, letting them explore, experiment and learn. At present, in curriculum terms, we spoon feed our children and the prescriptive nature of our education system means our children will never learn to explore, experiment, or think for themselves. Russell showed a video of a one year old child using an iPhone to look through photographs with his dad – he understood how the iPhone functioned, he has grown up surrounded by such technology – so what are the implications for children like this when they enter the education system?

Russell provoked a lot of questions to which at this moment in time, educators are not fully addressing, unfortunately, the chances are that this ‘lack of action’ is going to be to the detriment of today’s and tomorrow’s learners.

Next on the bill was Les Watson who spoke of the importance of technology and learning space design. This is particularly relevant at the moment here at LJMU as the summer months sees a massive refurbishment to the Aldham Robarts LRC. Avril Robarts LRC also lays home to a Social Learning Zone environment so I could relate to a lot of the points that Les raised.

Les maintained that there is as yet, no paradigm for the 21st century library, however on a positive note this does mean that we have the opportunity to drive this agenda forward as we feel fit for not only today’s students, but future students also.

At present student’s unrestricted personal access to technology is a challenge for educators as it is at odds to the provisions of which the education sector provides, hence the talk of digital disconnect between students and their schools (Selwyn, 2006) . Today’s children are digital learners; they have grown up with technology (although this does not mean they know the best ways to use the technology for educational purposes of course). As educators, that should be our job, but we need to be able to fulfil this role without dictating which technologies our students’ should use. So, does this further indicate that educators need to move away from the ‘sage on the stage’ to the ‘guide on the side’???

There will be more information created this year than there has been in the last 5,000 years whilst the power of technology is doubling every year – this poses more challenges than ever for education and libraries as we struggle to direct students through this information and technology dense environment that we now live in. Furthermore, the National Student Survey allows students to drive how we deliver our services, we can no longer ignore the information and technology our students utilise in their study.

Interestingly, Les questioned whether our library buildings have the power to change the education system? How important are physical spaces in a technology-enhanced learning world? The new learning spaces we currently have the scope to design and develop are, at present, predictions. And greater than this we have the power to design buildings that are flexible, imaginative and creative so that if we predict the future of learning incorrectly, it will not matter because these spaces will be adaptable.

On the notion of creativity Les summed up stating that we are all born creative, but, that society suppresses this creativity, partly through the education system. Les continued to finish with the rather inspirational notion that imagination is the most powerful tool we have and that we have the power to exploit this tool within education.

Jane Secker filled the slot before lunch, and at a time when delegates can begin to lag, Jane delivered a thoughtful and stimulating overview of Facebook’s place within libraries, and vice versa…!

At present, there is an enthusiasm in libraries for web 2.0 technologies driven by the ability of such technologies to reach new audiences, engage current users and enhance services. Just recently here at LJMU, all library staff completed a 12 week course, Learning 2.0 @ ljmu that sought to increase staff awareness of web 2.0 technologies and how they can be applied in library contexts. Jane highlighted however, that such enthusiasm is not without issue with their being an underlying concern regarding patron privacy and data protection, not to mention the huge hurdle that staff training in this area can create.

But why Facebook? Why social networking in libraries? Pivotally, Information Commons learning spaces are a key driver for Library 2.0 with many seeing libraries now sitting between academic spaces and social spaces.

An overview of library related facilities within Facebook shows that there are large numbers of applications (including booksharing apps and the facility to search an institution’s library catalogue, some academic libraries have even taken steps to develop their own application to search their catalogue in-house, allowing them to almost tailor-make the app to suit the needs of their students). There are lots of groups for librarians to join on Facebook to share ideas and experiences with more and more library pages appearing also. The library page works like a sort of library profile enabling students to become a ‘fan’ of the library, subsequently receiving news and notifications as necessary.

It would be fair to admit that Facebook is not a new phenomenon, yet the amount of discussion it provokes is phenomenal. A particularly pertinent point that Jane made was to question whether Facebook can convince the ‘Google Generation’ that the library is still relevant? If it can, surely it is not something to be sniffed at?

SELWYN, N. (2006) Exploring the ‘digital disconnect’ between net-savvy students and their schools. Learning, Media and Technology, 31 (1), pp.5-17

Friday, 5 June 2009

Mobile Hardware Trial Update

The mobile device trial in student support settings is well underway here at LJMU. The BOS is up, running and in-use as is the project wiki and it appears that the staff involved in the trial are trying hard to think of new and innovative ways in which the devices can be practically used in HE library settings. Many staff participants have been happy to explore the possibilities that specific apps (such as Fring) pose, even in their own time in some cases which really displays the interest and excitement these devices create. Furthermore it exposes the levels of realisation from current library staff here at LJMU with regards to the ways in which technology can help them in their day-to-day jobs and routine, as well as making the student experience of the library service more positive.

Unfortunately due to the time of year, student contact in roving contexts is sparse, however over the summer we have a large group of international students from Malaysia (who have just started to arrive over the last few days) so hopefully student enquiries will increase.

The devices have received mixed reviews so far. Generally speaking the notebooks and EEE PCs are the better option for in-depth search and retrieval queries as the directly simulate the steps which the students must go through on their laptop or desktop PC. The iPod Touches get a big ‘thumbs up’ for standard roving activities such as book searches with some staff members enthralled by the intuitive device design (some staff didn’t even need training, they just picked up the device, ‘played’ around with it and worked it out for themselves)! Personally speaking, this is a major compliment to the Apple design team! A major problem with the iPod Touches however (which is probably more to do with the design of the LJMU E-Library than the limitations of the device) is that users are unable to jump from the scroll down menu in which Faculty and subject discipline is chosen, to the scroll down menu which stipulates the databases relevant to the users subject area. This means that one of the LJMU E-Library elements is obsolete when using an iPod Touch. Although on a positive note, without having these devices ‘in-house’ our support desk staff would not have been in a position of knowledge when advising students who own such devices as iPod Touches or iPhones. Furthermore, now that we are aware of the limitation of our E-Library with regards to mobile access, decisions can be made on ways to address this.

On Wednesday, one of the EEE PCs took a trip down to London whilst one of the Research and Learners Support Officers took it to a conference. At 10am, a mobile posting appeared on the wiki, updated whilst travelling at high speed on a Virgin Pendolino train, indications show that the device is lightweight, compact and robust – ideal for transportation! This supports the case for more mobile Officers here at LJMU proving that the device capabilities will match the tasks required with library liaison activities delivered within the faculties and schools perhaps.

We are still awaiting the delivery of the eBeam, video camera and MP4 player – watch this space for further updates!!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Mobile Hardware Trial and Evaluation

The m-learning project here at LJMU has taken another interesting turn after a kind donation of money from the Director of Teaching & Learning Development of the Learning Development Unit. The money has enabled us to buy a number of mobile devices for full trial and evaluation in academic contexts.

The devices we now have to play with are:

· 2x Asus EEE PC 904HD-BK003X
· 2x LG X110 Notebook
· 5x iPod Touch
· 2x Samsung D391 Digital Camcorder
· 2x Creative Labs Zen 4GB Portable Media Player
· 1x eBeam Complete Kit

The steering group for this part of the project met for the first time yesterday in which the trial and evaluation processes were discussed. Nominated staff to trial the devices will be briefed during the remainder of the week, the devices will be checked and relevant anti-virus be installed etc. prior to the official commencement of the trial period (hopefully the 18th May and lasting approximately 6 weeks).

The devices have been split into 2 groupings:

· Devices to trial in roving contexts within the library setting (EEE PC, notebook, iPod Touch)
· Devices to trial in teaching and learning contexts within the library setting (camcorder, portable media player, eBeam)

The devices will be trialled by both assistant level staff and Information Officer level staff. It was decided that the best way to trial the devices in roving contexts would be achievable by (a) the assistants simply arming themselves with a device during their normal timetabled roving slot (at LJMU assistant level roving has been in place for well over a year now). (b) the nominated Officer level staff splitting their assigned time on information points between manning the desk and roving out on the floor. The interactions that happen during these periods will be recorded and evaluated via a brief online survey at the point of action. In july, a focus group will also be held to qualify the data from the online surveys.

Teaching and Learning Contexts
Staff have been assigned to evaluate specified devices within the given timescale, evaluation of these devices will be done via a more diary/log based approach in which the staff involved will note down important aspects of the devices capabilities/limitations etc. within its given context.

Watch this space for updates of the hardware trial…

Friday, 1 May 2009

Project Update (with a sprinkling of good news...)

For those of you that have been following my blog since last November, you may be thinking the project should be drawing to a close very soon and you may be hoping that the official project report would be accessible, however, this week I received some great news in that the project has been extended by a further 3 months. This is absolutely brilliant news as it will allow for a mobile device trial and evaluation to run at one of our LRCs and further research into best practice and academic engagement with m-learning to be undertaken. As is the nature of the mobile technologies field, everyday breathes life into new developments, new research and new projects, and in recent weeks (whilst I have been manically writing up the project report!!) I have had to be quite brutal about not writing in new information and new data due to time constraints. I can now take a moment to reflect on further literature and incorporate vital aspects of current m-learning developments within academia.

It is further hoped that I will be able to visit at least a couple more schools/institutions to augment the best practice section of the report also.

The added time will ensure thorough preparation for the m-Libraries conference in Vancouver in June (at which I am also presenting the project findings!!!)

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

LearnHigher M-posium

On Wednesday 22nd April I attended the 1st Learn Higher M-posium at Manchester Metropolitan University. The day was jam-packed with insightful speakers and lively discussions and was a great chance to speak to some of the best in the business with regards to m-learning.

Speakers for the day were as follows:
· Barriers to the adoption of mobile technologies -
Dr. Stephen Hagan
· Making the theory work! – managing and supporting a large scale mobile initiative -
Dr. David Whyley
· Leaner devices – mobile learning out of control -
John Traxler
· Past, present and future -
Jon Trinder
· Mobile learning – learner mobility the story thus far and some ideas of future challenges -
Andy Black
· Urban planning education in context with mobile phones -
Prof. John Cook

Dr. Stephen Hagan (University of Ulster) kicked off the day with an astute presentation which highlighted some of the key barriers to student adoption of mobile technologies and m-learning activities. The session covered four key themes including hardware, software, institutional and social issues, discussing both the barriers and solutions within each area. It was a very honest and open presentation in which Stephen made no steps to try and glorify m-learning or to imply that adopting m-learning cultures was easy. For me, Stephen’s ‘frank’ approach made m-learning seem all the more real and all the more attainable. It made me realise that there are many barriers within m-learning contexts that do not have ready-made solutions, yet these barriers are not impenetrable; with hard work, planning and the confidence to step into a world which at present is not the ‘norm’ in education new and innovative m-learning environments can be achieved…and when in life is anything straightforward and easy anyway? In order to achieve effective m-learning environments we need to be prepared to break through the pain barrier before we (and our students) can reap the benefits.

Dr. David Whyley (City of Wolverhampton) was in the hot-seat next to speak about his on-going efforts to support and maintain a large scale mobile learning initiative in Wolverhampton. David is a lead member of the Learning2Go initiative and has won numerous awards for his commitment and hard work. Like Stephen, he spoke honestly and openly about his experiences, encouraging attendees to take note and learn from his mistakes. Three pivotal points that David highlighted were:

· M-learning is not easy but it is worthwhile
· M-learning should be approached in a ‘step-by-step’ manner – don’t aim too high
· The biggest thing that needs to be changed within m-learning cultures is the people, not the technology

The key challenges that David has encountered over the last few years with regards to m-learning implementation are:

· Mobile device market volatility
· Connectivity costs
· Teacher’s reluctance to change
· Top-down pressures on teachers and schools

All these challenges readily translate to HE settings also. Interestingly, David pointed out that the first batch of students that were involved with the Learning2Go project are now approaching university age. In terms of my m-learning in HE research this throws up numerous questions… how will this generation of learners impact on HE? Will they feel disillusioned by current HE provisions of m-learning and technology-enhanced learning? Are they going to end up taking 2 steps back in their study habits due to the restraints of HE delivery?

Third on the bill was John Traxler (University of Wolverhampton). John called attention to the growing tension between education providers and education consumers as a result of the now ubiquitous learner access to powerful personal technologies whilst schools, colleges and universities continue to try and regiment technology provisions. This falls directly in-line with the research of Selwyn (2006) who speaks of a growing ‘digital disconnect’ between students and their schools and raises questions as to the relevancy of future education provisions for future learners. Furthermore, John denoted that we are now living in a society of changing social values (for example a mobile telephone now regularly takes precedence over a face-to-face conversation), children are growing up with new social values compared to those of their predecessors, how should this be addressed within educational settings?

Jon Trinder (University of Glasgow – PhD student) was the final presenter of the morning discussing the past, present and future of mobile technologies and their educational use for teaching and learning purposes. An interesting point that Jon made about mobile devices was that at times, single, purpose-built devices do a better job singularly than a combined device, such as a smartphone. In a time of growing debate about how many devices students are willing to carry this is a thought-provoking concept, surely in education we should be pushing to be using the best tools for the job not the most convenient…but if the convenient option is the student option is this not more important? How can we measure such issues to come up with relevant solutions for 21st century learners? Moreover Jon highlighted the importance of the word ‘personal’ with regards to the term ‘personal devices’ – the device that a learner uses is best for them (as an individual), in traditional education delivery educators are prescriptive about the tools and technologies to be used for specific tasks – how does this translate in m-learning contexts?

The fifth speaker of the day was Andy Black (BECTA) who gave a dynamically off-the-cuff presentation that almost evolved as the session did! Unfortunately for Andy his session came after four very thorough m-learning sessions which meant that over lunch Andy decided to change tact slightly, after a shortened lunch stop he returned to re-work his original presentation drawing on some rather interesting points and emerging technologies. The key points that I took from Andy’s session were:

· Mobile learning provides the opportunity for iteration and transformation (however, how should assessment practice evolve to cater for this process – assessment is a real issue within m-learning contexts)
· There is a mountain to climb with regards to workforce development in the field of m-learning (teachers are busy people!)
· Mobile learning allows us (as educators) to engage with students (some of which would never normally pass through the doors)

Andy also spoke about the emergence of QR tags (which I have touched upon in a previous blog posting) and stressed an interesting point in that there is no way of knowing what is behind the code. When your phone reads it and directs you to the website you could be sent anywhere – it appears that there could be serious virus problems within this area of m-learning. Fascinatingly also, Andy demonstrated a projector phone (similar to this one) and even demonstrated how PowerPoint presentations could be played through a large screen via an iPod touch – great stuff!!!

Prof. John Cook (London Metropolitan University) brought in the rear-end of the day with an insight into a context-sensitive and location-aware m-learning project he has been working on. Basically learners go out into an urban area of London equipped with a mobile device running Mscape player, as learners move through the physical world the GPS triggers contextual digital media via an invisible interactive map (e.g. audio, supplementary photos, QuickTime VR reconstructions of the insides of buildings). It appeared from feedback from the learners involved, a more active learning experience was facilitated by the technology and overall was a much appreciated learning experience.

The M-posium was an innovative and thought-provoking event that encouraged communication and collaboration between institutions and education sectors with regards to m-learning knowledge and practice. It was an invaluable day for anyone looking towards more mobile futures in education and one I was delighted to have attended.

With thanks to Michelle Verity (LearnHigher Manager), Sylvie Steward (LearnHigher M-Learning Co-ordinator), Bob Glass (MMU Library) and Mark Stubbs (Managed learning Environment Project Director) for their hard efforts in making the day so enjoyable and successful. My sincere apologies to anyone I have missed out…

SELWYN, N. (2006) Exploring the ‘digital disconnect’ between net-savvy students and their schools. Learning, Media and Technology, 31 (1), pp.5-17

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

LJMU Learning and Teaching Conference

Tuesday 21st April saw the start of a two day annual conference at LJMU: the LJMU Learning and Teaching Conference. It was the 8th of its kind and most successful so far with 244 delegates attending, participating in a choice of 45 sessions that fell under one of the following umbrellas - teaching innovations, learning technologies, assessment practices, student employability, learner support or professional development.

I attended as a delegate on Tuesday 21st April and also presented in the afternoon (unfortunately I was unable to make the 2nd day as I attended the 1st Learn Higher M-posium in Manchester, check back soon for blogposting!!).

The day was a really exciting time as it was a chance for LJMU staff to showcase their success stories, research, projects and developments; it enhanced cross-department communication and encouraged the sharing of ideas and possible future ventures. Student involvement throughout the day made the event all the more special and highlighted the highly student-centred approach to teaching and learning currently experienced by those studying at the IM Marsh Campus CETL.

The opening keynote “placing students at the center of the story” really captured the essence of the on-going work at the CETL which focuses on the enhancement of student employability, leadership and enterprise. Three key areas were addressed including ‘developing the individual’ ‘creating connections’ and ‘making it happen.’ Work-related learning was high on the agenda – a vital component it seems in both student development and preparation for the workplace – an integral part to many degree courses throughout the university also.
Developing the individual was perhaps most pivotal to my current m-learning research which is a highly individual and personal learning experience, developing self-awareness and developing the individual can be readily achieved through a pro-active and supportive m-learning environment.

Throughout the rest of the day I attended 5 sessions, firstly one that concentrated on the student induction process as an integral support mechanism in ensuring students feel comfortable in the shift from sixth form/college life to university life. The session was delivered by Jack O’Farrell and Sue Darwent from the Faculty of Business and Law and was called ‘it was a great ice-breaker and introduction to university life.’ What was so special about this induction process was that it spanned a 2 week period and was supported by an extensive research and planning phase. This phase ensured that the newly designed induction process was relevant to new undergraduate students and that it was enjoyable also.
Initially staff opinion was sought concerning previous student induction experiences, the general consensus being that the induction process was neither exciting nor engaging for the students and that staff at times were not 100% comfortable within the induction domain. A resolution to this was found via a hybrid method of induction sessions that would span over a 2 week period. The main event was held at the Adelphi Hotel comprising the likes of the VC and the Student’s Union, the entire ‘fresher’ cohort of the Business School (apart from 20 out of 780) and Alumni. This was then followed up throughout the rest of the induction time with tutor led session and student led sessions that were aimed to encourage communication and teamwork amongst the new students.
The overall accord from the new students experiencing this newly designed induction process appeared to be that the induction was enjoyable, valued and relevant. It will be interesting to see if any conclusions can be drawn in the future with regards to the revised induction process helping with attendance and retention issues.
Key points for any other faculties looking to adopt a more thorough induction process include the direct need for backing from senior management and that the large cohort event was one of the major success stories of this new induction programme.

The second session I attended was that of the infamous Keith V. Trickey and Sherrington Sanders called ‘how to identify a poorly performing lecturer.’ Now for those of you that have not met Keith it will be hard for me to relay in writing the spirit of his session…but I will have a go!
Keith is a very dynamic speaker (and lecturer) capturing his audience with anecdotes and animation, so, the content of his presentation took me by great surprise. It would appear that Keith is failing his students. He is not hitting the expected targets (as stipulated in the university strategic plan) for lecturers across the university in pass rates (and fail rates). A lot of ‘number crunching’ (in the sense of moving students into different degree categories) would be needed year in year out in order that Keith reaches his targets. So is Keith a poorly performing lecturer? According to statistics yes he is. But, there is a fundamental flaw in these statistics. The numbers comprise students who attend lectures intermittently, students who attend lectures rarely, students who don’t attend lectures at all…how can Keith have failed these students…have they not failed themselves?
As we institutionally push student-centred approaches to teaching and learning, would it not be more relevant to have a student-centred approach to lecturer performance assessment? From personal experience of Keith as a lecturer I can honestly say (without it being an act of unctuousness!!) he has been one of my favourite among a very small number of lecturers and teachers throughout my education, from primary school to postgraduate level study. I am astonished that he could be connected to the realms of poorly performing lecturers and I feel it must be hard pill to swallow for Keith himself, and many other excellent lecturers and teaching staff.
Finally, Keith asked session attendees to come up with resolutions to his teaching dilemma…

Then there was lunch, absolutely lovely but who thought it’d be a good idea to present the salad table on a circular table – where did the queue start and where did it end!?!?! We will never know.

The afternoon session kicked off with a look into the world of the wiki as an assessment tool for students that study ‘Intertextual Analysis’ within the School of Media, Critical and Creative Arts. The premise behind this approach was to avoid essay-overkill, as can happen in English degree programmes. The intentions of the wiki assignment was to encourage careful and concise writing (students had a very small word count of 500 words), to expose intertextuality via imagery whilst also taking advantage of the technology, to include formal academic conventions (such as a bibliography) and to concentrate upon a single them only (unlike an essay). The students were expected to work in groups to produce a wiki page that discussed a particular theme from an identified text whilst incorporating a picture to augment the chosen theme.
The difficulties encountered during this exercise included the preparation needed on the student’s behalf, including the time taken to explain the wiki and what was expected, the size of the seminar group meant that it had to be split in order that more manageable numbers were facilitated and the inherent issues with any group-work type assessment tasks were experienced also.
The benefits of this innovative assessment style comprised the opportunity for students to re-draft, the opportunity to view other students’ work and the fact that it was something different with regards to assessment activities.

The next session I attended was delivered by Phil Vickerman and Milly Blundell from the Faculty of Education, Community and Leisure and was called ‘reflective comparative approaches to effective learning environments for students.’ This session disseminated some of the research performed both here at LJMU and at the University of Cincinatti into what the key elements of effective learning environments are for university students. Common themes from both investigations included lecturer commitment and availability, access to technology and the facility for a quiet place to study. Particularly pertinent to the m-learning research is the high requirement levels of technology within effective learning environments indicating that students want to have opportunities of technology-enhanced learning as part of their normal study patterns.
Initial suggestions from this research implies that effective learning spaces are themselves student specific and should where possible be student-centred. Here at LJMU the recently launched Social Learning Zone at Avril Roabrts LRC and planned refurbishment of Aldham Robarts LRC fulfils the student-focused element that was shown to be of value during this research project.
Further detailed analysis of the results obtained here at LJMU is planned imminently via SPSS.

Myself and Will Reid presented during the next session giving an overview of the mobile technologies in teaching and learning research we have been involved in over the last 6 months, an overview of the learning2.0@ljmu training programme followed directly afterwards. Both these sessions provoked a lively discussion amongst academics, support staff, LIS staff and CIS staff with regards to technology-enhanced learning. There was a massive indication that further research into this area needed to be performed especially from the academic perspective and it is hoped that off the back of this session that academic staff focus groups will be fulfilled as part of the m-learning research project…watch this space…

At the end of the day I felt buoyant by the new, interesting and innovative aspects of teaching and learning currently on offer at LJMU. The day made me realise that there are lots of ‘forward-thinking’ and ‘student-centred’ projects and initiatives underway across the university and cheesy as it sounds made me feel empowered as a member of LJMU staff. My only disappointment was in that I was unable to attend the full conference however I look forward to what will be offered up this time next year!

Monday, 6 April 2009

Parallel Session: If they won’t turn them off, we might as well use them. Using mobile phones in information skills sessions.

Andrew Walsh - University of Huddersfield

Andrew’s session was the first mobile device orientated session I attended at LILAC and the only session that welcomed the annoying beep, chime or musical anthem of a message alert tone!!

From the outset I knew that Andrew’s session was going to be engaging…a late email from Jane Secker on Friday afternoon asking all delegates signed up for the session to register with moblog and also text a special number indicated this…but also Andrew’s ability to engage his audience with his passion for both information literacy and mobile technologies played a very big part.

Andrew gave a good overview as to why he thought it a good idea to ‘go mobile’ with regards to his information skills sessions:

Active learning
Large classes
Unresponsive students
Basic functionality versus high end technology.

All Information Professionals have been met with the first three issues on Andrew’s list I’m sure, but concocting new ways to overcome them is another story (which I suppose is where point 4 comes into play). Andrew was astounded by the amount of m-learning research that solely focuses on high-end iPhone/PDA/smartphone technologies; at this moment in time students do not own these types of devices. It is something that resonates with my m-learning research, small scale, fixed-term pilots that concentrate on the small scale distribution of devices to study participants is not a sustainable way to achieve m-learning cultures within our HEIs – making use of the technologies that our students use on a daily basis is. This is the premise that Andrew took when he decided to explore the opportunities offered up by SMS technology.

Andrew has attempted to engage his students through SMS technology, asking questions during information skills sessions which they can text a reply to. This encourages interaction which in turn stimulates engagement and ‘active learning.’ There always seems to be an issue of cost when we talk about mobile devices in teaching and learning but Andrew is a strong believer that many HE students have text ‘bundles’ or are on contract type free text allowances (and I also think that a 10p text is much more open to negotiation than the £££ it can cost to connect to the web).

The main issues that Andrew encountered were getting students to sign up to certain services prior to their information skills tutorial, lack of signal (it happens to the best of networks!) and student engagement (obviously if only a percentage of students have signed up to the service needed, then despite whether they have a mobile phone or not, engagement will still be a problem…)

Away from the Information Skills Sessions, what else can SMS technology be used for? Andrew answered this question by raising awareness of specific web-based services such as Moblog and Jaiku and then moved on to specific ideas currently on trial at Huddersfield including: text-a-librarian and scenario texts in subjects like Business – as students participate in scenario planning, text updates can be sent during the exercise to change the state of play, making students think on their feet and create a more ‘live’ and ‘real’ feeling to things.

Andrew then moved on to the wonder that is QR Codes. Now before I heard Andrews spin on QR Codes I must admit I was pretty dubious about their true usefulness within an academic library context…and after hearing Andrews take on QR tags I’m afraid I’m still not converted. Now in danger of being one of those people that said “ooo text message technology – it’ll never take off” or “why would I want an iPod - I’ve got a personal CD player…?” I’m afraid at this moment in time I am going to stick to my guns! But here is what Andrew had to say…

…the University of Huddersfield are currently looking to implement a QR tagging system which can be used as a sort of location checking system. So for example, a student could enter the library building, maybe browse the library catalogue and find a book that they feel would help them with a particular assignment, using the camera functionality of their phone, and having downloaded the QR reader previous, the student could scan the QR code which could then direct them to the exact location of the book they require…

…or QR codes could be applied to printed journals. If the student wished to discover if the particular printed journal before them was accessible electronically they could scan the QR code which would then retrieve the relevant information as to whether electronic access was available or not…

Andrew described this process of QR code tagging resources as “instruction at the point of need” which in theory I think is an absolutely brilliant idea. However my main concern lies with the ‘spoon-feeding’ nature of this kind of practice, my fear would be that we would actually hinder student progress rather than help it as student’s may never grasp the ‘basics’ (as it were) of library instruction. I am all for delivering help/information/access in as many ways as possible but I am also a strong believer in providing students with a good grounding that will see them not only through their time at university but also in well into their future, as lifelong learners. Another concern of mine is borne through asking students to download software onto their phone – does that make the institution liable if anything were to go wrong???

For those of you who were completely baffled by that last QR induced ramble…here is was a QR code actually is…

…this QR code contains the information relating to my blog posting, if you have a phone with a QR reader, or relevant software downloaded, by scanning this QR code you would be directed to my blog…

Some of the things that excited me the most about Andrew’s presentation was the advancements that the University of Huddersfield have made with regards to their library catalogue. The functionality of it amazed me, they had user ratings, useful links (such as delicious.com, amazon.com and even links to loan statistics for the particular item a student was looking at!) and a ‘user who like this also like…’ type element. The whole thing screamed Amazon at me but in a way that I think is absolutely genius with regards to a mundane library catalogue! These elements inspire students to make informed decisions and also help students to make decisions based on what their peers have said; just from a personal point of view, from my time as an undergraduate, I would have loved to have a catalogue as personal and user orientated as this.

Finally Andrew gave us some insights into a new ‘podcast : text message’ initiative that will hopefully be realised over the coming months. This would involve the production of podcasts and text messages, formed on the basis of library instruction but produced to compliment each other. So firstly (for example) a student could perhaps download a podcast which would tell them how to loan library books, then as the due date of the student’s books got nearer, they would be sent a text message telling them how to renew their library books. I was really excited by this idea and feel that the bite-sized nature of the content would really appeal to today’s 21st century learners.

Andrew was a truly engaging speaker – he didn’t admit defeat when some of the interactive elements of the session failed and throughout the session he used SMS technology – both to greet, involve and thank us. So I would just like to say a big thank you to Andrew who I feel really gave some good insights into the opportunities offered up by mobile devices in an academic library setting.

Parallel Session: 2.0 much to do: how, when and why should library staff find out about web 2.0, and what does it mean for information literacy?

Jenny Evans and Ruth Harrison (Imperial College London)

The Imperial College London are the first English HEI to run a web 2.0 awareness/training programme inspired by ‘The 23 Things’ as originally conceived by Helen Bowers, Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County. McMaster University Library has run a similar programme in America, as have Murdoch University Library in Australia.

I was interested to attend this session as I have recently completed a 12 week training programme at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) – Learning 2.0 @ LJMU – in which the whole of Learning and Information Services (LIS) have participated across the board, senior management and assistants alike, in a web 2.0 awareness initiative. I felt that this session would be an excellent opportunity to compare some of the things I have experienced at LJMU, and the ways in which this was achieved, with that of the staff at Imperial College London.

Imperial College London ran their learning 2.0 programme for a 10 week period, over the summer vacation; participants were given 1 hour per week to complete designated tasks. Experiences included exercises in all sorts of web 2.0 technologies, from blogs and wikis, to podcasting and multimedia, RSS feeds to social networking, and even gaming and virtual worlds.

The Imperial 2.0 team practiced what they preached, utilising web 2.0 technologies to develop and implement the Learning 2.0 @ Imperial College Library scheme through the medium of a wiki, a blog and slideshare. Participants were also expected to continually develop their use of web 2.0 tools through a reflective blog which was to be maintained throughout the 10 week period.

Interestingly, from a personal point of view, during week 6 (online tools and applications), participants were asked to explore how mobile phones could potentially be used in academic libraries, and whether other HEIs were currently experimenting in this field. This is very different from my experiences of the Learning 2.0 @ LJMU training programme where the tasks were very much centered on (what I would describe as) ‘traditional’ web 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, social networking). This is again highlighted in Imperial’s bravery(!) in experimenting with online gaming and virtual worlds – an area currently unexplored in the current Learning 2.0 @ LJMU programme!!!

The main problem that the 2.0 team at Imperial encountered was that of bad timing (and having the control of certain decisions taken out of their hands) – unfortunately the start of the learning 2.0 programme got pushed back and this meant that the scheduled finale of the 10 week programme fell directly before the first week of semester – probably one of the worst times of year as many Information Professional will probably appreciate! The Learning 2.0 team at Imperial found that approximately a third of participants excelled, a third tried hard but lost their way a bit and a third didn’t really complete much at all…a point to note here is that the Imperial’s Learning 2.0 programme was not compulsory (as it has been here at LJMU) so maybe a higher success rate was anticipated than was actually achieved…?? Obviously the unfortunate rescheduling of the run period of the programme probably also had a bearing on the success rate of participants.

On a more positive note, it appears that participants of the Learning 2.0 @ Imperial College Library programme are now not only more confident and aware of web 2.0 technologies, they are also using them on a day-to-day basis: Twitter and IM being the two of note. Also, some of the reflective blogs kept by participants are extremely inventive and suggest that participants of the Learning 2.0 programme have really been ‘excited’ by web 2.0 and thus keen to experiment!

I felt that the interactive session hosted by Jenny Evans and Ruth Harrison was delivered extremely well. It provided delegates with a good insight in to the Learning 2.0 @ Imperial College Library training programme and encouraged people to have the confidence to experiment (both within the LILAC workshop but more importantly within the overall training scheme). The whole ‘just do it’ idea that encapsulates web 2.0 is something that I feel really needs to be instilled into any future ‘The 23 Things’ type initiatives, without empowering participants with an element of freedom, and encouragement to experiment, the learning achievements will probably be quite poor.

Jenny and Ruth alluded to the skills gap in this area with regards to library staff and knowledge of web 2.0; as more and more students are growing up in an era of content creation, collaboration and experimentation, the implications of ignoring this field of work are grim. If our students are using web 2.0 channels to learn and study we need to make sure that we stake our place in this ever expanding area now so that we can effectively support our students in the future.

Keynote Speaker: Patricia Iannuzzi (University of Nevada)

If 63% of employers are saying that today’s graduates do not have the necessary skills to be successful then something needs to change, and soon. Patricia Iannuzzi’s keynote covered the issues surrounding this notion, looking at how information literacy can be used to engage and motivate, and hence empower today’s learners to succeed.

Patricia began by looking at the investments different groups of people put into university education and what they get in return. Students, parents, politicians and employers all have questions that need to be answered.

Patricia spoke about how today’s learners are evolving from a culture of receivers into a culture of inquirers and that information literacy is an adventure of discovery. She concentrated on the ‘labelling’ we do as a society and explored the different labels people assign to principally the same thing: digital literacy, media literacy, ICT literacy. Patricia enforced that it shouldn’t matter what something is called or labelled but that the learning outcomes ought to be the point of note. However, learning outcomes cannot be successfully achieved without student engagement. ‘Engagement’ was a bit of a buzz word around LILAC this year with many of the sessions I attended not only looking at ways in which we can actively engage our students in information literacy but dynamically trialling new ideas and methods in order to achieve this (Andrew Walsh’s session for example: if they won’t turn them off, we might as well use them. Using mobile phones in information skills sessions).

Patricia expanded on the idea of ‘engagement’ drawing on Prensky’s (2005) work into children’s engagement with video games; imagine if as educators we could achieve the same levels of engagement that ‘World of Warcraft’ does. A short video about such games and the engagement levels of ‘gamers’ revealed interesting insights into the elements enjoyed and factors valued such as collaboration, empowerment and interaction. Patricia proposed a framework for student learning built upon the underpinning of ‘student engagement;’ the faculty, curriculum and co-curriculum (or extra-curricula activities) are the three pillars above the student engagement foundation, topped off with student learning.

Being from Las Vegas Patricia drew on a very topical subject area – that of gambling. Now how did she manage to correlate gambling to learning you may wonder, well very eloquently is the answer…the gambling industry are driven by the demands of the gambler (or the customer, consumer, user, gamer), new developments are innovated as a result of ‘user driven innovation’ – education (at this moment in time is the polar opposite). Imagine if education was lead by ‘learner driven innovation,’ what would education look like in a world in which the learner directed advancements? Would there be more communication, collaboration, interaction and multimedia? 21st century learners are a generation that likes to talk through their devices and the gambling industry have recognized this and acted accordingly. Particularly interesting for my research is that of ‘mobile gambling’. Is it time for the education sector to do the same?

So after all the bright lights, and back to reality in the cold light of day, what are the implications for libraries…? Patricia inferred that we need to actively participate in the curriculum review, we must improve instructional design, we should model good teaching practices and invest in faculty development, and we should institutionally design co-curricular activities. Libraries need to (forcibly??) have a presence in directing not only its own departmental future directions but also that of the faculties in order that teaching, learning, and information literacy, are embedded and delivered in the most appropriate means possible for learner.

PRENSKY, M. (2005) Engage me or enrage me: what today’s learner demand. Educause Review, 40 (5), pp.60-65 [online]. Available from: http://www.educause.edu/ER/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume40/EngageMeorEnrageMeWhatTodaysLe/158006

Friday, 3 April 2009

Keynote Speaker : Melissa Highton (University of Oxford)

Melissa had the honour of giving the opening keynote of LILAC 2009 and she created a strong foundation for the conference, providing delegates with insights into information literacy, new technologies and the convergence of the two trends.
Melissa began by discussing the term ‘digital literacy.’ She emphasised the lack of definition currently on offer through wikipedia and questioned if you can be information literate without being digitally literate and vice versa.

To me, digital literacy is the term that can be used to describe the new kinds of skills that 21st century learners need to be proficient in order that they can function successfully in the modern world. For example, the ability to share, collaborate and communicate via the internet, either at a desktop or facilitated by mobile technologies; Sharples (2006, p.23) describes this set of skills as “transferable skills that employers prize, such as knowledge-working, media production and collaborative working.” I feel that to be digital literate is to be adept in the practice of web 2.0 technologies such as blogs and wikis, to be able to navigate online information spaces and to have the ability to create content and share it through an appropriate medium. Digitally literate learners are flexible in their approaches to learning and are able to use the tools relevant for the task in hand depending upon time, location and available technologies.

The problem with digital literacy is borne from the fact that it has not yet been explored by Information Professionals, Melissa suggests that this needs to be carried out so that a framework can be constructed and decisions can be made as to whether information literacy and digital literacy are one of the same or whether they need to be approached separately. To do this, Librarians, Information Officers, Subject Support Teams (whatever ‘we’ may be called) need to engage in shaping the debate about emerging technologies and the ICT expectations of new students. We need to be actively involved in answering the question ‘where should digital literacy fit in the curriculum and how can this be achieved?’ The answer to this question is becoming ever more crucial as the convergence of mobile and web 2.0 technologies has created a shift in the ways in which learners can access and share information. As a result of this the established information cycle of production, transmission, storage, retrieval and consumption can now take place in mobile contexts and without a central control element (Traxler, 2008). As Information Professionals however, we still need to maintain that our students can manage their information needs in an academically acceptable manner and that today’s learners can navigate their way through the plethora of access channels accordingly.

Melissa then moved on to discuss the ever topical Marc Prensky (2001a; 2001b) and his work on ‘digital natives’ versus ‘digital immigrants.’ She suggests that the current economic crisis will have an impact on the types of students we will begin to see applying for university places over the coming years. For example, there may be an in-flux of mature students as a direct result of the recession, these will be people that have perhaps lost their jobs and are looking to re-train and gain new skills. Obviously in this instance it throws a ‘spanner in the works’ of Prensky’s debate and the view of the ‘traditional’ undergraduate, 21st century student and directly impacts on the information literacy training we provide within our institutions.

The idea of ‘information abuse’ was also brought to the table and admittedly not something I had particularly thought of previous. Melissa interlinked this to the current banking crisis and the bad decisions made over the last few years; bad use of information has resulted in a global recession. Melissa inferred that banking chiefs (and the like) didn’t understand the predictive models they were using and the information they produced, which led to catastrophic mistakes in the decision making process – is ‘modelling’ literacy yet another string to the information literacy bow? The ability to interpret information well would lie at the heart of the ‘modelling literacy’ notion. The bringing together and comprehension of all these types of literacy’s (information, digital, modelling, ICT etc.) would result in learners leaving university with ‘digital wisdom’ (Prensky, 2009).

‘Open content literacy’ was Melissa’s final point about which she discussed the surrounding issues. Even though the content is available and out there, it is still important for Information Professionals to lead within this field; permissions, attribution, adaptation and the re-use of content needs to be mediated to ensure that learners are managing the information they are using in an suitable manner. A whole host of themes and technologies are drawn into this area, from copyright to categories, platforms (You Tube, iTunes etc.) to tags. This led directly to Melissa’s closing points – the emergence of iTunes U in academic institutions in England.

The University of Oxford have had an iTunes U site since October 2008 and Melissa offered advice and support to any institutions wishing to head down the iTunes road. One of the key points that has stayed with me is Melissa’s idea that Information Professionals still need to be involved in adding metadata to the podcasts produced for housing in your institution’s iTunes U store. Melissa felt that it was important that the academics started off the ‘tagging’ of the podcasts they produced in a web 2.0 context but that the Information Professionals should be on hand to provide the information rich metadata that will ensure students can find relevant podcasts to their subject area in a quick and easy manner.

Melissa invigorated me and prepared me for some of the key themes of LILAC 2009, her keynote speech was clear and coherent and really struck a chord with me and my research.


PRENSKY, M. (2009) H. sapiens digital: from digital immigrants to digital natives to digital wisdom. Innovate: Journal of Online Education, 5 (3), February/March 2009 [online]. Available from: http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=705&action=article

PRENSKY, M. (2001a) Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9 (5), pp.1-6

PRENSKY, M. (2001b) Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9 (6), pp.1-6

SHARPLES, M. (2006) How can we address the conflicts between personal informal learning and traditional classroom education. In: SHARPLES, M. (ed.) (2006) Big issues in mobile learning: report of a workshop by the Kaleidoscope Network of Excellence Mobile Learning Initiative, pp.23-25 [online]. Available from: mlearning.noe-kaleidoscope.org/public/news/KALEIDOSCOPE%20REPORT_07_Big_Issues_In_Mobile_Learning.pdf

TRAXLER, J. (2008) Use of mobile technology for mobile learning and mobile libraries in a mobile society. In: NEEDHAM, G and ALLY, M. (ed.) (2008) M-libraries: libraries on the move to provide virtual access, pp.47-55. Facet

LILAC 2009 - Keynote Speakers

The keynote speakers for LILAC 2009 were Melissa Highton (University of Oxford), Patricia Iannuzzi (University of Nevada), Lesley Burger (Princeton Public Library) and Conor Galvin (University College Dublin). With regards to my research and personal interests, Melissa Highton and Patricia Iannuzzi delivered talks that really inspired me – and have enthused me to blog about some of the key concepts they conveyed.

Blog postings to follow shortly...

LILAC 2009 - An Overview of Events

Well before this week I was a LILAC virgin, but I feel that after a manic few days down in sunny Cardiff I have been officially initiated into the LILAC phenomenon, and, been subjected to a few home truths about ‘stereotypical librarians’ (seeing a throng of Librarians rock to Nirvana was definitely an eye-opener!!)
I must admit that I had a fair few pre-conceptions about what LILAC would have in-store, many of which were way off the mark…

Fact or Fiction?

The days are steady and the nights are filled with a cup of cocoa and an early night.

FALSE – the days are packed to the rafters with parallel sessions and keynote speakers, a mad dash from room to room, intermittently broken by refreshments. The evenings are a frenetic race to get showered, dressed and ready to network, a none stop whirl of wine, food, talk, wine, laughter, talk…and a bit of dancing too!!

It’s important to dress to impress.

FALSE (apart from during the Conference Dinner) – I learnt my lesson wearing smart work clothes (with heeled boots) throughout the entire time at Cardiff. Daytimes should be strictly casual and comfy – FLAT SHOES are a must…I had an hours walking everyday – in heeled boots this was not the best part of my day!! The Conference Dinner was the time to get the glad rags on and enjoy some of Cardiff’s finest…

You’ll get to meet lots of extremely interesting people.

TRUE – Everyone is so friendly at LILAC and every new person you meet has a different story to tell or idea to share. A truly fascinating experience in discovering what’s really happening outside of your institution.

There will be time to reflect and blog about sessions.

FALSE – The days are full as are the evenings; I never had chance to reflect on the sessions I had attended never mind actively blog about them!!

‘LILAC’ stands for Librarians Information Literacy Annual Conference.

TRUE (however I came up with another option whilst returning home after an eventful Conference Dinner... lively intoxicated librarians at Cardiff…)

I would have to say that my overall experience at LILAC was a rather exhausting one (in the nicest way possible of course!). The keynote speakers this year delivered thought-provoking talks about Information Literacy in the 21st Century, Melissa Highton (University of Oxford) particularly struck a chord with me and my research with her allusion to Prensky’s ‘digital natives/immigrants’ and the term ‘digital literacy.’ Patricia Iannuzzi (University of Nevada) also referred to Prensky’s work on ‘engaging’ 21st Century learners which I found particularly pertinent with regards to the m-learning trend. (Check back soon for more in-depth insights into this year’s keynotes in a separate blog posting).

So what about the parallel sessions? I will give a brief insight into the most relevant sessions I attended here, and will blog in more detail in separate postings about the sessions which particularly grabbed me.

Most informative to my project was Andrew Walsh’s (University of Huddersfield) session ‘If they won’t turn them off, we might as well use them. Using mobile phones in information skills sessions.’ Andrew gave great insights into the different methods he has trialled during his information skills sessions for undergraduate students and looked towards the future for the University of Huddersfield and the use of the mobile phone in library settings, including an exploration of QR tags and such schemes as ‘text a librarian.’

Peter Godwin (University of Bedfordshire) talked of the exploitation of mobile devices with regards to information literacy in his session ‘Information literacy meets the mobile web.’ Peter gave an overview of m-learning possibilities correlating to information literacy practices and spoke of the options appearing as a result of a more mobile future. His session backed up a lot of the research I have performed and reinforced certain aspects of m-learning, whilst also providing interesting references to articles I had not yet read.

Having experienced the Learning 2.0 at LJMU training programme over the last 12 weeks, I attended the session hosted by Imperial College London ‘ 2.0 much to do: how, when and why should library staff find out about web 2.0, and what does it mean for information literacy?’ Jenny Evans and Ruth Harrison gave an interesting interactive session about the very first English web 2.0 training programme for library staff; it was good for me to have an insight into another HEIs approach, enabling me to feedback to our Learning 2.0 @ LJMU team here at John Moores.

Not especially relevant to my m-learning research but probably my favourite session was that conducted by Zoe Johnson and Lisa Balman (University of Huddersfield ‘Just give me The Basics: online inductions at the University of Huddersfield Library.’ Zoe and Lisa highlighted the problems encountered through trying to engage 21st century learners with quite ‘dry’ material associated with information literacy. To overcome this hurdle they have designed a clear and easy-to-navigate website packed with podcasts, demo’s and image slideshows to help make the delivery of information literacy all the more interesting.

Nathan Rush’s (De Montfort University) session ‘Researcher Wiki: experiences, analysis and reflections on using the read/write web to build researcher communities’ was also a very informative interactive session that I think deserves a mention!!

For me, LILAC gave me great insights into the possibilities and practices with regards to information literacy skills training and library inductions. Being at such an early stage in my career I feel that this experience has been invaluable in raising my awareness and preparing me to continue on down my chosen career path. I now feel that I have a much greater understanding of the best way to ‘reach’ our students and deliver sessions that are relevant, engaging and accessible to all students across the ‘digital native – digital immigrant’ spectrum.

And finally, for any other LILAC virgins that are compelled to attend next year here are my top 5 tips:

1. Wear flat shoes.
2. Take a supply of pro plus.
3. Research accommodation (both location and customer reviews!) properly and book early.
4. Take contact cards/business cards (or you will end up with loads of scrappy bits of paper to exchange details with new found acquaintances.

Check back soon for individual postings about individual parallel sessions and keynote speakers…