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, 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:

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:

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:

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…