Monday, 6 April 2009

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.

1 comment:

  1. Great write up Vicki, as you know I'm particularly interested to hear about Learning 2.0 programmes so it's good to read about the talk.