Monday, 15 August 2011

Social Media: The New Disruption

No Man is an Island by neotint

Social media is all about shifting power relationships.   With new channels of communication opening up and old certainties changing some may react with fear.  None of us are quite sure how things are going to evolve but there is obviously as much potential for good, collaboration, co-operation and transparency, as for bad.  It will depend on attention and intention.

The risks and rewards of social  media obviously extend to professional development.

The reward of a wide and varied Personal Learning Network is balanced against the risk of being poorer in terms of time.
The reward of overcoming the barriers of cost and geography are balanced against the risk of decreased physical contact.
The reward of instant, quick information against the risk of shallow, transitory  links which fall short of knowledge.

I guess as I progress with my use of social media I need to ensure that I keep assessing how to get the best from the tools in terms of connectivity, efficiency and knowledge sharing.  

I feel strongly that social media helps to foster a sense of community.   I guess community covers things like satisfaction, loyalty and contribution; feeling at home, interest in what is going on within the community, and similar values and beliefs.   Virtual or online communites can provide all of these things.  Seems to boil down to the quality of interactions and relationships.  Also depends on need and what an individual wants out of the experience.  I don't see " lurking" in a negative light if that is what an individual wants to do, could be a really valuable learning experience.

Bradley Kreit's encouraging post highlights the emphasis that we should be putting on creating "trusting and connected societies" because being connected greatly increases our wellbeing.   So lets use social media for the good.

Mentor: n. an experienced and trusted advisor

Image by ky_olsen

It's been really useful and timely to read and think about mentoring as I'm just about to embark on a new mentoring relationship at work.

 Having read a couple of blog posts from fellow 23 Thingers who talk about the scariness of asking someone if they will mentor you, and whilst not wanting to diminish the very real courage that this can take, I know that I was flattered to be asked to mentor a colleague who is just about to take on new responsibilities.   The asking is like an acknowledgement of competency and experience in the people skills that we all want to feel we are OK at.

Particularly pertinent for me, from the article Developing Workplace Coaching Skills by Jennifer Osborn, was the ability to ask good questions.

How frustrating is it when somebody tries to solve your problems for you from their perspective?  Nobody can have the insight that you yourself have about any given situation.  That's not to say that a fresh perspective isn't helpful but it is not usually the solution chosen.  So a slightly different approach is needed in order to ask
questions that elicit the right answers from the coachee.

Natalie's point about the impact of the tough economic climate and the time available to take part in  mentoring was interesting.  I would love to know how other school librarians felt about this one.  I certainly feel that the school environment, being very teacher-centric, creates additional challenges for me as far as professional development is concerned.

All this has got me thinking...what skills do I need to acquire next... and who might I possibly ask?  

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Education Rethink - The Flipped Classroom or the Khan Academy phenomenon

This summer as I've been thinking about current developments in teaching I've come across the concept of reverse instruction.  This seems like a really important development and one, by increasing a students' independence and self-direction by flipping the responsibility for learning onto the student, which is analogous with library aims.    Here is what I've found.

A useful introduction to the concept and discussion by leading thinkers in the field here. (65 minutes long)

There are lots of questions being asked, especially in America.  I would love to know if teachers in the UK are using, or planning to use,  this concept.  More explanation in this presentation by Jackie Gerstein

Seems like some are having real success

When I moved to school librarianship I was greatly surprised, in fact pretty appalled, by the lack of traditional book based learning skills and independence: the kids just couldn't or wouldn't engage with and extract information from books.  They were very passive and non-curious learners in lesson time and yet out of lesson time, on getting to know each individual, each had there own passions and enthusiasms.  If  content delivery by video as homework can free up teacher time to provide meaningful and engaging interactions at school  then teachers will be constructively using their professional skills. 

So initially, it seems to me, that the flipped classroom, by offering more inquiry and exploration based learning, might offer some solutions to these problems.  Certainly seems to be another useful tool in the teachers' toolkit.   

What do you think?

Monday, 8 August 2011

My experiences as a Librarian so far...or how I will carefully try to avoid revealing my age!

Image by Feathered Tar

I remember thinking about librarianship and discounting it as too boring (sorry! this was totally down to my misconceptions!!) when I was in the sixth form at school.  

I guess I had some other more pressing experiences that I needed to pursue before finding my way to a Library Assistants' role at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Cambridge, post motherhood and post an incredibly stimulating and empowering Masters in Education.

The study and research that I did for this, along with being the mother of a son with a physical disability, meant that I was passionate about education and choices and chances in education and how these impact on lives according to gender and difference.  Needless to say I have always love reading and storytelling and also the physicality of books (I was an offset litho printer for some time which I loved) But  I'm also fervent about the mind expanding, life enhancing power of knowledge and about allowing equal and open access to information.

Skip forward to today and I find myself four years into my post as Librarian at an Independent school, still learning and progressing and evolving as an informational professional.

My training started with funding for the City and Guilds Library and Information Services Award, I wanted to make sure that this was the way forward for me, and went on to a self-funded Post-Graduate Diploma by distance learning.

I didn't choose librarianship as a career straight out of University so I don't have the luxury of such a long career in one profession.  On the other hand I know that the experience acquired pre-librarianship has given me a unique set of skills and competencies and that the possibilities for the future are exciting.

Evernote - how I learned to stop worrying about remembering and love the elephant

Elephant Skin by Meredith G.

Thanks to 23Things I now LOVE Evernote.

I signed up for Evernote in October 2010 but, as with many tools, got little further than the sign up!

Then came Thing 9 and guess what... I 've been using it non stop since I took the time to actually realise what a great tool this is for efficiency and organisation.   I can see that home and work are, thanks to Evernote, becoming increasingly paperless and increasingly less cluttered!

This has got me thinking, in a wider way, about the adoption of new tools and technologies.

 I guess for something to stick there has to be a tangible advantage to using the new thing in my life, in whatever capacity.  The thing  also has to be easy to learn how to use and preferably free.   Seeing examples of good practice and ways that others are using it also helps me to make the connection between the thing and my life.   But also just having timely reminders about the thing helps me make the time to give it a go.  If habits take 28 days to  become fully incorporated into our lives then I have a couple of weeks to go with Evernote.  

Transferring what I have learnt personally about this experience to the work setting will help me in the way that I suggest new tools to teachers.

 I think it is fair to say that, for whatever reasons, the school where I work is fairly slow to adopt new technologies.  

This learning experience, and the quality of the tool for transforming working efficiency, has given me some ideas and enthusiasm for spreading the word.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Six Reasons Why I, Irrationally, Prefer p Over e

Happy November! by emilyonasunday

"...the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubborn persistent illusion.”  Albert Einstein

Google calendar seems to me a perfectly good organisational tool.  Easy for me to access as I use GMail for work.  Great for collaborating with others and for accessing at home.  Simple and functional.  But I must admit that the only time I used it was when waiting for my new Staff Planner at work last year.  This Thing has got me thinking why I am strangely resistant to change in this area.  Below are my justifications

1.  In the same way that I like the physicality of books I enjoy the physicality of diaries and calendars.  I have a gorgeous Gwen Raverat Desk Calendar this year at home.  Diaries and calendars are more than functional tools to me, they are also aesthetic objects to which I can attach bits of paper, stickers, doodle on the days.

2.  This is one of the few times that I  physically write with pen and paper during the day.  I need to keep doing this to preserve some sort of legible handwriting!

3.  We get a nice big Staff Planner/Diary each year at work which expands as the year progresses with agendas, to do lists,  contact details etc.  I can have this open on my desk at work as an easy reminder of that day's activities.

4.  I can be totally mobile without the worry of computer/internet access.  Quite important in our school environment.

5.  I get a break from looking at a computer screen.

6.  I like the sense of a new academic year and New Year that the new paper items represent.

Influences Along the Way

Thing 7 requires us to think about face-to-face networks, our experiences with professional organisations, how our careers have been affected and what we have learnt.   So, after false starts and long ponderings, here are my experiences.

Signpost by JMC Photos

My involvement with professional organizations has ebbed and flowed according to the development of my library career.  I have been a member of CILIP for about six years.  As a new member in the profession I found the information and publications invaluable and the special interest groups good for introducing me to other people in the library world.   At this time, working within the wonderfully supportive network of Cambridge University librarians, I met many different library workers and observed the individuality of the various academic libraries.  I was in awe of the size of the stacks at the University Library and took every opportunity I could to tour within Cambridge and further afield.  This was a time of steep learning and I absorbed everything with an eye to planning where I wanted to end up.  

Having qualified and begun working as a school librarian ( a real culture shock to go from the University sector with a large number of library professionals to being the sole worker in a school)  I attended an incredibly energising and inspiring weekend by the School Library Association in Glasgow.  It was refreshing to be amongst so many other librarians who, despite all working in very different schools, understood the nature of the job.   I also joined ISLEC (Independent School Librarians Eastern Counties) to make local contacts and visit other school libraries.  I still dip into events by the Cambridge Library Group and take advantage of the diverse topics covered by the Arcadia seminars which explore the role of academic libraries in the digital age.

More recently I've been able, on an informal basis, to share my knowledge to newer professionals, with those who are thinking about joining the profession and those who have been deciding whether or not to take LIS qualifications.  Somewhere along the line I have gone from being the newbie to someone who can guide and inform.  But I can't finish this post without mentioning a few people who have influenced me along my way.

Firstly Chris RobertsLewis whom I worked with at Sidney Sussex College, a good mix of boss and friend, supported my aspirations and went out of her way to enable me to progress.  She also had a wicked way of  incentivising staff by supplying chocolate and almond croissants!  

Next John Crawford.  He opened my eyes to the history of librarianship by enabling me to attend a seminar on library automation and see my name in print in the Library History journal.  An enriching opportunity to meet real experts in the field with such collective wisdom.

Lastly Jane Henfrey, an almost scarily insightful and open person who helps me to understand the psychology of teachers and of myself.  A progressive voice who believes in putting the heart into education and a great lover of books.