Monday, 6 June 2011

CoFHE LASEC Information Literacy Day & Teach Meet

I recently attended CoFHE LASEC’s information literacy training day and teach meet. It was an inspiring day in all kinds of ways. Most importantly I know that it will have a positive impact on my approach to promoting information literacy. However a passing comment about blogs also reminded me that I’ve been meaning to revitalise this blog.

The ‘teach meet’ element of the day meant that there was a strong focus on sharing good practice and finding out how other colleges are tackling the challenge of teaching information literacy. Here are some of the highlights.

Introductory talks

The morning session started with two introductory talks which aimed to give an overview of the issues surrounding information literacy, including the obstacles that we face when trying to promote it. Jane Secker and Lisa Jeskins both emphasised the importance of information literacy as a life skill. It’s something that students will need throughout their lives and developing it is an ongoing process for each one of them.

The third speaker, Sarah Pavey, eased us into the ‘teach meet’ element of the day by telling us about her own experience of embedding information literacy into the curriculum of a secondary school. She discussed strategic issues like the advantages of starting at a young age and perhaps more usefully for her audience the importance of aiming for a whole school / college approach.

In the spirit of the occasion she also gave us some very concrete examples of things that she had done with her students.

My personal favourite was the lesson where a class of persistent cut and pasters were asked to criticise a piece of work that had obviously been copied from the internet. Once they’d enthusiastically identified the giveaway features they were asked to peer mark each other’s homework. Not that our students would cut and paste.

I also quite liked the idea of using ‘you say we pay’ (as seen on Richard and Judy) to elicit search terms. It’s an engaging way to demonstrate that a range of different words can be used to describe the same thing.

She had also designed her own ‘create an essay’ jigsaw. Once completed it gives useful research tips but the actual process of making it can also be used to teach key concepts like the evils of plagiarism (don’t look at another group’s jigsaw) and the idea that essays don’t have to be constructed in a linear fashion (start with a bit you can do). This was very popular with the audience.

Jane Secker blogged about what it was like to organise the Teach Meet.
Lisa Jeskins put her presentation up on her blog.

Teach Meet session

The afternoon was all about sharing innovative practice and showing off clever toys. Volunteers took turns to give brief presentations about an aspect of their information literacy teaching.

Daniel Smithson – Kingston College

Daniel started off the afternoon by showing us the information literacy resources that Kingston College had created for their VLE.

He made some interesting points about the use of podcasts. Apparently they help to encourage teachers to deliver information literacy training. Showing a brief podcast to their class gives teachers an easy way to introduce research skills into their lessons. Podcasts also have the potential to reach a larger number of students than face to face sessions.

Christina Harbour – Writtle College

Christina focussed on a simple way of making face to face information literacy sessions more interactive. She passed a can of coke around and asked the group to share words that could be used to describe it. The idea is to move from this to eliciting search terms for an assignment. Obviously the coke can was just a convenient example you could grab their attention by using something more unusual as the object.

Sally Reeve – Brighton College

Sally showed us an online service called ‘poll everywhere’. As you might expect from the name it’s designed to let you poll a group of students. You put a question up on the board and the class can answer it via the website or via their mobile phones (controversial). Students can also text comments or questions. It is free for groups of up to 30.

Antonia Williamson – Goldsmiths

In keeping with its creative image Goldsmiths has a film noir style online library induction tutorial starring the private eye Dewey McLeod. It includes interactive elements that are similar to point and click computer games. It’s very clever and they’ve had some great feedback from students. Apparently it was mostly created using Captivate.

Ella Mitchell - University of East London

This site is definitely worth a look. UEL has created an information skills website with videos, tests, guides and various other resources. It’s all open access, published under a creative commons licence that allows others to use the materials for educational purposes. There is plenty of stuff here that you might want to use. Have a browse.

Cat Taylor – Kingston College

Cat told us about quizdom, an online service that lets students in a class answer quiz questions. The clever bit is that it presents the results in a game format. Apparently the best example is a racing game where your car moves forward further if you get the right answer.

Claire Crowley – Kings College

Claire talked about the Cephalonian method. This technique is founded on three well established principles of good educational practice.

1. If students have to say something they are more likely to stay awake.

2. Bright cheerful colours also help students to stay awake.

3. Never underestimate the motivational power of chocolate.

At the start of a session you give some of the students a coloured card with a pre-prepared question on it. The questions are colour coded by complexity. Red questions might be very simple ones to start the session off and green ones might be more complex questions that you want to leave till later. You start off by asking for a red question. The students read it out and they are then rewarded with a chocolate. Repeat until you run out of pre-prepared questions then ask them if they have any questions of their own.

This is very much just a taster. Apologies if you did a presentation and I haven’t mentioned it. I haven’t come close to covering all of the experiences and innovative ideas that were shared on the day.

I recommend teach meets as a very useful way of picking up new ideas. The focus on sharing good practice means that you come away with very concrete ways of improving your own teaching.

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