Social media for teaching and learning

Earlier this week I attended a University of Reading workshop on using social media for teaching and learning. A storify summary of the day is available here.

I thought the day was very useful overall, although there were lots of things discussed (such as Padlet and Quizizz) that I would consider more ‘online tools’ than social media, really. There were lots of examples of good practice, but some of the key points that I took away were:

  • Privacy is a real issue of concern for many academics and students. Facebook offers a greater degree of ‘distance’ than Twitter (you don’t have to be ‘friends’ to be in the same group and communicate, groups can be kept private). Some academics were also concerned about potential problems arising from more informal modes of communication with their students and were worried that they might get in trouble with the university for not following established protocols. I suppose the key here is for the university to publish clearer guidelines on acceptable social media use for professional and educational purposes.
  • Cultural differences affect social media choices! Facebook isn’t big with Chinese students, for example. So this is important to bear in mind when selecting the right platform to use with your students
  • It’s better to back web-based tools rather than programs which need to be downloaded (often university machines are locked down and any new programs and updates need IT departments to get involved).
  • Lack of confidence amongst academics is a key barrier as well. I think there is such an opportunity here for us to get involved, as there is a clear demand for more training and expertise sharing! I know many librarians already run social media workshops for staff and students (Judge Business School Library, for example), and as professionals experienced in providing training on new technologies and ways of managing and navigating information, we already have many of the necessary skills.
London skyline

London looking lovely on a summer’s evening

I would like to incorporate social media into my own teaching practices but I’m not sure how well this would work, particularly given the way in which I often only see students for one or two isolated sessions throughout their academic careers, rather than having a sustained relationship with them over time. The web tools, however, are easier to apply in the sessions that I teach, and I will definitely try them out in some of the induction sessions I’m running in October!

Overall the day was a brilliant learning experience for me. I thoroughly enjoyed discussing ideas and opportunities with academics from across the university, finding out what works, and what doesn’t.

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CPD projects this year

This year I have two big CPD projects to complete, which are different but related:

1. The EDMAP1 module at the University of Reading.

This is part of the University’s wider initiative to get more of its teaching staff accredited with the HEA. There are four taught sessions in total; I completed one in December and have another to look forward to in a few weeks. I’ll also have a piece of assessed coursework to complete later in the year.

I have found this course really useful so far, even though I’m only halfway through! Meeting members of staff and discussing best practice has been valuable, and I also enjoy having the theory there to ground what I’m doing in the classroom. If I pass the assessment I will become an Associate Fellow of the HEA. There is a very specific deadline for this, which helps.

2. Chartership

I recently attended a portfolio building workshop in London, at CILIP HQ. I think Chartership is going to be a really valuable way of examining my skills and experience in a critical way, identifying gaps and hopefully addressing these! My current job contract is only for three years, so I will need to start thinking about where I might head to from 2016 onwards, and what I’ll need to be able to do in order to move forwards in my career.

UCL looking lovely in the sun

UCL looking lovely in the sun

If I do manage to complete both of these CPD activities this year, I will have a ridiculous number of letters after my name! Obviously this isn’t really the point, however. The point is that I think both of these qualifications are going to be useful in helping me to settle into my role as a professional librarian. I’m still feeling uncertain and unsure of myself in many ways, and having some theory and evidence to back up my professional practice might help provide some confidence. It should also hopefully improve my credibility with the academics that I support.

New year!

Looking back at my first full term as a professional librarian, I can confidently say that I have achieved quite a lot! I’m really enjoying my current role and have really felt challenged and inspired. My personal highlights have been: the Celebrating Success award from the Head of one of my departments, and becoming used to delivering teaching sessions. Also, it’s always so nice to receive positive feedback and thanks from library users I have helped, that’s what drew me to librarianship in the first place!

YiWen's MA Librarianship certificate

My MA certificate!

My MA certificate just arrived in the post a few days ago! I have seen other librarians debate the value of a postgraduate qualification in librarianship and I have to say that I think my degree has been really useful in helping to prepare me for the responsibilities of my current role. When filling out the PKSB for Chartership, I was also struck by how many aspects were covered during the Librarianship course. I would highly recommend the MA at Sheffield – I had a great experience there.

I’m meeting my Chartership mentor this week for the first time. One of my big resolutions for this year is to get the chartership portfolio submitted by December! I know this is quite a tough ask but I think I can do it. I’d rather get it done sooner rather than later and am strongly motivated by deadlines, which helps.

Other exciting activities in the next few months include an observed teaching session for the Academic Practice Programme at work, which is nervewracking, and continuing my work with trying to engage with students at the MLES department. My resolutions are to pass the EDMAP1 module for this APP programme with distinction, and also to increase the number of enquiries I receive from MLES students.

In non-library related news, I’ve also resolved to run a half-marathon in under two hours, and practice cello once a week. I’ve signed up for the Reading Half Marathon, which is in 8 weeks, so training has really been ramped up for that recently!

It’s going to be a busy and exciting year.

Third month as a trainee liaison librarian!

Well, it’s been a month of highs and lows!

I’ll start with the lows, then. I mentioned in my last blog post that I would be running three teaching sessions for students at the Modern Languages department. Because I was nervous about this, and wanted to make a good impression on the students, who I’d previously had little contact with, I spent quite a lot of time preparing for these teaching sessions. However, I unfortunately only had two students attend these sessions – in total. Needless to say it was a big disappointment! However, feedback from other sessions during Enhancement Week (a new thing at Reading) showed that attendance was poor overall. Next time, I won’t get my hopes up so high… and I’ll definitely do more to market my sessions beforehand!

Given this pretty abysmal showing during Enhancement Week, then, I was really surprised to receive a Celebrating Success award from the Head of the MLES department! Staff at the department have been pleased with the work that I have done for them in terms of supporting their teaching and research. I have to work harder to prove the value of the Library to the department’s students, though – have yet to receive a single enquiry from them! I’m still brainstorming ways to promote the value of my services as a liaison librarian to these students, and would eagerly welcome any suggestions.

Other things that I’ve been up to: figuring out how I can best support the learning and research of a visually impaired student, doing more teaching (a mixture of large groups, small groups, and one-to-one), and finally, getting started with Chartership. I’ve paid over my £50 and am now looking for a mentor. I’ve also signed up for the Academic Practice Programme here at Reading and that starts in a few weeks. So let’s see how it all goes!

Second month as a trainee liaison librarian

This month has been really busy! Since my last blog post, I have delivered additional induction sessions, as well as running three advanced searching workshops. The feedback for the workshops has been largely positive, which is such a relief! My colleague Rachel kindly sat through my first two sessions and gave me some tips on presentation style and worksheet layout, which has been really helpful.

Most of my teaching thus far has been with Education students. I will have my first sessions with the Modern Languages and European Studies department next week; this is a bit of a challenge for me, as I’m hoping to use this opportunity to strengthen the relationship between the Library and the department. I don’t get many enquiries from staff or students from MLES, which is something I’m hoping to change. I also don’t have much of a background in modern languages, so I’ve had to do some homework to ensure that I’m up to speed and confident with all the relevant databases and information resources. At this stage, preparing for these new sessions is taking up a substantial amount of my time, as I’m creating new materials and learning as I go along! Hopefully as I get more confident and begin running sessions repeatedly, this process will become more efficient.

A swan at the University of Reading Whiteknights campus - we have a lake!

A swan at the University of Reading Whiteknights campus – we have a lake!

I’ve also had quite a few one-to-one sessions with students over the past week – about seven hours in total! Because it’s half term, many of the Education students have been able to book one-to-one appointments, usually on reference management and databases. Teaching has definitely been a major theme this month; it’s something that I’ve discovered I really, really enjoy, and I’m hoping to develop my skills in this area, probably through reading around the subject and attending CPD courses. We had one or two sessions on this at Sheffield, as part of the Academic and Research Libraries module, but really nowhere near enough, considering how important teaching is to the job roles of so many information professionals today.

Besides teaching and teaching preparation, I’ve also been busy with book ordering and ensuring that course materials are made available to students via the VLE. Another new development over the past month has been my role as shelving team manager for the 4th floor in our library. I chaired a meeting for the first time this month, and am trying to figure out these new managerial responsibilities.

I’m looking forward to seeing where the next month takes me!

First month as a trainee liaison librarian

It’s been just over a month since I started my first professional role, and so much has happened!

We’ve just come to the end of Freshers’ Week. Some of my colleagues had warned me beforehand about how intense it can be, but I don’t think I was quite prepared for the onslaught, when it came! I have been involved with a whole host of different Library induction events, and have enjoyed promoting our services to our enthusiastic new students.

Natalie and I on a promotional banner!

Natalie and I on a promotional banner!

The most nerve-wracking experience of the past week has been my solo induction sessions, delivered specifically to new students at the Institute of Education. I prepared for these by watching some sessions run by my colleague Rachel, and practicing repeatedly at home. The group sizes for these have been quite manageable so far – up to 25 students. I’ve found it really interesting how each cohort within the Institute of Education has quite a unique student body, with different interests and needs. First thing tomorrow I’ll be delivering a session for mostly international postgraduate students, so that will be a new experience. I’m trying something a little more interactive as well, so we’ll see how that goes! One of my sessions was observed by my line manager, Gordon, so I’m looking forward to getting some feedback from him next week. I’ve also been asking all the students to complete feedback sheets, so hopefully there’ll be some useful points there for me to work on in future.

I feel, at this point, that I largely know what I’m doing now! There are of course lots of things that are still new and I’m still always asking my colleagues about something or other, but by and large I feel that I can just get on with things, which is good. There were times in the first few weeks, before I’d been properly trained in everything, where I felt like a bit of a burden, or a bit rudderless, but now I feel like I can already make positive contributions to the team, and have specific goals to work towards.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to concentrate on building good relationships with academics, and getting a good grasp on my basic duties. I’ve already managed to get some new sessions booked in for ‘Enhancement Week’ in November, and I think this will be a really good opportunity to showcase to the (previously minimally engaged) department what the Library can do for its staff and students!

I’m really enjoying my job so far – it’s challenging, fun, and I get to work with some inspiring and lovely people 🙂

First week as a trainee liaison librarian

I’ve survived my first week of work as a trainee liaison librarian! So much has happened – I’ve met many people, been told many things, and am starting to get my head around the things I’m meant to be doing. I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learnt so far, and what I need to work on.

The first few days of my job were largely spent absorbing information. Monday was used to sort out administrative things, like where things are, a staff card and IT permissions, whilst on Tuesday and Wednesday several members of staff kindly took time out of their busy days to talk me through various Library processes and procedures. By Wednesday afternoon, I felt that I had a good understanding of my roles and responsibilities, although I hadn’t actually done very much myself beyond checking reading lists for the availability of recommended books in our Library.

My staff card

By Thursday afternoon, I was able to order some of these books and ebooks for the use of students in my department – initially with the guidance of my supervisor, Gordon, but later on independently! This was really satisfying as it was my first opportunity to actually perform some of my liaison librarian duties, including making decisions about how many copies to purchase, or whether print or electronic versions would be more appropriate. It was great to be able to put the theory I’d learned over the first few days into practice. On Friday, I booked in some of my first subject-specific induction sessions, and emailed members of academic staff. Real liaison librarian activities!

The 4th Floor of the Library is currently being renovated, so it has been difficult to get a real feel for where I’ll be working and where things are. Also as a result of this, I’ve been unable to assume my management responsibilities, which should cover shelvers on this floor. I’m actually quite grateful for this as it has meant that I will be able to ease in to my responsibilities slowly, taking them on gradually over the coming weeks.

Another challenge that I’ve faced so far is understanding the Library and how things work. One of the unique things about the staff structure here is that (unlike all my places of previous employment) individuals are only rarely given strictly functional roles, and most people have a range of responsibilities across different parts of the Library. For example, one Library Assistant could primary have cataloguing responsibilities, but also have certain hours of their day allocated towards shelving, and others towards liaison assistance in a particular department. This is great and I can see how this would be a really positive thing for the Library overall, but it makes learning who people are and what they do trickier!

Over the next week, I hope to be able to gain a better understanding of my department and its unique information needs, and begin building relationships with academic and administrative staff. I think I’ll investigate other university libraries’ libguides for my subject areas. I should also learn more about my Modern Languages responsibilities, as a key member of staff will have returned from annual leave. I’ll try harder to learn people’s names and responsibilities, particularly Library Assistants and fellow Liaison Librarians – the website and intranet will be useful for this. I could also start thinking about my teaching responsibilities, and how I will approach them.

Overall, I’m relieved to have reached the end of my first week without breaking anything! My colleagues have been really patient and supportive, and I’m really looking forward to learning more from and working with them over the coming weeks. There are times when I still feel really nervous and unprepared for everything I’m meant to be doing, but I’ve just got to stay positive, build on my professional experience, and remember that there are people there to support me.

PS: here is my staff page!