Interactive teaching skills – HLG workshop

Teaching is something that I do a lot of and really enjoy. It’s a big part of many health librarians’ roles, but unlike in the academic sector there often is not much training available to improve our pedagogy. I was lucky enough to be able to do a teaching qualification in a previous role, and I thought I would share some of the theory and practice that I picked up there with my fellow health librarians at the HLG conference this year.

I made the workshop as interactive as I could! My main objective was to enable participants to write effective learning outcomes and tailor activities to suit these. I drew on the Library Juice academy training I had in Observational Assessment Techniques for the One-Shot Instruction Session as well as on the EDMAP1 module I completed at the University of Reading. I demonstrated a number of different types of activities; the slides and handout text are given below.

Before this session I was very anxious about lots of things. It was my first presentation at a national conference, there were lots of different activities and I was worried about time management, and I was worried that I would be teaching grandmothers to suck eggs. Luckily for me however, participants were lovely (librarians are, usually!) and willing to get stuck in! There was some really positive feedback left for me on post-it notes afterwards; I do hope some attendees will take back some new tools into their teaching practice.

Slides for Interactive information skills teaching HLG presentation

Interactive teaching activities: some ideas (Handout)

Sorting cards

This activity is suitable for 2-6 people. Good for checking if students have understood a concept and for encouraging discussion. Options include:

  • Matching words to their definitions
  • Sorting cards into categories
  • Placing cards on a scale (least reliable evidence to most reliable evidence, for example)

Print-out games

These activities are suitable for smaller groups and can be good as an ice-breaker, but they do take a little more classroom time. They encourage interactivity and there is an element of competition as well which can make it more fun. With the Seek! Card game it is possible to create your own questions and answers as well.

Online quizzes

There are a range of websites that you can use to create interactive online quizzes. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses so it is worth exploring your options.

  • Kahoot (Interactive quiz but requires good internet connection)
  • Mentimeter (Also for presenting, but you only get 2 questions with a free account)
  • Poll Everywhere, Slido, Socrative are other options (I’m not so familiar with these so can’t comment!)

Online feedback walls

Padlet is a free online ‘noticeboard’. Useful because it doesn’t require a login and can be kept private. This was also the website that was used by Emma Shaw for her ‘flipped classroom’ approach to teaching literature searching.

Students as teachers

Asking students to correct a piece of work that has deliberate, commonly seen mistakes in it can be a really effective method of teaching. I’ve used this to teach referencing and literature searching but I’m sure it could be adapted to other topics too.

Creating a poster

This is an activity that takes a little more time but is a great way to get students to really explore a subject. Divide the class into groups of around 5-6. Each group should get a different topic to write a poster about. I usually provide them with a ‘resource pack’ to inspire their thinking and stimulate conversations. After about 10-15 minutes the groups are asked to explain their posters to the rest of the class. Example topics could be ‘What makes good quality evidence?’, ‘Where do you look for good quality evidence?’. I have also used this to teach critical appraisal.

Thought bombs

I found out about this activity from a blog post by Emily Wheeler, a librarian at the University of Leeds.  This one involves preparing three different options (e.g. different evidence sources), and asking students to debate which one they would choose. Every minute or so you provide a ‘thought bomb’, which is a new piece of information about one of the options, which reframes the discussion and disrupts their thinking. Quite time consuming to prepare but generates lively discussion.

Interactive stories

You can create free interactive choose-your-own-adventure stories using a website called Twine https://twinery.org/. Try http://www.depressionquest.com/ if you want to see some possibilities of Twine. Possibilities include creating a ‘Your research adventure’ story.

 

Further reading on educational theories

  • Adams, N. E. (2015). Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive learning objectives. Journal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA, 103(3), 152.
  • Aubrey, K. and Riley, A. (2016) Understanding and using educational theories. London: Sage.
  • Giustini, D. (2014). Utilizing learning theories in the digital age: from theory to practice. Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association, 30(1), 19-25.

Useful resources

 

 

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Emerging technologies in health libraries – Workshop at the CILIP HLG Conference 2018

This year I was lucky enough to be able to present two workshops at the CILIP Health Libraries Group Conference in Keele, held in June 2018. I will write up my other workshop, which was on interactive teaching activities, as soon as I can – in the meantime here is a summary of the Emerging Technologies workshop that I facilitated together with David Low.

The session was a facilitated discussion between librarians. I tried to limit the size of the group to 24 (four groups of six librarians) but in the end there were a couple of extra people who squeezed in, who hadn’t pre-booked to be on the workshop – I think I ended up with 27 altogether. I feel that this made the discussions a bit more difficult to manage, and those who are more introverted may have struggled to get their voices heard in the larger groups. In future I will try to ensure that groups are kept smaller, or perhaps have an extra activity planned to accommodate extras.

There were four topics for librarians to discuss: Machine learning, AI/Voice assistants, Blockchain, and Virtual/augmented reality. For each topic I provided four questions to be discussed. The groups of librarians rotated between topics, so that they were able to discuss every technology over the course of the session.

I provided A3 paper and sharpies so that the groups could record their discussions. Below is a transcription of the posters created by the various groups. Each group only had around 10 minutes to get their head around the topic they were talking about, and answer the question. I think this is a little short – in future I’d provide 15 minutes for fewer topics, particularly given the larger size of the groups.

Overall I was really pleased with the quality of the discussions and how smoothly the workshop went. As with all group activities there were some groups which were more forthcoming in their discussions than others. Myself and David circulated around the room, prompting participants with questions and answering any queries; it was very useful having two people and I don’t think it would have worked as well with just myself. Some topics such as blockchain didn’t generate as much conversation as participants didn’t feel as confident talking about it. I think I’d either have to spend more time explaining the principles beforehand, or pick topics that are more accessible in future. I did also provide a ‘cheat sheet’ for each group, which was a printout of an article that was relevant to the topic being discussed.

Another way of running a workshop like this could be to keep each group looking at one topic only, answering all the questions relating to it; each group could then be asked to present back to the others about their topic and this would open it up to wider discussion. I’ll try this next time – if I get another chance to run a workshop at a conference!

Machine learning

Posters on machine learning by workshop attendees! I have transcribed these for easier reading and accessibility.

Machine learning

 Marshall, I. J., Noel‐Storr, A., Kuiper, J., Thomas, J., & Wallace, B. C. (2018). Machine learning for identifying Randomized Controlled Trials: An evaluation and practitioner’s guide. Research synthesis methods. DOI: 10.1002/jrsm.1287

What is it?

Use of an algorithm to repeatedly run a process and selection, which mimics learning.

What Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are there for health librarians?

  • Strengths: Personalisation of current awareness, can improve search, act as a discovery tool
  • Weaknesses: Death of serendipity, deskilling staff, can we trust the system?
  • Opportunities: Better current awareness, Discovery tools, Search optimisation
  • Threats: Disintermediation

What are the social/ethical implications of this technology?

  • Accidentally training it with biased information i.e. racist sources or biased papers in a Systematic Review
  • Ability to teach diagnostics to a machine? i.e. Radiology
  • Uses in literature searching i.e. teaching it to pick out articles for different disciplines
  • Loss of human contact (particularly in medicine)
  • Lack of critical thought

What actions can/should librarians take?

  • Role in directing users towards best machine learning tools
  • Upskill in more complex tasks such as critical appraisal
  • Explain limitations of machine learning solutions
  • Purchase machine learning solutions?
  • Focus our attention on print books?

AI voice assistants

Cronin, S., & Doherty, G. (2018). Touchless computer interfaces in hospitals: A review. Health informatics journal, DOI: 10.1177/1460458217748342

What is it?

  • Siri, Alexa, Google Home, etc
  • Input data/give commands to a device via your voice using national language
  • Can interpret the question and improve the more you use them
  • May talk back to clarify question

What Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats are there for health librarians?

  • Strengths: Learns language through use
  • Strength and Weakness: Always listening
  • Weakness: Unreliable information quality?
  • Threats: Where do librarians fit in to the equation – what part of the process can we participate in?

What are the social/ethical implications of this technology?

  • Isolation
  • Laziness
  • Results bias as limited to the owning company e.g. Amazon/Apple/Google
  • Technology might give harmful advice
  • Security
  • Potential for remote healthcare
  • Can be an enabler for the vulnerable/isolated/disabled
  • Fast and efficient responses

What actions can/should librarians take?

  • Teach critical thinking skills and the ability to spot ‘fake news’ etc
  • Voice activated technology? E.g. for out of hours services, self issue – can replace standard procedural enquiries
  • Streamlining back office admin, e.g. for setting up meetings
  • Training opportunities for librarians – should we have maker stations in the library to showcase these new technologies and help users with them?

Blockchain

Hoy, M. B. (2017). An introduction to the Blockchain and its implications for libraries and medicine. Medical reference services quarterly36(3), 273-279.

Blockchains for the Information Profession

What is it?

Distributed ledger technology, growing series of encrypted records (blocks) to store information e.g. Bitcoin

What Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats are there for health librarians?

  • Strengths: Stronger encryption; can manage rights to material; business continuity
  • Weaknesses: What is it?? Only as good as the initial set up. Rubbish in = Rubbish out
  • Opportunities: Better sharing of resources; much stronger data storage potential?
  • Threats: Librarians not involved in early days/set up; is there a potential to make librarians redundant?

What are the social/ethical implications of this technology?

  • Data protection?
  • Use of electricity – unsustainable
  • Used on black market
  • Unknown consequences of the technology

What actions can/should librarians take?

  • Copyright
  • Access management and membership
  • Authority control
  • LMS

Augmented/virtual reality

Lessick, S., & Kraft, M. (2017). Facing reality: the growth of virtual reality and health sciences libraries. Journal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA105(4), 407.

What is it?

  • Augmented reality: adding info to the world around you. E.g. Pokemon Go and Minority Report
  • Virtual reality: Flight simulation, immersive tech – medium dependent. E.g. Matrix
  • Mixed reality: Holodeck

What Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats are there for health librarians?

  • Make available VR simulations as training materials for our users
  • Finding your way around the physical library using augmented reality for improved signposting?
  • Threat: Can we preserve the library as an information hub when information moves from books to apps?

What are the social/ethical implications of this technology?

  • Social isolation/exclusion due to cost
  • Addiction?
  • Practice in a safe environment
  • Learning environment
  • ‘Google glasses’: videoing, facial recognition etc in real time, potential privacy issues?
  • Safety/corporate control – who has your data
  • Programmable landscape
  • Physical space needed as well to use it

What actions can/should librarians take?

  • Promote use
  • Headsets in the library
  • Increase our own knowledge
  • Find relevant applications and highlight these for users
  • Set up space for practice e.g. for medical students
  • Engage users
  • Use beyond medicine e.g. in inductions and for library skills
  • Liaise with clinicians and academics – find champions
  • Use for wellbeing – e.g. relaxation on a beach

An idiot’s journey through systems/e-resources librarianship

This has been a very tough week for me. I mentioned in my last post how I had practically zero systems or e-resources experience prior to this role, and this week has been all about firefighting in my various library systems! Whilst it was very unpleasant, I have also learnt a lot and I thought I would share my learning here.

1. Setting up a new system? Write everything down

I am currently transitioning all of our students at the Royal Marsden School over to Shibboleth authentication from OpenAthens. This is not a fun process. Shibboleth needs to be configured and tested for all of our e-resources (that’s 7 e-book platforms, 1 discovery service/database provider, and 9 journal platforms); I have also tried to set up WAYFless URLs to all of these different systems to improve user experience.

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I have been working on this since early September, alongside all of my other day-to-day jobs! It was really easy to lose track of where I was with the process for each resource; eventually I got my act together and just recorded absolutely everything (email exchanges and all, it’s amazing how quickly they get lost in Outlook) in a Word document divided up using headings. I’m sure there is a fancier way of doing this but it was quick and easy and worked for me.

Also, if/when I leave, then all my documentation is there for my successor to follow up on.

2. Don’t be afraid to be a pain

One of the things I have discovered about systems librarianship (at least at my level) is that it is mostly about communicating with other people, rather than doing any coding or hugely technical stuff. When I have an issue I send off a communication to the relevant customer services contact. This week I’ve been in touch with Springer, Ovid, 123library, Cambridge Core, EBSCO, Myilibrary, and RCNi because various things have not been working (I did say it was a bad week! Normally I go weeks without an issue). Of these 7 suppliers, 3 are still causing me problems several days on…

Some companies are better at responding than others. I used to be really polite and wait for ages to get a response; now I have learned that it’s ok to be more firm and chase things up. For example, I had an instance this week where the support contact said ‘sorry, that’s the best we can do’ and I sent quite a strongly worded (for me!) reply insisting on a better solution and stating that my other suppliers had managed to accommodate my request. And it worked!! They did eventually provide me with the OpenURL compliant WAYFless URL I needed. If I hadn’t been more insistent, it wouldn’t have happened.

3. Service providers are poor at communication. Be incredibly specific.

Here is a scenario from earlier this week:

  1. YiWen to Journal Provider: Hello! I am encountering an error message when I try to login to your journals using Shibboleth. Here is a screenshot of the error message. Please can you investigate?
  2. Journal Provider to YiWen, minutes later: You are not logging in the correct way. Please follow these steps.
  3. YiWen to Journal Provider: Yes! I did follow those steps! Those are exactly the steps that I followed to produce the error message!
  4. Journal Provider to YiWen: Oh yeah, I’ve just tested, you’re right, there’s a problem. I’ll get back to you.

Invariably, service providers will assume that YOU are the problem, not their system. The burden of proof is on the complainant! It is best, in your very first email, to provide an incredibly detailed, step-by-step outline of the issue, with screenshots of every single step taken. This would have saved me lots of swearing and frustration later on.

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Anyway, there we go. Those are some of the lessons that I’ve learned during one of the toughest weeks I’ve had, systems-wise. It has been quite cathartic writing it all out and if anyone else has to step into a systems-related role, I hope it helps them too.

What does a solo NHS librarian do?

I feel really proud to be able to say that I work for the NHS. Although in my previous role at St George’s I did help provide some training and support for NHS staff, it wasn’t my primary focus. My current role is in a specialist cancer hospital supporting our NHS staff, but we are odd in that we also deliver accredited university modules at undergraduate and postgraduate level, so it is more of a hybrid HE/NHS role. I thought I might use this blog post to outline my responsibilities and what I do, as healthcare librarianship can be regarded as a specialist niche within the library profession and I want to demystify it a little.

General responsibilities

  • We are a tiny team of two – just myself and a library assistant. I spend at least half an hour a day supervising the library assistant and providing training where necessary when tasks have been delegated to them. This was a new responsibility for me as I hadn’t line managed anyone directly beforehand.
  • Answering enquiries! As we are such a small team I share equal responsibility for dealing with day-to-day tasks like circulation, phonecalls, etc – the bread-and-butter work of all libraries. Today I’ve unjammed a printer, found a journal article for a nurse, renewed some books, alongside my other responsibilities.
  • Ordering books and journals. I know this sounds very basic, but when I was at larger libraries I just instructed the acquisition department to get certain titles in, and it just happened as if by magic! I now have to liaise directly with suppliers and, more challengingly, NHS procurement and finance to ensure that the books and journals that we need are available. This can take up far more of my time than I would like.
  • Systems librarian (!?) – I had practically zero systems experience before this role and had to learn quickly! I initially found this one of the most challenging things to do. I look after our link resolver (NHS libraries use OCLC), our authentication system (OpenAthens, for now) and the backend of our EBSCO Discovery service. Our LMS is hosted by another organisation so that’s one system I don’t have to worry much about, luckily.
  • Interlibrary loans – as with book acquisitions, I used to just ask another member of staff nicely to order these for me, and it just happened. Now I liaise with other NHS libraries, local HE libraries, and, if needs must, the British Library to obtain these for our users.
  • Copyright officer – I ensure that we meet the requirements of our Copyright Licencing Agency Higher Education and NHS England licences, and advise lecturers on how they can best utilise copyright laws in their teaching.

HE responsibilities

  • I provide information skills training for students at the Royal Marsden School. We have 20 different modules across each academic year, with many of these running multiple times in the year so that we have over 40 groups of students to induct and provide information skills training for! One of the big challenges is the diversity of each student group as you can have, in a group of 20 students, 10 who have not studied for a decade or more, 5 who are recent graduates, and 5 who have already attended several of your information sessions. I try my best to produce unique info skills content for each module to minimise repetition and introduce variety into their learning.
  • Academic staff often come to me for support with finding learning resources for new modules, or when they are looking to revamp existing modules. I help to compile reading lists and also ensure that reading lists on our VLE are all linked to our catalogue.

NHS responsibilities

  • Literature searching – this service usually lies at the heart of most healthcare libraries. For the uninitiated, this is a highly technical, specialised way of searching established databases to find all the available published papers on a topic. A search looks abit like this. Librarians do these for clinical staff to save them time – it takes about 1-2 hours to do a good search, especially if I then review the results to highlight key papers.
  • Promoting the library is a huge challenge for all organisations, but perhaps especially in the NHS, where we often deal with a transient workforce who have very little time, and who are often scattered geographically.
  • Engaging with the wider NHS library community. There are a lot of national and regional shared resources and working groups, and it is a great community to be a part of as everyone is very helpful and proactive – I found it absolutely invaluable when I was first finding my feet. I attend meetings with other NHS librarians in London and the South East once every couple of months. There are national standards (LQAF) that we need to meet, and a strategic steer from Health Education England known as Knowledge for Healthcare.
  • I also provide 1-2-1 and small group training for NHS staff in literature searching and critical appraisal. This is currently on an ad hoc basis, and is something I’d definitely like to develop further in the future.

Part of the reason that I have written all of this down is that recently I have been feeling anxious about how well I am doing as a librarian. A year has gone by in my ‘new’ role and it can often feel like little progress has been made, although I know this isn’t true! There’s a lot that I wish we could do – I’d love to set up a current awareness service for NHS staff, do more to promote the library, and I’m behind on several projects – but when I write all my day-to-day responsibilities down it helps me to realise that I’m already doing rather a lot and perhaps it’s ok for us not to be a perfect library service… yet!