Studying online…a journey into two ‘dark ages’

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Train track by unsplash 

MARCH

What was supposed to be a monthly blog entry has seemingly turned into a quarterly one.  Two online courses captured not only my interest, but any free time I might have had a claim to.  One dealt with records of up to 1500 years old that are (in many cases) still well preserved, able to be studied and continuing to release their historical secrets – the world of medieval manuscripts, belonging to the so-called ‘dark ages‘.  The other looked at resources from a mere 4 decades ago up to the present, which were either already lost, difficult to preserve, or in danger of being lost forever – the digital domain, threatening a digital ‘dark age‘.

On a gloomy day in January, while picking myself up from proverbial rock bottom, I enrolled for both courses.  Initially unfazed by the thought of doing two simultaneously, I had felt that personal experience with studying online would be helpful.  I needed a challenge, after all, and I had time on my hands, so I’ll handle it!  Well, I did.  Just!  They overlapped during the final two weeks of the 7-week Deciphering Medieval Manuscripts MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), and the first two of the 3-week ALIA/TAFE course, Born Digital.

Tip 1: it’s unwise not to plan for the courses you enrol for…these two just grabbed my attention on the day, topics that have interested me for some time. They ended up taking a load of my time and leaving me frazzled on some days.

Some will say that’s a no-brainer, but it’s amazing what we can do on impulse. Avoid impulsive planning when it comes to online training. :/

Motivation was twofold… or so I thought. Firstly, to remain ‘in the learning zone’ (with LIS related topics) to avoid brain-rust; secondly, to maintain an ALIA PD portfolio, which, against all odds, I yet have high hopes for.  But as I started reflecting on this, other motives became apparent which, admittedly, I didn’t enjoy owning up to:

  • a desire to become ‘really good’ at some area of librarianship… so I continue exploring;
  • the nagging knowledge that joblessness equates to digital-skills-lossness! (Relax, that’s not a word, I know.) 😉  Digital technology is moving faster than  we frail humans can keep up with, so how could lil ol’ me expect to walk into the job market if I don’t make a personal effort to at least try to remain informed on current tech;
  • loneliness.  As an unemployed expat, in relative isolation (albeit due to personal circumstances), I seek like-minded company whenever I can…it is really rewarding to study and chat with people across the globe… to be skill-challenged, to practice new terminology, discussing newly-learned concepts.

APRIL

It’s a week later as I continue writing at 35,000 feet above sea level, en route to Brisbane for 6 weeks, to welcome a new granddaughter into the world. This is a huge privilege as an expat, because so often we are separated from loved ones whom we seldom see. A privilege I would not enjoy, if I were employed. So, with every cloud comes a silver lining, although, oft times we are too wrapped up in the cloud to see the lining.  My January blog post drew an email response from a reader… a special person who always goes out of her way to encourage others … who cannot know the impact her comment had on me.  She motioned that many secretly long for what I had been griping (my word, not her’s) about. It made me sit bolt upright and opened my eyes to the positives of my circumstances.  For several weeks I wanted to respond, but felt that whatever I said would sound flat or patronising.  Thank you now, Cherie, for opening my eyes and changing my attitude.

Back to online learning.  MOOCs are a great way to spend (daily) free time if you have some that you can commit to.

Tip 2: The time factor varies from person to person and also depends upon the level of difficulty of the course, but roughly 6 to 8 hours a week should do it.

I have used Open University, Coursera, and Canvas.  Weak points will be found in all, but I am loathe to gripe about courses offered for free…these are institutions and individuals who give of their time, technology and expertise to help others and to spread knowledge. Certificates are available for some once the course has been paid for, but there have been a few that I have completed free of charge and received a certificate for.

Tip 3: Engagement is the key… forum discussions are a must to cement new learning. Engage, engage, engage!

I needed to ‘take the plunge’ initially, being part-introvert and often insecure in my own abilities.  It is especially challenging when the activity is mandatory, and contributions are only displayed once you have submitted yours.  I have cringed in embarrassment, but also floated on feelings of victory. Engagement makes for a more lasting learning experience.

Whether pursuing personal, or career, development, let me encourage you to jump in and try a course online.  If it is approached with an attitude of ‘let me make this fun’ half the battle is already won, and you are less likely to become one of the many who drop out and contribute to poor completion rates.

Tip 4: Do something outside of your field…aim for new knowledge.

JUNE

Two months have passed.  The quarterly blog post has now morphed into a half-yearly contribution. Back home, with jet-lag finally shaken off and clarity returned to a rusty brain, I shall now attempt to complete this post.  The taste of life in Australia served only to make my mood more dodgy upon returning to the Middle East. (Suffice to say I’ve been like a bear with a sore head; or is it a mamma bear yearning for cubs!? Please don’t blame me, the Aussie granddaughters are sooo cute!)   heart

A few notes on the two courses mentioned above:

Deciphering Medieval Manuscripts was a journey of uncovered mysteries. Periodically I heard myself exclaim: “is that how/why/when it was done!”.  Absolute bliss, especially for those who, like myself, constantly desire a window to peer into the past!

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Manuscript held by the Archivo Municipal de Burgos (Spain) catalogued as SJ-1/2

 

Well done to Coursera and collaboration between University of Colorado, USA and Universidad Complutense, Madrid.  The video lectures contained loads of information, illustrations and examples, often challenging in terminology, depth and detail.

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Example of ‘couture à deux aiguilles’ – sewing quires together. (Image borrowed from the course)

 

I initially enrolled for the “free” course, thinking that if I don’t make it, I would not have wasted money.  But as each week arrived with new concepts in manuscript production I was enthralled and couldn’t wait to complete the module.  In the end I paid for the course, receiving a certificate as evidence of 7 weeks well spent.  Not being the artistic type, I avoided the hands-on practical, choosing the option to make story-boards on Pinterest instead.  At times even these were a challenge to complete before the given deadline, often taking longer than the suggested 2 hours. (Re-pinning someone else’s pin wasn’t an option for me, so I trawled through resources to find examples of the week’s concepts.) Here is the link to my Pinterest account where you would find story boards for the assignments.  If you’re interested, here is a great video to watch (6 mins) on the process of making a manuscript. Amazing! 😀

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Part of a still from the video lecture discussing exceptional types of MS illustration

Valuable knowledge was gained, even though I may never work with manuscripts.  I now look at these beautiful documents with different eyes and loads more appreciation. Sadly, the lecturer mentioned throughout that cataloguing records are not consistent and descriptive data is often shortcoming, making it difficult to search for particular facets of these primary resources, within online databases.  However, the chance to explore these wonderful  items up close from my home PC was amazing.  Kudos to wonderful efforts from many quarters (one of many sites available online) in getting so many of these resources into digital format, for more folk to study and/or appreciate them.

Here is a link to Medievalbooks, an amazing blog by Erik Kwakkel, a professor specialising in Codicology, Paleography and Medieval manuscripts.

Tip 5: Have fun, but approach online learning as you would a regular course – take notes, read from extra sources, meet deadlines, ask questions and study for quizzes (if there are any).

The second course I did was Born Digitalpreservation of digital information.

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Screen grab of the course’s home page

 

ALIA/TAFE courses are amazing, not least for the information and hands-on practical they contain, but especially for the helpful, knowledgeable instructors presenting their courses. I usually approach them with a mix of trepidation and excitement, but have always managed to hold my own. This time it was harder, though. The forum discussions, comments and suggestions from others were as much part of my learning as the course material was. Every so often I was ‘googling’ to find out more about a concept (…that effect of being unemployed).  Nevertheless, I seemed to know a little more than some…so found the ‘imposter syndrome’ start to wane after the 2nd week.

The curriculum began with a rather clear definition of digital preservation, working through relevant methods of preservation, hardware/software involved, conversion process, preservation best practice, to social media and what is on offer in the digital domain to save your Tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram pics, etc. Valuable knowledge that anyone working in the LIS sector needs today.  I’m thrilled to have done the course. However, after a year it will probably look vastly different due to the rate of change in technology.

Some vital points were stressed…

  • Digital preservation is a must! Preservation of everything – our ubiquitous mobile images, emails, social media chats, blogs, websites, forums, reports, diaries… whatever is comprised of those 1s and 0s, online and offline.
  • Our tendency to carelessness in ensuring the longevity of our digital data. How blissfully we create and delete;  we store info yet fail to regularly back up to current media formats. (Here is a handy how-to guide from OCLC.)  We relegate those annoying BU tasks to a day in the future when we may have both the time and the inclination, but which never seems to come around.  This results in a loss of valuable knowledge, frustrating for sociologists, historians, archivists yet to come.
  • Apart from a lack of backups, we are facing an unprecedented loss of data due to rapid changes in hardware and software, with no surety that even our best efforts at preservation will actually be effective a mere 10 years from now.
  • So another reality becomes increasingly apparent: paper is best! Yes…paper. If it’s something you really need to preserve, print it!!

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Print icon image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

This course made me view my personal digital activities with new eyes.  I began to make plans to save, store and backup my digital data. To buy cloud storage, to leave a digital legacy, and to backup on those pesky hard drives as well.  With it the realisation dawned that Flickr may not, after all, live in cyberspace forever.  Shock and horror! I may just have time to retrieve and save the most precious images I have so faithfully stored there for the past 6 years. Ugh!

Tip 6: Complete assignments. Do all the activities. Don’t quit.

This turned out to be a rather long read.  If you’ve read this far, thanks for stopping by. 😀

Happy blog-June to all who are partaking – I admire you, immensely. You rock!

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What we want is not always what we get…

November and December were spent on cloud nine! The first because of a fabulous holiday and the other because our daughter and granddaughter came for Christmas, all the way from Brisbane.  January arrived and suddenly everyone was back at work except for me. The house was depressingly quiet and the dog and I were looking at each other equally as gloomy. My volunteering stint at the Museum of Islamic Art was over. With no job prospects at present, and my Australian visa application in a queue – a very looong queue – for the last year already, what was next?! I felt myself descending into the abyss of depression.

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Reflection by Fumigraphik_photographist on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

Why can’t I get a job you ask?…the only job I honestly stand a chance of securing locally is as a school librarian. I feel uncomfortable with the level of censorship required in this country, so for this reason I do not apply for any. Having interned for +-320 hours in an American private school, I heard and saw much. I reached the final round of interviews for 2 teacher librarian jobs, was accepted for one, but declined at the end of internship, as I realised that the local school environment is not for me.

Other (academic) libraries, under the banner of a major local holding company, have a cut-off age of 55 years, unless you are already in a position of worth. I have received zero replies from the National Library’s HR. Without appearing to make excuses, 3 factors work against me – I’m Western, I don’t have a Master’s degree and am considered ‘old’. The majority of entry-level jobs are seemingly filled by Middle Eastern nationalities. I graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree…a late career changer, chasing a long-held dream. At 59, with no experience bar +-500 volunteering hours, not many are willing to consider me employable. (If only they knew what a good librarian I’d make!)

My home country? No, not possible. An entrepreneurial venture? This would be another way forward, but I do not relish local red tape, and besides, this culture is very much a ‘man’s world’. My hands are tied – not cut off – just tied. For now.

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To be away from this particular expat situation and to be in a country where I feel I could belong is my dream. Someplace where I can become involved in community projects, volunteer freely, join librarian meet-ups, feel that life has a purpose, and to be able to possibly find a job. However, what we want is not always what we get.

longingDry Pots by Mirjana Veljovic on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Recently I began to think…perhaps what I want is not where I’m supposed to be? Have I another task to perform? Listening to the two people I live with (hubby and son) I began to see that my role had huge value.  I realised just how much they need me to keep things going so that they have a measure of support and sanity after crazy days in their respective working environments (you’ll only know to what I refer if you’ve been an expat in the Middle East). The mundane, unglamorous, task of running a home (which the world largely holds to scorn) acquired a new sheen. Added to that, a new granddaughter will arrive in April, in Brisbane.  Once again I’ll be required as home-carer-cum-babysitter for a good few weeks. (Not that I’m complaining, since I’ll be in Brissie! Yay!)

And so, resignation dawned – stop fighting the urge to escape, to build a new profession, stop the striving. Support those you care for most. This is a season in which they really need it. With that decision made, I felt at peace.alone

Pto. Madryn by Christian Ostrosky on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

So where does that leave my ‘librarian’ aspirations? Either I throw in the towel or I plod on.

Well, since retirement is not an option I am not about to cast myself aside as a ‘hopeful wannabe’. I choose to plod on! I will walk through PD opportunities that come my way, keeping my eyes fixed on that distant goal of ‘librarian’ position.  I will think positive, stay fit and healthy. I will not accept defeat and I will put my hope in the right place – in the One who can make all things happen.

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Beginning by Aftab Uzzaman on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

One morning a few weeks ago, I read an article that inspired me to keep my dream alive. I sprang into action and signed up for a MOOC through Coursera, Deciphering Secrets: The Illuminated Manuscripts of Medieval Europe, and enrolled for ALIA’s Born Digital course. I felt my spirits lift because some great learning would be coming my way soon. Simultaneously, I learned of another volunteering opportunity – a very exciting one – that may be available once I return to this ‘land-of-sand’ in May. I do hope it materialises.

What we want is not always what we get. For me, serving my family while waiting for the right time to realise a dream, feels like the right thing to be doing just now.

Here’s to you librarians everywhere…you rock!  I really envy you, but in a good way. 😀 Keep up the great work!

“Good librarians are natural intelligence operatives. They possess all of the skills and characteristics required for that work: curiosity, wide-ranging knowledge, good memories, organization and analytical aptitude, and discretion.”

Marilyn Johnson in This Book is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians can save us all.

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Thing 23: Bringing it all together

Once a day I endeavour to check my Twitter feed.  For me, it’s the most important time of my day, as it is the source of the majority of my library-related information and PD.  I click on links, read about new ideas, new technology, library life, it’s struggles and victories, and engage with blogs via links that are posted.

I try to log in to LinkedIn once a week.  This gives me a chance to catch up on the groups I follow and to find new contacts. I don’t have a large network on LinkedIn because I choose not to link with people I don’t know. Many whom I do know, are not on LinkedIn. Especially enjoyable are the posts from individuals, groups or companies I follow.

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Social media and donuts by Photo Giddy on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Pinterest is a social platform that I engage with when I have time, or when specifically looking for ideas on a topic.  Of course, once you start on Pinterest you need to know that you have, at the very least, an hour to spare.  It is the greatest visual fun and a real eye-opener to the innovative nature of humans.

Instagram – well, that’s a different story…I began my account as a public one, hoping to soon be in a library job, where I could share books, events, ideas, news etc., along with personal bits along the way.  However, that has not happened, so I post things of interest to me, now and then, but more importantly, I use it to follow librarians, libraries, museums and topics of interest in the GLAM sector.  In this way I get to see campaign ideas, displays, makerspaces, new books, and more.  I love it! For this, I log on probably every other day.

But, here is a secret…I operate another Instagram account, with which I engage VERY frequently every day…and were you to stumble upon it, you would shake your head with pity, and declare that that woman is touched in the head! It is my dog’s account…yes, you heard right, my dog’s account.  If you haven’t yet discovered the ‘doggie world’ on Instagram, or indeed, even the ‘kitty world’, I suggest you take a look at the #dogsofinstagram or #catsofinstagram hashtag and go exploring.

As an aside, it has opened up a world that, I believe, can only exist virtually in the social media realm!  One where people regardless of colour, nationality, culture, religion, geographical confines, age, interests, status in life, or whatever, can connect, challenge each other, support each other, chat, share tips, mourn and laugh together and love each other, unconditionally.  All through the name of the dog, or the dog’s account. No stigmas, no expectations, no mockery, no bullying…only fun and unconditional acceptance.  It is wonderfully therapeutic, brings a smile to one’s face every time, creates happiness and disperses loneliness.

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Dog by Rodrigo Monteiro on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I use Facebook to follow library-related accounts and pages of interest, and to connect with a few family members afar off.  For me, the most beneficial page to follow has been the ‘Troublesome Catalogers and Magical Metadata Fairies’ group…I have learned quite a bit in the month since I have joined this group. Because I find that Facebook can quickly become addictive to me, I have confined use of it to my iPad, and do not log in on my PC or my phone, so that it is not constantly intrusive to my daily routine. I take a moment over a cup of coffee every other day, to catch up on the newsfeed.

The ‘Reader’ function on WordPress is a great way to keep up with other bloggers, and those I follow are all wonderful library blogs. Blogging on WordPress has been somewhat of a challenge since I created my first blog in 2010.  I discussed my lack of ‘blogging drive’ before in a previous post, but Rudai23 has put paid to that. 🙂  Posting once a week over the last 23 weeks proves that it is indeed possible, even when you don’t feel like it. Of course, from now forward, it would also mean finding content or a topic to write on, but it won’t be weekly for me. 😉  However, I am more encouraged on the topic of blogging, and have lost most of my fear of ‘being out there’ in case the grammar police are on patrol, or the syntax is incorrect.

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Hootsuite by Wes Schaeffer via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The  above 6 accounts are the main social media accounts I engage with.  After signing up with Hootsuite, I decided to link only 2 – Twitter and WordPress.  I did not agree with the App’s permission requests for Instagram or LinkedIn, for privacy reasons, and so cancelled those.  Here is a snapshot of my dashboard from this morning…

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I found Hootsuite easy to use, although I worked through the tutorial at first.  I can see how it will help to bring social media accounts under one umbrella for ease of monitoring.  I look forward to using it to monitor the hashtag of the next Twitter chat I attend.

It must be super helpful when used within a library situation, where many social media accounts are monitored and regularly posted to, specifically because of the time constraints of a busy workday.  I love that Tweets etc. can be drafted and scheduled to be posted at different times, so engaging with different users/followers throughout the day.

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Content curation: how does it build value by Stefano Maggi via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

At this point I’m cracking open the (virtual) champagne bottle, and getting out the crisps and dip.  CELEBRATION time, as I come to the end of Rudaí’s 23 Things! Thank you to the team who developed this programme – it has truly been a beneficial learning experience.  A time of personal and professional growth.

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Champagne by CycloneBill on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

As always, thanks for stopping by.  😀

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Featured image:  Embracing social media by RDECOM on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

 

Thing 21: Infographics

Well, that was fun! 😀 I have always loved looking at the wonderful infographics one can find on Pinterest and elsewhere, but have never sat down to explore methods of making one.  Thank you Rudai23 Thing 21, for requiring me to do just that.

I was at a loss to know what topic to cover, not having time to research one.  As I was reading an online newspaper a few days ago, my eye fell on an article The Nobel Prizes in numbers.  Interesting facts that few of us know or recall.

I signed up to a free account on easel.ly.  I found it user-friendly, especially if you are acquainted with desktop publishing. The graphics available on the free account are limited, so I used  images  from Clipartpanda.com. I needed a little extra info which I found on Wikipedia. I have cited my sources on the infographic itself.

Admittedly, it would take some practice to make a really good infographic that is eye-catching and informative.  That said, I’m quite happy with my first effort.   I used as much as I could from the article, without cluttering the image to death.

nobelprizesinnumbers

On second thoughts, it is a bit cluttered, but hopefully easy to read.  When I signed up to easel.ly I was mailed a link which I thought I would share on this blog: A complete guide to Infographics. There are some great tips which I would have to incorporate the next time.

These, from the writer of Thing 21, Michelle Breen, are just as important to remember:

  • Create an attention grabbing headline for your infographic;
  • Know your audience and tailor the content like you would do in a presentation;
  • Keep it simple – highlight key items in your data rather than displaying everything;
  • Cite the sources of the data used in the infographic and check your facts;
  • Keep it fun by using distinctive colours and illustrations.

Talking about gorgeous infographics…look at this: The Benefits of Handwriting vs Typing, via Stephen’s Lighthouse.  Oh my! I love it. And then of course, there are the wonderful infographics that are made by the talented Sylvia Duckworth…they must adorn many a classroom in schools worldwide.  I also stumbled upon this article claiming to present The 100 Best Infographics.  It targets North America, but has some amazing examples, with only a couple that I recognise.

Because of the visual learning experience I would imagine that, depending upon the space available within a library, it would be great to have infographics up on display, covering many different topics, throughout the year. They are adaptable to young and old, informative and decorative. A really valuable form of information presentation.

Until next time, when we discuss ‘mobile things’.  😀   Thanks again for stopping by.

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Thing 20: Presentations

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Presentations by Russell Davies on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

I enjoyed reading through Rudaí23, Thing 20 by Liz Keane Kelly. What she says is true: “presentations are as normal as meetings nowadays…”. If only most people who are presenting would remember that it is only a tool used to clarify your idea or information. Just recently I was in a 3-day workshop where the slides used were packed to capacity with information, hard to read, and where the presenter read each and every word from the slides. Yikes, that sends me over the cliff of boredom!

My own efforts at presentations have been few. I once prepared for a Book Talk presentation aimed at a group of children in a private school. They would have been aged between 9 to 11, an international group who mostly use English as a second language. To keep both boys and girls engaged for the 10-min talk, I decided to present Diary of an Ugly Sweater by Cassie Eubank. Christmas was approaching and the book had been released earlier that year.  It was my hope that it would engage the children in a lively discussion around feelings.  Also that they would enjoy reading this delightful book, finding its value as well as theirs. Well, the book talk never happened. Long story. However, the presentation can be viewed here. Needless to say, my presentation could have been improved upon, since it was one of my earliest attempts. To engage the children I used a few more ‘bells and whistles’ than I would normally like.  I planned to use the notes panes to prompt me on what I wanted to say with each slide. The presentation is set to progress with mouse-clicks, to control the timing and the discussion.

Just recently I undertook a presentation for a library when the library manager (where I volunteer) mentioned that the overhead TV needed a new info display. At the library we were all under pressure, with about 10 days’ notice before an IFLA committee viewing of Qatar’s libraries in order to consider Qatar as a potential venue for an annual IFLA conference. At home I had time on my hands, so I tackled it and was humbled when they decided it was good enough to be used as a permanent info display.  With this kind of presentation, which you don’t get to present, as it were, the vital info must be imparted to the viewer with a comfortable time-based scroll, so that they have time to assimilate the info in passing, but without getting bored. This (museum) library has a lot of walk-in visitors, both residents and tourists, who often don’t know that the library even exists.

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A few years ago, as an English teacher at the British Council, the classrooms had smartboards for us to use.  I would imagine that giving a presentation is not much different.  We all know there are rules out there to come up with amazing presentations, and having read many over the years, I would be inclined to follow these six that I remember easily, and which are common sense really:

  1. KNOW your audience; create a presentation to keep them engaged, within the time allocated. Otherwise you’ve lost them, period! meeting-giphy
  2. Don’t overdo the text. (I’ve heard it said no more than 6 words per slide. Extreme or correct? What do you think?)
  3. Not too many fancy bits, simple is always better (and safer!).
  4. Know your subject; don’t rely on the presentation to get you through. (What if the power is off and you have to talk anyway?) 😮
  5. Give credit where credit is due! All the material used – images, clip art, ideas, text – should be referenced.
  6. Create a handout for AFTER the presentation. Not the entire presentation – you can put that up on Slideshare.net – just the most important points.

Moving on to Thing 21, Creating Infographics. Fun! Thanks for stopping by. 😀

Boring presentation giphy from Giphy.com

Thing 17: Reflective Practice

For Thing 17 we are encouraged to apply the “Cobbs Cycle of Reflective Practice”.  The process is outlined in the diagram below (taken from the Rudai 23, Thing 17 article):

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Gibbs, G. (1998) Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Education Unit, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford.

Today, my reflective thinking post will be on the course in general, thus far.

Description

I decided that I needed to tackle a course on  technology…something that would challenge me.  I remembered seeing Tweets about “23 Things” and so I explored the various options. Although Rudai23 was no longer active or monitored, the activities for each Thing and the length of the course felt right to me. I threw down the gauntlet to myself as it were, and picked up the challenge.

Feelings?

At the time I was excited to begin this course.  I felt as if I was losing touch regarding technology and the skills required.  Some forms of tech I had not, at that point, ever used. The niggling urge to try them out was always there, but never the time. This course would require action.  Besides that, I had let my blogging slide into neglect, and kept hearing people banging on about how important a blog was as a CPD record.  It annoyed me, since I did not enjoy blogging, but wanted to ensure that one day, one day, when hopefully we could escape from this ‘land of sand’, I would be an employable candidate. So, with the added requirement of writing a blog post, I realised there can be no excuses…I would have to write.

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Evaluation

I have had to dig deep. I confronted insecurity in tackling technology that I had not used before; faced my fear of ‘being visible’ (blogging publicly) since I don’t have the gift of the gab; also of linking my social media accounts for branding purposes.  I realised that I suffered from ‘imposter syndrome’.  Something kept whispering ‘you’re not a real librarian’, ‘you’ve used distance study’, ‘you’re out of touch’.  I had to actively work at quashing those thoughts.  Feeling very vulnerable, I only experienced kindness online.  I’m thankful for the librarians who commented and encouraged. With each Thing‘s activity, I my confidence grew. Exploring the topics gave me more insight. Finally, tackling the activity and writing up the blog post afterward, was hugely satisfying. I am just over halfway through the course now, and feeling more equipped with knowledge and experience. 😀

Analysis

Before beginning I didn’t fully think the course through.  I merely jumped in.  While that is a good thing in some ways (because in too much thought I may have decided to shelve it), I have also found it tough to stay on schedule.  Working as a volunteer, running a household, trying to remain up to speed with professional development, strength training, reading and other commitments, alongside weekly blogging, is a serious challenge to one who isn’t a natural writer. Also, doing this kind of programme solo is not desirable – it would have been valuable to share with someone along the way, to discuss various elements and to compare notes.  (The administrators of Rudai23 encouraged me and invited contact if I needed to, but that would be a lot to ask of people who are probably as pressured as the rest of us and who have in fact moved on from this course.)

Some of the activities sounded as if they would be a walk in the park, but in reality were tough and a time challenge. For example, screencasting in Thing 9. That taught me a lesson in three Ps…preparation, perseverance and patience. 😀  I eagerly anticipated experiencing the Augmented Reality in Thing 14, when, obligingly, Pokémon Go was launched just a few weeks earlier and it was on everyone’s lips. My desire to explore new things, had me looking at different AR Apps and in so doing I discovered AR I hadn’t known about and found some ideas for library advocacy, which was to follow in Thing 15.

So, I see a pattern emerging…these tasks and skills are interwoven and can be combined to equip one for more effective service to users and stakeholders within all kinds of libraries.

Conclusion

What else could I have done? Read!…more blogs linked to the Rudai23 things course…more articles on technology…more research. I could have given each activity more thought in respect of application to libraries. I could also have actively tried to form a local group to do this course together with.

Action plan

  1. Short term: to not quit, but to finish strong.
  2. Medium term: to read more on professional writing.
  3. Long term: to begin another 23 Things course in 2017, hopefully as part of a group… 23 Research Data (RD) Things. 😀 (If anyone is interested in doing this course next year, please drop me a line below, so that we can connect.

The use of reflective practice in libraries should be encouraged by managers.  Each member of staff, each professional, given a chance to revisit their learning; their experiences; their interaction, with users and with each other; their attitude, aptitude and approach to new technologies.  How could this be instituted? How do you ensure library staff are exercising reflective thinking?  By providing forms to complete? By asking for feedback from each person? How often? Monthly, quarterly, annually?  Not everyone will be interested in maintaining a continuous professional development (CPD) blog. So how?

reflecting

Reflecting by Gisela Giardino on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In my previous life  😉  as ELT coordinator, the Head of Department was of the opinion that regular observation of teachers was vital to maintain standards of professionalism.  Random, drop-in observations, was the method used.  Not popular, I know, but to measure someone’s actual ability/performance on the job, it is effective. In an office the manager doesn’t always notify people that s/he’s planning to walk the floor.  They often just pitch up to take a look at what’s happening.  I’m unsure of how it works in a factory, but I’m almost certain  workers are not pre-warned that managers observe from a window/platform above, they just do.  In our ESL department the teachers were aware, from the start, that we used this method of observation.

These observations ensured that teachers remained on top of their lesson planning and that weekly lesson plans were drafted, helping the department to run smoothly when someone called in ill or went on leave. They served to keep the lessons varied and interesting.  There is nothing worse than sitting in a language class for 6 hours of a very hot desert day, having a teacher drone on about grammar, writing, spelling and comprehension.  Equally so, lessons that were planned were more interactive, making the task more enjoyable for both teachers and students. Lastly, professional feedback was the outcome, since teachers had the chance to respond in writing to remarks on the observation report. feedback-commentsReflective thinking! From it came growth. Our ESL department was so effective, that it became popular locally and we were bursting at the seams.

Feedback by Ewan McIntosh on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

 

So, in my experience, the outcome of reflective thinking, especially when it involves accountability to someone else, is professional growth. Yesterday’s #auslibchat on Twitter was about professional development, mentors and mentees. One outcome of the discussion was the need for mentors, and for all of us, in fact, to come alongside the other. So perhaps we can each find someone that we can do some mutual reflective thinking with…regularly…so we can challenge our growth and professionalism as librarians.

Here’s to Thing 18 – communicating through photographs. 😀

dog-waiting

Dog waiting by Samuel Yoo on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Cheers! Thanks for stopping by.

Thing 16: Collaboration tools

Six years ago I was one of three people (two coordinators and the HoD) responsible for drafting weekly class tests for each module on English language training, across different levels.  For uniformity purposes collaboration was vital.  They contained speaking activities, listening activities, reading extracts, images, clip-art, and questions of varying format. However, collaboration was a nightmare. First, our time was taken up with different tasks in the normal day-to-day running of the ESL department. Second, when we could, we would work on our local PCs, back up on the flash drives, and then go into the local network’s shared drive to back up again and create a master copy. If one worked at home, the documents would be copied from a flash drive to the work PC, overwriting a previous copy, and then again placed on the shared drive, overwriting the master copy. When we all worked on these tests over the weekend, there we would be, on the first day of the week, trying to retrieve and edit the same master documents, but in turn, as only one person could access a particular master copy at a time. 

Confusion

Confusion by Stuart Miles courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Needless to say, the entire process was a mental battle, trying to establish which was the latest and final edit! In the end each task often ended up with multiple copies, and all three of us at a loss as to which was the actual copy to use. Not only would we have to ensure that the copy on the shared drive is the correct one, but all our local backups needed overwriting, as well as the documents of the flash drives. We realised that our collaboration was a shambles!  As far as drafting final tests were concerned, it was all best left to one person, we decided.  The downside was that that person was sent multiple emails (leading to new stress)  Cool_sign with questions and suggestions for additions, and telephonic debates on the side.  The whole process was stressful and was repeated weekly.  Somehow we managed to get the tests issued on time every week, but only after many private hours spent by one person, at the weekend.

PC Frustration

Has the above story rung a bell, or revived old unpleasant memories? Made you confused and exhausted? Good! Because it drives home my point on just how wonderful it is to have Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, OneNote and all the other programmes that allow effortless collaboration.  Microsoft’s SkyDrive (now OneDrive) was available from about 2008, but cloud computing was a mystery to most of us, and those who were not techie-minded were adamant – they were not going that route.  Witchcraft

Even our IT department was suspicious of the cloud, and consistently avoided any queries.

Dropbox was around soon after, but again, not widely used.  Google Drive was only created in 2012, long after I left the ELT department. Had we have had those programmes and their current features, oh, our lives would have been made so much easier.

collaboration

Collaboration by Urs Steiner on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

So averse was I to creating backups of backups of backups, that as soon as I began my course in 2010, I immediately turned to SkyDrive and Amazon Drive. When Google Drive arrived, it quickly became the popular choice.  Today, documents can be created within these drives, shared, commented on, and collaborated on.  google docsNo constant backing up and transporting of flash drives. It is safe…in the cloud. 😀  (Indeed, the onus is on the creator of the document to keep a back-up of his/her documents on site, but at least the documents and files on the cloud are not on a device that may drop, become damaged, corrupted, be mislaid, or anything else.)  Truly wonderful. And now I can just about hear all those questions and comments regarding security and the cloud?!  Haha, well after 6 years of using it privately, I would never, ever, NOT EVER, look back!

Bullseye

 

Win target by Stuart Miles courtesy of freedigitalpotos.net

 

Earlier this year, as an intern in the school library,  I was tasked with designing reading badges.  These were digital images created with an online badge maker.  To share them with the librarian would have resulted in countless emails containing rather large image files.  Instead, I stored them on Google Drive, and shared each grade’s folder with her, automatically sharing the documents within. All she needed to do was to click on the link, open the folder, edit and/or save the file on her computer for printing.  No pain. No flash drives. No back and forth emailing. The folders were downloaded onto her PC, organised according to grades,   all ready to go.

Today, in the library where I volunteer, no-one seems to be using  collaboration tools.  It may be that their needs are different, but I have on multiple occasions wished I could give someone access to a document or form that I have created for the library, instead of having to email it as an attachment.

My favourite  is Microsoft’s OneNote, which I use to take notes for both professional and private use, and create documents with to share with friends or family. It is user friendly, has multiple features, available on all devices, also allowing collaboration between different users.  The writer of Rudai 23 Thing 16  has provided a super explanation of Google Drive and Doodle as collaboration tools. (I have made my entry into Thing 16’s  Google Drive document, by the way. )

Cloud computing. heart Cloud collaboration. heart My personal thanks to the founders  and developers of these software.

Thing 17 will be a reflective practice blog entry. Until then…cheers. 😀

Images: 
Featured image: collaboration by Laura Billings on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Gifs from giphy.com; clipart from wpclipart.com.

Image of Google docs by Steven Combs on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)