A writing and thinking retreat

The gardens at Wolfson College

This week I spent 3 days in Cambridge at Wolfson College, which was the college I lived at for a term in 2011 when I was an Arcadia Fellow. This was one of the most amazing few months of my life, as not only did I get to work for 3 months on thinking about how information literacy should be taught in the future, but I got to work with the fabulous Emma Coonan.

I recall being pretty terrified about being away from home  and spent most weekends fleeing back to London. But I found Wolfson a friendly, welcoming place and somewhere I immediately felt at home. I particularly enjoyed meeting all the other students and fellows from around the world. I made some fantastic friends during my time there and probably had some of the most memorable breakfast conversations ever. I will never forget the breakfast where I was joined by several international fellows who were staying at Wolfson, and we discussed the fall of the Roman Empire. There was a point I recall saying to the professor from Pakistan and the Malaysian Ambassador for the Lebanon, I think we could do with a PowerPoint with a map on it as we discussed Hadrian’s Wall and some of the Roman sites in the Middle East. I started listening to Radio 4’s Today Programme after I left Wolfson to try to recreate these high brow moments before I start my day. It’s just not the same.

This week the canteen was shut so I spent a lot of time on my own, although I did get to spend some time in the wonderful Library, chatting to the College Librarian Meg Westbury about information and digital literacy, our mutual research interests in online learning and phenomenography. I also went on a wonderful walk to The Orchard Tea Rooms in Grantchester and thought of my dear Brazilian friend, Cris, a journalist who was there for the same time as me and who I used to go walking with. I wandered in the beautiful gardens and spent a lot of time in my room writing and reading.

Rethinking Copyright by Ronan Deazley

The purpose of my trip was to try and nail my keynote for ALT-C, which is now in around 3 weeks time. I am so honoured to be invited to keynote this conference, but also slightly terrified as it’s a big conference and one that a lot of learning technologists attend. There was no pressure when I saw the other keynotes I was up against either: Dave White, Donna Lanclos, Josie Fraser, Ian Livingstone and Lia Commissar! I am going to be talking about copyright and e-learning, the subject of my new book, but I really want to make my keynote different to other talks I’ve done before. I started reading Ronan Deazely’s book, Rethinking Copyright while I was away, and have been struck by his writing on what copyright is (and isn’t) and the public domain. So if I can hint a little, then I might be saying something on the history of copyright and on the notion of the public domain. Ronan is the main editor behind the website CopyrightUser, and Chris and I recently wrote the guidance for libraries on this site.

Anyway, mostly what I appreciated while in Cambridge was some perspective on things and some time to concentrate on the subjects I am most interested in. I have spoken before about the importance of finding a place where you can think, and at Wolfson I have definitely found that place, and I was more productive in just three days there than I usually am in a week!


Librarians as researchers when we find the time!

This week I’ve done two talks with the theme of librarians as researchers including a lecture at the Department of Information Studies at Aberystwyth University and a workshop at Cambridge University Library. One of the key problems in doing research is finding the time. The day job really does get in the way and cloud the brain when trying to get some clarity of thought. But I guess that is an occupational hazard of being a practitioner researcher – you wear two hats, have twice as much to do but twice as much fun! No time to be bored. Missing my train today has allowed me to grab some time in the day to stop and reflect for a moment which is what I think I meant on Tuesday when I urged would be researchers to modify their attitude to time. I didn’t mean sit up half the night working as I’ve been known to do. But grab time when you can in the day and make the most of long (or short) train journeys for some thinking space!

There is a great write up from Tuesday’s workshop by Georgina Cronin. Our slides are really similar to those from January this year when Emma and I spoke at York St John. But I think I’m even more convinced than earlier of the huge benefits of being a practitioner researcher. Surely the desire to keep on learning has to be a good thing and the benefits of doing this should be more widely acknowledged in so called service departments. My slides from the lecture in Aber are also on slideshare.

All of a whirl


I think the saying is “it never rains then it pours” or something and that sums up the last week. After battling with getting some recognition for the importance of digital and information literacies for the best part of 10 years all of a sudden I have a paper at a committee next week! It’s on the back of the ANCIL at LSE study I carried out last year that we finally published in LSE Research Online last week. It’s been circulated internally for a while though.

But in addition, we had a party to celebrate the launch of Rethinking Information Literacy last night. We also have a NetworkEd seminar from colleagues at Cardiff later today on their digital and information Literacy strategy. We’ll be recording and it will in on the NetworkEd website. And an exciting project with a school in Hackney on information Literacy too might be in the pipeline!

Also this week I’ve had a visitor from Norway – Karen Marie Overn who I met at Lilac and who works at Gjovik University College. We have had a great few days talking about embedding information literacy, the role of the librarian and the challenges and highlights of working in this field! So many similarities between our (very different) institutions. What a week!


It struck me today that the work I did at Cambridge with Emma Coonan to develop ANCIL (A New Curriculum for Information Literacy) is an example of an open educational resource. We have put the curriculum into LSE Research Online, the DSpace at Cambridge but it could be shared in the new database, LSE Learning Resources Online or perhaps we should deposited in Jorum?

Several people have asked about using ANCIL and it is licensed under Creative Commons, Attribution, ShareAlike licence, which means you are free to use it and adapt it provided you give credit to Emma and I and you share your work under a CC Licence. It occurs to me that it would be great to get people to upload their work to a information literacy OER collection, so someone searching for our work can find all the various adaptations that might develop. Otherwise how will we know what people are doing with our work? We need some sort of bibliometrics for measuring the re-use of teaching materials, similar to the citation analysis we have for research.
There also must be a better way to organise information literacy OERs to improve their findability, and it’s something I have been exploring with my DELILA project partner, Nancy Graham, but also something we have been talking to UNESCO about. As a start Nancy is going to update the list of OERs on the Information Literacy website, but if anyone has any bright ideas about how we could harvest resources from a variety of sources to build some sort of virtual collection, then do get in touch with me. Surely there must be lots of ideas from the library community about how we could organise these materials?

Both these projects are occupying my mind at the moment, and so I have created two new web pages recently, one on the ANCIL audit at LSE and another on OERs. Any feedback or comments is very welcome!

Thinking about digital and information literacy

Anonymous statue in Budapest

This week and last week I have been teaching on the PGCert at LSE (the course that is Higher Education Academy accredited and qualifies you to teach in higher education). I’ve been teaching first year students on Module 2: Supporting Student Learning and second year students on Module 5: Course Design. I have been really struck by how when we come to talk about technology and its role in the design of a course, and its role in supporting student learning, a lot of the students wanted to talk about what I call digital and information literacy. Most of them have not used this terminology – the phrase ‘research skills’ seemed to arise, but some people did talk about students technical abilities. The overwhelming message seemed to be that many teachers were concerned that using the VLE (in our case Moodle) as largely a repository of information is helpful and convenient for students, but not always the best for them in the long run. Particularly if they are not given the opportunity to learn research skills. A common complaint was ‘when the link is broken in Moodle my students don’t know how to find a reading in the library’.

That’s why its really timely that we are conducting a review (or audit) of information and digital literacy support at LSE. I have written a short post about this on the ANCIL blog, as it relates directly to the work I did as part of my Arcadia Fellowship. I’m hoping to run a panel discussion at this year’s Teaching Day event at LSE to debate whether Moodle discourages ‘active learning’ in our students and I’ve managed to get a group of LSE teachers together to join me.

One final thing on this topic, I’ve been really pleased to see the information and digital literacy resources that we converted for the DELILA project are been featured at the moment on the Jorum website. If you’ve not seen them do take a look!

What people really need to know about the internet

Two weeks ago we hosted our second NetworkED seminar at LSE which was given by Professor John Naughton, who I had the fortune to work with last year as part of the Arcadia programme at Cambridge University Library. John’s new book was released in January this year, entitled, From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: what people really need to know about the internet. We live streamed the event but also recorded it so you can watch again via the NetworkED website. We had a really lively session with colleagues from academic departments and support services attending. I was particularly struck but one of the first of John’s key points, that we need to take the long view of the development of the internet and so early in internet history, it is almost impossible to predict the changes that it might bring about. He used the analogy of the printing press and how just 25 years after it’s invention in the 15th Century, it would be unimaginable for people to foresee the changes that the print revolution would bring about. There are nine key ideas in John’s book including the fact that most people have no idea how a technology they have come to rely on works, that disruption is a key feature of the technology and that the copyright laws are out of step with what is now technically possible. I’m enjoying reading it and recommend you take a look!