Using blogs as a core part of class activity


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Presented at Sheffield University's Learning and Teaching Conference, January 2014 by Sheila Webber. I describe the use of team blogs as a core part of learning and teaching in a Masters-level module at the Information School, University of Sheffield.

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Using blogs as a core part of class activity

  1. 1. Using blogs as a core part of class activity Sheila Webber, Information School University of Sheffield Learning & Teaching Conference January 2014
  2. 2. • Focus on blogging activity that is a core element in the design of a Masters level class • I coordinate the class, designing learning and teaching & leading the teaching team • Module: Inf6350: Information Resources and Information Literacy
  3. 3. Basics about the class • Core class for taught Masters students (15 credits i.e. one quarter of the credits for one semester): MA Librarianship and MSc Information Management • 2013/14: 101 students: 70 Chinese; 17 Home; 6 European; rest from 5 other countries • Students – arrive with variety of first degree subjects – have a variety of career aspirations – some have work experience Sheila Webber, 2014
  4. 4. Learning objectives By the end of the module inf6350 students will: • understand key aspects of information literacy and information behaviour including: the nature of information needs, information seeking strategies, and the complexity and contextual nature of information literacy; • be able to demonstrate their information literacy (e.g. expertise in accessing, using, comparing and evaluating information resources including databases such as DIALOG; ability to communicate, evaluate and use information channelled through Web 2.0 applications such as wikis and blogs; ability to abstract and synthesise information) and to reflect critically on their information literacy performance
  5. 5. Seven Pillars model of Information Literacy ( & some key activities Evidence Based Information use (Evaluate & Manage) Blogs and other Web 2.0 tools (Scope and Present)Abstracting (Present) The information universe (Scope) Google secrets (Plan and Gather) Monitoring (Identify & Gather) Communicating using posters (Present) Legal & ethical use (Manage) Wise use of Wikipedia (Evaluate and Manage) Information interviewing (Identify & Scope) Database secrets (Plan & Gather) Identifying your need (Identify)
  6. 6. Assessment (individual) 1. 15 item annotated bibliography (30%) – student negotiates narrower topic from within ones set by tutor – has to include some variety in publication channel 2. literature review (30%) based on items from bibliography 3. reflective report (40%); reflecting on the student’s information literacy in carrying out the assignment.
  7. 7. Learning environment • Base room: a big computer lab, with bays of 8 computers either side • Use of Blackboard VLE for powerpoints, handouts, information on assignments etc. • Variety of activities, for example – “Information literacy in our future careers” - group poster preparation and exhibition in Jessop West – Smaller-group seminars, on abstracting & discussing a research article – Focus on types of searching (search engines, Dialog, journals etc.) • Have used teams & blogs for 3 years
  8. 8. Why blogs? • Are used in business & in public sector: we provide readings on this • Provide a small-team focus in a larger class (socialisation) • Place to share resources (e.g. link to favourite Web 2.0) and perceptions (e.g. of their information literacy) • Practice e.g.: writing in English; presenting information; collaborating; copyright issues • More creative options than MOLE; Better for team focus & reflections than Twitter • Web 2.0 a focus for some dissertations
  9. 9. Teams & blogs: practicalities • I allocate students to teams of 4 (i.e. 2 teams per bay), before week 1 session (i.e. day before!) – mix nationalities, as far as feasible – allocate teams to tutors (3 teaching assistants + 2 faculty members - me and one other - in 13/14) – deal with dropouts/late comers for first few weeks • I place sheets with team letters on the bays in the lab & give out team list during introduction • After introduction, people find their team’s bay • Team starts by creating Team blog (1 per group) using Blogger & doing introductory blog posts
  10. 10. Class blog: I link team blogs from main blog
  11. 11. Working with blogs • Majority of students have not blogged before: big range of experience with Web 2.0 (in both international and home students) • Set up blogs in class: support needed (& not just in week 1): didn’t allow enough time 1st time round • Activities involving blogging in class time + a couple of between-class activities e.g. preparation for an “Information Universe” session • Some activities involve interaction between teams (e.g. evaluating each others’ blogs)
  12. 12. Team Q
  13. 13. Blogging not assessed • Focus on blogging activities scheduled more in first half of semester, before assignment fever grows • Very good level of participation in initial posts, including between-session posts • Last-formed teams (mostly late-comers) never caught up • For in-class sessions, good to have stretch goals for the teams more familiar with blogging/English • Had modest prize for best team blog, presented in week 11
  14. 14. Best team blogs: criteria 1. Sustained effort & team contribution - contribution from whole team - Minimum of a post on each of: team introduction; 7 Pillars; Information Universe; search tips; IL in context; Web 2.0 2. Are the posts relevant and interesting? 3. How good is the visual appearance of the blog? e.g. - Can you read the text easily? - Is it easy to find your way round the blog? - Is the blog attractive to look at? - Have they included visual elements? 4. Have the team used Blogger design & layout features? e.g. - Have they included a list of links? - Does it look like they have customised the blog layout? - Have they included other Blogger widgets (e.g. page, followers, tag cloud, music)? • We get students to judge each others’ blogs using these the criteria eary in the semester
  15. 15. Blog - winners • Team Q: Chloe Turner, Emily Wheeler, Yixuan Gao, Dongmei Han • Team A: Roisin Cassidy, Jayne Drew, Catherine Hoodless, Lynsey Shenton
  16. 16. Team aspect • Teams sit in the same place in the lab each week • Get to know their team members • Can more easily monitor who is missing/ not contributing: team members report on each other • Some students not comfortable with the web, helped by teams (sometimes too shielded by them too?) • Logistically useful when students divided up & going to different rooms (they know their Team)
  17. 17. Blog aspect • Visible learning about blogs (i.e. they improved) & some more confidence in using features like embedding pictures and videos • Blogs useful for tutors in monitoring understanding & engagement • Tangible focus for in-class discussions with learners about collaboration etc. • Surfaced differences in use of Web 2.0 in different countries, for discussion by learners • Opportunities for those whose strengths are visual/design
  18. 18. Changes/ improvements • Give more motivation for interaction between blogs • Needs a more active co-leader on blogging (other tutors support blogging, but I give main impetus: it suffered through my absence) • Making even more use of past blog-posts in class (already e.g. refer to examples, collate search tips) • Clearer strategy for supporting those who are very challenged by blogging
  19. 19. Sheila Webber Twitter / Second Life: Sheila Yoshikawa Netvibes: Background on the first time blogs were used (in 2011/12): things-using-23-things-in-an-information-literacy-class
  20. 20. "Information Literacy encompasses knowledge of one’s information concerns and needs, and the ability to identify, locate, evaluate, organize and effectively create, use and communicate information to address issues or problems at hand; it is a prerequisite for participating effectively in the Information Society, and is part of the basic human right of life long learning." Information Literacy Meeting of Experts (2003)