Friday, 25 November 2011

Information Literacy

I spent a few days in Limerick this week at an EU funded project to promote and deliver information literacy modules to undergraduates in universities in the Western Balkans. There are four EU partners leading on the project and one of these is Middlesex University. Other EU partners are Greece, Ireland & Romania and the universities we are working with are in Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo and Montenegro.

The American Library Association define Information Literacy as the ability to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information” . The skills and competencies required for information literacy are the same as those which are necessary for work on literature review.

We have been evaluating a useful resource developed in Ireland – it’s a self managed tutorial taking you through various stages of information literacy. Please have a look – there is much that is useful for your purposes at the moment. In particular look at Unit 2.5 and see how you can apply this to your own literature review.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Communicating with SIG(s)

One philosophy of the BAPP Arts Programme is the use of Social Media for learning and communication. Be that as it may we are not always in control of Web 2.0 technology. You will find that the Reviews and Discussions tabs from Facebook have been removed.

The following extract is an explanation from Facebook:

“What happened to the Reviews and Discussions tabs on my Facebook Page?
We've found that the best way to encourage conversation and feedback is through posts and comments on your Wall, so we're removing the Reviews and Discussions tabs for now. We're working on tools to help you moderate, filter and manage content in one powerful place. Stay tuned.

You won't be able to access your reviews and discussions once they're removed, so please save this content if you'd like to keep it for future reference.

On place pages with a location, fans can still write a recommendation for their friends or others from the right-column that says Recommendations”.

In view of the removal of the Discussions Forum from Facebook – the following is our advice on how approach evidencing your engagement with your SIG(s)

For discussions that you already have had on Facebook we advise that you give an account (written paragraph) of these discussions and how they moved your thinking along in relation to your inquiry topic and questions

The purpose of the SIG is to engage you with a wider professional community to explore questions further – this can be with class colleagues or in the workplace or professional community. As you continue to have these discussions we recommend that you use methods / tools which are most suitable and relevant to you. In view of what has just happened with Facebook we recommend that you continuously document important elements from the SIG discussions. Any future discussions you have about your inquiry can be documented and this documentation be used as evidence of engagement with the SIG(s)

Discussions can happen in a variety of ways such as:

Face to face
Setting up groups on your own Facebook

Monday, 14 November 2011

Reviewing Literature

For Module 2 you are expected to review at least three pieces of literature. The reason for this is to find out what contributions others have made to the topic of you inquiry. If you were planning a holiday you would want to know what others had said about your intended destination. Likewise, finding out what others have had to say about your topic will inform you more and give you greater knowledge about your topic. Once you have located the literature – see Paula’s slideshow on her recent blog about how to get find it – the point is to work out what the key point of the piece of literature is and what contribution it’s making to your topic. The review should go beyond mere regurgitation of the piece and here your voice comes in. Bringing in your voice should relate the piece you are reviewing to your topic. For instance, what angle does it take? Are there any questions which arise from it? Are there any obvious flaws in it? Can you make a judgement about the author’s point of view? Is it clear how they came to this point of view? In bringing in your voice you should avoid the word “Interesting”. This word is in danger of becoming meaningless from overuse.

It’s rare to find a truly objective piece of literature in the social sciences. Authors’ opinions are formed from personal / political beliefs and it’s a skill that comes from practice to identify their particular standpoint. While standpoints are inevitable it’s a useful skill to be able to recognize their point of view. Similarly, authors may have been commissioned to carry out an evaluation / research. Who pays for this research can also influence their stance. Newspapers in the UK can be viewed as a stark example of this. Taking a news item it’s illuminating to see how the same event is reported in different newspapers.

Years ago, I heard an amusing analysis of UK newspapers which has a grain of truth in it.

• The Times is read by the people who run the country.
• The Financial Times is read by the people who own the country.
• The Guardian is read by people who wished they ran the country.
• The Daily Telegraph is read by people who used to run the country and believe they still do.
• The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country … and so on.

Finding the literature is fun and requires your best detective skills, thinking around the topic and identifying search terms and thinking of alternative words and key terms which can help in the search. One useful way of doing this is to draw out a mind map with your topic in the centre. What other questions emanate from the centre of your mind map – and hence what other terms should you be looking for? When you have located the relevant literature, you should scan and then read more deeply the piece, making notes if this helps. Then, try to sum up in one sentence what the key point of the piece is. The more literature you gather, there could be similarities or themes emerging, or there could be divergences and differences to note.

The Literature Review is an important part of the journey of discovery in your topic questions and what is learned from it will add weight and substance to your work.

Friday, 11 November 2011

SIGs & Inquiry Tools

The Campus Session on 9th October was a chance to pick up some helpful points towards the completion of Module 2. We opened with looking at questions that could be asked about inquiry topics and looked at tools such as a mind map to generate questions. Some find this a useful tool and it’s useful to consider issues and the wider context of considered topics. Questions can seek to uncover linkages between different concepts around the topic. What if? Why? Finding a variety of questions to ask comes out of thinking wider that the topic and reflection on causes, effects and impact.

Questions should be explored by starting a SIG or joining in conversations which have been started on Facebook. Building up links with your SIG is of paramount importance as you will need to trial and test tools of inquiry. It is of course possible to move outside a class SIG to carry out such a pilot. You can use your own professional network, organization to trial these tools. Testing these tools is a pilot at this stage and you should use it to review and develop these tools for your actual inquiry in the final module (3). You need to reflect on how useful the tools are in answering the questions you need answered for your inquiry. For instance you need to weigh up the kind of information you can gather. For instance how could an interview and an observation give you different kinds of data. Can you be sure that respondents in an interview are not merely just giving you the responses that they think are “right” or what they think you want to say. While on the other hand an observation could produce a different finding. For instance, if your topic was about the protection of data in the workplace you might pose such a question in an interview – “How do you ensure that the information on your computer is secure?”. Their reply might be “I put passwords on all sensitive documents and if I have to leave my desk then I ensure that I log off so that another person cannot access my files”. Observing the same person in a work situation could present a different picture. For instance you might note that they frequently leave their desk in the course a day and do not log off every time they go. You might also note that you heard them onto the computer onto the helpdesk and you actually heard them give their password to the technician. The two kinds of information paint two very different pictures.

You have the opportunity in this module to test the different tools and think about what kind of information each of them will give. Your inquiry plan will then include a review of the tools you have tested and enable you to give an account which tool(s) you intend to use in the actual inquiry. This will call upon you to provide sound reasoning and judgement in coming to your decision.