This week I attended the most recent meeting of USTLG, the University Science and Technology Librarians Group. This networking group holds their meetings twice a year, and members are invited to give presentations sharing best practice on a theme. I’ve been going to these meetings ever since I took on Engineering and Computing as my subject areas, and I’d highly recommend them!
The theme this time was on “Teaching: trying something new”. There were some great presentations showing a variety of creative teaching techniques. A Storify of live tweets from the day is available if you want to see what was discussed, and all presentations are available on the USTLG website.
Here’s a few techniques that caught my imagination, and that I’d like to try out myself…
Using Top Trumps to evaluate sources
Emily Stock from Sheffield University demonstrated some Top Trumps cards (Wikipedia link there for anyone not familiar with the game – apparently some people didn’t spend their childhood fighting with their siblings over this game!) that she’d designed to introduce students to different sources of information. I LOVE this idea: I struggle sometimes to get across the difference between things like journal articles and conference papers to students who aren’t used to differentiating between different types of physical sources, and tend to treat anything online as equivalent.
The idea was to have the students play Top Trumps in small groups for about 10 minutes, and then introduce some scenarios of different information needs and get them to call out which types of sources they would use. I’ve done similar things to this but never with a game to introduce the concepts, so I’m definitely going to give this a go with my students.
Visual learning strategies
Liz Martin and Carol Keddie from De Montfort University gave an interactive workshop showcasing the visual learning techniques they use with their students. There were some great activities demonstrated, including the “dress-up doll of formality” (using an outline of a person and “dressing them up” in the vocabulary of your chosen topic), and visual mapping of the research process. I particularly liked the final exercise: we all got to pick a pretty postcard from a set provided, and had to write ourselves a message about our research. These were then collected and will be posted to us in a month. That seemed a good way to keep momentum going after a training session – plus you get something nice in the post!
Lego for referencing
The final talk of the day was Michelle Bond’s much anticipated presentation on using Lego to teach referencing. As one of my colleagues is a Lego Serious Play facilitator I have had a go at using Lego this way before, but hadn’t thought of using it to teach referencing, so was interested to see what Michelle had come up with.
We started by making models that illustrated how we felt about referencing, or what it meant to us. We had three piles of Lego on each table, and were instructed to make a model using at least one piece from all three piles. Quite a few people made models indicating how nightmarish they found it, which would be a good conversation starter with students!
Michelle explained some of the concepts of using Lego for conceptual thinking in this way, and outlined what she would do for the rest of the session. The bit I really liked, and am definitely going to steal, came at the end. After going through the information about referencing, Michelle went around the class asking people to say which pile they’d taken a specific piece in their model from. If they couldn’t (being librarians, we all could, but Michelle noted that with students this is generally not the case!), the piece gets taken out of the model – usually breaking the model in the process, as Michelle always picks an integral piece to quiz people on!
This was used as a way to emphasise the importance of recording and being able to trace your sources. I loved this idea, and could see it being really effective at grabbing students’ attention.
The above are just my highlights of the day – there were some great ideas outlined in all presentations! I loved Sarah George’s opening talk about enquiry-based learning for forensics students: she had a lively and entertaining presentation style which was perfect for kicking off the day, and I’m very jealous of the amount of teaching and assessment she gets to do!
I also thought Oliver Bridle’s presentation on using video tutorials to teach library databases was great: I’ve been doing some similar things myself, and am a big fan of replacing “now click here” demonstrations with videos. I really liked the way he used videos combined with quizzes and activities to keep a session going, and will have to think about how I could do something similar in my own lecture-based teaching.