Doon tha Toon [(lib)TeachMeet]
Last week, I visited Newcastle University for the afternoon to attend the inaugural Toon (lib)TeachMeet. A TeachMeet, for those who haven’t come across them, is a kind of ‘unconference’, where teachers meet to discuss ideas and share experiences. A library TeachMeet is a meeting of people who teach within the context of library and information services. The first (lib)TeachMeet was held last year in Cambridge, and since that point they’ve spread – as well as the Toon (lib)TeachMeet, there have been meetings arranged in Brighton, Liverpool, London and Huddersfield. Library TeachMeets involve a mixture of 2 and 7 minute presentations and anyone can present. The structure and agenda for the meeting are decided at the event and TeachMeets offer a great opportunity for discussion and networking with peers.
The Toon (lib)TeachMeet started off with the organisers, Helen Blanchett and Kirsty Thomson, explaining the concept of a (lib)TeachMeet, before a game of library bingo as an icebreaker(!). I didn’t volunteer to present at the meeting, but several others had prepared short presentations…
Anne Marie Laws told us about a project that was looking to bridge the gap between information skills teaching in schools and universities. The project aimed to explore the teaching skills of library staff and the embedding of information literacy within the curriculum, with the aim of creating an online skills toolkit.
Lucy Keating of Newcastle University described how she was trying to ‘zing’ up her teaching by making her information skills sessions more interactive, moving away from a standard presentation format. Lucy told us about the sessions she had recently conducted for new History undergraduate students: instead of giving students step-by-step instructions, she had suggested a range of resources for the students to explore. She challenged the class to work in pairs to find specific information using these sources, such as ‘the exact result of the Parliamentary by-election in Newcastle in 1908’ and ‘an example of 18th century advertising for a cough remedy’. The session became more hands-on and opened the eyes of the students to the range of resources Newcastle University subscribe to. The usage of key history databases had also increased by 60% in the months following the sessions.
Presentations by Julia Robinson and Kirsty Thomson discussed keyword searching; Julia used big post-it notes to get the class to think of synonyms within essay questions, which demonstrated the number of keywords that they could use to find information. Kirsty used keywords that her students came up with to discuss truncation and Boolean operators.
Lucy Carroll talked about working with students from her institution’s arts and media department to create library induction videos, whilst Helen Blanchett told us about the Librarians as Teachers Network, an online community for librarians involved in teaching.
Tracy Totty and Claire Donlan from Middlesbrough College presented a session on teaching academic staff about what the LRC had to offer. They created a Prezi to give their presentations to departmental meetings the ‘wow’ factor and promoted all of the different services the LRC could offer to academics. Following these meetings, the LRC has seen a surge in requests for follow-up sessions to train academic staff in using e-books and digital technologies, as well as increased usage of these resources.
So why didn’t I present? Well, teaching’s not exactly a large part of my role at present, and there was nothing that sprang to mind when I was booking my place. But now that I’ve attended and seen what a (lib)TeachMeet is all about, I may well store up some ideas that might form the basis of a short presentation in the future…
This was a really enjoyable event, and I got a lot out of it in terms of learning about other librarians’ teaching experiences, and ideas to use in my own training. I’d really recommend this as a worthwhile event to attend and hopefully this will be the first of a number of (lib)TeachMeets in the North East!