Tuesday, March 31, 2009

LILAC conference

Monday was the first day of the UK's LILAC conference, the UK's main information literacy conference. I arrived a bit late, as I had been involved in moderating sessions in a big education conference in Second Life at the weekend, which had gone on rather late (since most of the rest of the organising committee were from North America). Anyway, I missed the opening keynote, but may be able to pick up some views on that elsewhere. (Just seen a good long post about it from Sarah Cohen here: she is doing numerous posts at the Sheck Spot http://thesheckspot.blogspot.com/)
The conference website is here, the conference is in Cardiff, and there are several tracks on at once so it is hard to choose! My choices this afternoon were:
Christopher Walker, talking about his PhD research into parents' use and understanding of information. It is a qualitative study, involving interviews with parents from a mix of socio-economic groups. Christopher has done the interviews and transcription, and he is analysing the data.
Various themes are emerging (the analysis is not finished yet) including the importance of trusting the source - or choosing someone you trust (it is often a person) as a source of information (rather than going to a book or un-known/un-trusted expert). "The system" (e.g. finding your way through the health system to get you child care) is a hindrance and causes fear - a divide emerges between the professionals who can and do use their knowledge and contacts to get on top of the system, and those from lower socio-economic classes who don't/can't.

After this talk, I went to support one of my PhD students, Shahd Salha, who was talking about her research into Syrian school librarians concepts of information literacy. She explained the situation in Syria, where there are few professionally qualified librarians in schools; it is more often school teachers moved into the post. Shahd has done interviews with school librarians and followed this immediately with a one week training course in information literacy that she organised. She is following this up with a second round of interviews in a few months time, to see if if ideas about information literacy have changed.

Finally, I attended a session from Moira Bent, a librarian, and Elizabeth Stockton, a lecturer in Environmental Science, both from Newcastle University. They have collaborated to create a "golden thread" of information literacy through the Environmental Science course, with aspects of information literacy progressed and assessed explicitly through the three years of the programme.
They mentioned what I think is a sensible use of a pre/post questionnaire: students self assess their information at the start of the class, but Moira and Elizabeth expect that the self-assessment will be lower at the end of the first year than the beginning. This doesn't mean the students' information literacy is worse, but rather that they are getting better able to reflect on and judge their own abilities.
Moira also mentioned the information skills kit at Newcastle: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/library/staff/infolit/toolkit/
This rather oblique photo of Moira (right) was taken when she came tospeak tomy students 10 days ago, and she is shown with our visitors from Warsaw University.

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