17 November, 2016: Learning to Code: The role of Communities of Practice to support Digital Literacies

This webinar, Learning to Code: The role of Communities of Practice to support Digital Literacieswas produced by Digital Literacies ANZ, a community of practice for professionals across Australia and New Zealand to share, learn and have ongoing conversations about digital literacies.  Matthew Davis, from the University of Sydney Library, presented the webinar.

In his presentation, Davis discussed:

  • the background and rationale of teaching library staff to code
  • the establishment of a community of practice as an approach to professional development
  • starting a Community of Practice
  • lessons learned from the experience.

Davis raised interesting points about the way learning programming extends the definition of creation in the ALA definition of digital literacy, and moves people towards being a participant, rather than only a consumer.  This statement reminded me of the philosophy of the current maker movement, which has a creator ethos. Davis discussed advantages of learning to code in providing library staff with an understanding of programming language which can allow conversations to occur between technical staff and library staff.  The intention is not for librarians to create programs, but to assist them with understanding and communicating with technical professionals.  Learning to code can allow library staff to assist with website redesign; i.e. making text more readable on a webpage by adding headings, hyperlinks, or bulleted lists.   Davis talked about how learning to code can help develop computational thinking, providing a different way to solve problems.

Davis’ idea of developing a community of practice (COP) in the library in the form of a coding club was to help meet professional development requirements.  Membership of the community of practice was voluntary. Codecademy, a free website offering coding tutorials, was used as the basis for the coding lessons.  Regular meeting times were established to discuss lessons, with an expectation that members would independently work through lessons.  Davis found that membership of the club waned over time, and the COP needed a leader to continually drive the process.  Upon review of the program, he implemented a virtual discussion group using Yammer, and found that this was a key tool in supporting the development of the community of practice.

I found this webinar really interesting.  I love the idea of being able to write simple code for websites.  I think that this skill would be valuable in any librarian role I have in the future in which I have the ability to do minor webpage editing.  This was a role carried out by a librarian at the Rockhampton Regional Library.  She was able to update the online library catalogue with the library’s new releases and current events.  We were introduced to HTML in IFN616 – Online Information Services, but did not do CSS.  I think continuing to develop skills using HTML, and learning CSS is the next step for me in learning to code.  Davis introduced free tools (codecademy) in his presentation that I had heard of, but not used myself, so my intention is to try out Codecademy, and develop my coding skills.  I can also take away Davis’ lessons learned in developing a community of practice should I attempt to implement one, or participate in one, in any future role I have as a librarian.

Image attribution:

Screen Computer Computer Code Monitor, by Max Pixel FreeGreatPicture.com, CC0 Public Domain.

26 September, 2016: Digital literacies in professional practice – continuing development

This 1-hour webinar, Digital literacies in professional practice – continuing development was produced by Digital Literacies ANZ, a community of practice for professionals across Australia and New Zealand to share, learn and have ongoing conversations about digital literacies.  Jane Cowell, Director of Engagement and Partnership, State Library of Queensland, was the presenter.

Jane Cowell began her presentation by talking about the future.  She set the scene for the importance of digital literacy now and into the future by quoting the following statistics:

  • 90% of all future jobs will require digital literacy skills
  • 50% of those will require advanced digital skills

She also quoted a study that found that:

  • 35% of 15 year olds are not digitally literate.

Cowell’s premise is that digital literacy is a mindset, not a set of skills.  She proposes that digital literacy is more than functional IT skills; it is a rich set of digital behaviours that must change across contexts and over time, because technologies are diverse and rapidly changing.

Jane Cowell’s presentation was powerful, motivating and inspiring.  It was a call to action for all librarians to become “digital thinkers”, and accept and adopt digital literacy as a mindset, not a set of skills.  She challenged librarians to continually challenge themselves to stay aware of, and learn new digital tools, so that we know what the tools can do, and can see the opportunities they present.  Cowell challenged librarians to adopt the new business model or die: to build libraries around people and their needs, not around a collection and the collection’s needs.  Cowell called for librarians to “put the oxygen mask on yourself first” (the oxygen mask being digital literacy), before helping others.

However, she cautioned librarians not to do it alone.  Collaboration was key in her presentation.  Collaboration with users to discover what they want and need; collaboration with other librarians to learn, share ideas, create and innovate.  Cowell offered opportunities and ideas for collaboration, including:

  • a “learning happy hour”
  • piloting something, learning, and “failing forward”
  • killing off ideas and iterating, because the first idea won’t be the best
  • sharing what you’ve learned on social media by blogging and tweeting.

The wonderful thing about webinars like these is that they provide a jumping-off point for further learning.  Cowell’s presentation was inspiring, and provided a catalyst for participants to share useful digital learning tools.  I found links from Cowell’s presentation post on Digial Literacies ANZ to:

  • 23 Things for Digital Knowledge, a self-directed program of digital learning that anyone can participate in to learn a wide variety of digital skills and technologies such as blogging, creating a digital footprint, using social media such as Twitter and Facebook, using digital collaboration tools such as Google Hangouts, digital curation, and much more.
  • Library Intelligence, a website created by librarian, Sally Pewhairangi,  which provides online access to short digital learning courses for library staff in Australia and NZ.

It was wonderful to see how willing librarians are to share their knowledge. I am amazed at how many resources are available for librarians to develop their digital literacy mindset.  I plan to work through the 23 Things, although I have a feeling that the subjects I have done within my current studies have covered many, if not most, of the 23 things.  This provides a demonstration of the future focus of the Graduate Diploma in Information Science I have just completed at QUT, in equipping future librarians with comprehensive digital literacy skills, and teaching us not to be afraid of technology. I have no doubt that I have received an excellent grounding in digital literacy during my course of study, and know that I will always be able to access continuing development in digital literacy now that I know about communities of practice such as Digital Literacies ANZ.

18 May, 2016: Digital Skills for Older Adults: Teaching Technology in Public Libraries

This 1-hour webinar, Digital Skills for Older Adults: Teaching Technology in Public Libraries, was produced by TechSoup for Libraries, a non-profit organisation that provides technology, resources and support to libraries and non-profit organisations.  TechSoup for libraries is a great professional development resource as it has an extensive archive of webinars that can be viewed for free, as well as articles and how-to guides to technology.  Guest speakers on this webinar included Steve Black, from TechBoomers, a free website that offers website and app tutorials directed at older people; and Kathy Faubion, from St Mary’s County Library, who provided tips and program ideas for teaching technology to older adults.

This webinar introduced me to new free sources of digital literacy resources targeted at older people, and those with limited digital literacy skills, such as TechBoomers, DigitalLearn.org, GCFLearnFree.org and Denver Public Library Technology classes.  TechBoomers, which was the main focus of the webinar I viewed, was interesting because its main focus was on teaching people how to use very popular websites and apps such as Skype, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and eBay.  I think this may be a point of difference for TechBoomers, as many digital literacy classes focus on basic computer use, email and the internet, but few focus in such a targeted way on applications such as the ones I just mentioned.  Black also spoke about the importance of having library “partners”, and actively encouraged libraries to use TechBoomers’ courses for their own digital literacy and technology classes.

Kathy Faubion provided valuable insights into the teaching side of digital literacy for older people.  She noted that more and more older people are required to use the internet and the Web for basic needs; e.g. tax or social security.  Faubion challenged assumptions that people might hold about older people; e.g. that they are unable to learn technology.  Faubion discussed using a variety of methods to reach older people to let them know about what is on at the library, including the local newspaper, in the library, online, or by word-of-mouth.  Faubion listed community outreach as another great avenue for connecting with older people.  Faubion provided tips on different ways of working with older people, including one-on-one, small classes, a series of lessons; and discussed the importance of keeping statistics and evaluating programs.

The value of this webinar was in the sharing of information about free resources to use in creating and running digital literacy programs, and practical tips on actually running the classes.  PD events such as this are useful for any new librarian starting out in digital literacy instruction for older people.  It is useful to know that you don’t need to develop teaching materials from scratch, but can look at resources which have already been developed, and use them as is, or modify them to fit your needs, and the needs of your users.

26 August, 2016: Problem-based learning in the digital space: How gamification can maximise engagement with digital literacies.

This 1-hour webinar, Problem-based learning in the digital space: How gamification can maximise engagement with digital literacies, was produced by Digital Literacies ANZ, a community of practice (COP) for professionals across Australia and New Zealand to share, learn and have ongoing conversations about digital literacies.  The goal of Digital Literacies ANZ is to provide a forum, or space, in which to explore the skills and abilities required in today’s digital world; and how digital literacies can be developed and improved in their organisations and communities.  Digital Literacies ANZ has monthly webinars scheduled in 2017 from March to November.  The webinars are free to attend or view later.  Each of the webinars I have viewed from 2016 included a presentation component, and a questions/comments component for listeners / viewers to interact with the presenter.

This webinar, from August 2016, was presented by Eng Ung, Senior Coordinator Digital Experience, LaTrobe University Library; and in it she discusses the game she developed to help orient new students to the physical space of the library.  Ung went into detail during her presentation to describe:

  • the background and rationale for creating a game with online and physical elements to replace the library tour (i.e. to increase student engagement)
  • the key design elements used (e.g. use of engaging puzzles, building in tasks to demonstrate navigation, reinforcement for successful task completion, immersive storyline, use of tactile elements)
  • the creative process (i.e. how the game was made), and took the webinar participants through an ideation activity
  • data collection and evaluation
  • “pain points”
  • The ideation process

Ung had a number of outcomes that she wished to achieve, including:

  • that as many students would play the game as had signed up for the traditional library tour in the previous year
  • that students would learn something playing a game using problem-based learning principles
  • that students would have fun doing it.

Ung’s results indicated that students who played the game did learn and had fun, but unfortunately fewer people played the game than had participated in library tours the previous year.

I was interested to view this presentation because of my interest in gamification, sparked by covering the topic during the subject, IFN612 – Emerging Technologies, in 2016.  I wrote a blog about it, and the entire class also had the opportunity to play “the game” one week, completing a series of tasks in order to gain points or rewards.  What was interesting to me is that some people were completely engaged by the gamification of the play activity that week, whilst others did not engage at all.  As someone who was completely engaged, I was surprised that others were only mildly interested in playing the game, and some were completely turned off by the idea, and chose to engage in a different play activity that week.

Clearly, gamification works to engage a proportion of the population, but does not work for everyone.  There was a competitive element to the game (rewards, points and winners at the end), as there is with all games, and I wonder if some of the people who were not engaged by the game did not like the competitive aspect to playing.  There could be any number of influencing factors and explanations, however, including time pressures, competing obligations and interests, mood, etc.

I can’t help but wonder if people would engage, if the conditions were right, and the motivation was right for the person.  I am a firm believer in making a person’s participation “worth their while”, and making learning fun by offering incentives, rewards and reinforcement.  It is the behaviourist in me, from many years of doing speech therapy with young children who need the right motivation to encourage their participation. The trouble is that the “right motivation” is different for different people, and without individualisation, not everyone will be engaged.  Whilst I can see how gamification strategies could be used effectively with the student population to increase their engagement and learning outcomes, and I think it highly likely that I would implement strategies such as these in any digital literacy programs I run with students in the future, I understand that not everyone will be engaged by such strategies, as their individual motivational needs may not have been met.

Image attribution:

“Gamification is the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts”, by Duncan Hull.  CC BY 2.0

LIS Professional Media Monitoring: NLS8 blog

I chose to follow and monitor the NLS8 Blog for 3 months to meet the professional media monitoring requirement.  I monitored the blog for the period November 24, 2016 – February 26, 2017.  I had already been following NLS8 on Twitter for a number of months.  I was very interested in monitoring the NLS8 blog because I applied for a student bursary to NLS8 this year, and would love to attend the symposium.

NLS8 is the 8th New Librarians’ Symposium, being held on June 23-25, 2017, at the National Library of Australia, Canberra. The New Librarians’ Symposium is a 3-day event held every 2 years, hosted by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA).  ALIA is the national professional association for the library and information services sector. The New Librarians’ Symposium is a popular professional development event, and encourages attendance by new graduates, in this way encouraging information exchange and networking.

NLS8 has a suite of online and social media channels it uses to connect with the LIS community: a Twitter handle and hash tag (#nls8), website, blog, prominent link from the ALIA website, and interested parties can sign up for NLS8 email updates.  During the 3 month period that I monitored the NLS8 blog, 9 new blog posts were uploaded.

A series of 4 blog posts during November and December introduced the key note speakers for NLS8, providing brief bios, and relevant links to their work.

Blogs in February included:

Most posts were written by NLS8 committee members, however, guest posts were also written by LIS professionals such as Ellen O’Herir, ALIA Students and New Graduates Group National Co-convenor, and Kylie Burgess,  MIS(LIP) Student at QUT and blogger for ALIA Students and New Graduates Group.

The key themes of the blog posts were around supporting and encouraging students and new graduates to come to NLS8 to volunteer and network.  NLS8 blog, in association with its sister social media channels, could assist my early professional development in the following ways:

  • It keeps me informed about the New Librarians’ Symposium, a professional development event aimed at students and new graduates.
  • As a student, the content is extremely relevant to me.  Networking and volunteering are great avenues for students to meet other students and professionals in the area, so tips and information about why and how to network and volunteer is valuable.
  • Other blog posts also provide great information and links to other information that is relevant for students and new graduates, e.g. library podcast links.

The exercise of following/monitoring a LIS social media channel allowed me to see how effective a method this can be to assist in maintaining awareness of current happenings, trends, events, research articles, etc, in LIS areas.

Reflection on Nonaka’s theory of knowledge management

A journal article I read last year in IFN615 Information Management by Nonaka (1991), entitled, The Knowledge-Creating Company, had a big impact on me.  I was taken with the way Nonaka described the knowledge-creation process as a knowledge spiral, beginning with the acquisition of tacit knowledge through a process of apprenticeship, or socialisation.  Tacit knowledge is knowledge held by a person – internalised. It is not yet explicit, or able to be transferred easily to another person in written or even spoken form.  According to Nonaka, tacit knowledge must be made explicit – formal and systematic – so that it can easily be shared with others; e.g. standardised into a workbook or manual.  Explicit knowledge can then be shared throughout an organisation and internalised by employees, thus increasing their tacit knowledge.  This articulation of tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge benefits the company as a whole, allowing for rapid embodiment of new knowledge in new technologies and products, and continuous innovation.  Nonaka believed that tacit knowledge held by individuals is of limited value to the company if it cannot be shared broadly – the company as a whole cannot benefit from it.  I had never thought about different types of knowledge, or knowledge-creation before, and the article prompted me to reflect on my own practice as a speech pathologist supervising students, and how I transfer knowledge to them.   As this article was written in 1991, I thought that I would see what has become of Nonaka’s theory of knowledge-creation.

I found an article by Gourlay (2006), entitled Conceptualising Knowledge Creation: A Critique of Nonaka’s Theory.  This article has been cited 98 times in Web of Science, and 65 times in Scopus, so it appears to have made its mark in the literature.  Gourlay agrees with the wide acceptance of the idea that there are roughly two distinct forms of knowledge; with “tacit” and “explicit” often being the labels used to describe these forms of knowledge. He also acknowledges that Nonaka’s theory is one of the best known and most influential models in knowledge strategy literature (Choo and Bontiss in Gourlay, 2006), and is highly respected; however, Gourlay contends that Nonaka’s proposition is flawed, that his modes of knowledge conversion are not supported by evidence, or could be explained more simply.  Gourlay cites criticism of Nonaka’s theory from sources such as Jorna (in Gourlay, 2006) and Bereiter (in Gourlay, 2006).  Gourlay proposes a new framework, citing Dewey’s work in 1916, in which non-reflectional behaviour is associated with tacit knowledge, and reflective behaviour is associated with explicit knowledge, and that different forms of knowledge are created as a result of different modes of experience or behaviour, rather than through the interaction between two kinds of knowledge.

Gourlay’s (2006) article was very conceptual and theoretical.  His arguments appeared to be well researched, but I found the article quite dense, and difficult to read.  It is possible that my difficulty reading and understanding the article reflects my lack of knowledge in this area, and an inability to find something in the article that I could relate to my current knowledge and experience, rather than a shortcoming of Gourlay’s.  Nonaka’s (1991) article, on the other hand, was accessible to a reader with little knowledge in the area of knowledge creation / management, and provided concrete examples for the reader to visualise, understand and identify with. The article introduced me to new concepts (tacit and explicit knowledge), and the concept of passing on tacit knowledge by apprenticeship rang very true for me in my practice as a speech pathologist supervising students.  It really made me think deeply. It captured my imagination, and I can see why it captured the attention of those in management and organisational studies, and knowledge strategy fields, and became such an influential and highly respected theory.  I find it interesting the way the human mind works, and the way we can be persuaded and inspired by an idea that is not necessarily grounded in the scientific method or backed by empirical evidence.  However, if we can relate to the idea, and the end result is deep reflective thought, a new idea, creativity or innovation, then is that necessarily a bad thing? I don’t think it is.


Gourlay, S. (2006). Conceptualizing Knowledge Creation: A Critique of Nonaka’s Theory. Journal Of Management Studies, 43(7), 1415-1436. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6486.2006.00637.x

Nonaka, I. (1991). The Knowledge-Creating Company. Harvard Business Review, 69(6), 96–104.


Reflection on IFN611 Information Retrieval

I completed IFN611 – Information retrieval in my first semester of the Master of Information Science (Library and Information Practice) in 2015.  This was my first semester back at university since completing my first degree in 2000.  Everything had changed in 15 years.  Firstly, I was studying completely externally and online! In my first degree, the personal use of computers, the internet, email and the World Wide Web was only just coming in during the last year or two of my degree, and everyone was on a steep learning curve with this new technology.  Secondly, I was a completely different person studying this time around.  I had already been working as a professional for the last 15 years, developing many professional skills (including very competent computer and Web use skills), and I was motivated, organised, an efficient time manager; and conscious of the need to ensure that I was living a healthy lifestyle.  All of these factors culminated to ensure that my experience of university the second time around was a much better one than the first time.

I really enjoyed studying Information Retrieval.  The subject gave me core knowledge and skills that are essential for any librarian.  I believe that information retrieval comprises an essential component of the librarian’s tool kit.  I enjoyed the content in Information retrieval, and achieved key learnings from the first assignment, which were as follows:

  • Prior to conducting any search for information, define and specify the client’s information need carefully in a client interview, so that appropriate and relevant search objectives emerge.
  • I must have a breadth of knowledge of relevant search tools, including databases and search engines, in order to select an appropriate tool in which to search.
  • When constructing search strategies, a thorough knowledge of the unique search features of each online search tool is required to obtain the most relevant results from the search.
  • Evaluate results carefully to ensure that they are of adequate quality in terms of reliability, credibility, authority, validity, accuracy, timeliness and point of view.

Apart from the standard learnings about the standard information search and retrieval process (listed above), I also enjoyed learning about other models of the information seeking process in Hearst (2009); including Bates’ (1989) Dynamic (Berry-Picking) model.  This model evolved from observational studies of the information seeking process, in which it was found that the searcher’s information needs continually changed as they read and learned from the information encountered during the search process.  They might find new keyword suggestions, and formulate new questions along the way.  The main value of the search was in the learning and acquisition of information that occurred during the search process, rather than in the final set of results.  This model is the one that most closely aligns with the way I conduct a search for information for my own assignments.  To me, it is an exciting adventure to embark on a search for information.  My information need and search query is always vague and only partially outlined, because I rely on learning more about the subject as I go, finding new keywords, and exciting new paths to follow.  The blanks get filled in as I go.

Of course, I see that in a workplace environment, an efficient, systematic method is called for to retrieve information for users; therefore, the standard method is very useful for librarians when they are assisting users to find the information they need.  The standard method presents a systematic way to efficiently extract the information need from the user, construct a search strategy, search for, and retrieve quality information for the user.  I will leave the berry-picking model for my own information search process.  Although, it might be good to remember it for any classes in information retrieval I might teach in the future.


Hearst, M. (2009). Models of the Information Seeking Process. In Search User Interfaces. (pp. 64-90). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139644082.004

Image attribution:

Of grammatology, by David Fulmer (CC BY 2.0).


14 February, 2017 – 6 March, 2017: Mature Matrix: Library Services for Seniors

Mature Matrix: Library Services for Seniors was a 3-week course offered by ALIA in partnership with Sydney TAFE.  It was provided completely online, through Moodle, a commonly used learning management system in educational institutions.  The course aimed to help participants understand the characteristics and needs of older people, the services that are available to them in the community, and how to develop and implement targeted library programs, services and collections for older people.  The course was aimed at people working in public libraries.

I don’t work in a public library, so I thought that I might have some difficulty completing the course.  I have recently completed a 2-week placement in a public library, however, which I found extremely beneficial to my ability to participate effectively in the course. The course content was more meaningful for me having had experiences of adult programming in my library placement; e.g. the home delivery service, the community technology classes, and the lively knitters.  Having said that, the strength of the learning materials and resources with which we were provided was such that I am sure a person who was not working in a public library would still have been able to participate effectively.

The course content consisted of three topics, released weekly, and participants worked through the material and tasks at their own pace.  There were frequent reassurances from the facilitators to let people know that the material would be accessible after the official end-date of the course, as many joined the course late.  I found that I fell behind during the course because we had house guests for 2 consecutive weekends which took away my time to work on the course; so it was a relief to know that the materials would still be available post-end date.  It was wonderful that the course was so flexible; important for adult learners with jobs, families and other commitments.

Course requirements were clear from the outset, and participants knew what was required of them to achieve a certificate upon completion.  In order to ensure that participants were engaging with the learning materials, tasks were set and participant submissions were uploaded to the relevant forum on Moodle.  It was made clear that submissions would not be graded; participation (as evidenced by submissions to Moodle) was the key requirement.  The fact that the submissions were not graded was a great relief to me.  I find it difficult to get started on something if I know it is going to be graded.  I tend to procrastinate and spend too much time worrying if my submission is good enough.  As a result, I found this experience quite liberating – I could just get in and start (which I did).

I thought this course was excellent, and I got a lot out of it.  I feel like I learned a lot, and have come away with many practical ideas and resources to assist me in future work with older people in a public library.  I will do more ALIA professional development activities in the future.