Scottish Funding Council ICT conference

On  Tuesday 9th December Christine and I attended a Scottish Funding Council (SFC) ICT conference in Edinburgh at the invitation of the SFC Senior Policy Officer for Strategic Development, this being an outcome of the meeting we had attended at SFC on 27th November. The aim of the meeting was to bring together people in FE and HE with employers to discuss how FE and HE can support eskills training. We had never met such a group before but it was soon apparent that the employer representatives were well known to SFC staff and had a good record in supporting eskills development and were therefore not necessarily typical of employers as a whole and indeed one of them remarked. “We are untypical because we are here” and a lack of employer vision proved to be one of the themes of the day.

There were two introductory keynote presentations which included such points as the growing number of businesses using IT, and the need for IT staff to focus on the needs of their employers. The need to focus on the generation which did not grow up with the Internet was emphasised and our old and highly relevant friends, soft skills development, including problem solving were mentioned.

Much of the rest of the day was taken up with discussion and feedback sessions. Our study of information usage in the workplace and our round of meetings, following on from it, suggested that the public sector is a promising area and that getting the message over to Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SME’s) is the biggest problem.  This and similar issues surfaced – how do you target the right people in organisations? ; SMEs don’t look ahead and plan for the future. Timing, mode of delivery and length of training were all discussed. The need to find out what companies want is crucial as universities often don’t do this. Also mentioned is the need to involve the Scottish Trades Union Congress and particularly its learning representatives who, as we learned from our meeting with the STUC’s Everyday Skills Committee on Tuesday 25th November, have an excellent grasp of workplace training needs. Significantly nobody from the STUC had been invited to attend. Suggested solutions included an annual event where people from SMEs could meet university staff, which sounds like a good opportunity for IL advocates.

After the first discussion session feedback included developing employability skills and improving course content. Increasing funding training weighted in favour of SMEs was also mentioned.

In the discussions there was quite a lot of criticism of the teaching of IT in schools which was felt to be out of date, boring and lacking in relevance to pupils. This, in turn, raises a major policy issue: the absence of any University input to Curriculum for Excellence planning. While this is a big issue it suggests that our Framework which links secondary and tertiary education is quite pioneering. 

After lunch there were short presentations by several participants who included Christine Sinclair, the executive director of the Institute of Business at Adam Smith College. They work actively with schools in developing the Curriculum for Excellence and also have an advisory board of employers who have, inter alia, urged the need for more soft skills training.

Finally we were invited to suggest a training area into which the SFC might put money and asked to break up into groups to discuss it. Our group spent a lot of time discussing the developing of targeted training for SMEs which would have be funded by SFC since SMEs obviously won’t do it themselves. We all agreed that market research was needed to find out what SMEs want and appropriate mode of delivery is essential whether online, face to face or mentor mediated. An administrative structure would need to be put in place to make it work effectively.

Overall it was a useful day with the main message being that the promotion of eskills and IL training face similar problems

 

 

Think life as a school librarian is peaceful and sedentary? Think again! Ian McCracken of Govan High School shares his hectic week

Ian McCracken of Govan High School is one of our project partners and a member of our advisory group who in a recent article in Learning and Teaching Scotland’s publication Connected shares with the readers Think life as a school librarian is peaceful and sedentary? Think again! Ian McCracken of Govan High School shares his hectic week.

It’s a great article which lets everyone see the diversity of life as a school librarian/Learning Resource Centre Manager/ Information Consultant.

What the article doesn’t convey is the amount and depth of work Ian does in the area of information literacy and the skills / employability agenda. We are currently in discussion with Skills Development Scotland and they have been very impressed with the work Ian and the school are doing in these areas.

Well done Ian, keep up the good work.

Meeting etc

A lot going on recently and I have been at Brighton University, making my last visit as an external examiner so a bit behind on writing up. We have been engaged on an extensive programme of meetings on workplace information literacy issues with a view to devising a programme of action.

On Monday 24th November we were in Inverclyde (reported by Christine) and on Tuesday 25th we attended a meeting of the Everyday Skills Committee of the Scottish Trades Unions Congress to report on our work and explain what IL is. Our presentation was well received by the Union Learning Representatives who are members of this committee. (Union learning reps are there to help the members / staff in their organisations develop the skills they require everyday in the workplace with a particular focus on literacy and numeracy). The representatives from the Fire Brigade’s Union had recently completed a survey of the level of staff skills in order to develop suitable training courses and were particularly interested in knowing what IL courses were available.  The presentation illustrated the point which we have found to be true elsewhere – IL  is widely understood as long as it is presented  in the context of the knowledge, skills, experience and learning needs of the group you are targeting which means that the message needs to tailored to whoever you happen to be speaking to at the time. 

Om Wednesday 26th  we had a meeting of the Project Advisory Group where inevitably much of the discussion revolved around the long term future of the Project and how it can be funded. We are currently funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation until the end of September 2009 so now is the time to think about new funding. Thursday 27th saw us in Edinburgh talking to the Learning Policy and Strategy Directorate of the Scottish Funding Council to raise awareness of the importance of IL in the skills agenda and especially as an employability and lifelong learning skill.

Back in Edinburgh again on Friday 28th, to attend the SLIC FE conference, at the invitation of Catherine Kearney, Assistant Director of SLIC to whom, Many Thanks. We participated in a JISC sponsored discussion on Libraries of the future after which Christine and I were interviewed by Philip Pothen, the JISC Press and PR manager. The interview is to appear as a podcast and I will post the URL when it becomes available.  I am a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and I have been trying to raise awareness of IL as a necessary workplace skill with the help of their Outreach officer as education and skills is an RSA priority.  There is a piece in the current RSA Scotland newsletter which is on their website although there seems to be a problem with the link just now.

While in Brighton on Monday 1st December I had a meeting with Martin de Saulles, a member of the Social Informatics Research Unit who is interested in IL in small to medium sized enterprises and we identified areas of common interest.

There are a couple more meetings to go before we collapse exhausted over the Christmas turkey but the message is already becoming clear.  Increasingly the people we speak to are asking us about content of IL training programmes and how they might be delivered.  Although IL training obviously has generic components training packages will need to focus on particular requirements.  A new research question it seems.

Information Literacy and Public Libraries

Last week was a busy week for the project with meetings and or presentations everyday.

On Monday morning we were in Greenock at Inverclyde Libraries talking with the People’s Network Librarian Sean McNamara about identifying areas for possible IL input into existing courses they offer and new courses for 2009. Courses such as an employability course run through their local community partnership with Fairer Scotland funding and Career Planning in conjunction with the West of Scotland University. Discussed Web 2.0 tools and the possibility of using a blog for learners to give their thoughts and feedback on the course/s. Inverclyde Libraries Manager Sandra MacDougal joined our discussions and we spoke about staff training and IL including: the Information Handling Skills course and qualification as part of the SLIC 2000 Learners Project (used by Midlothian Lothian Public Libraries for staff training) and the POP-i course (developed and used by Bradford Public Libraries for their staff) also the previous NOF courses and the recent CILIPS / SQA ICT qualification for Libraries. Some of their staff are currently undertaking the ICTL qualification.

We have had similar discussions with the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and the Ewart Library in Dumfries. The Ewart Library offer an expanding programme of tutor led computer training courses and workshops in their libraries to assist local communities (in partnership with Adult Literacy and Numeracy Partnership , the local college and other learning providers). Included in the programmes is The British Computer Society eCitizen package which includes information literacy although it does not identify it as such.

Glasgow REAL Learning Centres which are part of Glasgow Libraries have a new team in place of Learning Support Officers who will look after the learning centres (including learning portfolios, ITC and the employability agenda). Of interest to the project is the partnership between Glasgow Libraries and the Chamber of Commerce and the breakfast sessions held at The Mitchell Library.

I’m sure we will be hearing and seeing more information literacy work in Public Libraries. If you are interested in this area then the Information Literacy Website has a section on IL and Public Libraries.