Future gazing in Liverpool with JISC

Last week I travelled to Liverpool to represent CILIPS and SLIC at the annual JISC Conference.  JISC11 was held at the BT Convention Centre adjacent to the Albert Dock on the waterfront and was attended by around 600 people, although not many of those were from Scotland. This perhaps reflecting pressures on training budgets (for the first time JISC  charged for attendance at their annual conference) and staffing arrangements.  The event offered 29 sessions presented by 10 speakers.

‘Financial challenges – digital opportunities’ addressed  delivering services during a period of challenging financial circumstances for institutions and for JISC itself which has been the subject of an independent review commissioned by HEFCE.  Professor Eric Thomas, Vice Chancellor of Bristol University, used his keynote address to highlight the importance of the use of technology by the sector to encourage student applications, predicting that within ten years there would be more students studying in their own home towns and local education institutions to save on costs.

Strategically, when the recommendations of the Review have been implemented, JISC is going to look quite different.  Already, in Scotland, we know that the JISC Regional Support Centre, North and East is to close, although cross Scotland coverage won’t change. So it will be interesting to monitor the progress of the working groups being led by Malcolm Reid, JISC Executive Secretary and Professor David Baker, Deputy Chair of JISC, as they enter into consultations with JISC staff and members on the Review recommendations.


Liverpool Lambananas come in many varieties

Apart from the general updating and keeping abreast of technology in education, for SLIC and CILIPS three topics were of particular relevance:

1)       Event amplification – a term coined by Lorcan Dempsey.   With  over 250 on line users in ‘virtual attendance’ or ‘dropping in’ remotely to live streamlined sessions, conversations or social media sites, JISC itself was extending its reach and attempting to overcome some of the difficulties its members have in making time to travel to and attend the conference. A most useful session explored  event amplification and its potential to widen participation by exploiting networked technologies to do so through live streaming video, slides on Slideshare and ‘back channel’ discussions on Twitter.

2)       Digital Literacy – the ability to locate, organise, understand, evaluate and analyse information using digital technology. As JISC points out, with   90% of new jobs  requiring excellent digital skills, improving digital literacy is an essential component of developing employable individuals who can make best use of digital opportunities.  Using the findings of the Supporting Learners in a Digital Age (SLIDA) JISC funded project, this session explored how institutions can better develop the digital literacies of their community. It’s well worth an exploration of the virtual goody bag on this topic.

3)      Rethinking libraries – innovation in a time of limited resources explored how libraries can remodel services to deliver more efficiently. Following on from the recent RIN report on ‘Challenges for academic libraries in difficult times’ this was a timely and useful discussion from JISC who have a strong record in supporting libraries and their services. It was heartening  to learn that  as well as working with colleges and universities to embed core digital skills into the curriculum JISC is   proposing a new programme of work to support organisational strategies and approaches for improving digital literacies for all staff and learners.

Much of the material from the Conference including streamed videos  has been made available by JISC and it’s well worth taking some time to explore this.

Well done to all for a fascinating and engaging day in the home of the lambananas!


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.

Digital Literacy in an e-world: The 8th Annual E-Books Conference

On Thursday 30th October 2008 we were one of five speakers at the E-Books Conference at the Lighthouse in Glasgow. The Lighthouse is an amazing building and I took the opportunity to take the lift to the sixth floor to see the roof top view of Glasgow which must be amazing at night time so will need to do a return visit.

We had been asked to do a presentation about the work of the project and wanted to incorporate the conference theme so decided to call our presentation The Scottish Information Literacy Project “From ICT to Digital Literacy the importance of information literacy” (see project website events page for link to presentation) linking the start of the project with the Drumchapel Project (John Crawford) and recent consultancy work on Digital Literacy.

presenting at the 8th e-book event on Digital Literacy at the Lighthouse, Glasgow

presenting - e-book / Digital Literacy event

Other speakers included Paul Riley (The Welsh E-Books Consortium), like Scotland, Wales is a good size for collaboration on a national basis and Paul described some of their collaborative developments. Talking to him afterwards he expressed interest in the framework and the possiblity of Wales doing something similar. Hopefully they will be able to pursue this and as we will be in Cardiff for the 2009 LILAC Conference we can check on any progress.

John Coll gave an overview of the Business Information Services at the National Library of Scotland (Scotbis), whilst most enquiries are made electronically their resources are predominately print although they do collect both print and electronic publications / editions and offer clients / customers the option of accessing information sources in person (free of charge) or sending paper copies for a fee. I spoke to John at lunch time about the work the project is involved in within the workplace and also the forthcoming SIN (Scottish Information Network) meeting on Blogging which unfortuantely had to be postponned due to lack of numbers.

After lunch Sarah Fahmy (JISC) talked about JISC Collections for Schools and Jim Henderson (LTS) talked about the Online Reference Resources offered by Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) in partnership with JISC through GLOW (a national digital network for schools which will provide tools to underpin Curriculum for Excellence learning and teaching approaches). It was really good to see the material that will be available to schools and also to see schools now benefiting from JISC collections.

The last speaker was Duncan Chapell from Glasgow School of Art – InfosmART: using the Web to Deliver Information Skills to Arts Researchers. One of the highlights of Duncan’s presentation was the use of the project National Framework to inform the development of their information literacy programme. The other was their / his use of images (Visual Literacy) both within InfosmART and his presentation as Art students use of visual images is not surprisingly very high. It made me remember the old adage a picture tells a thousand words.

All in all the day seemed to be a success both event and project wise. Interestingly their seemed to be more mention of information literacy rather than digital literacy.

Photo courtesay of Jill Evans (SCURL)