February 13, 2017

Fostering a creative culture: trying, but not too hard...

By Ned Potter, Academic Liaison Librarian 

In the Relationship Management Team we work on several projects across the year. Some of them recur year on year, some of them are one-offs. An example of a one-off project was three of us being tasked with looking into creativity: how could we be more creative and allow ideas to flourish in the team?

As part of this process I spoke to a few librarians, both in this country and abroad, who I considered to work in creative environments. I wanted advice and ideas and experiences around creativity not just as an individual but for an entire team. Some of those I spoke to I knew well, some of them I'd not interacted with before.

I'm not going to quote the individuals directly (because the conversations happened before this blog existed, so I didn't mention to the participants that I'd be writing them up) but I can point to several key themes which came out of more than one chat.

Before we get to the list, a summary of the consensus across all the conversations: the culture that encourages people to try things is usually more creative than the culture where 'creativity' is a specific goal or something that happens at assigned times. Talking about it too much makes it awkward. So it's easier to work towards a goal in a manner which allows for flexibility and new ideas, than to introduce creativity as an end in itself.

How can you encourage a culture of creativity in your team?

  1. You can't force it. As soon as you create any constructs around creativity (like having 'creative Tuesday' or whatever, where people are encouraged to spend the morning doing creative things) it prohibits the very creativity you're attempting to instigate.
  2. So it's more about a culture of trust, and of allowing experimentation. Rather than making a big deal of creativity, the most productive way forward is to foster an environment where people feel able to be creative. This means encouraging people to try new things, and trusting them to go off on their own path. It also means bringing back fresh and new ideas to the team, and cultivating an environment where new and innovative practices are shared. 
  3. Flexibility is essential. If you work a 40 hour week and all 40 of those hours are fully assigned before the week begins, then of course there will be no room for creativity. You HAVE to build some give into the working week, or month. The capacity for chaos. Allow people to be creative in a way which suits them.
  4. Start small. Make a change in the way you approach a smaller project. If it works, be more experimental with something a little larger, and so on. You get more confident as you go - even if the experiments don't always work. Which brings us to...
  5. Celebrate success, give permission to fail. This came up time and time again. People need to feel they can take a punt on something and not be embarrassed or told off if it doesn't work. And examples where things DO work need to be celebrated, to encourage others. Both success and failure should be a source of discussion so everyone can learn from both. And success shouldn't be the same for everyone - you have to be realistic about what the different personalities in the team can achieve, and set different people different goals.
  6. Think beyond the sector. We can learn so much from looking outside libraries, but we need to do this proactively rather than just hope it happens...
If you've got any more tips on fostering a creative culture, let us know in the comments.

February 06, 2017

Using Google Q&A in large teaching sessions

By Martin Philip, Academic Liaison Librarian

I’ve always been a default Microsoft PowerPoint user, however Google’s recently added Q&A feature to their Slides product may have persuaded me otherwise.

PowerPoint still seems to be the most ubiquitous piece of presentation software. It’s certainly the one programme that I’ve spent most of my student and professional life using and the one I’m most comfortable creating slides with.

Nowadays, however, there are many presentation programmes to choose from; Google Slides, Apple’s Keynote, Prezi, Canva to name a few. They all essentially do the same thing which is to present your topic and/ or ideas, using, texts, graphics, photos and video.

I remember when I was first used Prezi around 2009. I used to use it quite extensively and was impressed with the animations between slides and the way you could present the slides or sections in a non-linear style. It seemed to work really well. However, I quickly moved back to PowerPoint for, as I saw it, the increased functionality especially when it came to the design of the slides themselves. I felt more comfortable with the wider font choices and editing tools available in PowerPoint..
Since joining York, around 3 years ago, I was introduced to, what is now called, the ‘G Suite’ of applications. I was familiar with Gmail having used it for many years in a personal capacity, however the other applications such as Docs and Sheets, I’d hardly ever used meaning I wasn’t hugely comfortable with them. The benefits of these tools quickly became clear due to collaborative nature of the applications. No longer did documents need to be emailed to colleagues, using the G Suite of applications we could all work ‘live’ in the same document, meaning versions were always up-to-date and stored in a central place online.
Until this academic year, ‘Slides’ was the main Google application I’d not really used, in part, due to my preference of PowerPoint. It was only recently, at a White Rose Consortium TeachMeet last year, when a colleague demonstrated a new feature in ‘Slides’ called ‘Google Q&A’ that I considered trying it out again.

What is Google Q&A?
Google Q&A is designed to enable interaction with a large audience. In addition to the ‘Present’ button, there is now a Q&A option that opens a pop-up window and places a URL/ web address above each slide visible to the audience. The audience can then, using the browser on their mobile device, go to the web address displayed and begin asking questions to the presenter. The questions do not appear immediately on screen, they are displayed to the presenter in a pop-up window. The presenter can then, at a time they deem appropriate, respond to any of the questions asked by the group. They simply click on a question in their pop-up window and it then appears to the whole audience on the large screen.
I was really impressed with this functionality, it was definitely something not available in PowerPoint! I logged it in my mind thinking of some scenarios that I could use it in.

In the Summer, when planning a new lecture with a Politics tutor for the Autumn term, he expressed his frustration to me when trying to get students to interact in large lectures so when I mentioned Google Q&A to him, he couldn’t wait to use it!

We were already planning a joint lecture for the new ‘What is Politics?’ core 1st year undergraduate module and agreed that my 30 minute talk would use the Q&A feature.

The setup was a bit complicated. I could only get Q&A to work if I connected a laptop to the projector and changed the laptop settings to extend the display. This is required because the podium PCs seem to be fixed to the ‘duplicate’ setting which means the audience see the same as what the presenter sees meaning the pop-up window is visible. Extending the display of the laptop (pressing Win key + P) means I can drag the pop-up window onto my laptop screen so only I could see it.
At the start of my talk I highlighted the URL that was above each slide and asked all the students to take a minute to open up the link in their browser to encourage them to participate by asking a question if they wanted to. Q&A allows students to contribute anonymously which I think encourages participation.

Over 30 questions were asked throughout the lecture, concerning the content of my talk and the tutors. We were both able to, there and then, answer questions from students providing an immediate response. Some students asked for clarification on the assignment that was set or other questions regarding the topic which the tutor was able to answer. Others asked questions about YorSearch and how to find specific resources.    

Reflecting at the end of the session, the tutor was extremely pleased as he has never had such an interactive lecture! He planned to continue to use Q&A throughout the term.

I encourage you to have a look at Google Q&A. From my limited experience, it’s definitely something you could incorporate into your larger teaching sessions to try and stimulate some interaction with your audience/ students.

January 25, 2017

Using Kahoot to enhance Induction talks and Information Skills workshops

By Tony Wilson, Academic Liaison Librarian

Throughout the Autumn Term, the Academic Liaison Team have been using the online quiz software Kahoot in Induction talks and workshops. I have used it in both undergraduate and postgraduate teaching sessions and have found that it offers an interesting and engaging option for delivering information about the Library and Information Literacy to students studying at all levels and stages.

This post will cover what Kahoot is and how it works and will provide examples of how we have used it at the University of York.

What is Kahoot?

Kahoot is a free to use learning platform that enables you to create games or ‘kahoots’ based around any topic that you wish. There are three options available to you. You can choose to create a Quiz, Discussion or Survey.

If you choose to create a Quiz, you can choose how many questions you wish to ask and you can choose up to four answers and indicate which of the answers are correct. You can have as many correct answers as you wish. Alternatively, you can have just two answers and ask a True or False question. Participants in the quiz will then compete to score the most points when they play the quiz. The quiz tool enables you to introduce the students to new information such as details of library services or different search techniques, for example. This is the tool that we have used this term.

The Survey tool works in the same way as the quiz tool but you don’t indicate a right or wrong answer and there is not a competitive element. It can be used to test what students have learnt during a session or gather information about what they already know before you start a teaching session and you can then use the answers given to generate discussion with the students and to inform what you choose to focus on.

The discussion tool is designed to be used during a presentation and if you want to ask a question that might generate a discussion. It works in the same way as the survey but you only have the option to ask one question. So, the idea is that the question would be very focused on one issue that would be designed to encourage students to choose different points of view that could then be explored further based on the answers that the students give. It could be useful if you were doing a workshop exploring a variety of different resources and you wanted the students to discuss the pros and cons of using one database compared to another.

Using Kahoot in Induction

Throughout the induction period at the start of term, Academic Liaison Librarians are invited to come and talk to the new students in their departments and make them aware of the services that are available. These talks can be 5 minute ‘quick hellos’ or hour long induction lectures so Kahoot is not always going to be a helpful tool. However, quite often, Librarians will have between 10-20 minutes to talk to students as part of a set of talks organised by the department and in these circumstances Kahoot has proved a brilliant tool for introducing students to the Library in a fun and engaging way.

In order to play the quiz when in a lecture hall, students are asked to use their smartphones to go to the web address Kahoot.it. From there, they are asked to enter a code which is made available on the screen by the person running the quiz.

Once players enter the PIN they then need to give themselves a nickname and they can then join the game.
Often in the induction quiz, there were as many as 150 students taking part in the quiz.  The Induction quiz had 10 questions and could be played as a straightforward quiz, taking each question in turn or alternatively, the question could be used to as a springboard to show the students more information on the library website.

The questions covered a number of different topics including study space, how many books students can borrow, opening hours and also questions about borrowing laptops and Google Apps for Education. The Quiz has received some really positive feedback from staff and students and the Academic Liaison Team has felt like this tool has really helped to increase the levels of engagement from students in the service that we provide which is fantastic.

Using Kahoot in other workshops

In addition to induction, some of colleagues have also used Kahoot in other workshops as an alternative way to present information to students. These sessions have been at Undergraduate and Postgraduate level.

Kahoot has proved effective in a number of different contexts. In one Languages workshop, a six question Kahoot was used introduce the student to six different specific aspects of the Library services and collections that was relevant to them.

Kahoot was also used to test knowledge and understanding of literature searching techniques. In a number of Education workshops this term, students were asked to look at a number of online tutorials on our Digital Skills Guides in the week ahead of the workshop.

Then, at the start of the workshops, students did an Education Information skills quiz so that the Librarian could assess whether they understood the content from the tutorials.

Kahoot proved an effective tool in these workshops as well although it did not tend to cause the same buzz of excitement in the PC lab as it did during induction.

Next steps

Kahoot has the potential to be used in variety of ways and more work needs to be done to consider which approaches are the most effective. As with all tools that can be used to enhance teaching and learning there is always the risk to over use a tool and reduce it’s impact as a result.

The survey tool may very well prove very helpful during the Spring and Summer when delivering dissertation workshops as it could be an effective way to test which resources students are familiar with already.

Work will then need to be done on a new Induction quiz for next year!

January 09, 2017

Hydra @ York

Hydra is a digital repository software now being used by the library at the University of York. Prior to taking up a new role in 2017, our former Technology Development Manager Julie Allinson wrote this post about how we adopted Hydra, and more info on the project and its benefits.

Background: 2007-2014

York has been committed to providing a digital repository infrastructure since 2007 and, in 2008, chose the open-source Fedora Commons repository software to provide that infrastructure. The ‘F’ in Fedora stands for ‘Flexibility’ and it was this feature - the ability to tailor the system to our needs - that was a fundamental reason for our choice. Since 2007 we have built various applications on top of Fedora and are managing and providing access to somewhere in excess of 300,000 digital resources via our York Digital Library. We have built bespoke workflows for images, audio resources and more, and are now being harvested by our discovery layer, YorSearch. But requirements and use cases continue to grow and it is impossible, and inefficient, for one small team to continue doing bespoke development for all of them. For this reason we decided to adopt Hydra.

Moving to Hydra, 2015-

“if you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together”
(Hydra Partners: https://projecthydra.org/)

The Hydra Approach

Hydra is built on top of a common framework - the widely-used Ruby on Rails Web application framework. Arguably more important than the technology platform, though, is the community approach. Everything about Hydra is out in the open - all code is on Github, documentation on an open wiki and discussion on google groups and and a Hydra slack channel that anyone can join. The core developers within the Hydra community come from a range of institutions and there is a clear mechanism for new developers to begin contribution.
In addition, Hydra has a set of ‘Partners’ and a process for joining as a partner.Hydra partnership isn’t a closed community, it’s a mechanism formally committing to Hydra and thereby contributing to the community, be it with code, leadership, testing or other contributions. York have already joined as partners and have been engaging in various interest groups and activities, like the Hydra Virtual Connect held in summer 2016.
These, combined, make it a very strong open source project.

Benefits of Hydra for York

Hydra is a mature, trusted and developing software platform on which we can build.

Hydra is used, and contributed to, by some of the biggest academic institutions in the world, including Stanford, Princeton, Oxford and Yale Universities.
Hydra and its associated technologies deliver a good proportion (perhaps 70%)  of what we need from our digital repository infrastructure and delivers that in ways that are designed to be extended and customised in a modular way.
Arguably, there is no off-the-shelf solution that can deliver our requirements for the management and access of a disparate set of digital resources.
There is a growing core of European, mostly UK-based, Hydra users who all want to work closely together to share development and expertise.
Help is at hand? Hydra has a large community of users and contributors - questions rarely go unanswered.
With a major upgrade for Fedora Commons looming, Hydra helps smooth the transition, providing a standard interaction to Fedora irrespective of version and offering a chance to review and cleanup as we migrate.

What will Hydra at York look like

Hydra at York will allow us to:
  • Manage disparate types of resources in one place.
  • Have robust access control.
  • Rapidly build bespoke sites to search and/or present specific collections.
  • Expose resources for cross searching and harvesting.
  • Integrate with our digital preservation system.
  • Upload batched of resources, such as the outputs of digitisation projects.
  • Provide self-deposit for University masters theses, and other types of material as needed.
  • Easily add support for new types of content.
  • Handle the upload and management of research datasets.
  • Build tools for using external controlled vocabularies and for managing vocabularies and term lists based on the ‘questioning authority’ gem.

Don’t we do all of this already?

To some degree, yes, our existing digital repository infrastructure offers many of these features already but the maturity and community-support offered by Hydra will allow us to deliver more functionality, more efficiently and in a more supported way.

Multiple ways in, multiple ways out

It has always been central to our repository design to facilitate different routes for ingesting content. Hydra will certainly help with this, providing a standardised model for defining repository interaction. Similarly, allowing our resources to be surfaced via many interfaces is critical.
The diagrams below attempt to graphically illustrate our new approach. Green indicates open source components, grey third party tools and pink is our own code. Notice that there is more green than pink, this is important for us as it means we are focussing on what makes us different whilst benefitting from where we are the same.

Beyond Hydra

In addition to the core Fedora / Hydra components, there are many allied tools and projects we can benefit from. Blacklight, for example, is a ‘discovery platform framework’ that we can use within our Hydra applications and beyond, for example to power our new HYMS unified search facility, coming in 2017. Spotlight is a Blacklight-based project that allows curators to create attractive, feature-rich websites that highlight digital collections, and Geoblacklight is another project that, this time, gives us powerful geo and mapping features. The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) is a relatively new standard for exposing and using image collections. It has gained huge uptake across the cultural heritage section and we have already made use of the standards in our Archbishops’ Registers project, exposing ‘manifests’ to describe the registers for use in other IIIF-compliant image viewers. IIIF is growing, too, adding support audio and video, and expanding the range of tools and viewers available.
Also, beyond the Hydra ‘core’ components are projects and implementations from which we can benefit. Sufia and Curation Concerns, for instance, give us rich institutional repository deposit and access functionality out of the box, with easy extensibility to our own needs. The Avalon project provides a fully-featured Audio and Video management and access application, and Michgan’s Fulcrum. Plum is delivering rich digitization workflow functionality, including IIIF support.
With so much current activity, Hydra offers us an embarrassment of riches.

A few links: