Empathy, the Library, and Open Education

By Adrian Stagg, Manager (Open Educational Practice), University of Southern Queensland

During an interview, the anthropologist Dr Margaret Mead was asked what evidence she considered noteworthy as a society first progressed toward ‘civilisation’. If we consider the question, physical artefacts such as farming or hunting implements, or perhaps pottery seem likely answers.

Dr Mead used a broken (and healed) femur as her reply.  The healed bone inferred that another human being had demonstrated empathy.  Rather than abandoning this person, another had cared enough to nurse them back to health. Empathy, she asserted, was the start of civilisation (Byock, 2012), and a consideration for the welfare of others differentiated humans from the animal kingdom.

It can be reasonably argued that librarians – whether public or academic – require empathy as a professional skill.  Libraries continue to be places for democratic empowerment, places that value equity, and promote safety. Libraries also become food pantries on many campuses, a function well outside information and digital literacy. 

During a reference interview with a first-year student, most librarians concentrate on normalising confusion and creating a welcoming space as they do answering the questions.  As academic spaces, libraries invest in student-centred design for services and function; when supporting academic colleagues we attempt to understand context to which solutions can be linked.

Unsurprisingly, open education finds a home in many university libraries.  Their remit includes the organisation, access, and maintenance of knowledge resources, and is usually accompanied by supporting infrastructure and staffing (despite consistently conservative or diminishing budget allocations). 

Open education meets pragmatic library needs such as mitigating library expenditure by transitioning to open texts, reducing workload by using existing OER, or accessing low-cost, openly licenced professional learning.

Open licencing affords unique opportunities that connect academic staff with learning and teaching approaches (such as open assessment), and position the library as a key stakeholder in learning design. Furthermore, these partnerships often yield scholarship and research outcomes, raising the profile of librarians-as-researchers.

However, openness is – like libraries – foundationally aligned with social equity. Openness reduces barriers to access and increases participation in education, equalises readership and access to information, and addresses systemic issues of financial inequality and educational attainment. For librarians – exposed to the ‘macro-view’ of the university through interactions with students from all disciplines – it is difficult not to respond with empathy to trends that reinforce inequality.

Our failing in open advocacy is often untempered empathy. Many library-run OER workshops can be summarised as ‘a solution looking for a problem’, presenting openness as a self-evident good without necessarily considering the audience. The results are workshops populated by ‘the usual suspects’ and an inability to sustain open practices beyond small pockets of already-dedicated practitioners.

Starting with OA Week, I’d like to propose that ‘It matters how we open knowledge’ refers to our engagement as much as processes, policy, and infrastructure.

Professor Geoff Scott, when speaking at an ACODE Institute introduced the mantra ‘Listen, Link, Lead’. When advocating for sustainable change, he encouraged the audience to actively ‘listen’ to, and understand the context of others. Then ‘link’ the challenges to new approaches that directly influence a positive outcome for the individual.  Lastly, is the opportunity to ‘lead’ the change and build momentum based on success.

Transforming open education from ‘open as library business’ to ‘open as everyone’s business’ requires empathy and connection. 

Take time this week to review your strategies.  Do you ‘listen, link, lead’? Have you unintentionally excluded teams from your initiatives, and are there opportunities for collaboration (such as Learning Designers, Student Services, the Student Guild)? 

The unique affordances of openness lie in reuse, remix, and repurposing content to suit local contexts and learner needs. Perhaps, using the lens of empathy, we explicitly consider our skills as librarians with similar affordances.

Take the opportunity to share and learn this week by reflecting on your practices in the Comments.

Reference:

Byock, I. (2012). The best care possible: a physician’s quest to transform care through the end of life. New York. Avery. 


Delighting in diversity in the digital domain

By AJ Penrose, Multimedia Developer, Digital Learning, RMIT University Library. Contact: amanda.penrose@rmit.edu.au

The world might not actually be any more diverse than it’s always been, but goodness, doesn’t it seem that way?! Thanks to increased visibility, advocacy and celebration of our differences, diversity has become an important part of our digital lives.

retro housewife waves at husband and child from kitchen doorway

Fortunately, we’re becoming more aware that what we see around us shapes our expectations of society. We’re getting better at representing diversity (it’s been a while since I’ve seen a white, tie-wearing male kiss a housewife goodbye as he heads to the office… WandaVision excepted!) but we can do a lot more.

Image by ArtsyBee https://pixabay.com/illustrations/retro-housewife-family-greeting-1321068/

Here are some examples of inclusive practices that you can incorporate into your digital projects right now.

Inclusive language

Use non-gendered and non-Western names for the characters in your examples and activities. Online baby-name lists are a fabulous and readily available resource.

Include they/them pronouns along with she/her and he/his. You can do this when the gender of the person you’re referring to isn’t relevant, when you want the sentence to be inclusive of all genders, or if you want to represent a character as non-binary.

Representation

Describe or illustrate your characters using diverse:

  • physiological or mental functional capacities
  • genders, sexes and sexualities
  • cultures and traditions
  • ages  
  • socio-economic backgrounds
  • body shapes, skin colours, hair and clothing choices

The great news is, with a little effort and a bit of practice, we can create inclusive, safe and welcoming digital environments, which benefit everyone.

Here are just a couple of screenshots from animations I’ve created recently. See if you can identify the ways I’ve included representation from the list above.

Note that diversity itself isn’t the focus of any of these projects, it’s just there.

Why not review the project materials you’re working on right now and have a think about how you’re representing diversity? If you can do more, go ahead and make a change today!


Developing a digitally dexterous and future-ready workforce through Community of Practice

Renée Grant, Liaison Librarian for Faculty of The Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Wollongong. rengrant@uow.edu.au  

How do you develop a future-ready workforce?  

In 2016, the University of Wollongong Library committed to becoming a future-ready, digitally dexterous organisation and put in place the Digital Literacy Workplace Program to foster upskilling opportunities for Library staff. After an initial structured program, the direction shifted towards a new approach which focused on four key areas: self-directed learning, personalisation, flexibility, and learner agency. The flexible and unguided nature of this program gave staff the freedom to choose their own learning path. One of the outcomes of this program was the creation of a Digital Humanities Community of Practice (CoP) in 2018. 

Why a Community of Practice? 

Discussion with colleagues revealed that I wasn’t alone in my passion for Digital Humanities. The CoP grew organically from this shared passion and the opportunity for self-directed learning provided by the Digital Literacy Workplace Program. I formed the CoP so that we could share knowledge, explore, experiment and learn from each other. The collective nature of the learning process was key to the success of our group increasing our digital dexterity. Learning new technologies is challenging and one of the key benefits arising from the CoP was the ability to work through problems together. Without the support of the group, it would have been too easy to give up. Every challenge was viewed as a learning opportunity and through collective problem solving the group developed a growth mindset – when we couldn’t get the software to work properly, we weren’t failing, we were learning! 

Developing digital dexterity 

The CoP developed staff digital dexterity through the completion of mini projects which were showcased in a public facing blog. These mini-projects incorporated both hard and soft skills to develop agile, future-focused, T-shaped professionals (professionals with both discipline expertise and broader collaborative, creative and interpersonal skills). Hard skills included coding literacy, data visualisation, writing for the web, and digital curation. Soft skills included growth mindset, team work, networking, and creative thinking. The CoP membership consisted of staff with a range of digital capabilities from beginner to advanced. So that everyone would get something out of it, the CoP was designed so that all members had opportunities to extend and develop their skills by exploring and learning aspects of the software, which they then taught to the wider group. This also provided everyone with the opportunity to develop teaching and presentation skills. If members were beginners, they would pair up with an advanced member to explore and prepare a lesson for the group. In this way, they not only had an opportunity to extend their digital literacy skills, but to learn and problem solve with a more tech-savvy colleague. The CoP is a very supportive environment in which to learn and it’s great to see my colleagues get excited to learn new digital tools and explore innovative ways to incorporate them into their work practices. 

Where are we now? 

Future-readiness is not something you can tick a box marked complete, it’s an ongoing goal. Over the years, the Digital Humanities CoP has evolved to align to the shifting individual member and organisational needs. Through the CoP it was recognised that there was a need to support clients more broadly across the University of Wollongong with Digital Scholarship. This resulted in a Digital Scholarship Strategy project in 2020 to scope the feasibility of a Library-led initiative. In 2021 the CoP has shifted its focus to developing a future-ready workforce that can provide broader Digital Scholarship support in preparation for the potential rollout of a strategic program.  

The creation of the Digital Humanities CoP was transformative. Not just for the development of digital dexterity for the individual members, but as an organisation, as its success sparked the creation of a range of CoPs within the Library to develop other future-ready skills, such as UX. 

Why not start your own transformative Community of Practice! 

For more information: 

Grant, R., & Organ, M. 2020, ‘Digital Journeys @ UOW Australia: From Digital Dexterities to Digital Humanities and Beyond‘. International Information and Library Review, pp.1-6. 

Grant, RC & Shalavin, CA 2019, ‘Journey to the new frontier: staff experience in a professional development program for digital dexterity’, THETA 2019 – The Tipping Point: The Higher Education Technology Agenda Conference, Wollongong, 19-22 May. 

Follow our blog at Digital Humanities @ UOW Library and Twitter @DHWollongong 

Digitally Dexterous Approaches to Microlearning

Keith Heggart, Lecturer in Learning Design, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology Sydney. Keith.Heggart@uts.edu.au  @keithheggart  

The rise of microlearning

If you’ve had anything to do with university teaching and learning in the last two years, you’ve probably been caught up in discussions about remote and emergency online learning, blended learning and similar topics. Central to many of these discussions is the need to craft engaging learning experiences for students. That’s where microlearning (Hug, 2007) comes in. You’ve probably already seen materials created using tools like Genial.ly, Quizlet or H5P- these can all be examples of this growing phenomenon.

More and more of us have access to powerful mobile devices. One way we use them is to consume ‘bite-sized’ chunks of knowledge. Torgerson (2021) describes this as a grass roots approach to learning, which is gradually moving from our personal lives (for example, YouTube videos on how to unblock a sink might be an example of microlearning) into workplace learning programs, and now, into the school and tertiary education sectors.

This is partially in response to the lack of time many people face in their day to day lives – such as the ‘sandwich generation’ (Miller, 1981). This is already causing many universities to rethink how they might offer courses to people engaged in full time work as well as caring responsibilities. It is also in response to what Torgerson (2021) describes as our desire to remain in contact with each other: social connectedness, which is facilitated through mobile technologies and especially social media.

What is microlearning? One of the most common definitions of microlearning is Khan’s (2019, p. 276)

“Microlearning can be viewed as a single objective‑focused, outcome‑based, stand‑alone, meaningful, and interactive learning unit delivered in bite-sized snippets (i.e., a short modular format) either digitally (i.e., via computer, tablet, or mobile phone) or non-digitally (i.e., as via a flashcard or booklet).”

While the exact definition of microlearning is still debated, there are some principles common to much of the discussion. Firstly, microlearning is short. Thalheimer (2017) calls it a short engagement in a learning related activity, and this follows on from Kapp and Defelice’s (2019) definition that it is a short engagement instructional unit. Of course, this begs the question: how short is short? Some have suggested that it should be less than half an hour. For Torgerson (2021), it’s 5 minutes or less – but best measured by the question: ‘Would you give up time in your day to learn this?’ If the answer’s yes, then that’s an example of microlearning.

There are some significant benefits to this bottom-up approach to microlearning. Malamed (n.d.) suggests that it’s a form of informal learning, but the benefit of microlearning is that it is ‘like riding a bike: the rider chooses the destination, the speed and the route’. This is the personalisation aspect of microlearning. There are some other factors that contribute to the benefits of microlearning: because of its brevity, it needs to be focused on being both efficient and effective. This is also a potential drawback, of course. Not everything taught at university might be suitable for microlearning. Rather, it’s up to the educator to think carefully about what might be leveraged into a microlearning opportunity. In addition, microlearning has the benefit of repeatability and scalability – one object can be watched many times, and it can be shared with 10, 100 or even 1000 students with no more effort than sharing it with one.

Six best practices for designing microlearning

So how can educators make use of microlearning? Fortunately, much of what we know about good examples of microlearning already conforms to our understanding of best practice approaches to teaching and learning. Perhaps this is not that surprising; after all, micro teaching has been a staple of many courses for a long time. As you would imagine, microlearning relies heavily on the use of technology and multimedia assets, and thus Mayer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning (2005) is pertinent. In particular, the following ideas are worth keeping in mind:

  • Be very clear about what the purpose of the microlearning is, and how learners will achieve this through the learning process.
  • Include images, rather than having only written representations in microlearning objects.
  • These images should add to or help explain the information presented, not distract from it.
  • Make use of automated feedback  – but make the feedback descriptive!
  • Make it clear how users can interact with the microlearning object through careful design of elements like buttons and links.
  • Show ways that students are progressing through the learning such as percentage completed (from Tufan, 2021).

References

Hug, T. (2007). Didactics of microlearning. Waxmann Verlag.

Kapp, K. M., & Defelice, R. A. (2019). Microlearning: Short and sweet. American Society for Training and Development.

Khan, B. H. (2019). Microlearning: Quick and meaningful snippets for training solutions. International Journal of Research in Educational Sciences.(IJRES), 2(2), 275-284.

Malamed, C. (n.d). Informal Learning: An interview with Jay Cross. http://theeleanringcoach.com/elearning2-0/informal-learning-an-intervew-with-jay-cross

Mayer, R. E. (2005). Cognitive theory of multimedia learning. The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning, 41, 31-48.

Miller, D. (1981). The ‘Sandwich’ Generation: Adult Children of the Aging. Social Work 26, 419–423.

Thalheimer, W. (2017). Definition of microLearning.

www.worklearning.com/2017/01/13/definition-of-microlearning/

Tufan, D. (2021). Multimedia Design Principles for Microlearning. In Microlearning in the Digital Age (pp. 58-79). Routledge.


Digital Dexterity Educators: a platform to share digital dexterity resources

By Kelly George, Academic and Research Librarian, Charles Darwin University Library

Ever needed some inspiration, a quick activity, or a handy infographic?

Where do you go to look for activities, lesson plans, handouts, and anything else related to the teaching and learning of digital dexterity?

As library professionals, many of us in the Digital Dexterity (DigiDex) Champions network use OER repositories like Merlot and OER Commons to get ideas and supplement our teaching materials. However, with the development of the Champions network we wanted to encourage the sharing of our own resources, relevant to our context, and to raise the profile of the work that we do as educators in the Australian and New Zealand tertiary sector.

Which platform?

There was no one place already established where we could easily find and share resources. We asked ourselves: what features do we need in a resource sharing platform? What is most important to the Champions network?

One of the most important things that emerged was openness – you wouldn’t need a log in to browse or download the resources, and it would be accessible to anyone, not just the Champions network.

In fact, we developed a long list of desired features and set forth to identify the platform that best matched our needs. OER Commons came out on top, with its ethos of Explore. Create. Collaborate, and it enabled easy upload, licensing, tagging, and version history. ISKME (the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education) designed OER Commons to be much more than a simple online repository of OER; it is also a collaboration and teaching platform and aims to involve educators in a sustainable culture of sharing and continuous improvement.

The Digital Dexterity Educators group

You may already be aware of OER Commons, but what you may not know is that we have created a group on the platform which gathers together relevant resources for the Australian and New Zealand tertiary sector. We can also add to the group any resources already published on OER Commons that we think useful. To become a member of the group and to upload or add a resource, you do need to create an account, but this is a simple process. On the OER Commons website, click on the Sign in/Register button as indicated by the first arrow in the below image.

Screenshot from www.oercommons.org of the top menu banner to indicate with two arrows and corresponding text boxes where to 1. click to register for an account and where to 2. click to search for groups on the website

Find the Digital Dexterity Educators group, and others, by clicking on groups (as indicated by the second arrow in the image above) and then see all groups (in the ellipse in the below image). For a quick search, try popping our tag, MyDigiDex, into the search box to find resources added by the DigiDex Champions. You can also search for Digital Dexterity Educators to find us (second image below).

Screenshot from www.oercommons.org of the top menu banner to indicate with an ellipse where to click to search for groups on the website
Screenshot from www.oercommons.org to indicate with an arrow where to search for 'Digital Dexterity Educators' in Groups on the website

After clicking on the Digital Dexterity Educators group, anyone involved or interested in promoting digital dexterity can join the group so please go ahead, explore the site, and add yourself as a member (see image below).

Screenshot from https://www.oercommons.org/groups/digital-dexterity-educators/5554/ to indicate with an ellipse where to join the 'Digital Dexterity Educators' group on the website

Here’s a taste of what you’ll find posted in the group: from Curtin University Library, we have the comprehensive 23 Things for Digital Knowledge; from Queensland University of Technology Library, the in-depth modules of AIRS – Advanced Information Research Skills, and from Griffith University Library, the handy digital dexterity tool designed for self-assessment.

Share and share alike

A vital feature of the platform is the ability to assign a Creative Commons (CC) licence. Adding a CC licence to a resource enables us to reuse, adapt, and share resources without having to ask permission. If you are creating resources, or adapting existing resources, consider sharing them with your community of fellow educators. The process for adding or uploading a resource is easy—contact your DigiDex Champion, or leave a comment in this blog post, if you have any questions at all.

Image depicting the CC BY SA licence logo

We recommend assigning a CC BY SA license to your resource whenever possible—find the Guidelines for Licensing Learning Objects for Re-use with Creative Commons on the Digital Dexterity Educators group.

Maybe you could set this as your ‘digital dexterity’-goal for 2021. Let’s see how many resources we can share by December!

So get creative, review your copyright literacy, and start adding resources to the Digital Dexterity Educators group on OER Commons.

Note: All screenshots are from OER Commons where the content is licensed under CC BY NC SA 4.0

Building a digital skill set with Aus GLAM Blogs

By Hugh Rundle, Manager, Digital Innovation, La Trobe University Library

Several years ago I created an aggregator service for blogs by Australasian GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) workers. Initially this was a simple Twitter bot, but later I built a web application that eventually allowed blog authors to register their blog, and readers to search by keyword, browse by tag, or subscribe to new posts via RSS or directly into their Pocket list, including the ability to filter out content they may be less interested in. If you’re interested in what Australian librarians are thinking and talking about, this is now a useful place to look.

One of the obvious questions for people wanting to start independently learning computer programming skills is where to start. The best advice I was ever given was to start by working on a real project you want to see exist, or contributing to an existing project you like. Aus GLAM Blogs was one my first “real” coding projects. I had unsuccessfully tried to teach myself some kind of computer programming for a couple of years, but it didn’t “stick” until I had something tangible to work on. Having a real life project to work on – especially one that was operating in public – really helped provide an incentive and focus to develop and practice the skills I needed to complete the job. The first version was quite rudimentary – a simple text file of manually-entered RSS feed URLs, some JavaScript loops, and a Twitter account back in the days when Twitter API keys were very easy to obtain within a couple of minutes. It barely worked at all, but it was something I thought would be helpful to bridge the gap between library bloggers looking for an audience and Library Twitter looking for good local content.

Last year I wrote about re-building Aus GLAM Blogs from scratch when I had developed more knowledge and skills. Developing the app in incremental stages meant that it wasn’t completely overwhelming. This sort of project-based learning approach can be used in many contexts, but is particularly useful when building your digital skills. Creating a web application meant I needed to host it somewhere, which led to learning about Linux server management. Gradually increasing the scope of the application led to developing an understanding of how databases and software applications interact. Re-writing the entire thing led me to consider problems of data normalisation and to what extent it is useful and acceptable.

Scaffolding my own learning like this has enabled me to slowly build a technical skillset around computer programming and server management, and think more deeply about the sort of data management questions colleagues working with library metadata have to deal with every day. I will never consider myself an “expert” in coding or server administration, but through a personal project I’ve been able to build my knowledge over time. For a while this was simply to amuse myself, but I now find myself in a library job where these skills are really useful and help me to look at problems in a different way.

Your own interests may be different. Perhaps you want to be able to make animated videos, or build your own computer from parts, or fancy being the in-house Excel macro expert. If you’ve been telling yourself that you’re “just not a technical person” or you will “never be able to do it”, I don’t believe you. The trick is to find some small projects – ideally personal ones where there are few consequences of failure – and work on them because you’re interested in the actual thing you are making. It’s surprising how much you can learn “accidentally” just by focussing on what you want to create rather than on the skills themselves. Then, simply increase your ambition for the next project, and the next one, and the next one.

Oh, and don’t forget to share it in a blog post so the rest of the library world can share your learning journey!