Staff CPD: Online Resources supporting staff and students

Last week I ran a session called Online Resources: Supporting staff and students.

Turn out was reasonable with staff attending coming mainly from the Humanities and Arts (includes dramatic arts) colleges. The format was that I gave a brief demonstration of each of the resources and this was followed by 5 minutes for them to explore themselves.

I started with an introduction to Oliver (our LMS – Library Management System) which is on the MRC VLE homepage.

I showed them how they and their students could use Oliver to:-

  • create a reading list that includes both books and websites, and which can easily be emailed to students or turned into a link which can be placed elsewhere on the VLE, or in powerpoints for example.
  • check their own loans and set up their interests for automatic notification of new resources.
  • save time by using alternative provider which repeats the same search in a number of different databases such as Clipbank.

Next I returned to the Oliver Homepage which is split into 4 columns.

Screenshot of the Oliver Homepage

Screenshot of the Oliver Homepage

In the first column I highlighted the MRC blog (what you are reading now); links to both Peterborough and the British Library for tracking down copies of out-of-print titles that can be borrowed; the link to Dawsonera (e -books); and demonstrated the link to the Blekko Search Engine where you can search 3 search engines at the same time and compare the difference in results.

The second column took much more time as this contains quick links to our online databases. So I demonstrated and the staff explored four of these …. Britannica Encyclopedia; NewsBank; InfoTrac and KnowUK. All incredibly useful when encouraging students to use sources other than relying on Wikipedia and Google alone.

 

The third column contains links based around books and reading. With video book trailers; Book of the Week; a quick link to the MRC DEAR page; as well as “Books for Keeps” and “Read Plus”.

The fourth column contains useful things for research and critical thinking skills. Such as Plato (which looks at plagiarism); Internet Detective (critical thinking for KS4 &5); Welcome to the Web (critical thinking for KS3); Easy Peasy Bibliography creator, as well as links to Guides and bibliography templates.

The hour flew by and everyone found something useful for themselves or sharing with their students. Resulting from this I have been asked to do further work with Year 12 students on avoiding plagiarism, and…. I was walking by a classroom the day after my session and there on the white board was one of the databases – the teacher gave me the thumbs up as I walked on by!

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Research and Referencing for all Year 12 Students

During October I ran a series of workshops for all our Year 12 students entitled “Research & Referencing“. This was part of a series of sessions looking at Study Skills in general, from Time Management and Skimming and Scanning (the latter I created an activity for).

My session was in two parts.

Research

Firstly we discussed the students favourite first ports of call – Wikipedia and Google. Many are aware of the downsides, lack of authority, reliability, volume of hits etc, but very few knew about the alternatives, – they do now!

Screenshot of the Oliver Homepage

Screenshot of the Oliver Homepage

I demonstrated the Oliver Homepage (our OPAC system) and showed them a quick search which found both books and (reliable & educational) websites. I also showed our links to our local library service and the British Library, from which they can, for a small fee, get their hands on out of print books that may be really useful for their studies.

I then demonstrated that from the Oliver Homepage they could gain access to the databases that the MRC subscribes to. The key ones for P16 studies being Britannica Encyclopedia; NewsBank and InfoTrac. I gave a brief demonstration for each of these and encouraged them to give them a try as their teachers will be expecting them to use a wider variety of sources than just Google and Wikipedia. The internal links within Britannica to other journal articles and the Webs Best Bits are invaluable on their own and makes a great starting point for research. Plus no-one will ever know if they use the Primary version to get a really simple definition to help them! With all of these you can save, print and email results – which is a great way of checking with your teacher that you are on the right track.

The second part of the session looked at:

Referencing

I installed Plato onto our VLE back in 2008 and use this fabulous resource when teaching reference skills. I showed a few videos to introduce the concept of Plagiarism or cheating, then asked them to discuss/ answer 5 ‘Plagiarism’ questions with a partner before showing a series of clips about common plagiarism mistakes.

Collusion, Copying, Paraphrasing, and incorrect Citation.

The two most contentious of these were collusion, “but our teacher tells us to work together” and paraphrasing “doesn’t everyone do this?” and led to some interesting conversations with students (Great!).

I shared examples of good practice, and then some video clips I put together (with the aid of Plato) to demonstrate how to reference a book, journal and website. Interesting to find out that some weren’t familiar with the word ‘journal’, and that the date of access is required for websites. I advised them that before they started researching online, they create a Word document and put todays date at the top, all they then need to do is paste in any useful URLs to keep a record.

Another look at the 5 ‘plagiarism’ questions showed that some had changed their minds and answers. When going through the answers the question that sparked the biggest debate was about the copyright symbol not being essential for the ‘work’ (photo, article,video etc) to be protected. During one session we also had a discussion about using Creative Commons.

So I sent them off into the big bad wide world of research and information overload, with a reminder that at any point over the next two years they can come back and ask for a reminder “about that newspaper database you showed us….”, or for guidance about references.

I can only hope that this has helped solve the problem of when I have worked with Year 13 groups who complain that they “should have been shown this at the start of Year 12”. Well this year they have been!

Year 13 Extended Project

Extended LearningI recently worked with a group of Year 13 students who were in the early stages of planning their Extended Learning Projects. It still amazes, and disappoints me, how many students in KS5 cannot remember or don’t know about our Oliver Database and all the online databases we subscribe to for them.

So this was a refresher -giving them a demonstration of how to search

Screenshot of the Oliver Homepage

Screenshot of the Oliver Homepage

Oliver, and how to get to and use Britannica Encyclopedia, NewsBank, and InfoTrac. I just covered the basics as the best way to learn how to use these database is to get in there and use them!

I gave them a mini ‘tour’ of the MRC focussing on our extensive periodical section, and then invited them to come back in the future for any further help. They seemed to go off happier and keen to start using the things I had shown them…. fingers crossed!

 

 

Yr 9 BTEC Science

I’m popping into Year 9 BTEC Science lessons this week to advise them how to research more quickly and find the best, most reliable sources of information. Freeing them up to do the things they want to do!

We’ve been looking at the pitfalls of relying on Wikipedia (unreliable, who created the information and having to check the information in more reliable sources).

The inefficiencies of Search Engines like Google – which roughly only searches 3% of the information available on the web – and still brings you a hit list of thousands of articles, that no one has the time or the willpower to read through.

Screenshot of the Oliver Homepage

Screenshot of the Oliver Homepage

Instead I reminded the students about the Oliver Homepage, Searching for keywords to find the best books and websites on our database, and showing them some of the online databases they can use courtesy of the MRC. I gave quick demonstrations of Britannica Online; NewsBank; InfoTrac and Clipbank; plus I pointed out the guides to referencing and bibliographies.

They spent the rest of the lesson researching topics like electromagnetic spectrum and BP Oil Spills and were able to find videos and newspaper articles as well as books and websites. Cool.

Let’s hope they remember the next time they are set some research based work.