Tag Archives: LIS

Skype and beyond the infinite

Fooled around with Skype for a class activity on the weekend. Ben Harkin and I had a good run at discussing an upcoming assignment, and I took the opportunity to try and break Skype by simultaneously running the conversation on as many platforms as possible. It is a remarkably resilient application, try as I might I couldn’t get it to de-sync or really face any problems at all.

As far as IM platforms go, Skype is certainly the most prolific. The fact that it can pull in chat streams from other services (ie. Facebook chat) is situationally useful too. As with so many online services, their value increases exponentially based on the use-scenarios you can find for it in your day-to-day life. The ubiquity of Skype–the fact that it is so prolific–makes it the most powerful and useful chat service going.

What good is a messaging service if there’s no one to message?

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Queensland University of (Frustrating) Technology

Cross-posted from my INN540 Blackboard-based Journalling blog

My experiences with technology at QUT have been both profoundly transformative and profoundly disappointing. Participating in mixed-delivery classes that provide external students a presence in the classroom via Collaborate is meaningful and cool in a way I would not have anticipated before experiencing it myself. However, as part of Blackboard, Collaborate suffers from the most egregious of issues with the QUT technology base.

Everyday I find a new way to be frustrated by the disparate, disconnected nature of the elements of QUT virtual, Blackboard, and the Library. Nothing works the way you expect between the platforms, and the level of interoperability is non-existent. Links from one area to another will time out, die, or get stuck in endless redirects. Trying to access readings via Blackboard will often leave you at the landing page for a journal service without first authenticating via the library. Direct links will frequently be incomprehensibly obscured by the Blackboard wrapper and need to be manually extracted. Enrolling in units of study or training modules on Blackboard essentially doesn’t work, and requires multiple approaches through non-obvious pathways to navigate. Everything is just that little bit more frustrating and convoluted than it needs to be, and it can be wearying.

I don’t want to come off as a malcontent, QUT’s online services are incredibly diverse and feature rich. They just lack a meaningful coherence that creates a ‘whole’ integrated experience.

(Addendum: The ‘walled-garden’ approach to internal QUT blogs has no way of cross-talking with other blogging platforms, which leads me to manually re-purpose and re-post these journal entries.)

Giving Back: Personal Learning Networks

In 1985, Steven Brand published the now famous information doctrine Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, which stipulated the unique ethos of the hacking subculture and claimed that ‘All information wants to be free’:

On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. (Brand, 1985, p. 49) 

But, information is not made solely of ephemeral ideas; it is made of ideas and work. Sadly, I’m guilty of taking advantage of the altruism of others and exploiting that good work selfishly. Having recently explicitly examined the idea of a ‘Personal Learning Network’ (PLN) I realised that I’m a ‘drain’ on my localised PLN: I take more than I put back.

I have embedded myself in a community of people with like interests, who I make use of as a sort of social filter to hopefully reveal the most relevant information to me. I actively scour blogs, twitter feeds, and other social data to skim off the cream-of-the-crop of trends coming down in the LIS sector. But, even when I have something to contribute, I remain largely silent. I realise that this isn’t a particularly admirable state of affairs, and aim to rectify it in the coming months.

First things first, I’m going to get some fresh, original content up on this blog. I’m really fascinated by social aggregation and the transformation of controlled taxonomies into organic folksonomies, so stay tuned for some of that in the near future.

Also, I’ve started repurposing some of my writing from 2010+ on the evolution of digital publishing, price, and piracy to snazzy blog-sized chunks.

So, I come hat in hand to my PLN, offering these small morsels of content to repay the free-ride I’ve been taking so far. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Enlightened self-interest

Workshop 7: Moving out into the profession

Quite the capstone to a long, challenging, and illuminating semester!

Socialising and mingling with my peers in-class one final time this semester reminded me that we were strangers only a few months ago. Over the course of the semester we had already taken meaningful steps towards building our personal networking and professional relationships. Chatting with the guests over cheese and wine and listening to their presentations drove home for me just how vital communication and sociability is to the success and vitality of my career.

Being a responsible, capable, and proficient information professional is not something I can manage on my own. My learning and development isn’t taking place in a vacuum; it is being guided, shaped, and informed by the people around me. Finding my place in this profession was always going to be a by-product of connecting with people and building a meaningful understanding of how I fit into the larger context of this community.

Although it is unnerving to face the challenges of finding meaningful employment in a field that is so dynamic, I am confident that I have started to develop enough self-knowledge to understand how to thrive and prosper in the face of these challenges. I feel like I have moved beyond my initial embarrassment and reticence of not knowing or understanding some things, and I have embraced the fact that I am still a beginner in this expansive field. I feel I am finally comfortable with letting go of some perfect ideal of my future employment, and embracing change as it comes.

Documenting these first steps I’ve taken into a larger, professional world  has contributed to my own understanding of  who I am, and what I want to do. It has illuminated for me what sort of jobs, environments, and types of work will make me happiest and helped me to develop career goals that reflect what I value most.

On reflection, the entire program of INN634 instilled in me the guiding principle of loyalty to my own professional goals. My own personal integrity and commitment to moving forward is not about finding an employer willing to take me on, but rather about developing a practical set of skills and capabilities that guarantee I will be employable for life.

I’m going to cap-off this off with a quote that really evokes what I felt was the core theme of this program:

“It is not the strongest of the species who survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change

Charles Darwin.

Seeing the Gorilla

Workshop 5: Evidence Based Practice – Being research led

(This reflection was originally written on April 28, 2013)

The challenge to being more open and receptive to the situation around us is that sometimes, we just don’t see the Gorilla. When it came to understanding evidence based practice I certainly missed what was right in front of me.

Ann Gillespie spoke to us at length about how we can fundamentally adopt a way of thinking about the profession that interrogates data to provide meaningful evidence.

Evidence based practice in librarianship is not something I had any experience with prior to this workshop. Wrangling concrete data from a more holistic, qualitative process was eye opening and gave me pause. I had never considered that there were ways of empirically measuring or evaluating success that didn’t just draw on dry statistics and analytic data.

Calling on intuition and reflection to approach and measure library practices is fascinating. I was really drawn in by the theoretical frameworks espoused by Andrew Booth and Johnathan Elredge in the literature, and was able to contextualise how a practice cribbed from medicine and science could be applicable to LIS decision making.

I was genuinely surprised by the dissent in the classroom about the ‘woolly’ lack of value that EBP has, as it seemed self-evident to me almost immediately how useful and valuable this sort of approach could be. Identifying and iterating on best-practices is always going to be the way forward, and qualitative data can provide a wealth of context for interpreting and applying these practices.

I tend towards more quantitative, theoretical, research-oriented projects, and adopt a healthy level of pragmatism and detachment about the process. But, a more holistic approach to evidence based practice seems to present a much more dynamic, practical way of addressing the day-to-day challenges of the LIS profession.

If anything, this workshop highlighted for me that intuition and reflection are too-valuable as professional tools to be ignored. Evidence based practice is certainly something I intend to adopt in my further studies.

How do you solve a problem like ALIA?

Workshop 4: A learning profession

(This reflection was originally written on April 14, 2013)

How can you keep up with the rapid changes of an industry always on the move? How do you keep your skills, knowledge, and awareness at the fore of the profession?

Apparently by adopting the mindset of being a reflective practitioner and a learning professional.

Sue Hutley, Kelly Johnson, Lyndelle Gunton, and Kathleen Smeaton spoke to  us about the importance of articulating what it means to be these things, and how to keep yourself updated and professionally relevant.

Much of what was said were things I already had intuited through general assessment of the profession. Things like, attending events, volunteering, engaging with conferences, and socialising within the profession.

*Addendum: Thanks to Kelly’s tireless encouragement a group of us did get together and attend the ALIA trivia night later in the semester. 

But they also raised challenging questions of what it means to rely on lifelong learning and be a valued, certified practitioner in the information field.

Should we have compulsory professional development in the LIS profession? I certainly believe so. Technology is shifting so rapidly, and we have entrenched professionals in some sectors who won’t necessarily take responsibility for their own development. ALIA as a professional body is an opt-in selection, and that means some choose to opt-out. There really needs to be a mandatory profession-wide commitment to staying relevant and skilled in these times of uncertainty.

Digital literacy is just as important as any form of literacy, and unlike ‘learned’ literacy it is fairly easy to acquire digital illiteracy simply through complacency. The old digital divide of having access to computers has faded away in the age of ubiquitous computing. Today, the digital gap is knowing how to search, access, and retrieve meaningful information. While these information seeking behaviours are generic to the Librarian’s skillset, the unique, idiosyncratic use of particular technologies and services is not. I strongly believe that without compulsory professional development there is a real risk of complacency and irrelevance among disinterested information professionals.

Thankfully, none of the panel of experts reflected this decay of standards. They were all engaging, vibrant, and enthusiastic about the future of the profession, and imparted a deep sense of pride for the LIS industry.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc

Workshop 1: The Reflective Practitioner

(This reflection was originally written on March 10, 2013)

“After this, therefore because of this.”

The logical fallacy of hindsight and looking-back is assigning causality where none existed. Reflecting, I believe, is about recognising learning experiences as they occur and transparently documenting the implications of what has taken place.

This workshop–the first of many–forced me to examine my ability to learn from my own practice, and clearly presented a critical model for doing so:

What happened? Why? So what? Now what?

If I took anything away from this exercise it was this simple idea of inquisitive examination. I’ve always been a proponent of silently questioning any statement or analysis with a measured ‘So what?’, and applying that same heuristic to my own experiences was an easy step to take.

I also had the pleasure of hearing Lynn McAllister and Alisa Howlett (@acrystelle)  speak on the importance of awareness in professional development. They both discussed mapping out, planning, and engaging with the learning process in online spaces.

Lynn championed the QUT provided ePortfolio system which, while powerful and intuitive, appeared too rigid and specific for my needs. I have no qualms about developing under public scrutiny, and I believe that reflecting on my learning inside the seclusion of QUT’s servers benefits nobody.

I’m obviously much more inclined to use a third-party CMS (like WordPress) as I am more aligned with the format agnostic approach and portability to other platforms. Should I feel the need to re-purpose or move my work in the future a CMS seems like a much safer bet than investing my content in a proprietary QUT system.

So what?

All in all, I consider full public transparency to be a critical component of my own reflective practice. Reflecting boils down to a conversation with oneself, and with no objective outsiders to weigh in on the discussion there is a meaningful lack of scrutiny.  Public intellectuals must be subject to rigorous scrutiny and criticism and be able to defend their positions and justify their arguments. Reflective practitioners must be held to the same standard or the entire exercise lacks direction and is simply self-congratulatory affirmation.

Professional Practice

Hey, I’ve kicked off this blog in an effort to transparently chart my understanding of just what ‘being a learning professional’ means. I’ve been nudged out the door on this issue by a mandatory coursework component, but I intend to take that as merely a starting point for reflection.

Much of what I’m studying in my Master’s at QUT are things I feel I already know or understand intuitively. But, part of developing my critical reasoning is to make that knowledge explicit, and examine how I can articulate it. I intend that the discussions published on this blog will provide a richer canvas for me to explore who I am as professional, and assist me in identifying the implications of how, where, and when learning occurs.