HEA Event at Newcastle

Filed Under (Events, General, Research) by ronan on 29-11-2010

A little tired and very cold I landed in Newcastle airport from Sri Lanka via Dubai, and took the very efficient and economical (£2.90) metro to Central Station and to my hotel, where after a quick sleep, I made a rendezvous with colleagues who were presenting at the research in HE in FE event the following morning. We visited Chinatown in Newcastle and had a good meal – cash only.

The event the following morning, despite its start being delayed by a fire alarm was another success, and the venue, Newcastle College, was excellent.

Again I was surprised by jusr how much research is actually taking place in FE colleges and by the quality also – always lean and highly focused on teaching and learning.
Looking forward to next workshop which will be in North Wales in December.

Design Festival – Sri Lanka

Filed Under (Events, General, Research) by ronan on 14-11-2010

Greetings from the beautiful island of Sri Lanka.
I have travelled to Colombo to attend the Sri Lanka Design Festival 2010. I am speaking on how information and communications technologies might support the design and fashion industries in the future while having an absolute minimal impact on the environment. 
In the words of the organisers: “Sri Lanka Design Festival (SLDF) 2010 is a unique Festival designed to promote Sri Lanka’s creative and design industries, both traditional and contemporary, as well as the Sri Lankan apparel industry’s incredible capabilities and creative strength on a global platform.”

I am impressed by the enthusiasm and drive of the design and fashion people here; and this, coupled with the emphasis on ethical sourcing and ethical consummerism makes it a unique event.
“The Festival is equipped to engage both the Festival-going audience and the commercial visitor, with a range of workshops and talks in all fields of design- Graphic, Fashion, Jewellery and Interior – led by both international and local delegates”.  The government paper here this morning the Sunday Observer talks about reviving the textile industry while maintaining a strong ‘garments without guilt’ approach – this entails legislation which the government is pleased to pass. The paper quotes Mr Rizad Bathiudeen Minister of Industrial Development and International Trade “The ethical sourcing and sustainable development practices in the garment industry aim to empower women and support their communities through poverty alleviation and offering opportunities for education and personal growth.” 
More to follow on this excellent event and my experiences

Envisioning the future

Filed Under (Built Learning Environments, General, Professional practice, Research) by ronan on 01-10-2010

I have been reading an interesting collection edited by Sue McKnight called Envisioning future academic library services; initiatives, ideas and challenges published by Facet 2010. It was brought to my attention not by the marketing efforts of Facet but rather it was well reviewed in the Times Higher over the summer, which on reflection, the marketing reach of Facet may have had a hand in; I don’t know much about the dark art of book marketing.
There are some interesting contributions Derek Law as always is provocative – one of his sub-sections headed “academic partners, not servants” will strike a cord with many.

Andrew McDonald looks at libraries as place while Liz Wright  opens her chapter on future leadership with a quote from William Gibson which I paraprase here: “Only charlatans say they really know the future”.

Paul Coyne, from Emerald and a good friend of Bradford College, writes very well and covers much ground in his look at ‘the discovery and consumption of scholarly content’. He provides a great definition of Library 2.0 (from  Maness (2006)) – it has four essential elements:

  • it is user-centred
  • it provides a multimedia experience
  • it is socially rich
  • it is communally innovative

Martin Lewis – University of Sheffield – Information Commons – gives a policy level overview of the role libraries might play in managing research data, this is also taken on an international level. His sub-section ‘what libraries can do about data’ gives a clear rationale for what should be done locally, nationally or internationally. He also usefully looks at funding although I suspect that will date quite quickly.

So its a good collection of essays and will be a good text to accompany the discussions of the newly-formed Bradford College library futures group in which about a dozen library staff have already expressed an interest. I’ll deposit the book in the staff library when I’m finished with it –  promise.

Spirit Level

Filed Under (General, Research) by ronan on 18-08-2010

 Although I have not yet read this book it is of interest to me because it highlights both the importance of research methodology and indicates that the world of print is alive and well. I was introduced to it when I read recently in the Saturday 14th August Guardian about the rather vociferous debate the title was generating. The authors both from North Yorkshire have apparently succeeded in constructing a convincing argument, based on many years of research it should be said, that demonstrates how inequality contributes to a range of social ills. So well received the book has been that many thinkers on the right have sought to attack the thesis and have published a response see here. This has only served to strenghten and prolong interest in the original text. As a sideshow to this one can see the reviews section for both titles on the Amazon website. Is this a forum for a modern-day version of debate? Both political wings leading up to the May general election appeared to chime in with Wilkinson and Pickett’s view – seeking perhaps some respite from the paucity of economic policies to provide a ‘soft-landing’ for the crashing economy. Yet this book is not a distraction it has in fact some very simple yet challenging ideas – hence the backlash from various quarters on the right. 

In their response to the response as it were, available here  the authors re-affirm their scholarly credentials and in so doing, without a hint of one-upmanship, leave the author of the attack decidedly lacking. Cicero himself would be proud of such tactics. So for those who carry out research and are fortunate enough to reach the point of publishing and being well and widely received there are other aspects that need to be considered. Most urgent is how to construct a defence of your work in the light of a concerted and politically motivated attack. As part of this is the requirement to assert, perhaps with a subtlety, ones credentials and most importantly to have a vehicle through which to communicate e.g. a blog. I look forward to completing the Spirit Level and perhaps submitting a full review to Amazon.

Incidently The Spirit Level  is also the title of a 1995 poetry collection by Seamus Heaney. The poem The Errand page 54 carries the reference to the spirit level – it was one of the recurring jokes on the building sites of London in the early eighties within the Irish communities to send one of the new recruits off to find something unfindable: 

“‘On you go now! Run, son, like the devil
And tell your mother to try
To find me a bubble for the spirit level
And a new knot for this tie”

Let’s hope that achieving a more equitable society is not a fool’s errand

LIS Research Coalition conference ‘Evidence, value and impact

Filed Under (Events, Research) by ronan on 13-07-2010

Newton grabs yet another tourist

Held at the British Library this conference was very good – three main reasons the opening keynote speaker Professor Andrew Dillon, University of Texas, was totally engrossed in his subject “An international perspective on the evidence, value and impact of UK LIS research” and came across brilliantly, his slightly off-beat approach was balanced by his indepth understanding of his subject and indeed the audience. The second reason was the one minute madness  session this was well planned and extremely well executed by I’m guessing 25 or so speakers all of whom were interesting brief and focused which of course is the benefit of the Pecha Kucha format. The third reason Charles Oppenheim summed up well and delivered a well pitched presentation. The afternoon workshops on reflection left some room for improvement – they didn’t quite come off or at least their intention was not explicit. The food was bitesized’n’tasty.  I met Biddy whom I had not seen for ages and Brian Kelly was interesting talking about JISC projects etc. I also bumped into Mark Hepworth from Loughborough whom I’ve not seen for ages and who offered to review my forthcoming book.

Full review of this conference can be found here

Librarian as researcher in York

Filed Under (Events, Research) by ronan on 13-07-2010

New building at York St JohnOn Thursday 27th May I travelled to York St. Johns for a conference organised by the CILIP Y&H  University College and Research (UC&R) Group entitled “The Librarian as Researcher: getting your voice heard.” Essentially a library/practitioner guide to research it was well attended and well organised.
I met Hazel Hall of the LIS Research Coalition who invited me to the coalition’s inaugral conference. I also met Miggie Picton who is on the LIRG committee with me and who presented in the afternoon. I heard Professor Jean McNiff present for the first time and I was very impressed with her style which was very engaging using a flip-chart and her drawing skills to clearly outline the theory of action research. I caught up with Sheila Corrall from University of Sheffield who gave a presentation on the research activity being undertaken by students. Sheila also mentioned an award to encourage library and information practitioners in the university, college and research sector who are at the start of their professional careers or who have not previously published a substantial contribution to the professional literature to write an article for publication. see here 

A ‘key takeaway’ for me from this event was the level of involvement the York St John’s library staff have in supporting research and in undetaking their own research – something I shall be pursuing at Bradford College.

Hazel Hall has posted a review of the day to the LIS Research Coalition web site. This can be seen at http://lisresearch.org/2010/06/01/the-librarian-as-researcher/

Bradford Textile Archive

Filed Under (General, Research) by elearning4bradford on 07-04-2010

I was very pleased to be invited onto the board of the Bradford Textile Archive and to be involved in its future. As a librarian it is deeply exciting to come into contact with primary source material and a professional challenge to ensure the integrity of the collection is not simply preserved but, rather more importantly, is exploited to the full for the local people and for those further afield who have a genuine interest in the collection. Moreover the technical difficulties of digitising materials that are essentially appreciated through 3D rather than 2D photography make for interesting times ahead.

No time has been wasted in getting a bid organised to a national agency for some funding to digitise the collection and that has already been submitted. Also on the international front we are developing a bid through a consortium of educational establishments including Universities from Serbia, Turkey, Bulgaria and Japan to digitise and disseminate the collection more widely.

A brief description of the Bradford Textile Archive is reproduced here from its publicity brouchure:

The wide assortment of material comprising the Bradford College Textile Archive is symbolic of Bradford’s rich heritage and current regeneration. The collection has steadily been accumulating since the Bradford Technical School opened its doors in 1882, to deliver textiles education and training to support local industry and owes much to the support and patronage of former students of the College and also to those in the local textiles industry who have over the years generously donated materials and artefacts. The collection continues to be used by local students and in turn, they contribute examples of their own work, thus continuing to build the collection with contemporary products. Community members are continuing to donate to the archive, the most recent being costume from a member of Bradford’s German community. The Bradford College Textile Archive consists of a diverse range of textiles and related materials from fine silk jacquards, rayon, velvets, mohair and woollens and worsteds dating from over the last 150 years. The collection includes twenty-six bound volumes of Textile Fabrics of India, demonstrating the strong ties between the Bradford Textile industry and the Indian sub continent; unique student work books dating from the mid to late Victorian period; a comprehensive range of text books, journals and other printed publications; approximately 10,000 samples drawn from manufacturers pattern books including Bilbille and other international forecasting references, a large number of fabric sample books including the collections of Hind Robinson and Denholme Velvets; and a collection of records, minute books, ledgers and cash books from various textile organisations. The collection has recently been re-housed in the college building affectionally known as The Old Building which was originally built in 1882 for the “purpose of imparting to youths, artisans and others, technical and scientific, artistic and general instruction” in textile manufacturing.

Student use of Wikipedia

Filed Under (General, Information Literacy, Research) by elearning4bradford on 05-04-2010

This is a nice piece of research (from USA) telling us how students are actually using Wikipedia.

Head, A. J., & Eisenberg, M. B. (2010). How today’s students use Wikipedia for course related research
First Monday, 15(3).

Research & Scholarly Activity Event

Filed Under (General, Research) by elearning4bradford on 26-03-2010

On Thursday I travelled to the Engineering Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (engCETL) at Loughborough University to speak at the Higher Education Academy’s Scholarly Activity Workshop. This was the second of three events, the first was in Stockport and the third will be in Bristol, run by Angus Carpenter, Research Centre Manager at City College Norwich and Becky Turner, Educational Researcher at the University of Plymouth.

The aim of the series of workshops is to ‘develop and enhance the practice and management of scholarly activity and research within Further Education Colleges’. Barbara Edwards from the QAA opened the proceedings looking at the challenges of building a research ethos.

My presentation looked at the development of the research agenda across Bradford college giving examples from our TQEF cohort of projects, explaining our use of our home-grown virtual research environment, outlining our use of research support staff such as academic liaison librarians, and of course talking about the BAR conference. It was well received with a lot of people asking questions both in the session but also later on throughout the day.

My presentation was followed by a very well constructed assessment of scholarly activity and its benefits by Jim Logan from Blackpool and the Fylde College. After lunch Angus was joined by Neil Witt, Head of Technology Enhanced Learning again at University of Plymouth, and they looked at aspects of project management and most interestingly how to attract funding from a range of different agencies. Next up was Becky, helped by Phil Lester of the Higher Education Academy, who looked at the support that is provided by Regional Support Centres, and also Phil outlined the HEA’s professional recognition scheme of associates, fellows and senior fellows. The issue of linking with the Institute for Learning, raised by an audience question, was discussed. The day concluded with a short plenary session that rounded off the event on a positive note.

Guild HE Research Network

Filed Under (Research) by elearning4bradford on 30-11-2009

On Friday I travelled to London to attend the GuildHE Research Network meeting at Worburn House, Tavistock Square. It was my first meeting as Bradford College has only recently joined the Guild. We discussed draft responses to a range of policy documents amongst them: HEFCE’s consultation on the REF (Research Excellence Framework) which is replacing the RAE (Research Assessment Exercise) and Vitae’s – Research Development Framework. There was a good level of discussion and we seemed to have covered a lot of ground. Planning is now in train for a research network symposium in Spring 2010.