Archive for May, 2009

Whilst making a list of electronic journals on the subject of globalization in the library collections, I came across an interesting article. This resource can only be accessed by members of Bangor University.

The article, by Jon D. Carlson from the University of California, is called: “Who are you wearing? Using the red carpet question pedagogically.” It is in a 2009 issue of a journal called International Studies Perspectives, Vol 10, Issue 2, and on pages 198-215.

“Who are you wearing?” is a question celebrities are asked by reporters as they walk down the red carpet to glamorous award ceremonies and events such as the Oscars. Jon Carlson imaginatively used the question with undergraduates on a globalization module, getting them to look at the tags on clothing in their wardrobes, and see which countries clothes had been made in, and think about issues relating to the international clothing trade. “…the discussion in class with regard to the findings was quite animated: Who knew Israel made so many bras? Where are the Maldives anyway? Why do I have a shirt from Peru? What do you mean you make your own clothes? All told, the class had clothing from 68 countries or territories…” (Carlson, 2009, p203).

To access the article, go to the Bangor University library catalogue advanced search page, type in international and studies and perspectives in three of the search boxes, and change the material type further down the search page to journal. When the results return, click on International Studies Perspectives, and then click on Blackwell Full Collection, which will take you straight to the latest issue of the journal. Open Volume 10, Issue 2, and scroll down, the article is just below the heading Pedagogy and the Discipline.

Alternatively, if you are on the university site, you should be able to log straight in from this link: Who are you wearing? Using the red carpet question pedagogically.


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We have various newspaper archives in Bangor University library electronic resources collection, such as The Guardian, The Observer and The Times (see the library newspaper resources list ), but sometimes, you may want to be able to search many newspapers at once for relevant articles.

When you need to search multiple UK newspapers, we have two great sources:

The first one is News UK (link accessible only by Bangor University members), which can be searched both in the university and from home by people with university logins, but is also freely accessible online: News UK (accessible to anyone).

The second way to search across news archives, which seems to produce slightly different results from News UK, so is also worth trying, is LexisNexis Butterworth, a law database located in the Business, Social Sciences and Law Databases List (or click LexisNexisdatabase to go straight in, accessible to Bangor University members only). Once in the database, click on the news tab along the top row of tabs, and you will find a very useful search screen. All articles I have searched for open in full text in Lexis Nexis, and some of them (older articles particularly) prove impossible to find or access via Google and newspaper sites, so this is a very useful resource.

Contact me at v.zarach@bangor.ac.uk or leave a comment below if you have any questions or need any help accessing the news search sites, or want help with search strategies.

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Today (28th May) is the birthday of architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, born in 1883, who most famously designed the Italian style village Portmeirion, just outside Portmadog in Gwynedd, North Wales. Sir Clough Williams-Ellis was selected for inclusion in the 100 Welsh heroes website.

The Welsh library in Main Arts has several books written by Sir Clough Wiiliams-Ellis, including his autobiographies Architect Errant and Around the World in Ninety Years; a book called England and the Octopus, published in 1928, which complained about the way towns and cities spread out octopus tentacles into the countryside; three pamphlets about Portmeirion; and books on Welsh slate roofs, cottage building and the pleasures of architecture. We also have a collection of 80 drawings by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, in a book authored by Richard Haslam, and a couple of biographies. All the books can be found by searching the library catalogue for Sir Clough Williams-Ellis.

Paul Vallely wrote an article for The Independent, in 2008, about Portmeirion and the classic television series The Prisoner.

There is an official Portmeirion website, and you can also visit Sir Clough Williams-Ellis’ former home Plas Brondanw, which is not far from Portmeirion. I particularly like the story of how he acquired Pentwr, the ruined tower near Plas Brondanw. I’ve visted the Brondanw gardens, which are lovely, and the ruined tower,  although I didn’t actually realise they belonged to Sir Clough Williams-Ellis’ estate until researching this blog post!

Sir Clough Williams-Ellis papers are held at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, and our own Bangor University Library Archives have the diary of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis’ great great grandmother, Patty Clough, covering the years 1786 – 1836.

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On Day 2 of the Librarians Information Literacy Annual Conference in Cardiff (see previous blog posts for write ups of earlier sessions, and an explanation of the phrase “information literacy”), I attended a session called Users’ experiences of new generation search interfaces: introducing Ex Libris’s PRIMO search engine at University of East Anglia Library, which I was interested in as we are about to enhance our library catalogue search capabilities with a new generation search interface called Encore.

The new generation search engines enable library catalogues to work more like popular, easy to use search engines like Google, and also to make use of Web 2.0 enhancements (i.e. allow people to interact more with the catalogue and create their own content such as tags and reviews). Most usefully, they allow people to search articles within some (though currently not all) electronic resources held by the library at the same time as searching the library catalogue (currently, people have to search the library catalogue which holds details of books and journals, and then search several separate electronic databases for articles within collections of journals). Users type in a word or phrase, and the catalogue returns: results which can easily be made more specific using categories on the screen (date published, language, etc), tag clouds which allow people to expand their search using related keywords, and also, optionally, added features such as images (book covers, Flickr pictures, etc),. The idea is not just to make searching easier, but also to enable people to discover resources in the library collections that they might not otherwise have found.

The new search engines are definitely going to change the library catalogue searching experience, and bring it more in line with people’s experiences searching web 2.0 enhanced internet sites, social networking sites and so forth, so I was really interested to hear about user experiences, but unfortunately the session focused more on demonstrating the PRIMO search engine and running example searches, so the section about user experiences was done quite quickly at the end.

The positive user feedback was that people found the library catalogue enhanced by PRIMO easier to search than electronic databases, that they had enjoyed using web 2.0 features such as reviewing and tagging books, and that the options for narrowing their searches were very useful. Some people noted that they preferred the original library catalogue, however.

Sarah Elsegood, who presented the session, noted that people still needed guidance with search strategies, particularly with choosing which keywords to use for searches, and with using the catalogue features to narrow their searches and get more specific results. Also, because the catalogue now included articles from electronic databases, people could sometimes end up in e-resources without really knowing where they were and what they were searching.

For more information about Primo, including screenshots, there is an article by Nicholas Lewis (also from the University of East Anglia) in the online library journal Ariadne (which is free to read): Implementing Ex Libris’s Primo at the University of East Anglia .

I’ve also found a 2006 article online about next generation search interfaces; Katie Wilson’s OPAC 2.0: Next generation online library catalogues ride the Web 2.0 wave!

Also worth reading for a brief overview of next generation catalogues is a blog post by Chirs Keene from the University of Sussex called Library search / discovery apps: intro, which is very up to date, having been written a couple of days ago!

The Encore search interface which Bangor will be using looks a bit different to Primo, and it will be interesting to investigate our library users’ experiences when we implement the Encore search engine. You may have noticed one new feature in the Bangor Library Catalogue already, which is that we now have images of book covers alongside some of the book details.

As with anything I write on this blog, if there’s anything you either don’t understand (I’m hunting for a good simple definition of Web 2.0 for example, but as I haven’t yet found one, may write a blog post on this soon), or anything you don’t agree with, please feel welcome to post a comment, or to email me at v.zarach@bangor.ac.uk.

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Whilst hunting for journals on globalization in the e-resources at Bangor University library, I discovered an article by Abigail Ruane and Patrick James entitled “The International Relations of Middle-earth: Learning from The Lord of the Rings”. The article uses characters and storylines from J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy trilogy Lord of the Rings to explain the three Great Debates and the three feminist waves which influenced international relations theory. For example, Galadrial the Elf is used to symbolise postmodern feminism, and the forest dwelling Ents represent critical theorists.

The article is in a journal called International Studies Perspectives, 2008, Vol 9, Issue 4, pp. 377-394. You can access it one of two ways:

1. Go to the library catalogue (advanced search page), type in international and perspectives into the search boxes, and select journal in material type lower down the page. Click on the journal International Studies Perspectives on the results list, then click on Blackwell Full Collection. The link takes you straight to the electronic journal in the Blackwell Synergy database. Once in the journal, click on 2008 issues, then on Vol 9, Issue 4, and the article is the second listed in the table of contents.

2. Go to the library’s list of social science databases, and click on the Blackwell Synergy full text e-journal database, near the top of the list. Type some keywords into the search box, I used “ruane lord rings”, and the article should come straight up in the list of results. Click on PDF or html to read the article.

If you are not a member of the University of Bangor and cannot access our resources, there is a copy of the article online here, but it is quite hard to read.

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The first session I went to after the morning’s keynote was Help Viola: using an Alternate Reality Game for student induction, run by Rosie Jones and Emily Shields from Manchester Metropolitan University. I had picked this session because I am interested in unusual and innovative ways to teach information and library skills.

ARGs (Alternate Reality Games) blend real world and online activities, with initial clues being made available to pique people’s interest, and then new plot points and information being released over time. To fathom out the clues and puzzles, and move through the game stages quickly, players ideally need to work collaboratively. Alternate Reality Games depend on viral marketing, i.e. interest in the game spreading by word of mouth, hidden clues, and so forth, but the MMU team acknowledged that this can be a limitation, as these kinds of subtle methods do not necessarily reach enough people. Wikipedia has an in depth entry with more information on the history of ARGs.

The MMU ARG, project name ARGOSI, was designed for use during the student induction period, to help students orientate themselves in the city of Manchester. The ARG began with a postcard with an image of a small piece of map, and a request from a character called Viola for help. Students had to complete a set of challenges, with new map pieces being released on successful completion of the tasks. At the session, we worked in small teams on one of the challenges, which was fun, but also quite challenging, especially as I’m not very good with cryptic clues!

My conclusions on ARGs from this initial session was they definitely have potential as a fairly novel approach to teaching new skills, look fairly time consuming to create, and it’s possibly difficult to maintain participants’ enthusiasm along the route. I really like the blend of online and real life activities (e.g. one activity involved taking photographs in Manchester) as a lot of library and teaching activities involve sitting at computers, and it’s good for us all to get up and go exploring our environment sometimes. I also like the challenging gaming aspect of ARGs, and the idea of people acquiring new information in an interactive problem solving kind of way.

Some related links:

The University of Glamorgan have an interactive simulation for new students called Glamstart, which introduces them to the campus map via a set of tasks. It’s very good!

I came across GlamStart when looking at a blog called playthinklearn about computer games and learning  by Nicola Whitton, the ARGOSI Project Manager. It’s an interesting blog with lots of useful blog posts and links about gaming.

A Guardian article about ARGs.

Cryptozoo, which aims to get people being more physically active.

Finally, I have to add that the presenters practiced what preached, by getting workshop participants to attempt some of the ARG’s challenges, and engage actively with the game, rather than just making us sit and listen to a Powerpoint presentation, so it was an interesting session, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the alien noises…

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Patricia Ianuzzi is a librarian from Las Vegas, and I enjoyed her keynote, which featured references to online gaming and to Las Vegas casinos!

She began by giving an overview of information literacy and reports in the US, which I found very useful. These are some of the references she gave:

The Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education

The 1998 Boyer Report, focusing on undergraduates and research

A book by Derek Bok called Our Underachieving Colleges

LEAP (Liberal Education and America’s Promise)

NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement)

Project DEEP (Documenting Effective Educational Practices)

This opening section of the presentation was very useful, as it gave the wider context of the need to train students in information literacy skills, both for education and the workplace. Patricia went on to say that she didn’t care what terms we used, information literacy, digital literacy, or whatever, as long as we achieved the learning outcomes needed.

She then moved on to speaking about Marc Prensky’s essay, Engage me or enrage me, which is the source of the much quoted idea that young people are digital natives, who have grown up with computers and mobiles and video games, are comfortable and adept with digital media, and expect to be entertained, and older people are digital immigrants, who are not as digitally literate, and have different educational expectations. Although this concept obviously has some good points, in general the reality is a lot more complex than that, there are many older people who are amazingly digitally literate and lots of younger people who use digital technologies very little or without much expertise.

In an digression from the subject, I have to add that I started reading Prensky’s follow up essay, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, Part II and was horrified to find some of the ideas in it were based on ferrets having their brains rewired, poor things. I hope the ferrets take over the world and rewire the scientists’ brains, that’ll teach them.

Anyway, back to the keynote writeup. Despite not agreeing that all youngsters are computer whizz kids, and all oldies are digital dinosaurs, I do actually find all the research on making education entertaining very interesting. On the one hand, I think it’s important to remember that learning things in itself can actually be interesting for many people, I enjoy learning, and I don’t always need some interactive dancing rabbits to help me concentrate on reading a piece of text…however, on the other hand, I’m not a fan of boring people into stupors if it can possibly be avoided (or worse still, being bored into a stupor), and agree that making learning more interactive and fun can help keep people’s attention and interest.

That brings us neatly back to Patricia Ianuzzi who agreed with Prensky that students of today need engaging learning materials, and showed us a short video of three students talking about online gaming. Not only was the video interesting, but it made a nice break from talking and presentation slides, therefore neatly illustrating her point. We saw screen shots of the games, showing varied environments, innovative graphics, vast armies, aliens, visuals, explosions, and so on, and the students talked about game playing, and how often they played, and how they enjoyed playing competitively against other people.

At the end of the video, Patricia asked the audience what engaged the players, and the answers we gave included: immersion, interactivity, control, customization and visuals. She asked us, can we create learning resources which engage users using similar principles?

In Las Vegas, Patricia explained, casinos are drawing on video gaming to make their slot machines more engaging and enticing, with the key concept being PDI (player driven innovation). She showed images of game machines with embedded multimedia enhancements, and photos of interactive video game versions of popular casino games such as roulette and poker.

I found this keynote presentation interesting and engaging.

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