Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Rationalising my Social Media Presence

I'm very enthusiastic about social media, and I author several other blogs.  However, they're not all equally active.  At the same time, though, they all represent different aspects of me. blog is going to be my main personal blog from now on.  Anything relating to my Scottish music research, or continuing professional development, will have its own place there, so, and will become dormant.

The successful performing arts blog,, which I author for the Whittaker Library at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland will, of course, be unaffected.  You'll recognise my blogging "voice", but it's done in my daytime professional capacity.

I'll maintain my page - it's not a blog, and I think it's worthwhile - but I intend to do a radical pruning of my LinkedIn pages.  They are beginning to look cluttered
I can also be found tweeting @Karenmca. However, I generally use Facebook only for family and close friends. That's my personal choice.

Monday, 19 May 2014

We Librarians aren't the only ones to keep Reflective Journals!

I've already mentioned the Teaching Artist short credit-rated course that I've been attending at evening classes since February.  Well, this week is the rounding-up of all the different submissions for assessment.  We have to have an online reflective journal (blog), an e-portfolio, and a bibliography, not to mention a lesson plan, theoretical and contextual papers.  Phew!  The e-portfolio alone is 7,500 words: I've stunned myself.  The whole blog containing all my submissions can be found here:-

However, I thought the summary of my reflective journal might be of interest as a stand-alone, so I'm reproducing it here on this blog as well.  Here goes:- 


Throughout the course I have maintained an online reflective journal on my Teaching Artist blog:
Reflective Journal
Reflective Journal
The blog homepage is the reflective journal itself.  Additional pages accommodate my e-portfolio and other relevant information about the various aspects of my professional practice, thus:-
  •  E-Portfolio
  • Feedback – I have few opportunities for requesting feedback, but it is important to me that learner’s comments are gathered together to inform my future practice.
  • Music Librarian – ‘user education’ includes introducing readers to the library catalogue and relevant e-resources as well as encouraging good research and bibliographic skills appropriate to the individual reader’s context and level of study.
  • Musicologist – I give occasional lectures and seminars both within and without the Conservatoire in my capacity as a postdoctoral researcher.
  • Organist/Choir Trainer – the practical, artistic aspect of my profile.
  • Personal CV – my scholarly writing and presenting are all part of my professional profile. (Besides keeping my CV up to date with recent papers and presentations, I also maintain an presence; and upload what I can to Research Gate, which is a good discussion forum.)
  • Resources – an almost inevitable outcome of my librarian/musicologist existence (not to mention a key focus of my present postdoctoral research) is that I have honed my bibliographic skills to a high level. The Resources page details my professional reading for the duration of the Teaching Artist course, with occasional annotations. Annotated bibliography is an art in itself; for day-to-day purposes, I only annotate occasional entries .
One of my main objectives in undertaking the Teaching Artist short course was to equip myself with more knowledge and understanding of good contemporary pedagogy. Starting this blog was part of our digital ‘orientation’, both to facilitate our own reflection and to enable us to share comments with our course-leaders and fellow creative artists. This latter activity thus constitutes peer-review, offering each of us the opportunity to make constructive observations about our colleagues’ practice.

As an experienced blogger, reflecting upon various aspects of my work is relatively second-nature to me, but the present subject matter – being a teaching artist and practitioner – was completely new. The 29 posts that I have made include the course assignments (lesson plan, theoretical account, contextual study, theoretical appraisal of my teaching and learning methods, and self-assessment of online discussion), and a few lighter postings when multi-tasking my daily existence threatened to get on top of me; but there are still a good number of postings about my course studies.

In general, the blog represents a series of reflections on recommended course readings; and on my own practice. I have sought to reflect upon ways in which the theoretical readings can be applied to my professional teaching practice. (There was a period of adjustment as I realised that my usual third-person, objective research mode of writing needed to be adapted to suit first-person reflection in this new ‘social sciences’ discipline.)   I have had opportunity to reflect before, during and after teaching or presenting experiences, and hope to continue in this practice in the months to come, in order to build upon positive and lessen negative outcomes in the future.
Of all the readings that I have done, constructive alignment theory resonated the most with me, and I read various recommended articles by John Biggs before I wrote my blogpost about it on 2 April 2014: -

Bloom’s Taxonomy and Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction were also particularly interesting, occasioning reflective posts of their own on 4 April 2014:-

I had already read Salman Khan’s The One World Schoolhouse (2012) before attending the Teaching Artist course, so I have some familiarity with the concept of ‘flipping the classroom’. Even if Khan’s practice is primarily in the digital world, the idea that students make their own meaning in their studies by being more practically involved in them, is just as much applicable to face-to-face teaching. Many of my readings, but most particularly those by Biggs, made me begin to realise that I needed to make my teaching much more interactive, and my lesson-plan for a session on postgraduate research and bibliographic skills has been designed to take this into account.  Once I had shared the lesson plan in our collaborative space, Steph gave me helpful feedback, reassuring me that I was thinking along the right lines:-
“Hi Karen, I like how precise and to the point your lesson plan is. Everything is described in a clear fashion that makes it easy to understand each activity. Do you find that 60 minutes is a suitable amount of time to teach the students what they need to know? The learning outcomes here would make this a very useful session to include at the beginning of a Higher education course, when research and bibliographic skills are expected to be used on a regular basis. I certainly felt/feel intimidated and unsure about the correct way to document references and resources, so it would have helped me!”
Steph continued,
“It certainly sounds that you have quite a challenge on your hands delivering the amount required into the time you are given, and I think you utilise you materials and resources very well by exercises such as the emails beforehand and follow-up that you offer. Don’t worry about being a pain …”
Another problem that my reflections continually came back to, was the lack of context and continuity in the kind of teaching that I’m required to do. Again, with the abovementioned lesson-plan, I’ve tried to create context by contacting students in advance of the session (see the invitation HERE), and also sought instant feedback at the end of the session.  The lesson took place today (19 May 2014), and I intend to follow up with an email to all students and their course-leader a couple of days later, once I’ve transcribed and summarised the feedback forms.

Reading about deep, surface and tactical learning was informative, and reinforced my long-held belief that students do not always see the relevance of information skills to their courses in a conservatoire. If learning how to access a particular database or format a bibliography are not directly relevant to, for example, learning the harpsichord, and moreover are not even assessed, then they are reluctant to engage fully – even tactical learning will not take place. I need to continue to work on ways of helping students see the connection between information literacy and academic success, and the major benefits for their future careers whenever information is needed for a programme note or other piece of written work, whether creative or perhaps linked to a business proposal.

Indeed, I can draw certain parallels between my information skills teaching and the sessions I have led on the Scottish music BA course. When I’m talking about historical Scottish song collections, my subject matter is at least pertinent to the degree course. However, my research was effectively a combination of musicology and cultural history, whilst student on the Scottish music course are primarily motivated by performing, composing and improvising it. My material is informative, and there certainly is the expectation that these students will have a thorough grounding in the history of their subject, but I have to accept that 18th – 19th century Scottish musical and cultural history may not have as much appeal as a series of gigs or a recording session. Again, I must continue to seek ‘hooks’ to draw them into my historical world, and find ways of demonstrating the relevance of the subject that I am teaching. This is definitely an area that I would like to continue to read and reflect upon, and I should like this to evolve into a more scholarly article in due course.

“Having kept a journal for the duration of the course, you are required to summarise your key learning points from the course and post your summary to your ePortfolio. In your summary, highlight what/who has informed your learning and identify any changes you have started to make to your teaching practice. Where changes have been implemented, summarise the impact this is having on your students’ learning experience. Again, in your summary make reference to literature and dialogue with colleagues, peers and your students that are informing your learning and prfessional development . In your summary identify key areas, issues or opportunities you wish to develop following the course.
You should make regular entries into your Online Journal from 5 March to 5 May 2014. Your journal summary should be completed and uploaded to your e-Portfolio by 19 May 2014.”

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Twirling like a Top?

I didn't blog here in April, but on reflection, it's hardly surprising! I took a fortnight off over Easter, when I worked on my submissions for the Teaching Artist course I'm currently pursuing.  During that time, I also met another two of my chartership mentees, which was lovely.  It's great to see people develop in the profession, as they gain understanding of their role and contribution.

Then I went to Cambridge for the IAML (UK and Ireland)Annual Study Weekend - the Whittaker Library won an Excellence Award, and I received a Personal Achievement Award of my own.  It was a bit of a mad dash - I needed to be back to play the organ at church on Palm Sunday!

Back to Glasgow for a few days, then down to London for a IAML Executive meeting.  

Home to Glasgow, and then the Musica Scotica conference in Aberdeen last Saturday.  Another made dash - church organist duties beckoned again.  And it's only another couple of weeks before I'm off to Aberdeen for another day-trip.  

Between-times, it's the day-job, whether in the library or the research base.  And in my spare time?  The church choir, the Teaching Artist course, and anything else that I can't fit in during the day!  Here's my Teaching Artist reflection for today: reflecting on my teaching practice as an academic librarian.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Mentor, Mentee, (CILIP) VLE

Mentor, Mentee 

I spent some time with one of my mentees yesterday - it was great to catch up with each other, and I gave her the Grand Tour of first our Library and then the rest of the Conservatoire.  After that, it was on to visit a neighbouring library - quite a busy few hours for my mentee!


Having jointly set the world of librarianship to rights yesterday, I decided that I had better set a good personal example too, so this afternoon I logged on to the CILIP website, and started using the e-portfolio to monitor my own professional development too.

CPD 2013

Although  it's based on Mahara like the portfolio side of the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) that we use at work, I am still fumbling around the CILIP one a bit, so I haven't got far yet.  I must look at the screencasts that are there to help!  However, I've noted my key CPD activities for 2013, and it looks as though I was reasonably busy in that regard.  My next challenge is to work out whether I can create a new section for 2014, or just keep adding to the 2013 box and change the name of the box!

CPD 2014 - a Course and 4 Conferences!

I'm looking forward to logging my 2014 CPD, because I'm doing a short credit-rated postgraduate course entitled 'The Teaching Artist' as evening classes at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, from February to May.  I was lucky enough to get a Creative Scotland bursary towards the fees.  Now, I've given countless talks, lectures and seminars, but I've never really gone into the pedagogy behind teaching, so although it's a bit of a sudden gear-shift for me, it's certainly thought-provoking, and it's particularly interesting being in a small class of teaching artists, all of whom bring different backgrounds and performing arts to the discussion table.

The week after next, I'm flying down to Cambridge for part of the IAML(UK and Ireland) Annual Study Weekend, so it'll be nice to catch up with old friends, new trends, and join the Executive as a Committee member for the first time.  In my case, it's because I've agreed to convene a working group to initiate a new corporate website.  (I'm also practising what I preach: volunteer to get more involved in your sector!)  And I'm talking at the Academic Music Librarians' forum on the first afternoon, so I'll be killing two birds with one stone by talking about the Teaching Artist course!

There's a Musica Scotica conference in Aberdeen a couple of Saturdays later; and I'm off to give a paper at the International IAML conference in Antwerp in July - the first time I've 'been abroad' to give a conference paper, apart from one I gave in Dublin.  I know that Dublin is in Eire, still another country, but somehow it still feels more a Celtic neighbour, than truly 'abroad', so I am quite excited about spreading my wings further afield.

Finally, I heard yesterday morning that I'm one of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland delegates to an international conference that's coming to Glasgow in November: ELIA is the European League of Institutes of the Arts, and this will be the biennial international conference.   The conference theme is LOCATION/AESTHETICS, which might not sound like the kind of thing a librarian would be drawn to, but at the moment I am 60% librarian and 40% musicologist researcher, so believe me, I find this a very exciting theme indeed.  I can get very excited about discussions of nationality, nationalism, geographical borders and cultural perceptions of borders, so this conference might get me quite fired up!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Mentoring Tips from the Guardian Culture Professionals Network

I love the Guardian Culture Professionals Network - there's almost invariably an article that catches my attention. 

Today, the digest included an article about mentoring. Since I'm a CILIP mentor, I immediately favourited it and will probably share it with my mentees:-
'Mentoring tips: how mentor and mentee can make the most of it' (Tuesday 11th March 2014)

'Peter McLuskie is a project manager at the Institute of Creative Enterprise – follow him on Twitter @petermcluskie'
Follow me on Twitter @karenmca if you're interested in librarianship training, mentoring or the creative and performing arts.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Early Career Music Librarians! E. T. Bryant Prize - Deadline 10 January 2014

If you recently qualified as a librarian and have written a dissertation or thesis on music librarianship, then this prize is both worthwhile and valuable.  But you'll have to hurry - the deadline is 10th January 2014.

Please do share this link widely.  The prize is sponsored by the UK and Ireland Branch of the International Association of Music Libraries, and they're keen to ensure that anyone eligible has the chance to apply. 

IAML (UK and Irl) Homepage

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The E. T. Bryant Memorial Prize, for early career music librarians

Do you know any early career music librarians, or early career librarians who did a dissertation on music librarianship? The E. T. Bryant Memorial Prize is prestigious and valuable, but hurry! Deadline is 10 January 2014. And here’s the link:-