LILAC 2015 – Conference Report

In early April I spent a few sunny days at the LILAC Conference which this year was at Newcastle University. This is my second year at LILAC and again I was really impressed with the conference organisation and the enthusiasm of the speakers and attendees.  It was a wide and varied programme but I’ve picked out my top three highlights to share on the blog.

1. Knowledge can be troublesome – Two of the three keynote speakers at this year’s conference discussed the relationship between threshold concepts and information literacy. A completely new discovery for me, threshold concepts were developed as a pedagogical approach to undergraduate curriculum design and are based (I’m going to put this very simply, as it’s the only way I understand it!) around the idea of that eureka moment where students IMG_0089 (2)move into a new realm of learning and see something in a new light. They’re called threshold concepts as they have certain features in common.

In the first keynote, Ray Land, a pioneer of the framework gave us an overview of the  current debate in North America where threshold concepts have influenced the new ARCL framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education replacing standards and prescriptive learning outcomes. The conversation was continued by Barbara Fister in the third keynote as she went on to argue that if learning was as ‘ unsettling, risky and troubling’ as Land suggests it should be our aim as librarians or ‘savvy outsiders’ to provide libraries which act as a ‘safe liminal place’ where learning breakthroughs can happen instead of trying to teach information literacy.  Barbara’s key argument is that information literacy is multidisciplinary, multi-layered and has to be learned in multiple contexts over a number of years.

I found these keynotes a great introduction to threshold concepts and will be interesting to see how this discussion develops. If like me you’d like to read more about threshold concepts I’ve popped some useful links at the bottom of the post.

2. A picture paints a thousand words– One reoccurring theme in the sessions I attended was around the use of images and media in teaching and learning. I am particularly interested in how
elements of information literacy can be applied to images and how we can encourage students and academics to take advantage of these collections and use them in creative ways.

 Colleagues from Oxford, Cambridge and Artstor discussed visual literacy and need to teach students to evaluate images in the same way we do information. They also discussed the ethical of use of images and the need to store and organise images correctly.

Claire Stewart from the University of Cumbria spoke about a project conducted with creative arts students where they were asked to produce group blogs where mashable content (images, video, text) in order to demonstrate research skills and critical thinking.

Mandy Cumbridge, Jan Morgan & Karen Ellis-Reese from University of the Arts London talked about how they’d successfully engaged foundation art students with induction by holding a drawing competition based around the library and how they’d used special collections and object based learning to inspire students.


3. Presenting can be a wee bit scary but well worth the effort-As Diane mentioned in her previous post we were lucky enough to be presenting our work with the employability group on the first day of the conference. As with most things preparation is key and Diane and I really benefitted from both our long rehearsal and getting to the room early to ensure that we weren’t tripped up by room locations or IT. Before the presentation we were told that it wasn’t unusual not get any questions, so we were happily surprised when we got about 4/5 questions at the end of the session. Presenting actually turned out to be a great way of networking as people tend to approach you about similar projects they are working on or talk to you after the session to ask more details about your work. Speaking at Lilac is something I’d highly recommend and if you want to find out more about the selection process and how to write a great abstract Sam Aston & Jacqui DaCosta’s presentation ‘How to create the perfect LILAC blossom’ is well worth a look.


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