Teaching Information Ethics at Humboldt University’s IBI

Amongst my other work, I teach two modules at the Berlin School of Library and Information Science (known as IBI), at Humboldt University:

  1. English for Information Professionals
  2. Information Ethics and Legal Aspects

Perhaps I’ll write about teaching English another day, for this post is all about teaching information ethics to international students on a Masters in Digital Curation programme. This whole course looks great for students, since they get to spend a year in Berlin as well as studying at Kings College London.

I lecture on the ethics module, and my co-tutor Boris Jacob leads the seminars: we work very collaboratively in our delivery of our materials, and of course we co-ordinate the module through the virtual learning environment, Moodle. We’re planning for the next cohort of students at the moment and we’re both going to present soon at IBI’s BBK about how we teach this course, and why Berlin is a particularly suitable place to teach information ethics.

Boris and I both have experience of having worked in the field, and we bring our practical knowlege as well as theory to the course. Being from the UK, I’m very much more aware of British (CILIP) and American (ALA) theory and principles, whilst Boris is a German (BID) who has also worked in Belgium, and therefore brings a very European perspective, and the students themselves (I speak of last year’s cohort: I’ve not met this year’s yet) also come from different lands, bringing their own cultural backgrounds to the course. We introduce them to theory and then encourage them to explore ethical dilemmas, and our goal is that they are able to identify such dilemmas when they come across them, and to find and apply theories that can help. So, what kind of themes do we cover? Here is a list of some of things that we explore in our course:

  • Ethical principles and codes of professional organisations
  • Plagiarism : what it is, how we might avoid it and why it’s different to breach of copyright
  • Neutrality : the classic library debates about how to handle customers with equality, and how to build collections
  • Intellectual property & copyright : what are the principles: how does this work in the students’ own lands & in what way is German law different from the UK?
  • Citizen contributions: ways to handle them, including the right to remain anonymous and data protection issues
  • Digital divides : where we might find these and how can information professionals help to overcome them
  • Open Access and Digital Rights Management: what happens when we put locks on content?
  • Information literacy : what belongs on the curriculum and why?
  • The Media : how can we learn from journalists’ ethical codes?

Well, that’s just off the top of my head… there’s lots more, and of course we like to incorporate news stories as well as the opportunities that Berlin has to offer. Last year was the premier of Citizenfour (Laura Poitra’s documentary about Edward Snowden) and of course Berlin’s Transmediale festival. Not to mention all the museums and exhibitions tracking communications, computing and spying that Berlin has to offer! I’m quite envious of those students, because Berlin is a great place to study, as well as their course being truly fascinating. At least I get to teach it!

I also write for Piirus: a selection of my recent blogposts for them

As a freelancer, one of my clients is Piirus: they match researchers together so that they can work collaboratively, and I am their social media manager. Consequently, I’m writing a lot over on the Piirus blog! Lately, I’ve been participating in the Thesis Whisperer’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), called “How to Survive Your PhD“, and if you want to know what I’ve been finding out on that course then please do take a look at my latest blogpost for Piirus.

I also share a lot of my tips on using Twitter on the Piirus blog, including a kind of mini series lately on the hashtags that may interest anyone supporting researchers, or indeed researchers themselves. In other topics that I’ve blogged about for Piirus, I looked recently at motivations for digitisation and I shared tips for researchers considering crowdsourcing projects. If you’re interested in following my writing over on the Piirus blog then please do take a look. Although I will keep writing here too, of course!

Ramping up to the Autumn term… use these guides for researchers

Autumn term is looming and we’re all busy preparing: I’m working on an Information Ethics course for Humboldt Uni: more on that in another post! This post is for practising Research Support Librarians, researchers themselves and other kinds of research support professionals. I want to recommend Piirus’ “Digital Identity Health Check” to you! It is free and you can use it in your courses and support materials, or of course to check the health of your own digital presence!

It’s a really well thought-out, accessible walk-through of the ways that academics can make the most of their digital presence, engage with social media and gain visibility for their research. It recommends good practice, introduces tools and services and offers examples, as well as linking to other useful guides for further information. There are other Piirus Bonus guides on the page I’ve linked to as well: Piirus is developing a series, and the other two published guides relate to Co-authorship.

Piirus are one of my clients so I must declare my interest, but hopefully that will also inspire your confidence in the health check and other guides, since I’ve had a lot of input into them! My former colleague Emma Cragg has been developing this series of Piirus Bonuses, and of course she has a lot of expertise in this area. We’ve been working collaboratively with the rest of the Piirus team, of course, so the guides incorporate a lot of shared expertise.

If such a thing exists, then I wish you a peaceful lead-in to the Autumn term!