Back in February I attended one of the Clore Leadership Short Courses, a two week intensive residential course for people in the cultural sectors to reflect on, and develop, their leadership skills. For anyone who has discussed it with me since, I apologise – I feel a bit like I’ve been indoctrinated into a cult and have been extolling its virtues and encouraging everyone to experience it for themselves. It really was incredible though. I’ve been interested in leadership for a long time, and have learnt a lot through reading, attending courses and events, and reflecting on my own behaviour. Often this is in small snippets though, and the Clore Leadership Short Course enabled me to really focus on leadership learning for two weeks. It was really intensive but so worthwhile. I wanted to blog some of the things that have stuck with me and that I’ve been continuing to reflect on since the course.

Authentic leadership

Authentic leadership is something I first learnt about at the CILIP in Wales Conference in 2012, and was a common theme through many of the presentations there. I’ve since included some reading on authentic leadership for the Library Leadership Reading Group, and have enjoyed learning more about how we can all lead in a more authentic way, building on our strengths and staying true to ourselves. This was a key theme throughout much of the Clore course, but in particular we had a one day workshop to help us reflect on our own authentic leadership. The evening before we were set homework of recording a timeline of our life including any things we’ve been good at, things we’ve been interested in, proud achievements, and inspirational people. It took me right back to my school days and of course I spent far too long thinking and planning before committing anything to paper. I found the process really useful though; I’m a reflector by nature so spend quite a lot of time thinking back on things, but usually within my adult life. This took me right back from my young childhood and helped me identify some of the key themes of my life.

My lifeline

My lifeline

 

During the workshop we discussed our timelines with our peers, and then in the afternoon we had a short activity on our drivers to help us think about what really motivates us in life. We were then given the opportunity to reflect on these individually, and prepare a 5 minute talk to a small group of our peers to talk about what being an authentic leader meant to us. I found the whole process so incredibly useful – a lot of it was common sense but having the time and space to think about this in a focused way really helped me consolidate my thinking and has given me a much clearer idea of who I am and how I want to lead.

Importance of story telling

As part of the Clore programme, we had a number of guest speakers throughout the fortnight. Some of these are people who have done the Clore Short Course in the past, or Clore Fellows, whilst some are involved in supporting the Clore programme. They all had really interesting backgrounds and were from various different parts of the cultural sector (dance, museums, Arts Council…). They each approached their talks differently, but the one thing constant throughout was the focus on telling us their story. Some did this in chronological order, some shared key themes that have always been present throughout their lives, some shared photos, some shared challenges, some shared achievements, some intertwined their leadership lessons within their story. Many of them shared elements of their personal life as well as their professional life. All were compelling stories that told you about the person as well as their experiences. I made notes for some of the talks, for others I just listened. I took something from every single one and it really made me appreciate the importance of good storytelling to help you get your message across. This was also reiterated in some of the course workshops, but it was the examples of the guest speakers which really emphasised that for me. I’ve noticed storytelling being mentioned quite a lot recently, it’s come up in a number of our LLRG conversations as it’s mentioned in a number of key leadership texts, and it was also the focus of a recent Slideshare blog post on The Secret To Activating Your Audience’s Brain.

Quiet leadership

A number of the guest speakers at Clore spoke about quiet leadership, and this is something that interests me. I often seem to gravitate to leadership positions (gymnastics club captain for my University, chair of committees, etc.) but I don’t lead in a traditional dictatorial way. I prefer to lead by being an active member of the team and understanding more about them and their motivations, and then for me to help facilitate that. When someone on the team (or the team as a whole) performs well, it’s really important for me that they get the recognition rather than myself as the leader. Some refer to this style of leadership as quiet leadership, and it was really good to hear some real life examples of that. I’ve also recently read Quiet by Susan Cain and will be discussing this as part of the Library Leadership Reading Group tonight (8.30pm UK time on Tuesday 5th May, feel free to join us using the #llrg tag) – this is focused on introversion in general but does include elements of quiet leadership. I’d like to learn more about this style of leadership in future.

Value of coaching

One of the workshops we had at Clore was on coaching, which reinforced a lot of what I learnt on my ILM Coaching course. One of the main things for me is the shift in power to enable the person being coached to consider their options, and make their own decisions. I really struggled with coaching at first because I always want to try to help by offering solutions. This is the total opposite of to what you should be doing when coaching as the solutions come from the person being coached. However, I’m also incredibly curious and constantly question things, and this (used appropriately) can be really helpful when coaching. Most days at Clore we had an opportunity to go for a ‘walk and talk’ which often involved an element of peer coaching. I really enjoyed these sessions, and particularly enjoyed acting as the coach. I did also have a coaching session from one of the course leaders which was useful, but I most enjoyed being able to coach others in the group. I try to do this in my mentoring for CILIP Professional Registration, and hope to continue to develop my coaching skills further.

Reflective practice

The whole of the residential course was an opportunity for reflective learning and it was so valuable. Having the time and space to allow yourself to focus on your own development for more than an hour or so was so rare, and so special. It was difficult to switch off from other worries initially, but after a short time I was able to do so and really benefited from it. Within the workshops, we were encouraged to think about our own experiences and consider how what we were discussing could apply to our practice. We were also encouraged to try some of the new things out, and having a safe environment to do that in was very beneficial. Because of the type of environment we were in, we were also highly aware of each other’s learning and were able to provide feedback and support each other during our learning. We were encouraged to continue to do this afterwards too, and some of us are now forming action learning sets to help us with that. Even for those people who don’t have the support group like we have, we were encouraged to do this individually too. Many of the guest speakers commented on the fact that there is no end point and no ‘perfect leader’ and that we are all continually learning, and should be encouraged to do so. This is definitely something I can relate to as I think I’ll always be a work in progress, but it was good to know that’s OK, as long as you take time to reflect (individually or with your peers) and to apply your learning.

On that note, I think I’ll be processing what I learnt at Clore for a long time to come, but I wanted to share some of my initial reflections. I would highly recommend the Clore Leadership Short Course for anyone working on the cultural sector interested in developing their leadership skills.

On completion of my Chartership, having had such an excellent mentor (a CILIP Mentor of the Year no less!), I knew I wanted to mentor other candidates myself. I completed the CILIP mentor training, which I found really interesting (I particularly welcomed the focus on a coaching approach to mentoring rather than a focus on the CILIP Professional Registration process), and soon found myself with some willing mentees. Everyone works at a different pace, so some of my mentees are taking a longer term approach, but my first mentee submitted her portfolio last month so I thought I’d share my experience as a mentor. 

I knew I wanted to mentor in a similar way to the way I had been mentored myself. I didn’t want to be the sort of mentor who is a task master or keeps people to deadlines – I don’t mind doing an element of this, but predominantly I want to be able to challenge mentees, guide them, and encourage them to develop. Fortunately my mentee was looking for that sort of mentor so it worked well. As I work remotely (I do have an office but a lot of my time is spent away from the office), much of our communication was via email, but we did also meet at key points throughout the process. The meetings were very much led by my mentee, though a week before each meeting I did ask them to complete a few questions in the form of a meeting planning template so that I knew what they wanted to focus on for our meeting. This really helped me, and I think it helped them too. 

We kept our communication quite informal (this was the way we’d agreed it would work best for us), so as well as the formal mentoring, we got to know each other better and share experiences. I learnt a lot from their experiences too so was keen to encourage this. I’m keen to mentor people from different types of work within LIS in future to continue this – the two-way learning process is a useful part of CPD I feel (and can help them with criteria 3 of CILIP Professional Registration on wider professional awareness!).  

We tended to meet in coffee shops, though we did meet once at my office as my mentee wanted to familiarise themselves with the CILIP VLE so I thought it might be useful to do that together. During this session they got access to the VLE, I explained the different sections and what they were for, and we discussed how they may wish to use the Portfolio functionality for their own portfolio. After this session, we communicated via the VLE as well as by email, which I found very useful. My mentee shared their portfolio page with me so whenever they updated it, I received an email alert and I checked in every so often and provided feedback/suggestions via the comment functionality. This was particularly useful during the final stages of the process, and also helped speed the submission process as they had been building it up for a while within the VLE rather than having to add everything in at the end.

During our discussions, I was able to use some of the coaching skills I have learnt to explore my mentee’s career goals, as well as address any barriers they experienced. I used the GROW model (Goal, Reality, Options, Will) to help them explore different options and decide on a way forward. I found the process incredibly useful, both in terms of practicing my coaching skills, and in ensuring the development ideas came predominantly from the mentee, with me acting as a guide. Hopefully this ensured the development was tailored to them and I think it helped with their motivation and commitment. 

The most rewarding thing for me was observing my mentee develop in confidence during the process. I knew from the beginning that they are an extremely competent professional, though they doubted themselves occasionally. They ended the process far more self-aware and with a much clearer idea of their current abilities and their future plans. I’m not saying this was down to me, but I was pleased to be able to be a part of it and to witness their growth. 

Their portfolio was excellent, and I had no doubt (apart from the tiny but ever present niggle of nerves!) that they would be successful in their application. They have received really positive feedback and I’m so pleased. 

I’d highly recommend being a mentor for CILIP Professional Registration; it’s a really interesting experience and incredibly rewarding to support someone through the process. I very much look forward to continuing to mentor other CILIP Professional Registration candidates.

NOTE: This blog post was drafted over a year ago but wasn’t published. I’m currently reviewing my working preferences to help my colleagues and I understand each other better and thought I’d take the opportunity to share one of the tools we’ll be looking at and show how mine has changed since I started my current job (I don’t think my scores on Belbin’s team roles will have changed much over the last year). 

On the first day of my current job, I completed a Belbin team roles survey. It was a really useful tool and something which taught both myself and my manager about the way I worked. I blogged about my results – I came out as an implementer, gatherer and completer finisher. This seemed to fit well with my preferences in a team situation, and pleased my manager as he’s not by nature a completer finisher and we’re only a small team so it’s useful to have someone happy to take on that role.

Fast forward about 3.5 years, and I find myself doing the Belbin team roles survey again, this time as part of an internal ILM (Institute of Leadership and Management) course. So have my results changed?

My Belbin team role preferences - Aug 2010 and Mar 2014

My Belbin team role preferences – Aug 2010 and Mar 2014

On the whole, my results are fairly consistent. I still have relatively high scores for implementing, gathering, and for completer finisher. My main preference (IM – implementer) is summarised as:

Implementers are the people who get things done. They turn the team’s ideas and concepts into practical actions and plans. They are typically conservative, disciplined people who work systematically and efficiently and are very well organized. These are the people who you can count on to get the job done.

This is often the role I take on given the opportunity to utilise my natural preferences – it’s consistent with some of the other tools I’ve been doing too. In my current organisation, I’m the person who plans projects and reviews progress – I keep things running to time (when I can!) and am aware of what we have coming up and try to ensure we have things in place to accommodate that. In many projects I’m involved in, even when I’m not the project manager, I’m often the person who prompts others (possibly to their annoyance I appreciate!) when things are in risk of running behind schedule or reminds them we have things coming up and need to plan for them and prepare things in advance.

It was no big surprise to me that implementer came out as the top score again. Many of my other scores are quite similar too. However there’s one quite interesting change in my scores – two roles seems to have swapped importance. My team worker role (TW) has decreased, and my shaper role (SH) has increased. Here’s what Belbin has to say about these roles:

Team Workers are the people who provide support and make sure that people within the team are working together effectively. These people fill the role of negotiators within the team and they are flexible, diplomatic, and perceptive. These tend to be popular people who are very capable in their own right, but who prioritize team cohesion and helping people getting along.

Shapers are people who challenge the team to improve. They are dynamic and usually extroverted people who enjoy stimulating others, questioning norms, and finding the best approaches for solving problems. The Shaper is the one who shakes things up to make sure that all possibilities are considered and that the team does not become complacent.

What does this mean in practice?

According to the course facilitator, it is quite common for this change to happen over time. At the beginning of our careers, we’re keen to work well with everyone we meet, but over time we shift to just wanting to get things done. The desire to focus on tasks is definitely true in my case, and I think the fact that I work fairly independently on most projects (as part of a team, but often with a specific area of responsibility) has impacted this reduction in my team player score. I was a little surprised to find that Shaper now scores fairly highly for me, but aside from the extroverted part (I’m an introvert) I can see that I do often take on that role, certainly questioning norms and challenging for improvement.

I found it really interesting to revisit Belbin, and am so glad I blogged my initial results so that I could easily compare them during the workshop. If you’re interested in learning more about the type of role you tend to play on a team, and the roles which should ideally be fulfilled for a successful team, I’d recommend checking out Belbin – the Mind Tools guide is a useful overview.

Have you looked at your Belbin team role preferences? What did you find? Do you think any of these have changed over time?

I’ve stuck with my 2014 resolution of living for the moment, and have changed a number of things this year due to focusing on the present rather than the future. I’m still a reflector though, so the end of year blog post is one thing I have decided to continue. This is my seventh year of doing these annual reviews now – you can see previous ones for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

I haven’t blogged much in 2014. I’ve been spending more of my free time focusing on other areas of my life and have learnt a lot about myself this year. I turned 30 in May, which to some is a scary thing but to me was something I’d been looking forward to for a while – I feel like I’ve been mentally living in my 30s for a long time anyway! I’m feeling quite positive about my 30s – I’ve been on a bit of an exploratory journey already, and hope to continue to do so.

Juggling different demands on my time

Juggling different demands on my time

I’ve been eating better and exercising more regularly, and as a result have lost quite a bit of weight this year. I didn’t set myself a specific goal, but just knew I wasn’t happy and wanted to be healthier and fitter. It’s worked really well and I’ve discovered exercise DVDs which I love (I highly recommend Jillian Michaels, most of them are only 20-30mins long so easy to fit into your day, and the progression you see when you stick with it is incredible). I’m taking a bit of a break from exercise over the festive season, but am very much looking forward to getting back into it – it offers great physical and mental benefits for me. I’ve also been doing more cooking and baking this year, and learning more about gluten free ingredients and how they differ from ‘regular’ ingredients (I have coeliac disease so I have to follow a gluten free diet for life). I’ve continued to do crafts, with quite a few knitting projects, a cross stitch project, and some crochet too. I’ve also learnt more about beauty and cosmetics this year, and now actually know what bronzer, blusher, and highlighter do (and why), and am learning how to blend eyeshadow colours. I love playing with make up, trying new skincare products and learning what suits me (and what doesn’t!).

Professionally, it’s been an interesting year too. Work has been fairly busy (particularly the last few months of the year) and at times I have struggled to retain a healthy balance. I’ve had a lot of different projects to juggle, each with their own unique challenges. Each one teaches me something new, but I haven’t had as much of an opportunity to reflect on it before the next challenge (hence not as much blogging).

Some personal highlights of the year have included:

  • Developing a full-day practical workshop on planning and facilitating focus groups

I mentioned that in 2013 I’d delivered more workshops, and was pleased with how I had developed skills in designing these. Earlier this year I developed a half day workshop for University of Cambridge libraries on planning and facilitating focus groups. I themed the workshop around chocolate so there were a number of practical activities which used this as a theme, and of course chocolates as an added incentive! I received really positive feedback from the workshop and some commented that they’d like to see this expanded and offered as a full day workshop. I was already planning to do this, so it was good to get confirmation that the half day session worked and could be used to further develop a full day workshop. I did this, and offered it for Evidence Base in September. We were fully booked and again received positive feedback. I have since run the full day workshop for University of Nottingham, a taster session for North West Libraries Interlending Partnership in Manchester, have a full day workshop scheduled for January (which is again fully booked) and have one full day workshop booked for Anglia Ruskin University. I’ve really enjoyed each session, and am looking forward to delivering more in 2015.

  • Developing my mentoring skills and supporting CILIP Chartership candidates

I completed my mentor training at the end of 2013 and starter properly mentoring this year. I have two active mentees, and one who’s currently on maternity leave. I’ve really enjoyed the mentoring process and am learning a lot about both myself and my mentoring/coaching skills. I’m learning how to listen more carefully, and how to adapt the guidance I provide based on the needs of each of my mentees. It’s early days so far but going well. I’m very much looking forward to being able to hopefully help them complete the process and become chartered soon.

  • Working with CILIP to scope a leadership development programme

The last few months I’ve been working with CILIP on scoping a leadership development programme. Since doing ALA Emerging Leaders myself in 2012, I’ve been keen to see something similar in the UK. There are of course leadership development programmes available, but mostly they are sector specific (i.e. within an organisation, or targeted at a certain sector e.g. Universities). The things I loved about the ALA programme which I felt differentiated it from others was the information on leadership within ALA and a greater understanding of ALA as an organisation, and learning about different working environments within the library and information sector. When I heard CILIP were thinking of developing a leadership development programme I was so pleased, and even more pleased to be invited to help scope the programme. I’ve been doing some research into other similar programmes, and speaking to lots of different people about their ideas via focus groups, interviews, and individual discussions, and just before Christmas I worked with CILIP to form the initial draft programme. It’s been a really positive experience so far, and I’m looking forward to finalising details in 2015.

  • Being accepted onto the Clore Leadership Residential Short Course

Leadership development has been quite a strong theme of the year, and is likely to continue for 2015 as I’ll also be developing my own leadership skills via a Clore residential course. The Clore courses are something I’ve had a keen interest in for a while, but the timing has never been right. This year I decided to explore the opportunity and fortunately my employer was happy to support my application. Even more fortunately, the application was successful so I’ll be spending two weeks in February on an intensive residential course. I recently received the programme and some information about others on the course which has got me very excited. It sounds fascinating (though slightly overwhelming!); I’m sure it will be an incredible experience.

What’s next?

In 2015 I hope I can learn techniques to help retain balance across all areas of my life and also protect some down time too as I’ve really come to appreciate the value of that. I’m really pleased with my progress on living more for the moment, but I still have a way to go. I’m not setting any specific resolutions for 2015 but hope to continue to do things I enjoy, see people I enjoy spending time with, and trying new things to learn more about what makes me happy.

I hope you all enjoyed 2014 and have a happy and healthy 2015.

By the way, the cocktail I linked to last year we had as 2014 began, and it was delicious! I fully intend to make it again tonight and would highly recommend it if you light sweet (well, very sweet!), fruity drinks. Cheers!

CILIP Revalidation Hints & Tips

CILIP Revalidation Hints & Tips series

This post is part of a series of blog posts I’m writing about CILIP Revalidation. Last year I worked with CILIP as a Future Skills Project Worker on a part-time secondment basis helping develop CILIP’s Professional Registration (Certification, Chartership, Fellowship and Revalidation). I went on to use the new process to successfully revalidate my CILIP Chartership earlier this year, and am sharing my experience through a series of blog posts. For other posts in the series, see the Revalidation Hints & Tips series.

The final stage in the Revalidation process is to put together your CPD log and supporting statement, and submit it. This is all done via the CILIP VLE. If you’ve been recording your CPD throughout the year in the CPD log in CILIP Portfolio (see my post on Recording your CPD), and have your supporting statement written (see my post on Writing your supporting statement) this stage won’t take long at all. Read the rest of this entry »

CILIP Revalidation Hints & Tips

CILIP Revalidation Hints & Tips series

This post is part of a series of blog posts I’m writing about CILIP Revalidation. Last year I worked with CILIP as a Future Skills Project Worker on a part-time secondment basis helping develop CILIP’s Professional Registration (Certification, Chartership, Fellowship and Revalidation). I went on to use the new process to successfully revalidate my CILIP Chartership earlier this year, and am sharing my experience through a series of blog posts. For other posts in the series, see the Revalidation Hints & Tips series.

There are two parts to CILIP Revalidation; your log of CPD activities, and your supporting statement. The supporting statement is your opportunity to explain and reflect on your CPD activities. You only have 250 words, so you have to be fairly concise. Read the rest of this entry »

CILIP Revalidation Hints & Tips

CILIP Revalidation Hints & Tips series

This post is part of a series of blog posts I’m writing about CILIP Revalidation. Last year I worked with CILIP as a Future Skills Project Worker on a part-time secondment basis helping develop CILIP’s Professional Registration (Certification, Chartership, Fellowship and Revalidation). I went on to use the new process to successfully revalidate my CILIP Chartership earlier this year, and am sharing my experience through a series of blog posts. For other posts in the series, see the Revalidation Hints & Tips series.

The first part of Revalidation is completing 20 hours of professional development, or CPD (Continuing Professional Development) as it’s commonly referred to. The guidelines suggest that this would be on a roughly annual basis, though it may take slightly longer (or a lot less!). Read the rest of this entry »

CILIP Revalidation Hints & Tips

CILIP Revalidation Hints & Tips

Earlier this year I successfully revalidated my CILIP Chartership. Having been involved in developing the new scheme for CILIP Professional Registration (which incorporates Certification, Chartership, Fellowship, and Revalidation) during my part-time secondment at CILIP last year, I was keen to put what I had learnt into practice and test whether Revalidation was as straight forward as we’d hoped. I spent quite a bit of time examining Revalidation in other professional organisations, and it was evident that the previous version of CILIP Revalidation was much more involved than comparators. The message from member feedback (which also reflected my own personal view) was clear – Revalidation needed to be simplified so that it could be completed on a more regular basis to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to professional development (after all, the C in CPD is for continuing professional development). With that in mind, we set out to make the process less intensive and more relevant to all levels of Professional Registration – Certification, Chartership, and Fellowship (previously the focus had been more as a step up from Chartership).

As I’ve now been through the Revalidation process and have discussed it with a number of people planning to do the same, I thought it might be worthwhile me documenting the processes I used (and intend to continue to use) in case they are useful for others. I’ll therefore be publishing a series of blog posts over the next few days, including:

I’ll be writing about my own experience which relates to revalidating CILIP Chartership, but much of the processes apply to those revalidating CILIP Certification or CILIP Fellowship. If you have any questions, please let me know in the blog comments. I hope you find this series useful.

I was recently invited to test a product on behalf of MyTrendyPhone.co.uk. One thing I thought I would find useful was an iPad case with a keyboard. I was sent a Universal Tablet Bluetooth Keyboard and Leather Case:

Universal Bluetooth Keyboard Case

Universal Bluetooth Keyboard Case

Please note: I’ve include my own photos throughout but they’re taken in not much daylight on my phone camera, so you may be better off checking out the product photography on the product page.

The reason I wanted one of these was for travelling. As a researcher and workshop facilitator, I spend quite a bit of time travelling and need to be able to work from wherever I am. My trusty iPad goes pretty much everywhere with me (it’s my main requirement when looking for bags – that’s another thing I could really do with!). I use it to check email, keep up-to-date with news and social media, make notes, write blog posts (in fact I started writing this blog post on it whilst on a bus), write and deliver presentations… I’d be here forever if I listed everything, there’s not much I do that I can’t do on my iPad. I actually don’t mind typing on the touchscreen – I even choose to transcribe interviews on the iPad rather than desktop – but I’ve kept wondering if it would be better to try an external keyboard. One big advantage is that the keyboard takes up quite a bit of the screen so it can make it more difficult at times to both type and format. I’ve been testing this case by taking it to events with me, and below is my review of the product.

Layout

There’s a few options for external keyboards. My wireless keyboard for my main computer actually works as a keyboard for the iPad, though it’s not so convenient to carry around a full sized additional keyboard. There are some which fit into an iPad case, and there are some which are fixed into a case. The one I tried was attached to the case by a magnet, so you could use it in the case or you could remove it. I liked the flexibility here – it means you can adapt it to your situation and the space available, and of course you could just take the keyboard with you if you didn’t want to take the full case (e.g. if you have a smaller case).

Keyboard can be used in case or moved out of case

Keyboard can be used in case or moved out of case

Fit

The case I tried apparently fits any tablet from 9″to 10.1″. This means it doesn’t necessarily fit snugly as it’s not tailored to your specific tablet, but if you have more than one or are likely to buy a different model in future that’s an advantage. The tablet is attached using plastic corners – they’re on elastic bands so you can expand to fit your tablet. It’s relatively secure once it’s in, but it’s not the easiest of fastenings to use.

Close up of corner

Close up of corner

Screen angle

Another thing which had always intrigued me was whether it’s more natural to have the screen at a higher angle when typing. My default is for me to type on the screen with it at a slight incline using the smart case, like this:

My usual typing position

My usual typing position

This of course is totally different to the way you would usually look at the screen of a desktop or laptop computer. You can stand the iPad upright, though I don’t tend to do this when I have a lot of typing to do as the iPad isn’t very stable in this position. With a keyboard and case you can usually have the iPad at a higher angle, more like a laptop. The case I was sent has just one viewing angle, which was fine when using on a desk, but too low when using on the train – there’s not enough room on the pull down table to have it at this angle. I also found it was a little flimsy to be honest, the stand seemed like just a piece of cardboard in the case so not very strong. I think I’d prefer to try a sturdier one with more viewing angle options.

Viewing angle with the Universal Bluetooth Keyboard Case

Viewing angle with the Universal Bluetooth Keyboard Case

The case I tested was for landscape use only, you can also get cases which you can use in portrait though I don’t think I’d use that often so it wasn’t a big issue for me – nice option to have though I guess.

Pairing

So how does your iPad know there’s a keyboard that you want to use with it? Usually they connect via Bluetooth, and it found the pairing process very simple. I turned on Bluetooth on my iPad and on the keyboard, and then typed in the passcode to pair them together. You only need to do this once – after that they pair automatically (or they did with this one anyway). I had no problems at all with pairing or getting the keyboard to communicate with the iPad. As Bluetooth is the way the keyboard communicates with the iPad, you need to leave Bluetooth on both devices in order for them to work. Here lies my big problem and the reason I’m currently travelling without the case. Bluetooth uses battery power, quite a lot of battery power in fact. So much battery power that in one train journey to Cambridge I arrived with less than 30% of battery left (admittedly the journey takes around 4hrs, but my iPad has always lasted a full day of use in the past) and never had any problems with battery life. This made for a very dull return journey as I couldn’t use my iPad at all – it had 3% battery by the time my workshop had finished (I used it to present from).

Case quality

I thought it was worth mentioning that I was a little disappointed with the quality of the case – I didn’t pay to test this but am judging it on what the cost should be. The packaging had quite a few errors on it (small spelling and grammatical errors, but this is always a bit of a red flag in terms of quality for me) and the case itself was a little flimsy – it didn’t hold itself in position very well. It’s also quite bulky, which in a sense is understandable considering it includes a keyboard (maybe I’m expecting the moon on a stick?!), but I know you can get much more compact ones. It doesn’t fit in my usual bag so I would have to carry a larger bag if I wanted to carry the iPad in the case.

As I was finishing editing this blog post to be published (I drafted it a few weeks ago) I put my iPad in the case to take some additional photos, and one of the corners snapped so the iPad is now wonky and not secure. I’ve been storing the case in its original packaging (with foam protector for the inside) and have only taken the iPad in and out of the case about five times so really don’t expect this to happen in such a short space of time.

Snapped corner

Snapped corner

Final verdict

I have to say I’m afraid I wouldn’t recommend this case (even before the corner snapped). I don’t know if I would recommend any case unless you have a reliable power supply or an external battery (I love my Innergie PocketCell but I don’t tend to carry an iPad connector with me and it gets pretty warm when I have used it to charge my iPad). I’m intrigued by the more slimline cases though as the bulkiness was another key issue for me, so I think if I was buying I’d probably save up to get a more robust case from a reputable brand. Belkin sell a variety of cases such as the Fastfit Keyboard Case or the Ultimate Keyboard Case so I think I’d recommend looking at some of the higher quality ones if you’re interested in a keyboard case for your tablet, and I’d recommend investing in a decent external battery if you want to be able to use the iPad when not connected to a power source.

Do you have a case with a keyboard for your tablet? What would you recommend?