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Moodle Training

Do you Moodle?  I do or at least I’m starting to learn how.  Moodle is an open source learning management system similar to BlackBoard and my college has just adopted the platform.  The plan is to migrate classes over from our current system into Moodle over the course of several semesters in a staggered fashion.  A handful of classes will be taught using this system this fall, but before that can happen, the faculty members and support staff need to be trained.  So, we’re all taking an intensive 2 week online course in the nuts and bolts required to build an online class.  Then we’ll take another 2 week online course that focuses on online pedagogy.  Once that’s done, we will supposedly be ready to mentor the faculty members teaching this fall.  🙂

I’m not privy to all the planning decisions, but I don’t think that the Reference Librarians were originally supposed to be included in this first round of training.  At some point, however, there was a concern that there would not be enough mentors to work with the faculty, which is when we volunteered/were volunteered by our Director.  I actually think it’s a great idea, because it will give us another opportunity to help faculty embed information literacy objectives into their courses.  I’m not sure they know about that yet, though!

I have actually found the training to be very interesting – especially the sections that deal with online pedagogy.  I still struggle with the process of applying proper pedagogical principles and practices to course content so it’s been a great opportunity to learn from others.  I also think it’s something that we all have to get more comfortable with as time goes on, because I believe that more and more teaching is going to move online.  We’d better be ready for it or we will be left behind.  As for me, I’m moodling along.

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Categories: Technology

PE Technology Fair

April 24, 2010 Leave a comment

What on earth, you ask, do climbing walls and librarianship have in common?  Well, it’s kind of a strange story.  It all started when I asked the Dean of the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (I’m the liaison to those departments) if their professional conferences includes a vendor fair of some sort.  This was soon after I had registered for Computers in Libraries and I was thinking about the technology librarians are exposed to at most library conferences.  I know, from my liaison work, that more and more technology is being integrated into PE programs across the country, but I wasn’t sure if our students or even our faculty got exposed to any of it.

The Dean replied that he wasn’t sure, but that he was very interested to hear more about what I had in mind.  After a quick e-mail explaining how library conferences usually include some sort of venue for librarians to learn more about technology, such as the “petting zoos,” he quickly arranged a meeting with the two of us and the appropriate faculty members.  Long story short, they decided to throw a small trial technology fair in the spring semester.

One of the vendors who came was company that sells the TreadWall systems that you see me on in the picture.  Imagine a climbing wall that just keeps on going.  I stayed on for around a minute and a half and was wiped out!  It’s an incredible workout.  In addition to that, we had demos of more well know tech like Wii Fit and I gave demonstrations in what wikis are and how PE teachers might use them.  All in all, it was a huge success and the PE faculty hope to have another vendor fair in the fall.

Before I wrap up, I should point out that I wasn’t responsible for organizing the fair itself.  One of our faculty members, Kathy Mangano, did all the legwork necessary to make it happen.  We all joked, however, that I was the one “responsible” for giving her more work to do with my question about technology at PE conferences.  You never know where an innocent question will take you!

Computers In Libraries Conference

March 20, 2010 Leave a comment

As you can see from the pictures, I attended this years Computers in Libraries conference, which was held in Arlington, VA.  I’ve never been to CiL before, but I’ve always asked to go at the beginning of the year when we submit our “wish list” of conferences that we’d like to attend.  Still, I was quite surprised when I got the word that my request had gone through.  Not only that, but one of my colleagues, Sam Anderson, got the green light to go as well.  So we packed our bags and headed off to Virginia for three days of presentations, networking, and all of the other stuff one does at a conference.

One of my main goals was to take in as much as I could from the “Literacies and Fluencies” and “Teaching” tracks.  More specifically, I was hoping to gather as many ideas, programs, etc. as I could and use them to enhance our own information literacy initiative at Springfield College.  I certainly saw some great presentations.  Chad Mairn from St. Petersburg College gave an excellent talk about information fluency, which he argues is at the intersection of information literacy, computer literacy, and critical thinking.  I also learned more about transliteracy.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about the whole transliteracy idea before the conference and I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about it now.  Some of my co-workers argue that it’s just the old wine of information literacy in a new bottle.  I’m not so sure, though.  To me, it seems like a marriage of information literacy and educational technology, which I see as a positive thing.  It’s definitely something that I’m following.

Of course, I did sneak out to see some presentations from other tracks.  Roy Tennant gave a great talk built around his Top Ten Things Library Administrators Should Know About Technology.  I also saw a really great talk by Joe Murphy on mobile literacy and the connection between libraries and mobile devices.  I wasn’t the only one.  This presentation was packed, which I thought was funny for 2 reasons.  One, all we heard about in the previous 2 days was about how mobile was the next big thing for libraries.  If that’s the case, why did they stick the mobile presentation into one of the smaller conference rooms?  There were so many people that they had to stream it into an adjoining room.  Two, it was very difficult to get cell reception in that room or at least it was for my friend who had 0 bars on his iPhone.

No conference is perfect, however, and this one was no exception.  I was specifically disappointed by the presentations that essentially were nothing more than link sharing fests.  It’s not because the sites being suggested were terrible or that the presenters were boring.  In fact, they were all pretty good.  I guess I just didn’t expect to see that kind of presentation at a national conference.  In almost every case, all the links were up on a wiki anyway.  I could have just looked at that on my own.

I was also a little put off by the Apple bashing.  Not because I think Apple is a perfect company.  Far from it.  However, when someone stands there and rails against Apple’s closed systems and secret app approval process, but then proudly proclaims that they bought their iPad, it kind of rubs me the wrong way.  At least Sarah Houghton-Jan had the guts to back up her words with action.  I still don’t agree with her or the rest of them.  Apple is a for profit business.  They have a fiduciary responsibility to  make money for their shareholders.  If you don’t like the way they do it, don’t buy their products.

As I said, however, no conference is perfect and I didn’t expect this one to be.  I enjoyed the overwhelming majority of presentations that I went to and the Hyatt did a great job of putting on the conference in spite of the iffy wi-fi.  Congratulations to everyone who put CiL 2010 on this year.

Is Your Web Site Phoning It In?

September 1, 2009 Leave a comment

Cell phones are the next frontier for libraries in terms of providing access to resources and services.  They present unique challenges, however.  Is your web site ready for the web?

One of the things that I’ve been reading up on lately is the increase in using cell phones to surf the web.  If you’ve done it before, you know that some sites show up really well while others, well let’s just say that they don’t quite measure up.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re using something that has a full blown web browser, like an iPhone, or something with a really basic screen – web sites look better if they’ve been designed for a cell phone.  Fortunately, there are all kinds of resources available to help those of us who are just learning about designing sites for the mobile web.  Here are a few that I recommend to get started.

An Introduction to the Mobile Web

This very brief guide from UKOLN offers a quick overview of what the mobile web is as well as the challenges and opportunities it presents.  A great introduction to the subject.

Creating a Site for the Mobile Web

This is another guide from UKOLN that does just what the title suggests.  It gives you bulleted lists of best practices for all aspects of mobile web design.

W3C | Mobile Web Initiative

You can’t discuss web best practices without referring to the W3C.  This site focuses on best practices for mobile web sites, breaking news, and even offers a few tools that you can use when designing your site.  You can even run a test of a web site to see how it measures up.  Unfortunately, my library’s web site didn’t do so well.  We’re going to have to change that!

Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox | Mobile Usability

Love him or hate him, Jakob Nielsen always has something interesting to say about web usability.  This page talks about recommended practices for mobile web site designers.

There are, of course, many more that I could include, but this list will get you started.  As a recent Pew Internet survey found, approximately 85% of adults have cell phones and the figure is still growing so it’s a topic that’s not going to go away.  That means we have to build for the future or, as one person commented in a blog post, “the ‘no cell phones in the library’ sign needs to be replaced with [one that says] ‘put your library in the cell phone’”.

Disclaimer: The photo I used for this post was made available under a Creative Commons license.  You can find the original photo at http://www.flickr.com/photos/edans/2893223588/ as well as the license details.  I’m going to assume that the photographer did not have permission from RIM for use of the Blackberry logo, however.

Categories: Technology

Presentation Day @ MLA

As you can see, I was an official speaker at the 2009 Massachusetts Library Association Conference.  The people on the conference committee did a fantastic job of making sure everything was all set up for us and that we had everything we needed.  Thanks MLA!

I was fortunate enough to speak at this year’s Massachusetts Library Association conference on May 7th.  I actually co-presented with Kelcy Shepherd the Digital Interfaces Librarian at the University of Massachusetts, which was a first for me.  Our talk, “Avoiding Deju Vu All Over Again” [slides] focused on the best practices involved in managing an academic library web site.  While we were planning our talk, we realized that there were endless topics that we could have covered, but we decided to narrow it down to some key elements that would apply to just about any library.

. 1.Who is responsible for running your site? – Our point here was to emphasize that it’s critical to establish who is in charge of the site and, most importantly, what their authority is.

. 2.What is the purpose of your web site? – The goal here is to figure out what your web site’s primary purpose is and build from there.  Articulate this purpose in a mission statement so that everyone knows what you are trying to accomplish.

. 3.What policies do you need to support web site maintenance? – Web teams easily get bogged down in the details of running a web site.  Establish clear policies about key issues, such as who can create new pages, and post them so that everyone is aware of them.

. 4.How does your web site relate to your parent institution’s web site? – Just about all library sites are sub sections of an overall institutional site.  Know what their mission is and establish a good working relationship with the people running the institution’s site.

. 5.What workflows and software do you use to maintain your web site? – If you have the ability, pick something that is easy to use, flexible, and capable of growing if you need it.

As you can see, our talk was framed around a series of questions about the key points that we wanted to discuss.  In an effort to encourage audience participation, we created a survey for everyone to fill out as they were waiting for the session to begin.  The questions on that survey were tied directly into our talking points and the goal was to get them thinking about each subject before we brought it up.  It either worked or we were lucky enough to have a very vocal audience (probably a little of both), because a lot of people shared their experiences, frustrations, and what worked for them.  Their comments really enhanced our presentation and I feel that everyone came away with something new to take back to their own libraries.  I know that I did.

Before I wrap up, I’d like to thank a couple of people.  First, the conference organizers who did a fantastic job of taking care of us.  The facilities were great and we had everything we needed.  Most importantly, I’d like to publicly thank Kelcy for inviting me to join her for this presentation.  She was a great person to work with and made the whole process seem effortless.

Categories: Technology

2nd Annual GSLIS Tech Summit

January 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Stephanie Brown gives an overview of the presentations for the GSLIS Tech Summit.  Ten people from school, public, and academic libraries gave quick demos of their favorite online apps.

On December 13th, I participated in the 2nd Annual GSLIS Tech Summit, sponsored by the Simmons Graduate School of Library Science.  Spearheaded by Stephanie Brown, the Tech Summit is an opportunity for current and former GSLIS students, staff, and faculty members to catch up with each other and to present their favorite online apps.  This year, there were school librarians who talked about building information literacy skills in their students; public librarians who showed how they reach out to teens; and academic librarians/GSLIS faculty who focused on pushing out information and connecting with patrons.

I demonstrated a wonderful new tool that I found called Sprout Builder.  Using a drag and drop interface, Sprout Builder allows you to build Flash based widgets that you can then embed in other web pages.  In other words, it works very much like YouTube and other sites that give you the embed code that you can paste into your web site.  Not every information source gives you that embed code, however, which is where Sprout Builder comes in.  With it, you can generate your own code and create attractive widgets for your patrons.  It’s like a dream come true!

Categories: Technology

PVAAL Fall 2009 Meeting

November 18, 2008 Leave a comment

A copy of Kembrew McLeod’s official certification from the U.S. Patent and Trademark office for the phrase “freedom of expression”.  Kembrew patented the phrase to illustrate the lack of safeguards in the existing process.

It rained November 13th, but that did not dampen our spirits as the members of PVAAL gathered together once again for our fall meeting at Springfield College.  This was my first meeting as President so I was a little more anxious then I normally would have been, but everyone’s hard work paid off and the night was a complete success.  Many thanks to the PVAAL board, ARAMARK our catering service, and Babson Library for their efforts and support.

Instead of having a speaker as we usually do, we decided to watch Freedom of Expression: Resistance and Repression in the Age of Intellectual Property – an amazing documentary based on Kembrew’s McLeod’s book of the same name.  Although the documentary brought up many important points, I think the one that struck me the most was the idea that we, as a society, are sacrificing our the future richness of our culture for short term financial gain.  I’m oversimplifying the argument, but the basic idea is that culture is built upon the songs, movies, books, ideas, etc. that come before it.  Many of Disney’s fairly tales, for example, are adaptations of stories that have been around for centuries.  We use the old to build the new, but now with companies (such as Disney) locking up their creative content for increasingly longer and longer periods of time, future artists will not be able to borrow and adapt to create new works.  Does this mean that our culture will be poorer?  Some intellectual property experts fear it will.

As academic librarians, we sometimes take a narrow view of copyright.  It usually centers around teaching students both why it’s important to cite material and how to do it.  This documentary, however, made many of us realize that we need to take a more long range view as well.  We did not come up with any brilliant ideas to save ourselves from the mess that we find ourselves in, but many of us left that evening with a sense that we must do something.  Freedom of expression (with all apologies to Prof. McLeod – I didn’t get copyright permission to use his phrase) is too important a freedom to lose.