why I type my notes

her hands
“her hands” by Vyacheslav Bondaruk

When done with pen and paper, that act involves active listening, trying to figure out what information is most important, and putting it down. When done on a laptop, it generally involves robotically taking in spoken words and converting them into typed text. –Joseph Stromberg, Vox Magazine

Many of you long-time readers know that I take notes of presentations at conferences and post them here. I get lots of thank yous from folks for doing it, and that’s the main reason why I keep posting them publicly. It’s probably obvious, but just to be sure, you should know that I don’t handwrite them and then transcribe them later. I type them out on some sort of mobile computing device (laptop or iPad) and publish them after I do a look-see to make sure there aren’t any egregious errors.

What I don’t do with my typed notes is try to capture every word the speaker says, which is I think the digital note-taking that the author of the above linked article is critiquing. Instead, I actively listen to the speaker, and quickly synthesize their point into a sentence or two.

Sometimes I will quote directly if the phrasing or word choice is particularly poignant, but that’s hard if they are a fast speaker, because I end up missing a lot of what they say next in my attempt to capture it accurately. However, if I wait until they pause before their next point, I usually have enough time to quickly type out the point they just made.

This was an active choice on my part some years ago. I used to take notes with lots of bullet points and half-formed phrases, but they were virtually useless to me later on, and certainly not helpful to anyone who wasn’t there. When I take notes, I think about the audience who will read them later, even if it’s myself.

Which is another reason why I type. My handwriting is terrible, and it gets worse the longer and faster I write. If I want to know what I wrote more than a few hours ago, I need to type it.

So yes, students might get distracted by their neighbor’s laptop, but I think certain researchers will always find some classroom thing that distracts students and recommend we go back to the good old days. Instead, I think we need to work on the skills students (and future meeting attendees) will need in order to use their tools effectively and maintain focus.

If I can do it, surely they can, too.

being a student is time-consuming

I need to find a happy medium between self-paced instruction and structured instruction.

What have I done!?
“What have I done!?” by Miguel Angel

I signed up for a Coursera class on statistics for social science researchers because I wanted to learn how to better make use of library data and also how to use the open source program for statistical computing, R. The course information indicated I’d need to plan for 4-6 hours per week, which seemed doable, until I got into it.

The course consists of several lecture videos, most of which include a short “did you get the main concepts” multiple-choice quiz at the end. Each week there is an assignment and graded quiz, and of course a midterm and final.

It didn’t help that I started off behind, getting through only a lecture or two before the end of the first week, and missing the deadline for having the first assignment and quiz graded. I scrambled to catch up the second week, but once again couldn’t make it through the lectures in time.

That’s when I realized that it was going to take much longer than projected to keep up with this course. A 20-30 min lecture would take me 45-60 min to get through because I was constantly having to pause and write notes before the lecturer went on to the next concept. And since I was using Microsoft OneNote to keep and organize my notes, anything that involved a formula took longer to copy down.

By the end of the third week, I was still a few lectures away from finishing the second week, and I could see that it would take more time than I had to keep going, but I decided to go another week and do what I could.

That was this week, and I haven’t had time to make any more progress than where I was last week. With no prospect of catching up before the midterm deadline, I decided to withdraw from the course.

This makes me both disappointed in myself and in the structure of the course. I hate quitting, and I really want to learn the stuff. But, as I fell further and further behind, it became easier to put it off and focus on other overdue items on my task list, and thus compounding the problem.

The instructor for the course was easy to follow, and I like his lecture style, but when it came time to do the graded quiz and assignment, I realized I clearly had not understood everything, or he expected me to have more of a background in the field than a novice. It also seemed like the content was geared towards a 12 week course and with this being only 8 weeks, rather than reduce the content accordingly, he was cramming it all into those 8 weeks.

Having deadlines was a great motivation to keep up with the course, which I haven’t had when I’ve tried to learn on my own. It was the volume of content to absorb between those deadlines that tripped me up. I need to find a happy medium between self-paced instruction and structured instruction.

Learning 2009: Kindles, Sony Readers, iTouches, and iPhones

Presenters: Andy Morton, Olivia Reinauer, and Carol Wittig

The presenters brought three netbooks, three Kindle 2s, a Sony Reader, and an iTouch to pass around for attendees to handle. These are from the small collection recently purchased for experimenting with library and course use. They are hoping to get feedback or discussion about how the attendees think that they will impact classroom instruction.

While the Kindle is not likely to be very functional for traditional library services, rumors of the next version indicate that it will be more functional for textbook, newspaper, and media uses. This will definitely impact classroom activities. You can mark up text with notes, and it’s fully searchable, which could be handy for finding the notes you made to yourself.

Sony Reader uses the same kind of screen as the Kindle, but is smaller due to the lack of full keyboard. However, unlike the Kindle, it has a touch screen (and a stylus). There are expandable memory cards that can handle digital photos (in black & white) and audio. Like the Kindle, you can take notes on it. They’re also working with OCLC and Google Books to expand access to resources.

The iTouch and iPhone can make use of the Kindle software, and there are many other ebook apps as well. They are also useful for accessing internet applications on the fly. [Side note: I think I like this the best – one-handed touch-screen reading and much lighter than the dedicated ebook readers, but with a much larger screen than my old PDAs and brighter text.]

Netbooks are relatively inexpensive and easier to transport than full-size laptops. They’re certainly popular at conferences.

Learning 2009: Image Resources for Teaching

Presenters: Jeannine Keefer and Crista LaPrade

Keefer provided the attendees with a brief overview of licensed images. Specifically, ArtStor and why it would be used in the classroom (mainly art historians). There are also many free or Creative Commons licensed resources for images:

  • Flickr – range from amateur to professional, free to fully copyrighted
  • Picasa – similar to Flickr, but less communal
  • Google Images – search across the web
  • Google Earth – geotagged photos for specific locations
  • Creative Commons – search across several sites
  • MorgueFile – stock photography
  • OpenPhoto – stock photography
  • TinEye – reverse image search engine for finding more like the one you have
  • Cooliris – browser plugin for quickly flipping through images on various sites
  • Social networks like Facebook & MySpace

LaPrade and Boatwright Library’s Digital Production Services does all of the digitization and scanning for the library as well as scanning for faculty who need to convert analog images to digital for non-art classroom purposes. Non-presentation uses for this service (ideas beyond PowerPoint) include creating reference posters for students and images supplementing faculty publications (within copyright). Unfortunately, faculty will have to find their own storage (DVDs, flash drives, etc.) and delivery options, as DPS currently does not have a server for storage and delivery.

There are many resources you could use to share images in the classroom, including Blackboard and ArtStor, but also free image storage/sharing resources or your own web pages or blog. However, there are several factors to consider, since these can also be tools for managing the images: purpose, platform, ownership, collection size, image manipulation, metadata, budget, tech support, data integrity, file types, and presentation tool. Some possible solutions include Adobe Bridge (with the full version of Photoshop), Extensis Portfolio, Flickr, and Picasa.

(Side note: I think that many of the folks in the room were expecting to have a discussion of how faculty are actually using images in their teaching, and perhaps less about the tools that can be used to do so.)

Learning 2009: Keynote

Speaker: Bryan Alexander

He is interested in how social media is used to disseminate information. Shortly after CDC set up a Twitter account, many folks started following their updates with information. Many people and organizations created Google Maps mashups of incidents of H1N1. Alexander gathered examples of the variety of responses, and he doesn’t think that any institution in higher education is prepared to discuss or teach on this use of social media and how to critically respond to it.

Web 2.0 Bullshit Generator:
1. Click the button.
2. Watch the bullshit appear in the box.

Twitter has taken off among an unusual demographic for social media: adults with jobs. The news of the plane that landed in the Hudson was scooped by a Twitter user. It’s now one out of many news sources, and soon there will be better ways of aggregating news information that includes it. The number of individuals arrested for blogging (or microblogging like Twitter) has gone up dramatically in recent years. These tools are important.

LinkedIn: least sexy social media site on the net. However, they are making a profit! Regardless of how spiffy it could be, people are still using it.

Scott Sigler shout-out! Future Dark Overlord gets a mention for being the first podcast novelist to break the NYT bestseller list.

Recommended reading — The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom by Yochai Benkler

photo of Bryan Alexander by Tom Woodward
photo of Bryan Alexander by Tom Woodward

Before Web 2.0, you had to know HTML, have FTP access, and server space somewhere. The learning curve was high. With Web 2.0, it’s easy to create, publish, and share microcontent from a variety of free or open sources. The learning curve is much lower — barriers to access are torn down in favor of collaboration and information dissemination.

2.0 conversations are networked across many sites, not just in one or two locations like 1.0 or print. The implications for how we teach students is huge!

Mashups are great ways to take data or textual information and create visual representations of them that enhance the learning process. For example, Lewis & Clark University created a Google Maps mashup of the locations of the potters in their contemporary American pottery collection. This map shows groupings that the text or images of the pottery does not easily convey.

Alexander used the blog format to publish a version of Stoker’s Dracula, which was easily adaptable to the format. It took little time, since he had the text in a document file already (he was preparing an annotated version for print). This brought interested readers and scholars out of the woodwork, including many experts in the field of Dracula research, who left comments with additional information on the entries.

If you’re not using technology in teaching, you’re not Luddite — you’re Amish.

According to Google Labs’ Trends tool, “Web 2.0” is going down as a search term. That doesn’t mean it’s going away. Rather, it means that it’s becoming “normal” and no longer a new technology.

The icon for computing used to be the desktop, then it became the laptop. Now it has exploded. There are many devices all over the map, from pocket size to much larger. Wireless means nothing anymore — it’s defining something by what it is not, and there are a heck of a lot of things that are not “wired.”

Mobile computing is not a panacea — there are problems. The devices are too small to do serious editing of video or audio. The interfaces are difficult for many users to do much more than basic things with them.

Information on demand at one’s fingertips is challenging for pedagogy. Students can be looking up information during lectures and possibly challenging their teachers with what they have found. Backchannel conversations can either enhance or derail classroom conversations, depending on how they are managed by the presenters, but one main advantage is that it increases participation from those who are too shy to speak.

The pedagogical aspects of video games are finally making their way into higher education scholarship and practice. The gaming industry is currently more profitable than the movie or music industries. We need to be paying attention to how and what games are teaching our students.

reducing waste in the paperless society

On the way back to my office after mailing off my passport renewal forms (w00t!), I passed by a display in the Campus Forum. There were long tables set up on a tarp, with a row of 50 gal. plastic bins behind them, marked with different kinds of recyclable materials. Next to the tables and bins were about 10 full trash bags, presumably collected from around campus, and there appeared to be a truck with possibly more bags located nearby. Three men stood at the tables in biohazard suits and gloves, and wearing protective goggles. They were carefully sorting through open trash bags, checking the numbers on plastic containers, and sorting the contents into the appropriate recyclable or trash bins.

When I arrived here, I was surprised by how recycling-friendly this campus is as compared to others where I have worked or studied. Even in the eco-conscious Pacific Northwest, I did not see as many recycling bins in buildings (or at least the library) as I do here, nor have I heard any other head of waste management on a campus speak as passionately about reducing the level of waste.

I try to recycle as much as I can and throw away as little as I can, but unfortunately, I’m addicted to some things that come individually wrapped, which ends up creating a lot more waste than if I bought in bulk or chose items with less packaging. Still, including cat litter, I end up filling only one kitchen trash bag every 7-10 days, which is not too shabby for a single person.

Even so, as I scan the contents of the top of my office desk, I see a lot of paper from printouts that I could have kept in digital form. Several items are things that need to be converted to hard copies (license agreements needing signatures and whatnot), but many are simply for my information and will eventually end up in the recycle bin.

Last week, we talked about our “paperless society” in the Library Tech Team meeting. One of the things we tossed around was the idea of purchasing a bunch of small laptops of the EEE PC variety for library staff to use in meetings or other places where they need to bring documents or take notes, instead of having a bunch of printouts. I don’t know if that would fly very well. Personally, I wouldn’t want to have to keep track of which machine (desktop or laptop) holds the document I need.

However, my work desktop is a laptop that stays docked most of the time, unless I’m needing to work elsewhere, like at a conference. I’m not using it to the fullest for mobile computing because, honestly, it’s annoying to have to organize the screen space again when I return it to the dock and am now using a 24″ monitor rather than the built-in 15″ laptop screen. That’s a lame excuse.

For the month of November, I’ve committed myself to bringing only my laptop to meetings. No more papers, no more clutter to file in manila folders and then forget about. And, as an added bonus, I don’t have to spend extra time deciphering my handwriting.

Learning 2008 Keynote: Networked Academic Conversations and the Liberal Arts

The creation of knowledge through conversation is the core of liberal arts education.

Presenter: Ruben R. Puentedura

The creation of knowledge through conversation is the core of liberal arts education.

According to research from the past 5-10 years, blended learning (face-to-face + online) is becoming more relevant and necessary on residential campuses. These studies show that truly blended courses where the face-to-face and online components are comparable in magnitude will fix some of the problems with both face-to-face and online courses.

Face-to-face learning is good for:

  • establishing a local presence
  • discursive task definition
  • generation of ideas

Online learning is good for:

  • sustaining social presence
  • discursive task execution
  • evaluation & development of ideas

[side note: I am seeing truth in the above thanks to online social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and the Library Society of the World, which are responsible for both sustaining and growing the connections I make at conferences.]

Prior to the development of the tools and technology that led to Web 2.0, we did not have the ability to see bi-directional conversations on the Web. Web 2.0 has re-defined the Web as a platform for small pieces, loosely joined. The Web 2.0 is the architecture of participating, with remixable data sources and data transformations, harnessing collective intelligence.

Conversations as continuous partial attention
Twitter is both asynchronous and synchronous at the same time. Conversations can be both instantaneous and over time, and there are no expectations that you will read every single update from everyone you follow.

Conversations surrounding production/consumption
Flickr has taken the static image on a website and enhanced it with conversational elements like comments, groupings, tags, and notes on photos. Partially because the content is self-produced, this has created a supportive community and a culture of intolerance for troll-like behavior. In contrast, YouTube, which offers similar features for moving images, is filled with content not created by the sharer, and the community is unfriendly compared to Flickr.

Ustream contains user-generated live streaming video, and should have a culture of users similar to Flickr; however, it appears to lean more towards the YouTube culture. Swivel is a site for sharing data and creating visualizations from that data, and it straddles the line between a supportive culture and one that is prone to troll-like behavior.

All of this is to say that if you choose to use these tools in your classroom, you need to be aware of the baggage that comes with them.

Conversations mapping the terrain
del.icio.us is a social bookmarking service that can be an information discovery tool as well as a conversation. The process of adding a new bookmark tells you something about the URL by showing how others have added it (leaning on the expertise of other). The network of users and tags can show connections outside of defined groups.

Conversations based on shared creation
Most blogs include comment functionality which allows readers to participate on equal footing. Trackbacks show links from other locations, branching out the conversation beyond the boundaries of the solitary blog. The blog has also cause the rediscovery of forms of discourse such as the exploratory essay, epistolary conversation, and public scholarly societies (scholarly societies that are visible and present in the public eye as authorities on subjects).

Wikis provide a forum for discussion with a historical archive of past conversations. Through the interaction between scholars and non-scholars on wikis such as Wikipedia, the articles become better, more comprehensible explorations of topics. A student project using wikis could be one in which they create a scholarly essay that for a topic lacking such on Wikipedia and submit it, thus gaining the experience of creating scholarship in the public eye and contributing to the greater good of the whole.

SIMILE Timeline is another tool for creating content relevant to a course that provides a forum for discussion.

Conversations about conversations
Ning allows you to create a social network with tools like those on MySpace or Facebook but without the culture and baggage. You can do similar things in traditional academic tools such as course management software, but Ning is more attractive and functional.

What’s next? Puentedura suggests the SAMR model. As we move from substitution to augmentation to modification to redefinition in the way we use technology and tools in the classroom, we move from basic enhancement with little buy-in or value to a complete transformation of the learning process that is a true academic conversation between the student and the professor.

Resources:
The Horizon Report
ELI: 7 Things You Should Know About…
50 Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story

Learning 2008: Copywrong – Web 2.0 and Collaborative Multimedia Resources

Presenters: Paul Porterfield, Allison Czapracki, & Linda Fairtile

Fair use is not a right, it is a legal defense. That is something to keep in mind when using copyrighted materials in the classroom. Make sure you understand the circumstances and restrictions that allow for fair use before you do anything with copyrighted material.

PD Info is a website that provides information about music that is in the public domain, but they note that while some printed music is in the public domain, there is virtually no recorded music that is not covered by copyright. (Creative Commons licensed music is still covered by copyright, but the owner has assigned certain aspects of those rights to others.)

The UR Music Library maintains a server that provides streaming audio of recordings for educational use for specific courses. There are also resources such as Alexander Street Press’ American Song collection that provides streaming audio, as well as additional information about the recordings.

Public domain resources can be found all over the web. LibriVox is a site that provides free audio recordings of public domain works. Project Gutenberg provides ebook versions of public domain works.

Creative Commons is a way to allow others to use your work in whatever way you allow. This is a great tool for collaboration and new creations derived from old, just like the old days before copyright. Students need to know that they can use many CC licensed works in their assignments and presentations, and as long as they follow the license terms, they don’t need to worry about whether or not it falls under fair use. Allison has several sources for locating CC licensed or copyright-free media.

Learning 2008: A Blogging Bestiary

Presenter: Tom Woodward

If a blog were an octopus, a rhino, or a hydra, which one would it be?

In the past, making a web page was like an old woman fighting a dog — no one wanted to do it and it wasn’t pretty. A lot of people see blogs as an animal that emits fiery excrement and not something you’d want to experience.

Blogging began as ‘cat journals,’ but over time they have evolved into other things. Blogs can be whatever you make them, from boring and static to an ever-changing undefinable thing. Sort of like an octopus that can get through anything that it can fit it’s beak through.

Before you start blogging, think about the voice you want to present. Should it be yours alone or with others? The content can influence that decision. The platform you choose can also influence that, since there are often levels of permissions available in popular blogging platforms, which allows for more flexibility in who can write/publish what.

If you are using a blog to push content to students, consider incorporating relevant RSS feeds to pull content into one location. Not just text feeds, but also multi-media like music and video.

Blog software can be used to create static web pages without having to know a lot of HTML or take the time to do the coding. Depending on the software you choose, there can be many options for templates that you can use to make it better than the out-of-the-box version.

One concern with using blogs in the classroom is the openness to the world. Blogs can be limited so that only certain authorized users can see them, much less comment or contribute to them. This might be good for encouraging open participation from students, but it also means that experts or other knowledgeable people can’t contribute to the conversation.

In the end, blogs are more like octopuses. The tentacles can pull in content from all over, and it can be flexible enough to fit your needs. Check out these examples for whatever kind of blog you might want to create.

Public blogs and podcasts that generate content of interest to those outside of the classroom are more rewarding for students and take it beyond simply replacing papers or discussions with some fancy 2.0 tool. The content generated by upperclassmen can be used in teaching freshmen and sophomores, which I think is a very cool idea.

Learning 2008: Tools to Simplify Research

Presenters: Andy Morton & Laura Horne

Andy, being Andy, started the presentation with the YouTube video of Steve Ballmer going crazy. He did not do his own version of that intro.

RSS (the Common Craft video covers the basics) pulls in content from a variety of sources to one location, saving them to be read at your convenience. You can use web-based readers like Google Reader or Bloglines, or desktop tools like Outlook 2007 or NewsGator. [side note: Andy says that the university is moving to Office 2007 this summer. Gah! I thought I had escaped that nightmare….]

Undergraduate research is project focused, whereas scholars (faculty) will hold on to information for a long period of time because they are developing their field of study. This effects how both groups approach their information discovery. Scholars can use RSS to keep up with particular journals through publisher table of contents feeds or topics built using search alerts in specific databases.

CiteULike is del.icio.us for scholars, with a few additional organizational tools and features that makes it almost a hybrid of social bookmarking tool and a bibliographic management tool. There are far fewer users than on more general sites, which can be a positive or negative, depending on your perspective.

[side note: I did not have a computer with me when I took notes for the opening keynote, so I’ll be typing them up and adding them later.]