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.

CIL 2009: CM Tools: Drupal, Joomla, & Rumba

Speaker: Ryan Deschamps

In the end, you will install and play with several different content management systems until you find the right one for your needs. A good CMS will facilitate the division of labor, support the overall development of the site, and ensure best practices/standards. It’s not about the content, it’s about the cockpit. You need something that will make your staff happy so that it’s easy to build the right site for your users.

Joomla was the #1 in market share with good community support when Halifax went with it. Ultimately, it wasn’t working, so they switched to MODx. Joomla, unfortunately, gets in the way of creative coding.

ModX, unlike Joomla, has fine-grain user access. Templates are plain HTML, so no need to learn code specific to the CMS. The community was smaller, but more engaged.

One feature that Deschamps is excited about is the ability to create a snippet with pre-set options that can be inserted in a page and changed as needed. An example of how this would be used is if you want to put specific CC licenses on pages or have certain images displayed.

The future: "application framework" rather than "content management system"

Speaker: John Blyberg

Drupal has been named open source CMS of the year for the past two years in part due to the community participation. It scales well, so it can go from being a small website to a large and complex one relatively easily. However, it has a steep learning curve. Joomla is kind of like Photoshop Elements, and Drupal is more like the full Photoshop suite.

Everything you put into Drupal is a node, not a page. It associates bits of information with that node to flesh out a full page. Content types can be classified in different ways, with as much diversity as you want. The taxonomies can be used to create the structure of your website.

[Blyberg showed some examples of things that he likes about Drupal, but the detail and significance are beyond me, so I did not record them here. You can probably find out more when/if he posts his presentation.]

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.

I got skillz and I know how to use them

What I wouldn’t give for a pre-conference workshop on XML or SQL or some programming language that I could apply to my daily work!

Recently, Dorothea Salo was bemoaning the lack of technology skills among librarians. I hear her, and I agree, but I don’t think that the library science programs have as much blame as she wants to assign to them.

Librarianship has created an immense Somebody Else’s Problem field around computers. Unlike reference work, unlike cataloguing, unlike management, systems is all too often not considered a librarian specialization. It is therefore not taught at a basic level in some library schools, not offered as a clear specialization track, and not recruited for as it needs to be. And it is not often addressed in a systematic fashion by continuing-education programs in librarianship.

I guess my program, eight years ago, was not one of those library schools that doesn’t teach basic computer technology. Considering that my program was not a highly ranked program, nor one known for being techie, I’m surprised to learn that we had a one-up on some other library science programs. Not only were there several library tech (and basic tech) courses available, everyone was required to take at least one computer course to learn hardware and software basics, as well as rudimentary HTML.

That being said, I suspect that the root of Salo’s ire is based in what librarians have done with the tech knowledge they were taught. In many cases, they have done nothing, letting those who are interested or have greater aptitude take over the role of tech guru in their libraries. Those of us who are interested in tech in general, and library tech in specific, have gone on to make use of what we were taught, and have added to our arsenal of skills.

My complaint, and one shared by Salo, is that we are not given very many options for learning more through professional continuing education venues that cover areas considered to be traditional librarian skills. What I wouldn’t give for a pre-conference workshop on XML or SQL or some programming language that I could apply to my daily work!

women in digital librarianship

In the August 2006 issue of Library Journal, Roy Tennant writes about the gender gap in digital librarianship. It’s a concern that I have been pondering on a more personal level for quite some time. I totally geek out over the shiny toys being pumped out by the Library 2.0 geniuses, but when it comes to creating my own contributions, I falter. Even just writing about them makes me nervous. Who am I to pretend to know something about these things? I’m just the person who pays the bills.

This is not entirely an accurate picture of my work, but a great deal of it does involve managing budgets, as well as staff. Occasionally my Dean will discuss my scholarship direction and interest in library technology, and inevitably the phrase, “but I’m not an expert on that!” will come out of my mouth. He wants me to publish, and I find myself floundering around trying to find something – anything – that I might know more about than the average librarian. The problem is that I am the average librarian.

I’m not Michael Stephens and Jenny Levine, jetting off to here and there to bring the wonders of Library 2.0 to the commoners. I’m not Sarah Houghton with my hands buried up to my elbows in library technology. I’m just a normal person with some HTML skills and an interest in technology. I’ll never be a Mover and Shaker.

This is the mental block that gets thrown up every time I think about my role in digital librarianship. I’m always going to be on the second or third wave of folks implementing new technology in libraries.

What I need are the tools to become more technologically savvy. I’ve looked into some of the options offered at my university, but aside from seeming rather intimidating, I worry that they will be too broad for my needs. What I would really like to see are some training sessions like what Michael and Jenny have been doing, but at a higher level. For example, how about something for folks who already know about RSS feeds but don’t have the skills or tools to use them in more creative ways? That would be very useful. Or maybe a crash course in MySQL databases with PHP interfaces. I can think of a lot of uses for that just in my daily job.

Some of us are lucky enough to live relatively close to Library Science programs. If the iSchool at the University of Washington offered a day or two long continuing education course on MySQL and PHP in the library setting, I would attend.

Maybe that’s something that Tennant and his posse should consider. We can’t wait for a new generation of women to grow up encouraged to be interested in technology. We need to do something for the women who are currently in the profession, as well.