NASIG 2013: Libraries and Mobile Technologies in the Age of the Visible College

“This morning’s audience, seen from the lectern.” by Bryan Alexander

Speaker: Bryan Alexander

NITLE does a lot of research for liberal arts undergraduate type schools. One of the things that he does is publish a monthly newsletter covering trends in higher education, which may be worth paying some attention to (Future Trends). He is not a librarian, but he is a library fanboy.

What is mobile computing doing to the world, and what will it do in the future?

Things have changed rapidly in recent years. We’ve gone from needing telephone rooms at hotels to having phones in every pocket. The icon for computing has gone from desktop to laptop to anything/nothing — computing is all around us in many forms now. The PC is still a useful tool, but there are now so many other devices to do so many other things.

Smartphones are everywhere now, in many forms. We use them for content delivery and capture, and to interact with others through social tools. Over half of Americans now have a smartphone, with less than 10% remaining who have no cell phone, according to Pew. The mobile phone is now the primary communication device for the world. Think about this when you are developing publishing platforms.

The success of the Kindle laid the groundwork for the iPad. Netbooks/laptops now range in size and function.

Clickers are used extensively in the classroom, with great success. They can be used for feedback as well as prompting discussion. They are slowly shifting to using phones instead of separate devices.

Smartpens capture written content digitally as you write them, and you can record audio at the same time. One professor annotates notes on scripts while his students perform, and then provides them with the audio.

Marker-based augmented reality fumbled for a while in the US, but is starting to pick up in popularity. Now that more people have smartphones, QR codes are more prevalent.

The mouse and keyboard have been around since the 1960s, and they are being dramatically impacted by recent changes in technology. Touch screens (i.e. iPad), handhelds (i.e. WII), and nothing (i.e. Kinect).

If the federal government is using it, it is no longer bleeding edge. Ebooks have been around for a long time, in all sorts of formats. Some of the advantages of ebooks include ease of correcting errors, flexible presentation (i.e. font size), and a faster publication cycle. Some disadvantages include DRM, cost, and distribution by libraries.

Gaming has had a huge impact in the past few years. The median age of gamers is 35 or so. The industry size is comparable to music, and has impacts on hardware, software, interfaces, and other industries. There is a large and growing diversity of platforms, topics, genres, niches, and players.

Mobile devices let us make more microcontent (photo, video clip, text file), which leads to the problem of archiving all this stuff. These devices allow us to cover the world with a secondary layer of information. We love connecting with people, and rather than separating us, technology has allowed us to do that even more (except when we focus on our devices more than the people in front of us).

We’re now in a world of information on demand, although it’s not universal. Coverage is spreading, and the gaps are getting smaller.

When it comes to technology, Americans are either utopian or dystopian in our reactions. We’re not living in a middle ground very often. There are some things we don’t understand about our devices, such as multitasking and how that impacts our brain. There is also a generational divide, with our children being more immersed in technology than we are, and having different norms about using devices in social and professional settings.

The ARIS engine allows academics to build games with learning outcomes.

Augmented reality takes data and pins it down to the real world. It’s the inverse of virtual reality. Libraries are going to be the AR engine of the future. Some examples of AR include museum tours, GPS navigators, and location services (Yelp, Foursqure). Beyond that, there are applications that provide data overlaying images of what you point your phone at, such as real estate information and annotations. Google Goggles tries to provide information about objects based on images taken by a mobile device. You could have a virtual art gallery physically tied to a spot, but only displayed when viewed with an app on your phone.

Imagine what the world will be like transformed by the technology he’s been talking about.

1. Phantom Learning: Schools are rare and less needed. The number of people physically enrolled in schools has gone down. Learning on demand is now the thing. Institutions exist to supplement content (adjuncts), and libraries are the media production sites. Students are used to online classes, and un-augmented locations are weird.

II. Open World: Open content is the norm and is very web-centric. Global conversations increase, with more access and more creativity. Print publishers are nearly gone, authorship is mysterious, tons of malware, and privacy is fictitious. The internet has always been open and has never been about money. Identities have always been fictional.

III. Silo World: Most information is experienced in vertical stacks. Open content is almost like public access TV. Intellectual property intensifies, and campuses reorganize around the silos. Students identify with brands and think of “open” as radical and old-fashioned.

musings on web-scale discovery systems

photo by Pascal

My library is often on the forefront of innovation, having the advantage of a healthy budget and staff size, yet small enough to be nimble. Frequently, when my colleagues return from conferences and give their reports, they’ll conclude with something along the lines of “we’re already doing most of the things they talked about.” At a recent conference report session, that was repeated again, with one exception: we have not implemented a web-scale discovery system.

I’m of two minds about web-scale discovery systems. In theory, they’re pretty awesome, allowing users to discover all of the content available to them from the library, regardless of the source or format. But in reality, they’re hamstrung by exclusive deals and coding limitations. The initial buzz was that they caused a dramatic increase in the use of library resources, but a few years in, and I’m hearing conflicting reports and grumblings.

We held off on buying a web-scale discovery system for two main reasons: one, we didn’t have the funding secured, and two, most of the reference librarians felt indifferent to outright dislike towards the systems out there at the time. We’re now in the process of reviewing and evaluating the current systems available, after many discussions about which problems we are hoping they will solve.

In the end, they really aren’t “Google for Libraries.” We think that our users want a single search box, but do they really? I heard an anecdote about how the library had spent a lot of time teaching users where to find their web-scale discovery system, making sure it was visible on the main library page, etc. After a professor assigned the same students to find a known article (gave them the full citation) using the web-scale discovery system (called it by name), the most frequent question the library got was, “How do I google the <name of web-scale discovery system>?”

I wonder if the ROI really is significant enough to implement and promote a web-scale discovery system? These systems are not cheap, and they take a bit of labor to maintain them. And, frankly, if the battle over exclusive content continues to be waged, it won’t be easy to pick the best one for our collection/users and know that it will stay that way for more than six months or a year.

Does your library have a web-scale discovery system? Is it everything you thought it would be? Would you pick the same one if you had to choose again?

LITA 2008: Portals to Learning – What librarians can learn from video game design

Saying “this is how you type in a text box” is like saying “let’s talk about breathing today.”

Speakers: Nicholas Schiller (Washington State University, Vancouver) and Carole Svensson (University of Washington, Tacoma)

We’re not getting any younger, but our students are. We think of new technologies as ways to deliver old ideas, but really we need to mix it up.

Gaming literacy is a way of looking at the media of video games and interactive media through the eyes of the designers and the players. It’s not helpful to view this as a zero sum game – it’s not about competing with reading literacy.

Games are now mainstream media. They are more significant to our students than they were for the generations that came before them (i.e. most of us librarian types). Video games are viable competitors with movies, television, and popular music. All indicators show that the population of gamers is only going to get larger over time.

We don’t need to be advocates of games in order to understand our users that are gamers. We need to be literate in this new media in order to connect with and serve those users. If we don’t understand them, then we are not equipped to either critique or use gaming media.

How do we think intelligently about “childish” things? Separate the content from the format and use the analytical tools we already know (like Deb Gilchrist’s 5 questions for outcomes-based design or Adler and Van Doren’s How to Read a Book) and apply them to new media.

Think about the experiences of using character based interfaces and a GUI like III’s Millennium. The two experiences are very different, but the content is the same.

The point of studying gaming behavior is rarely the context of the games. Games are complex information systems. They must teach players to evaluate information and make informed choices in order to succeed. Games that fail to do this well do not sell. Being frustrated is not fun.

We want students to understand that their information needs are complex and require complex tools like scholarly bibliographic indexes in order to meet those needs. However, most of our users think that their information needs are simple and instead gravitate towards simpler tools like Wikipedia and Google.

MMORPGs like World of Warcraft (WoW) have an emphasis on collaboration and apprenticeship. Working with friends meant that the experience was less frustrating as a new user. In library instruction classes, allowing students to self-select their groups for team exercises will guarantee groups that are more comfortable with each other from the get-go.

Collaborative games also de-emphasize authority distinctions and emphasize peer knowledge. Peers are the best sources for information in games, rather than the help document or support tech. The average time that a peer responded in WoW was 32 seconds. What’s your IM/email reference response time? Also, for peer knowledge to work well, we need to have FAQs or knowledgebases that are built on by student knowledge over time.

In the games, each level builds on the next one, which is like how we try to teach library stuff. However, in the game, it tends to be more fun. Game players are not tempted to skip forward because the games are structured so that you only see the part of the world that you’ve mastered. When game players get to the point where they need additional information, it’s desired rather than being overwhelming. In teaching library tools, focus on fewer things until users get comfortable with them, and then show them more.

Players build resources for helping each other and developing community. Do we see that happening with EBSCOhost? No.

When you fail in WoW, you know what to do. Find someone to help you or look for information in the user-created content online. When students fail in the classroom or library, do they know what to do? Building expertise and community allows them to understand that keeping at it will result in success.

Gating is a mandatory pause in the action of a game that requires demonstration of skill acquisition. In the classroom, design research assignments to require identification of and reflection on research choices, or create annotated bibliographies.

Why doesn’t Laura Croft obey Professor Van Croy? Players learn that sometimes if they do what the instructions tell them to not do, they get rewarded. By exploring the game outside of the small boundaries, they learn more about what is there. In the classroom, this translates to discovery based learning. Pique their curiosity and then let them discover the advanced tools in a resource.

As in higher education, the more you “level up,” the more you need help from experts. Experienced librarians are better equipped to say “I don’t know” and refer the information seeker to experts. With each level of research, you have to keep at the process until you find the answers you seek.

If we can help our students see when they’re playing games, they are actually functioning on a fairly high level on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Then, we can help them see that their complex and involved academic research is not only something they are capable of doing, but it’s something that they’ve already done while playing games, as long as we keep our focus on the process of games and not the zombies and vampires.

Students don’t have trouble figuring out how to use our tech, but they don’t understand why they would want to use it. So, instead of teaching them how to use the catalog, we should be instilling in them the motivation to use it and they’ll figure out the quirks on their own. Saying “this is how you type in a text box” is like saying “let’s talk about breathing today.”

more degrees for the same pay

In a recent Chronicle article, Todd Gilman complains about the lack of job postings for librarian subject specialists who have secondary master’s or doctoral degrees. While I think he makes valid points for why subject specialists should have post-graduate education in their fields of study, particularly if they are in tenure-track positions, I think he misses the mark as to why libraries are hiring folks without those degrees.

In that job posting and many others, the most attention paid to subject expertise (in the form of a master’s or Ph.D.) is a brief mention in the list of “preferred” qualifications. That is a strong indication that the hiring institution will settle for less — much less. In fact, I’m told that in a number of recent hires, Ph.D.’s and M.A.’s — some with years of professional experience working in top academic libraries in addition to having an MLIS — have been passed over in favor of candidates straight out of library school whose only previous degree was a bachelor’s.

Were they passed over because they asked for more compensation than what the institution was willing to pay? I suspect that may play a much larger role than what Mr. Gilman is giving it.

Libraries are usually the first target for budget cuts, and one of the biggest expenses in a library is staff salaries. Someone who has post-graduate degrees beyond the MLS will likely expect to be compensated for the additional skills and knowledge they bring to the job. University administrators either don’t understand or don’t care about the value that these folks add to collections and instruction, and as a result, they are unwilling to meet the compensation demands of these “better qualified” candidates. Recent graduates in any field will cost the university less in the salary department, and that short-term benefit is the only one that (mostly short-timer) administrators care about.

Given all that, would you go through the trouble of getting a second master’s degree or a doctoral degree, knowing that unless you are already in a tenure-track position with fair compensation, it is unlikely that you’ll be payed any more than you are already? Probably not, unless you were particularly passionate about research in your field of study.

Even so, that research might not help you with tenure, as some colleagues of mine discovered when their institution’s tenure requirements changed so that scholarship in their primary field (read: library science) alone counted towards tenure and post-tenure review. Nevermind that they focused most of their scholarly research in their secondary subject specialties.

All of the above is why I took myself out of the tenure-track world. I have no interest (at this time) in becoming a subject specialist in anything but what I do every day: librarianship. I’m happy to let others make decisions about content, so long as they let me focus on my areas of expertise, such as delivery platforms, access, and licensing issues.

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