Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Teaching Boolean search with peanut butter

While getting together a list of YouTube videos to help with my teaching I came across a gem called "What the heck is Boolean searching?" from Hunter Library, West Carolina University. Fancy seeing Boolean explained using peanut butter, strawberry or fig jelly sandwiches, delivered with a superb Southern drawl? And when she comes to searches using brackets (or parentheses) bananas come into the "equation" too... It's quite a cute idea (messy too). However, it IS memorable and Tony Buzan ("Use your head") in his memory techniques always recommended use of very strong images, tastes, or associations. This is particuarly strong for me as peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches are one of the most awful tastes I have ever had!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Walk with Google Maps

Recently I had a week in Dorset walking : hot, beautiful, but 6 miles in Dorset feel like 14 miles anywhere else, because it's up and down and twisty. Now I shall be able to take advantage of Google Maps latest beta : walking directions. I've had a quick look for my own town and it works pretty well. This could be nifty for getting students round our convoluted campuses one day : especially when they manage to make this available on the new iPhone. It'll come...

Knol, Google's answer to Wikipedia?

Google have announced Knol, a collection of authoritative articles, written by a community of experts. After having a quick look at it, and reading comments from other bloggers, it is a site to watch in future, but not of immediate interest. The content is naturally very limited and much of this is medical. Despite the naming of authors, sometimes with credentials, it is hard to see the articles having sufficient authority to be recommendable. Maybe a student class could be given an assignment to compare an article between Knol, Wikipedia and Britannica in due course.

For more comment see ReadWrite Web.

Saviing Student Brian : Induction Orientation at UK

Filmed partially in Second Life, this library orientation video on YouTube shows how UK Libraries helped Brian. Makes a change form those tours dragging unwilling freshers around the building..matbe its a bit long though. Worth a look though for ideas.

Kids' Reading skills

There's a debate (see New York Times : "Literacy debate R U really reading?" in the United States at present about whether kids read as their parents used to, and whether the Web is having a beneficial or pernicious effect. As Will Ricahardson says in Weblogg-ed
"As teenagers’ scores on standardized reading tests have declined or stagnated, some argue that the hours spent prowling the Internet are the enemy of reading — diminishing literacy, wrecking attention spans and destroying a precious common culture that exists only through the reading of books.
But others say the Internet has created a new kind of reading, one that schools and society should not discount. The Web inspires a teenager like Nadia, who might otherwise spend most of her leisure time watching television, to read and write."
Should kids be taught to read online? Will Richardson thinks we do need to help them to navigate online reading sources and get a balance between print and digital. School librarians have a role here I would suggest. Surely there is huge richness in the content of the Web, fantastic opportunity for making connections, but at the same time the need to be able to read and comprehend a complex argument or follow a long narrative are skills which will need to be retained and fostered.

Pew Report on Writing by Teens

"Even though teens are heavily embedded in a tech-rich world, they do not believe that communication over the internet or text messaging is writing."
April 2008 PewReport on Writing, Technology and Teens.

Here are the Summary Findings at a Glance:

-Even though teens are heavily embedded in a tech-rich world, they do not believe that communication over the internet or text messaging is writing.
-The impact of technology on writing is hardly a frivolous issue because most believe that good writing is important to teens’ future success.
-Teens are motivated to write by relevant topics, high expectations, an interested audience and opportunities to write creatively.
-Writing for school is a nearly every-day activity for teens, but most assignments are short.
-Teens believe that the writing instruction they receive in school could be improved.
-Non-school writing, while less common than school writing, is still widespread among teens.
-Multi-channel teens and gadget owners do not write any more -- or less -- than their counterparts, but bloggers are more prolific.
-Teens more often write by hand for both out-of-school writing and school work.
-As tech-savvy as they are, teens do not believe that writing with computers makes a big difference in the quality of their writing.
-Parents are generally more positive than their teen children about the effect of computers and textbased communication tools on their child’s writing.
-Teens enjoy non-school writing, and to a lesser extent, the writing they do for school.

Source: Lenhart, Amanda; Arafeh, Sousan; Smith, Aaron and Rankin Macgill, Alexandra. Writing, Technology and Teens, Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project, April 24, 2008.

LOEX 2009 and gems of the past

The 39th National Conference "Blazing Trails to Information Literacy" is being launched for Alberqerque, New Mexico, 30 April-2 May 2009 (with cowboy poster, which I like...)
Perhaps of more use to us now is the really useful collection to links to presentations from previous Conferences.
Here are some examples from 2008 :

Wiki-ing Your Way into Collaborative Learning (Molly Beestrum, Systems Librarian, Dominican University,Kenneth Orenic, Instruction/Reference Librarian, Dominican University),
iTour: How We Stuffed 6 Floors of Milner Library Into the Palm of You Hand (Sean Walton, Instructional Asst. Professor, Milner Library - Illinois State University),
Library Instruction and Student Engagement in the Age of Google (William H. Weare, Jr., Access Services Librarian, Valparaiso University, Michelle Kowalsky, Adjunct Professor and Reference Librarian, William Paterson University)
“Why Does Google Scholar Sometimes Ask for Money?” Leveraging the Economics of Information and Scholarly Communication Processes to Enrich Instruction
Scott Warren, Associate Director, Textiles Library and Engineering Services, North Carolina State University Libraries , Kim Duckett, Principal Librarian for Digital Technologies and Learning, North Carolina State University Libraries) This last presentation is a gem.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Information Literacy and Social Networking resources

In the past week I have created a couple of resources. The first is a Pageflakes page on Information Literacy with relevant feeds from blogs and some other resources (e.g. a couple of journals and discussion lists). This is at I am aiming to keep this resource up-to-date.
The second is a set of pages on Netvibes on social networking tools that I created for workshops I ran yesterday for the ARLIS conference in Liverpool. Again there are mostly links to resources and feeds, but also some little explanatory notes and a few embedded items. This resource is at (n.b. no slash at the end). There is a general page, plus a page each on microblogging, Facebook etc, and virtual worlds.
Comparing the two applications: Netvibes seems to have more scope in allowing you to embed a wider range of items e.g. HTML, so that for example I could embed a Google Lively room in a Netvibes page. In Netvibes you have Private and Public pages - something I didn't notice to start with, which resulted in a moment of blind panic when I realised I had created this resource "privately" and might have to recreate it publically.
However you can actually publish pages from private to public with one click, making it a useful feature: you can work on a page and just reveal it when ready. An oddity (I think) is that some features are only available in one view or another - boomarks only in private and HTML strings only in public. I think that Netvibes will offer memore scope in the future for use in teaching and learning (compared with Pageflakes), although I might end up with a confusingly large number of tabbed pages if I use it a lot.


Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

I tried it with the content of this blog. Go into Wordle and then follow the instructions. Lots of alternative coloured layouts will be offered. Pick the one you want, save it and then paste the code into where you require it. Could be useful for web sites, presentations.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Web 2.0 papers from the World Library and Information Conference

I was trawling through the programme of the World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) for information literacy papers for my infolit blog (see my blog post at
for those links) and came across some Web 2.0 items of interest. WLIC presenters provide full text papers which are mounted on the IFLA website, often in more than one language. This has built up to a valuable resource, as this is the most international of library conferences. The 2008 papers are all linked from one very long "Programme" page and although the conference is next month many papers are already there, including these ones.

Using web 2.0 in the Australian parliaments: the dream and reality, by Roxanne Missingham, Parliamentary Librarian, Australian Parliamentary Library

One of a number of papers about using virtual worlds for reference services is:
Gimmick or groundbreaking? Canadian academic libraries using chat reference in multi-user virtual environments by Amy Buckland and Krista Godfrey (McMaster University Library, Hamilton, Canada)

Also there are a number of papers in the Continuing Professional Development and Workplace Learning session "Emerging technologies in libraries – continuing professional development and workplace learning implications and applications" , namely:

Using web 2.0 technologies to develop a sense of community for emerging LIS Professoinals by Bob Glass (Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK)

Platforms for real-time collaborative learning for practising librarians: using blogs, wikis and e-mailing by Wun Han Chow (National Library of Singapore, Singapore)

Developing new skills and expertise to support digital scholarship and scholarly communication by Brian Rosenblum (University Kansas, Lawrence, USA)

Friday, 11 July 2008

Online presence in 2008

Michelle McLean posted about this recently. " There’s been a lot of discussion about what social software people are using, people stopping blogging and some restarting and more. In the light of this, I thought it was about time I sorted out all the myriad of thoughts and ideas that are going around my head and totally confuse you about it too."
She continues "I have been exploring lots of social software online in the past 3 years or so and I think I am finally settling into a few selected ones that I am enjoying. "

I thought I would share my experiences : they are similar in many ways to Michelle.
I tried Library 2.0 on Ning too but dont really use it.
I found Linkedin inappropriate and Facebook is the place I use for social networking.
I could not exist without delicious : its where I store my book marks everyday and is invaluable offcampus.
I ought to do more with my LibraryThing account (like Michelle) and thought of adding all the books I read (for pleasure you understand too). I used to do this kind of thing as a teenager on paper but my enthusiasm was never shared so that is the great change enabled by these tools.
I use flickr and YouTube as a source for teaching and presentations. Wikipedia is amazing and I enjoy teaching with it, and one day contributing to it..
I dont Twitter, but have it on my list to try along with FriedFeed. Trouble with these things could be that you dont have time to actually do anything because you are all the time online ..... yes its the sharing side that justifies it, I know.
This blog takes a good while - choosing content - and developing the bells and whistles. Like Michelle I havent read Clay Shirky's "Here comes everybody". It has been on the shelf a while. Job for the summer vac.
Remember the Milk has been a great help sorting out my time and I wish I'd used it as a manager - much better than those illegible paper lists that had to be re-written again and again.
Pageflakes (thanks to PhilBradley's enthusiam) suits me very well as a home page. I ought to use Slideshare more, and have usually relied on the Conference and workshop organisers to put my presentations on their site, which is much more hidden.
There are more sites I have signed up for, maybe ought to use, but for some reason have not. The exciting thing is that I can still change my mind, or just choose the new tools that come along.

Disruptive Scholarship ; an idea whose time has come

Gerry McKiernan's presentation last month at the International Plagiarism Conference in Newcastle (UK) can be viewed. As he says "In this presentation, we will review the Read/Write Traditions of the Arts, Humanities, and Sciences; analyze key Past / Present / Future Participatory Technologies; and explore the potential of Web 2.0 for creating/fostering Disruptive Learning / Scholarship / Teaching in the 21st century." The 152 slides contain some interesting connections between the way material has and may be re-used in the future across a variety of disciplines. Just as the stones of Hadrian's Wall have been re-used (just like our Roman buildings in the tower St Albans Abbey!) so will words and ideas be re-used. The slides about wikis and wikipedia are to me the most useful, and wikis could become "highly appropriate for sholarly communication if scholars trust one another and are collaborating onthe text...,and security and rollback mechanisms are in place."(David Mattison).There are examples of Wikipedia school and University projects. Finally there are lots of mock tag clouds at the end of the presentation to reinforce the message.

Mind the skills gap : Information-handling for Researchers : the RIN report

This report by Research Information Network looks at how researchers in HE acquire the appropriate skills to discover and handle information resources and services, the training opportunities offered for them and the take-up. Unsurprisingly they uncovered patchy, uncoordinated provision with insufficient evidence of potential audience size or take-up. Library involvement was significant but often uncoordinated with other University training. There was a mismatch between the terms and content librarians and researchers thought appropriate. Librarians were often unclear of the paramenters of their role, and there were few examples of strategic application to researchers' training at institutional or faculty level. Attempts to bring researchers up to date with Web 2.0 services had met with "at best mixed success." More worrying, library input tended to focus on information seeking, citation of sources and library services, with much less emphasis on evaluation, organising, managing, transforming or communicating information , or copyright and open access. The latter are key areas in 2008 - the Web 2.0 world : librarians have a duty and opportunity here.
RIN will be consulting with Research Council UK , Vitae, RLUK , SCONUL and other relevant bodies. I hope that librarians will make a forceful contribution by widening their commitment, and increasing the scope of their contribution to ensure researchers have the information skills appropriate in the 21st century.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Snapshot of Second Life in UK HE and FE

John Kirriemuir (one of our authors) has continued his investigations into take-up of SL in the UK. His May 2008 Eduserv report is now available.
To the question : Has your institution’s library taken an interest/role in developing in SL? most survey respondents either gave no reply to this question, or a negative one. About half of those who gave a non-negative reply indicated that their institutions library was interested, but not actively developing.

There was a phrase he picked up somewhere : "It was that librarians going on Second Life is like the geography teacher at the school disco!" Librarians trying to be where th students are. The criteria for him must be derived from some construction of what higher education is about; "so, in brief, how does Second Life contribute to the acquisition of metacognitive skills? And, if it does, does it also simultaneously undermine that process, through a combination of reduction of attention span and rational constructive capacity, and a disregard for truth in an environment in which the imagination, pretence, and wishful thinking tend to become the predominant norms?"

Solutions for doing your subject guides

Free and open source options for creating database-driven subject guides, by Edward M.Corrado and Kathryn A. Frederick is a detailed article on options libraries have for updating subject pages. These can be a major prop for IL support so this article may save you some time if you are loioking into this.

ticTOCS take the pain out of RSS

An article in the recent SCONUL Newsletter drew my attention to the JISC ticTOCs project. This uses a single entry point where academics can apply for RSS feeds to their chosen journal TOCS (table of contents)from a variety of publishers, negating the need to make applications to individual publishers. Inspired by an idea from Roddy MacLeod of Heriot-Watt University, it is really useful for serious researchers, and a great use of Web 2.0 technology. Prototype site now available for use.

Using your byte...IL skills for dental health students

Using your byte: a collaborative approach to evaluating improvement in information literacy skills using Web 2.0 technologies for dental and oral health students: a pilot study by Nicola Foxlee, and Pauline Ford at University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. The Liaison Librarian and first year Course Coordinators investigated ways to evaluate the information literacy skills of first year dental and oral health students.Instruction tailored to a specific assignment task was supported by an electronic assignment guide. Course tools on Blackboard, a virtual learning environment were trialled to reinforce the face-to-face instruction, deliver the e-guide, and to enable small group collaborative activity and evaluation of skills improvement.

Awful pun, pity there isnt more detail to get my teeth into, but an interesting project, which would be interesting to follow up and might have been a candidate for the book.

Open University as Web 2.0 trend-setter

Brian Kelly posted on his UKWebFocus about OU's portfolio of Web 2.0 services and drew attention to their early presence on YouTube, iTunes, Twitter and OpenLearn.

"Why would you use words on the screen when they do just fine in your mouth?"

David Jakes and Dean Shareski wish more Powerpoint presenters would remember these wise words by Seth Godin. Edublogs contains a superb short summary of this presentation indicating how teachers should get their students to do Powerpoints. Get rid of those bullet points! Really insightful article which might make you think how you do your next presentation.

Google goes into Second Life

Google have announced their Google Lively vitual world, available through a browser plugin via Firefox and Internet Explorer. Unlike Second Life it is not a single world but splits off different worlds into separate rooms. Using a Google account you can create avatars and interact with others as in Second Life. You can YouTube clips on virtual creens and share photos. Opinions vary as to its quality and where it is leading. See article in ReadWriteWeb, where one of the comments suggests they are aiming at the educational market. As John Major used to say "It's too early to say : we shall have to wait and see".

Librarian loses it about Dewey!!

I enjoyed this one too (Librarian lays down the law) - I think we've all been there sometime and maybe I could use this as a trigger to talk about how books are shelved.

Librarian Song

Thanks to Library Videos, the best of blog, I enjoyed this one. As Joe Uveges sings "you showed it to me, did it with me, smiled so happily when I could do it myself!". Now that's Information Literacy!

100 Awesome Youtube Vids for Librarians

Laura Milligan has done a great job collecting together this super list of 100 videos. It's split into categories like Using databases ; Academic librarians ; Librarians and technology ; Outreach and special program ideas ; Skits and cartoons ; Library etiquette ; Spreading the good news ; Digging through archives and public records ; Reading campaigns ; Library tools ; Just for laughs ; Showing some librarians and libraries some love. You've guessed it - I've been looking at the fun ones -"Angry Librarian" is a good training tool for showing an annoying patron and help desk librarian. Mr. Bean in the Library makes me wince.

A really useful list which we can use for inspiration for next year's IL classes...

My 60th Wild West Party

Anyone who has suffered my Powerpoint presentations will know that I am a Wild West fan! Last Saturday was my 60th Birthday Bash (I'm not really 60 til next Tuesday,15th) and 75 friends, family, librarians and musicians humoured me by coming to a Wild West party (3.00-10.00) in the Waterend Barn in St. Albans! With suitable Wild West food and square dancing from the Brookfield Band, everyone seemed to enjoy it...the costumes were amazing, and I got to wear that enormous Plains Indian headdress....(I always wanted to wear one on an enquiry desk and see whether anyone commented..) My teens were spent researching the Wild West, and it has been a joy to visit some of the sites (Tombstone, Arizona ; Fort Laramie, Wyoming and Monument Valley, Utah/Arizona). It was even better to be able to share my party with so many friends and colleagues and so for your amusement I am including a few photos in the next posts..

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Is Google making us stupid?

Nicholas Carr begins his thought-provoking article by reminding us of the touching scene in Stanley Kubrick's file "2001" where HAL (the super computer) is gradually unplugged by the hero, and blurts "Dave, my mind is going, I can feel it. I can feel it".
Is something of the same happening to us today? Have we forgotten how to read? We know for instance from the CIBER report, that students power browse (and so do I).
The article is a good read, but teachers of reading (and librarians) will know that there has always been different types of reading (e.g. skimming). As they say "we need more research" to convince us that the Google generation not only doesn't read but can't read. Comments???

Public lives : does the internet know too much about us?

Michael Savage wrote a revisionist view in the Independent Extra 0n Monday 30 June. Expecting it to be another polemic about loss of privacy, I was interested to read about the positive benefits of more open profiles. He tells us about how much he can find out about an average internet user : his father. Perhaps this could be replicated for a third of the population of this country. There is no going back : the information is there. " We may be used to hearing about the inconsequential tittle-tattle of celebrities, but we may all have to get used to living our lives in the full glare of the public spotlight."
Some people are taking the line that this can be a good thing."As all the barriers between our public and private personas come tumbling down online, we may well realise that it's not such a bad thing. Digital curtain-twitching could be the means for creating a more relaxed, honest and unashamedly open society." Perhaps Boris Johnson wouldn't have lost his Deputy, or political leaders wouldn't be so paranoid about the drugs they took wile at University. Perhaps the News of the World wouldn't have so much to write about!
He continues by suggesting that the internet makes us more of a global village, bringing people together, where people know more about each other, and paradoxically leading to new interest groups, and linkages being made. Interesting stuff.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

IFLA newsletter

The latest issue of the IFLA Information Technology section newsletter focuses on Library 2.0:

Friday, 4 July 2008

Lots of free Library 2.0 tutorials

It is fantastic the way Library 2.0 has taken off and as part of this there are now so many free tutorials available. Jessica Merritt has done a great job pulling 100 of these together in her post 100 Free Library 2.0 Tutorials (under headings like Getting Started ; Usefulness ; Social Libraries ; Communication ; Data ; Online Learning ; Specific Tools ; Collaboration and Distribution ; Improving Appeal and Service and Staff.) To do a list like this she must have mastered all the time management techniques mentioned in my pervious post (and more)! Brilliant!

Having trouble managing your time?

Here are a couple of short articles on information overload and how to cope. They're short and might give you heart! I puzzle over how some people seem to write 20 posts a day, keep abreast of 100 blogs, multitask etc.etc.
Guess the key phrase in the second article is
"Want to eliminate your distractions, it's easy. Disable email alerts. Exit Twitter, sign out of IM or set yourself as "busy." Trying to write? Launch Darkroom, Notepad, or Windows Live Writer. Then just peace."

Free Web Conferencing tools

Remembering the fun I recently had holding a webinar using wimba, I came across a post from Ellyssa Krosski's i-Librarian which details 6 Free Web Conferencing Tools Librarians Will Love.

I haven't tried any of these and it would be great to hear from anyone who has.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Great Expectations of ICT

The JISC report Great expectations of ICT : how Higher Education Institutions are measuring up is worth some attention. Following on from the June 2007 phase one research Student Expectations report (which I felt was of limited value on its own because it was hard for the participants to be very clear about what to expect before they even got there) the new report tries to capture the views of the same students once they experience University plus another sample of students not previously surveyed. The results are interesting. Here are a few key quotes from the summary findings :

"Some technologies will be easier to introduce into the teaching
environment than others. One challenge is to introduce new
technologies – such as wikis, which are perceived to be little used,
(although in reality they do tend to be used to a certain degree).
Another is to encourage students to use those technologies that they
currently use in a social situation – such as social networking sites –
for work. These different challenges will require different approaches
from teachers and course designers, and universities will need to
support their staff to deliver this. Universities need to be aware of the
way students already use social networking sites, to help students use
the networks they already have in place; also being aware that some
students currently do not use social networking sites at all."

"Universities could benefit from delivering training which highlights the way students think about information, rather than the way they use technology itself. Students
note that ICT training is often limited to how to use web based
technology, rather than how to think about the potential of various
types of technology. There is an opportunity here for universities to
really add value to the learning experience, by thinking beyond the
practical measures of how to use ICT and training students to look for
opportunities in ICT for learning. A second area for training to focus
on could be the importance of checking the validity of sources used for
research. It appears that students think that they are doing this,
although their methods may not be sufficiently rigorous, and training
should highlight the best way to do this." Enter Information Literacy!

"When students set up their own mechanisms for collaborative
learning, they are more engaged than when tutors set up the
mechanisms for them." This may be important to remember if we try to use blogs or wikis.

Making Academic Conferences more efficient

Have been doing quite a lot of presenting lately (more of that another day) so that's why I 've been so quiet. Catching up with my blog reading I found this wonderful suggestion from John Kirriemuir (who wrote the chapter in our book on digital games) which may amuse you. It's about combatting the slump at lunch time...