Library Websites Worth Looking At

If you haven’t ever read/seen Aaron Schmidt’s work, he’s got that snarky sense of humor that I very much appreciate. For example, his take on QR Codes in Libraries.

Anyway, he and his organization posted some evals of quality library websites. Worth a look, especially if you’re ever looking for libraries/features to model a library website after in the near future!

What I like about WPBeginner

I started with a WordPress.com blog in fall 2012 (well, actually my instructor hosted WordPress.org blogs for those of us in his course that summer, but I had to transfer the content after the course ended). I played with WordPress.com for a year before I decided that it was time to take back control and have access to the HMTL code again (not that I was using it more than pasting in Goodreads widgets, but still.)

For me the transfer process and install of a self-hosted WordPress.org site was daunting. It still is. There is something about domain hosting that trips up my little brain. However, I do follow detailed, step-by-step instructions well, and lucky for me, they are out there.

WP Beginner was exactly what I was looking for, more than once: http://www.wpbeginner.com/

For example, here were the instructions I needed to transfer WP.com to WP.org. I think as we start the actual coding for our upcoming redesign projects, this article about creating child themes is really going to come in handy because it explains how to modify some of the stuff the WordPress takes care of for you by providing themes. When we sketched out our ideas and chose color schemes in the early planning stages, we based them on our creative imaginations, not existing WP themes, so we’ll have to compromise those idea or pitch them unless we do some modifying. So in this case, I’m pretty jazzed about having some instructions.

Another thing this site does really well is answering the question, “How can I do X with WordPress?” and enlightening you to some of the possibilities that you might tap into within the realm of this CMS. I had no idea that you could password-protect a single post, for example, but here’s how. Let’s say you want to mess with the line spacing in the CSS, which we learned how to do from our course readings, but since we didn’t handcode the content, it might not be obvious what the classes or IDs were tagged with–maybe not the hardest thing to examine and figure out on your own, but I think I would appreciate someone just telling me what to look for specifically in WP. I still need help with Google Analytics, and I am encouraged by the help WP Beginner has to offer for that too.

So, if this is your first experience with WordPress, this is where I would start: http://www.wpbeginner.com/guides/. In fact, the guides pretty much go in order of the things you would want to do:

  1. How to Pick the Right Domain Name
  2. How to Choose the Best WordPress Hosting
  3. How to Install WordPress on Your Site
  4. How to Select a Perfect WordPress Theme
  5. Recommended Plugins for WordPress
  6. How to Install and Setup Google Analytics in WordPress
  7. Setup a Professional Email Address for Your WordPress Blog

Annotation: MOOCs in K-12

Locke, M. (2013). MOOC: Will these four letters change K-12? Scholastic Adminstr@tor, Summer 2013. Retrieved December 8, 2013, from http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3758098

This article describes the potential of MOOCs, or massive open online courses, being used in K-12 education They could be used for SAT prep or for schools that struggle to find instructors to lead an advanced course like AP Calculus. Unfortunately, cheating is hard to regulate and MOOCs also lack the relationship/teacher contact element that can be so important to younger learners. The author reviews advantages and disadvantages of the tool, but largely concludes that MOOCs could be useful as a supplement to the structures already in place. The article provides a succinct review of the possible impact and development of MOOCs in K-12 education and references a couple innovators in the field worth investigating.

Annotation: Online Tutorials

Bautista Sparks, O.  (2010). Five minute screencasts — The super tool for science and engineering librarians. Science and Technology Librarianship, 60. doi: 10.5062/F4JH3J4S. http://www.istl.org/10-winter/tips.html

This article explores the use of screencasting as a tool for librarians to create online tutorials. Several examples of video screencasts for instructional purposes are featured, such as orientations, reference consultations, class instruction and virtual library workshops. The author wrote this article for a science and engineering librarian audience, but her tips are applicable to most instructional librarians. She offers a section discussing the different features of screencasting tools in order to assist librarians in choosing a tool. There is also a table comparing four common free tools. Because this article was published in 2010, these comparisons and features may already be outdated or inaccurate. Her tips for creating screencasts are brief, primarily discussing the logistics of how you might set up the content you want to record. She does, however, reference several other sources with instructions and checklists, though these are even older—from 2009. I suspect that such guidelines for creating a user-friendly experience do not expire as quickly as other digital trends.

Annotation: Badges for Higher-Ed Assessment

Buell, C. (2013, August 30). Using Badges to Quantify Learning Outcomes at UC Davis. Edcetera. Retrieved October 20, 2013, from http://edcetera.rafter.com/using-badges-to-quantify-learning-outcomes-at-uc-davis/

This article examines the use of badges to measure learning outcomes in higher education, especially as developed by UC Davis and Joanna Normoyle, who won an award for the innovation at the Digital Media and Learning Competition. The idea is to quantify and standardize higher-level thinking skills gained throughout the course of a university degree and award a digital badge for the achievement, potentially making them useful to future employers trying to determine the skill-set of a candidate or even simplifying the process of credit transfer between universities looking for equivalent coursework. Badges in such a system also can be useful for helping learners to track their progress and customize an academic program. UC Davis is officially launching their program with students this fall. By extension, I could see this as an easy, practical way for academic libraries to jump in, partner with departments and get involved in assessing and communicating the information literacy of students.

Skype vs. Adobe Connect

Well, it’s a new semester and this week, I had my first class for “Introduction to Reference Services.” My instructor is a Canadian and she apparently ran into a delay with her Visa, so she couldn’t make it in for our first class. (You know, I’m not really surprised. When I needed my Visa to Canada, I nearly ran into the same thing–though I didn’t get delayed. Our relationship with our neighbors to the north is kinda weird when it comes to Immigration and Customs.)

Anyway, she opted to Skype in to teach us this time. I’ve used Skype socially before, but never in an instructional setting. On the contrary, my instructor for my summer course used Adobe Connect when we had guest lecturers or even virtual office-hours.

Long story short, the Skype experience proved to be almost painful. The connection seemed to time out now and then and her sound would garble on us or just freeze up. It seemed worse when she used video, but even without it, it was rough. I think the longest we went without her having to “call us back” was maybe 15 minutes. When I walked in the classroom, they were trying to get it to screen-share so that she could control her PowerPoint. No luck. We ended up putting the slideshow on our side and one of us students had to work the slideshow from our end. Talk about Band-Aids. Not her fault, obviously, and probably a perfect storm of several factors, but still a pain.

It kind of reminded me of the first time I ever used the Internet to make a phone call back in 2000. Lord knows what the tool was called, but there were weird delays and garbles and it was much more pleasant to just use a real phone and a calling card. We’ve come a long way, baby! Go figure, now we have Voice Over IP phones, which are pretty much the best of both (if you want a landline, that is).

My experience with Adobe Connect almost always went swimmingly. Our guests seemed to have few problems getting set up, with the exception of one whose audio had to be Frankensteined together with a cell phone (I think because of a mic problem on the speaker’s end). Regardless, it was always clear and we didn’t have reconnect over and over. There was even the option for a side-channel chat that multiple users could text chat with in real time. Pretty sure it’s not free like Skype though.

I realize this is a rudimentary, quick and dirty review and maybe I have my rose-colored glasses on, but I just wanted to give a big thumbs-up to Adobe Connect for instructional purposes and virtual presenters. Skype fell on its head for us this week.

My Self-Published eBook (TRY ME!)

Here is my eBook Publishing handout.

As part of my Director’s Brief, I tried my hand at digital self-publishing. This is a multi-media guide with text, pictures and videos. (So if you have a black-and-white eReader, the content will be limited.) Here is one of my attempts, created on Apple’s iWork Pages:

http://tinyurl.com/knitbook08092012

Please try it out! It’s a little buggy yet with line return formatting (and I suspect that all of the video clips are showing the same thing somehow, at least on my device), but I’m moving on for now. You have a couple of options for access:

  • download the file (39.6MB) and load it to your device manually
  • open the link in a browser on a device enabled to read EPUBs
  • download it and use something like www.magicscroll.net or the Firefox add-on called EPUBReader

If you have an Apple device, this is easy…
a) import it into your iTunes library and then sync it with your books.
b) open the link in a Safari browser and iBooks will take care of the rest!

It is published as an EPUB, which according to Wikipedia, can be read on the following platforms (pretty much everything, except Amazon devices):

Unfortunately if you are a Kindle user, as I am, you are out of luck for the moment. Amazon’s eReaders do not support the EPUB format quite yet. (There are rumors that they will someday…)

So, what do you think…?

NOOB PWNED

I try to do a Facebook audit every so often, just because I’m a high school teacher and I know the kids go looking for me sometimes. As a general policy, I never accept students as friends until after they graduate (or I don’t work there anymore) and even then, I put them on a limited profile where they aren’t allowed to see my pictures, among other things.

So about six months ago, I checked out my security settings and discovered with the change to the “Timeline” layout of Facebook that it was left wide open. I was pretty much completely exposed to the public, at least with my Wall and About Me information. Maybe the pictures were still contained. I was horrified, scrambling to figure out how to lock it down again. Minimally, I had actually scrubbed out some pictures that I didn’t want up anymore before I had moved to the Timeline, but still. (Yes, I know Facebook still has them in their possession, but at least they don’t appear to be attached immediately to my account for everyone to see.) About a month ago, they changed everyone’s email address that is displayed on their profile to a generic Facebook email address without notifying anyone. Of course, I still haven’t managed to remove that email from my account (impossible), but I did get my email back to the display.

That’s the thing about Facebook. You just don’t know when a change will leave you exposed. They change privacy policies or remake a layout and you start over. More often than not, settings are buried in several locations so it is very possible to “miss something” sometimes. Wonderful. More rookie users or the naive that don’t think about privacy much probably never know. Back in the day, when Facebook was “young,” it wasn’t so tricky to tame as it is now.

For me, the most useful tool they have is the one that you can see how your profile looks to a specific user (you type in the name). Lately, I can never seem to find it though. It moves, I swear! Today I managed to find one that showed me what my profile looks like to the public, which was satisfying enough. I didn’t find the specific user view this time. I hope my Limited Profile view still is limited.

About a month ago, I found a handy little security setting that if my Facebook was accessed from a new computer, that it would text me a authentication code that I would have to use as a password to log in. I wasn’t too sure about attaching my cell phone number to my Facebook account, but I feel like it is better than getting hacked.

My most recent audit of Facebook this week didn’t expose anything as alarming as what I discovered with Timeline. I made a few tweaks. I changed a setting on I will need to approve when other users tag me in posts. I cleaned up some Apps that I felt didn’t need to be associated with my account anymore. I changed a setting so that Facebook can only text me 5 times a day. It never does, except for the authentication codes I described above, so I figured this is reasonable. I’d rather them not change a security setting again, and find out too late that I’m getting a hundred texts a day from Facebook.

A few years ago, I offered a community ed course called “Financial Peace University” by Dave Ramsey. (I am emphatically anti-debt and really believe in his method. If you want some getting-out-of-debt tips, I’m your girl!) Anyway, I used Facebook ads to publicize my course in the area. It didn’t really help; my enrollment was low no thanks to the $40 I spent on Facebook ads, but I tried, right? Because of this, I had a credit card attached to my Facebook account… I’m not sure why I never removed it before, but I tackled it today. It was actually a little tricky to remove. Typical…

My Google audit was also pretty clean. I used to be a little more visible with K-12 lesson plan sharing and stuff, but that seems to have settled deeper into the depths of my Google results. I had never thought to pull up Google images attached to my name before, though. That was quite a surprise. Not that the pictures were compromising, but basically all of my Picasa albums that were set to public were indexed with tags to my name. I guess I just thought that the link allowed people in, if they knew where to look, not that everything was tagged. There were a lot of pictures of family members that I don’t think I would have posted if I had realized that they were all tagged behind their back. I think I managed to evoke some privacy settings on the pictures, but I’m sure it will take awhile before they fall off the top results for Google images.

While I am fairly confident and secure about my digital image and digital dossier, I have a separate digital insecurity that has recently developed. Yesterday, I bought my first Apple computer–a MacBook Pro! I am excited, but COMPLETELY out of my element. I have been checking out MacBooks from the campus libraries for the last week because I require a Mac program for my final course assignment (I am using Pages to publish EPUBS).

I think I’ve made a few mistakes with the loaner Macs, like installing iCloud and logging into to my Chrome browser account on a machine that wasn’t mine to personalize. Since I am pretty green on how Macs work, I am unsure how much I have exposed myself or my data from my other Apple devices (like my iPhone or iPad) or even my internet browsing history. For example, because of my iCloud mistake (I think that was the culprit), my brand new Safari browser on the new computer was fully equipped with all of the UW-Madison Libraries Quick Links. Gee, thanks… Who knows what else got screwed up! Since I’m such a Mac newbie, I don’t even know where to look.

I’m hoping it will turn out okay, especially since the campus libraries re-image each machine every time when they are returned after 3 days. In the meantime, I’m trying to learn as quickly as possible and I’m making visits to the Apple Store for One-on-Ones. I had one this morning and I’ve got another appointment tomorrow before class. Maybe they can help this NOOB before she gets PWNED.

Lessons from Michael Jackson

Before I begin, let me just say that I remember SixDegrees.com. I actually messed around with it a lot my freshman year of college in the computer lab (because back in 1998-1999, most students didn’t have their own computers yet, but we all loved the internet and AIM). As it turns out, I might still be able to use it, that is, if I had any idea what kind of user name and password that I thought was a good idea when I was 18. I wish there was a way to retrieve them and get in again! I’m just curious… Anyway, I especially appreciated Jason Griffey’s mention of Six Degrees in Chapter 5 of the Library Technology Report from November 2010, just because it makes me feel a bit more like a Digital Native (p. 34).

Actually, I’ve been a member of Facebook since 2005, back when it was only open to college kids. I liked the exclusivity and I thought that MySpace was dumb.

I was born in 1980, which seems to be on the cusp between Generation X and the Millennials/Generation Y. I definitely remember the analog era and rotary telephones, filmstrips and Rural Route 1 mailing addresses. I think we had at least one computer in every classroom I was in from 1st grade on–and in 4th grade, there were 15. But there was no internet for me until I was in 10th grade. Before then, we used computers to play Number Munchers and Oregon Trail or to word process.

In Palfrey and Gasser’s Born Digital, they describe three types of digital citizens: the Digital Native, the Digital Settler and the Digital Immigrant (location 79-81… remember I’m a Kindle reader, so no page numbers possible for me–basically this was found in the Introduction). While I identify with [some] of the descriptions of Digital Natives, I can’t say that I grew up in an era where I had no control of the digital dossier that was being created on me, like our hypothetical child “Andy” (location 690 and on). I’m probably more like a Digital Settler, to be technical.

When I think about the thought that I try put into [almost] every online post or photo in an attempt to protect my privacy, knowing that it is out-there in permanency, it’s a little troubling that baby pictures are often put up without hesitation. Many parents today are Digital Settlers or Digital Immigrants or non-Digitals, are the first ones creating “baby Andy’s” digital dossier and even digital identity, through their photo-sharing and text-messaging. (There are a few genuine Digital-Native parents too, yes, but I am willing to bet that these are also teen parents who might not yet have mastered the art of controlling their online presence, just based on their predicament… nothing against teen-parents, I am a product of one, but as a teacher, I prefer to see my students make it out of high school first.)

I digress.

The contributions that Andy’s family–and later his friends and others–make to the dossier are quite different from the contributions of the medical community. The digital information that is in the hands of his doctors is likely to stay more or less private over time, whereas the online postings about a Digital Native created by friends and family are immediately in public view and social (Palfrey & Gasser, location 720).

The important point here is that the proliferation of copying makes digital files wildly difficult to manage–and right off the bat. The process starts even before Andy’s birth. After he’s born, the ability of Andy’s parents to control the information that is associated with him is immediately lost, and by the time Andy comes of age and begins to try and manage it for himself, the tangle of information will be even more impossible to unravel (location 740).

What if parents aren’t even thinking about controlling their child’s digital dossier at all? Is it fair that this child might have to deal with unraveling the mess themselves later? I’m starting to understand why some celebrities don’t allow their child to be photographed much (or they make them wear masks like Michael Jackson’s kids). While I mostly love to see my peers’ slew of photos of their kids every day on Facebook, it makes me wonder what kind of message we are sending and if this kid will appreciate being posted all over the internet when they are our age.

I really want to see more people understand the choices they are making when they put themselves out there. I think making digital footprints is inevitable  if we want to use the internet at all; I’m not saying we should encourage everyone to be like Eli Neiburger’s patron in Chapter 3 of the Library Technology Report from November 2010: “I’m a bit nutty, so I won’t tag things at the library so Agent Smith can’t find me” (p. 18).

I know there are kids who already understand what it means to control their digital presence and there are adults who really don’t. It’s a process. It’s just that there has been more than once where I have had to remind kids that other people can see what they post (because  they don’t lock it down) and that they can get themselves in trouble for it (like cyber-bullying). And then there’s the pictures they post that just should be on the internet, again because everyone can see them.

I think it’s good to keep in mind Palfrey and Gasser’s warning from the end of chapter 2:

Too often, we are leaving our children alone to shape their identities in a fragile, fast-moving, hard-to-control environment online. And too often, the decisions that we make in favor of convenience mean giving up control that, at some point in the future, we may wish we had retained (location 886).

Brain Dump on eBook Publishing

In December of 2011, I attended the SLATE Conference (School Leaders Advancing Technology in Education) at the Kalahari in the Wisconsin Dells. One of the sessions I attended was by Keith Schroeder, a school library media specialist in Green Bay. The name of his presentation was, “Creating ePub Books for Customized Learning.” At the time, I was intrigued and definitely saw how school librarians might bring eTextbooks to their staff, especially in a coming age of one-to-one computing in school and tablet computers.

I plan to [attempt to] make an eBook–probably out of an old classmate’s Master’s Thesis (with permission of course, on the caveat that I don’t publish it anywhere online and ruin her current academic pursuits. Kyle [or anyone], if you’d like to offer up one of your longer pieces that I can post online as an eBook, I’d be happy to play with it… I simply have  never written anything long enough in my opinion to be useful for this project (I took comp exams for my Master’s.)

Keith gave us a lot of tips on what worked best for ePublishing (which I serendipitously took notes on!)  In my investigation for my Director’s Brief for this class, I’ve come across some developments that make me wonder how things have evolved since December. This morning, I emailed Keith to pick his brain a little and see what his thoughts are now. I also emailed an old college friend who has been publishing and selling her eBooks on gluten-free recipes.

Among my first findings on eBook publishing:

  • EPUB is probably the format you want to use. PDF is okay, but it can’t really be manipulated in an eReader. Kindles don’t read EPUBs, however, so you would need something different for the Kindle Fire. Multimedia eBooks that include videos and color pictures probably aren’t ideal if the target it is black and white eReaders.
  • Start with an EPUB template. If you don’t, you will struggle with things like Table of Contents and formatting. I have a eBook template that I got from Keith at SLATE for Apple’s iWork Pages 4.0.5 program. HOWEVER, now Apple has iBook Author, which I’m guessing is the next big thing, at least coming from them. Also, I saw this blogpost that said “book templates are dead.”
  • For an interactive textbook, collect videos, pictures, links, passages, sources, etc. first. Videos need to be converted to m4v files, under 15MB and 320×240 resolution.
  • Calibre is a great program for converting eBooks to different formats for different eReaders. I’ve used this program in the past (back in 2010 when I attempted–and failed–at making an eBook) and it worked pretty slick. This article gives a nice overview.
  • Other apps worth considering: Book Creator, Creative Book Builder.
  • Digital Book World is a pretty handy site with lots of news, interviews, reviews for the digital publishing world, hence the name.
  • Lulu.com is a popular self-publishing platform. I really need to look into this, because I’ve seen it cited in several places, including our reading for today, The Long Tail. They even have a section dedicated to educators. More from the self-publishing industry: SourceBooks, Smashwords, Booktango, FastPencil, Author Solutions, Your Ebook Team
  • AcademicPub makes eTextbooks for educators. Looks good, but I want to find out if you send away for content and they make it, or if you can do it yourself. At first glance, it sounds like they are selling a service.
  • The Digital Shift, part of Library Journal and School Library Journal, posted an article, A Guide to Publishers in the Library Ebook Market.
  • No Shelf Required is a blog about eBooks I am going to take a closer look at too.
  • I used to read Penelope Trunk’s blog pretty regularly. Apparently she had a run-in with her eBook publisher that I would like read more about, especially since she went through the process of publishing this way–what were the hang-ups?

So, that’s what I’ve got so far. I’m kind of excited about where it’s going to take me!