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Archive for the ‘Web2’ Category

Libraries, Beacons, and the Internet of Things

27 Feb

A while ago I tweeted this helpful graphic:

I know what you're thinking - it will be climate change that renders the debate on the future of libraries moot, not the singularity! And you're quite right, of course.

I know what you’re thinking – it will be climate change that renders the debate on the future of libraries moot, not the singularity! And you’re quite right, of course.

 

The Internet of Things will, hopefully, be a big deal in libraries. Some of the technology associated with it feels very far-away in terms of the resources it would take to implement it, but we’ve seen how these things work – what starts off as unattainable fantasy becomes cheaply available reality soon enough.

But what does it mean, though? I mean really mean, for libraries? I found this UX article on beacons very helpful in giving me an overview of the technology, and this post is an extrapolation of the ideas it presents, into a library context.

What is The Internet of Things?

In short, the Internet of Things refers to when objects are able to connect with each other online, because they can be uniquely identified.

We’re actually very familiar with this in Libraries, because we use RFID. You put the book in the cradle, and that book (due to its RFID tag) speaks to the issue-machine, which then informs the library management system that the book has been issued to your account. It’s the internet, but interacting with a Thing! Brilliant.

What are beacons?

Beacons are wireless devices which use Bluetooth (but an especially low-energy version which doesn’t drain battery) to broadcast to other Bluetooth objects around them. You may have seen wearable technology like Jawbone or Fitbit, which monitor your physical activity – these use beacons to ‘talk’ to your phone, allowing you to get information via your phone’s screen.

In physical terms, you can already get commercially available beacons – for example from Estimote – which are discreet physical objects (as opposed to something integrated into a Fitbit wrist-band) to put in physical locations, allowing smartphones to interact with them according to parameters you define.

Give me some examples of what Libraries could do

Here are some ideas to enhance the library user experience:

  1. Locate items from my books list. Most library catalogues have a ‘favourite’ function, where you can add items to a list. Imagine you make your list of books at home using this feature, then come into a library fully hooked up to the Internet of Things – as you walk in, you’re presented with a map and directions to each of the available items. You’d know before you got past the foyer if any books had already been borrowed, and you’d even be able to find them if they were misshelved.
    ..
    Wait, come back! I’ve got better ones, look…
    .
  2. A self-guided virtual tour. Set up beacons at key points around the Library, and send users off on a tour. When they get to each location their phone plays them videos, or audio, and gives them more information on how to get the most from that area. Combine this with augmented reality to really knock people’s socks off.
    .
  3. An enriched Special Collections experience. When you’re near the glass case displaying the rare and precious illuminated manuscript that you can’t touch, your phone or tablet can show you the whole document in digital format. It could even play you audio of expert analysis by the Special Collections librarian.
    .
  4. Contactless fine payment. The Internet of Things knows how much you owe, and has the capability to let you pay it without you having to queue for a till or a card-reader.
    .
  5. Availability of machines. Some library apps already show you which PCs are in use and which are actually free within the Library building, which users find invaluable. Beacons could easily extend this to printers (and 3D printers), scanners, study rooms, blu-ray players etc etc – all quick to check from your phone as you enter the Library.
    .
  6. More details on items. In the same way you can put a QR Code on a DVD box which takes the user to the imdb entry on the film in question, or on a music score to take the user to an MP3 of the piece, you could give any manner of contextual information on items in your collection via the Internet of Things. If a user is in the vicinity of an item, she or he will be able to get information on it online via their phone.
    .

My brain is not particularly wired to invention. When someone else lays out ideas I can spark off them, but I can very rarely think up anything from scratch – so with that in mind, the list above is quite small, and I’d be VERY interested to hear what you think we could do with this technology, via a comment…

 

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Can you use Twitter for Academic teaching? Yes, here are some examples

17 Feb

I have read, and contributed to, an awful lot of writing online about Twitter in HE. Social networks in general and Twitter in particular are increasingly accepted as a valuable part of the academic world. If you want to know about how to use Twitter for communication, for building reputation, for research, then Google will provide you with endless hours of reading.

However, using Twitter in teaching seems to be far more tricky and ambiguous. There are a lot more people asking ‘Can we use Twitter in academic teaching, and if so, how?’ then answering that question. Interestingly, there’s a lot more info out there in using it in the school classroom than on using it in the University seminar room, lab, or lecture theatre.

With that in mind, and to make the most of a real edtech zietgeist happening at the University of York at the moment, I put together a 1.5 hour workshop for academics, as part of a series I’m doing for the Learning & Teaching Forum. I really enjoyed putting this together because I learnt a lot, and spoke to a lot of academics doing really interesting things with tweets.

The biggest issue in this area seems to be that you can’t make students sign up for the platform, so how do you make sure no one is excluded if you’re providing key info via Twitter (without you having to duplicate everything)? The first answer is embedding a Twitter stream in the VLE – there is a full guide on how to do that (with BlackBoard) in the handout which accompanied the session (embedded below). The second answer is projecting a hashtag onto the walls during teaching. Chemistry at York is, for some reason, always at the front of the curve with social media, and one of the things Simon Lancaster does is have a back-channel running on big screens during lab-sessions, using Tweetbeam, so that students who don’t wish to sign up for Twitter can still get the benefit of seeing other students’ tweets (and also pictures shared by Simon). I really liked this idea – I liked the ceding of control, the high risk of it, and I like the fact that the students don’t abuse the trust, and take the opportunity instead to contribute enthusiastically and productively.

Anyhow, here are the slides from the workshop – I hope if you’re reading this you find them useful. If you’re an academic and want to chip in via the comments with how you utilise Twitter, that would be great; if you’re an information professional and you also run these sorts of workshops, I’d love to hear from you too.

 

 

Using Twitter in Academic Teaching by University of York Information

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Steal this: Student Guide to Social Media

07 Nov

If you click the image below, you’ll be taken to the Student Guide to Social Media. This is an interactive online resource, giving information on various social media platforms, and on tasks you can accomplish using social media – it is aimed primarily at undergraduates but has applications across the board.

It is made available under a BY-NC-ND Creative Commons licence: in other words if you think this resource might be of use to YOUR students, feel free to use this, link to this, make it part of your own institution’s website, just as long as you credit the creators (the BY part), aren’t using it for commercial purposes (the NC part) and use it entirely as it is, in its current state, rather than creating your own version or derivatives (the ND part).

A screenshot of the resource's homepage

Click to access the resource

 

Alternatively, book mark libassets.manchester.ac.uk/social-media-guide/ or click the link to open the resource in a new window.

A Northern collaboration

The resource is the result of a joint project between the Libraries of the Universities of Leeds, Manchester and York, developed over the Summer. Michelle Schneider from Leeds’ very successful Skills@Library team approached me about working together on a social media resource for undergraduates – I was extremely pleased she did, because it was something on my list to do anyway.

There’s a lot of support out there for postgrads, academics, researchers generally in using social media, but I don’t think there’s as much for undergraduates. It’s an area we’re looking to expand at my own institution, and as well as face-to-face workshops I really wanted something that worked as an interactive learning object online, probably made using Articulate / Storyline. Imagine how pleased I was, therefore, when Michelle told me the other collaborators would be Manchester, including Jade Kelsall, who is absolutely brilliant with Articulate! I’d worked with Jade before at Leeds; she provided all the technical expertise to create the Digitisation Toolkit (using the Articulate), one of the parts of the LIFE-Share project I actually enjoyed. Also on the team were Carla Harwood at Leeds, and Sam Aston at Manchester.

So we got together, brainstormed on lots of massive pieces of paper, photographed the paper with our ipads, emailed each other a lot, and came up with a resource which we think will be really useful. I feel quite bad because I was off on paternity leave for a month of this and it took me ages to get back up to speed, so I don’t feel like I contributed enough compared to Jade and Michelle who worked tirelessly on this (sorry guys!) but I’m really pleased with the result. It’s gone down very well on Twitter, and I was excited to see we’ve found our way onto a curriculum already:

 

 

How it works

Increasingly as I do more and more teaching, training, and planning, I’m aware that when introducing people to new tools (or trying to help people use existing tools better) you have to give them two different versions of the same core information. The first and obvious thing is how to use a tool – e.g. here’s Twitter, here’s how you create an account, here’s some tips on using it. But this assumes some prior knowledge – what if you don’t know why you’d need Twitter? So you also have to present the information in terms of tasks people want to achieve: “I want to boost my professional reputation” is one such task, and Twitter would be among the tools you might recommend to achieve this. The great thing about using Storyline is we can do exactly that – students can explore this resource by tool, or by task, or both.

We’ve also included case studies (some video, some not) and I’m indebted to my colleague in the Career’s Service at York, Chris Millson, for providing a lot of really useful information about both tools and tasks and sourcing case studies…

The resource is, deliberately, very straightforward. We stripped out everything non-essential to give students easily digestible, bite-sized introductions to the various things they might want to use these tools for (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Slideshare, Google+, Academia.edu, blogs etc). It’s also relatively informal without attempting to be in any way cool or streetwise. I’ve showed it to some of my students in info skills classes already and it’s gone down very positively; I think even students who are very au fait with web 2.0 tools still appreciate some guidance on how to meld the social with the academic and the professional.

So, check out the Students Guide to Social Media, tell us what you think, and if you’d like to steal it, feel free.

 

 

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Marketing Libraries: What the not-for-profits can learn from the lots-of-profits!

11 Sep

A couple of weeks ago I presented a webinar for WebJunction on marketing libraries. Part 1 of this post is all the information from the presentation, including a video archive of it, and Part 2 is about the process of presenting in a webinar, for anyone interested in that side of things.

Part 1: Marketing Libraries

The webinar covered marketing principles (several ways to start thinking like a library marketer) – and marketing actions (ways to communicate including Word of Mouth, the website, social media etc). There are various ways you can access the content.

If you want a brief overview:

Here are the slides, with a couple of bits of info added in so they make sense without me talking over the top of them.

 

If you want the full detail:

You can view the full Archive (combined archive of audio, chat, and slides) – this requires JAVA and is a bit more technically complicated than the options above and below, but you get the full experience of the slides, me narrating them in real time, and the chat happening in real time, where you’ll find lots of good ideas.

If you want a version you can watch on any device:

Here is the YouTube vid of the webinar – the good thing is you can watch this on a phone etc, the downside is some key points are missed where it skips or the live-streaming briefly went down, and it’s hard to read the chat that added so much to the presentation. (You can, however, download the  chat (xls) to read in Excel as you go along.)

 

When I get a bit of time I’m going to break this down into smaller videos on each topic.

Part 2: Presenting a Webinar

Presenting a webinar is an inherently odd experience because you can’t see the faces and responses of your audience. I rely on this a lot to know what is working and what isn’t – a presentation is all about communication, after all. Not only that but it’s a much bigger audience than for a normal talk – there was nearly 600 people watching this as it happened.

A picture of a desk with PC, iPad etc

My webinar presenting setup.

Above is what my desk looked like – iPad to monitor tweetstream (which I didn’t have the wherewithall to actually do), landline phone to speak into (I had it pressed against my ear for the first half hour before realising there was nothing to actually hear), G&T to drink (later decanted into a glass with ice, don’t worry), iPhone to live-tweet pre-written draft tweets from (it was too stressful to do this well, so I sort of tweeted them in clumsy groups), PC to present from and clock to keep to time by.

I asked for some advice on Twitter about what makes a good webinar – much of it was about good presenting generally, but the web-specific stuff centered around making it as interactive as possible (the technology limited how much I could do this, but I tried…) and giving people time to catch up (I think I pretty much failed to do this). Very useful advice from Jennifer at Web Junction included not putting any animations on the slides because these don’t render well in the webinar environment (if I wanted stuff to appear on a slide as I went along, I made two versions of the slide and moved between them). The particular platform we used meant I had to dial in with a phone – a PHONE! – and talk into that whilst manipulating the slides, that was very strange. I had a practice run the night before and I’m glad I did – in essence I found out I just cannot present sitting down, I need the energy that comes from pacing around, so I ended up using my slide-clicker so I could wonder about my house without having to be too close to the PC… The downside to this is I couldn’t monitor the chat nearly as well as I wanted to, to respond to questions, because I often wasn’t close enough to read the small text.

This was the first time I’d done one of these solo – previous webinar experience had been as part of a panel. As is often the case, as soon as I’ve done something properly and learned how it works, I want to do it again but much improved based on what I now know. So I’m hoping to work with WebJunction again next year (I find their site a really useful source of information and expert opinion). But the feedback from this one was great, some really nice comments in the chat and even a reference to my accent via private message…

I enjoyed this whole thing, and clearly live-streaming and web-based events are going to be more and more important. They’re very convenient for attendees, less so for presenters (I had to banish my family upstairs for example!) but I did get to wear shorts for a presentation for the first time, and even drink Gin & Tonic during it, and that was ace.

 

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