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Mobile App-titude

If you’ve been following mobile web developments, you’re probably sick of hearing all the statistics about smartphone adoption rates: 49% of small businesses, 27% of cellphone users, blah, blah, blah. Overall, the number of U.S. smartphone subscribers is pretty small; according to Mashable, it’s only about 17%. However, beyond the hype, it’s important to realize that between phones and tablets such as the iPad, mobile adoption is growing.

Database vendors and popular web page developers have jumped on board, and there are currently two major ways to access the mobile web: basic mobile webpages and “apps.” Mobile webpages are smaller or redesigned versions of full webpages; you access them through a browser on your phone and they can be bookmarked. An app is a small, specific program or application that you download onto your phone. It’s normally prepackaged to do a specific task; for example, to provide weather information or to store e-books. There are advantages to using both. Because apps are downloaded to a phone, they are always available and provide instant access to content. A mobile webpage has to be searched for through a browser, so it doesn’t have the same one-click access. However, developers are starting to enable their full websites to be automatically recognized by mobile devices, which often works well for libraries because users don’t need to remember a new web address.

For the remainder of this column, guest authors Marisol Ramos (University of Connecticut) and Daisy V. Domínguez (The City College of New York) will provide quick reviews of a few apps and mobile sites that you or your patrons may find useful. Try them out!

Alison Hicks
University of Colorado at Boulder
Alison.Hicks@Colorado.EDU

Dropbox (http://www.dropbox.com/) is a free service that allows you to store (“drop”) files from your desktop or laptop onto a cloud environment. You can retrieve your files for later viewing using any smartphone or device connected to the Web. Create an account on the Dropbox website and download the application onto your desktop/laptop. A folder will appear where you can move PDF, Word, photos and movie files. If using an iPad or iPhone, add the app and voila! You can start reading or watching whatever files you have added to the Dropbox folder. This is an easy to use and very versatile app perfect for the green-conscious librarian on the go.

iBooks (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ibooks/id364709193?mt=8) is a free app from iTunes and probably one of the nicest e-readers out there. It is an Apple product so it only works on Apple products (iPhone, iPad, iTouch). When I tested it on our library’s iPad, I really enjoyed using it because of the flexibility it provides. I was able to change fonts, color, and light settings to get the best reading experience. The new update allows you to create notes (annotate) on books and PDF files that you can add to your “library” using the bookmark feature. The only downside about using iBooks and many free e-readers is that the selection of books may not be as current as some would prefer. But, I think this is something that will improve with time.

Marisol Ramos
University of Connecticut
marisol.ramos@uconn.edu

JSTOR Mobile Beta is a mobile webpage (http://mobile.jstor.org/) that has been tested and works on iOS, Android, and Blackberry devices. Its simple main screen offers the capability to browse by discipline and journal title or to conduct an advanced search. Once your search is conducted, you will get a clean listing of the results whereupon you can click on an article and see a miniature illegible version of it. If you try to access the entire article, you will get a notice about full-text access being limited to participating libraries and you will be led to a listing of institutions whereupon you will be led to your library database page for logging on. Needless to say, reading full text JSTOR articles on this mobile site is cumbersome. I found the JSTOR mobile webpage’s most useful features to be the ones that JSTOR focused on: the possibility to do preliminary searching on-the-go and the option to e-mail and save citations. So, give it a try and let them know what you think (there is a survey)!

To log onto RefMobile (http://www.refworks.com/mobile/), the RefWorks mobile site, you will need your school’s group code and your username and password. The main screen allows you to conduct a basic search for your citations and includes links to your folders, your entire RefWorks database, and a “Smart Add” feature which allows you to search the Web for new references (although it is not clear to me how you scroll to the second and subsequent pages of the results list). You can add comments to the “Notes” field of individual records and move references to different existing or new folders without having to sync your phone or PDA to your computer or laptop. You can also e-mail RefWorks support from the main screen. RefMobile is not as sleek as JSTOR (and there’s no survey), but it gets the basics done when you’re on the move.

Daisy V. Domínguez
The City College of New York
ddominguez@ccny.cuny.edu

 

Express Yourselves: Simple Personal Websites

If you google my name, you will discover that I am a writer of romantic fiction. And a tennis pro who was flung into jail by Joe Arpaio, America’s toughest sheriff. And a medical librarian in the UK. Or not… Sadly for me, there are in fact several Alison Hicks who are either far more famous than me, or who have sponsored a lot of links about themselves. For those of you who have unusual names or who are secretly quite pleased about your new Googlified-self, maybe this doesn’t matter. But for many years, a search engine has been the default for finding out about people, whether this is professionally or socially. While I am neither vain enough nor rich enough to search engine optimize my name, Web 2.0 has made it much easier for me to ensure that people find more accurate information about me.

If you just want a quick, low maintenance online presence, the easiest way to get started is to sign up for a profile on a professional social networking site. Less intrusive than Facebook, these sites are ranked highly in search engines and only show snippets of information in search engine results. Linked In is the easiest, but academia.edu is growing in popularity. Google profiles is another site which enables you to claim your name and control how you appear in Google. ClaimID is one more site which allows you to have more control over your name.

But I already have 3 social network profiles, a blog and a twitter feed! A more detailed solution, which is equally easy to create, is a personal portfolio or webpage to start promoting you, your projects and your achievements. Web 2.0 personal portfolios are easy to keep up to date, involve no knowledge of html,
are hosted for free and you can link in your social media sites too. Weebly is a very easy to use drag and drop site which has a lot of customization options. Flavors.me is a slightly trendier personal portfolio site which encourages you to link your social networking personas into one place. Finally, if you can get past the narcissistic title, about.me provides an equally new and hip way to manage your online presence.

If you prefer html, have access to server space or want to make a more robust or in depth personal portfolio, there are a bunch of free templates available. WordPress.org is the version of the popular blogging software that can be used to create a webpage. Alternatively, do a search for “free web templates” to get suggestions for another easy way to create a webpage; Andreas Viklund has some cool ones.
Finally, there are some tools to track how you are represented on the web. Google Alerts is well known for tracking phrases or keywords, while Social Mention does the same for social media. You can set up searches in Twitter for any keyword, while TweetBeep claims to be the Google Alerts for Twitter.

And if this is all too typical millennial self-centered for you, all these resources would also work for groups and projects as well as people.

So go ahead, make a profile and reclaim your online identity! And in the meantime watch out for my novel that features a steamy romance between a tennis pro and a medical librarian…

Alison Hicks
http://alisonhicks.weebly.com/
University of Colorado at Boulder
Alison.Hicks @ Colorado.EDU

Instruction 2.0 Continued

Instruction 2.0 theory is all well and good but I’m teaching 3 undergraduate seminars next week and need some practical examples! What follows is an introduction to in person or classroom based instruction 2.0 examples. But I’m not an instruction librarian, I hear you cry! Never fear- even if you do not teach in a classroom, instruction 2.0 principles apply to the creation of web pages, databases, the library catalog and other online interaction. In the final Instruction 2.0 column, I will give an overview of Instruction 2.0 in an online world.

To recap, instruction 2.0 embraces the changes in the way that we communicate and interact. How has student learning changed and how can libraries adapt to this? Randy Bass is a key researcher of 2.0 pedagogy who set up the Visible Knowledge Project to study learning in higher education. Through these studies, he discovered that student learning today was adaptive, embodied and socially situated. Taking this as a basis, what does this mean in a library instruction context?

Realistic or adaptive instruction enables students to learn new skills that can be transferred outside of the original context. This means that instead of teaching the intricacies of a particular database, students ideally learn lifelong skills that form the backbone of information literacy. An example would be learning evaluation skills. As realistic instruction, adaptive teaching also connects students with the information realities and the academic conversation around them, emphasising that learning, information literacy and academic research do not occur in a vacuum. An example of this is Anne Barnhart’s class, which asked students to use their information literacy training to buy material for the library in their subject area, an activity that is useful, practical and transferable.

Embodied learning means recognizing that many different elements affect student learning. This is more than looking at learning styles though- it also shows how the affective (emotions), prior knowledge and motivation all affect learning. It sounds kind of hippy-chic, but Bass’ research showed that it is not just cognition or the mental process that affects how we learn. Personal experience or the creativity involved in using non traditional media helps connect students to new concepts. An example of this would be using a variety of ways to enable learning, for example student creation of a video tutorial using screencasting software in order to supplement and deepen student understanding of a concept.

Finally, instruction 2.0 recognizes that learning is often socially situated and that students learn from their peers in communities of practice or learning communities. This means that we need to incorporate different structures into the design of our classes that facilitate student-peer conversations, as well as student-teacher conversations. An example of this would be asking small groups of students to create an evaluation schema collaboratively, which would then be shared with the rest of the class. Within the small groups, students can share prior experiences and knowledge to cement their understanding of the research process. Socially situated learning needn’t always be about the students either. Working with faculty to create a common vision of learning outcomes is also a form of socially situated learning, where the learning community is formed by librarians and teaching faculty. An example of this is Suzanne Schadl’s “guerilla” instruction, where she has incorporated multiple short instruction sessions into a semester long class. Even SALALM is a learning community- one of the original aims of La Cuna was to expand our own socially situated learning and foster online peer learning opportunities.

Bass’ three observations of learning fall neatly into the 5 Cs that characterize Web 2.0; creativity, conversation, community and collaboration. The final C is control. For instruction 2.0 to really work, librarians need to give up control so that the class is driven by student needs and dialog, rather than what the librarian assumes the students know or need to know. Personally, I think this is the hardest and scariest part, but it is vital in order for library instruction to maintain and to increase its relevancy in the 2.0 world.

Alison Hicks
University of Colorado, Boulder
alison.hicks @ colorado.edu

Instruction 2.0

Is nothing sacred? How far can the twopointopia wave go? If she thinks that I’m teaching a class via facebook while administering my twitter account all from the iphone 4, she’s got another think coming… In my previous columns I’ve written about how Web 2.0 can be used to help with various aspects of our profession. But Instruction 2.0 seems more populist than a Kirchner with an upcoming election. Should we really be using Web 2.0 tools in instruction sessions just because our students are? In short, no. My attitude to Web 2.0 is driven by the fact that it is more than a set of technologies. Web 2.0 is a state of mind that has deep social and philosophical implications and it is for that reason that instruction gets the twopoint-opian treatment. And really, instruction 2.0 is nothing new; instead, it’s about exploring the relationships between technology and pedagogy to truly take advantage of the potential of Web 2.0. It’s about a new paradigm of learning and collaboration; and if you end up throwing in a tagging schema or a flickr account then that’s a bonus. In this column I plan to explore the background of Instruction 2.0 before moving on to describe some of the theoretical constructs that drive its implementation.

What has caused this leap from Instruction 1.0 to 2.0? For a start, it’s important to recognise that the internet has reformed the concept of information. We produce over 2000 gigabytes of information a second and a wide body of human knowledge can be accessed within seconds from a variety of devices. Increased accessibility to growing amounts of information means that the concept of knowledge has to necessarily change too- knowledge became made or constructed and not found. It has become collaborative and less controlled; a far more creative approach. As a result, these evolving information and knowledge realities are student realities, and it is important that our teaching acknowledges these changes.

Recent shifts in technology have paralleled developments in learning theory. The 1970’s saw the rise of constructivist learning theory, which focused on the process of learning. Constructivism posits that learning is a complex internal process where student prior knowledge is key, and learning is a shared, active process. This has obvious comparisons with Web 2.0. The emphasis on participating and experiencing through Web 2.0 is a constructivist approach. Knowledge that is constructed collaboratively or understood through a combination of facts and human experiences is a Web 2.0 and a constructivist approach. Constructivism’s active, socially situated learning provides an ideal way to absorb the shifts in information and knowledge that form student realities today.

Notwithstanding, higher education has traditionally embraced behaviorist teaching theories that affirm that the environment or a teacher will cause students to learn. E.g. students absorb knowledge from a lecture. The teacher holds the power and responsibility and causes learning to occur. Consequently, there is an obvious disconnect between modern students who are accustomed to active control over their learning and these traditional behaviorist learning theories.

Instruction 2.0, therefore, needs to embrace the changes in the way we communicate and interact. While libraries have adapted to changing information realities, it is important that we also adapt to new learning realities in order to meet students where they are. This is different from using Web 2.0 tools because students are; it is adapting to the social and philosophical changes engendered in the information revolution in order to design for learning today. The structure and nature of the web means there is an increasing need for an emphasis on information evaluation and analysis and that library instruction is more valuable than ever. However Instruction 2.0 needs to participate alongside students in the creation of collaborative learning communities in order to meet student needs fully and to prepare them effectively for the information based future.

[I hesitated to write this column because there are a lot of far more experienced Instruction librarians in SALALM but this is something that I’ve been working on this summer and I wanted to share my preliminary thoughts. In the next column I’ll try and share specific examples of Instruction 2.0.]

Alison Hicks
Alison. Hicks @ colorado.edu

Screencasting: DIY visuals

Although the verb to screencast is still flagged as a spelling mistake in my word processing program, screencasting, or digitally recording your computer screen is one of the fastest growing web 2.0 trends. It’s so simple- yet so effective! Finally, an easy way to quickly provide a snapshot of your screen that doesn’t require IT support, the digestion of a help manual or weeks of planning the video fade, narration and special effects.

What makes screencasting different from more robust video tutorial software such as Camtasia? For a start, screencasting software is designed to produce quick on the fly video, narration or snapshots. Videos are normally limited to 5-10 minutes and don’t allow sophisticated annotation, statistics or other features. On the plus side however, many of the software programs are free to use, work from your browser and don’t require downloading. They integrate well with online video sharing sites such as Youtube and provide web storage too. And the programs are beautiful in their simplicity- it really only takes a few clicks to produce a brief but robust video.

From an academic point of view, the ease of screencasting provides another great way for people to interact and participate in the online conversation. Screencasting
allows for different learning styles by giving the option to view a procedure or a model rather than having to follow written instructions. And, most importantly, screencasting makes it a lot easier to communicate with people. The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” is probably over-cited but it certainly rings true when you’re trying to explain quickly and succinctly how the visiting scholar can get the full text of an article from their mobile device off campus.

Some of the most popular screencasting programs are Jing, Screencast-o-matic and Screentoaster. Jing is the easiest to use and the most flexible, but does require a download while Screencast-o-matic and Screentoaster work from your browser. Furthermore, Jing limits videos to 5 minutes while Screencast-o-matic gives you up to 15 minutes and Screentoaster allows you up to 20MB files. All three have web storage and the possibility of saving a local copy. Jing provides screen capture service too. The major factor in choosing a screencasting software will probably be whether or not you can download a program. I personally use Jing, and it has been so popular that I have persuaded Libraries’ IT to support it.

So what can you do with this new software?! Tutorials are the most obvious use of screencasting. These tutorials could be for patron use, for specific databases that don’t yet have their own tutorials such as Dialnet, or if you wanted to record a database tutorial in a different language. Tutorials for in house library use, for example for staff and student training, are also a great idea and serve as useful reference points throughout the year. These tutorials can also be embedded on subject guides using the ready made embedding code that is produced for each video.

Screencasting can also be used to great effect in instant messenger or email reference- instead of trying to explain where the link to scholarly articles is in Academic Search Premier, simply record your steps using screencasting and send it to the patron. You can also keep a library of most oftenly used videos. And why limit the librarians to making videos? Next semester I’ll be undertaking a pilot to allow students to make quick videos as part of instruction sessions, as part of the drive to reflective learning.

And finally, screencasting can greatly improve communication and collaboration in personal projects. Planning a project? Use screencasting to record project progress or to provide verbal feedback or comments on a shared document. Videos are stored online, so there are no lengthy downloads and because they are short, shouldn’t cause access problems. Screencasting can also be used for presenting digital exhibitions or projects. Create videos to narrate your photos or research, create a talking powerpoint or a brief introductory video for your project. All these uses create exciting visuals that draw different people in, and are easy to keep updated.

Have a go! Screencasting is easy and useful- a perfect combination!

Alison Hicks
University of Colorado, Boulder
alison.hicks @ colorado.edu

Subject Guides 2.0 continued…

Lists of web links were one of the biggest headaches of 1.0 subject guides. Links went out of date or got hijacked, and the long list of text was overwhelming. While the question of cataloging and archiving free web links is far from being resolved, there are a now a few options to make this an easier process. Intute, from the University of Oxford, is a database of links to academic web resources [disclaimer; I used to work for Intute] and it allows you to embed their search box on your page. Intute resources are evaluated by librarians and are strongest in Iberian resources.

LANIC remains the strongest for Latin American resources [disclaimer; I used to work for LANIC.] Thanks to Kent Norsworthy, LANIC search boxes that search the LANIC site, the LAOAP project or the e-text collection can also now be embedded on your page. For both resources, researchers will search from your page but the results page is part of Intute or LANIC’s site.

If these resources don’t give you the flexibility that is needed, it is very easy to create and embed your own search engine that searches a specific subset of websites. Simply select the web pages that you wish to search and Rollyo or Google Custom Search will allow you to create and embed your own mini search engine. The easiest option is Google’s On the Fly Search box, which makes an existing page of links, blog or directory searchable, with no account needed. A final option would be to tag useful websites in a social bookmarking tool, such as delicious. It is then possible to display your links as a linkroll (list of new links) or as a tagroll (cloud of new tags) on your page. All these link tools present information in a visually attractive way, and take the hassle out of updating pages of links. By adding a widget or direct connection to the resource, you’re making the search process more visible and attractive too.

While all these tools make it much easier to ensure that your page contains the most accurate and up to date resources, it’s often impossible to work on web pages regularly. There are a few tricks though, that give the impression that your page is constantly being updated, while also helping contribute to the learning community atmosphere. This is where those RSS tools that you learned from one of my previous columns come into play…

Using a program such as Feedburner or Feedsource it is possible to embed appropriate RSS feeds into your webpage. (Libguides users don’t have to use these tools- just select embed RSS feed.) An RSS feed is new content from a specific page, which is automatically updated. Using RSS on your subject guide is just another way to display current information for your subject area-here are some ideas for relevant feeds.

Instead of providing a long list of appropriate academic journal titles, you could embed the latest journal Table of Contents on your page. Try TicTocs for a list of RSS feeds from academic journals. Including relevant news on your page makes a lot of sense too- instead of enumerating useful news websites, use RSS to embed LANIC’s Twitter feed of news stories, Molly Molloy’s Frontera list serv or BBC headlines. You could even use RSS to bring in appropriate photos from Flickr or a photo sharing website. These tools help to break up the text based subject guide, as well as physically demonstrating to students what useful web resources exist.

A final key feature of the 2.0 subject guide is providing space for feedback and/or interaction. Web 2.0 is all about conversation and community; the idea that content is a shared process that isn’t imposed top down. So enabling a comments feature, a poll for people to vote on different topics or an IM chat window ensures that there is a mechanism for communication and feedback, even if, in actual fact, very few people actually use this feature…

All of these features are quick, easy to implement, and achievable even if you don’t use LibGuides. The tools allow you to present relevant information in a visually attractive and interactive way, that make the lost of a subject guide format.

(Quick Update: Thanks to Sócrates and Orchid from HAPI for putting the HAPI tutorials on Youtube. This means that they can easily be embedded on your page. Search for HAPI on the UCLA Youtube channel.)

Alison Hicks
alison.hicks @ colorado.edu
University of Colorado, Boulder

Subject Guides 2.0: The first installment

Underused and neglected, subject guides seem to struggle to pull their weight in today’s library. Students rarely seem to know that they exist, while pages are either outdated or barely touch the surface of potential online and library resources. Notwithstanding, subject guides often remain the only web presence that bibliographers have in the tightly controlled library website. Furthermore, this page may be one of the only contacts the digital native student has with the library.

2.0 subject guides still fulfill their original purpose of pointing students in the direction of resources but they expand the potential of the subject guide by creating a dynamic learning community. By providing a one stop shop for easily accessible research resources, the subject guide serves as a complete community or subject hub. This helps students become immersed and grounded within their subject, making their research more relevant and thereby directly contributing to academic learning objectives.

Many different tools are used to create subject guides in libraries; LibGuides from Springshare are a popular choice, while other libraries have gone with blogs and wikis, or stuck with plain html. Whatever the format, this column aims to provide ideas to jazz up research guides and convert static subject guides into dynamic learning communities.

According to Jakob Nielsen, most people take under 1 second to decide whether to stay on a webpage or not. Most web page visits last 2-4 minutes. Therefore, if we want to ensure patrons use our subject guides, it is important that they are attractive (clear, easy to use) and have enough easily accessible content to make them stay there- and to return. Furthermore, it is important to remember that patrons come looking for answers, not tools. While a list of useful tools make the librarian happy, the same list can be off putting and overwhelming to patrons who have no idea how or where to start. So how can we include useful academic content in a visually attractive way that inspires students to use our resources?

One simple way is to embed widgets into the subject guide. A widget is a chunk of code that you can easily paste into your page and which provides a dynamic link back to an original resource. A widget is usually a tool that can be used directly from your page, for example a search box for a database. Widgets break up the text on a page and mean that students can find and use resources straightaway rather than following endless links to the library’s main page. Furthermore, a search box is a familiar option that implies immediate results; an attractive option for students!

Widgets are starting to become more and more frequent. They already exist for many Spanish and Portuguese databases, including ones housed through Proquest and Ebsco. Redalyc and JSTOR among others are also in on the action. Widgets also include tools that students might need during their research. Oxford Language Dictionaries Online or Wordreference both provide code for dictionary widget search boxes. Including easy access to tools that students use in their research not only makes your page look more thoughtful and user friendly but it also contributes to the learning community feel of the subject guide and encourages use of academic tools.

Videos and video tutorials are also prime candidates to embed on your webpage. Many libraries are uploading video tutorials directly to Youtube, Google video or other video sharing websites. These videos are easy to embed on your web page; simply cut and paste the code on the right of the video. On the other hand, it may be easier to produce your own video tutorial. Jing, free screencasting software, is a very simple and user friendly way to record five minute videos. It also automatically uploads and provides the embedding code for your video. For videos that don’t provide embedding code, here is a quick tutorial.

If you can copy and paste, you can embed a widget. And, if you are using Libguides, it is even easier to embed these tools. Widgetify your life!

The next column will include more ideas to transform your subject guide.

Alison Hicks
University of Colorado, Boulder
Alison.Hicks @ colorado.edu

Language Learning 2.0

In 2007, the Modern Language Association (MLA) suggested a radical shakeup of modern language provision. Horrified at the lack of language skills and the two-tiered language and literature divide in foreign language departments, the MLA proposed that foreign language programs should evolve into a more relevant and integrated language, literature and culture curriculum.

The conclusions that the MLA came to were directly reflected in much of the theory behind CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning), a student centered, technology rich learning concept that aims to provide learners with an authentic context in which to practice language skills. The MLA’s propositions were also reflected in the new scholarship of teaching and learning that uses web 2.0 as a bridge to make the process of learning more adaptive, more significant and more relevant to students today. Consequently, the new language learning 2.0 encompasses technology enhanced learning with a focus on real life situations and scenarios.

What are these language learning 2.0 tools that are being used to integrate culture and language in a realistic way into the classroom? I will cover a few tools here, before exploring how we can support the successful integration of these resources in Spanish and Portuguese departments.

The first category of tools involves web 2.0 as place- the creation of a online, collaborative classroom or interactive learning community that facilitates student immersion in the language and culture. Blogs and wikis have been used with certain success, but cool kids today are looking at Ning, a tool used to create a group space or social network. Functioning as an online classroom, Ning (which is available in many languages) gives students the opportunity to participate in a Spanish context outside the classroom, as well as making it easy for students to create and explore language through a variety of different media formats, (for example, video, audio, images and texts.)

The second category is formed by digital narrative tools. These are web based, interactive tools used to create online stories and research projects such as webquests, digital stories and videos. Students have to research and role play a story or an event in the language or add images, captions and music to narrate an online event. For extensive projects, iMovie from Apple provides a professional tool, while Jing from Camtasia is a fantastic, free and easy to use screen capturing tool (which has lots of applications in libraries too). Photostory from Microsoft memoryminer and even slide show software are tools used for digital storytelling as they provide easy ways for students to upload images, captions and narration. Audio programs such as Voicethread or Audacity allow students to add voice recordings and comments to images. These tools allow students to explore and engage creatively with the stories, events and culture of a country through the language they are learning.

What can librarians do to support these learning activities? For a start, many of these activities need original, primary sources in the target language or culture, such as images, video clips and music. Excellent sources of cultural objects are found in library databases such as Artstor and Naxos Music as well as more specific web resources, such as the videos from Jesús Alonso Regalado’s guide, Pandora online music or the Europeana digital library, to name a few. Additionally, as many students or even instructors have little idea about where to find these types of resources, particularly in a foreign language, a review of online search techniques can be very useful to students. Finally, students and researchers should be reminded of basic copyright rules when they are using these primary sources in their classes, particularly if they are looking to publish student projects.

Language learning 2.0 is creative and collaborative with a growing community. Websites such as Language Box hosts examples of successful uses of technology in the classroom and is a great way to keep up with the field.

 

Alison Hicks
University of Colorado, Boulder
alison.hicks @ colorado.edu

Using RSS for Collection Development

This first appeared in the October 2009 issue of SALALM newsletter, as part of the web 2.0 column. Please contact alison.hicks @ colorado.edu for more information.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: RSS is the most useful tool in the web 2.0 world. If you only have time to play with one tool, make it RSS. If you’re already using RSS to keep up with your favourite blogs, cartoons and cake wrecks, it’s time you considered using it for collection development too. What is RSS? RSS (Real Simple Syndication) is used to receive automatic updates from a web page. An RSS feed is simply a list of new information that appears on a website. New material is automatically gathered into one place in a feed reader, arranged to be read, skimmed or saved for later, in one format that is easy to save or send by e-mail. Content updates exist for websites, blogs, searches – everything! For more information, see the ‘RSS in Plain English’ video.

Keeping abreast of contemporary fiction is a challenge, particularly for a new librarian when it is published a foreign country. Media outlets do not always pick up new and first-time authors until they win an award and furthermore, it is becoming hard to rely on published book reviews. Owing to the economic crisis in traditional journalism, many newspapers are cutting Literary Editor positions and reducing the number of book reviews (as demonstrated by Library Journal’s initial decision to close Críticas, for example.) At the same time, a new breed of book reviewer had emerged – the literary blogger. Although many decry the rise of the ‘over-opinionated and under-qualified dilettante’, literary bloggers often provide an alternative viewpoint, picking up on many titles and authors that are ignored by the major publishing houses’ marketing.

One of the central tenets of Web 2.0 is the facilitation of communication, using the Web as a two-way conversation rather than solely as an information provider. While we are extremely lucky to be able to rely on the specialized knowledge of the SALALM libreros, librarians also need to take advantage of this paradigm shift. Subscribing to personal blogs, small-scale literary magazines and newsletters through RSS means that the Internet can be used to develop a wider knowledge of recent publications as well as a barometer to gauge cultural and literary developments from within a country.

A good place to start finding literary information is to scour regular, foreign and speciality (such as Technorati, Blogalaxia, Blogazos) search engines for literary blogs. Search for key authors, literature prizes or recent literary news to find relevant bloggers. Most bloggers also provide links to the blogs that they read, which can be mined for further examples. Other sources of information include literary-prize websites, newsletters, literary associations, journals and magazines. Recently, book review aggregators have sprung up, which can make keeping up to date even more efficient. (Culture Critic, Complete Review.) I subscribe to around 20-30 sources, which gives me insight into formal and informal literary developments in the country in question without becoming overloaded. Obviously, a certain number of articles hold no interest for me, or overlap with others, but it is easy to skim through articles, and the inevitable overlap assures me that enough bases are being covered.

I channel these feeds into one super feed through Yahoo! Pipes. For more information about how to set up a yahoo pipe, please see my mini tutorial. Look at my sources here.

Alison Hicks
University of Colorado, Boulder

New column on Web 2.0

This column appears in the SALALM newsletter. After consultation with various people, we’ve decided to publish it here too. Please let me know if you have any comments, questions or requests for future columns!
Alison Hicks
alison.hicks (at) colorado.edu

Hands up if you’re bored of the phrase “web 2.0” already? Who’s tired of thinking that if you’re not twittering/on facebook/creating iphone apps you’re tragically unhip? Who believes that web 2.0 is an overused, useless catchphrase that just gives students another excuse not to study and has no place in Latin American librarianship today? If you answered yes to any of these questions then this new column is for you!

Everyday we’re bombarded with journals and presentations and colleagues advocating that web 2.0 is the solution to all our problems, from student engagement to cataloguing, to world peace. Libraries are signing up in their droves to ensure that they have a facebook page and a twitter feed and if you don’t have a blog, well, you’re so twentieth century. Web twopointopia has taken over the planet- but is it worth it? Is it really the miracle solution that libraries have been looking for? And, does it really have a role in academia or in Latin American librarianship?

In this new column, I aim to explore the concept of Web 2.0 and to provide specific examples of how 2.0 can be useful for SALALM librarians today. I plan to show that there is academic value in some of these tools and to provide easy, non-technical introductions to the concepts so you can play along too. In future weeks I intend to cover how Web 2.0 is impacting book reviews and language learning tools among other things. I also want to hear what you would like to know about- so please feel free to challenge me to cover a tool or to solve a problem for you.

In this first column, I thought it would be useful to give a simple definition of Web 2.0. So, firstly, take a deep breath and forget everything that you know about Web 2.0. Because the most important concept about Web 2.0 is that it isn’t a thing, a tool or a trend that is limited to technology; rather, it is a state of mind. There are five main characteristics that define the state. Web 2.0 is collaborative because its ease of use ensures wide participation that depends on teamwork rather than individualism. It is communal because web 2.0 creates empowering connections between people with similar interests. It is creative because it uses and reuses material in novel ways. It is unControlled because there is not one centralised power controlling the web. Finally, and most importantly, web 2.0 is a conversation that changes us from passive to active consumers, giving us an online voice. It is for these reasons that Web 2.0 is a powerful force in society today, and has a growing role in academia and libraries.

Web 2.0 is permeating other areas of our lives too. Tivo, the digital video recorder is a great example of the 2.0 mindset. Traditionally, TV provided a package of information. Passive consumers had little flexibility about when or how they watched programs. With TIVO, however, live TV can be paused and shows are automatically recorded. TV companies are giving up control. Similarly, business is becoming more aware of 2.0. Companies used to be strictly hierarchical with all communication strictly monitored. They expected consumer brand loyalty. However, the most flexible businesses are giving up some of that control to enable a two-way conversation between the consumer and the producer. Zappos, the online shoe seller enables every service representative to have as much power to solve customer problems as the CEO. WordPress, the blogging software, opened up its online support forum. This shows that it has glitches in its software but it also enables a faster response time and glowing testimonials. These examples show that Web 2.0 is changing markets, consumers, employees and companies. For these reasons, web 2.0 is much more than just a tool. I hope that the following columns will show how we can tap this sentiment in Latin American librarianship.

Posted by Alison Hicks.

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