Posts filed under ‘Technology’

On Andy Woodworth and the Old Spice Guy discussing libraries

Let's eat peanut butter

Let's eat peanut butter

Andy Woodworth, popular NJ Librarian and friend, suggested that I illustrate the response to his tweet from the recently retired Old Spice Guy (OSG). The response, if you’ve not seen it, is a video in which OSG talked up some of the benefits of libraries, which in turn started some larger conversations and discussions about the interactions of commercial ventures and libraries and what that means. Andy details the exchange here.

The video stated, in typical genius, free-thought OSG style:

“I’m handsome. You’re pretty. Let’s eat peanut butter. Stop throwing pigeons. Jump onto that giraffe.”

Nice work, Andy, for keeping the discussion on libraries public and active, and we’ll miss you, OSG.

July 22, 2010 at 9:08 pm 4 comments

A quote by Alfred Mercier

Mercier on Learning

Mercier on Learning

Author:  John LeMasney. As a supporter and fan of libraries and librarians, I find it a privilege and honor to be able to post on Library Garden. I also sometimes find it just the slightest bit intimidating. I’m always just a little bit reluctant to post something that I think might be too far outside of the librarian’s perspective. At the same time, I’ve been  working closely with libraries in New Jersey and elsewhere for the last 3 or 4 years as a presenter, trainer  and consultant, and I love the topics that I’ve been able to put into my personal Venn diagram with Libland.

Topics such as technology, design, blogging, open source, outreach, and learning all have been focus points for my work with libraries, but my favorite by far has been design. As a result, for the posts I’ve created here at LG, I’ve made them about design. In order to increase and maintain my posting numbers here, I’ve decided that I’m going to not only write about design, but to actually do relevant designs for this blog. As inspiration, I’ve discovered many pages of quotes about libraries, learning, media, and librarians that I thought would be the perfect muse for illustration.

This is the first of what I hope will be well received posts in this vein. Mercier’s quote here about indelibly learning that which is pleasurable rings very true in my experience, and I thought you, dear reader, might agree, so I’m sharing the thought with you.

This was made in the open source illustration package called Inkscape. I typed out the quote in several single word blocks in order to have the most flexibility with their placement and manipulation. I kerned each word very tightly, as to add some speed to the reading. The font, one of my all time favorites, is Gill Sans. I added several rectangles overlapping in the background, in various woodland hues and tints, and then converted them to paths, so that I could add curves to them. Finally, I added translucent gradients to each of the blocks to create a misty effect.

You might wonder (or at least that’s my nagging suspicion) how this relates, exactly, to libraries. I’d say that if you do design in your work of attracting patrons to programs, and maintaining posters or fliers, that it very directly relates to you. I’d go further to say that if you’re using Word or Publisher to do that work, you’d have a rather difficult time of doing this particular design there, despite the fairly simple design. Even if you don’t recognize doing (or feel that you) design directly in your work, I’d argue that everyone who faces a blank page on a screen makes design decisions. That’s probably you.

Part of the message I’m trying to send is that some of the best tools in life are free (as in cost, and in freedom) and that with just a few key skills, you can greatly improve your designs. Another part is that what we learn with pleasure, we never forget.  Another part is that I firmly believe that design can change your life, bring you pleasure, and alter how you see the world forever.

February 27, 2010 at 9:00 am 2 comments

Using Inkscape to make a text based portrait

Hi, all. I got an email recently from an attendee of my GIMP and Inkscape workshop (which I’ve had the pleasure to give on behalf of a few of New Jersey’s finest Library Consortiums). This attendee  asked how I had performed a particular effect in Inkscape during the workshop in which I use a bit of text as a brush in order to render a portrait. An example follows:

text based portrait

Text based portrait

Instead of writing out the answer in text (I myself am a visio-audio/experiential learner, and tend towards those kinds of solutions), I decided to use the question as a starting point for an entry in a daily project I’ve been working on at http://365sketches.wordpress.com, in which I’m trying to make a quick sketch a day in 2010 using free software to demonstrate the power of those tools.

You may want to check it out from time to time (or subscribe to the feed, if you’re into that kind of thing) to get ideas for how you can use free software like Inkscape to create interesting designs for your library’s fliers, posters, and other advertising materials and platforms.

If you’ve seen me talk on the topic of Best Practices in Design, you also know that I feel strongly that design, and tools like Inkscape, can change your life, your attitude, and your view of the world.

At any rate, I made the following screencast to demonstrate how I make images like the one above. Enjoy, and if you have questions, I’m happy to answer them in the comments!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]Author: John LeMasney

February 4, 2010 at 10:15 am 4 comments

Put Your Words in a Book!

YOUR WORDS IN A BOOK!

by Peter Bromberg (via: http://themwordblog.blogspot.com/2009/11/help-us-write-book-this-month-only.html)

This is National November Write Your Own Book Month and the New Jersey State Library is taking the challenge to write a book with 50,000 words in one month. They need your help to both write and to spread the word to EVERYONE you know – friends, family, customers, co-workers, hairdressers, teachers, students. Everyone has the potential to write something that might positively impact the life of a stranger with this book!

The plan:

The NJ State Library will compile a book with the collective wisdom of people sharing advice with another human being. Words of wisdom for a child, friend, politician, parent, teenager, adult, parent … The catch is, you have to text your advice and it can only be 140 characters or less. The text messages will be collected until there are 50,000 words of wisdom. The name of the book will be, H2H (Human to Human) wisdom in 140 characters- unless someone texts us a better title! NJSL will even publish it online so you can share it with your friends and families.

Three ways to submit your H2H words of wisdom:

  1. Text “H2H” to 51684, hit “space” and type your advice. Standard message charges apply. You’ll receive a message to let you know your submission has been accepted. NJSL will keep you updated about the book but we won’t send more than 1 message per week and you can stop the messages anytime you want by replying “Stop”.
  2. Tweet to: @h2hbook
  3. Write online: Follow this link

Your initials or first name will be attributed to your quote if you include them.  All entries must be submitted no later than November 30.

Guidelines:

  • No profanity
  • No personal references

While we would love to use all quotes that are submitted, we will be editing the final product and reserve the right to reject submissions.

Questions?

Send to Nancy Dowd: ndowd[at]njstatelib.org.

————————————————————————–

BTW, here’s my submission: “People are people. Everyone. Everywhere. Always. Remember this idea. Share it, spread it, grow it. In this way the world will be saved.”

Library Garden Post by Peter Bromberg

November 25, 2009 at 3:15 am 1 comment

5 great tools and techniques for developing presentations

Hi, everyone! One of my favorite librarians and open source advocates (Nicole Engard) just Tweet DMed me and asked if I ever shared officially the tools I mentioned in a discussion session on Presentation Tools and Techniques at Pres4Lib at Princeton Public Library. I replied no, with regrets. I figured if she’s wondering about it, maybe you are too!

By the way, if you like our articles, please share them on Twitter, Facebook, and anywhere else you like.

I use a pretty well structured, personally vetted workflow for developing presentations and blog posts that involves developing an outline, collecting images, preparing images, research and citations. Let me share some of the tools that I use to accomplish these tasks just about every time.

Google Docs
Image via Wikipedia

Google Docs Presentations

I stopped using Microsoft PowerPoint a few years ago and have not looked back. While I would consider using the open source alternative of OpenOffice.org’s presentation tool, by instead choosing a presentation tool in the cloud, I get the ability to edit and present anywhere where I’m connected, the ability to edit offline with Google Gears installed on Firefox, the common ability to add images, draw pictures, embed my slideshows (!), allow people to automatically see the latest greatest embedded versions of my presentations up to the second after I’ve updated them, allow for collaboration and co-viewing and if I absolutely must, export to a PDF for offline sharing and presentation disaster backup. I can even make a PPT for someone who insists on it.

I typically log in to Google Docs, create a title slide for my topic, and then immediately develop an agenda slide, which I then begin to outline with the topics (and slides) that I want to cover in my talk. My style emphasizes simple broad topics which I elaborate on in spontaneous ways. I try to keep the number of words on slides to an absolute minimum. I usually make a slide for each of my topics, and I then try to look for stories, photos, and illustrations that lead the people in the audience to start thinking about my topics before I introduce them verbally or textually.

Image representing Google Images as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

Creative Commons vetting via Google Image Search

Google Image Search is far and away the best image search tool I’ve come across (with the ability to search for line art, faces, and by color, etc.), especially now, since the recent addition of the license search feature in the advanced image search tool, which allows me to search according to Creative Commons licenses applied by designers and photographers to their images all over the web. This is especially important for me because I don’t just want to just use other peoples’ images in my work without their consent. I want to respect the wishes of image creators. By using the license restrictions, I can quickly find images available for commercial use, images allowed to be modified, images that simply require attribution, and even images in the public domain.

When we respect the rights of creators and innovators, and celebrate others’ work properly, I believe we engage in modeling important aspects of information literacy, if not common humanity.

I’ll search for a topic keyword, often choosing CC-attribution licensing, which allows me the greatest flexibility with which to use the images, to modify them, use them in commercial situations, and promote creative commons licensing, while simply being required to include attributive references to the original image author. I will very often name the file locally with the name of the author of the image, in the format “by username.jpg” or “from nameofwebsitedotcom.jpg” so that I have a built in back-reference.

Image representing Picasa as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Picasa

Once I have the images I want to use in my presentation saved to my local hard drive in a project folder, I often need to tweak, categorize, combine, title, tag, and integrate the images. While I can do this in a myriad of different utilities, tools, and applications, none of them have quite the combination of speed, comprehensive toolset, ease of use, functions, smoothness, or slickness of Google’s Picasa. Once you have downloaded and installed this free tool, you can use a Google account to store images in free named online galleries and keep them synchronized for free. With the number and variety of images I work with in my design and presentation work, I am thrilled that I have Picasa to help me wrangle them all.

I use it to tag, group, move, geocode, describe, upload, tweak, collage, print, and watermark my images for presentations, design work, papers, and everything else. It is a free, versatile, and irreplaceable tool in my personal tool set.

An example of both Zotero and OpenURL referrer...

Image via Wikipedia

Zotero

Zotero is a Firefox extension that allows for the single click based collection, categorization, tagging, editing, and even full text storage of web based database entries, books, articles, presentations, images and other standard citable sources. The amazing thing it that it automatically recognizes and collects metadata when it is present in a form that Zotero understands. This might sound like a difficult thing for content providers to implement, but all I had to do to make my WordPress blogs compliant was to install a single metadata-providing plugin (COinS) that offers my name, the title of posts, the publication date and other automatically generated metadata in blogging to Zotero users. Other sources who provide the relevant metadata to Zotero include major scholarly databases like Ebsco, newspapers like the New York Times, online booksellers like Amazon, and blogs and wikis around the world.

If I haven’t hooked you in to using Zotero yet, did I mention that with two clicks, you get properly formatted bibliographies in APA, MLA, and other citation styles? After I’ve visited books on Amazon and collected their data, or after I’ve found articles on Google Scholar and collected their data, or after I’ve grabbed creative commons licensed images from Flickr and collected their data, I can simply select all of them in my Zotero database, right click, and choose “Make bibliography from selected sources” which I then choose to send to clipboard, then paste right into my final slide, reference area of my paper, or wherever else I need to respect copyright or usage license. It is also a phenomenal way to meet the requirements of CC Attribution.

QuoteURLText

Number 5, QuoteURLtext (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/4292) is another Firefox Extension that does one thing, but does it exceptionally well. It copies the highlighted text on a page along with the date and time, URL, and page title to the clipboard so that you can easily paste some casual piece of information (such as a tasty tech tip, a quick statistic, a delicious quotation, or a little known fact) into a slide, paper, or post without having to go so far as to reference it in APA style. It’s like a casual little sister utility to the powerhouse that is Zotero.

Image representing Zemanta as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

<Jeopardy Daily Double Music> Bonus Tool: Zemanta: </Jeopardy Daily Double Music>

Finally, Zemanta (a play on semantic) is another Firefox extension that shows up in a sidebar when you are using supporting applications, such as Gmail, Blogger, WordPress, and other applications (check out their site for more). I desperately wish it worked with Google Docs Presentations, but nothing hints at that yet. Here’s why I care: All of the photos, captions, tags, post story articles, and even some of the links to referential sources were all suggested, generated and placed with a single click each using Zemanta. As I type, Zemanta autoscans sources with CC licensed imagery, content, and resources related semantically to my content. Let me reiterate: As I type.  All I need to do to add it to my post is simply to click. Clickety-clickety.

A pleasure to speak with you as always, I hope you learn to love these great free tools for developing your presentations just as much as I do.

John LeMasney

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November 16, 2009 at 9:00 am 1 comment

Business as Editor: A Talk on Twitter

I had the opportunity to go listen to Jack Dorsey, one of the creators of Twitter, talk the other night at The College of New Jersey. Janie Hermann found out about it and let me know it was happening, and we met up with Julie (Strange Librarian) there for the hour long talk. The talk was recorded by TCNJ and the video is posted here:  http://www.tcnj.edu/~pa/video/twitter09/ .

I definitely recommend you take a look at the video and listen to Jack for yourself. Below are just a few of the things that stood out for me.

A soft-spoken guy, Jack talked about how he had the idea for what today is Twitter since he was 15. He said that when starting something the hardest thing to do is TO START, and I think we can all relate to that! He spoke about getting your ideas out of your head, onto paper and into discussions with others so you can find out if there really is something to the idea or not. If you don’t get the idea out of your head and start sharing and playing with it, then you’ll not only never know if that idea is anything, but it will be difficult to move on with the next thing, the next idea, that might be something!

This relates to the transparency and openness that Jack talked about a lot. Communication and fostering a community where ideas (and even mistakes and problems) are shared is really important to how Twitter has been able to grow and to become so successful. The best lesson he said he could offer is to start from a place of transparency and to be open to criticism and suggestions. Some of the best features of Twitter did NOT come from the company. The “@” replies feature, the retweet (RT), the hashtags, and even the concept of each update as a “tweet,” all came from the USERS! The awesomeness of Twitter today is all because they went out with an idea and said this is what we have. We’re not sure what it’s good for, but we think you’ll know! As a result, today Twitter is something they couldn’t have even imagined when they started it.

These days Twitter receives thousands of suggestions and ideas every day. As a company, their challenge is deciding which ideas to say no to, and then to actually say no to those things. Based on all of the input how do you decide?  Jack said he realized that the business had to become a good editor. Company as editor.

As a business, Twitter has to choose what suggestions might add to the value and usefulness of Twitter. They would like to say yes to ideas that speak to 80% of the users and that sustain the technology and the company. They have to edit out those ideas and suggestions that will not improve Twitter. He also spoke about the business as editor when it comes to who works there – how do you choose who to hire and how do you decide when the relationship is no longer beneficial and it’s time to part ways? It’s all about editing.

He also said he isn’t interested in what market is using Twitter when a question came from the audience about how teens are (supposedly) not using Twitter. Jack said he wasn’t worried about what market uses Twitter, but about building a great product people love to use.

We also got a glimpse into what might be coming in the future when Jack talked about being really interested in immediacy and transparency and the health care and finance industries. He spoke about the fact that health and health care, especially one’s own health, is probably one of the most important things to and for us. However, most of us don’t understand what’s going on with health care. It is similar with global finance. This has a huge impact on all of our lives, but there are very few people who understand any of it. He said that health care and finance are two huge areas that he feels could really benefit from immediacy and transparency. I wonder what he has in mind!?

Check out some photos and more info here: https://www.tcnj.edu/~business/Twitter.html

You can also see the TCNJ press release for the event here: http://www.tcnj.edu/~pa/news/2009/dorsey.htm

Do take a look at the video – I would love to hear what you all think of his talk!

- Amy

November 6, 2009 at 4:36 pm 1 comment

Access denied

by April Bunn

Most of us have no control over it.
It gets people really upset when they run up against it.

The Internet Filter

access deniedHopefully you aren’t trying to read this at a school computer because you’d probably have  your “access denied” with most of my links below.

As a School Library Media Specialist, I am all too familiar with a great teaching moment being ruined by a blocked website. Linda Underwood’s School Library Monthly article “21st-Century Learning Blocked: What is a School Librarian to Do?” (September’s issue-not available online yet) inspired me to think more about this topic. This past week one of my colleagues was blocked from using National Geographic and another was blocked from downloading her Promethean Board software, so I knew it was time to get this done.  The technology teacher and I just convinced many of these teachers to branch out and use new technology and this filter is discouraging them rapidly.  Just to give you an idea of what it’s like with these filters:

  • We can’t use any image or video sites at all (so long to those Google Images on our web pages and for student projects and no-can-do on that great video you found on Abraham Lincoln on YouTube).
  • Also, no access to sites that have a shopping cart feature, like Barnes and Noble, making it a serious challenge to place orders when we are registering for conferences, ordering books and supplies.
  • No technical or business forums (see below)

Ironically, as I try to finalize this post, sitting at my desk after school dismisses, I am blocked from previewing the post on WordPress with the response screen below:

_______________________________________________________

filter blockedblocked

You cannot access the following Web address:
http://librarygarden.net/?p=2399&preview=true
The site you requested is blocked under the following categories: Technical/Business Forums
You can:
Temporarily override filtering on this computer if you have an override name and password. (Note that your administrator may be notified that you’ve bypassed filtering.)
Use your browser’s Back button or enter a different Web address to continue.

__________________________________________________________

Surveying other Libraries

After suffering from blocks preventing her from using pieces of Web 2.0 in her teaching, National Board Certified Teacher and Instructional Technology Integrator  Sharon Elin used her blog at edutwist.com, to conduct a survey about which popular sites were blocked and find out what other schools were allowing. Her results, displayed in colorful graphs, represent the more controversial of sites, but even simple sites that include questionable images are blocked from most students.

As Media Specialists, we are responsible, along with our Technology colleagues, for teaching about safe internet searching and strategies for effective information retrieval. As one of Elin’s responders wrote, “Teaching students about internet safety in a highly filtered environment is like teaching kids to swim in a pool without water.”

edutwist quote

So why do we have to have them?

In 2000, Congress enacted the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). As a result of that Act, many schools and libraries got grants for technology or joined the E-Rate program, a discounted pricing system set up by the FCC for telecommunication services, Internet access, and internal connections. One requirement of these programs was to certify that you are using computer filtering software programs to prevent the “on-screen depiction of obscenity, child pornography or material that is harmful to minors”.  Nobody is really arguing that schools against schools being a safe place, away from highly offensive material. As librarians, our collection development is monitored by administration and the purchasing has to be supported with some curricular connection.  What we as educators are saying is that the filters that are in place in schools are blocking educational information that could be inspiring to a child. Parents must understand that their children are losing out on dynamic learning communities created by Web 2.0 developments.

We’re being forced to bypass the filter

In most cases, educators are waiting for technical administrators to release the block after explaining how they are going to be using it in they teaching. By the way, these tech administrators are NOT teachers or librarians; they are IT people and network security experts that are now responsible for evaluating things like 5th grade students’ research on endangered species. Are we even speaking the same language? I don’t think so. In my school, those requests are only read once a week.

As a result, we’ve (older students and teachers) resorted to bypassing and unblocking the filter on our own. My Google search returned over 1 million hits when using the search terms “how to bypass school internet filters” and the responses included videos and instructions galore. A large portion of these requests could be from students as well.

A few examples are:

eHoweHow (www.ehow.com)

is just one of the many sites giving step by step directions how to bypass the filter. They call it a “circumvention” of the block and don’t make any attempt to discuss the issue: “Whether or not these blocks are justified or a waste of time, whether they are a form of censorship or a method of managing resources, are topics that can be debated another time.”  They give 3 sets of directions depending on what you’d like to use: a translation service, URL redirection service, or web proxy.

Quick tips graphic Quick Online Tips (www.quickonlinetips.com) has a page called “Top 10 Ways to Unblock Websites”

We know about it but won’t widely risk it

Most of the school librarians that I spoke to knew that these methods existed, but many had only used it once or twice, or were scared to be caught. The law specifically states, “An administrator, supervisor, or person authorized by the responsible authority [i.e. school, school board, local educational agency, or other authority with responsibility for administration of such school] may disable the technology protection measure concerned to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purposes.”

Can’t we just block the students’ computers?

No. The FCC’s E-Rate program is specific that every computer have the filter engaged, “The FCC is imposing the requirements on ALL Internet-accessible computers used by the schools and libraries, including public, student, staff and administrative workstations on the Internet because the law made no distinction between school and library computers that are used only by adult staff, and those used by children or the public.” If we’re hoping schools will allow us to have more access than our students, it looks like we’ll be waiting awhile. If you refer to Elin’s survey, the communication service Skype is almost the only site that was allowed on more teacher computers than student ones. That wasn’t true in my school this month when a teacher was blocked from Skype or Google Video Chat to demonstrate communication across the world with her son who is teaching English in Korea.

SKype Chart

Skype Chart

What can we hope for in the future?

I’m trying to be optimistic in how I think filters will be used in schools of the future. Otherwise I’d feel like my degree in Library and Information Science may not be best suited for a school library career. My dreams are for:

  • Trust from our Administration that we are professionals and will use the internet wisely in our teaching
  • Filtering programs that are created by educators and parents
  • Websites designing “school-safe” versions for filter approval
  • Open access to dynamic information online without lurking viruses and predators
  • Faith from the parents whose children we inspire on a daily basis that we are working to create better global citizens

by April Bunn, School Library Media Specialist in a PreK-6th Grade School

September 28, 2009 at 2:23 pm 15 comments

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