29 August 2007

Many approaches to Technology

Today at lunch, a small group of faculty and I got together to think about how to encourage a greater embrace of technology on campus. A lot of ideas were thrown out in terms of who to direct our efforts towards, what are their needs, how will we best reach them, where, when, how.

One of the themes of our talk was that there are different levels of need when it comes to talking about technology, especially in relationship to faculty. Is it that we want to teach people who are uninformed or intimidated to play, to try, to experiment? Or are we trying to befriend the resisters, those that disengage with technology for a variety of reasons? Or is it that we want to engage faculty in a discussion of what technologies are capable of in their classrooms? Or do we want to give people a forum where they can relay and discuss their experiences, qualms, or concerns about technology?

Or all of the above?

Of course I want to do all of those things. But perhaps the need for discussion is the catalyst to acheiving the other goals. A few nights ago, a faculty member shared with me that he doesn't use technology in his classroom because he thinks it will detract from his message and emphasize his "coolness" rather than his content. He has a point. And I think a discussion of what you are trying to honestly acheive with a technology is essential in trying to discern its usefulness in your classroom and in your life. There are many of us who play with technology because we are interested in it, curious about it, amazed by it, excited by it. And we can often dominate the conversation. One amazing technologist I know responds to that kind of comment that just as she is taking responsibility for her learning, so must the less enthused.

In some ways I agree. I think personal responsibility is often lacking when it comes to technology. As I've said before in this blog, if you just take the time to play with it, to try it...

But then again...what is our point in starting some sort of forum? Is it to learn ourselves? Or is it to welcome and teach? I often have a very hard time not monopolizing teaching moments so I can learn as much as I can from them. But might I be doing a disservice to those I am trying to teach by doing that? I want my enthusiasm to propel someone towards technology but I wonder if sometimes I drive them from it by going too fast or taking their learning experience for myself rather than focusing it on their experience.

I'm not sure what I want from a technology forum except that I do indeed want one. But in thinking about it, I wonder if we could succeed in creating a welcoming environment by trying to be everything to everyone. There are so many ways to approach discussions of technology and I wonder what best fits our needs, now?

27 August 2007

He blogs his way around the world

This one goes out to Gary Scudder, professor of history at Champlain with wit and humor available no matter the circumstance. But it's not Gary's bizarre and dry sense of humor I really want to mention, or at least not directly. It is his amazing travel blog that has made me stop-look-and-read.

A little background....
Gary did not even know what a blog was until I mentioned it to him one day. And that very afternoon he came to my office and I helped him set one up. Today, he is a blogging machine! He blogs for school. He blogs for fun. He just blogs.

What I love most about the travel blog is his incredible sense of place and culture. His descriptions are candid but detailed, showing a seasoned traveler who is not afraid to go off the beaten path. Actually, I think that is his path. The pictures he has been showing of places he's been are always interesting but I also appreciate the pictures of the food he eats, the people he meets, the little things he notices when he is abroad. He contextualizes his travels in relationship to other spots and adventures that creates this sense of time and space that is engaging.

Gary's embrace of blogging is inspiring and I look forward to his posts. He mentioned to me that he also keeps a traditional journal and he wonders how he might write about things twice. Whether he finds it a bit tedious, I am glad he is making the extra effort. And I hope that upon his return, we can look over his journal to add some further thoughts and recollections about his travels.

It's a shame he is on his way home (though from the sound of his last post, he might need to rest up a bit...feel better Scudder!)

21 August 2007


Thanks to Jessica, The Cool Librarian for bringing this post by the Annoying Librarian to my attention. And thanks to her as well for encouraging a discussion about it at Library Talk. NOTE: if you cruise over there, you'll recognize this post.


The Annoying Librarian's post made the hair on my neck rise in protest for two reasons: a) that someone could hate the direction of their profession and carry such disdain for their patrons and their colleagues but still go to work; b) that 2.0 is being so misunderstood.

I agree that librarians need to think about the technologies we use, purport and incorporate into our users' experience. At the same time, if we aren't going to be innovative or experiment, then why are you a librarian in the first place? There are some things I question about 2.0 and technology in general. I discuss and attempt to dissect my experiences with them regularly here. And there are some things that I simply don't use and don't encourage my library to use, Facebook and Second Life are perfect examples. There are other technologies that have to work on me and it is not until I've played with them a bunch or I've thought about them away from my computer that I realize that they are really useful and fun: blogging, Feevy, and wikis are good examples.

While AL might have a point that the language of the manifesto is a bit sugary sweet, I applaud ALA for encouraging librarians to stop ranting about how difficult technology is, how it is not their job, etc and embrace it. To my mind, the manifesto is not for the likes of us, per se, but for the ALA crowd that does not hang out on their blogs or Library Talk thinking, talking, and sharing technology and abilities to use that technology in the library with their patrons.

It's a lot like Harry Potter: many people might not like it or think it is literature but it sure does get a bunch of TV watching kids into a book.

20 August 2007

College Website of the Month!

Champlain College Library's website has been selected as the "College Library Website of the Month" by the College Library Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL).


What is this award? According to their announcement, "The College Library Section recognizes that a library's Website, in addition to enhancing access to a library’s resources and services, serves in general as a major means of communicating with current and future users."

That is definately us!

What a great way to introduce the web to the college community, to rev our engines for the start of the school year and affirm the hard work everyone at my library does to make our focus our students and faculty.

And that's just the beginning. We are starting chat ref this semester, getting our own blog up and going, and using flickr to share new books and displays with our community.

We are so library 2.0.

14 August 2007

Exploring New Technology: Technorati

At conferences, in library and technology literature, in blogs...you hear it, you see it, but what is it? What is Technorati?

As usual, the first place I try is their About Us. For such a popularly quoted resource, I guess I expected some concrete information as to their mission, purpose, resources, etc. They do present a resounding statistic:
Currently tracking 97.7 million blogs and over 250 million pieces of tagged social media. Technorati is the recognized authority on what's happening on the World Live Web, right now.

But why is it the recognized authority? What exactly do they do? Once I reread their About Us, this popped out at me:
On the World Live Web, bloggers frequently link to and comment on other blogs, creating the type of immediate connection one would have in a conversation. Technorati tracks these links, and thus the relative relevance of blogs, photos, videos etc. We rapidly index tens of thousands of updates every hour, and so we monitor these live communities and the conversations they foster.
So what exactly are they tracking? At first I thought they meant that when I reference Meredith Farkas or David Silver, Technorati keeps track of it. Not exactly. Looking again at their homepage, I started to see that they are just creating an indexed blogosphere. From the looks of their tag cloud, there seems to be more references to what is written about (You Tube, famous folks, politics, etc) than to whom is referenced. But then again, you can search for people or blogs and find out when they have been mentioned, referenced, linked to. I searched for Meredith and saw people's posts referencing her blog. I searched for my own blog and found myself referenced even.

Wow...sit back and take that in. Better yet, try it. It's astounding.

I have no doubt that there a multitude of way to use Technorati, as a blogger, as an interested web user, as a person. But as a librarian, I immediately think about all the times students want to use public opinion to start out a paper. For example, when their research papers start out with, "People say that..." What if we gave them Technorati? Instead of "people say," they could try "According to Technorati, there are 18,658 blogs posts related to Second Life and Higher Education," to qualify people saying? Good idea? Bad idea? I'm not sure yet...but I will think about it and share those thoughts with you.

One last thing I noticed, Technorati picked up an amazing number of MySpace blog posts. Hmmm.

08 August 2007

On Vacation

The Sheck is taking a few days off to get some rest and relax at the beach in Maine. I have Harry Potter in hand as my beach reading and my pup, Rigi, and I head out tomorrow morning to enjoy the company of good friends and to satisfy the need to see and play in the ocean. It will be nice to recharge my batteries before the school year gets underway.

06 August 2007

Teaching and Learning from Wikipedia

Why is the very best part of this brief article in the Chronicle stuck at the bottom? The headline should read "Program helps explain how Wikipedia works" or something that highlights the valuable lesson that can be learned from this kind of program. But I think the important thing here is to understand both how the program works and how wikipedia works.

That this software only looks at a contributor's past history but not at the facts themselves presents an interesting discussion into what constitutes reliability. One thing I would ask students to consider if we used this program was what kind of articles are being contributed to. If a contributor has been working on controversial entries, such as the VA Tech shootings or the recent bridge collapse in Minnesota, their contributions might have been deleted or overturned due to the nature of changing information. Again, it's an opportunity to discuss those instances and the pace of information rather than prescribe. And that gets to the very crux of what makes wikipedia so wonderfully exciting: it draws on everyone's knowledge and everyone's input. But that is also what makes it so wonderfully exciting as a critical thinking exercise too! (Students roll their eyes when I say that part)

One of my favorite learning activities in information literacy sessions is to have students edit wikipedia so they can see what it really means to have an encyclopedia anyone can edit. Again, by seeing their edits immediately saved, they get a sense of how quickly information changes which I think is essential for students to contextualize as they try to make sense of what is appropriate for school v. their general curiosity.

Finally, I have started reading a great book, Wikinomics, and while I am only a bit into it, the argument that so much can be acheived socially but economically through collaboration is affirming and exhilirating. But most importantly is the case the authors' make for the necessity of collaboration. They suggest that if you don't adapt and come together, you are only showing yourself the door. They give numerous examples of this in the corporate world but I think the notion extends easily to the world of higher ed. Discussion, sharing, and working together to develop arguments, solutions and, occasionally, answers seems essential in the inner workings of institutions just as it does in the classroom, faculty lounge, or laboratory. We shouldn't just teach it, we should practice it.