Thursday, November 29, 2007

initial thoughts on Second Life

In following up with the last post, in which NPR talks briefly about Second Life:

I have to say at this point, I'm still up in the air about use of Second Life in the library beyond very, very limited and experimental instructional purposes. I think this kind of technology definitely has usefulness and vast potential, but who knows if Second Life will be the lasting platform to deliver it? I would be hesitant to spend any significant amounts of money or time developing content there if it is going to go the way of VHS or MySpace. It's a really cool toy at present for those of us who are geeks at heart, but I haven't seen many uses of it that go much beyond presenting 2-D info in a 3-D environment (example: embedding a power point in a virtual world - I can't think of a dumber use of this technology!)

Does Second Life use standard programming, such as some sort of xml-like language (please excuse my ignorance of this since I have no knowledge of the Second Life back end) for content so that it might in the future be easily ported over to a different system? For example, if I created a detailed, modular, immersive instructional experience, for example, covering various aspects of information literacy and understanding and using library resources, and then Second Life went out of business, could I easily move that experience over to the next virtual platform?

If not, is such a standard for virtual content possible? If not, that to me would be huge stumbling block to widely adopting such kinds of virtual technologies and platforms given their ever changing nature.

Interesting NPR story on distance ed

If you missed it, you can listen to the audio for the 2 parts of this interesting NPR story on distance education at the University of Illinois-Springfield here:

It talks about use of Second Life as well.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Custom browser toolbar creation software?

I have found only one free tool for easily creating a customized browser toolbar that doesn't require programming skills: Conduit.

And I created what I think is a fairly useful toolbar for our library given the limitations (and that can be added to Firefox or IE). It includes a search box for our federated search and search options for several of our other tools, in addition to a drop down display feed for our research blog and a button to "ask a librarian." It also automatically propagates any updates to everyone who has downloaded it and allows the end-user to add other buttons as well, like for Word or Excel. The two major shortcomings of this tool are:
  1. Limited branding - especially that there isn't the ability to add a logo or play with the fonts and colors of the tool.
  2. The default search is for Google. Ideally, I'd want it to search our E-book catalog or at least Google Scholar and it also doesn't allow me to move that search box to the right and put the federated search box in it's place.
Having said that, I think it's worth using, but so far my boss hasn't been real supportive. I could see creating a suite of these, based on broad subject categories that search or link to the major resources in that subject. Are there other free or cheap, but easy to use browser toolbar creation tools out there that people know about that address these shortcomings?

And finally, how are people promoting/marketing the use of these both to students and perhaps more prominently, faculty? The tact I can think of is as a time- and effort-saver. Do your research from anywhere! Avoid having to sift through the library web site. That sort of thing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Flickr Group-Map Apps?

I had the idea today of using the Flickr group and map applications as a centerpiece to try and build an online community for the college. Since most of our students are working adults and never see each other and are spread out all over the state, the country and even the world, the opportunity to see other student pictures and bios and where they fall on the map might be a good hook to build student participation.

The biggest obstacle in my opinion with our older student population (ave. age is c. 34) is getting them to buy into it. There are obvious time and technophobia issues with a percentage of this age group, but the recent report from Lee Raine on "2.0 and the Internet World" (via iLibrarian) has changed my opinion on this a little more. Sizable percentages of adults are now using social software and reading, tagging and creating content. Not to say that many of our students are on Facebook just yet, but there may be an opening here to begin to grow student involvement and community (which I think is almost non-existent at our institution).

Is anyone else trying this kind of thing with Flickr or a similar tool? Would it be better if bundled in with a more fleshed out suite of 2.0 apps like blogs, wikis, social networking, content tagging, etc? How might you go about marketing such a feature to distance learners? What kinds of privacy and security issues (such as posting of inappropriate content) would be involved in such a purely voluntary application?

Another library blog?

Yup - you got it, punk. Yet another blog from a librarian. On here I hope to talk mostly about issues surrounding academic distance librarianship. I work in an academic library that has no (physical) books and most of our students are working adults who take at least some if not all of their classes online.

Anyways, I always have lots of ideas and wanted a venue to try and flesh them out and hopefully get some discussion going among colleagues out there interested in issues surrounding the distance learning environment and libraries, such library 2.0, information literacy, library marketing, etc.

I've been a blogger for about 4 years and you can read about my (harrowing? disturbing? boring?) personal journeys on my personal blog here: The Disobedient Librarian.