Sunday, June 22, 2008

Current 2.0 Toys

Some promising 2.0 toys I'm currently playing with but have yet to figure out a real-life academic application for:
  • Ameritocracy - uses a reputation and source citation system to create intelligent dialogue/discussion around public policy/political issues. Potential use in info lit to teach critical source evaluation and proper source citing?
  • iSpring - converts Powerpoint slides, including animations to flash (possible use in our virtual workshops)
  • MeGlobe - IM with instant language translation for possible use with our overseas students.
  • Timetoast - create online timelines with photos and links to content easily.
  • uTipu - easily create video tutorials with audio overlay and publish to web - far easier (and free!) than Camtasia, but obviously without most of the advanced features. Here is one I did (there is audio, but it's low volume, so turn up your speakers!):
  • Yahoo! Pipes - create, aggregate and filter RSS feeds. This is easier to use than I thought - no programming skills needed for the basics. We want to start offering RSS feed services that incorporate our subscription databases to course developers especially.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

More Wordle Usage

As luck would have it, I found another possible use for Wordle - as a quick way of generating promotional art! I serve on the planning committee for our upcoming Student Academic Conference, where students get the chance to meet each other and present their research, etc. Well, we were thinking of sending out a postcard and so I created a Wordle using terms that I picked out from the testimonials from past conference attendees:

Whether it will be used, I don't know, but it was easy to do and the committee has given me positive feedback on it so far.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Wordle as Jargon Assessment Tool?

Got this tool from LibraRonin:
Wordle - create a customizable word cloud from any pasted text.

Example: text from 20 of my recent Tweets

Might this tool be useful as an ad hoc way to analyze use of terminology/jargon/keywords within library websites? In other words: an easy, visual way to determine if, for example, a tutorial focuses on the concepts we want it to focus on?

Here are some examples showing the top 100 or 150 words on a couple pages from within our site:

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Two random ideas: virtual info lit and Wikipedia

Wanted to put down a couple of ideas floating about in the mostly vacuum of space between my ears...
  1. My guess is that this may never be politically viable, but...a SUNY-wide implementation of Elluminate virtual classroom. This could be used for many things: by language faculty for distance or blended courses to hold speaking practice sessions/lessons, librarians could offer info lit workshops as supplement to one-shot in-class sessions, librarians and beyond could use it for committee work, collaborative meetings, etc. I especially would be interested, of course, in the info lit part. Wouldn't it be wonderful to create a collaborative set of virtual information literacy workshops? With all the talented and creative teacher-librarians across SUNY participating, the content could be great and the number of offerings could go way up, giving students the most choices for convenience within their schedule, with some sessions, for example, focusing on basic research skills using SUNYConnect resources, being offered across campuses.
  2. Display RSS feed of Wikipedia's "On this Day" entry on the website or library blog. Would this have negative consequences, given that many faculty and librarians still view this resource as off-limits in an academic environment? I think if the presentation is framed right, with an eye to evaluation skills, it could be a great way to bring some constantly changing general interest history content onto the library site. Is anyone doing this already?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Web 2.0 Tools Stability Assessment Checklist?

Recent problems with Twitter, Muxtape and even a giant like Blogger highlight, I think, a central conundrum to successfully adopting any of the widely interesting and potentially useful web 2.0 technologies out there for free use: there is no guarantee that the mostly start-up companies (and sometimes even single individuals) creating and maintaining these often innovative tools are stable, long-lasting, or have the capacity to handle widespread growth in the use of their applications. Upgrading servers and maintaining increasingly complex code requires increasing expenditures of time, technical skills and money that many of these start-ups simply can't maintain in the long run. On our side, the risk isn't as great since most of these tools are free, but there can be a significant cost in time and effort in adapting them to our needs.

How then can we effectively gauge what tools have a better chance of weathering long-term growth spurts and monetary crunches? Does anyone know of a good assessment rubric/checklist/worksheet out there for this? What factors should be considered before adopting a 2.0 tool? Are there factors to weigh that are different, for example, from assessing a product or hardware package?

Things that come to my mind, but I'm sure I'm missing a ton of considerations (it's Friday afternoon, so my mind is mushy!):
  • weighing development/adoption time against record of stability (in other words, if it's a smaller-scale project, you might be able to chance using a tool that is less time/stablity-tested).
  • look at creator/company specifics and mission plan
  • look for reviews of tool
  • inquire about server specs and biz plan for growth
  • look at stability of other products, if any, of developers

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Confluence of Transgender and Distance Ed?

An excellent trans-inclusion discussion panel I attended last night got me thinking about transgender and gender conformity issues at my own institution and within the library profession. Most certainly, my college has been super supportive in regards to my own transition and working environment.

But then I got to wondering if anyone has looked into the possibility that distance learning programs have a higher percentage of trans-identified/gender-questioning students than regular brick-and mortar ones. I think the environmental factors are there that might draw more gender non-conforming students than traditional higher ed environments:
  • Less safety concerns: in a distance learning environment, you can do your academic work relatively anonymously online, where gender expression and "fitting-in" would not be an issue or a possible weapon to be used against you in face-to-face social situations. You don't have to worry about walking across campus and being harassed or worse by drunken frat boys, etc.
  • Distance learning inherently draws older students and older trans-identified individuals are perhaps more likely to have grappled with gender expression issues and "come out."
  • You don't have to worry about bathroom usage issues as much.
  • You don't have to worry as much about your voice "outing" you to your classmates or causing confusion among your classmates.
  • You don't have to worry as much about generalized discrimination, because gender cues are not as important in online communications.
If it is the case, as I suspect, that institutions of higher ed with distance learning programs have higher transgender-identified student enrollments, this could have implications for service delivery and diversity training. Certainly, I think there might be opportunities to have a discussion or provide some form of training with faculty and library and support staff about awareness and issues that are involved in making the learning and administrative environments more trans-inclusive. Issues such as sensitivity to the use of pronouns, privacy, and awareness of activities and learning content that is traditionally gender-segregated/specific that doesn't have to be, might be addressed.

Anyone know of any research out there on this front? I did a very prelim search and didn't find anything...