Sometimes I think that we forget that library science is itself a science. There’s no reason then why STEM shouldn’t be a natural part of our collections and our instruction. But where to get started?
One way to start boosting your library’s support of STEM is to take a long, hard look at your science materials. Do you have books about the planet Pluto, dinosaurs called “brontosaurus,” or pretty much any dinosaur with a dragging tail? Titles on how to make a MySpace page? For most sciences, print materials typically have a shelf life of three to five years. With computer technologies, that’s more like three to five months.
With tight collection budgets, we have to get smart about how we buy materials. No more shelves full of “just in case” books, including guides on shells, birds, and trees. These, along with astronomy guides, rock identification manuals, and the rest of those little reference-type books, are easily replaced by a single computer with Internet access. Throw in a subscription to one of many available STEM database resources, and you’re more than covered.
A related collection development issue: consider one of the many book series about the lives of scientists and their work. Showing students, especially girls, the options for STEM-based careers is an important service we can perform.
Beyond offering material that shows women in STEM-based roles, we can do more to encourage students. Given the predominately female demographic of school and children’s librarians, there are opportunities to be role models. Show students the scientific aspects of library and information science. The cataloging and taxonomies that we work with are analogous to classification in biology.
As for computer technologies, our best bet is to keep leading and excelling in integrating technology into instruction. Earlier this year, the Alliance for Excellent Education released its report “Leading in and Beyond the Library,” documenting the importance of school librarians in technology implementation.
The study demonstrates for administrators that libraries are where the digital shift is happening in schools. Furthermore, “deeper learning and 21st-century competencies such as critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration—the so-called 4 Cs—are also emphasized.” A critical aspect of digital integration is the shift from consumption to creation. The library, the report notes, is where students become authors and creators.
Students and the larger public can become creators in library maker spaces. As 3-D printers come down in price, more and more libraries will venture into the realm of making. For now, remember that the maker movement is about much more than 3-D printing. Consider a subscription to MAKE (makezine.com) as a way to engage student creativity. Or follow the example of the Grand Center Arts Academy in St. Louis, MO, where part of the library was transformed into a maker space.
Whether your first steps in STEM involve small changes in collection development or simply bringing to your administrator’s attention the report on libraries’ roles in digital implementation, the key point is to move forward. STEM is receiving a lot of attention, to the point of the creation of a White House office for STEM instruction. Why not take this great chance to highlight how libraries support and implement STEM?
Code4Lib is a unique place. I don’t know of another space like it in the library world. It has inside jokes all over the place, from the love of bacon, to the poking of fun at OCLC as an organization and me as an individual. Both myself and my employer (OCLC) are good for it, and we both engage with and support this community with what I hope is friendly good humor.
From the perspective of the organization, OCLC has been the single largest and most consistent sponsor of the Code4Lib Conference since the beginning. I like to think I had something to do with that. I’ve been an active participant in the Code4Lib community for many years, thanks to Dan Chudnov, who first turned me on to what was at the time a nascent group of library coders. What it has grown into has astonished me and likely others who were early participants.
So recently when there began a Code4Lib meme about “Roy4Lib” (believe me, you had to be there), I wasn’t surprised. But for me, the apex of the inside joke was this post by my friend Ross Singer:
When you’re alone and you think you hear the tinkling of ice cubes in a glass and the faint smell of Scotch, that was Roy.
That person building a treehouse as you drive past, that was Roy.
Out of the corner of your eye, there was a mustached man, that was Roy.
When you delete a MARC record, you are the Roy.
Clearly all of this had precedent, from my love of single malts to my legacy of building treehouses, to my ever-present mustache (which my daughters have forbidden me from shaving), to my throwing down the gauntlet that “MARC Must Die” way back in 2002. And Ross had it almost, completely, thoroughly, right.
But I have one small quibble. I don’t want you to delete a MARC record, I want you to free the data from MARC. And thankfully, this is exactly what we are doing at OCLC, where I work.
I wrote about just one of our most recent efforts here. But we have been doing this for a while. And we will continue to do so, while at the same time supporting MARC as the current foundational standard for library data.
But feel free to go forth and crowbar the data out of MARC. Be the Roy.
At Discovery Education’s Future@Now: Roadmap to the Digital Transition on February 26, educators—from principals to superintendents to teachers—all voiced the urgency in building a well-thought-out strategy before making a digital transformation in schools.
“I think planning is the hugest thing you can do,” said S. Dallas Dance, superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools, at the event. “You can’t just focus on the device. What do you want to do through the device?”
Dance was just one of several educators who took part in Discovery Education’s second annual education summit, a full day event held at Discovery Education’s headquarters in Silver Springs, Maryland. The event was broadcast online globally from Canada to the Philippines and shared on Twitter using the hashtag #futurenow.
Topics included how to develop teachers as leaders to specifics on how to integrate digital resources into the classroom. Those in the audience took part in interactive exercises, while those online could voice their questions over email. The event’s theme, this year, was around how to implement a digital strategy in school systems—and why districts and states should be making a case now.
Dance described in detail his district’s decision—and path—to his school district’s digital transformation from the school system’s budget reprioritization to its creation of a “brand” around the change.
Dubbed STAT—or Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow—the new brand attracted students who liked the fact the acronym also meant ”immediately,” says Dance.
Also, he explained the effort Baltimore County has made toward integrating technology successfully into the curriculum and the time, as well as the resources, that have been invested into carrying out the integration.
“It’s not taking a textbook and putting it into PDF format,” says Dance.
Audience members appeared rapt throughout the event, however at least two audience questions brought up the issue of professional development around the digital shift. One question came from a teacher who works at an independent school, frustrated about the lack of time allocated to educating teachers on how to stitch devices, tools, and materials into classrooms effectively.
Panelists during a mid-morning session “Planning Your Transition” agreed, even admitting that professional development may have been an afterthought when districts first began rolling out digital tools. The panelists admitted that attitude is not effective today.
“It’s imperative that we rethink professional development,” says Linda Clark, superintendent for the Meridian Joint School District No. 2 in Idaho. “Many of us were guilty of drive by-training, and we know it doesn’t work.”
Another push around professional development is engaging with teaching programs at the university and college-level, particularly those programs where schools districts hire teaching graduates. The goal is to have students studying to be teachers be prepared before they receive their degrees. And Dance added that he has worked with Towson University—a school where he recruits many of his teachers—to prepare them to be digitally-fluent before they graduate.
“We also need to train student teachers… before [they’re] coming to us,” he says. “We want to make sure we’re not doing triage every year with professional development.”
Of course, it was the voice of students who seemed to carry the most weight at the event. Six students from Maryland’s William Wirt Middle School helped launch the event with a skit explaining how they’re using technology today and what their future-selves might say about digital materials affecting their later career choices.
“Technology gives us the tools to be who we want to be,” says one of the students, Vanessa Avila-Ramos. “And the fuel to accelerate our path down the road.”
The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) published the report “Leading In and Beyond the Library,” this past January, showing the importance of school and public libraries in both state and district-wide efforts toward digital learning and the effective use of technology in teaching.
“There is a critical role for both school and community librarians in the transition to digital,” says Sara Hall, director of the Center for Digital Learning at the Alliance for Excellent Education based out of Washington, D.C. “Whether they’re librarians or media specialists, they’re often becoming instructional coaches leading the transition.”
Digital materials from e-books to online databases—and tools from tablets to 3-D printers—have quickly found their way into school libraries, classrooms, and public library branches as well. Having a core leader who can help stitch these tools into an educational experience can make the difference between merely a fun moment—and one that incorporates learning.
“Where we are seeing academic achievement and progress [in students], there has been a very strong librarian,” says Hall. “As school districts are making this shift, they have got to take a look at the role of the librarian, and how crucial it is.”
As schools shift to adopting more digital tools and services, libraries spaces are changing to accommodate this transition. In Texas’ Klein Independent School District (KISD), students are using convertible tablet PCs as part of the school’s One-to-One program, according to All4Ed’s report. As a result of the student’s prolific tablet use, students—who primarily frequented the school libraries to use their computers—visited less often. So the school libraries adapted, changing the way the space looked as well as the services offered.
“The library has become a learning commons with flexible seating and shelving and areas for collaborative learning for students,” Ann McMullan, the former executive director for educational technology for KISD, is quoted in the All4Ed report. “Students taking online courses during the day, utilize the library as a place to work, with the support of the school librarian.”
Public libraries are also playing a core role in this transition—adapting new tools and materials to support school environments. For example, students in the Sheridan County School District in Wyoming are given access to the public library’s personalized web-based reading environment, says the report. And Hall also points out Hillsborough County, Florida as another example of collaboration where the school district and public library system consulted one another and pooled their purchases of digital subscriptions to ensure they didn’t double up.
Vital to all these examples of schools and libraries maximizing the digital shift is planning. And All4Ed believes that having some forethought is especially crucial today when integrating digital tools. As a result, the group encourages school districts to think about how they will incorporate new technology before adoption.
As part of the alliance’s Project 24, the organization pushes educators to put a plan in place first—long before they outfit a classroom with new tablets or a school library with laptops. And school librarians can be a valuable resource for input, as schools and districts start to blueprint a new digital curriculum.
“Don’t just buy the device,” says Hall. “You don’t want to buy a laptop, and lay it over a textbook. Think about how to change the environment of the school and how kids are learning. Librarians have a lot to say about that.”
School Library Journal welcomes a new staff member. Carolyn Sun, a journalist with 12 years experience, has joined the editorial team as SLJ’s news editor. Sun was previously a news correspondent for developing countries at the United Nations from 2013–2014. In her work, she has covered topics ranging from gender-based violence to genocide. Prior to the UN, she has worked for the Asian American Writers Workshop, MediaGlobal News, UNEARTH News, Newsweek International, and O. She is an active member of the Asian American Journalists Association, the American Copy Editors Society, and the Korea Society. “SLJ covers the dynamically shifting worlds of school libraries and education policy and where the two collide,” says Sun. “I’m thrilled to join its staff.” Sun earned a B.A. in psychology from Tufts University and a M.A. in journalism from New York University. Prior to becoming a journalist, she has worked as a public school teacher in both special education and seventh grade English in the Los Angeles Unified School District at Audubon Middle School, in South Central, and Stevenson Middle School, in East L.A. Responsible for reporting, writing, and editing stories for the Web and SLJ’s award-winning print magazine, Sun succeeds Karyn M. Peterson, who left the company in January 2014. She can be reached at csun[at]mediasourceinc[dot]com. SLJ is the largest reviewer of children’s and young adult books and multimedia products and is the only full-service publication serving the youth and school library market. It reaches more than 100,000 elementary, middle/junior, and senior high school librarians and youth service librarians in the public sector.
EBSCO has rolled out Research Starters, a new feature for EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) that presents student researchers with short, citable summaries on frequently searched topics. Drawn from sources such as Salem Press, Encyclopedia Britannica, and American National Biography, more than 62,000 of these 500- to 1,500-word summaries are accessible, offering students an authoritative overview of their chosen subject, as well as links to other research starter summaries, or peer reviewed research where they can delve deeper into a topic.
For example, an unfiltered keyword search for “global warming” will return a link for a Research Starters summary on that topic—drawn from the Salem Press Encyclopedia of Science 2013—at the top of the results list. (The Research Starters link is followed by a standard list of results for content available in the library’s collections, and libraries can opt out of the new feature if they choose). Clicking on the Research Starters link brings up the citable overview, along with a text-to-speech tool, and links to related information, ranging from other general topics like “Atmospheric Properties” to more focused subjects, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s AR4 Synthesis Report.
The development of Research Starters was driven by largely by the research habits of undergraduate college students, many of whom use Google or Wikipedia as a starting point for papers or research projects.
“The area that [students] need the most help and guidance in is getting the big picture and getting started. That’s the biggest pain point,” Mike Laddin, vice president of product management for EBSCO Publishing, told LJ. “Many [college] students know that Wikipedia isn’t considered an authoritative source and they can’t cite it, but that’s their habit. What if we gave them overview of the most popular things that are being searched in EDS? Give them authoritative content.”
The feature helps students become more comfortable navigating the academic databases that their instructors are expecting them to use, said Emily O’Connor, Dean of Library and Learning Services for Rasmussen College, one of the beta testers for Research Starters.
“A lot of students don’t really know how to do a good search” in an academic database, she said. “They will put in really generic terminology. And that’s [what] these Research Starters, at least initially, are built for. If you do a search on something like ‘skin cancer,’ it’s going to pull up a starter that has valid, quality information. It has references, and it points you to additional resources that can be found within the database.”
Those links can help students browse through content and, ideally, narrow down their topic while growing more accustomed to the database.
“Students might not always know what they’re going to be clicking on right away, but it will get them to additional resources that will potentially have relevance to the topic they will be researching,” O’Connor said. “And it does draw out keywords that will be useful as they do their searches. I think one of the biggest problems that students have is that they just don’t know what terminology they need to be using during a search, or how to develop a search string. I think Research Starters educates them on searching as well as on the topics that they are researching.”
The Research Starters concept emerged from EBSCO’s regular user testing efforts, according to Kate Lawrence, Director of User Research for EBSCO Information Services.
“In previous testing—generally looking at search results and how college students do research—we had started to sense this feeling of anxiety and being overwhelmed on our search results page,” Lawrence said.
So, EBSCO’s user testers took a step back to analyze the “very ingrained” Google / Wikipedia habit. Beginning as early as middle school, students are told that they can’t cite Wikipedia and must use other sources, Lawrence noted, but many students still begin their research there. EBSCO found that students showed particular appreciation for two aspects of Wikipedia entries—the topic summary explaining various concepts in layman’s terms, and the collection of citations at the end, which many students use to jumpstart their own research.
“We’re certainly not trying to recreate Wikipedia, but the essence of what students like [about Wikipedia] is that they came into a summary of information about a topic that was understandable to them. It’s a nice first step into research,” Lawrence said. “Research Starters is something that takes feedback about these other products into account, but it’s also something that’s citable, and it’s something that we think will help reduce the anxiety that students feel when they come into a [database] results page.”
The new Research Starters feature for EDS is not related to the database collection of the same name launched by EBSCO in 2008. Those databases are focused on three primary areas—business, education, and sociology—and include comprehensive overviews of subjects within those disciplines, written by experts exclusively for EBSCOhost.
Maker spaces, robot construction, and computer tear-downs will figure prominently in librarians’ Teen Tech Week lineups this year, taking place from March 9 through 15.
Sponsored by the Young Adult Library Service Association (YALSA), Teen Tech Week, promoting a 2014 “DIY @ your Library” theme, is attracting Twitter dialogue at #TTW14, with librarians also sharing their project ideas on Pinterest and elsewhere.
Along with other librarians, Diana Rendina, media specialist at Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa, FL, plans to bring hands-on learning to kids both in her library and online. Stations in the school’s media center will offer projects from taking apart phones to using the pieces for sculptures, while also suggesting virtual activities such as building a Minecraft library and designing with the online Lego-building platform, Build with Chrome, on the media center’s online page.
Teen Tech Week falls squarely in the middle of her sixth to eighth-graders’ spring break. So Rendina plans to run her events the week before—and leave the digital projects online so students can participate from home over vacation.
“We’ll have tutorials on how to take screenshots and they can email them to me,” she says. “For Minecraft, we’ll publish the pictures on the media center blog and the winner will get a $10 Amazon gift card.”
Jessica Young looks online for ideas throughout the year. “I love Pinterest because it’s so visual and I find tons of ideas,” say Young, assistant youth services librarian at the Johnston (IA) Public Library. “I also bring my Teen Advisory Board ideas from Pinterest. When I show them things visually it sparks ideas from them.”
Young is celebrating Teen Tech Week at her branch with a one-day DIY YouTube party, a suggestion from the 20 or so sixth to 12th graders who come monthly to the library for teen board meetings. Patrons will send links to their favorite videos, which will be screened, with a contest for different favorites.
The Oskaloosa (IA) Public Library is integrating online tools into its first Teen Tech Week event as well, with a Skype chat with John Corey Whaley, author of Where Things Come Back (2011), winner of the 2012 Printz Award, and Noggin (2014, both S & S). The library is trying to incorporate more social media efforts into their programming, says William Ottens, the library’s director.
But students will mostly take part in maker space activities inside the library, including a Tech Take Apart night where teens can take apart old Dell PCs and a laptop—and use the parts the next night to construct robots with wires and hot glue. Ottens believes that libraries play a core role in exposing students to experiences they may not be able to get at school or at home.
“Some of them may be interested in becoming computer scientists,” he says. “And they may not have the opportunity at home to take apart a computer.”
Rather than disassembling computers, Karen Jensen is hoping her students will use them to build. Teens will get to program a Raspberry Pi to run a remote-control Lego at the Betty Warmack Branch Library in Grand Prairie, TX, where Jensen is a youth services librarian.
This is Jensen’s third year holding Teen Tech Week, and she put this year’s program together fairly inexpensively by using some special project money to purchase equipment, she says. Jensen posted some of her ideas on her blog, Teen Librarian’s Toolbox.
Rendina agrees that it doesn’t take a lot of money to entice students to engage with technology and crafting, which supports creative thinking and innovation in young patrons. Even though her school has a STEM magnet program, not every student gets to participate in every class offered on campus. The library can fill in those blanks.
“The library is open access, and everyone can come in here,” she says. “Also, I like having things that are not attached to a grade. It gives the students more freedom to experiment and not worry if they mess up.”
LEGO’s Mindstorms Education EV3 (starting at $339.95) is the latest iteration of the popular Mindstorms robotic platform marketed for schools. What’s new? The EV3 set lets users create several different types of robots made of LEGOs, motors, and sensors. The programmable “Intelligent Brick,” housing the computer and power supply that runs the robots, is improved. While the EV3 provides clear opportunities for STEM teaching, it’s potentially applicable to the humanities, too.
The EV3 is one of those toys that transcends consumerism and becomes a pathway into new kinds of hands-on production and learning for kids and adults alike. The high cost of the kit may be prohibitive for some schools, and kids will need teacher support and the freedom to fail while building and programming each robot. However, with help, middle school students should be able to create the EV3 robots from scratch and use them in a range of activities.
Robot Resources for
•12 Surprising Details About LEGO Mindstorms EV3—from Make magazine.
• Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy Curriculum to help teachers userobots in the classroom.
• Commander app on Google Play.
• Commander app on the iTunes Store.
• Classroom Activities for the Busy Teacher: EV3 A purchasable EV3 curriculum.
• First LEGO League. The premier LEGO robotics league
• Get Started with LEGO Robotics. From the LEGO engineering website.
• Hummingbird Robotics Kit. Another type of robotics kit with Snap!, a coding language built off Scratch.
• LEGO’s EV3 software.
• LEGO WeDo. A robotics kit for storytelling with easy Scratch integration.
A grade-A brick
The programming brick usually sits in the center of a robot, and short data cables connect it to the multiple motors and sensors used by each machine. Through programming, various connectors, gears, rods, spans, and wheels get remixed into axles, fulcrums, limbs, pivots, and treads to make the rest of the robot magic happen. Outfitted with tiny, ultrasonic “eyes,” this robot can detect obstacles.
Not only does the Linux-based EV3 brick have a faster, better processor than the previous NXT version of Mindstorms, it can also be programmed without a computer. Using the brick’s tiny green LED screen and input buttons, users can program the EV3 on the fly, which makes it easy and fun to use right out of the box. According to LEGO, the EV3 brick is also backwards-compatible with NXT data cables and sensors.
The new brick can communicate wirelessly with your computer or mobile device—iPad or iPhone—through a built-in Bluetooth antenna or a WiFi dongle, purchased separately. LEGO recommends the Netgear N150 WiFi USB Adapter, around $40. The Bluetooth feature lets you remote-control your robot with the mobile Mindstorms Commander app. It also allows you to give your robot commands using a control pad or voice commands activated by a microphone button. The Commander app includes special functions for robots built from the commercial EV3 kit.
The downloadable software offers a more robust user interface, a linear version of Scratch, the educational programming language—along with directions for several more robots. But there’s also a lot of fun to be had with the kit’s basic instructions for programming. After running through each sensor, teachers and kids should have several ideas about how to problem-solve a bunch of robot mobility issues, such as keeping a robot from running into the wall.
What comes in the EV3 Education kit?
The education version of the EV3 offers instructions for building a basic robot with any of the set’s sensors. This means that teachers and students can get a simple robot up and running in about a half hour while they wait for the more robust EV3 software to download to their computers. The kit also includes different pieces than the commercial version and a slightly different suite of sensors, as described below.
In addition to the fine brick and a bevy of LEGO pieces to build robot bodies, the EV3 education kit provides seven data cables, a USB cable to connect the brick to your computer, a rechargeable battery and power adapter (AA batteries can also be used), and an array of motors and sensors that help each robot accomplish its functions.
You’ll also find three Servo motors. Two have side-facing gears and work in tandem to power robots’ legs, treads, or wheels. The third features front-facing gear powers complex contraptions like crane arms and forklifts.
Then there are the sensors: an ultrasonic sensor allows a robot to detect and avoid obstacles, and a visual light sensor can help a robot follow a path or react when it runs into something of a particular color. A gyro sensor allows you to program specific movements and turns using angle measurements, while two touch sensors let you program robots that can feel their way around a room or play games like Whack-a-Mole, involving tactile input.
What can you make with the EV3?
The kit provides instructions for building a wheeled robot that uses each sensor to navigate and interact with its environment. By working through the instruction booklet, you learn how to program your robot to use each sensor through the brick’s own interface. You can also download the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Home Edition software to your computer and access instructions for additional projects and programming software.
For an extra $99.95, you can purchase the Education EV3 Software, which includes directions for building more robots, programming software, data collection and analysis tools, and editable content that lets you customize builds and missions for your kids. The education software also comes bundled with a construction kit for $433.95. The EV3 Design Engineering Projects Activity Pack, a 30-hour LEGO Mindstorms curriculum, is $299.95.
Even without those downloads or purchases, students can use the LEGOs, brick, and sensors to build a variety of robots that problem-solve particular missions or serve as trial-and-error experiments in learning how to master EV3’s code, motors, and sensors. And if you figure out how to join connectors that accommodate regular LEGO pieces, you can add non-Mindstorm LEGOs to your robot, such as mini-figure passengers.
How can you use EV3 in the classroom?
Because EV3 most obviously lends itself to coding, robotics, and math and science topics like measurement and physics, it’s a great fit for STEM classrooms. However, there are plenty of humanities applications waiting for you and your students to discover in that bucket of parts.
For example, our class paired small-group robot design with a reading of Peter Cherches’s “Lift Your Right Arm,” a poem about following orders. We went from building our robots to discussing the poem and what makes us different from machines. From that conversation we launched into small-group and whole-class readings of novels such as Gloria Whelan’s Homeless Bird (HarperCollins, 2000) and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies (S&S, 2005). This exercise helped us question the way society programs us to behave—and determine whether characters in our books acted more like people or computers.
It’s easy to imagine using the EV3 kit to create robots that travel physical story arcs and stop to knock over obstacles in the text or physically tackle models of antagonists from the texts kids read. While studying mythology, students could make a robot that travels into a model of the underworld to retrieve something to bring back to class. It might be possible to create a robot that “reads” the colors in an image or artwork and then picks up a brush coded to those hues and paints its own impression of the same picture.
The LEGO Mindstorms Education EV3 kit delivers on value, works dependably, and incorporates building and coding. While it takes some imagination and tech smarts to work it into humanities curricula, the EV3 kit is a great resource for STEM and humanities educators wanting to integrate technology in their classrooms in meaningful and interdisciplinary ways.
Video, audio, and images can spark students’ imaginations in ways that text alone sometimes can’t. Likewise, multimedia often helps students gain a deeper understanding of a question. In the past a struggling reader might have had assessment questions read aloud to him or her. Now, online video and audio allows these students take tests without another reader present.
Metta is a digital presentation tool that enables you to combine videos from YouTube, pictures from the web or your desktop, text, and voice recordings in one presentation. After you’ve assembled that part, you can insert multiple-choice quiz questions to gauge your test takers’ understanding. Students must answer questions before moving onto the next part of the presentation. Share your Metta assessments simply by giving students the URL. They can also be distributed to students through Edmodo and may also be saved in your Google Drive account.
ImageQuiz is a free service enabling quiz creation based on any images you own or that you find online. Students answer ImageQuiz questions by clicking on a portion of your chosen picture. For instance, if you use an uploaded image of a map, you can design questions that require users to click on states, cities, or countries, for their responses.
Creating an ImageQuiz assessment is easy. First, give your quiz a title and upload a picture or copy and paste the URL of an online image. Then, draw outlines around the portions of the picture that feature your answers. Finally, write your questions and try out your quiz. Distribute your ImageQuiz by sharing its URL—and feel free to check out my sample quiz: http://ow.ly/sxHnQ.
eduCanon is a free service for creating, assigning, and tracking students’ progress on flipped lessons built from YouTube, TeacherTube and Vimeo videos. Key feature: the option to track your students’ progress as they work through an assignment.
To create eduCanon lessons, start by identifying a topic and objective. Then, within the eduCanon site, search YouTube, TeacherTube, and Vimeo to find an appropriate video. Next step is to build multiple-choice questions throughout your video’s timeline. You may create as many lessons as you like and assign them any time.
Kahoot , a service for delivering online quizzes and surveys to students, has a premise similar to Socrative and Infuse Learning, which I’ve covered here previously. Kahoot builds quizzes that your students can access through any device with a web browser (iPad, Android device, Chromebook). Each question can include pictures and videos. As the teacher, you may control the pace of the Kahoot quiz or survey by imposing a time limit for each question. Students are awarded points for correct answers and the timeliness of their responses.
Finally, just in time for the 2013-2014 school year, Google has added native support for using videos in Google Forms, allowing you to create quizzes including YouTube videos and pictures. To do this, simply select “image” or “video” from the “add item” menu in your Google Form. If your school uses Google Apps for Education, this platform may be the most convenient way to create and distribute multimedia quizzes.
Do you think the dynamic multimedia test format will help your students? Then use these tools to craft vibrant, engaging assessments.
Limitless Libraries, an ongoing partnership between Nashville Public Library (NPL) and Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), is planning a move to a shared ILS system, and has requested funding for the transition from the office of Nashville’s mayor.
Launched in 2009 as a pilot test involving NPL and four local schools, Limitless Libraries has grown into a comprehensive program fostering resource sharing between NPL and all 128 MNPS schools. MNPS student IDs are recognized as library cards at all of NPL’s 21 branches and three special services libraries, and students can access NPL’s online subscription resources, or use NPL’s OPAC to have books, CDs, DVDs, and other materials delivered to their school for convenient pickup. Collaboration between the two institutions also led to a weeding and centralized procurement program which enhanced and modernized MNPS school library collections, and included the launch of a new collection of Common Core ebooks.
The program has become a much-watched success, demonstrating how partnerships between school libraries and public libraries can help boost usage of both systems. In fact, a steady, significant increase in demand for books and other materials has posed a bit of a challenge for NPL, according to NPL Associate Director and 2012 LJ Mover & Shaker Tricia Racke Bengel.
Growing demand “is a really good problem to have,” she told LJ. “We didn’t expect our own circulation to go up so much, especially in juvenile nonfiction and juvenile materials, where circulation had been dwindling over the past several years. We really had to beef up our own collection, so that’s been a great thing.” Donations from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, based in nearby Goodlettsville, TN, helped Limitless Libraries shore up its materials budget as the project got started, she added.
Currently, MNPS uses Library.Solution for Schools by The Library Corporation (TLC) while NPL uses Millennium by Innovative Interfaces Inc. (III), and running the program with ILS systems from two separate vendors requires workarounds. Directing users to each catalog from a school library site or from the Limitless Libraries homepage is simple enough. But, students still have to search their school catalog and the NPL catalog separately to find materials. Once a student checks out an item from NPL and requests for it to be sent to his or her school, NPL has a provisional workflow system in which NPL staff use self-check stations at an NPL branch to assign those items to that student’s account before shipping them.
Students must log in separately to each system to find their account information. And, there is also no way for school librarians to check and see if students have overdue materials or fines from NPL, which poses a particular challenge for both systems, since MNPS students are a highly transitory population. About 70 percent of student families move and switch schools within a given year, according to Racke Bengel.
“We really want to go to a single [ILS] system,” said Racke Bengel. “It truly would be the last barrier between us…. It will make Limitless Libraries not just a program that we’ve been running separate and outside of both of our institutions.”
Since the 2010-2011 academic year, MNPS has worked with NPL to update student account information in NPL’s Millennium system on a nightly basis, enabling NPL to keep track of where students are enrolled and where checked out materials are. If the city approves this next phase of Limitless Libraries, MNPS libraries will be fully merged into the Millennium ILS, greatly simplifying the management of account and circulation information, as well as collection development and other project initiatives.
A single ILS “will just make things so much easier,” said Racke Bengel.
The library systems have built “a really compelling case” for the ILS merger, and they hope to learn soon whether the city is willing to fund the project. Other recent developments would seem to indicate that the mayor’s office remains committed to Limitless Libraries and has been pleased with its results. Notably, Limitless Libraries was recently asked to take the reins of another successful city initiative, the Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA), which offers after-school enrichment activities at school libraries and community centers.
Asked whether the prospect of the ILS merger had raised concerns at MNPS regarding job redundancies or whether school libraries would play a diminished role in a more fully merged system, Racke Bengel said that most of these concerns were resolved during earlier stages of the project. It is clear that usage is continuing to rise for both systems, and there is plenty of work for everyone.
“This program would not be successful without local school librarians,” she said. “It is a true partnership…. Without the school librarians teaching the kids the digital literacy skills they need and the library skills that they have always taught, without them promoting the program to their students and teachers, we would not be successful. Whenever we’ve been able to take back-of-house work off their plate, they are able to spend more of their time teaching.”
Like most people I’d never hear of the term [‘net neutrality’] before a few weeks ago,” says American Association of School Libraries president Gail Dickinson. “It’s a protection we enjoyed.”
Without net neutrality, also known as the open Internet, kids’ access to online resources could be negatively impacted, with commercial sites and services eclipsing other content online, Dickinson and others say.
Uninitiated librarians gained a better understanding of net neutrality last month, after a court ruled that the Federal Communication Committee (FCC) did not have the authority to impose net neutrality rules on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Verizon, opening the door to an Internet where companies could pay ISPs for faster broadband delivery of their content, as reported in Library Journal and elsewhere.
Defenders of net neutrality, including librarians, fear that this decision will privilege material from organizations that can afford to pay ISPs and also thwart innovation. American Library Association (ALA) president Barbara Stripling issued a statement defending net neutrality after the ruling.
A new bill introduced last week by US Representatives Henry Waxman and Anna Eshoo (both D-CA), the Open Internet Preservation Act, would preserve net neutrality.
If the open Internet disappears, what would it mean for libraries and services to students?
“We don’t want Disney over library services,” says Lynne Bradley, director of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office of Government Relations. “We don’t want entertainment to be coming up first.”
“Many schools are getting Internet access from consumer business cable companies like Time Warner. This could very easily impact them, if things weren’t written into their contracts” guaranteeing otherwise, says Christopher Harris, school library system coordinator, Genesee Valley (NY) Educational Partnership and School Library Journal “Next Big Thing” columnist.
“In the tech world there’s worry that it changes from an open aspect to a discriminatory aspect,” Harris adds, noting that a free service such as Skype, used frequently in and among schools, might be impacted, as could streaming video delivery.
“This concept of network shaping or package shaping has been around for a long time, and it’s used to effectively dedicate bandwidth to video streaming applications,” Harris says. “The question is who is able to shape the bandwidth once it leaves the district area.”
Without the principles of net neutrality in place, “kids will get different access depending on what school district they’re in,” says Frances Jacobsen Harris, librarian at University Laboratory High School in Urbana, Illinois and the author of I Found It on the Internet: Coming of Age Online (ALA, 2011). “It will hurt kids in the have-not districts.”
Rather than looking ahead to what she thinks would only be “band-aid” solutions, Jacobsen Harris supports those who insist that the FCC must act to redefine the Internet as a common carrier or public utility in order to preserve equal content delivery. The “common carrier” term in US communications law says that public networks like the telephone must be open to everyone at the same cost and without discrimination, she explains. So even though telephone companies are private, they can’t block calls of people who criticize them or charge them differentially.
“The FCC continues to treat ISPs as information providers rather than telecommunications providers, which are subject to common carrier rules,” Jacobsen Harris says. “The only way the FCC is going to get around this is to go back and say the Internet is a public utility.” She adds, “You can no longer separate information flow from communication flow.”
“Here we have this incredible technology and through E-rate, we’re trying to get affordable connectivity,” says Bradley. “We have the capacity and all these applications. We don’t want school children to have their access to information opportunities threatened and their opportunities to share information thwarted by this pay to play.”
Dickinson says that “another parallel is the filtering law” in that the end result is unequal content delivery to students. “What we’re really doing here is taking a backhoe and a bulldozer to the digital divide,” she says. “We’re making it bigger and wider and deeper.”
The Open Internet Preservation Act, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), would “protect consumers and innovation online,” according to a press release on Rep. Waxman’s site.
The bill was announced the same day that the FCC pledged $2 billion additional for high-speed Internet access for schools and libraries over the next two years and President Obama, who supports net neutrality, announced a $750 private sector commitment to support tech in schools.
In the press release, Rep. Eshoo, a ranking member of the communications and technology subcommittee, further detailed the reasons for the bill. “With the recent D.C. Circuit appeals court ruling, the open Internet as we know it suffered a blow. By striking down rules that prevented broadband providers from discriminating against or even blocking online content, the Court’s decision threatens the openness and freedom that has defined the success of the Internet,” said Eshoo. “…This bill ensures that consumers, not their Internet service provider, are in the driver’s seat when it comes to their online experience. The free and open Internet has been a pillar of our country’s growing economy, unparalleled technological innovation, and even global social movements. It is the backbone of our digital world, and I intend to keep it that way.”
By Carolyn Sun
Nine-year-old Matthew is the owner of a brightly-colored prosthetic Robohand that was created several months ago in the MakerSpace of the Johnson County Library in Overland Park, KS. Matthew, who is adopted, was born with partial fingers on his right hand due to a birth condition called limb difference.
He’d always been a self-confident kid, according to his mother, Jennifer, whose father had been born with the same condition. But, after they moved to Miami County, KS, two years ago, Matthew endured the spotlight of being the new kid as well as relentless questions about his hand from classmates.
“Social stigma was starting to creep in on him,” she says.
However, Matthew didn’t want a commercial prosthetic hand, which can cost up to $18,000. Even with insurance, Jennifer, a single mother of three children, could not afford it.
The genesis of Matthew’s prosthetic hand came from one of Matthew’s teachers who’d sent Jennifer a link to Robohand, a cost-effective model of a prosthetic hand co-created by South African Richard Van As, who’d lost his own fingers in a workshop accident, and theatrical artist, Ivan Owen back in November 2012. A 3-D printer version was designed in January 2013 with how-to instructions available online.
When Matthew first saw photos of the Robohand, “He was immediately excited, says his mom. “I think it was the fact it was colored and looked like something that could be made from LEGOs.”
The Johnson County’s Central Resource Library boasts a 3-D MakerBot printer in its MakerSpace located right next to the library’s information services desk. The MakerSpace opened last March, and in addition to the MakerBot, contains Apple desktops and audio and digital recording equipment. On the library’s MakerSpace website, the suggested projects for MakerSpace are diverse and DIY, from websites and musical recordings to shower curtain rings and chess pieces.
When Matthew’s mom went to work studying the prosthetic hand design, she soon realized it was beyond her skills. She reached out to 16-year-old Mason Wilde, a family friend’s son who’d helped her eldest son with computer programs in the past and had, last year, built a computer from scratch.
Mason, a student at Louisburg (KS) High School, had coincidentally been sitting out football season due to a concussion and had been encouraged by his doctor to “seek enrichment—and the opportunity to enrich others—outside of football” according to his mother, Kelly Wilde.
“I’ve always been fascinated by machines and engineering feats,” he says, “so when I was given the opportunity to work with a 3-D printer and build a hand, all while helping a family friend, I jumped on it.”
All in all, the Robohand project took Mason five hours of labor over a span of three weeks.
Meredith Nelson,a reference librarian atJohnson County’s Central Resource LIbrary, has been teaching introductory MakerBot classes (on alternating Mondays and Wednesdays) since the MakerSpace opened last March. She teaches the basics of how the MakerBot works, how to download and slice a file, and how to 3-D print.
Nelson, a self-proclaimed “Maker-Librarian,” had no prior experience with 3-D printing before the MakerBot’s arrival. She mastered it through trial-and-error.
“I took [the printer] apart about 75,961 times,” she says, “The first time it jams, you freak out and don’t know how or where to open everything. After that, you just roll your eyes and do it.”
Nelson says MakerSpace and its advanced equipment and skills software has attracted new patrons to the library who’d previously thought they had little use for it.
“Many people, who only saw the library as a place for books or quiet study, have realized we can be more.”
At present, Matthew is able to pick up a pencil and is working on writing legibly. He refers to his hand as “the future.”
“The main thing that Matthew can do with the hand is be a center of attention for a cool thing,” says his mom, “not a what-happened-to-your hand thing.”
Mason, who plans on pursuing mechanical engineering career in the future, intends to make more Robohands for Matthew as he grows.
Carolyn Sun is a former public school teacher and freelance reporter who covers gender equality and child labor.
A decade after the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) went into effect, its implementation in schools and public libraries is problematic and the scale of Internet filtering is excessive, noted panelists during the session “Revisiting The Children’s Internet Protection Act: 10 Years Later” at the American Library Association (ALA) 2014 Midwinter Meeting.
CIPA was put into place with the goal of protecting minors from Internet pornography and images deemed obscene and harmful to youth. By law, schools and libraries must have certain Internet filters in place in order to receive some federal funding.
However, CIPA’s “over-reach in implementation far beyond the requirements or intent of the law,” said moderator Helen Adams, online instructor at Mansfield University, in her opening remarks. This over-filtering results in restricting material otherwise acceptable within CIPA’s purview, limiting the information accessible to the 60 million Americans without broadband or smartphones who may rely on schools and libraries for Internet access, she added.
The findings were the result of a study undertaken by ALA’s Office for Internet Technology Policy (OITP) and Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) with support from Google. Aspects of the executive summary, “Fencing Out Knowlege: Impacts of CIPA 10 Years Later,” including its four recommendations for future study of CIPA, were summarized during the panel by Kirsten Batch, consultant to the OITP.
“What do Hotmail, Google, YouTube, Google Docs, Facebook, and National Geographic have in common?” the study asks. “They offer content and services that millions of Americans used every day to communicate, share content, and seek information. They also may be filtered under [CIPA].”
The session focused on the distinct hurdles of filtering in both public and school librarians, the problem of “creeping” filtering, as well as how filtering may particularly impact disenfranchised youth and adults. In addition, panelists discussed issues around “black box” filtering systems that do not specify what they filter and the challenge of constantly updating these systems to keep up with new Internet content.
Individual schools, libraries, and library systems have flexibility in how they interpret CIPA and how far they go in filtering. So to some extent, CIPA is open to local variances, panelists noted. However, since more low-income areas may depend on the e-rate discounts that require filtering, institutions in those areas may preemptively block material more heavily, resulting in a greater limitation on what their patrons and students can access.
Panelists also observed that that due to the dynamic nature of the Internet, filtering systems often become outdated quickly, as new sites crop up that may bypass existing filtering specifications.
An online nursing exam is among those often inaccessible sites, Batch said. “Studies and anecdotes recount numerous examples of blocked online resources [on topics] ranging from those dealing with war and genocide to safer sex and public health,” according to the study.
Discussing the strictures of filtering in public libraries vs schools, panelist Christopher Harris, school library system coordinator for the Genesee Valley (NY) Educational Partnership and School Library Journal “Next Big Thing” columnist, reminded the audience that “schools must act in loco parentis,” meaning that by law, every action a school takes must be in the best interest of children in the absence of their parents. Public libraries do not have such mandates.
“I say it’s probably good we have filters in schools,” Harris commented. “There’s bad stuff we don’t want even accidentally to come up.”
However, schools often block more than they need to, Harris said. While a youth downloading porn from a public library computer would likely just be told to leave, such an incident in a school setting could result in tabloid headlines, he noted.
“Porn could be brought into school on paper” before the Internet, Harris added, emphasizing that then and now, students will find a way to access material that interests them.
Batch said that excessive filtering occurs in schools because “we’re seeing a creep to manage issues of cyberbullying and classroom management” as well as what CIPA requires. This results in obstructing social media and sites that students might use to create content as well as access it.
The panelists and audience discussed the pros and cons of “black box” filters designed by companies that don’t specify in detail what they block, as opposed to filters designed by schools or libraries. “For libraries, filters are black boxes that lack objectivity and transparency,” according to the study. However, there are potential legal issues for schools that design their own filters instead of accepting ready-made black box software from an outside company or third party.
“Once you start blocking something you become more liable for anything that comes through,” Harris said. “If pornography gets through, you have a higher level of liability.” However, if a third party designed the filter, the school is less responsible.
Further discussing possible open-source “grey box” software that could spell out what it blocks and could be tailored to individual schools, panelist Martin Garnar, professor and reference services librarian at Regis University in Denver, noted that “a more transparent box would allow kids access to porn sites,” meaning that he believes kids could hack and discover the content of those boxes.
Panelists concluded that there are no easy answers to the problem of over-filtering and the resulting inequity of information access. Batch summarized the study’s four recommendations for further research on CIPA: increase awareness of the spectrum of choices regarding filtering, develop a toolkit for schools and libraries that focuses on current research and best practices, establish a digital repository for existing research on CIPA, and conduct more research evaluating how filtering impacts students.
Panelists strongly agreed that in addition to more balanced filtering, students must be better versed in how to handle the allures and dangers of an unfiltered system. “Students aren’t receiving assistance to navigate their ethical choices,” Batch said, noting that kids will experience less-restrictive filtering once in college.
When the efficacy of a possible move to try to roll back CIPA was raised by an audience member, Garnar noted that there has been talk of pursuing a “repeal.” However, others observed that such a confrontation could backfire, with a renewed spotlight on filtering possibly resulting in stronger regulations.
Last night I heard about the untimely and sudden death of a professional colleague and personal friend for whom I had only the utmost respect. Tragically, Rich Wiggins is with us no more. And we are so much the poorer for it.
There will be others who will write a better biography. There are others who will write a better remembrance. From me you will get my personal perspective — the story of someone who saw him not frequently, but enough to have formed a lasting opinion.
Rich and I were contemporaries on the professional stage when the Internet was just breaking into the consciousness of most people. While I was at UC Berkeley, Rich was at Michigan State. We each made our contributions to the early days of people learning what about the Internet. I co-authored Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook in 1993, while Rich published The Internet for Everyone: A Guide for Users and Providers shortly thereafter.
Each of us went on to make our professional mark — Rich more in information technology but also bleeding over into librarianship, and me in librarianship exclusively. But we also intersected at various points, and perhaps none more directly than a debate that first happened virtually at Internet Librarian in 2001, then in person at the 2002 Computers in Libraries Conference. It was a keynote session advertised as: Digitizing Legacy Collections: Potential or Waste?
I love the fact that we were described as “friendly, but feisty” as that was always our relationship. See a description by Rich about it (sorry about the broken links, I wish they were still there). We didn’t always agree, but we always respected each other and we could debate a topic with a friendly disagreement that invited more actual reflection than dissent. We didn’t really disagree about the desirability of digitizing everything, only about the practicality. Thanks to the good folks at Information Today (thank you Bill Spence!), here are my slides and Rich’s.
In this debate I was completely wrong and Rich was completely right. I felt like the job was simply too expensive with not enough actual will and money to make it happen. Meanwhile, Rich was more the visionary, and he saw the possibilities that I had not imagined were possible. Google, in the end, made him right.
And then recently (last year), Rich posted on Web4Lib this gem:
Why have library cards at all? Why not just use the driver license as the library card?
And I suppose that is what I will hold onto in my grief. First, I can’t imagine that he is gone. But knowing that I must face up to that fact, I want to take a piece of him with me into whatever future I have left. And the piece I will take is his good-hearted vision that saw human possibilities that I could not. He knew more of our potential than I could admit. And he debated me about it, and won. And I don’t mean winning in a “more points”, “convinced the audience” kind of way. He really won the day.
So today, I crouch here, not wanting to admit what I cannot deny. Rich is gone. And we are so much the poorer for it. Perhaps one day I can come to terms with that. But not today.
Much has been said about the recent Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) report, The Future of Library Services for and with Teens. The more subtle aspects of YALSA’s call to action deserve a close look. Particularly the concept of cultural competence.
The report found compelling changes impacting the demographic and socioeconomic figures for US teens. The 2010 census showed that children of mixed race are the fastest growing segment, followed closely by Hispanic and non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islanders, while the non-Hispanic white population is stagnant. Meanwhile, the library profession is overwhelmingly white. Teens also face elevated poverty levels, record unemployment, and lower achievement in schools.
Therefore, YALSA recommends fostering cultural competence or “recognizing the significance of culture in one’s own life and in the lives of others.” Librarians, recommends YALSA, should proactively integrate cultural respect for “diverse linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic groups” into programs and services.
The YALSA report also revealed the importance of culturally competent planning in regard to connected learning. One cited study states that online, or “connected,” learning, is more typically available to “educationally privileged youth with effective learning supports at home.” Further surveys indicate an expanding gap between privileged students with home access to technology and those limited to bare-bones equipment at school. YALSA points to the leadership potential of libraries to provide a partial solution.
Libraries, both school and public, have long been supportive places for teens. It’s often in the library that LGBT teens find not only educational resources, but also supportive adults and a welcoming space. Libraries also provide tech access, with more maker spaces and digital creation centers opening each month. Even so, YALSA notes, more is needed.
Connected learning is not just about tech. It’s about socially embedded and personally driven learning. This is where the larger school or public library structure can break down.
“Working in school and public libraries with teens is no longer the purview of the library’s professional and support staff only,” the report emphasizes. Everyone must support teens in connected learning. YALSA Summit participants who helped inform the report called for more “non-supervisory adults” to engage teens as “allies, mentors, coaches” and in other roles.
For this to happen, library staff need professional development in cultural competence. Even in a best-case scenario of a relatively homogenous population, generational differences can be a challenge. Growing up with smartphones and the Internet has changed how teens interact with one other and the environment—and their expectations for engagement. Librarians must help veteran teachers adapt.
Add in differences such as ethnicity and socioeconomic background, and things get messy fast. Consider urban schools where teacher shortages are solved by using uncertified, untrained teachers. In such cases, the librarian has a much harder role. Janet Clark, a librarian from Newark, NJ, and vice president of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians, works in an inner-city school, where she’s taken a leadership role in helping teachers grapple with a new cultural situation.
This is a challenge that Clark has embraced. Growing as a culturally competent professional and helping colleagues become more culturally competent should be a natural role for librarians. We just have to put in the work to get things moving.
Unglue.it, the crowdfunding platform developed to encourage publishers to make ebooks DRM-free and open access under a Creative Commons license, in January launched a beta test of “Buy to Unglue,” a new crowdfunding model that will offer ebook licenses in exchange for donations.
Unglue.it launched in May 2012 with a traditional, pledge-based crowdfunding model. Rights holders can set a funding threshold that they feel would merit making their work open access, along with a deadline for the campaign. If pledges meet that funding threshold prior to the deadline, the title is released as an “unglued” ebook edition, free to share and copy under a Creative Commons license.
By contrast, with the new Buy to Unglue model, ebook purchases and downloads—rather than pledges—will serve as the crowdfunding mechanism. Every Buy to Unglue title will come with a Creative Commons license set to go into effect at a date in the future, determined by the rights holder. Each purchase of the title will then shave time off of that deadline and move the date closer. Unglue.it’s original pledge-based campaign model will continue to be an option for interested publishers and authors, as will “thanks for ungluing” campaigns, which offer Creative Commons licensed ebooks under a pay-what-you-want model.
Pledge-based campaigns have Unglued several titles, including Ruth Finnegan’s Oral Literature in Africa and Lauren Pressley’s So You Want to Be a Librarian, but Eric Hellman, president of Unglue.it parent Gluejar, notes that the pledge model was designed, in part, to help solve a problem that is no longer very prevalent.
“When we started out, we thought a lot of the campaigns would be for conversion projects—we’d take an old book that wasn’t in ebook form and fund the conversion,” he explained in an interview prior to the announcement. “Since that time—it’s been three years— all of the books that are of value have been converted, or aren’t being converted for particular [rights-related] reasons. So the amount of conversion projects that were suitable for crowdfunding just weren’t large enough to sustain Unglue.it as an ongoing project.”
On a related note, when Unglue.it’s supporters created campaigns for titles that were already available as ebooks, the pledge-based model was not designed offer donors a copy of the title. The company hopes that this new model will prove attractive to both rights holders and ebook consumers.
“In thinking about how to take existing ebooks—books that have already been converted—and move them to open access, we realized that the logical thing to do would be to use the sale of the ebook as the fundraising tool,” he said.
In addition, while the library community is generally supportive of open access projects, the pledge model did not offer anything tangible in exchange for pledges, making it difficult for institutions such as libraries to justify donations to these crowdfunding efforts. With Buy to Unglue, Unglue.it is offering a free distribution platform that will enable libraries that have purchased a Buy to Unglue ebook to loan that title to patrons under a one-ebook, one-user model, until the fundraising goal is reached and the ebook’s Creative Commons license activates.
“Libraries aren’t set up to do pledging, for a variety of reasons,” Hellman said. “When we act as a conventional distribution channel to a library, it’s a lot easier for them to invoke their existing purchasing processes to participate, rather than having them try to participate in a pledge campaign. From both standpoints, we figured it would make sense to develop the capability to sell ebooks through our platform, and that’s what we’ve done.”
The first title available for download via the Buy to Unglue model is Lagos_2060, a science fiction anthology curated by Ayodele Arigbabu, and written by Afolabi Muheez Ashiru, Okey Egboluche, Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu, Kofo Akib, Ayodele Arigbabu, Adebola Rayo, Terh Agbedeh, and Temitayo Olofinlua, with stories envisioning possible futures for Africa’s second-fastest growing city. It costs $6 for an individual license, and $10 for a one-user, one-ebook library license. At press time, it had $29,802 more to go to become open access.
Anyone who has heard me speak in the last decade or so has likely heard my mini-diatribe against the acronym “OPAC”. Besides being impenetrable jargon, it is thoroughly anachronistic. It owes its life to an extremely brief period of modern librarianship when we had automated circulation systems that didn’t have a publicly available instantiation. That is the only explanation for the “public access” part of “online public access catalog”.
And then we saddled ourselves and the library literature with this monster for decades to come. We are still trying to shake this mistake.
Long ago I swore to never use that term again, and waited for everyone else to follow. And I waited. And waited. I’m done waiting. I’m going to go after it with hammer and tongs. Again.
Not only am I to kill off the term, but I’m endeavoring to bury the thing itself deep. I’ve even said this before, well over a decade ago. Not that you listened to me then, mind you. But perhaps I have your attention now. “Most integrated library systems, as they are currently configured and used,” I had asserted, “should be removed from public view.”
My point was that although we may have been justified at putting them in front of the public in the early days, we have no such justification any more. Not when we have much better finding tools that cover not just the books and journals in our collections, but articles and so much more. But more importantly, as studies like that at Utrecht University have pointed out, information discovery has left the building.
So it’s time to move on. Take that anachronistic library catalog and turn it back into what it really only ever was — an inventory control system. That’s right, put it back into the back room where it has really always belonged. And stop saying “OPAC”. For cryin’ out loud. Just stop.
Rebecca Forth doesn’t want kids to simply play Minecraft, she wants them to design their own worlds in the virtual building game. They can do just that and learn the necessary coding skills in a program set to launch at the Healdsburg branch of the Sonoma County (CA) Library (SCL) in March 2014.
“We don’t want them to just play the game,” says Forth, the assistant to the director of SCL. “We want to teach them to feel empowered to generate their own content.”
Fifteen students will be given the first opportunity to participate in the three-session, afterschool program, where they’ll be taught how to work mods: modifications that allow players to alter Minecraft, from making new blocks to creating new pieces.
Forth’s son and a friend recently tackled their own mod by adjusting dynamite sticks readily available in the Minecraft tool kit, making them 100 times more powerful.
A professional coder in the community will be working with students during the first session using Eclipse, a coding application for Java which shows students the lines of code as they work. Students will use laptops already in the library and connect to a server set up just for the program. While recoding explosives is far from their only focus — although likely a popular one—the ability to personalize a video game is something most children don’t feel equipped to undertake. And that’s something Forth hopes to change.
“We want to take them from consumption to creation,” she says. “We want to emphasize problem solving and teamwork.”
Every child knows the rules of imaginary play—there are none. Enter the world of online and video gaming and suddenly they realize there are rules and boundaries, despite the technicolor interface and pixelated details. Minecraft. in its basic form, allows users to build their own worlds, with certain limits.
Libraries across the country have latched onto the game, using it to attract students to the library. From building a version of their own branch, as Mattituck-Laurel library did last year, to launching Minecraft competitions—such as the one held last year at the Baxter Memorial Library in Vermont—the game is a powerful tool for librarians to use to engage their younger patrons.
Forth launched her program with help from a $6,000 grant from the California State Library and the Institute of Museum and Library Services to help cover costs, from the instructor’s fee to game licenses, as well as extra memory to make Minecraft run faster, she says. (The library is donating staff time.) She expects that most students who sign up will already be Minecraft enthusiasts. In fact, Forth has already fielded calls from parents interested in the program for their children.
As a pilot, the library will run assessments before, during, and after the first session to help inform two subsequent programs scheduled for Saturdays in April at the Rohnert Park branch, and then the first week on June at the Sebastopol branch. Forth also plans to build a tool kit, which she hopes other librarians will be able to employ to launch their own coding camps as well.
“One of the main goals is that this can be created at other libraries,” she says. “The idea is to create a turnkey program so all the documents are there, as well as curriculum and resources, so they can have what they need.”
We put a lot of stock in personal recommendations—particularly when it comes to books. Plenty of websites offer tips on great reads, but none will carry as much weight with your students as a site based on peer recommendations. The next time your students create book reviews, either independently or as a class assignment, consider compiling them on a website that the whole school can access.
Book Trailers for Readers is one of the best models of a book review site for students and by students. The site was built on Wikispaces, the ad-free wiki creation platform for schools. Try using Wikispaces to create a similar site with your classes.
Wikispaces allows you to arrange your book review in a variety of ways. If I were organizing a school-wide site, I’d be inclined to structure it with pages for various genres and use page labels to identify the reading level for each review. The great thing about using Wikispaces is that you can invite teachers and students to add reviews on their own so that you’re not the only person responsible for maintaining the site.
Maybe you want to make a graded assignment out of a student-driven, Wikispaces-enabled book review destination? If so, Wikispaces has a helpful administrative function to help you do that. The “Events” feature allows you to schedule due dates for Wikispaces projects and specify a lock time for your Wikispaces Events. Once that lock time arrives, no one is able to make further edits to that page.
There are other fine options out there for organizing student book reviews. Schools that take advantage of Google Apps for Education have some great sharing tools at their disposal. To start, students who use Google Docs and/or Google Presentations to craft book reviews can simply publish their work by choosing “publish to Web” in their sharing settings. After that, I’d suggest you use Google Forms to collect the published reviews in one spot. To do so, simply create a Google Form where students submit links to their published reviews. Designate sections for genres and/or grade levels to make it easy for you to sort the submitted reviews. Information collected through Google Forms goes to a Google Spreadsheet that you can then share with your teacher colleagues and students.
Now that you’ve organized your students’ book reviews in one online location, let’s get all that good work out into your school. Create QR codes, then print and insert them into the dust jackets of the books in your library. Then, when students crack the covers of titles they don’t know, they can scan the QR code with their mobile phones and access a review by one of their peers.
Two of my favorite QR code creation tools are QR Droid and Goo.gl, Google’s URL shortener. QR Droid lets you create standard QR codes that, when scanned, open a webpage on a mobile device. It’s perfect for generating QR codes from your Wikispaces pages or your students’ published Google Documents. QR Droid also lets you make codes that don’t require an Internet connection to open text. When scanned on a mobile device, these codes simply access chunks of text.
Besides shrinking URLs, Goo.gl will also generate a QR code for every link you shorten—very handy. Added bonus: Goo.gl keeps a record of the number of times a link has been opened. That collective data provides useful information about which books and book reviews are most popular with your students.
Kick the year off right by launching a student-powered book review site. As it grows, your students will have a great destination for tips from those whose opinions they value most—their peers.
OCLC on January 22 announced WorldCat Discovery Services (WDS), a suite of cloud-based applications that combines FirstSearch and WorldCat Local. Beginning in March, the suite will offer FirstSearch subscribers access to a central index that represents nearly 2,000 e-content collections containing articles, ebooks, and other content from providers including EBSCO, Gale, and ProQuest. In total, WDS will enable the discovery of 1.3 billion electronic, digital, and physical resources in libraries around the world, using a single search.
“The big change here, for FirstSearch users, is the inclusion of content that used to only come with WorldCat Local,” Andrew Pace, executive director of Networked Library Services for OCLC, told LJ. “I always say that it’s great that we have a neutral platform, but neutrality doesn’t do justice to the breadth of the index that we’ve built in terms of open access content, WorldCat content, and the billion articles from all of the big providers. Just having EBSCO, ProQuest, and Gale in one place, having Taylor & Francis and Elsevier in one place—those are big deals for libraries to have as a single search experience, and not the siloed experience that they’re used to now.”
Developed with input and feedback from 650 beta test libraries and an advisory group of 30 librarians, WDS will ultimately supplant both FirstSearch and WorldCat Local. To facilitate the transition, FirstSearch will continue to operate in parallel with WDS for a year, while WorldCat Local subscribers will have access to both services for 18 months during a beta period beginning in April 2014.
“This is not meant to be a shift from one foot to the other; it’s really meant to be an enhancement to what FirstSearch gives to libraries,” John McCullough, discovery product manager for OCLC, told LJ. “All of the roles that FirstSearch currently plays in libraries—as a reference application, as that content footprint with the staff mode as well as public mode—all of those remain in place. Then, above and beyond that, we have the capability to seamlessly expand that role to fully-fledged, patron-facing discovery.”
In addition to the index, several new features will be included as part of existing FirstSearch subscriptions. For example, the WDS interface was developed using responsive design techniques, enabling it to automatically adjust to any screen size, including desktops, tablets, and mobile devices. In addition, the suite will offer subscribers several fee-based, optional features, such as customized traffic and usage reports, or management tools for course reserves and reading lists.
“What you’re seeing is [a library’s] existing investment in FirstSearch databases and reference interface, a tremendous amount of additional value—such as the central index and the discovery features that will be part of the application—coming to them as part of their existing investment, rather than them having to go out to a commercial product and spend an extra $20, $30, or $40,000 for the same functionality,” McCullough said.
McCullough added that several features of FirstSearch will be retained, such as advanced and expert search modes, as well as many back-end features for staff, noting that “the beta was all about bringing over all of the features that librarians had come to depend on.”
Novice researchers will benefit from the transition as well, McCullough said, describing the discovery experience using the basic search mode in WDS as “vastly improved” compared with FirstSearch. By combining the capabilities of WorldCat Local with FirstSearch, WDS basic searches will ensure that a library’s own resources are listed first in search results, for example. Patrons will also have access to direct links to any full-text resources to which their library subscribes, in addition to other features.
“We worked hard to port over the three-fold experience, where it’s able to be used by your novice researcher…your researcher who might use our advanced search form, and the expert search mode which is geared specifically to library staff,” McCullough said. “I’d say FirstSearch was probably stronger, historically, with those latter two categories. What we’ve really done [with basic search mode in WDS] is build a modern webscale discovery experience with a single search box with faceted results, with locally-sensitive relevance for both print and electronic collections.”
Kurt Munson, resource sharing and reserve librarian, Northwestern University, and part of OCLC’s Reference Advisory Group, described WDS as “an ideal combination of applications for librarians and end users alike. WorldCat Discovery can help us do the complicated work librarians do, and yet it is simple enough for users to just walk up, use it, and find what they need,” he said in a statement.
To facilitate the transition between applications, OCLC has produced a collection of short online training videos, and will host a series of webinars beginning in February, prior to the WDS launch on March 3.
“There is some implementation that libraries will need to do to move from FirstSearch to full-blown discovery with a central index,” said McCullough. “We’ve broken that up into four little tutorials [of 10 minutes each] which should instruct the library on how to implement this fully…And following the release, in addition to the videos, we’ll be doing an aggressive series of webinars that libraries can sign up to and get walked through the process.”