Cool Tools

This post was submitted to Lita (Library and Information Technology Association) for their blog just moments ago, if approved it will show up there as well.

Title of Conference Program: Casting a Wide Net: Using Screencasts to Reach and Teach Library Users

Taken at Chicago's Millennium Park

Taken at Chicago's Millennium Park

Speakers: Stephanie Rosenblatt, Eric Frierson, Carmen Kazakoff, Mick Jacobsen

Moderated by: Anne Houston

Date time place: Saturday July 11, 2009 from 
10:30am – 12:00pm
 at McCormick Place South, S105 a-d

Sponsor: Reference User Services Association, Machine Assisted Reference Section   (RUSA MARS)

The first speaker was Stephanie Rosenblatt Education Librarian, California State University, Fullerton.

  • once she had created her screencast (i.e. video) tutorials she began to wonder if her students were really learning. In the classroom she is interactive and uses various techniques to get her point across and yet it seemed like it was supposed to be okay that she only used one technique to get her point across in the video tutorial. She is looking for better pedagogical approaches to incorporate into the tutorials. She is still not sure how much learning they can support due to the medium.

Eric Frierson, Education and Political Science Librarian, University of Texas at Arlington

  • His focus was creating a sense of community through screencasts.
  • His University is using LibGuides for their subject guides and although they find them very useful they are still very wordy. He has created a You Tube video that he places prominently in the top left hand corner of the LibGuides that is a basic hello and encouragement to contact if they still have questions. He wants them to know there is a human being behind all of those links.
  • He is more interested in the placement of the screencasts than there construction.

Carmen Kazakoff-Lane, Head – Extension and Inter-Library Loans, Brandon University

  • She was representing the Animated Tutorial Sharing (ANTS) project and talking about their collaborative uses.
  • ANTS wants to collaborate across institutions by syndicating screencasts
  • They disseminate their information through a wiki
  • For better syndication they are now using with a channel called LION: Library Information Literacy Online Network “Participants in this project agree to make these episodes openly available for others to link to, embed, share, download, or edit, provided the appropriate credit is assigned to the author”-    They are using because it has better resolution than you-tube
  • From the LION site you can share to FaceBook, embed videos into your blog, course management system or LibGuide. Basically they want you to be able to put them anywhere you think your users will be. You get the code and you can put it where you’d like.
  • She recommended using embedr with this service you can take videos from any site such as You Tube, Vimeo or Daily Motion and embed them into a playlist that streams from their site into another for example a course management system.
  • She mentioned that in 2009 You Tube will be doing HD videos which may make them a more viable service for the videos that need better definition

Mick JacobsenSkokie Public Library

  • He had tips for better screencasts
  • Patrons only want to know about resources when they know it will answer their question. With that in mind you may want to put their question into the name of the screencast for example “how to get an A on your next research paper” or “how to answer your medical questions”.
  • Additionally he warns not to put jargon in your screencasts or titles. You want to answer their question in their language.
  • Make your screencasts more interesting by telling a story instead of just giving information, take them on a journey.
  • Understand that your screencast is not forever, our site and databases change and so will your videos.
  • Try to put screencasts at a patrons point of need for example, adding them into subject guides.
  • Two free screencasting tools he mentioned were: Jing which takes loading onto your computer and Screenjelly which does not need to be loaded on your computer but you do need a Twitter account.
  • Keep your screencasts short. Anything that is unnecessary should be out of the video.
  • Give the audience one way to get their answer not three. It is like giving directions to your house. If you need to convey three different ways then you need to make three different videos.
  • He noted to look up the screencasts at Westlake Porter Public Library , Orange County Library System, Nashville Public Library, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Pierce County Library System

Q&A Portion of the presentation

  • One presenter mentioned that in MERLOT there are screencasts that have learning objects added to them where people can for example manipulate things on a screen for citation correction or other ways to practice what they have learned.
  • One presenter brought out the Just DO IT philosophy. Just get something made and put it out there. Look at what others have done to help you but go ahead and make the world’s worst screen cast. That is better then nothing just get to learning.  Making = learning.
  • Evaluation of screencasts should not be forgotten. You can put a link at the end of the screencast that goes to a survey that allows you to find out what works and what doesn’t work.

library website picAfter many months (okay, well over a year, truth be told) of all of the things you might imagine go into redesigning a website that is wrapped up in many peoples daily professional identity; our newly redesigned website has launched! I sit in the sweet spot of getting it off the ground and into everyones hands and getting to press on to other projects while I wait for the feedback to roll in.

Take a look and feel free to comment


Wolfram AlphaThere has been a bit of hype recently about a new search engine called Wolfram Alpha. I know you are wondering why anyone cares about a new search engine by now we all have our standby favorites that we are used to and don’t want to take the time to learn another when the one you use suits you fine. Well, skeptical (or shall I say cynical) audience, this one is different.

As you undoubtedly know Google and it’s competing counterparts will give you a list of links as your results from a search. The Telegraph puts it nicely when they say : “Unlike Google, which searches the entire web for the keywords contained within a search query and then returns thousands of relevant web pages, Wolfram Alpha aims to understand the question and return the correct answer by mining its vast database of information and statistics”. Wolfram Alpha will return to you a single page result with all of the quantifiable data available. For example if I put in the name of the college I work for I will get: Basic Information (including the website address), the location on a map of North America, enrollment information, number and type of annual degrees awarded, as well as the fields that the degrees are awarded in. All quick quantifiable data and no more. Search your name and you will probably get nothing; search Steve Jobs name and you will get his birthday and place of birth (if you are well known enough you are somewhat quantifiable).

The upshot is that Wolfram alpha is not for those who are looking for general information but can be spot on when the searcher is looking for statistics or basic data on a noun (except maybe Disneyland, I put that in and got nothing). It is an interesting site to search you either get spot on great info, an epic fail or nothing at all. Granted it has Alpha in the name for a reason and it will be fun to see where they take it.

Picture Credit (and another good article)

teachLately I have been spending many hours at work creating tutorials. for our students that will be embedded into our new library website when it launches in the summer. I am beginning with the software called Camtasia by Techsmith. It is a relatively straight forward program that can get very complicated if you’d like it to be. For example, one of my goals is to attach tests to the tutorials that can be embedded in the online classes so that the students can go through the modules and take the tests for class credit. I am looking forward to adding these layers of complexity as well as additional multimedia.

As I create the tutorials I find myself migrating back to all of the repositories we have for academic library tutorials such as: ANTS , PRIMO and LOEX but also to those who make tutorials that just work like Common Craft’s Plain English series  or other personal favorites like this one on You_Tube that I find myself using when I teach class. Some of my other out of the box favorites are The Library Minute from ASU  recent finds and fav’s are Dupauw’s spoof on the Apple commercial,  I love the quick and easy message they convey.

Then there are those in our repositories that I could never recommend. I am so tired of seeing the word doc tutorial, who reads those? or the 10 minute video tutorial, does anyone really stick around that long these days?. What makes me truly annoyed is the lack of closed captioning. I just think it is wrong to leave the hearing impaired out of the screencast tutorial loop.

As we all scramble to help our distance learners and to reach those that can’t make it to the library I believe we should be doing better than just good enough. I know that I am looking forward to the advancement of my own tutorials and I hope to see more innovation coming from my colleagues soon.

Picture Credit

The rumors are swarming (if not leaked) that the new Kindle will be somewhat improved and cheaper   . So we wait for the February 9th announcement with baited breath. In the meantime there is a new reader called an eSlick by Foxit Software throwing it’s little hat in the ring. It claims that it will be cheaper than either the Kindle or the Sony reader (both of which have priced me out of the ebook market) however cheap to Foxit, at this point, means $230..ehh hem, for what?

From what I can tell the eSlick is utilitarian in both form and function. It is not particularly good looking, it has no wifi, it simply views (actually that would be “converts”, yeah an extra step) pdf , TXT and plays MP3 files. Atleast Sony and Amazon give you easy access to a (expensive) bookstore to download your books from. I want to be optimistic I really do but it seems to me that these business models are wrong. Why are these dag blasted things so expensive at every turn? Certainly the cost of production is rather low, we are familiar with the parts. I say suck me in with a lower cost for the reader itself…say $100…and I’ll pay a price for ebooks. Not that I understand the rationale behind the price of the ebook either. As it is, in this economy, I find myself buying paperbacks instead of hardbacks and using my public library with increased frequency and I am certain that I am not alone. Just look at the hardback collection at Costco, it has been dwarfed by the paperbacks, they cater to what people will buy. An ebook is far less involved than a paper book in terms of production and I am to buy it for near the hardback price! Phooey.

I want to evangelize the joys of the ebook, I really do, but for now I sit on my wallet and wince in the Sony-Kindle-eSlick (yeah I’ll add the iRex iLiad for the purists but please, $700? It was dead in the water before it began) direction. Sigh.

As disappointed as I am with AT&T’s service I have to say that I am heavily involved with my iPhone. No matter how intelligent and good looking the Palm Pre ends up being I just don’t think my little Mac heart can be swooned to another.

That said I was excited to hear last week that the brilliant folks at DCPL Lab Projects had come out with an iPhone app for their library catalog. It is admittedly a basic program and they want input for improvement but the point is they have done what I believe no one else has done before. I know my library is already watching with much interest. Bravo!

Presenters Darlene Fichter and Frank Cervone

– “Allows the user to see the world as color blind people see it. Checks by images and urls”. It works more quickly if you download the app. It allows us to see the different kinds of color blindness (sadly, I didn’t know there was more than one kind).

–    Takes an image and creates a thumbnail for you. Can process webpages and see what they would look like as thumbnails.

–    Looks like cover flow on apple. Can embed on web page. Can do the same thing with images on your web page. It’s good for time sequence of images. It can zoom in and move out too

–    Charts and graphs and more visual types of images. “Take your data and transform it into visual information that can be shared with anyone, anywhere” Can connect to google docs, you generate, it gives you code and you can throw it in without uploading.


–    free sounds site.  “The Freesound Project is a collaborative database of CreativeCommons licensed sounds. Freesound focuses only on sound, not songs.”