Sunday, 21 October 2012

Integrating 'things'...

It's funny of the reasons I like doing this blog is that I can reflect a lot on the tools I've already used in my work, but I'll be honest it's rare I have the time or inclination to actually try something new! I expect this is a common theme amongst librarians, the chime of "if only I had time I could do this". So what can I actually take from this blog and convert from an "If only..." into "I've done..."?

This blog has caused me to revisit my Google Drive and the usefulness of Google docs. In a recent teaching session, rather than handing out 80 handouts I decided to try and save trees by uploading the handout to Google docs and giving the link to students instead. I think this worked - at least all of the students were able to easily access the handout and bring it up on their screens. It's something I think I would choose to do again and it also means the handout is then accessible on the web at any time should the students want to come back to it.

I've kept my LinkedIn! Having been pretty disparaging about the interface and begrudgingly creating an account, I've both finished creating my profile and updated it. I can't ignore the fact it's a well used professional resource, and that it helps raise my profile as an information professional and create links with others who I could potentially work or collaborate with in the future. I considered deleting my profile, but realised that fighting against the tide in this manner when I'm perfectly capable of maintaining my profile is probably a futile gesture. Who knows how useful it could be in the future?

My RSS reader on the other hand, while it's full of interesting stuff, hardly ever gets looked at! One of the reasons is that I prefer to browse for my information - so rather than getting information through news feeds or blogs I like going to The Guardian and having a look around. But as I've mentioned before, my primary source of information 'pushed' to me on the web comes from Twitter. I remain addicted - It's a fantastic resource. I do sometimes show my RSS reader to students though, to demonstrate ways in which they can gather information that is sent to them in an efficient way - I'll be honest most students don't look all that thrilled by it. Perhaps they see that no matter whether their news feeds are gathered in one place or not, they'll still make them the lowest priority in their researcher lives.

The last blog post I made was regarding screencasts, although the 'thing' also included considering podcasting, which I basically ignored However, I think creating podcasts could be a very effective way of creating learning resources quickly and easily that can then be disseminated through the web and student blackboard sites. This is something I would like to keep as an idea ticking over, and give it a go as soon as I have time. Hey, we all need an 'if only..." to aspire towards!

Screencasting & learning to love the sound of your own voice

Ah screencasting....if you're anything like me you find recording screencasts a fairly unpleasant experience, where you have to talk out loud to a computer, feeling faintly ridiculous  and the only way to check your work is to then listen to the sounds of your own voice repeating over and over again. Not really my idea of fun!

But they're a great tool. I've created screencasts to demonstrate how to navigate databases and renew loans, and even in place of being able to attend a teaching session. I've used the free online tool Screencast-o-matic, which once uploaded to a Youtube channel you can then add annotations and a transcript, creating a very accessible resource. Here's an example of mine:

While I think screencasts of this kind are really useful resources I do think they have to be carefully planned, and videos of any significant length are never going to be useful to students - anything over three minutes can become very tedious very quickly (as perhaps the above video demonstrates? I'd be interested to know how many of the video viewers actually watched the whole thing). Interestingly, the video I created to demonstrate to students how to use their Microsoft Live Skydrive has received over 3000 hits, 10 times as many as my library screencasts - which probably goes to show the way in which students expect to learn: they expect IT information to come from the internet and is useful in video format. But library information - can students learn it effectively from videos? Will they understand the process and be able to transfer that learning to another searching need or just follow step-by-step? Will they even search for help in the format of videos or will they get sidetracked one they're on Youtube watching much more entertaining videos?

At the moment, my new role as a Faculty Librarian takes me away from the subject librarian role somewhat in that I don't currently have time to create subject-specific resources of the kind I would like to provide for students, including screencasts of using particular databases for specific subjects. While I don't know what kind of impact these videos actually have, I do believe that providing learning tools like these in as many formats as possible is great for meeting the different needs of students, and they're always a fantastic thing to have up your sleeve for those moments where you just can't bear to explain how to do a search one more time!