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Posts Tagged ‘Web 2.0’

I was just thinking about writing my first blog post of 2010 about working from home and snow, when I popped onto Twitter and discovered that Marieke Guy (UKOLN remote worker) and Brian Kelly had done the same thing!

It’s my first week back at work after the Christmas break, and I had a good day back on Monday catching up with work and emails and other library staff, and mostly clearing my desk and computer files ready for the replacement who takes over when I go on maternity leave before the end of the month. I’m not teaching this month, partly because students are not back yet, and then mostly doing exams when they are back, so I haven’t been asked to run any student sessions; and partly because I am now large and unwieldy and breathless and find it easier to do computer based work. The main task I now have left before finishing work is completing the Web 2.0 Scoping Study I’ve been working on; I did a lot of work on experimenting with web 2.0 tools and writing the study during the summer, and then had no time during the autumn term due to a busy teaching and enquiries workload.

Luckily, I emailed the study to myself on Monday, thinking I might get a chance to do a bit on it at home, but completely oblivious to the weather forecasts, as they’d been predicting bad weather for a week or so, and so far, the snow in my Welsh village was mainly staying on the mountains!

So when we awoke on Tuesday to find ourselves snowed in, I was very grateful that a) I had a copy of the report accessible from my email and b) I had the kind of job where it was possible to work from home, especially given that my planned work this week involved writing and researching, rather than face to face teaching. In addition, I worked for years for a dispersed e-learning organization called CETIS (a JISC service), and did a lot of home working, so am used to the discipline of typing away on the computer with two dogs and a cat for company.

Interestingly, given that I am working on a web 2.0 study (investigating how web 2.0 tools such as blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr are and can be used by libraries and archives), it has been fascinating to see how much difference web 2.0 technologies make to the home working experience. For starters, I have been able to keep up with the outside world not just via my work email, but also via Twitter and Facebook, which have helped me keep up with the usual professional news and reports (Twitter) and also with weather conditions (both networks). I have also found Twitter very companionable whilst working from home, and posted more tweets than usual.

I also find that you feel quite self conscious about working from home, and very keen that colleagues know you are still working and not taking advantage of the snow to skive off work, so the online networks are also very useful for maintaining contact with people and showing that you are online and “at work” even though not physically in the office.

The other difference with home working is the decision whether to maintain the same working hours; for most of the week I’ve been working office hours with lunch and tea breaks, just as I would at work; but unintentionally had a bit of a longer lunch hour yesterday due to going out in the snow to watch my other half do some fire juggling next to a horse (long story!), which I then compensated for later by spending some time “at work” in the evening reading a new web 2.0 study which I had found out about on Twitter.

Working from home has actually been a real advantage for me this week, not only have I probably got more done than I would have at work, as researching and writing is actually easier to do in the solitude of home; but it’s made it much easier to get through week 32 of my pregnancy, tired and big and heavy, without having to take time off work due to tiredness from travelling.

In summary, I think it’s great if a workplace can trust their workers enough to enable them to work from home during times of adverse weather (or even late pregnancy!), and that not just broadband connections but also web 2.0 technologies can be used effectively to maintain contact and an online work presence; demonstrating just how valuable these tools can be. I can even update my blog from home!

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LibraryRoom20090901_002Pic: Librarian Velvet Zaurak in the Library Room, Bangor University Island, Second Life

I haven’t managed to blog for a few weeks as I’ve been busy with all kinds of things: drop in enquiries, library tours for international students here over the summer, working on a library leaflet, and all kinds of other things. I’ve also spent some time in the last couple of weeks working on the virtual worlds section of the Web 2.0 Scoping Study I’m doing for the library and archives, which has, as always, involved spending some time using the web 2.0 tool in question, in this case, Second Life, which is the most used virtual world for educational purposes.

Luckily for us, some people at the University had already created an island in Second Life for Bangor University, and have been kind enough to give the library a room to use as we begin exploring the potentials of Second Life for the library and archives service.

So far, I have been getting used to moving my avatar around, and have been out exploring Second Life’s freebie shops hunting for furnishings for the library room, with the aim of making it friendly and comfortable, but with a library-esque ambience! It is currently furnished with a large rug, some bookcases, a desk and chair, a laptop, some leopard skin chairs and a small water feature. I also added a harp, as a symbol of the library’s Welshness.

The next stage is to learn to make signs in Second Life, to bilingually label our library room for visitors, and to create some links to library and archives website pages from the library room, as I have seen in other libraries I have visited in Second Life.

Future plans are to look at using Second Life for things such as library reference and enquiry services, for teaching sessions, and also to attend any useful conferences and meetings in the virtual world, as it can be difficult to attend many meetings when based in North Wales!

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Jenny Evans & Ruth Harrison (Imperial College, London): 2. 0 much to do: how, when and why should library staff find out about web 2.0, and what does it mean for information literacy?

The session was about an idea called 23 Things, which was a list put together by a public library in America to encourage their staff to try out different web 2.0 technologies (e.g. blogs, Flickr, wikis, YouTube, etc), and described Imperial College Library’s version of 23 Things which was called Learning 2.0, and ran for ten weeks.

We were in a computer room for the session, which was ideal, as we were able to look at the website, and explore some of the links, including being given password access to look at some of the blogs the Imperial library staff had created during the programme. The extent of entries on the blogs varied enormously, some people having only done one or two posts, and others still blogging now.

There were positive outcomes from Learning 2.0: just under a quarter of library staff took part, surveys done before and after the course showed that people’s knowledge improved; and since completing the course, there are more blogs and wikis at the library, podcasts have been adopted, and there is a library twitter profile.

Overall, it sounds like a good technique to follow to get library staff on board, en mass, trying new web 2.0 technologies, especially if having completed the course, people can opt to use blogs and twitter and so forth if they choose, and not if they don’t, as not everyone is comfortable sharing their professional thoughts online in a web 2.0 style.

Moira Bent & Elizabeth Stockdale (Newcastle University): Integrating information literacy as a habit of learning – assessing the impact of a golden thread of IL in the curriculum

This was an interesting session about teaching information literacy as part of the student’s curriculum (one of the central ongoing debates in information literacy is whether to teach it separately, or as part of students’ courses, so that they can immediately see the relevance to their studies). Moira is a librarian, and Liz is an Environmental Science lecturer, and they worked together on integrating information literacy teaching into Liz’s course.

Moira listed the pros and cons of teaching information literacy within a course (relevant, can work with academic staff, make it subject specific, etc; BUT, means library staff not in control, co-working can be difficult, time consuming, etc) and the pros and cons of teaching information literacy as standalone sessions (easier to make it specific, students can work at own pace, raises library profile, etc, BUT, keeps focus too specific instead of broad, doesn’t make it relevant to subject studied, etc).

Liz was a great advocate for information literacy. She had observed that students were finishing university without necessarily developing the information skills they needed, as there was an unspoken assumption that students would just develop these skills whilst doing their studies, whereas she could see that they actually needed more specific training. She emphasised the need to assess any information literacy skills they learnt, otherwise students would just not make the time to do it, e.g. Liz marks some essays on information literacy skills used as well as essay content.

Interestingly I have spoken to staff at the university where I work who are concerned about some of their students’ information hunting skills, the lack of breadth in their reference lists, and issues with plagiarism and referencing, so I’m very much aware that all this issues are certainly noticed as much by lecturers as by library staff, and think that integration is definitely a good idea, as long as there is time to do it!

Evening Event: Caerphilly Castle

In the evening, I went to the social networking event, which was a coach ride to nearby Caerphilly Castle, which was beautiful, with dinner and drinks in a reception room at the (mostly ruined) castle, plus live music, medieval or classical I think. I love castles, but didn’t go exploring due to the bad combination of conference shoes and free wine. I was lucky enough to talk to some very nice people, including a librarian from the Brit School of performing arts  (I’d love to work in a performing arts library!), some students who had places at the conference, a nice psychologist from Leeds and my friend Melissa Highton from Oxford.

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Word Clouds

Word clouds or tag clouds are clever devices which turn your text into a visual image, with the words used most times in the text presented in larger sizes. They are frequently used on blogs, and in new generation library search engines, and all manner of other places, but oddly enough, I hadn’t really experimented with word clouds until yesterday when I launched my blog.

There is a tag cloud feature on WordPress (my blog host), but with only one blog post, it didn’t do anything very exciting with my blog words, so I decided to submit all my blog text to a word cloud generator called Wordle and see what kind of cloud of thoughts I had created on the first day of my blog.

Word Cloud on Day One of the Blog

Word Cloud on Day One of the Blog

I’m quite pleased with this as a starting set of words, with wonder, sense, provoke and curiosity showing my aims for the blog, and the terms library and information at the core of it all, although you may well wonder what words like robbers, piratical and rumbustification are doing on a library blog (the welcome post explains it all).

I then experimented with doing the same thing with a poem, which was very interesting. I taught English GCSE for a year once, and if I still did, I would definitely want to use word clouds with the students. It’s a really interesting way of exploring the overall themes and moods of literature and poetry. I used The Stolen Child by W.B.Yeats, which is a poem with lovely imagery, as you can see from the word cloud.

Word Cloud of W.B. Yeats' poem The Stolen Child

Word Cloud of W.B. Yeats' poem The Stolen Child

The word cloud is a poem in itself. It both conveys a sense of the content of the poem, and also shows what a wide range of rich and evocative vocabulary Yeats uses.

Finally, thinking about how word clouds could be used by students or staff at the university, I tried putting an article I recently wrote through the Wordle process, thinking this could be an interesting technique for university members to use to get an overview of key words and concepts emerging in their research. My article was about hunting for information, using effective search strategies, and investigating library resources.

libraryarticlewordcloudI think the word cloud emphasises the sort of key words you might expect to find in an article about library resources, although you may spot a few odd words in there that relate to examples I’d given of research enquiries I’ve helped with, rather than being actual search strategies…

Wordle Create is online here, and I recommend pressing the randomise button, to see how different the text image looks in different colours, fonts and layouts. You can also change the settings using the drop down menus above the text box.

It’s an inspiringly different way of looking at a piece of writing…

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