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1. India’s unique identification number: is that a hot number?

Perhaps you are on your way to an enrollment center to be photographed, your irises to be screened, and your fingerprints to be recorded. Perhaps, you are already cursing the guys in the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for making you sweat it out in a long line.

The post India’s unique identification number: is that a hot number? appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on India’s unique identification number: is that a hot number? as of 7/27/2015 5:52:00 AM
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2. Teen Design Lab Day Four -- Time to Design!

Another good day at the Teen Design Lab. We had a pretty free form day, complete with some inspiration, project time, and stickers.

What we did:

  • Watched some library related humor videos (such as Check It Out made by the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library — what a great job they did incorporating Taylor Swift into EVERYTHING). These videos served as inspiration and a potential design project. We wanted to give teens the option of making a video parody to promote the library.
  • Then it was design time. This is the neat part of the camp. We just let the teens be, serving really only as sounding boards and offering words of encouragement. We provide laptops, paper, pens, and other design supplies (such as clay, building blocks, felt, etc) so they can create a prototype of some sort. It was neat to see the teens find their element — some needed to make something with their hands while others made detailed dream plans and steps to success charts. The design process also the teens to showcase their talents and strengths, which is awesome. At the same time, we are aligning with library and community priorities — giving suggestions on how to make the teens feel welcome or participate in their community and or library.
  • The day ended with a sticker workshop. Again, this pulls from Makerspace and Fab Lab ideas and equipment (check out the Maker & DIY Programs YALSA Wiki page for more information about this sort of programming). It was an easy setup — laptops running Silhouette software, Silhouette vinyl cutters, and vinyl for the stickers. It’s another workshop where the teens really have free reign over what they want to do. Our only suggestion was using a silhouette image for the cleanest cut. The teens really took off on this project, most printing multiple sets of vinyl. They picked up on it pretty quickly (and a few had done this before). It was a nice way to end the workshop.

The teens will be back tomorrow, continuing to work on their designs and then give a brief presentation to their peers and community members we’ve invited to come so the teens’ opinions can be heard!

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3. Teen Design Lab Day Three — Tech Playground & Teen Feedback

Wednesday was a bit of a slow day. Lucky for us, we had something free form planned for the teens to explore.

We called it a Tech Playground. Our potential project ideas were:

  • Facebook pot for the Peoria Heights Public Library
  • Google Maps with pins of their favorite places in Peoria Heights
  • Experiment with graphic design using Canva, Gimp, or Imgur

Canva overview image from Reel Bold Media

What won out was Canva. I had only briefly worked with this website and I was the one who had recommended it after hearing about it at a social media conference. To sign up, all you need is an email address or can log in with Facebook or a Google account.

From there, you can make almost any sort of design. Flyers, Facebook covers, Etsy banners, posters, business cards — the sky is the limit. With the design, there are both free templates and templates that can be purchased at low cost ($1 or so). You can upload your own photos, use copyright free images, or purchase images from Canva (again around $1 or so). It’s relatively easy to maneuver around the site, and lots of tutorials to watch if you get confused. Here’s a thing we made!

We made a thing!

The teens seemed very into it and said it was one of their favorite things they did that day. It was a great project to just let them run wild and to create something they wanted to use. We also confirmed that Facebook is just not a social media this group of teens use (paralleling recent studies done that say teens are moving away from using Facebook).

After Canva, which was hard to tear the teens away, we had a volunteer from the Peoria Heights Historical Society come in. The teens seemed engaged with the volunteer and asked some good questions. The day ended with conversations on potential design projects they will officially start tomorrow and a conversation with the director of the library. He had looked at their feedback on the Hack Your Library project. The conversation was pretty good, but of course, came back to similar problems — teen involvement and investment. The teens gave good suggestions, such as scouting a couple of teens and allowing them to have a very active role in program planning. If they can bring a couple of friends, then the program has a chance of taking off. I’m curious to know in the future if the director keeps this in mind. I think getting teen feedback is so crucial. We can guess all we want, but at the end of the day, what the teens say and think does matter.

Looking forward to day four and getting more into the design process!

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4. Teen Design Lab Day Two — Maps, notebooks, and hack your library!

Back for day two reflection! We added one more teen to the group, bringing our total up to five. Today was a heavy work day, although we were taking into consideration the request from the teen for more projects.

The afternoon began with working on something for the internet. We gave the teens three options: make a Facebook post for the Peoria Heights Public Library page (since our camp takes place at this library), make a blurb that could go up on the Richwoods Township website (since Roger came from the township to talk to us yesterday), or create a Google Map with pins at places they had visited on the community tour on Monday. More on that in what went well and what could be improved. 

Then, the Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab made an appearance (and they are team members in this larger grant helping to pay me and my co-teachers to develop and run this camp). They brought along a friend, aka a portable laser. Holly, one of the Fab Lab instructors, led the five teens though designing a notebook cover to be lasered on a small Moleskine notebook. It was a great workshop and the teens had to find a quote they liked. We can definitely think of this workshop as a way to develop interest-based, developmentally appropriate programs that support connected learning. The teens had full say in what their notebooks looked like and this design process exposed them not only to design tools, but file management, USB procedures (like eject USB before physically removing it), and exposure to technology they might not have seen or used before.

With the notebooks begin lasered, the teens then did Hack Your Library. Essentially, they each had a clipboard, pencil, and a bunch of post-it notes. They were to carefully and thoughtfully go through the library, writing down on the post-it notes what they liked about the library, what they didn’t like, and things that surprised them (very similar to what they did the day before in downtown Peoria Heights). The afternoon ended with the teens presenting their findings to the group. The director of the library who we’ve been working closely with couldn’t sneak away to hear the presentation but was looking at the feedback on our way out after camp was over.

What went well

  • The teens really seemed to enjoy the notebook design workshop. It was great to see each other being lasered because they really showed off each teen’s unique personality. I think it’s a great strength to be able to have programming and activities that allow teens to be themselves in that sort of creative process. I feel I learned even more about them from those simple notebook covers.
  • Hack the Library activity ended up with so many interesting notes. Very few teens noticed the same things, which again helps to show how each teen is unique and brings a new perspective to the table.

What could be improved on

  • They seemed a little lackluster about creating website/Facebook/Google map content. I’m not sure if it was how we explain the activities or if that is something they just weren’t interested in. This gets me thinking about how can we encourage them to be creators of material on the internet in a way that’s engaging and fun to them.

Resources to check out

Photos coming soon! Check back tomorrow night for day three reflections!


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5. Teen Design Lab Reflections, Day One

Hi everyone! So I wrote a post on Friday about an upcoming camp I was helping to plan. During the afternoons this week, we are leading a Teen Design Lab camp. Our general objectives for the camp are:

  • Help youth learn about the community through exploration
  • Engage youth in contributing to community problem-solving
  • Learn about digital media and technology

I’ll be leading a week long reflection series about how the camp goes with the teens each day and how what we are doing fits in while YALSA’s programming guide. I’ll try to have the reflection post every evening, although this first post is the morning after (since the first day is full of craziness, debriefing, and figuring out where to get dinner).

Day One 

What we did:

  • Spent some time on designing a roadmap for the week (see photo). Ann had written this roadmap for the week in terms of the themes of the projects we would be working on and then what skills and outcomes we were hoping for. This roadmap was partially empty and in the picture, you can see we asked questions and got answers from the teens to fill in the roadmap.
  • Community tour. We had the teens go out into the Peoria Heights downtown area and observe what they liked about the area (and what teens might like about this area), what they thought was problematic or what they didn’t like about the area, and then what questions they had or what surprised them about something they saw. We also sent them out with iPad Minis to take photographs with. We encouraged them to talk to store owners and ask questions. The facilitators wandered around the downtown area as well, but we really let the teens do their own thing. We will use this feedback for future design projects this week.
  • Spoke with the township administrator, Roger, (we had met him previously and he gave us input in how he hoped the camp would run). He talked about his beliefs in doing community engagement and some of the neat projects the Richwoods Township had done recently.

IMG_1146What went well:

  • The teens were great. They were engaged and actually interested in the camp and the design projects we are going to be working on. They enjoyed how we didn’t teach at them, but instead involved them in the conversation. They also asked a lot of questions, which allowed us to see where we were doing well in explanation and when we weren’t communicating well.
  • While we had less teens than expected, the group wasn’t phased. They rolled well with our flexible and always changing schedule.

What we want to improve on:

  • We did a quick evaluation at the end of the day to see what the teens thought went well and what didn’t go so well. This is a great way to remind the teens they do have a voice in this program. [Note: it also is YALSA’s #10 in their programming guide]. We found out on Monday that one teen wished we did more stuff, more project time, and less chatting. We have a schedule that is flexible enough to truly listen to this request and altered our agenda for today (Tuesday) accordingly.

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6. Terminal, by Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs | Book Review

The Morris Island gang is back in Terminal, the fifth and final full installment of Kathy and Brendan Reichs’ NY Times Bestselling Virals series.

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7. Why a technologically enhanced future will be less good than we think

Today there are high hopes for technological progress. Techno-optimists expect massive benefits for humankind from the invention of new technologies. Peter Diamandis is the founder of the X-prize foundation whose purpose is to arrange competitions for breakthrough inventions.

The post Why a technologically enhanced future will be less good than we think appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on Why a technologically enhanced future will be less good than we think as of 7/20/2015 4:32:00 AM
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8. Devising data structures for scholarly works

For over 100 years, Oxford University Press has been publishing scholarly editions of major works. Prominent scholars reviewed and delivered authoritative versions of authors’ work with notes on citations, textual variations, references, and commentary added line by line—from alternate titles for John Donne’s poetry to biographical information on recipients of Adam Smith’s correspondence.

The post Devising data structures for scholarly works appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on Devising data structures for scholarly works as of 7/18/2015 8:48:00 AM
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9. Programming is challenging, especially when you have to anticipate

Since May, I’ve been part of a planning team designing a week-long summer camp (July 20-24, 2015) for 8-12 year olds and for teens in the Peoria Heights (IL) area. This team is a smaller aspect of a much larger project, the Digital Innovation Leadership Program (DILP). This project is funded through the University of Illinois Extension and works with 4H offices across Illinois to plan and lead programs. Our goal is to focus on three learning areas: digital manufacturing, digital media production, and data analytics.

For me, it’s an exciting grant because it really builds off what I’ve done this past year. I get the opportunity to think more about digital literacy and how what I learned can be applied in other situations, always bending the curriculum/workshop to fit the context of the group. Additionally, I played a major role in the creation of the 8-12 year old camp and played a support role in developing the curriculum for the teens. The teens are building off the work of Ann Bishop and her team have been doing in Seattle: InfoMe, which I wrote about in my December 2014 post. Here are five things I learned (or got confirmed) about planning along the way.

  1. Plan A is rarely your best plan.
    • I think our morning camp is in version 3.5. We would have an idea, run with it for a bit, think of something better, tweak it, and run with it again. A few times, we threw out the whole idea and came up with something better. Just like writing a paper for my English classes in undergrad, my best work comes after a few revisions, a few freakouts, and some good conversations with mentors & peers.
  2. Nail down objectives early so that when new ideas come up they can quickly be  assessed if they fit the objectives. If yes, then accept the idea and if not, the idea is vetoed.
    • This was incredibly helpful as we kept coming up with different plans. Our team had met with some community leaders in Peoria Heights at the beginning of May to get an idea of what they wanted from this camp. The main objective that came through was strengthening community pride. When we came back to Urbana-Champaign to play, we had that strong objective in mind. Our camp was framed around that idea and it helped keep us focused and remember what was important.
  3. Give yourself enough time, especially if you’ve working with community partners.
    • Everyone is busy. It seems like such a simple fact, but often forgotten. While a community partner you meet with several months before the program seems very excited about collaboration, as the program actually approaches and the summer is flying by, they might be harder to get in touch with. However, if you contact them early enough, get the date on their calendar sooner rather than later, and provide solid information on expectations and program objectives, then you can feel confident going into the program. Also, I don’t know about you, but I never can estimate how long something will actually take me.
  4. Clear communication is crucial. 
    • Use clear and direct email subject lines, direct emails with questions or bullet points of information, call the person/people on the phone when needed, and also don’t forget about the value of visiting the place the program will take place (if it’s off site or for us, in a completely new city). We took another trip to Peoria Heights in June with a draft of our camp and some questions. It was so nice to sit across from the stakeholders and on-site organizers to make sure we were on the same page.
  5. Anticipate all you want, but sometimes you just have to relax and rely on your ability to change on the fly.
    • With the camp a week away, we suddenly started coming up with all these ideas. Well, if project A doesn’t work, we could do this alternative project A, or alternative project B. Oh…wait, here’s another idea. When you start to go into that spiral, things become overwhelming. I think it’s good to have a backup plan, but somethings you just can’t anticipate. I found myself needing to feel confident about what we had planned and trust myself to think on my feet if during the week, something changes.

Since the camp is right around the corner, I’ll be blogging reflections after the morning camp on my personal website and then will be posting short reflections on the teen camp here on the YALSA blog. Looking forward to sharing this camp with you!

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10. Reading on Screens

Things have been quiet in the print versus digital debate lately for which I am glad, what’s the saying about beating a dead horse? I do understand that there is still much we don’t know about our brains and how reading online and reading in print affects how we read, what we read and how well we read it and I am grateful that the debate is heading down that river and away from the techno-evangelist’s books are dead digital utopia. But because it has been awhile since there has been anything “out there” about it, someone had to write an update about where we stand just in case we forget. And like a moth to the flame I had to fly right for it.

Everythig Science Knows about Reading on Screens is pretty much a summary to-date. You won’t find anything new or revelatory in the article unless you are one of the few readers in the world who have somehow managed to be disconnected from it all (and if you are that sort of reader, you have my admiration!).

What is most striking about this article is how it proves a number of things about reading on screens that it discusses. Like skimming. The presentation of the article invites it with blurry moving things on the header and cutting up the text of the article. I almost didn’t finish reading the article because all of the moving blurs were giving me a headache! The article quotes Ziming Liu, a researcher at San Jose State University:

Liu noted in his study that sustained attention seems to decline when people read onscreen rather than on paper, and that people also spend less time on in-depth reading. ‘In digital, we can link in different media, images, sound, and other text, and people can get overwhelmed,” explains Andrew Dillon, a professor at the School of Information at the University of Texas, Austin, “These are disruptive activities that can carry a cost in terms of attention.’

Ironically, this falls immediately below one of the big, moving blurry blocks! Distracting, check! Overwhelming, check!

We’ve been trained by internet articles like this one. It isn’t necessarily that I want to skim or that I purposely interrupt my reading with distractions, it’s the way words have been presented on the internet since websites were invented that has made me read this way on a screen. So is it any surprise then when given an article or story to read on a screen even without all of the attendant internet bling that I might read it just as though all that bling were there?

The article concludes:

Despite the apparent benefits of paper, Mangen and other reading researchers caution the screen-reading vs. traditional reading question has nuances that scientists have yet to fully understand. Which method works better may depend on the individual (for example, there’s evidence that for some people with dyslexia, e-readers improve reading speed and comprehension). Ultimately, it may be that both print and screen have unique advantages, and we’ll need to be able to read equally well on both—which means keeping our distracted habits onscreen from bleeding into what we read on an e-book or paperback. And reading researchers have some advice for how to prevent this: forget your smartphone and computer, sit down, and read a book.

Common sense. But I have to stop myself decrying the painfully obvious conclusion because common sense isn’t always a strong point for a good many people I have found, especially those getting grants to study the things that avid readers already know and could have told them without any trouble. Should it ever happen that researchers ask us one of these days about print and digital reading, someone is going to have to pick me up off the floor because I will have fainted.

Filed under: Books, ebooks, Reading, Technology Tagged: print v digital

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11. From Dinosaur Robotics to Digital Storytelling: Incorporating Technology Into Summer Programming

The ALSC’s Children and Technology Committee is interested in hearing about your experiences with incorporating digital resources, social media, and technology into your summer programming.  We looked around and found some great ideas from our colleagues around the country.

Tech Labs

ALSC Stock Photo

ALSC Stock Photo

The Frederick County Public Libraries has STEM Lab, where children can drop in to learn about or use 3D printers, apps, robotic dinosaurs, or drones.  This is similar to Darien Library’s TEA Room, (TEA stands for Technology, Engineering, and the Arts).  There, students can reserve space to use media production equipment or take classes on Raspberry Pi, 3D Printing, etc.  These programs offer a nice balance of a space/time that is both free and unstructured or structured group projects and classes.

Tech Partnerships

ALSC Stock Photo

ALSC Stock Photo

King County Library System in Washington State has partnered with the Museum of Flight during the summer to offer tech program s such as Everyday Robot Heroes Science Workshop, Yes, It’s Rocket Science Workshop  or Rockets to the Moon Science Workshop.  These programs teach children about robotics or rockets and then allow them to build their own.  King County was able to tie these programs into their main promotional theme of the summer: superheroes!

Digital Storytelling

Outside of using e-books and apps during storytimes, digital storytelling can also describe various programming opportunities to get our patrons using simple media production tools to create, record, and share their own stories.  The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has the award winning My Storymaker site that helps children build their own stories online.  Skokie Public Library has Digital Craft Time programs, with one group of classes for grades 1-3 and another group for grades 4-6. Topics include Photoshop elements, green screen photography, and Stop Motion Animation.  Speaking of stop motion animation, last month, our committee’s blog post was on creating short stop motion animation films using a free and super easy iPad app called Stop Motion Studio.  It might be a great fall back on a rainy summer day.  Kathy Schrock offers some insightful tips and suggestions for getting started or keeping up with digital storytelling.

Take It Home Technology

ALSC Stock Photo

ALSC Stock Photo

What about technology that children and their families could check out, take home and do together?  Meridian Library District in Idaho has Make It Take It Kits that help families to build robots, learn about circuitry, and find projects for 3D printing.

Make Magazine as many people know is a treasure trove of programs and projects that can be adapted and modified to work in a library setting.  From high to low, ideas range from 3D printing to traditional lessons on woodworking.  The projects and video sections are a must.

So please, get the conversation started in the comments section. We want your suggestions on the following:

  • What programs have you done or are you preparing using technology?
  • What doesn’t work that well?
  • Do you work with digital resources or social media during more traditional programming?
  • Is anyone filming your puppet shows, creating podcasts of original works of readers’ theater, etc.?

Michael Santangelo is the Electronic Resources Coordinator at BookOps, the shared technical services department for the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library, and chair of the Children and Technology Committee.

The post From Dinosaur Robotics to Digital Storytelling: Incorporating Technology Into Summer Programming appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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12. Gratis & Libre, or, Who Pays for Your Bandwidth?

via Philip Taylor, Flickr

In talking with Robin DeRosa about open educational resources (OER), a lot of my skepticism was focused on (and continues to be focused on) the question of who pays for it. If I'm not just skeptical but also cynical about a lot of the techno-utopian rhetoric that seems to fuel both the OER advocates and, even more so, people who associate themselves with the idea of Digital Humanities, it may be because I've been paying attention to what the internet has done to writers over the last couple decades. It's not all bad, by any means — this blog is one of example of that, I continue to try to write mainly for online venues so that my work can be relatively easily and broadly accessed, and I put most of my syllabi online. I can do that because I have other income and don't rely on this sort of writing to pay the bills. Thus, in my personal calculations, accessibility is more important than revenue.

But that freedom to choose accessibility over getting paid, or over doing work other than writing that would pay me, is a gigantic luxury. I can only make such a calculation because I have other revenue (the stipend from the PhD program I'm in and money saved from selling my father's business, which, though it's not enough to let me stop working, pays a bit over half of my basic expenses), and so the cost of my writing for free here on this blog, rather than doing remunerative work, is absorbed by that other revenue.

Further, aside from blog posts and some academic material, I usually won't write for free. Both because there are, in fact, people who will pay me, and also because I don't want to de-value the work of writing. Letting people have your work for free means they begin to expect that such work ought to be free. And while yes, in a post-capitalist utopia, I'd love for all work to be free ... we are, alas, not living in a post-capitalist utopia (as you might've noticed). Bills must still be paid. Printers and managers and bosses and technicians all get paid. And therefore writers should be paid.

In our Q&A, Robin said, "For materials to be 'open,' they need to be both free as in no-cost (gratis) and free as in free to repurpose and share (libre)."

It's that "no cost" that seems to me dangerous — the idea that there is no cost. Of course there's a cost. There's the cost of labor, first of all, with somebody working, either for free or not (and if for free then how are they paying their bills?). But then there are all the other things: the cost of bandwidth and of technological infrastructure, for instance.

Somebody is paying, even if it's not you.

OER is not no-cost, it's a movement of cost from one place to another. And that may be exactly what's necessary: to move costs from a place that is less fair or sustainable to one that is more fair and sustainable. That's in many ways a central idea of academic research: the institution pays the researcher a salary so that the researcher doesn't have to live off of the profits of research, thus keeping the research from being tainted by the scramble for money and the Faustian bargains such a scramble entails. (Of course, in reality, research — especially expensive technical research — is full of Faustian bargains. As public money gets more and more replaced by private money, those bargains will only get worse.) (And this, as OER advocates, among others, have pointed out, has also led to plenty of exploitation by some academic publishers, who enrich themselves while using the unfortunate reality of "publish or perish" as an excuse to not pay writers, to steal their copyright, etc.)

OER must highlight its costs, because hiding costs tends to further the idea that something not only is free, but should be free — and it's that idea that has destroyed wages for so many writers and artists over the last couple decades. To combat this, I think teachers should tell students the reality, for instance by saying something like: "Your tuition dollars fund 80% of this school's activities, including the salaries of the faculty who have worked countless hours to create these materials that we are not charging you for, because you have effectively paid for them through tuition." Or even: "I created this material myself and am releasing it to the world for no cost, but of course there was a cost to me in time and effort, and when I'm paid $2,500 minus taxes to teach this class, that basically means I'm giving this away, though I hope it doesn't mean it has no value."

Robin brought up Joss Winn's essay "Open Education: From the Freedom of Things to the Freedom of People", which is well worth reading for its critique of OER, but which stumbles when trying to offer a vision of another route — it ends up vague and, to my eyes, rather silly, because Winn has no practical way to prevent tools that are highly attractive to neoliberalism becoming tools for resistance to neoliberalism, and so concludes with little more than "and then a miracle occurs". (For the best commentary I've seen on the topic of resisting neoliberalism, see Steven Shaviro's No Speed Limit.)

Richard Hall asks huge, even overwhelming, but I think necessary questions about all this:
The issue is whether it is possible to use these forms of intellectual work as mass intellectuality, in order to reclaim the idea of the public, in the face of the crisis of value? Is it possible to reconsider pedagogically the relation between the concrete and the abstract as they are reproduced globally inside capitalism? Is it possible to liberate the democratic capability of academic labour, first as labour, and second as a transnational, collective activity inside open co-operatives, in order to reorient social production away from value and towards the possibility of governing and managing the production of everyday life in a participatory manner?
My immediate, perhaps knee-jerk answer to any of the "Is it possible?" questions here is: Not in American higher ed, at least as I've known it, and not without a massive transformation of labor relations within higher ed. The US government and US schools are too deeply entrenched in neoliberalism, and without radically reforming academic labor, reforming the products of that labor is likely to be exploitative. Cooperative governance, associational networks, open co-operatives, etc. are all nice ideas, ones I in fact generally support and want to be part of, but such support comes with the awareness that if you're getting paid $70,000 a year and I'm getting paid $16,000 a year, our participation in those networks and co-operatives cannot be equal no matter how much you and I might agree that co-operatives and associational networks are better than the alternative. Further, if you were hired 20 years ago under vastly different conditions of hiring, your position is not my position. It's all well and good for you, Tenured Prof, to tell people they should publish in open access journals, but from where I sit, I don't trust that any hiring committee, never mind tenure and promotion, is going to value that in the way they value those highly paywalled journals. Hierarchies gonna hierarch.

OER advocates know this. They may know it better than anybody, in fact, since they're actively trying to bring hiring and tenure practices into the current century. One of the first pieces Robin edited when she was brought on board by Hybrid Pedagogy was Lee Skallerup Bessette's important essay "Social Media, Service, and the Perils of Scholarly Affect", which includes the fact (among many others) that one can, through open publishing and social media, etc., actually become not only a highly-cited secondary source but an actual primary source ... and have no way to turn that into "scholarship" recognized by gatekeepers.

But again, even while knowing that OER advocates are some of the people most aware of these problems, I can't help but come back to the question of how OER work can prevent the immediate effect of devaluing academic labor — how can it avoid being co-opted by the forces of neoliberalism?

I also can't help thinking about what we might call the Dissolve problem. The Dissolve was a wonderful film website sponsored by Pitchfork. It published great material and paid its writers. It is recently dead, and its archives could soon be wiped away if Pitchfork decides it's too expensive to maintain (as happened with SciFiction, the great online magazine sponsored by the Sci Fi Channel). Here's Matt Zoller Seitz on the end of The Dissolve:
Anybody who's tried to make a go at supporting themselves through writing or editing or other journalism-related work—criticism especially — without a side gig that's actually the "real" job, or partner or parent who pays most of the bills, can read between the lines. Staring at a blank page every day, or several times a day, and trying to fill it with words you're proud of, on deadline, with few or no mistakes, and hopefully some wit and insight and humor, is hard enough when it's the only thing you do. The days when it was the only thing writers did seem to recede a bit more by the week. It's even harder to make a go at criticism in today's digital media era, now that audiences expect creative work (music, movies and TV as well as critical writing) to be free, and advertisers still tend to equate page views with success. These factors and others guarantee that writer and editor pay will continue to hover a step or two above "exposure," and that even the most widely read outlets won't pay all that much. Most veteran freelancers will tell you that they earn half to a quarter of what they made in the 1990s, when newspapers and magazines were king. I make the same money now, not adjusted for inflation, with two journalism jobs and various freelancing gigs as I made in 1995 with one staff writing job at a daily newspaper.
It's the trends that Matt highlights there that so concern me with OER, because I'm not sure how OER avoids perpetuating those trends. The ideals of no-cost are lovely. But the process of getting there can't be waved away with magic thinking. Free free free poof utopia!

More likely, poof nobody makes money except the administrative class.

Could it be that OER advocates are like John Lennon imagining there's no money ... when he's a gazillionaire? To which the necessary response is: "No money? Easy for you to imagine, buster!"

Let's do a thought experiment, though, and imagine that OER advocates somehow square the circle of doing non-exploitative work in neoliberal institutions. (And already I'm speaking in terms of miracles occurring!) What happens to students who then go out into the world and continue to expect every creative and intellectual product to be free? Heck, they already do. And such assumptions contribute to the de-valuing of writers' and artists' labor as well as the de-valuing of academic labor.

That's why I think our job as educators should be to push against such assumptions rather than to encourage them, because encouraging the idea that creative and intellectual work should be free and has no costs just leads to the impoverishment of creative and intellectual workers.

Pushing against such assumptions wouldn't mean the need to give up or disparage OER, but rather to make the processes of its creation, dissemination, and funding as transparent as possible. Answer even the basic questions such as "Who pays for the bandwidth?"

Without such transparency, OER, I fear, will perpetuate not only the trends that have led to the adjunctification of higher ed, and the trends that have brought on a catastrophic defunding of public education, but also the trends that destroyed The Dissolve. Without helping people see that, in our economy, "free" really means a displacement of cost (somebody else paying ... or somebody not getting paid), OER will perpetuate destructive illusions.

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13. Public Record

When it was brought to public attention that Hillary Clinton had used a private server for emails that should be accessible as public record, it started a conversation in my organization about public record and data storage. Being a government employee at a public library means that some of the things I do could be subject to public record. The administration at my library encouraged professional staff to refrain from using personal devices or personal accounts to complete library work. However for years several librarians have used personal accounts on Facebook and Google, or personal devices like cell phones and iPads for all aspects of our job.

When we use these devices for both personal and professional I doubt many of us thought about public record laws. While the best practice would be to never use personal accounts or devices, that limits the services we are able to offer. Often our libraries don’t have the resources to give staff accounts and devices to try out services, and even if they do its more complicated to set up test accounts when staff already have existing profiles that can be used to test out new systems.

If your library system only has an email system, and you use your personal cell phone, or facebook messenger to talk to a coworker about a project you are working on, does that mean your entire phone is subject to open record? What if you send a message a few weeks later to the same staff member making a comment about a coworker or project? Since it’s a personal account does that become part of public record?

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook advocates that users have one online identity. He once said in an interview with David Kirkpatrick in his book, “The Facebook Effect. “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” If I use my personal account to create a page for my teen group does that mean everything I post on Facebook would be subject to Public record? I know several teachers and librarians that have secondary profiles, if I create a separate profile for my role as teen librarian am I being dishonest?

What if you use your phone or home computer to check your work email address? Does the entire computer open to public record?

In trying to understand Public records I explored Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press . The site explain each state’s laws about public record.

For my state the law about instant and text messages simply state that “There is no statutory or case law addressing this issue, though the definition of “public record” is broad enough to encompass such postings. “

Per using home computer it states that “the home computer used by a city official to send an email is subject to inspection by the city to determine whether a requested record still existed.”

As we create new creative innovative programs and services we need to remain conscious about who might access and use our information. While in general the rule that if you wouldn’t say it in front of your mother/to a person’s face does apply, but when we collaborate using online message systems rather than face to face meetings or phone calls we put ourselves at greater risk for conversations being taken out of context or making it into headlines much like the Sony executives experiences after their infamous hack.

I don’t want us as a profession to hesitate from doing new things, but think about how to implement them intentionally so we can maintain a line between our personal and public lives.

Have you thought about your information related to Public record?
Do you use personal accounts or devices in your job?
What do you do to keep yourself safe?

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14. Katie Friedman Gives Up Texting (And Lives to Tell About It)

The first time I saw this title, I have to say I laughed out loud.  I lifted my gaze from the catalog, and surveyed the library to see most middle schoolers faces glued to their phones.  Needless to say, the title struck me even before I got my hands on the book.  While it was on my desk, it drummed up lots of interest from the kids and the adults alike.

Katie Friedman is an expert multitasker.  She's the kind of tech user who would have ALL THE TABS open.  As we begin she is texting her friend Hannah, posting a pic of her dog, receiving some texts from Becca, and sending texts to bff Charlie Joe Jackson. This is all before breakfast.  During breakfast she gets some texts from Nareem, Eliza, Hannah,  and Becca.  Then on the bus ride to school Katie is texting with Charlie Joe, and her mom.  Whew!  Exhausted yet?

The thing is, it's pretty easy to send a text to the wrong person.  Especially if you are texting multiple people at the same time.  Lots of times, it's kind of funny to send the wrong text to the wrong person. But sometimes it's really not.  Especially when you're texting about something personal.  Something like not liking your boyfriend so much anymore...and sending it to your boyfriend.

Hitting send changes everything for Katie.  Not only has she gone and really hurt Nareem's feelings, but she begins to realized how far into their phones her friends are.  She thinks about the fact that it just seems easier to text people instead of actually talk to them.

Inspired by her musical heroine, Jane Plantero, Katie sets out on a quest.  A quest to live without her phone for a while.  And Jane says if Katie can convince 10 of her friends to give up their phones for a week, she will come and play a show for them.  The twist is that Katie is not allowed to dangle to carrot of the concert.

How hard will it be to convince a bunch of middle schoolers to give up their phones?

Tommy Greenwald has tackled the topic of kids and phones without making it seem like a "topic".   Gweenwald nails the voice as usual, and if I didn't know better, I'd say he was a teacher.  Charlie Joe pops up throughout the book to lend his sarcastic wit with segments like, "Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Why Texting Is Awesome". Where Greenwald shines is in writing the relationships.   They are messy and fickle and constantly shifting ... totally like in middle school.  Katie isn't all good, just as Charlie Joe isn't all snark.  This is a book that should just show up on library tables, and in living rooms all over the place.  I think this would make a fantastic book club book, and the kind of classroom read that will get kids talking.

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15. Ignite Session at #alaac15

This fast paced session featured a panel of 6 speakers. Each speaker had 5 minutes to present with 25 slides. These slides can be accessed on the conference website. Here’s a quick recap of the presentations from this morning’s session.

What eCommerce Can Teach Us about Discovery: Lessons from SXSWi 2015
Using ideas from other industries and thinking about how they apply to libraries. The example used was fashion.

Not Another Sad Gay Love Story
Terms for gender identities were briefly defined. Notable publishers, authors, and series in LGBTQ lit were listed. Titles mentioned were mostly adult and YA.

Diversity Action Plan
Presented by Jason Low from Lee & Low Books. He talked about the ways Lee & Low is hoping to attract diverse people to get into the publishing industry, as well as how to encourage diverse authors and illustrators.

Here It Is, Your Moment of Zen
A hilarious presentation about the graphic elements of book displays. Jesse talked about the power of communicating through visuals. He encouraged librarians to create displays that are short, timely, funny, and interesting.

Adventures in Preschool Science
Introducing inquisitive preschoolers and their caregivers to STEM at the library is important. It’s also important to teach caregivers to talk about science with their children so that learning continues beyond the library session. Tips on modeling for caregivers on how to ask questions to encourage exploration and critical thinking skills.

Let the Wild Rumpus Begin: Beyond the Library Echo Chamber
An invitation to get out into the community and exchange ideas with patrons to be an Information Enabler. Take your passion out in the community so that the library has a voice and so you can have a deeper conversation about information needs.

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16. Great Websites for Kids? Look no further!

GWS logo

On behalf of the Great Websites for Kids Committee, I’d like to share some news and enlist your help.

If you missed our recent press release, the following are the newest sites to be added to Great Websites for Kids, the online resource featuring hundreds of links to exceptional websites for children.

We hope that you will find these and other Great Websites for Kids to be useful tools for you and your library patrons. Sites are searchable by eight main classifications (Animals, The Arts, History & Biography, Literature & Languages, Mathematics & Computers, Reference Desk, Sciences, and Social Sciences) or by keyword. The committee works hard all year to find and evaluate new sites, and to weed out previously chosen sites that haven’t maintained “great” status.

We can always use your help!

If you know of a great site that you would like to have us consider for inclusion, please submit your suggestion via this link: http://gws.ala.org/suggest-site. Similarly, if you find broken links, etc. on the site, please alert us to that as well. Comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Members of the 2015 Great Websites for Kids Committee:

  • Lara Crews, co-chair, Forsyth County (North Carolina) Public Library
  • Lisa Taylor, co-chair, Ocean County (New Jersey) Library
  • Emily E. Bacon, Yorktown (Indiana) Public Library
  • Ariel Cummins, New Braunfels (Texas) Public Library
  • Jill Eisele, Bellwood (Illinois) Public Library
  • Krishna Grady, Darien (Connecticut) Library
  • Joanne Kelleher, Kings Park (New York) Central School District
  • Elizabeth Saxton, Tiffin, Ohio
  • Alia Shields, Cherry Hill (New Jersey) Public Library


And now … on to ALA in San Francisco!

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17. ALA Annual 2015 — How to Participate From a Distance

Summer is here and at least in Illinois, it’s heating up fast! With June halfway over, we know that ALA Annual is on the horizon. And what says summer better than San Francisco, California? The theme this year is “Transforming libraries, ourselves.” With 25,000 library affiliated folks coming to town, it’s an event you don’t want to miss!

Unfortunately, I’ll be diligently working in Illinois during ALA Annual, but that doesn’t mean I have to miss out on the conversations. If you’re like me and won’t be in San Fransisco, here’s a guide to staying in touch, from a distance.

If you’re looking for a broad overview of the conference:

  1. Get on Twitter. One thing I’ve learned time and time again this past year is that librarians are active on Twitter. Follow the conference Twitter account @alaannual or the general hashtag for the event is #alaac15. Some sessions have specific hashtags, which you can find in the scheduler section of Annual’s website. If you have time to get on early, try to scout out some fellow librarians who will be at ALA Annual. They can be your eyes and ears during the conference.

Note: It’s really hard to actively follow hashtags on Twitter’s general account. I suggest downloading Tweet Deck or use the website Tweet Chat to track the event. I’m partial to Tweet Deck because you can follow multiple hashtags while watching your feed and seeing who is replying to your tweets. It can be a lot of information but a great way to really stay in the loop.

  1. Check out ALA’s other social media platforms. Following #alaac15 on Instagram or ALA’s general account for visuals of the event. ALA also has an active Tumblr and Facebook. See this general handout for all the handles and account links.

If you’re looking to dive a little deeper into ALA Annual:

  1. Look at the ALA Annual highlights to get an idea for what’s happening during the six days of the conference. So much is going on during those six days, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. This is especially good if you want to look at the big speakers during the conference.
  2. Next, take a look at the ALA Annual program book, which is in PDF form on the web. If you’re just interested in the various sessions, skip part I of the program book and jump to part II.
  3. In part II, the sessions are broken up program content areas (most revolving around the idea of transformation). I suggest looking for sessions either within a content area or searching (love Control F when searching PDFs) to look for keywords of topics you’re interested in.
  4. Once you’ve got a list of interesting sounding sessions, go back to the Scheduler and look up them up. Some sessions have a specific hashtag to follow. I also have been looking up the speakers on Twitter, both for me to follow right now and then during ALA.
  5. When looking on the Scheduler, see if any resources, handouts, or additional links have been posted. You might find access to great materials before the conference even begins!
  6. Put the session time in your calendar so you know when to be more actively checking Twitter and other social media sites.

Hope that helps and here are some of the sessions I’m hoping to virtually check out:

  • DiverseZineties; Promoting Diversity and Self-discovery Through Making Zines with Teens, Saturday, June 27
  • Library of the Future—Learning with the Participatory Library at Cedar Rapids Public Library, Saturday, June 27. This was the public library I went to as an undergrad; their new library is gorgeous. Opportunity does arise from tragedy. 
  • Voices of Youth: Community partnerships for video production, Saturday, June 27
  • From Maker to Make-HER: Leveling the STEM Playing Field for Girls, Sunday, June 28
  • Seeing Through Walls: Library-Based Video Conferencing to Connect Kids with Parents in Jail, Sunday, June 28. I worked for The Director of Outreach Services at Brooklyn Public Library. He’s an amazing librarian and his team is doing incredible things with outreach and engagement at the Brooklyn Public Library.
  • Yik Yak and the Academic Library, Sunday, June 28 (Sunday Ignite Session topic)
  • Naked Truth: connect.create.contribute, Monday, June 29
  • What do LIS Students Really Think About Their Education?, Monday, June 29. These are my peers and I did attend the LIS Symposium on Education [it was awesome!]

I’m excited about ALA Annual and the chance to participate virtually. I’ll be tweeting from @hailthefargoats and hope you’ll join the conversation too!

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18. Just a face in the crowd

The widespread practice of uploading photographs onto internet social networking and commercial sites has converged with advances in face recognition technologies to create a situation where an individual can no longer be just a face in the crowd. Despite the intrusive potential of face recognition technologies (FRT), the unauthorised application of such technologies to online digital images so as to obtain identity information is neither specifically prohibited nor a critical part of the international law reform discourse.

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19. Electronic cigarettes may lead to nicotine addiction

Are electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) a relatively harmless substitute for cigarettes? Or are they a Trojan horse leading to nicotine addiction and ultimately chronic smoking? Many researchers believe the latter. E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that deliver aerosolized nicotine and kid-friendly flavored additives, such as chocolate mint, piña colada, atomic fireball candy, and even gummy bears. Designed to mimic the look and habit of smoking, the devices are marketed as a relatively benign alternative to smoking, without the tar, carbon monoxide, and other harmful ingredients adversely affecting the heart and respiratory system. “Vaping,” the term for using e-cigarettes, emits only a cloud of vapor—not secondhand smoke.

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20. Q&A on Open Educational Resources with Robin DeRosa

My friend and colleague (when I was adjuncting at Plymouth State University) Robin DeRosa has been spending a lot of time recently thinking about and working with "open educational resources" (OER), which Wikipedia (today) defines as "freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes." 

I've been following Robin's ideas about OER, and at a certain point realized I didn't really understand the conversation. Partly, this was because most of what I was reading was Twitter feeds and Twitter can be confusing, but as an outsider to the OER world, I also didn't know what sorts of assumptions advocates were working from. I was especially concerned when thinking about academic labor — all the talk of giving things away and making things free sounded to me like a wonderful idea that would in practice just devalue academic work and lead to further exploitation within the highly exploitative world of academia. At the same time, I'm strongly attracted to open resources of various sorts (I'm writing this on a blog, after all!), and so, thinking about it all, I felt befuddled.

The easiest way to get answers to my befuddlements and to allay (or stoke) my fears was, of course, to ask Robin some questions. So that's what I did. Originally, I intended this to be more of an interview, with me adding more questions after she answered a few, but her answers to my first set of questions were so comprehensive that I thought adding to it all would be a bit much. Better to get the conversation rolling, and let it play out in the comments section here and/or on Twitter, other websites, etc.

I can't say I'm not still a little befuddled. But Robin's replies to my queries did help clear up some of my primary fears and misconceptions.

And now, before we begin, an official bio:

Robin DeRosa is professor of English and chair of Interdisciplinary Studies at Plymouth State University, and she is also a consultant for the OER Ambassador Pilot at the University of New Hampshire.  Recently named as an editor of Hybrid Pedagogy (a digital journal of learning, teaching, and technology), in August 2015 she'll be be a Hybrid Pedagogy Fellow at the Digital Pedagogy Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Her essay "Selling the Story: From Salem Village to Witch City" was published by the open uneducational resource The Revelator in 2011.

You can find out more about Robin at her website or follow her on Twitter: @actualham.

Today, Tuesday 9 June, at 8pm EST, Robin will be moderating a Twitter discussion about OER via the hashtag #profchat.

Matthew Cheney: In the idea of open educational resources, what does open mean?

Robin DeRosa: Generally, OER practitioners tend to use the Hewlett Foundation definition of “Open Educational Resources:
OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.
Another way to think of “open” is to use the libre/gratis definitions of “free.”  For materials to be “open,” they need to be both free as in no-cost (gratis) and free as in free to repurpose and share (libre).  In addition, we generally think of open materials as allowing learners/teachers to do all of the 5 R’s with those materials: reuse, revise, remix, redistribute, and retain (these are David Wiley’s criteria; the fifth R was added more recently to contrast OER with “free” ebooks that disappear after a certain amount of time, or rental textbooks, etc.).  Key to all of this is the Creative Commons license, which is the general way that creators of OER make it easy to share materials.

MC: I’ve seen OER offered as a solution to high textbook prices, and that both gives me hope and gives me fear. On the one hand, I’m all for anything that reduces the cost of some of the ridiculous textbook prices out there — I didn’t assign a (pretty good) book on writing about film to my film classes because it was a little paperback that would sell for maybe $12 if it were a trade book but instead retails for almost $2/page. That’s just robbery. I would have loved a website like the Purdue OWL for writing about film. Instead, I made do with a melange of materials.

On the other hand, not all textbooks are the same. Some are actually a good deal for the buyer (The Craft of Research, which I use when I teach first-year composition, is full of great information and is pretty cheap), but more importantly, I think especially in English classes there’s a value to the book as material object, an extraordinary technology of its own, and I don’t want to lose that. (I came to this discipline because I like books! And now I have to get rid of my books?!) Further, I fear the message sent: books should be cheap or free, they shouldn’t have value, paying money for books is a bad thing. That message seems to me disastrous in a bunch of different ways. Schools require students to pay a lot of money in fees for all sorts of things that are not as central to education as books are. Why devalue books?

Before I really jump in on this, I will first state the obvious: much OER has little in common with “books.”  OER includes video lectures, podcasts, PPTs, problem sets, simulations, interactive games, quizzes, etc etc etc.  But let’s just stay focused on your question, which is about books.

There are so many tendrils that one could follow in responding to this, and I will pick out a few to chew on, but I don’t expect it all to add up to an answer that completes the conversation.  Obviously the importance of “the book” in culture is just a terrifically rich site for debate right now, particular amongst those who are interested in the future of the library (or, as we are fond of calling it at my own institution, “the learning commons.”  Hey!  We are not just about books anymore!).  So without touching too much of that, I might suggest a few things.  First, I think the end goal of a program without books is a misguided application of OER.  Some programs, like Tidewater Community College’s “Z Degree” (in which the “Z” stands for “zero”—hmmm), are garnering huge press over complete degree programs that have no costs for learning materials…which does most likely mean no conventional books.  While there may be certain kinds of programs that can thrive intellectually without books, I know that no program in which I currently teach could do that.  So I think with OER, it’s very important to really define what we mean by “book.”

I think the definition changes quite a lot from case to case.  If a book is just writing that is on paper and bound, then a technical manual on electrical wiring, a biology textbook, a poetry chapbook, and a phone book all qualify.  I love a good smelling Borzoi novel, and I don’t think I’d equate the pleasure of reading it to the experience of reading the Grainger industrial catalog (though my partner would actually totally counter me on this).  I just offer this to suggest that we might not always know what we mean—and we might not always agree with each other about what we mean—when we say that we “like books.”  I think, then, it falls to OER practitioners to determine what the purpose of the book is in the educational process.  For example, if the materials are created solely to help students learn (the project for most textbooks, I would imagine), then as a believer in public education, I think those materials should be free to students.  The growing availability of OER in most fields is clearly demonstrating that we do not need to pay 3rd-party vendors enormous sums of money to curate and distribute these materials; most open pedagogues actually believe that static, unchanging, single-author, non-collaborative textbooks are generally not as useful as the kinds of materials that generate over time when the materials can be revised by users.  So I think where textbooks are concerned, no-cost is a no-brainer, and openly-licensed is in the best interest of the community that textbooks intend to serve.

For other kinds of “books,” open might not make sense.  While the public domain license on Shakespeare plays allows for cool remixing, we also do want to read Hamlet in its original and protected form. I think if a book is functioning as an “artifact,” meaning that its stability in its physical form is part of where its value inheres, then that might be more like a commodity, and something to pay for; for this reason, my English courses still often require students to buy novels and other literary texts.  Basically, I think every adoption needs to be set into its pedagogical context, and then it should be easier for faculty to make decisions: always choose the text that works best for the learning that’s happening in your course.  For textbooks, I think the other benefits that “open” affords (customizing, remixing, collaborating, students shifting from consumers to producers, etc.) make the no-cost condition the least of what’s awesome about choosing OER.  In other cases, a book that we pay for may be absolutely perfect (if students can afford it).

I also want to add here that I think there is too much silence amongst OER practitioners about what it means to transfer from a reader of print to a reader of digital materials.  While students clearly spend many, many hours a day reading off screens, there is lots of research (please, don’t quote it to me) that suggests that we aren’t processing information the same way when we read digitally.  Leaving aside for a minute my own melancholia (manufactured for you, Matthew, since I don’t know if I really have it) about losing “books,” I certainly think that teachers should spend time thinking about what pedagogical work needs to be done if we move a course from print to digital.  Most OER has print-on-demand options that allow us to make digital materials look pretty much like conventional books (without the smell and feel and such…I know, I know).  But what do we lose when we reify these dynamic materials this way?

My colleague, Scott Robison, who directs my university’s Learning Technologies office, once remarked how interesting it was to browse the materials at a site like Open Stax and see that the OER is organized into what are called “books” (and they look like pictures of books…even though many of them will never exist in three-dimensional printed form).  Scott has also raised the question of whether we should talk about the “quality” of OER in the same way that we talk about the “quality” of a textbook (this is a rich debate in the field right now, stemming from a post by David Wiley); OER is only really OER (inasmuch as it depends on its openness) if it is a process, in movement, embedded in pedagogy, and deeply engaged in a reciprocal relationship with its users.  I would advocate that we not think about OER as a replacement for books, but think of it as a process, which should be theorized differently from the way that we theorize “books.”  The bottom line in terms of practicality here, though, is that I also believe that we need to do better to identify the challenges in digital reading and annotation, so we can begin to create better pedagogical tools to help work through those challenges; in this way, we can fully capitalize on the potential of open materials, a potential which does so often depend on their digital format.

MC: How can OER and an understanding of academic labor as labor work together? Since we don’t (yet) live in a utopian society, we’re stuck in a neoliberal/capitalist system of exploitation, and academia is at least as exploitative as every other institution. How can OER avoid further devaluing academic labor? And not just devalue academic labor, but avoid further expanding the huge divide between the academic haves and have-nots — it’s one thing for a tenured Ivy League professor to give their work away, but what about the adjunct who makes $20,000 a year and has no health insurance or retirement or anything, and who is vastly more typical of today’s professoriate than the tenured Ivy League prof is?

RD: If we think of OER as just free stuff, then we do see some of the same problems inherent in the production of OER as we see with the production of regular textbooks.  While it may seem that an adjunct could make out better by publishing a conventional textbook for which they could be paid royalties or even an advance, writing a textbook still takes “free” time, and getting it published still often takes the cred of having a full-time institutional affiliation.  For the last collection I published (before I figured out that I really have no interest in publishing this way anymore), I had to switch from one academic press to another because the first one would not take the collection unless I decreased the ratio of non-tenure-track folks (grad students, adjuncts, independent scholars, and non-academics) to tenure-track folks; they requested this after accepting the proposal but before reading any of the content, so this was not about the quality of the work.  Academic publishing is a mess right now, and I always want to make sure that when we critique the problems with open publishing, we do that in a way that sets those problems in conversation with the problems in conventional publishing, which are many (I am not enumerating them here).

So OER may be no worse than conventional publishing in terms of the ways that it can exclude contingent labor, but I know there are fears that OER can exploit contingent labor in a particular way.  For example, if an adjunct creates some kick-ass OER, is it possible that it might get co-opted by the institution for which she works, and used to dramatically increase revenues by contributing to the production of course shells that are pre-packaged, assigned to very low-cost labor (or maybe, ultimately, used in a course with virtually no teacher at all)?  Should an adjunct give away their intellectual property to an institution that doesn’t even pay them a living wage, thereby strengthening the institution and perhaps further devaluing their own importance within it?  I don’t want to pretend this isn’t a valid or real concern, but I might offer some other ways to think about OER that are more liberatory, ways that resist rhetoric like “co-opt,” “property,” and “production.”

First, I might suggest that OER is value-less without teachers and students.  In other words, you can’t “steal” someone’s OER, because it is not a product with a stable existence that can exist in a constant way outside of how it is situated into a course and engaged with by learners.  OER is just free stuff (there’s lots of that all over the internet) if it’s treated this way.  But for us to understand the true potential of “open,” we need to help faculty see OER in a more complicated and process-oriented way.  Joss Winn and Richard Hall are the two people I look to for help in thinking this through.  Winn argues that OER misses the mark by attending to the “freedom of things” rather than the “freedom of people.”  He suggests—after problematizing open ed philosophies that fail to critique the private and corporate qualities of university institutions that sustain most open ed work right now – that we should insist on open education as a transformative tool to help us build cooperative forms of higher education.  In “Open education and the emancipation of academic labour,” he envisions a post-capitalist model (wasn’t it Whitman who wrote, “Am I a Marxist? Very well, then I am a Marxist”), and he argues that CC licenses should be revised so that they work in concert with a public “commons”; openly licensed materials should be free for non-profits, but for-profit companies would have to contribute back to the commons or else pay a fee to use the materials (more about this proposal can be found in Michel Bauwens’ post on cooperativism in the peer-to-peer age).  Basically, the idea here is that education must be for the public good, and that OER is a step toward rethinking where the real value actually is in the educational system (with the people, not with the institutions).  This, ultimately, could open us up to a radical restructuring of higher ed, where those who teach and contribute are not exploited by institutions that do little but mediate and discipline academic labor.

Richard Hall really pushes these ideas into territory that excites me, and he’s also been nice enough to talk with me about where to start with some of the good questions you have asked.  Hall calls for open, participatory publics and co-ops that firmly situate the value of education within the community.  He thinks about MOOCs as spaces that could potentially resist neoliberal projects to control and commodify sites of learning.  The pitfalls here are many, as he points out.  I myself have given my fair share of OER-related pitches at the administrative level in which I have demonstrated (accurately, I believe) that most institutions stand to make significant financial gains by implementing OER initiatives, even as their students save money and faculty develop new and exciting pedagogies.  It sounds like a win-win-win.  Many schools use MOOCs to advertise and then sell their closed content and credentials.  Again it seems like a win-win: students can study for free, and the institution only gets stronger for it.  But if we use “open” as just another marketing tool, we strengthen an educational system that is deeply corrupt.  So personally, I have challenged myself to think of “open” as a tool for true transformation, in which we move away from a commodities-driven market and towards a community-oriented conversation.  This may not directly produce a living wage for adjunct faculty, or bring them economic gain from their intellectual property.  But by focusing on the public good, by shifting intellectual “property” to the intellectual commons, by thinking less about courses, credentials, and copyrights and more about communities, access, and sharing, I think we will ultimately build a higher education landscape that is less exploitive of both students and contingent faculty.  Hall notes that this would “abolish the present state of things.”  So I realize that lurking throughout this, there is a revolution that would deeply upset many careers and livelihoods, my own included.  It’s not a simple path to equity or security, for sure.  But for me, open education has some promising foundational philosophy for those of us who are disgusted by the current exploitation in higher ed.  I’m sick of being stuck with it, so I am heading this way, walking gingerly and trying to avoid the sly ways that institutional power can co-opt subversive movements and use them as a marketing advantage.

[The discussion continues this evening via the Twitter hashtag #profchat.]

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21. Engage tweens with technology through Stop Motion Videos

Stop motion is an animation technique “to make a physically manipulated object or persona appear to move on its own. The object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a continuous sequence,” (from Wikipedia). So, like Wallace and Grommet but, in our case, DIY and low-budget. I planned a stop motion program as a way of engaging tweens with the new set of iPads the Wellesley Free Library received thanks to a grant from the Wellesley Media Foundation. Tweens are a difficult audience to capture with technology programs, and after an unsuccessful QR code scavenger hunt, this seemed to be a fun idea that would attract tweens and leave them with new skills in using technology.

As I have written before, I am not the most technologically savvy of the new generation of children’s librarians. So I am always looking for a program idea where I can learn along with the kids, rather than needing to have prior knowledge or expertise. This hit the nail on the head. And it was fun too!

Here’s how it worked:

-I used Stop Motion Studio, a basic free app for iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. If your library has any of these devices, you can pre-load the app beforehand. Otherwise, kids who have their own personal devices may use these. Don’t worry if you do not have a large number of devices to use, because this is an activity that lends itself to working in teams. Having one device for every four kids is not only completely reasonable logistically, it also builds teamwork and collaboration. Kids will enjoy creating a story together, and taking turns playing different roles in the process.

-Next is the fun part: gathering the materials. What you need are basically toys, toys, and more toys. Working in a library that values play as an important practice for building early literacy skills, I have access to plastic animals, plushy body organs, dolls and doll house furniture, puppets, vehicles, wooden food, blocks, LEGOs, playdough, and much more. I’m sure most of you have a similar treasure trove at your fingertips. I gathered this all together along with an assortment of craft supplies, paper, and markers.

-When the participants arrived, I gave them a brief tutorial of the app. Because we were using the basic free version, we did not have access to all of the extra features which can be purchased within the app, such as sound effects, movie themes, and the ability to import images. But for a beginner class lasting only an hour, simple was fine. Some of the kids had made stop-motion videos before using the Nintendo DS, but none had used the app. They picked it up in no time. The free version of the app does include a function to change the speed of the video, and the ability to have the previous photo appear as a translucent image in the background of the camera finder, in order to more precisely see the minute change in each frame. These features were very helpful in creating the videos.

-Next I explained the concept of story-boarding, and encouraged the participants to plan out their frames before executing the video. Then they collected supplies and began to take pictures. In the end, we shared our videos with each other. The three who chose to share their video through the library’s Youtube channel can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEE6nkJzxnsQCemP82YXmZfLVhYE8uEzy

Overall summary:  Tweens enjoyed this fun and simple program, learned new skills on devices with which they were already somewhat familiar, and left with a sense of pride about their creations which some chose to share with the public through Library social media channels. The program’s success is determined greatly by the variety and whimsy of the materials you provide for making the videos.

Skills developed and strengthened: working using a tablet, digital photography, animation, story-boarding, working as a team.

Cost: $0

What programs have you done to engage tweens in technology? What has worked in your community?

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22. A Week of Making: What Making is Really About

Image courtesy of FryskLab on FlickrIn April the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced a Week of Making which started on 6/12 and runs through 6/18. The Week is being held in part in celebration of the one-year anniversary of the first ever Maker Faire at the White House. During that first Faire President Obama said:

Maker-related events and activities can inspire more people to pursue careers in design, advanced manufacturing, and the related fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and possibly take their creations to the next level and become entrepreneurs.

I love the President's statement because it focuses on the learning and not on what might be used to produce that learning. That's where the work we do in libraries and with community partners comes in. We figure out what teens need support in, how to help teens learn what they need, and then connect them to that learning. At the Library where I work we try hard to make the hardware and software used to create making oriented learning experiences one of the last decisions we focus on. Even if we want to create a program that gives teens the chance to use 3D printers we don't focus on the printer but on the skills that teens gain by the time they are ready to use the printer. For example, our Digital Media and Learning Program Manager is developing curriculum for library staff and teens to use that focuses on design thinking, prototype building, planning and decision making, leadership, collaboration, and presentation. Sure at the end of the series of programs teens will print a 3D object. But, it will take some time to get to that place, and while it might be really cool to use the 3D printer for the objects designed, the teens will have learned a great deal more before that point.

In some instances I think it's hard for some library staff to articulate the gains that teens make as a result of the making programs we provide. And, as a result it ends up that we talk about the actual printing activity and the printer and not the skills learned and/or improved on. It certainly can be difficult to speak to the learning instead of the "coolness" of the making. But it can be done. For example, think about:

  • The process teens will have to go through BEFORE actually making something - whether that's making something with a 3D printer, a circuit board, a coding program or something else. What steps do they have to take? Do they have to have a goal in mind? In almost every case the answer to those two questions is "yes" which means that one of the benefits of making for teens is that they need to set a goal and plan a process by which they are going to reach that goal.
  • The troubleshooting that teens will have to take part in as they begin to make something. Again, that could be making a website, a robot, a 3D object, a game, or something else. Is it likely that the teens will have to iterate over and over again as they discover problems and need to solve them as a part of the making process? Again, the answer is most likely, "yes." That being the case then a key positive of making for teens is that they gain problem-solving skills and life skills by having to try and try again. Not to mention the persistence and perseverance skills gained.
  • The support and help teens will need from others as a part of their making. Will teens need to talk to experts in coding or robots or 3D printing? Will they need to look something up in library resources in order to move forward? Will they have to ask friends and family members for help? I bet the answer to at least one of those questions is "yes" and that means that teens will learn to collaborate, do research, find out how to ask and answer questions, and learn how to interact with adults and peers.

The above are just three ways in which making can and does support the college and career readiness and life skills of teens. I bet you can think of many more. If you do struggle with helping others to understand why making is more than about the stuff of the making, start creating your own list of the benefits and start practicing talking with others about those benefits. And, as you begin making projects with teens, the benefits beyond the product will become clear pretty quickly. Highlight the learning that teens do every time you talk about your making programs.

BTW, a couple of resources that you might find useful when thinking about the why of making are:

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23. Using web search data to study elections: Q&A with Alex Street

Social scientists made important contributions towards improving the conduct and administration of elections. A paper recently published in Political Analysis continues that tradition, and introduces the use of web search data to the study of public administration and public policy.

The post Using web search data to study elections: Q&A with Alex Street appeared first on OUPblog.

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By Kelly Czarnecki and Marie Harris

In the fall of 2014 our library in Charlotte, NC applied for a grant with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to fund Idea Box, a Makerspace in our downtown location. The funding was to be used for equipment as well as consultation to help meet our goals:

• Generate new energy around this lifelong learning center
• Attract new users; especially those ages 19-34
• Be a place where anyone can bring their ideas to life
• Build partnerships/collaborations with the local maker community
• Create a prototype space within the library that can be refined and expanded on with testing and use

Aubrey As the generous funding that was received did not cover staffing, administration appointed two existing staff as project leads whose task it was to have the space open and operable by January 2015. They in turn went through the process of establishing a dedicated Makerspace (now called Idea Box) team that would focus on developing policies for the space, programming, and focusing on bringing our target audience through our doors. Fortunately, our organization has over seven years of experience in a similar space at one of our branches for youth where film and music creation and editing has been a part of how teens are served, and we had a staff of many talents to choose from.

While the staff were unexperienced as trained Makers, they were definitely enthusiastic and brought with them experience in everything from film making to graphic design. Once the team of ten was established through an online application process that asked questions related to their experience with the kinds of activities and technologies the space would have, the task of how to get everyone on board with knowing how the major equipment works was going to be the next step in the process. Did the secret lie in an Arduino code that you can plug the library employee into? Or do you start from scratch and prototype a librarian Maker in Inkscape (a free software design program) to cut out on the laser cutter?

Here in Charlotte, NC, we opted for training, old fashioned practicing and a bit of trial by fire. While there weren’t any other public library makerspaces nearby, we were able to visit those affiliated with a local college as well as stand-alone organizations and tap into the wisdom of local “gurus.” Before the library even opened the doors to Idea Box; back when the room was still an underused meeting room; a local community college opened the doors of its Fab Lab to future Idea Box staff members. They invited us to come see the space and to receive a tour explaining the layout and the various pieces of equipment. We also had the opportunity to receive hands-on training on 3D printing and laser cutter operation at a local STEM professional development facility. And of course, a librarian is nothing if not curious: all of us continued to pursue training opportunities and online tutorials through resources such as Lynda.com, and continue to build our knowledge base through hands-on experiences with every shift worked in the space. A number of Idea Box staff even come into the space during its closed hours in order to get in practice time.

Our team consisted of ten brave library employees as well as the two team leads, all eager to get started making and uncertain of the perfect pathway to doing so. Team member Aubrey H. says that she has always considered herself to be a Maker. “Whether it's baking, carving, painting, anything really; I'm just happy as long as I'm making something. I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of.”

Marie H., another team member shares, “I personally felt that same compulsion, and knew that I wanted to share that with library patrons. There’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment after creating something yourself. However, most of my making experience in my outside-of-work life involved more traditional crafts, such as crocheting, lace-making, and baking. I will fully admit to trepidation and nervousness at the thought of becoming proficient with a 3D printer or laser cutter! Luckily, we had great community partners that we were able to call on for training and advice.”

KellyIt’s hard to believe, but in just a few months’ time, most of us have become confident with the space, the equipment, and the software. Our enthusiasm has only continued to grow, as we continue to make things ourselves and as we help library patrons become makers. Team member Kim A. says, “The chance to see and use a 3D printer is a big draw, but what is even more fascinating is to hear how patrons visualize using it in their personal life either to further their technological education or to spur on a business notion. Being a part of the Idea Box staff allows me to step out of my daily role as a manager and get back to “playing.” The hours in the space do not even feel like work! I can’t believe I get paid to have fun!”

It’s important to keep in mind that no one piece of equipment defines a Makerspace which means there’s plenty of room for staff to bring a variety of skills to the table, and develop their interests in everything from sewing to making food. How you define your Makerspace, and your path to becoming a Maker, is up to you!

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25. Week of Making: Maker Faire

To end out our week of making I've asked my colleague Michelle Angell to share her experiences with Maker culture. She started out with programs and wanted to create makerspaces, but found that a Maker Fair was an even better way to celebrate and embrace the Maker community. The following is Michelle's response.

Libraries have a long tradition of providing making resources to the public. We offer information on gardening, landscaping, furniture and toy making, home and car repair, sewing, knitting, drawing, painting, computer programming, electronics, robotics and countless other DIY topics. As the role of libraries in the community continues to evolve, we have an opportunity to provide maker services that go beyond the customary print medium. Many libraries across the nation are developing their own makerspaces. The creation of a successful makerspace is not something that can happen overnight, however. Makerspaces require planning, adequate physical space, substantial staff time and somewhat prohibitive set-up costs.

makerfestMaker Faires are alternative opportunities for libraries to participate in the maker movement. Maker Media, publisher of Make Magazine, hosts two annual, large scale Faires -in the Bay Area and New York. Hundreds of licensed Mini Maker Faires are also held around the world each year. In the spring of 2013, the Lakewood Branch Library became aware of an interest in the community to host a Maker Faire type event. This was spurred by Kurt Sample, coordinator of the Lakewood Computer Clubhouse. The Computer Clubhouse is a free outreach program for youth, sponsored by Intel. Adding our local Pierce Community College as an additional partner, also secured a free venue for the event on their beautiful campus.

Lakewood MakerFest initiated the Mini Maker Faire license application process, but due to time constraints and some concerns with fulfilling contract costs and requirements, we went with an independently produced event. Our event is ultimately inspired by Maker Media’s Maker Faires, but not affiliated with or endorsed by the MAKE brand or company. The first Lakewood MakerFest held in 2013 at the Pierce College Fort Steilacoom campus, in Lakewood, WA. A total of 144 people attended the 2013 inaugural event. MakerFest was absolutely free to attend and there was no cost for exhibitors to participate. The 2014 MakerFest saw it attendance increase to 287 people, and at the May 2015 event that number rose to 425! Features of the Fest included; displays, demonstrations, workshops, and hands-on activities. Many of the attendees were families with school age children. One of our ongoing goals each year is to provide more opportunities for a more ethnically and economically diverse population to participate in maker culture.

The MakerFest Manifesto:

  • MakerFest is a festival-style celebration of makers. A Maker is a person that engages in the process of making or producing something. Makers run the gamut from woodworkers, tinkerers, coders, crafters, to robot builders. The Maker movement includes amateurs, enthusiasts, hobbyists, innovators, and entrepreneurs.
  •  MakerFest is a free, non-commercial, non-competitive, community-building event. It provides an opportunity for people to gather, connect, and explore the processes, products, and joys of making. The goal of MakerFest is to engage and excite youth, families, and adults to explore Maker/DIY (Do-It-Yourself) culture and become Makers themselves.
  • MakerFest is an inclusive event; gathering folks of all ages, ethnicities, cultures, genders, and sexual orientations.

MakerFest is a true collaboration of community partners. Our event sponsors are The Pierce County Library System, Pierce College, The Pierce College Science Dome, the Lakewood Computer Clubhouse, and Brown Paper Tickets.The Fort Steilacoom campus of Pierce College hosts MakerFest in their large science building for no cost. The Pierce College Science Dome, a 58 seat digital planetarium, is located in the same building and is a highlight of the MakerFest experience. Throughout the afternoon the Science Dome provided free shows and demonstrations. Brown Paper Tickets was a new and invaluable partner for us this year. Brown Paper Tickets is an organization that provides free ticket sales and event listing online. They also employ “Doers”, described as, “…They aren't sales people but professionals, with a lifetime of experience in their chosen fields. Brown Paper Tickets simply puts them on the payroll and encourages them to fix, improve and revolutionize. If you ever needed someone without a corporate agenda in your industry, you found them.” Our Doer & Maker Advocate, Tamara Clammer, is based in Seattle and provided us with much needed expertise and contacts in the maker movement.

MakerFest has proved to be a successful introduction for the library to the maker movement. Rather than creating a makerspace from scratch, and due to our collaboration with community partners, MakerFest was a lower cost alternative for the library to participate and support maker culture. The most valuable benefit, perhaps, has been the strong relationships our library has built with other local organizations. These partnerships are expanding our outreach and community involvement opportunities. You may already have makerspaces, Maker Faire type of events, or youth maker programs in your service areas. If your library is interested in diving into the wonderful world of the maker movement, I suggest reaching out and discovering the existing makers in your own neighborhoods.

Visit our website, lakewoodmakerfest.org and facebook page!

Michelle Angell
Youth Services Librarian
Lakewood Branch
Pierce County Library System, WA

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