I’ll just keep my head covered up in this sandpit until that ebook craze is over

There has been a bit of a discussion on the Australian Teacher-Librarian Mailing List (yes, we not only still have libraries, we still have mailing lists in this country!) about state boundaries and access to resources. I live in Victoria (the state, not the Island) and we have a fabulous state library, somewhat imaginatively called the State Library of Victoria. As a Victorian resident, I can access lots of academic databases and electronic journals through the State Library. My friends who live in Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, cannot access most of these resources. But it’s OK – they have the State Library of New South Wales, and I can’t access their online content.

I’m also a member of the Melbourne Library Service, which is an Overdrive library. Members anywhere in Victoria can borrow audiobooks and eBooks. They used to let anyone borrow them, but apparently some of the vendors and/or publishers got upset about them having over 1000 overseas members – so we recently had to verify a Victorian address to keep using that service. I suppose this is one consolation for Australians, who are being denied much of the international eBook and audiobook market – just like we were denied the iTunes Music Store for a while. I suppose that the local publishers are trying to survive in the face of international online purchasing, so they are trying to quarantine some content so it can only be bought from them.

I still get the feeling that local publishers are burying their heads in the sand hoping for the eBook fad to blow over. It isn’t a fad, of course, and it won’t go away.  Legal downloading of music is now a booming industry for the publishers who embraced it, rather than a fad that disappeared, as many in the music industry were predicting. How long will we have to wait for Australian publishing to really embrace the ebook?


Tools for visualising thinking

The Infobrarian is not happy … sometimes size does matter!

I’ve just been playing around with this week’s activities in the #VicPLN – Tools for visualising thinking, AKA useful web apps for getting thoughts out of your head and onto a page where other people can admire them. Or not.

Tool #1   Wallwisher

This is a great online tool, perfect for brainstorming sessions when the person responsible for the butcher’s paper and crayons has forgotten them. It’s also good for staff meetings, or any time a group of people need to leave short messages or comments. Short, because every sticky note added to the active window has a 160-character limit. That’s great for Haiku planning, but a bit underpowered for your next doctoral thesis.

Wallwisher could be useful for service departments that get a lot of simple requests: each one could be posted to the job wall, then removed when resolved. The IT help desk would love it, because as we all know, most requests can be shortened to things like:

broken keyboard, library PC 32

staffroom copier needs black toner

email down. again.

staff server scheduled upgrade Monday 9 am

Size Issue #1   Wallwisher usernames can only be 10 characters long. So who am I?

Infobrrian     Infbrarian     Infobraria      Infoarian?

What am I? Not happy!

Tool #2 Essay Map

This is a great tool for helping writers get a bit of structure, and forces them to make a few notes about:

  • An intro
  • Three main ideas
  • Supporting points for each idea
  • A conclusion

Size Issue #2   The topic can only have 25 characters!  That sort of rules out all those great two-part titles so popular with academics, like:

Strategies for evaluating information visualization tools: multi-dimensional in-depth long-term case studies

I tried to think of a few possible essay topics, and kept running out of characters. Imagine the problem this would be to someone like Stephen Covey if he wanted to use Essay Map to plan his “7 Habits”  books. All the titles would have to be the same:

The 7 Habits of Highly Eff    

My main grumble about Essay Map is that it isn’t really a Web 2.0 tool. It needs to be interactive, and that’s one of the great features of the last two tools.

Some Happier News

Bubbl.us and Gliffy projects can be shared and edited by a group, so are interactive and part of the  read-write web.

The best thing about Bubbl.us is that it is simple, fast, and allows collaboration.  OK, it’s missing lots of the features of  programs like MindMap and Inspiration – but it is free, and always available. I was part of a group where the minutes were taken live in Bubbl.us, and we could edit/expand points later.

Gliffy takes a little longer to master, but has templates for all sorts of charts, plans and mapping. There’s even a plugin to import Gliffy objects to WordPress!  Yes, I should try it. Maybe tomorrow …

Social Bookmarking

If I hadn’t encountered the term before, I probably would have avoided the social bookmarking part of my Learning Network course  – I was clearly too busy putting my kitchen pantry in Dewey order, or updating the MARC records for our daughter’s DVDs … the term “marking” still evokes a shudder, and “book marking” is perhaps the least sociable activity you can do in mixed company.

Luckily, social bookmarking is something entirely different. I’ve even done it before!

I’ve used del.icio.us a little, and used to look at the public bookmarks of a few esteemed colleagues. My problem with social bookmarking is that it takes too many clicks (and thus too much time) to bookmark a site or page. I’m a spoiled Mac user (uh-oh .. there go my last remaining followers …) and I just love the simplicity of bookmarking with the Safari browser:

Apple-D (i.e. Command-D for the proletariat) then choose a folder – press Return. Done.
I have lots of bookmark folders across my toolbar – some even have folders within folders – and all the sites I might want to visit again are in there.  e.g. My LIBRARIES folder has the subfolders LibraryBlogs, LibGuides, eBooks, LibraryManagement, Research … and so on. It’s a great way to organise bookmarks.

I’ve  tried Diigo, and there are things I like, and things I wonder about. I use the Diigolet (because Diigo haven’t developed the Safari plugin yet, and I am not changing browsers just for social bookmarking). I think there are too many steps involved in creating a bookmark. Some people will argue that it isn’t much different form creating bookmarks in Safari. I guess it isn’t – but I don’t like the time-lag with Diigo / Diigolet.

I’ve got a LOT of bookmarks. If I want to add them to another browser, I can import them to most, usually with a couple of clicks. There is probably a way to do that in Diigo. I haven’t found it yet.

Summarising lectures and the need to tweet.

I tweeted my first lecture tonight. Stephen Abram was a guest of Geelong Regional Libraries, and delivered a rollercoaster ride through the topics of information retrieval, information delivery, and information services (i.e. Internet searching, books & mobile devices, and libraries). At the end of 90 minutes he apologised for going a couple of minutes over time, and the guy beside me said “He can go another couple of hours if he wants!” I think we all felt the same.

I’ve already tweeted a few of Stephen Abram’s points, and some more are on the IDEAS page, so I won’t talk about them now. I want to say how difficult it was to tweet ideas from a lecture. Difficult, but incredibly rewarding. I tried to send something about most of his main points, and almost every time I struggled with the 140 character limit  – I really had fewer than 140 because I wanted to add his name, and a hashtag. I think there are three reasons this is a very powerful learning activity:

1. I had to listen very attentively, and because I was trying to summarise the main points, I didn’t zone out like I often do in a 90-minute presentation.

2. Writing summaries is an old trick for people trying to learn in a lecture. Didn’t Plato recommend it? But writing very very short summaries adds a degree of difficulty that forces you to leave out everything except the main idea. And sometimes it is very difficult to put that main idea into words! Thinking around a concept helps you understand it better. Sifting the central idea from a lot of clever analogies and funny anecdotes helps you understand it better. Trimming an idea down to less than 140 characters helps you understand it better!

3. I can go back and look at my tweets and rebuild what Stephen Abram was saying. You could call it revision. You could suggest that I expand these tweets into a full-text summary of the lecture. You could do it yourself from my tweets.

You could. Unfortunately, my brain has just logged off for the night – but I will go back to those points again tomorrow, and that will help me remember more. Who knows, I might even blog about them – there are simply so many Big Ideas there. Lots to think about. But my brain really is  shutting down. Even if I ju .        .         .         .         .         .         .