Wednesday, 23 March 2011

JISC Conference 2011 - part 2

OK so a week later I've got chance to sit down and write up part 2 of the JISC conference.

The first session I attended after lunch was "How innovation helps to support an agile and efficient University". This session was to be a discussion about what helps innovation in institutions and what hinders it. The panel members gave us their views about innovation and where they are coming from and each member joined a different group for the discussion. We had an interesting discussion on our table about barriers to innovation and agreed that quite often there are pockets of innovation going on in institutions but that it isn't always recognised. Recognition we felt was important - it doesn't have to be a huge reward but recognising someones efforts is important. One of the barriers is how we get institutions to see innovation as valuable in cash strapped times. We talked about structure too - how much structure is needed? Too much and it can stifle innovation, not enough and nothing ever happens with the pockets of innovation that are happening. It was also asked can the institution be innovative or is it innovative because of all the individuals who are innovating within it? Which is the most innovative - the one that supports innovation of individuals or one that tries to cultivate innovation (i.e. tries to create innovators)?

All in all a very interesting session with lots to take away and consider. It made me think about how much we are "allowed" to be innovative within my own service. I don't know the answer but I think that maybe we should stop waiting for permission try things out and then take them to senior managers for adoption more widely or rejection. Sometimes I think there is a tendency to wait for leadership from above for projects where maybe we should just be doing our bit in our small area and then sharing the knowledge (obviously if there is a cost implication this may not be possible) - the only danger to this is there's then no joined up approach and again you end up with isolated pockets of innovation. The key thing is if you come up with a good idea share it.

The final session of the afternoon was "Re-thinking libraries: innovation in a time of limited resources". This session took a very different approach which I thought was really innovative. There were three speakers who had a 6 minutes to deliver a "pitch" - this pitch included details of an activity or discussion that we could choose to be part off for the rest of the session, with feedback from the three groups at the end. I chose to be part of the group looking at planning for an innovative future. There is a really good summary of the session (including the each of the three themes) here by Ben Showers who facilitated the session. Our discussion and outcomes are we recorded by Peter Tinson of UCISA and rather than re-invent the wheel and try to remember what was said (I wasn't taking notes) in our group here's a link to Peter's blog post. Plus he did a better job of summarising it than I could.

I thought the conference was really good and provided much food for thought. It was great to have it in Liverpool as I was able to get to it very easily and still be home at a reasonable time.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

JISC Conference 2011 - part 1

I was very pleased to be able to attend the full day of JISC11 this week as it was in Liverpool so very handy for me. I've never been to the BT Convention centre before and I have to say it's vast. As a lady I was speaking to said "it's a barn, a very nice barn but a barn" and it was. Lots of space and lots of stewards around to help you if you got lost.

So having found my bearings and coffee I sat down to connect to the wireless and get myself ready for the day. I know some people had problems connecting to the wireless but I have to say it worked fine on my netbook (although I couldn't get it to work on my phone), which was a relief as I wanted to follow Twitter as well as use Evernote for my notes.

The opening address was given my David Baker and he talked about financial challenges and digital opportunities, which was the theme of the conference. David talked about the role of JISC and said they needed help education leaders look to technology to increase efficiency and cut costs. He also talked about the HEFCE review of JISC. A key outcome of this was about JISC centrality - it is seen as playing a "pivotal role in the UK as an enabler of innovation and early and widespread adoption of ICT" (Review Report, #3). You can view the key recommendations in the report but what JISC needs to do now is to consider it's role and purpose over the next 5-10 years. You can comment on the recommendations here. David outlined 4 commitments and objectives:
  • Delivering a world class national infrastructure

  • Providing value and valuable services

  • Innovating through programs and projects

  • Supporting take-up and embedding good practice across the sector

He then introduced Professor Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol who delivered the keynote.

He looked at the historical perspective - since 1820 there has been a steady increase in the number of chartered universities. He argued that education in the 60s and 70s wasn't free - more tax was paid so education was paid for by increased tax. Now we pay less tax but we have more students. Values and ambitions are unchanged and we need to retain our values in the face of change. There is now a paradigm shift in how HE is funded, a move from funding from the state to funding of and by the individual loan. It becomes consumer led - the student decides where they want to put the money. Now we cannot predict that the same number of students will choose our university as they did last year - so we can't predict the income they will bring to us. There is also the problem of the income gap - the universities financial years don't coincide with the government financial years.

He stated that the additional fees are not additional income but it is percieved that way - we are still working with the same amount of money but is there a perception that we should be providing more because we are now charging higher fees?

What are the challenges to increased fees?

  • Will if put people off coming to university?

  • Pricing - students will look for value for money - charging the most doesn't necessarily mean it's the best

  • Widening participation - there are unknown targets for this

  • Marked increase in students and paretns expectations - "I'm paying for this"- but we aren't geting any more money

We are living in a chaotic environment, predictability has disappeared and so we can end up with very different outcomes.

What makes you stronger to face this:

  • Turnover and size

  • Population centre - more students will go to their local university

  • Highly sought after

  • Location

  • Excellent staff and excellent students

  • Student union working with you not in conflict

  • Being financially robust

  • Governing body - that works well with you, challenging the executive of the university but also assisting to meet those challenges

Prof Thomas argued that the sector will have to diversify nad how to look at how you make your university attractive to your natural consituency. This keynote provoke a lot of comments on Twitter (despite the connection problems) with some agreement and some disagreement and it was interesting to tune into that whilst listening to Prof Thomas.

After more coffee and lovely biscuits it was time for the first parallel session. I attended "Using digital media to improve teaching and learning" - there were three presenters Doug Belshaw, Zak Mensah and Jane Williams. Doug was up first and he talked about what we mean by "attendance" - there are 3 approaches to this:

  • attention based definition - applying your mind or energies to something

  • service based definition - very much the lecture format, "I am the expert and you must attend and listen to me"

  • community based definition - action of coming together whether in the real or virtual world

Doug argued that the best approach was attention and community, he then whizzed through a few examples of this, which are in his presentation. He argued that "teachers than can be replaced by technology should be" - learning with digital media is different, it's not just about sticking something you already do in the VLE. Need to think more in terms of eco systems - you have our learning materials with you all the time - the smartphone has seen to that. He pointed to a couple of JISC guides that I need to investigate further myself (links below)

Another thing to check out is John Hattie's Table of Effect Sizes - Hattie says "effect sizes" are the best way of answering the question "what has the greatest influence on student learning?"

And something that is currently being worked on and will be launched at ALT-C 2011 is "Emerging Practice in the Digital Age" - with that Doug handed over to Zak who is E-learning officer in JISC Digital Media. He said digital media can be daunting, some types of media have so many different formats how do you know what is right for you? Zak argued that using workflows allows you to identify the best format for what you are trying to acheive. So why focus on digital media? Because it's:

  • flexible - you can use it for policy guides, marketing, teaching and learning and support
  • scalable - in terms of media but also in terms of audience and delivery - there are lots of opportunities for people to use digital media in their courses
  • affordable - use students in an engaging way to produce digital materials
  • measurable - you can track views on Blackboard for example and use that to improve your usage - if it's not being used ask why?

Finally Jane Williams from University of Bristol gave some fab examples of digital media in use in teaching and learning. Students go to clinical academies as part of their course, they were getting a different experience depending on the academy. Using digital media allows them to get a level playing field. It gives a consistent approach for all students. I liked the interactive video, which runs with a bit of content and then asks you a question and you can't progress to the next bit until you get that question right. This is something that could be transfered into other disciplines. Many of these resources were created by students not staff. Involving students in digital resource creation is productive learning, it also keeps materials fresh and you can experiment with new technology. With this type of resource you are looking at quality content rather than quality production.

Very good and interesting session with lots to take away and think about and explore. Then it was time for lunch, which was very nice but hard to eat standing up - involved a bit of juggling as there were not enough seats for everyone, but I guess that is often the way with conferences. Nice chocolate cake though. More about the afternoon in part 2.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Handheld Librarian Conference 2011 - Mobile apps

Top 40 best mobile apps for handheld librarians - Scott Brown

Some of these are iPhone/iPad some are Android, some are both. I don't specifiy in all cases as Scott didn't and I'm not providing links as I'm sure you are capable of looking up the ones you are interested in. He categorised them into different areas, which I've replicated here. With the exception of Evernote I haven't used any of these apps so these are purely Scott's opinions on them.

Library stuff

iBooks - iphone/ipad - nice graphics, can search the text
Kindle on the iphone - most popular way to access Kindle content
Kindle for ipad too
Buzz deck - android app - aggregates your RSS feeds, twitter feed etc can use them by category. Can customise your own cards and categories
Reuters News Pro - quite a few vendors are doing this
GoodReads - scan the barcode of your books, rate it and share it with your network - iphone app
Issuu mobile - android app - looks really good - physical magazine reading experience
(librarything and library anywhere - don't know if iphone or android)
Scan2PDF mobile - fail - quality is really poor

Dragon dictation - like dragon naturally speaking - translation into text. speak into your phone - send it via text, email, to twitter or fb
Dropbox - allows you to set up an account free upto 2G - allows you to draw that down on to mobile device so you can access them - put documents out in the cloud
GoodReader - handles pdfs makes it fit the screen - makes it readable, create sticky notes, annotation, markups and highlights draw on it, sync with Google docs, dropbox - $2.99 on iphone
Evernote - I love it using it :) mobile version of the web product - make them available - sync back and forth between the two pretty regularly can tag things. I used it to take notes for this conference
Wi-Fi Finder - hotspot finder

Flipboard - ipad - larger layout - aggregate a lot of your different feeds on it
Flipbook - more of a drawing app
Curator HD - android and iphone - similar concept of flipboard only aggregates Google reader - newspaper style feed
My6sense - aggregates RSS and social feeds - android app may be a cost
MobileRSS - different interface only aggregates Google reader and makes that readable - several different government focussed apps

Skype - syncs with desktop account - easy to use for video chat - interface is nice
Tweetdeck and Hootsuite - allow you to manage your posts to twitter and fb - desktop utility as well as mobile. Can categorise that
Anypost - android - share to multitudes of sources
Qik - live streaming android - can do video chat, record video and share through your social elements
Stfu - Shut the phone up - android - turn phone upside down

urbanspoon - decide where to go to dinner - location by type of food or cost, you shake it and they spin around, can get opinions of those places
Daytrotter - new studio set from a band, stream or download it - great way to discover new artists
Pandora - music app
SoundHound - hum or sing into it and it will try and identify the song - "what's that song?" 70% hit rate
Netflix - stream movies - picture is really good - iphone
RunPee mobile - look at popular movies and find good places to go to the toilet - it will give you a summary for what you've missed
FlySmart - airport app flight info, departures etc, layout of terminal, can search by categories works on a compass to help to locate facilities within the airport
Car locator - android only - identify where you are when you park your car - can check how long you've been parked and how far away you are from your car
Talk to me - android - translate text or voice between languages

Foursquare - allows you to check-in at different sites
Gowalla - description of sites - more social aspect to it
Layar - augmented reality - real estate app, business and locations, museum of London - historical photo overlays as you go around London
SitorSquat - public restroom - weird, people take pics
ALOQA -android app - local stuff - hotspots, coffee bars, clubs etc

Just for fun
unhearit - get that song out of your head - provides you with a new song
Draft - for ipad - draw freehand - keep track of your drawings and share them via email - can collaborate using Campfire
Hipstamatic - 70s sheen to your photos - costs money
Instagram is another one

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Handheld Librarian Conference 2011 - Part 2

So to part 2 (for me anyway). the first session I attended was QR codes and augmented reality by Robin Ashford. Robin asked the question why focus on mobile users? Because of the significant growth in mobile usage, in 2010 there was more usage, more apps and more developers. QR stands for Quick Response (probably should have put that in the last post) and allows you to jump from printed content to online content. This could be a video, a website, some useful text. What you need is a web enabled phone with a camera and a QR app. QR codes look like this:

(this is the BBC's)

For a quick an easy guide to QR codes have a look at this Creative library video. So what could this be used for in libraries?

  • film trailers for DVDs in the stacks
  • Art shows and exhibits - link to the website
  • room reservation - they didn't find that this was that useful as it didn't go to a dynamic page
  • library tutorial (videos)
  • in the library catalogue - gives you the title, author and call number (you can scan the code and then go to the shelf for the book) - I can see this being useful as so many students type class numbers into their phones (University of Bath use this)
  • Promotional cards or poster to library mobile websites
You need to be aware that using a QR could actually have a negative impact if it doesn't go to somewhere useful. Plus remember not to overdo it. You need to ask the question does this add value?

What are the challenges to using QR codes?
  • not everyone has an Internet enable device yet - this is true but I see us using them additional rather than to replace other things
  • poor implementation of QR codes - you need to get it right or it won't add value
  • not the prettiest
  • need for education and promotion
  • privacy issue
And for the future we need ask
  • how long will they stick around?
  • will they mainstream?
  • does this matter?
Robin then went on the talk about augmented reality (AR). AR overlays virtual date with what you see in the world. It combines the real and virtual worlds. Here's a Common Craft video explaining what AR is. This could be used to create campus and library tours. You use can use existing information or create your own story. Take a look at this Junaio AR browser with image recognition. There are other examples using this app as well. It give you an idea of the things you can do with AR. How about using to help with changing the toner in a printer - useful? Potentially but you could do something similar with a QR code that takes you to a video of how to do it. There does seem to be potential there and this is likely to be a growing area.

The challenges of using AR are:

  • Devices need to robust and have GPS and a compass
  • Apps are always easy to use
  • You don't know what's a available - because it's based on the real world, there is no marker to tell you that additional information is there, you just have to hold up your phone and scan around. With a QR code there is something physical to tell you that there is more information available.
I certainly think it's something to watch and one of the later talks showed how this had been used practically within a library service. This presentation was by Sarah Houghton-Jan and Nate Hill, both of whom are based in public library services in the US. In order to make augmented reality work you need GPS, a camera and an accelerometer (to do with direction). Sarah talked about a few different apps that are out there. Wikitude connects information held in wikipedia with reality. The digital content is layered over the real world. Layar is the most popular of these apps at the moment. Google Goggles can scan covers of books, artwork, album covers and then searches the web for information about the thing you have scanned.

A lot of the applications for AR are still a bit clunky and bigger screens tend to work better with it. Sarah and Nate worked on a project (it's still on-going) to create local history walking tours in San Jose. The aim is to create a mobile web application using a Layar-based tour. The originally were going to design and Apple and Android app but as they were unable to recruit developers they changed direction and created a web based app using html5 - this actually makes it more accessible to more devices so in the long run this was a good decision. I found it really useful to hear that as you kind of thing you should be thinking in terms of creating iPhone and Android apps but actually doing it browser based means it would reach more people and you are more likely to have people with the skills in house to develop it. Testing across platforms is quite difficult and Nate borrowed a range of phones from others to test the application. Sarah and Nate also said that with GPS you can narrow down to a building but things within buildings are more tricky - so that made me wonder whether this could be used for library tours as was stated in the previous presentation. It could be that I am getting the technology confused because I don't know enough about it yet.

The last presentation I'm going to talk about here was by Andrew Walsh from the University of Huddersfield talking about handheld information literacy: mobilizing existing models. This session was really useful to me because we are just about to look at overhauling our information literacy/user education and I was able to pass on feedback from this session to the steering group looking at this. Andrew talked about models of information literacy (IL). The term was first used in 1974 by Paul Zurkowski. Early IL talked about what it was in terms of broad concepts and ideas but no method of measuring how information literate people were. Early 1990s onward were dominated by the Delphi study by Doyle (1992). The concept of "access, evaluate and use information from a variety of sources" became backed up by a large list of attributes. These attributes tended to be the least controversial as they were the ones agree upon by a group of "experts". A number of competency models were then developed (ACRL and Sconul 7 pillars etc). These models show the attributes of the information literate person and are generally based on the options of a group of experts. There is a lot of overlap between the different models.

These models were developed in the pre-mobile world. They imply that it's easy to measure IL irrelevant of the discipline in which a person is working as though there is some "absolute" of IL.

Relational models take a different approach. Christine Bruce's (1997) "Seven faces of information literacy" is an example of this. These models take the experience from the users and are very different to competency based models. It depends on the person and how they relate to the information at that time. Sylvia Edwards (2006) in "Panning for Gold: information literacy and the net lenses model" talks about different lenses to searching but that individuals should be able to decide what is appropriate in the situation in which they are searching, you can choose. They are different options rather than a need to work through the different levels like in a competency model. The concept of IL means different things depending on the context in which you are operating and the process you are undertaking.

So mobile IL - how does this differ from traditional IL? Andrew outlined 4 key areas:
  • Where? - traditional IL is largely in set places (desktop PC) at a fixed workplace, within a library. Mobile - anywhere and on any mobile device
  • What? - traditional IL could be anything. Mobile tends to be quick information at the point of need, often context or location specific
  • How? - traditional IL uses a range of established tools to access and manage wide range of information sources. Mobile is often narrow apps and individual specialist sites rather than the open web
  • Time spent? - traditional IL the time varies, often slow, long periods spent searching, organising and extracting information especially for academic use. Mobile is quick, fast only, shorter search and little pondering

More information needs occur in the home and even when there is a PC available users tend to turn to their mobile device rather than log onto a PC and use their normal search methods. Mobile searching tends to be app based rather than web based.

Andrew concluded that there is a desire for information on the move that is concept specific, that competency models just don't cut it anymore and that we need to research and define mobile IL to equip us for the near future. There aren't any models that look at IL for info needs on the move. We need to ask the questions: how do we know what information to make available in mobile format? How do we know what IL is needed to help users make the most of information on the move? and is this adding value? If it's not it shouldn't be there.

The final session I went to I will post separately as it looked at the top 40 best mobile apps for handheld librarians (in the opinion of Scott Brown) and I thought as this was mainly a list it would be best suited to it's own post.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Handheld Librarian Conference 2011 - part 1

OK so finally catching up with the Handheld Librarian Conference from last week. I was never going to be able to view the presentations live due to the timing of the event but having booked it I realised I needed to take leave. Anyway this week I am catching up.

So I pretended to be a student and set myself up in our social learning zone to make sure I got some peace to listen to the recordings of the sessions.

The first session I attended was led by Amy Vecchione and Margie Ruppel talking about their SMS reference service. Students can text a question and an "expert" will text them an answer. They used LibAnswers but there are number of services available. They particularly liked this service because linked to their FAQs, had good statistical reporting and it gave out of office messages. As of January they were up to 100 text messages a month. It was the librarians on the reference desk who dealt with these queries and they could use a PC to answer them, rather than a phone.

They surveyed a particular course group about the service, 35 students completed the survey, 14% had previously used an SMS reference service elsewhere, 91% said they'd use the service again. They got a 91% positive response when asking how much the students liked the service. Interestingly when they asked students whether the would want answers referring them to print and online or online only 77% wanted print and online.

Interestingly when asked how often they asked for help at a traditional desk only 29% said frequently or somewhat frequently. When asked why I was quite disturbed to see that 57% said it was because the person doesn't look like the want to help or looks too busy. I do wonder how we tackle this, as it's difficult getting a balance between sitting there looking like you're not doing anything and looking too busy. Tricky. However 49% said it was because they didn't want to get up from their PC so maybe it's not all bad.

After introducing this service they have seen a 57% increase in the number of questions asked at the desk - they hope this is down to them having a positive experience with the SMS service, encouraging them that staff are able to help and won't treat them like they are stupid for not knowing the answer. They don't use a triage system, it's the librarians that answer the questions whatever the nature of those questions.

So why should you use SMS reference?
  • to attract a new user base

  • it's convenient to the patron

  • it's another form of reference

  • it's easily implemented

  • it provides patrons with as many ways as possible to reach us

Marketing ideas

  • use your website

  • have an "ask a librarian day" to launch the service or just to generally promote the librarians as a resource

  • - have a marketing toolkit with some good ideas

  • Know it Now Ohio - there is marketing ideas on their website

I really like their Ask Away signs and think this is something we could definitely use. They displayed all the ways you could ask for help, include a QR code.

The second session I attended was by Joe Murphy talking about next trends in mobile technology. He told us that smartphones now outsell PCs and this defines where we should be focusing our resources. New trend areas are location, photosharing and check-ins. He talked about Consumer technology - what's guiding people's behvaiour - and foundational technologies - these shift with massive change. Foursquare is now a current technology, it's widespread rather than emerging. Location is now a foundational technology for emerging trends and libraries need to be aware of these. Foursquare now has 7 million users, which is small when compared to Facebook and Twitter but it's impact is wider than it's number suggest. Foursquare is used a marketing tool as major brands are using this tool. Users can get virtual and real world benefits.

Location of the future - check-in and location diverted from one another but are coming together again. With entertainment check-in it's now not so much about where the activity is taking place but where the participant is engaging in the activity.

He felt that GetGlue was the technology to keep your eyes on. This can be incorporated into what we do in libraries. It strongly brings together than social aspect. Users could check in to books and enhance the experience.

Mobile photosharing is another important area. Foursquare incorporated photosharing into location check-in and had loads of uploads in the first week. It's another way to engage other socially. Instagram is another service to keep an eye. It's seen huge growth in usage. Joe used this in personal and professional life. You can use it to market content, for example he took a picture of a special issue of a journal that he'd edited and used the interactivity of the mobile technology to promote it. It's re-purposing of content.

He also talked about the need for mobile literacy, we need evolving skills to match the shifting trends. He said don't get comfortable because change is constant. We need to change institutional culture to be able to adapt and always be willing to invest time and money to investigate these trends.

So the final session I listening to on the first day was by the Library Tech Team at Fairfield University - they used a number of mobile devices to support their work. They used Evernote to document problems and solutions, this archives the daily activity of the team. It provides instant communication with the tech team, using voice, pictures or videos. They used Skype to communicate with each other via the iTouch 4G or PC with web cam. They used Dropbox where you can save files on one computer and open them on another, this used text, picture and video. This allowed them to open instructions for how to fix technical problems on their mobile devices as well as using Skype. The advantages is instant feedback in realtime and immediate results recording in real time.

I thought some of these ideas could be used by our R&LS team when we are trying to help users with tricky problems out on the floors.