An instructional video

Finally! I think I have made an instructional video. It took one CD and three internet software updates.  When I finally had a reasonably acceptable Java version for Screenr, that program decided to freeze on me.  I eventually downloaded Jing and voila! A video. The only problem is that it is saved as an .swf file.  So I am concerned that it will be un-viewable. As such I uploaded it to Screencast and it can be viewed here.

Screencast video

I found Jing to be really user-friendly, though I hope that no one listens to my instructional video as it is terrible, even after four trials.  These things are harder than they look. So I have learned two things from this exercise:

1. My computer really needed updating, I am glad this activity gave me the push required to get that organised as it now runs much faster and I can finally use Google Chrome.

2. Even 3 minute videos require a fair amount of planning.

Thank you again VicPLN for a wonderful course. My previous blog post includes my reflections via Storybird.

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Looking back

Just as I was thinking how user friendly and seamless (relatively) my journey had been with regards to online learning I hit a hurdle. My little Apple Macbook is operating at OS X 10.5.8.  The requirements for Screenr and Jing are much later and there has been a second upgrade since the one I need, which means I can only buy my upgrade online.  It is still in the post. As such, part 1 of this final submission (small instructional video for Slideshare) remains incomplete. The frustrating thing is that this task was of particular interest to me as I think that small instructional videos would be an economical and user-friendly way to engage and educate our library users.   So, I will learn how to use both Jing and Screenr, but it will have to wait until my upgrade arrives.

In the meantime, I have completed the reflection part of this unit via Storybird. What a wonderful tool this is.  Initially I intended to use GoAnimate, however I think my lack of upgrades failed me again as it would not let me review my scenes. I’m glad this happened as otherwise I would not have discovered the beautiful illustrations on Storybird.  It took me a while to choose my illustrator, but what a wonderful way to spend a few hours.  Though my character’s expressions are a little morose, hopefully the feelings I have about this course do some across.  The story can be found here:

http://storybird.com/books/learning-online-the-journey/

So thank you again to Cameron, Kelly and the rest of the team behind this wonderful program.  I have really learnt a lot and will submit the final assignment with both links as soon as this upgrade arrives!

Technological effects

Technological effects
So after all this research and discussion of new technologies, the question as to how technology has affected my professional practice is an important one.  At work my day-to-day tasks do not really require the use of the innovative online tools out there. However on a professional development level my progression with technology continues to make me feel more linked in to the information management profession than I thought possible. I find that I now learn more effectively not through text books (still falling asleep trying to get through a Legal Research text) but through podcasts, librarian blogs, websites and wonderful programs like this VicPLN that uses Edmodo, videoclips and reflective blogs to engage and inspire the use of online tools. The more I learn the more my professional practice will be improved, sometimes directly but more often than not indirectly, by keeping me interested and engaged in my profession.

I think that technology has a huge impact on us as citizens, the Internet is a whole new world and wireless technology is just the start to accessing it.  Money, houses and food are all affected.  I don’t remember the last time I used a bank cashier; automatic payroll, scheduled debits, online statements.  They are all governed by technology.  Whether it searching for a house to buy or rent we go straight to the internet, renovations ideas are posted on Pinterest, design blogs saved to delicious.    Not sure what to cook? Check an Epicurious app while in the supermarket. Even better, check it while ordering the weekly groceries online.  I think that this side of technology is brilliant but yes, like a lot of really fun, easy and enjoyable things, it comes with risk that we need to be aware of.  I had no idea about the HTTP vs HTTPS thing.  Absolutely none.  And I shop online all the time.  How did I not know about this? I just checked Etsy, it’s not HTTPS and I love Etsy.  And then there’s my passwords, my devices, they should all be updated more often.  I need to be more vigilant.  And this explains why I have such mixed feelings about technology, I love it, it can have a wonderful, engaging, ever expanding effect on citizens, but it also requires each citizen to be careful with it, maintain their little part in it, and I know that I am not really maintaining my digital world very well.

I like the idea of the digital citizen, fostering respect and understanding in the online world and I hope kids today all become wonderful digital citizens, thanks to their parents, teachers and peers.  I am no educator but after completing this unit I really do think that this is the most important aspect of the digital realm that should be taught in schools.  Online tools will come and go but our behaviour when using them will always be important.

Based on my own experiences I have chosen the following five characteristics as integral to an effective learner:

Open

Organised

Questioning

Problem solver

Determined

To be truly effective I think you have to be all five, there is not point being open to new ideas if you don’t also question them.  Likewise there is no point in engaging in a class if you are not determined to do the work and finish the coursework.  While an unorganised person may absorb information and finish the course (eventually) it will be much more stressful than it could have been if they were more organised (I’ve learnt that on many occasion).   And finally, to really engage in learning, complex elements must be tackled and this requires a degree of problem solving.

Finally, the future.  It can only be exciting.  Much is already almost here, televisions just won’t exist, screens without cables, streaming all required information, music, radio, film, Internet sites etc. These can already be accessed with the wave of a hand and will probably be utilised in schools instead of the interactive whiteboards.   Today, so much learning is done online, my online university subjects felt a bit clunky but I imagine that will become less so in the future.  This VicPLVN course, with its mix of media to engage and communicate with participants, is a good indicator of online learning’s potential into the future.

And I suppose out will go laptops and in will come ever smaller tablets, not much bigger than the old fashioned slate and more powerful than imaginable.  All the screen reading is still an issue for me, reading content and writing notes on the same device, have students really stopped printing?  I’m excited about the Internet and it seems difficult to think that anything will ever replace it. Maybe teachers and students will stop using devices such as computers and tablets and just head straight for their glasses instead…

Lost and found

In my second year of University search engines were discussed at length (I loved Just Ask Jeeves) but like most people I settled on Google a long time ago.  I have tried Blackle (energy efficient Google) but its results were nowhere near as good as Google’s even though they were supposed to be the same.  It’s really interesting to read about Duck Duck Go and I like the anonymous nature of it, brilliant.  I hope I remember to use it.

When comparing it to Google I searched for the “Victorian Flower Emblem”.  Google of course beat me to the word emblem which came up after typing the words Victorian Flower and proudly informed me it had found 3,410,000 results  in 0.29 seconds!

Results list:

  1. Australian National Botanical Garden
  2. Wikipedia
  3. Only Melbourne (touristy website of all things Melbourne)

The pictures that Google displayed were particularly helpful in this instance as I could immediately see what the emblem looked like.  There was no knowledge graph, but this is probably not a particularly popular search.

Duck Duck Go had similar results, favouring About.com in number two instead of Wikipedia (which could be accessed from the side menu anyway) and the same as Google in first and third places.  What I liked about Duck Duck Go is that the more you scrolled down, the more results came up.  This gave me a much better overview of the results and meant I didn’t have to click “Next” or “Previous” to find results. I liked that Wikipedia was not in the top three results and am going to install their search tool into my toolbar so that I remember to use it.

Now, the second part of this unit was to evaluate web resources. Because I have started with the floral theme, I may as well continue.  I assume that the Australian National Botanical Garden site is authoritative; it looks to be so, adorned with national emblems and labelled as an Australian Government Initiative.  But how can I be sure?  I used the CRAP test, as its acronym is one I am most likely to remember and stands for Currency, Reliability, Authority, Purpose/Point of View.

Currency: The Victorian emblem page of the site was last updated 30 April 2012, and the actual information about the Common (Pink) Heath is noted to be from a book published in 1985.  But emblems don’t really change, so I delved deeper.  Other pages have been updated at various times throughout 2012 and 2013, the latest I could find was 27 March 2013.   So I think it is safe to say that the site is regularly monitored and updated.

Reliability and Authority: This site is endorsed by the Australian Government and includes information from the Australian National Botanic Gardens, and the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity and Research, which includes the Australian National Herbarium (managed by CSIRO). Both organisations sound very important to the world of botanical study (view details here) however I also crosschecked with other government websites to find that The National Botanical Gardens is listed on the ACT Government’s visitcanberra.com.au site and their research facilities and educational programs are listed on Australia.gov.au.

Purpose/Point of View: Information from both organisations on the site is designed to “Inspiring, informing and connect people with the Australian flora.”  They make no secret of this objective and the botanical information, education programs, and research information is comprehensive.

All in all I think that this site is a brilliant resource for teachers and students alike who are interested in botanical studies. It is also colourfully presented, full of beautiful pictures and downloadable information flyers.

As for the third part of this assessment, tags, this I have already played around with on my WordPress blog. It’s great that WordPress offers recommended tags, make posting much faster and contributing to the accuracy of the indexing.  Last time I did make an error (typed WEb2.0 instead of Web 2.0) and frustratingly WordPress would not let me change it in the post.  After ten minutes of amending, saving and seeing the same error still prominent I gave up.  However, this week I went back and made the change via the dashboard and it was very easy.  So, I will tag this post with all sorts of labels for people to find it by.

Servicing who? And Animoto, an overview

I have just attempted to read the Terms of Service and Privacy sections of Delicious. While the language used is fairly informal, both sections are long, convoluted and repetitive.  No wonder I have never read them before.  I think the crux of the message is that every effort is made to use my details in as many ways as possible to simply improve the service’s service to me.  How very selfless of them.  With something like Delicious I understand that my links are public and there is very little information about me on my profile, so I’ve never been too worried about it.  But it was a good reminder to read the terms and privacy pages, bit disconcerting but not at all surprising to find out that they and a lot of other sites I use plant cookies on my hard drive.

With regards to exporting or deleting data, both were help topics with straightforward instructions.  Deleting links and deactivating the account also seemed straightforward, though none of this has been tested.  I still really like Delicious and would be happy to recommend it to others.

Ok, so now a review of my free tool. I chose Animoto, which is a simple video-editing program that enables users to import their photos onto a storyboard, add some music from the program’s catalogue, write some blurbs and quite quickly, create a 30 second film.   I chose to review this free web tool as I imagined it could be a quick, entertaining way for students to get involved in storytelling using words, images and music. Log in only required an email address and password (it’s the file sharing afterwards that is more of a concern) and there is extensive information on how students and teachers could use Animoto in the classroom, including the protection of privacy and copyright.   While I used it for a short personal narrative, in the end I realised that it’s not really a substitute for the pen and paper method of personal reflection through storytelling.  It is however a great improvement on the old fashioned photos on a piece of cardboard presentation.  Using Animoto students would still learn to gather and present information on a given topic to the class, but in such a new and engaging way that the task, and also its outcomes could be completely redefined.  In this sense it has the potential to fit into the redefinition category of the SAMR model.  An example of this is on the site’s page within their education section.

To get the most out of the program schools would have to sign up for a more advanced version than the free one I have used, simply because of the time limit of 30 seconds on the free version. However, it is simple to sign up to the free version and once I had created the video I was able to share it on Facebook (amongst other sites) and copy its html link location.  Photos can also be imported not only from a hard drive but also from Facebook, Instagram and Flickr, amongst others.

Interestingly despite all this file sharing, Animotos’s privacy page is not easy to find.  However, once retrieved I found its policies clearly written and there is a comprehensive section on the program’s use in schools.   Users can also opt out of targeted advertising from their “ad network partner.”  At least they admit they have one.

In terms of professional learning, I am really glad that I now know about this software.  It could be a wonderful way to create 30 second instructional videos to our library users.  In the meantime I think I’ll keep playing around with it personally.

Here is my video: India.

Professionally online

Yes! Online professional communities can be a brilliant way for people to connect and keep up to date with their profession.  And I truly believe that Web 2.0 tools promote not only the collaboration of ideas but also the dissemination of those ideas to the wider community.  So why is it that I have only ‘liked’ a handful of professional organisations on Facebook?  Of my ten total ‘likes’ only four are ‘library’ related.  And why is it that despite following some librarians via Twitter, I actually end up only really tapping into my Twitter account (@finestrino) to follow current affairs as they happen? Perhaps it is as David Hartstein suggests, I am just careful about mixing my professional and personal life on social media.  This unit has made me realise that maybe I am too careful, potentially missing out on professional-related ideas and information.  As such I have just ‘liked’ four more library related organisations on Facebook and I’m interested to see what notifications I receive in the next few months.

On the other side of the fence, my workplace is thinking about starting up a Twitter account to disseminate information amongst the legal and legal librarian profession.  I hope that if this does occur we head the advice of people like Hartstein who note the importance of regular updated and accurate information to ensure it becomes a useful information resource for its users.  We are also looking at running online training programmes and I have really enjoyed Edmodo in this course.  On my to do list (maybe I should Evernote it) is to hunt around for similar programmes that are not soley for teachers.  At RMIT the information management staff and teachers discussed topics using Yammer. It is easy to use and a great way to talk to other students, particularly for online subjects.  However Yammer has been built as a discussion portal and I like how Edmodo has been built as a teaching tool with its calendar, grade and assignment notifications.

I am not a teacher so I am not sure how Facebook may be taught in the classroom.  However as an outsider I found the articles and videos about students and social media today really interesting.  Perhaps Facebook may be a hindrance if students spend more time on it than their coursework.  As a high school student the big distraction for me was television, however the shows usually ended within an hour. I can’t imagine how high school students get anything done with Facebook in the background.  Even tonight I quickly went to my Facebook page to see what my likes were for this post and found myself immersed thirty minutes later in someone’s new photos.  I think it’s great that teachers are keen to utilise these social networking tools in their classroom and I hope that in teaching about Facebook we produce social media savvy adults.

Getting organised with Web 2.0

I don’t know if it is just me but I seem to have two lives that need to be organised in different ways, work and home. At work, in a legal library setting, I have between five and ten sites as my favourites and another list of quick links to a similar number of the library’s online databases.  As yet (and I AM still new) this has been sufficient and I can’t see it expanding too much for my needs.  These favourites are not in a cloud, they are listed on the work computer and there is no time for online discussions/sharing or even professional blog monitoring outside of the email lists and lotus chats.

Outside work is a different story. In my little black book I have about three pages of passwords for various online fads, their account and password (in code of course) details.

Interestingly, while I do use Delicious to bookmark a lot of sites, I find that the pages I use all the time (banks/bills/email/Googlereader/Googlemaps/ Twitter/Facebook) are not bookmarked, or even in a Favourites folder on my home computer.  Instead, they are in my little black book. This unit has been a good reminder to clean up my bookmarks and look at how they and other organisational tools could be used to make my work and free time more efficient.

I am not a teacher, so I am not sure about whether such workflow techniques would be useful to students (though I assume they would be a good way for them to organise online resources and note deadlines for all their subjects), or what their existing strategies are.

However, I do know that online bookmarking and Reader tools have helped me retrieve information more efficiently whilst also enabling me to find a broader range of information than otherwise possible. I also love the idea of GoogleChrome and think that I would use Evernote if this were linked to my browser.  However, when I tried to download Chrome I was told that my Mac needed a system upgrade, and I’m yet to look into the authorisation required for the work computer.

In the meantime, here is a link to my first public note.

P.S for the purposes of this unit I signed up to Diigo and I like that it has private and public options of tags, (I think all my Delicious ones are public, though this is an assumption) and I like that it has groups to join so you can see what others with your interests are reading.  If Delicious does have these functions they are not so clearly advertised.  But I like Delicious, there is a great sidebar that I use all the time with my tags listed on it and I use the phone app every now and again, so for now, I’ll use this as my bookmarking tool.