Tuesday, October 25, 2011

QR Codes


QR Codes... I kind of love them. That one there goes to the book blog I work on, Eve's Fan Garden, and can be found on the back of our business cards. I think they are a great idea for that kind of stuff, especially when I'm at conferences or book events. I've seen publishers and other bloggers give it a zap with their phone and check our site out right on the spot. An obvious use in the library would a similar type of marketing. The QR code on the library business card or informational materials like flyer and brochures would have the same effect of directing people to the libraries website. That's the easy answer for how to use them, but what are some other fun uses?

The Library Scavenger Hunt- I'll admit, I love me some scavenger hunts.Tie it to finding specific resources and you have a really fun activity for students that will help them learn not only where books are in the library but also how to use the Dewey Decimal System. You can stick QR codes inside the cover of the resource and when they find the right book he code will give them the next location. 

Classroom Projects- One thing I would love for my future library site would be to have a place to house students works. What might also be cool is to generate QR Codes for specific projects or areas of the website. Teachers can use the codes to direct their students or even parents to the right area of the website for their projects. 

Find More Info Here!: Sometimes the resources in the library are not quite enough. So one thing that can be done is to generate a QR Code that will lead patrons to a list more resources. You can hang a flyer with the QR code in the reference area near the books for easy access. For instance, do you have a set of biographies on famous Americans? Hang a QR Code that accesses a list of sites like Biography.com.

Of course, as with any project that requires technology, there will be a downside. The downside with QR Codes? Well, the biggie is that you have to have a smart phone and the app in order to use them. A lot of people have them, but not everyone. I don't. I love QR Codes, but I can't use them. In fact when I see a QR Code that is just the code and no other info I get annoyed because I have no way of finding more information- what if it's something super cool and I'm missing out? On marketing materials for the library having a QR Code along with additional information for those of us still rocking the flip phone is sufficient. So long as there is a way for the rest of us to access the information it works. But how about those in-library activities like the QR Code scavenger hunt and the links to more information? Well, either you have to provide the information another way (which defeats the purpose a little bit) or you have to provide access to QR Code readers, which can get pricey. It might not be prohibitive, but it definitely is something that you have to think about when planning out activities. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


(photo by wonderferret on Flickr - cc license)

Collaboration. That's kind of the goal right? We want to collaborate with teachers on great projects on any number of subjects. We want to collaborate with our students as they create interesting work products. We want to collaborate with each other on what technologies are working, what isn't and how we can best help our students and teachers get the most out of the library. That's something we've been told from day one. Which is pretty awesome. We are (hopefully) going to walk out the door ready to be collaboration experts, armed with an arsenal of cool, innovative and exciting technologies that can get it all done. Yes, it is definitely awesome. You know what else it is? Overwhelming. Not even looking at the personal side of it (i.e. how do we get them to want to work with us?) it's easy to go a little cross-eyed at the sheer number of resources there are out there for collaboration. 

Many schools have blackboard, which has collaboration functions that can be used by classes. For one fieldwork project I did I used blackboard to set up a library book club, we had discussions, could watch book trailers and even created a group document of questions to ask the authors (including one we ended up skyping with). All the new technology is awesome, but sometimes it's good to start with the familiar and then begin introducing new programs and technologies as teachers and students become more comfortable. 

Other technologies are also making their way into the school. Wikis, Blogs, LiveBinder, GoogleDocs, Edmodo, Cover it Live and Google+ can all be used effectively as collaboration tools. Even social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter can be implemented in different ways depending on the project. For me, I like the idea of a blog (no one should really be surprised at that answer) because from the blog you can build on so many different things. 

For example here are some ideas of ways to collaborate:
  • Create a student submission page that would highlight students works including art, writing and even tutorials and videos that the students make. 
  • Have a place for students and teachers to share book recommendations and reviews.
  • Create a discussion/forums page where discussions can take place about projects and assignments. You can make these require a log in (so you can only view your class) or keep them open for discussions on things like a book club or upcoming events.
  • Embed Twitter and Facebook feeds so that you can see a running discussion about not only things that are new to the library, but also about programs and other school events and news. 
  • Have a live calendar for teachers to use to not only see the libraries upcoming schedule, but to also sign up for library time for their class. 
  • Using Cover-it-Live (a site I love and use all the time) you can embed live chats. These can be used for classroom chats about projects, chats with teachers about upcoming projects or events and even to chat with authors as part of a library event or book club. 

Moving away from the blog- using tools like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to collaborate is also a great way to connect with different groups or people, from students to teachers to parents. 

So with all these great ways to collaborate, where is the downside? In my opinion the fact that there are so many ways is the downside. As I noted, it can be overwhelming, and in our rush to try out what it new and cool, we need to be careful we don't overwhelm our teachers or students. For instance, in this class I've looked at what seems like a huge number of technologies and resources. I'm signing up for accounts left and right and trying to keep track of what seems like it will be most useful in the future. Which is all okay, because pretty soon it's going to be my job to know all these technologies and pass that knowledge on. (Want a little taste of what's out there? Check out this list from Cool Tools for School) As a librarian I think part of our job will be to look at what the teacher is hoping to accomplish, what level the students are at in terms of technology, and then look into our bag  of tricks and make a suggestion of what we think will work best for each circumstance. What we don't want to do is say "Oh, we could use google docs or maybe google+  would be better, or instead we could try to just use blackboard. Oh and have your tried doing a wiki? Maybe that would be best..." and so on. We want to help, not overwhelm. 

So, in short, collaboration is great. The number of choices we have out there to aid us in these collaborative projects is great. We need to give everything a test run, see what we like, see what will work best for our school, our teachers and our students and get to work creating great, innovating and effective projects!

Things I did at Fieldwork- aka Glogster and I are friends again.

I'm sure we all remember a week or so ago when I declared that Glogster ruined my life. That may have been a bit of an exaggeration. More correctly it ruined my day, but the fabulous Jennifer from Glogster sent me some great tips on how I could still make it all work. So next week we will officially start building glogs. I can't wait to see how the students make out!

For my part I did an example glog to show the students. They are working on Wetlands, so I did mine on the desert. That way they can see all the components that will go into it, but I wouldn't be giving them all the answers.

Here is my glog . Fact: I was going to embed, but could not for the life of me size it right. Also, there is audio that start automatically, so turn those speakers down if you need to!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

UPDATE: Glogster Project Speedbump

So- this is pretty much unprecedented- 2 blog posts in one week. Usually I wouldn't be so on top of it, but today something happened that simply had to be blogged about. Glogster screwed up my life. Really.

I'm in the midst of doing my fieldwork at an elementary school. I've been at it for 3 weeks now, but this week was my first week with kids. the first 2 weeks were spent designing and setting up some really awesome projects with the librarian. One project will see the students researching and then creating a glog about life in the swamp. Accounts were set up- I was stoked to find out that we (the librarian and I) could each set up a free account and add enough students to get the project going for this semester. I created a demo glog and was pretty excited about it. This week we introduced the project to the students who were really, really excited!

Then, today, disaster struck. I logged in to change the passwords for the students and couldn't get to my student list. Why? Well, because as of today Glogster Basic no longer exists.

Yup, in order to continue this project I would have to upgrade to Teacher Light ($29.95/year and we would need 2 accounts) or Teacher Premium ($99/year). Even doing the month free upgrade won't work because this project spans 6 weeks... maybe I can squish it into 4, but that will put a lot of pressure on the kids to learn how to create a glog and actually do it in a short amount of time (roughly 3-4 classes what with Thanksgiving getting in the way and all).

Oh and for all my IST611 buddies- that project Erin and I turned in just last week? Yeah, it's kind of inaccurate now. The tutorial holds up, but some of the other information, especially in regards to the different account levels no longer applies. The strengths and weaknesses of Glogster would change too, since one big bonus was the ability to have free access for the most basic application. You couldn't do much with Teacher Basic, but it was enough to give students a little taste of what could possibly be done. Thank goodness Task One had us looking at alternatives- I may need to tap into those now!

So now what? Well, to start I have to get a hold of my librarian who is out of town for a few days and then try to figure out if there is a way to salvage this project or if we need to come up with soemthing totally different despite having already started the project with several classes. Needless to say I'm not overly thrilled with Glogster. They gave 5 days notice, which, because I only teach 2 days a week fell during the time I was not at school and therefore not working on Glogster. So for me, I got zero days notice. Not even an email to my actual email address (which I provided on account set up). 

I guess the moral of the story here is that you never know when a speedbump is going to be laid out in front of you. This is probably what life in the library is like all the time, so it's good to get used to it as quickly as possible. Also, have a back up plan. I better go get working on Plan B now.

UPDATE: So, despite Glogster messing my Wednesday up, I have to say I'm really impressed with the way it's gone from there. You'll note below in my comments that Glogster responded to this here post. Well, technically Jennifer from Glogster responded. Turns out that while I can't do it exactly the way I want to there are ways I can still get this project rolling and allow the kids to create some awesome glogs. It may take me a few more steps, and a little more time, but the fact that someone took the time to make some suggestions (and answer more questions via email) speaks volumes for the company. I get that they can't continue to provide everything for free (although, lets face it, that would be awesome) and that was never my issue. In fact, when I'm in a position to do so, I will probably pay for an account. It just doesn't make sense at this time, for this project. Now, thanks to Jennifer and her chance encounter with my blog, I've got a handful of things to take to my librarian and some feasible ways to keep this project going. So, in short, kudo's to Glogster. It's great to hear from companies, especially when you are frustrated! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


This week I'm looking at a site called Bookshare. One thing I've discovered while at school at SU is that there is so much out there that I have never heard of, let alone tried using. Bookshare falls into that category. So, what is Bookshare? Simply put "Bookshare’s® goal is to make the world of print accessible to people with disabilities. With a dynamic leadership team, dedicated Members and capable partners, Bookshare is making this goal a reality."

I will admit that when I first visited Bookshare.org I was overwhelmed at the sheer volume of information on their page, but after a little digging I was able to get at the heart of what Bookshare is and how it works. 

I'd say the best part to start is on the About Us Overview page- from here you can see the mission which is "Ensuring that all individuals with print disabilities have equal and timely access to print materials" For me this was such an aha moment. I mean, obviously this is how it should be, but the reality of the situation is that it's just not how it is. I immediately thought back to when I was a Special Ed aide about 6 years ago and worked with one student who had a print disability- what were his options? Well, I read aloud to him a lot. Not because he couldn't read, but because he couldn't read the small print in the books. Additionally, because my reading aloud to him might cause a disruption to the other students reading silently around him in class on certain days, this meant we had to leave the classroom and go to the resource room and essentially conduct the assignment there, just the two of us. So not only did his visual disability keep him from reading some of the assigned text, it kept him from participating in the classroom. So, as I explored Bookshare I found myself thinking about how his school experience, his learning experience, could have been more effective with a program like this.  The easy answer was that it would have been such a help for him. Any time we can get more resources in the hands of students, disability or no disability, it's a good thing. 

More telling then the about us or how it works pages were the testimonial videos. Here is one that I thought really captured what Bookshare can do for students- not only in providing access to the books, but in increasing comprehension and making reading less stressful and more enjoyable for the students. 

At this point I've never used Bookshare, so I can't really speak to ease of use or even the collection of books available, but I can say that this will be a resource that I will keep in my back pocket for when the need arises. 

What do you guys think about Bookshare? Have any of you used it with a student?