Monthly Archives: April 2012

It’s just the beginning

On today’s blogging agenda: webinar reflection and professional development. How perfectly these two topics go together in one blog post, since webinars as used by librarians are typically for professional development.

I thought the webinars I attended were effective. I appreciated the opportunity to do a webinar in a low-pressure setting. It’s a very different experience from teaching a class in person. For one, you can be much more attached to your notes than at an in person instruction session. On the other hand, it’s nearly impossible to gauge a room. I am not a huge fan of Elluminate, I have to say. It seems unnecessarily complicated. Ryan wrote about this before, and I have to agree. The problem with webinar software at the moment is that it’s trying really hard to replicate a classroom environment (a whiteboard? Really?). It’s not taking advantage of the uniqueness of a distance learning environment, and many of Elluminate’s features show this kind of thinking.

I also have to agree with Shauna about the chat box. I found it more distracting than helpful. If I listened to the presenters, I missed stuff in chat and had to scroll back to catch the thread but then I couldn’t pay attention to the presenters. Anyway, the conversations in chat rarely added anything to the presentation and frequently were off-topic. Maybe with a group of people who didn’t know each other as well as we do, it would be less of a problem. In my next webinar, I will strongly consider turning chat off until it’s needed for interaction.

I enjoyed the articles we read this week about professional development. They all have great ideas to think about. They all have a certain number of elements that are the same, however. They tapped into people’s desire to learn new things. They engaged participants in their own learning by using discussion groups or blogging. Participants received feedback on their practice through blogs or observation. The professional development encouraged play and experimentation while de-emphasizing perfection or knowing everything on a topic. And, 2 of the 3 used monetary or gift incentives to encourage participation.

I’m also interested in how these techniques can be applied to student learning in addition to professional development. The PLCMC model particularly, seems to have techniques and approaches that can be adapted to distance learning situations. Must explore this further….

Twittering, roughly one week later

I’ve been checking Twitter regularly for the last week. Honestly, not that much has happened. I did find a great blog post about libraries as software that I would highly recommend. Since not that much was happening, I talked to other people about Twitter and whether they used it and in what capacity. Nearly everyone I know has an account, but they don’t actually tweet. They just follow other people. Often it’s not even people that they follow but other organizations. I guess I’m just not following the right people, because my feed has mostly been a wash.

I definitely see how Twitter can be important for organizations, especially considering the number of people who seem to use their account only for following people. Having a Twitter feed is definitely a consideration for libraries, especially since it is so easy to set up and you can cross-post to Facebook.

Personally, Twitter has a number of features that annoy me. The 140 character limit means that links have to be shortened, and I dislike the uncertainty of where those links are pointing. They feel like advertisements instead of information. In addition the links are generally not accompanied by more than the title of the article or blog post. Rarely is any information provided about why the tweeter thinks the post is worth reading, so generally I don’t click. Knowing where a link is pointing or having a preview of the link  helps me decide if it’s worth my time, especially when I don’t know the person who is tweeting. When I don’t have that information, I generally choose not to follow through, which limits its usefulness for my professional development.

Unlike some people in class, I really don’t care what people I don’t know are eating for lunch or where their cat is at that exact moment. In fact, even if you are my friend in real life I probably don’t care, but I am much more tolerant of this kind of thing when I feel that it connects me to people I know face-to-face. I am not a “personal life junkie.” (See related, “I don’t watch reality TV either.”) I also don’t like how retweets appear in my feed as the person who originally tweeted them, not the person who retweeted (who is someone that I follow). Once again, I only care what you tweet in so far as you are a person that I know and trust.

So people I don’t know are advertising links to me and not even telling me why they think the links are important. There is no particular thought happening on the feeds that I can see, although I understand how what happens there might spark thought. I’d just much rather read your blog than your tweets.

I’ll probably keep my feed to follow conferences if nothing else but it won’t be the bulk of my PLN. The relationship I have with my RSS reader, however, is deep and abiding. Blogs 4ever!

Twittering

Well, I’ve gone done it. I’m on twitter @doubleG2718. My initial reaction was very similar to my reaction to betting at a racetrack for the first time: Oh! Now I get how this is addictive!

Twitter very helpfully provided me with a list of people to follow who I know very well in real life as well as various celebrities. Sure! I’ll follow all the people! Why not? Oh, hey. I guess I should probably track down those librarians I talked about in my blogging reflection. Ok, cool, got them. Check it! There’s that guy who wrote that really great book about mobile technology in libraries. I’ll follow him too! The class hashtag! Sweet! Now I can track down all the people in class, too. Not that much happening on the hashtag yet, but at least one former SIer is excited to see the hashtag start back up again…

And suddenly, there goes my entire evening.

It seems to me that Twitter occupies a space between blogging and Facebook. It can be very professional, like a blog. There are lots of opportunities for talking with people you’d never get the chance to talk with otherwise about professional stuff. You can follow conferences that you aren’t able to attend. You can get into tangential conversations about librarian geekery. But at the same time, my twitter feed has quickly become cluttered up with people complaining about their life, like on Facebook. Lots of posts about cats, wine, and insomnia. Lots of semi-personal conversations that should probably take place in another forum. I don’t especially like that links aren’t previewed on Twitter like they are on Facebook. I understand that’s the limitations of the medium, but it does send my paranioascope whistling.

I haven’t yet seen an instance of really deep thinking or interactions on my feed. I suppose it could happen. I’m a newbie after all. I guess I’m not pro- or anti-Twitter at the moment. I’m just letting it unfold organically.

Ok, reflections from last class. I’ve been thinking a lot about embedded librarianship and distance learning lately. We came up with some great suggestions in class about how librarians could become more embedded. I think that distance learning offers librarians the opportunity to become integral to the learning experience. I’m thinking about librarians being allowed into virtual classrooms and about librarians following student blogs. This way librarians can extend the amount of time that they spend really understanding the individual students and their needs. They can address these needs in various ways (screencasts, blog comments with resource suggestions, etc.). In many ways, having virtual learning spaces may help to solve some of the problems librarians have always faced in really getting to know and understand student needs because librarians can be constant observers in the process.

At the same time, this idealized view still suffers from a few problems that won’t ever go away. Not all faculty want you around, maybe especially if you’re going to be lurking constantly. You are not an instructor in their class, so why should you be given access to their classroom? Many librarians see themselves as instructors, and putting them right in the middle of a classroom could lead to turf battles that will not be beneficial to anyone, especially students. Exactly whose job is it to tell a student that their research topic isn’t great? The teacher’s or the librarian’s?

I really like the idea of a “buddy librarian” in a virtual learning space, especially if the librarian has some access to student work as well. One of the biggest problems I can see of distance learning is connecting students to resources. Having a personal librarian could go a long way towards helping students get what they need (even if the personal librarian is calling up the student’s local public library to set up a meeting with a librarian there) while helping them feel connected to their learning institution.