Monday, August 20, 2007

My 2.0 Discoveries

Learning 2.0 Technology - In Summary

1. Flickr has got to be my favorite discovery because it is just pure fun! I haven’t had as much fun for years as I had creating my Avatar…it had me LOL (Laughing out loud, for those like me with very limited techno-lingo).

But Flickr offers their users much more than mere creative enjoyment. Not only can you do amazing things with photos, but you can use Organizr by collections or sets, with tags to easily find them later, or keep them in an album, or share your pictures with one, several people, or publicly display them to all. With Invitr, you can show and tell people you invite into “your domain,” by password invitation only, different things about you and your life. You can receive updates from your family and friends, send email, or use your cameraphone and download pictures.

You can upload from your desktop, make calendars, make your own postage stamps (but at $12.99 each, I doubt if I’ll be doing much of that), and make things—cards, framed prints, photo books, and target DVD’s. If you’d like to share where your pictures were taken, or where others were that were taken near you, you can use Mappr to pinpoint on a little map and drag your photos right over onto it. It will show a virtual push-pin that gives the location you desire.

Besides a great deal of other terrific things you can do using Flickr, I love word games, and so playing Flicktionary became rather addictive. I loved trying to solve the identity of the compound word through a series of seemingly unrelated pictures which were displayed inside three boxes in less than 99 seconds. The only hints were that those photos were the common thread that help unravel the mystery of the compound word you were seeking. I often beat the clock…YES!

But I did learn a great deal through my journeys. I wanted to find what I could discover and be able to use these things later, and I did bookmark quite a few winning sites.

2. Actually, I have always considered myself to be a life long learner. I have enjoyed working with children in various capacities throughout my career, and the teacher in me has always wanted to teach them interesting things. Every time I teach, I research my subjects because I don’t want to pass on misinformation. And each time I do my homework in reading the material I want to teach, I learn more than I can possibly say.

As I stated in one of my very first blog posts (entitled, Building Blocks), I have always stretched and challenged myself to learn and do more than I even dreamed I could. And usually I have succeed beyond my highest expectations. So the surprise is that I never have received any formal computer training, so this area of development was a filled with a little bit of trepidation. But instead of backing away or procrastinating, I embraced this newest challenge and decided that if it was worth learning, it was worth learning well.

And I did. Being an overachiever, I probably overdid it, compared to a lot of my colleagues, but I consider this the first step in a series of future steps to be taken in the exploration of Internet technology. So thank you for the opportunity to learn it this way.

3. The thing will I take away from this experience is a greater sense of self-confidence now in this broad-world spectrum. Now, if I feel hesitant to delve more deeply into technology, I know I have only begun to scratch the surface of what is out there to know. And so what if I haven’t learned every thing there is to know…only God know everything! And only a fool would think he does know everything.

So now, instead of feeling like one of the “Unenlightened,” I’ll just roll up my sleeves and plow right in, admitting that “I didn’t know that!,” and exploring until I do know!

4. Well, one thing I had trouble with twice (this blog and the one just ahead if this) was that my longest two blogs were lost in cyberspace, even though I saved them diligently; they timed out on me. The first one was this one.

I don’t know if my using a laptop on the bookmobile had anything to do with it, but I had a patron, so I posted my blog, then minimized the screen to check her items out. When I restored the screen and went to edit post, I had only begun to type the last of #6 when I noticed a message that said blogger was not connected to the Internet. It told me to “test here” and that my blog may be lost. I tried to save it, and then save as a draft, but they wouldn’t save.

I tried minimizing to save it to a Word Document, but again, it wouldn’t save it. So holding my breath, trying not to lose all the work I’d put into it, I clicked on the test here spot, and watched my entire 2 hrs. work evaporate into nothingness! One of our techs said it had probably timed out on me, and many computer savvy people tried to retrieve it for me, but came up empty.

The second time was this morning. I had just completed the blog before this one which took me quite a long time to finish because I had other duties that occupied some of my time. Thinking to myself, “I’m going to save the post I had just published to a Word Document so Saturday’s debacle wouldn’t be repeated, I just had enough time to copy the blog, and instantly, the same thing happened. I could not believe this happened again!

But fortunately for me, when the message popped up that “this page cannot be displayed,” I logged off and then logged in again. Much to my shock and surprise, there it was, except for the edited version I had made, which I gladly redid!

What I am saying is, that everyone should be warned NOT to use blogger directly, because it can, and unfortunately does, time out and you can lose everything you’ve worked on! I was told (too late, much to my chagrin) that I should have always used Word, and after I had saved it, copy it into my blog post and then publish my post. Please keep this in mind and forewarn people; you don’t know how frustrating and painful this can be, especially when it could be so easily avoided!

I would also like to say that no matter what prizes were offered as incentives, my greatest enticement, aside from the obvious—learning 2.0 technology—was the CEU’s offered. However, I don’t know, since I seemed to go above and beyond the call of duty, that it took me an inordinate amount of time (but even so, I did that because I truly wanted to know and learn as much as I could, and isn’t that the point of it all?), but I really don’t think it was just me. I heard even professionally trained computer people say that parts of this were very confusing. They said they didn’t like some of the sites involved, and some of the wikis, and some of the way things were generally formatted. But I just do NOT feel that the 1.8 (or whatever) CEU’s given was nearly an appropriate amount for anyone...not even those who didn’t put as much time and energy into it as I did. Just to “keep up” I often spent LOTS of (unpaid overtime hours) after work doing my 23 Things.

What would I recommend to rectify the problems? I would recommend that computer techs from all participating Maryland libraries who have aided their staff or did this training themselves be brought together for a symposium to bring to the table every problematic issue they experienced, and then discuss methods of “de-bugging” until every conceivable ‘thing’ was satisfactory with the panel. Who would know better than the people with the most expertise?

One more every Maryland library, we have an enormous task to accomplish at this particular time of year, namely, our Summer Reading Program. Now I don’t know about any other library, but we are so terribly busy, we can barely see straight, let alone be pressed by any other tasks. As much as I enjoyed it, I must say that I felt very pressured due to my summer duties and a whole week of programs to do at all the branches (at the end of June) by myself with this course work added in the mix. I usually try to squeeze in planning the upcoming bookmobile route for the year during any times of relative quiet (like before we open to the public in the morning, and sometimes during the lunch hour when mothers take their children home for feeding and napping). I haven't even begun that task, for wanting to finish this and have it behind me.

So I wondered, “What WERE they thinking when they made this a summer project?” Cecil County Public Library offers our Summer Reading Program for infants / preschool / school-aged (1st-5th grades) in Children’s, YA (middle school through high school), and all adults. A great deal of our staff help in doing the Cecil County Fair—a huge undertaking outreach to our community, so many of our staff were entirely too tied up to take part this year, even though they truly wanted to.

5. Yes, I would most likely take part in one again, but as I stated earlier, I would certainly hope that the CEU’s offered would be more sufficiently given, in light of the amount of work that is required. And, if it were not taking place in the height of our Summer Reading Program, all the better!

6. Well, the entire program was very beneficial to me as someone with professional computer training. Aside from the one or two brief training sessions we all had from some of the computer training technologists, I have been self-taught, and have managed to do fairly well, considering, through my 17 years here. However, I often felt very uninformed as far as the technological aspects of my job. Therefore, I welcomed the opportunity to gather as much from Learning 2.0 as I could, especially when we were allowed to use our work time to learn it!

So to summarize in a sentence, I will use a quote from one of my blogs, “I feel much more confident about venturing out and challenging myself...maybe with some elbow-grease, I can cut and polish this rough stone until it shines like a 2.0 Carat Diamond!"

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Bravo for eBooks!

I think eBooks are wonderful! I have 'listened my way to work and back', and on trips for years. As a Children's librarian, it gives me a great way to utilize my travel time and keep up with my reader's advisory skills. Having books read to me is a great treat, considering that I read books all day long to children.

But the applications for the blind or vision-impaired people would be phenomenal! What a boon to have books read to you at your own convenience, and not have to wait for a volunteer to get the time to do that, would be very gratifying. And, finding enough books printed in Braille would be difficult as well, so the eBooks would be just an added bonus to their lives. Using the Overdrive Digital Library Media Resource, someone else could download books for them, and they would never have to worry about paying a late fee. These special patrons could listen at their own pace and not be pressured into hurrying to return or renew it.

Students who are good at multi-tasking would also be able to benefit by it, not to mention the elderly who often need large-print books, would love this electronic way of indulging in a good book. At times, someone may just want to listen to all the classics they read (or even missed reading) as a child or young person.

I believe this medium is a fabulous invention for so many people. It is a very popular way for anyone to listen to an audio-book. The human readers often are excellent actors, i.e. Jim Dale--the reader of the Harry Potter series, acts (in audio) all his roles with different accents. He is a very accomplished actor who fascinates he audiences with his brilliant multi-talented mastery of each voice. I have truly enjoyed listening to him!

Netlibrary, offered by the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, is taking its place in the forefront of today's market. They offer eBooks online, but they must be checked out just as any other book. Their checkout time is 21 days, after which time they may be renewed if necessary. In order for some of the 'written word' to survive our fast-paced lifestyle, books may have to be like children (only in reverse)--heard, and not seen.

Bravo for Project Gutenberg in its very generous endeavor to bring free eBooks to the entire world. What an undertaking, but one that patrons are highly supporting! I believe that with world-wide Internet patronage, this could be the most creative way for eBooks to soar! (Over 100,000 and climbing!)

World eBook Fair has the same general idea, however, it does charge a nominal fee of $8.95 per year. Hopefully, much of the profit from this will be directed toward the purchase of building a more extensive eBook collection.

I would like to see more people learn of and begin using eBooks. I feel that this is one area that librarians can promote to our patrons the awareness of this relatively new method of "reading" books.

A 2.0 Carat Diamond in the Rough!

I was very impressed by how much I actually did learn in the 2.0 field of technology, and very pleased about it a well. I spent a great deal of time and energy (sometimes even staying several hours overtime well after I should have gone home), because not only was I trying to finish the sections I'd been working on before my shift ended, but I was also fascinated by what I was learning.

Not everything was my "cup of tea," but then, that's life, isn't it? One man's junk is another man's treasure. But I did find not only some very interesting sites, but some I treasured enough to bookmark as favorites. Those, I know, I will utilize over and over, passing on those HTML's to my friends and relatives!

I thought learning 2.0 at your own pace was a good idea. That way you could spend as much (or as little) time in a particular area of specialization as you wanted. Sometimes the pathways were full of the debris of confusion or frustration, and I'd have to hack my way through to the clearing of understanding via my technical advisor, Kevin, which took great patience on his part, to guide me through it. But the majority of my strolling along the winding paths mesmerized me, excited me, puzzled or perplexed me, challenged me, and encouraged me to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone, and lead me into the new frontier of technical knowledge.

I know I have barely even scratched the surface of what is yet to be discovered. There are so many more adventures that remain. But at least I am more confident in venturing out there and challenging myself to see what lies beneath the veneer that I've just begun to rub. Maybe with some good old-fashioned elbow-grease, I can cut and polish this rough stone until one day it will shine like a diamond!

The Tree Of Learning

I enjoyed reading the valuable life lessons on Life Long Learning from other wise and educationally persistent people. I have always highly respected intellectual pursuits and have tried to be an overachiever in everything I do...especially where these goals have extended in my life.

I want to be a long-lived tree, sinking my roots deep down in the earth, drinking from the river of the intelligentsia by which I am planted. Learning travel to my uppermost branches, emitting leaves that sparkle into the sunlight of teaching, and reflect in the water below, the beauty of what they have gathered--gathered from the tree that fed them.

What a dream to pursue! But one should always reach for the stars, and strive to be the best one can be!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bookmobile Write-Up on Flickr This is the web address of my Flickr picture and write-up about our Cecil County Public Library, MD, Bookmobile. This baby is my home away from home. I drive it to licensed family daycare homes, large daycare centers, facilities for physcially/mentally challenged young people/adults, and special events around our county.

This multi-purpose bookmobile travels weekday mornings to visit preschool children with our in-home outreach story time program, "This Way To Books." The program opens the exciting world of reading and brings stories to life via flannel boards, music, puppetry, finger plays, and interactive dramatic role-play.

Afterward, book selection by children is highlighted on the bookmobile. Day care providers choose books, audios, videos, CD's, DVD's, child care books, and other materials to enrich their center's programs.

The afternoon hours finds our vehicle at after-school programs. Anywhere p.m. programs abound for elementary and middle school children, "Books After The Bell," will ring the chimes of literacy with its onsite promotion of book distribution for "teens and 'tweens!"

We can be found at Elementary Schools, Boys & Girls Clubs, Scout Troops, Middle Schools, Summer Camps, Private Schools, Community Centers, Neighborhood Associations, the YMCA, and events such as the Cecil County Fair, adding our community presence wherever possible!

Check us out @ :

Podcast - 'New Word of the Year'

The editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary have selected 'podcast' as the Word of the Year for 2005. Podcast, defined as "a digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player," will be added to the next online update of the New Oxford American Dictionary, due in early 2006.

What once was the lingo of a select group of "computer geeks" has now become an international phenomena. Entire businesses now thrive through such cyberpromotions, and power point presentations are often produced during private seminars, to be transformed later into podcasts used as cybertraining sessions.

It's an interesting glimpse into the wave of the future. Brace yourselves--it's here to stay...possibly morphing into the classrooms, (more than they have already), into cyberteachers of the podcast generation!

Online Dating Service is an online dating service. This appears to be an ideal way for seeking compatibility and companionship in a safe environment.

You could get in a chat room and get to know one another by the old-fashioned method of 'writing.' I know that when my husband (of 37+ years) and I had to attend separate colleges, we wrote letters and postcards to each other all the time.

We didn't have the option of computers to help us out back then, but we both felt that writing those letters helped us to truly get acquainted better, and we looked forward to receiving that snail-mail all week. In fact, aside from a phone call (which was long distance, and not through the prepaid minutes on the cell phones of today), receiving a letter was the height of our week!

It's no wonder that "You've Got Mail" was one of the hit romantic movies of this generation. There's just something about seeing the written word that makes you savor the re-reading of it, making it all the sweeter.

You can't be too careful in today's world of dating, to really get to know, respect, and yes--dare I say it?--be best friends with the people you date nowadays. And I think, if I were suddenly single again, like my widowed sister, that in time, even I might try this kind of service. Young people (and even the Baby Boomers) could relax a bit more about the dating scene, if they were to utilize a service such as this, to narrow down their 'possibilities.'