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L595: High Tech Learning

Fiesta 1

Roles
I think librarians are all of these roles in varying degrees. Personally, in my current professional position, I mostly fill the roles of collaborator and facilitator with teacher coming in a close third. I do not have many opportunities for mentoring but I am always learning. I use lots of computer software in order to help students, faculty, and others complete assignments, do research, organize themselves, and communicate. I also occasionally use electronic classrooms to teach specific library topics. I would like to have a mobile teaching cart which has a laptop and projector that I could then wheel into any classroom and teach. Preferably, the classroom would have internet access either through a wireless network or ethernet. I also maintain my branch library´s webpage and am currently working to get a blog started. I create electronic course reserves that students can access from any location. I use a shared network drive with other professionals in order to organize work files and maintain single, centrally accessed copies of important documents. I have not yet had opportunity to use instant messaging, teleconferencing (ie webcams), or wikis but can see this coming soon.

Web 2.0
The whole concept of Web 2.0 grabbed me. I have struggled for some time to find a nice term to use for the patterns I have noticed in recent years with the proliferation of blogs, wikis, and other open source or social online applications and resources. Very different from the concept of static pages, these resources dynamically live and interact. They actively engage the person exploring them. Much of this comes from a natural tendency for things to evolve into more usable forms- like students wearing a path through the quad despite the clearly defined concrete or asphalt paths laid for them to follow. The opportunities opened by the web have begun to create new virtual communities and nations where people communicate based outside of physical limitations. It has demonstrated that we create our reality to a very large extent and do not have to tolerate unacceptable situations.

Web 2.0 (a term coined by the O´Reilly Media Group according to David Tebbutt) does not refer to a whole new internet but to a change in the way information appears on the internet (Tebbutts, 1). Instead of basing web content on rigid rules and standards developed before the computer, Web 2.0 seeks a more present-centered approach. For example, folksonomies and wikis allow anyone to create content according to their knowledge and perspective instead of forcing them to conform to the standardized way of doing things. The technologies that make up Web 2.0 do not present static pictures or blocks of text, they invite users to interact and react.

More than that, Web 2.0 refers to a new kind of culture or subculture growing out of this. To paraphrase one librarian, "libraries are no longer places to be quiet" (Schibsted). Collaborative work and sharing space is ever more in demand and if libraries at their fundamental roots represent free speech and open forums for dialogue then Web 2.0 represents a blossoming of those venues. Social software resides at the center of the Web 2.0 concept- applications that allow social interaction on just about all levels rather than just "being lectured to" by a static webpage. Blogs represent the most prominent form of this. The blog changes and most even allow users to comment on the topics posted. Yet, the blog can function as a reference and news source as well. Allowing realtime and near realtime dialogs to take place on various topics without having to gather in person or deliver something like a letter physically while also allowing all others to read your posts.

RSS feeds, CSS valid XML webpages, mashups, etc. All of these Web 2.0 technologies and their proliferation mean that librarians and libraries must adapt and accommodate. Or does it? Mary Ellen Bates argues that librarians have often adopted new information technologies ahead of the curve thus helping to proliferate them and placing themselves on the cutting edge. So, the question then becomes not "how do we keep up with them?" but "how do we keep them up?" (Bates). This does not mean that libraries necessarily create technological trends but it does bring forth a valid point: how much of our constituency do we leave behind? In other words, looking forward to Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 (the library´s response and use of Web 2.0) does not mean leaving more traditional technologies behind. User information needs and styles for obtaining information will remain varied and so should library services.

It also means that we should take the time to catch ourselves up. The title of Marshall Breeding´s article Web 2.0? Let´s get to Web 1.0 first nearly says it all. Breeding argues that, yes, Web 2.0 is coming and should be looked at but it will all be meaningless unless the technology base supports it. Computers need to support XML, CSS, etc. if they are to handle Web 2.0 efficiently. This means more than just efficiency, too: Tebbutts made the point that "unless library users get the same quality of engagement they are used to from their internet-connected PCs, they will drift away and libraries will become marginalised" (Tebbutts, 15). So, the message seems clear: we must keep up with new technologies while keeping up our users but we must also make sure that the users keep up with us or become disenfranchised.

Technology
I am a huge fan of Corel WordPerfect. However, Corel has not supported the Mac OS for several years now and the Mac version of Word works reasonably well. I have been looking for some kind of open-source word processor for some time now. When I saw some listed on the text page for this assignment, I jumped for joy.

Initially tried OpenOffice.org´s Writer but did not want to take the time to download and install the X11 software I need for my Mac. Frankly, I am squeamish about adding such developer-type software to my computer. I may try it in the future when I have more time to figure out what I am doing with it.

So, I tried ThinkFree, the online word processing application. With your free registration you get 1 GB of online file space to save your documents. It also allows you to create spreadsheets and presentations all compatible with MS Office applications. The greatest advantage of this kind of service is that you can access your files from any computer connected to the internet rather than relying on storage devices and email attachments. You can also easily share files with others for review or delivery. You can even publish a document to have it accessible like a web page. Very useful and not institution based. Both Ball State and Indiana University have their own versions of ThinkFree as far as file storage goes: iLocker and Oncourse CL Resources, respectively. Neither of these services offers word processing nor linking to weblogs or other features offered by ThinkFree but the file storage and sharing are there.

The test file I created worked flawlessly when opening it in my Word application on my Mac. It is not a Word document- that is, I created it and saved it entirely in ThinkFree.com. Wonderful stuff.

This could easily be used in a learning environment to facilitate writing and file sharing without requiring anyone to buy software or storage. I can see immediate uses for distance education and online courses. Whole classes might be able to create a single log in and then do all of their work from that single account so that assignments are always available in the same place. In effect, if handled correctly, it could be used as a free form of OnCourse.

Just as the example in the description for step 4 said, much of the philosophy about software is beginning to change. It may seem that I merely stole the topic from this portion of Fiesta 1 but, honestly, I wanted to try out the alternative word processors because, as I mentioned in the previous section, I do not like Word and am always looking for something else.

ThinkFree.com and Web 2.0
Beyond just indicating a newly forming paradigm about software and online access, ThinkFree.com also satisfies the socially dynamic criterion of Web 2.0. Online file sharing and feedback mechanisms, blogging tools, and ways to send messages all in one spot allow users to collaborate and work collectively, bouncing ideas off one another, creating documents that might otherwise have come into being in isolation without the benefit of reviewing minds. Its accessibility from anywhere anyone has internet access endows a level of freedom to users that has heretofore not existed. ThinkFree.com frees users from carrying storage devices, worrying about upgrading their applications or even having to own their own applications, let alone a computer. Online applications like this embody a new paradigm in information sharing: open, dynamic, and user-powered. In fact, ThinkFree.com might be considered a mashup: part productivity tool, part blog, part online community.

Works cited

Alexander, Bryan. Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning? EDUCAUSE Review 41(2). Available online: http://www.educause.edu/apps/er/erm06/erm0621.asp?bhcp=1

Bates, Mary Ellen. 2006. Cutting edge or over the edge? EContent 29(5): 31.

Breeding, Marshall. 2006. Web 2.0? Letís get to Web 1.0 first. Computers in Libraries 26(5): 30-33.

Prensky, Marc. 2001. Digital native digital immigrant. On the Horizon 9(5): 1-6. Available online: href="http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Schibsted, Evantheia. 2005. Way beyond fuddy-duddy. Edutopia October. Available online: http://www.edutopia.org/magazine/ed1article.php?id=Art_1354&issue=oct_05#

Tebbutts, David. 2006. Playing a new service game. Information World Review 222: 13-15.


website created by: kevin e. brooks | email kevin at: kbrooks2@bsu.edu | updated: 17 November 2006