Thursday, August 14, 2014

Teaching Coggle

In structuring my lesson, I really tried hard to design it in a way that was simple, without being simplistic.

In other words, in showing the class how Coggle worked, I wanted to convey to them the primary attraction of Coggle–its ease-of-use–without getting bogged down in over-explanations and unnecessary information, while simultaneously avoiding falling into the trap of not so much teaching a lesson as merely giving them step-by-step directions. It's a tough line to walk–you have to make sure that the audience feels suitably involved, while at the same time reinforcing to them that you are the "expert" of said application–but on the whole, I'd say that I'm proud of the balance that I found.

Monday, August 11, 2014


For my pathfinder assignment, I decided to focus in on a resource/tool that I have become increasingly passionate about over the course of the last year or so–eBooks and eReaders–and attempted to create an "introduction" of sorts to the medium, laying out not only the specific forms that eBooks come in, but also–more specifically–what role they look to play in libraries' futures.

What I really like about Blendspace–both as a "pathfinder" tool and just as an instrument in and of itself–is the way that it allows you to chart out each and every step of the presentation, in accordance with exactly how you would like to have it delivered. While the site more or less presents itself as an educational tool, meant primarily for teachers and students, I could totally seem myself using Blendspace in a corporate setting, just as much as I could see myself using Powerpoint or Prezi.


For my database tutorial assignment, I decided to use QuickCast as my application, in order to create a short video demonstrating the use of Pocket, an application I discovered via this class that I have  come to absolutely love. Pocket essentially lets you save and download any web article that you like for later reading. For me, as someone who seems like I am always waiting in some form or fashion–taking the Metra, waiting in line at the grocery store, etc.–it's a huge boon, letting me catch up on all of my bookmarked articles during times that I would ordinarily spend just...well, waiting.

As far as QuickCast goes, while I was initially apprehensive about approaching yet another high-tech web application, I found the screencasting tool to be absolutely fantastic–intuitive, simple, and–most importantly–actually rewarding. It felt good to create a video for others in which I got to explain an application that I've come to love...and to do it in a way that was so professional and so easy to do was, in a weird way, strangely fulfilling.


I won't lie: out of all of the assignments that we have completed so far for this class, the 'digital storytelling' project–in which we created a video via iMovie–has been by far the toughest yet. It has also been, however, the most rewarding.

Prior to this class, I had never even touched iMovie, or any software even remotely similar to it. So, when we were assigned to create a video that served as a promotional tool for some sort of material, I had no idea where to even begin. Yet over the course of several panicky, exciting, stress-filled days, I slowly got a handle on iMovie–all of its various ins and outs, design quirks, capabilities, controls and commands–and was able, with the help of group members Sue and Jenny, to create a video promoting our "Thing That Move" Makerspace. It might not win any Oscars...but darn it, if I'm not insanely proud of what we were able to make.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Flyers, flyers, flyers...

With the exception of the blue-colored header, there wasn't a whole lot of similarities between my paper-flyer and my Smore-flyer, despite my having created the Smore-flyer first, which was suggested in the instructions for the assignment. Part of it has to do with the mediums, I suspect–Smore is a very specific program, and anything that is created within it is inherently going to abide by a certain set of principals, while Word is by design much less structured and, in turn, a bit more freeing to play around with.

As I mentioned, with the Smore-flyer, I basically just filled out the template that was provided, injecting personality where I could (the aforementioned color blue; the book covers; the link to the Banned Books Week YouTube page). With the paper-flyer, I tried to be a bit more experimental, and decided to have the main focus of the page be a picture of novel, opened wide, with all of the words blacked out and censored, and the single word 'BANNED' pasted loudly over it. Then, on the lower portion of the page, I detailed the where, when, what... My thinking in doing this was birthed mainly from the sad truth that most paper flyers are rarely't even looked at, let alone read over and examined. To get eyeballs to actually stay on the flyer and process the information on it, there needed to be something special, something deliberately showy. The picture of the censored novel with 'BANNED' pasted over it proved to be that 'something.'

Monday, August 4, 2014

Trailer for "The Passage"

The Passage

I really enjoyed working with Animoto to create a trailer for my selected book, Justin Cronin's "The Passage." While it certainly wasn't the complete Animoto experience–the site only allows for thirty free seconds, basically just long enough for a quick demo reel–I enjoyed my time enough that, in the future, I could totally see myself using Animoto in a larger capacity. With a slick interface and easy-to-follow-directions, there's a lot to like here.

Banned Books Week!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Prezi: A Love Affair

I very much enjoyed my time working with Prezi. Not only was I impressed by its sleek presentation, but I was particularly taken aback by its functionality. This isn’t to say that I was expecting Prezi to be inaccessible or difficult to use, because I wasn’t. However, I also wasn’t expecting Prezi to completely trump every other major ‘presentation’ software that I’ve ever used–Powerpoint, Google Tools, etc.

By far my favorite thing about Prezi was the way that it allowed my group and I to work on our presentation simultaneously. Seeing my partners Jenny and Sue tinkering with various aspects of the presentation as I myself worked on it at the same time was incredibly cool, and made communicating with them about specific choices very easy.

I will say this against Prezi: it’s a lot of fun, both to work with and to watch presentations created with it. However, as much as I liked the ‘road mural’-structure of our presentation, I’m not sure how much I would be able to use it in, say, a corporate setting, as opposed to a school setting, where the flashy colors and cute graphics would enhance the viewer’s enjoyment of the presentation’s information, as opposed to distracting from it, as they might in a corporate setting.

A passion for eBooks...

Over the course of my time at Dominican, I’ve discovered a passion for eBooks that I didn’t know existed–more specifically, a passion for eBooks within the library. I have yet to encounter a library–either public or academic–that seemed completely comfortable with eBooks, both in how they operate as well as in how to integrate them into the library’s circulation. This, in turn, leads to confusion for those patrons who would like to attempt to dip into the eBook field…but since their library seems just as confounded as they are regarding eBooks, they are essentially left with a nifty eReading device that they basically have no clue of how to use.

For my brochure, I decided to focus on eBooks, taking my own library’s digital offerings–via the program OverDrive–and creating a simple, step-by-step instructional guide for users to use when they want to check out digital items. I’m fairly proud of my brochure, and have already talked to the Adult Circulation manager at my library about handing them out to patrons who come in with questions. I’m hopeful that not only will the brochure help to give patrons a better sense of confidence when it comes to handling their eReader, but will also give my library a feeling of competency towards this newly emerging medium that they have yet to have obtained.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Prezi: Man, What a Tool...

What I really liked about Prezi as a tool was how it essentially just followed the standard PowerPoint model...albeit with some especially cool and interesting features thrown in for good measure. The ultimate look of our Prezi–we went with the 'country road' design–was shockingly sleek; I still find myself having trouble getting past just how cool a lot of the stuff that we are playing around with in this class is, and the Prezi might just be the coolest thing we've gotten to use yet. By literally "sucking" you into the presentation, as opposed to just the standard Powerpoint slide-cut-slide-cut-slide-cut, Prezi not only makes your work seem more professional and top-of-the-line...but it also makes it fun. And being 'fun' is one of those things, particularly when it comes to topics like Makerspace and other educational-esque materials, that cannot be underestimated.

As I mentioned in my Inventory posting, I wrote the Inventory paper, which then I, Sue, and Jenny used as our guide when making the Prezi. Probably the coolest thing about Prezi, in my opinion, was the way that it allowed multiple users to work on a project at the same time. It was fairly mind blowing the first time that I logged on to work on the Prezi, and saw that not only did Jenny happen to be on at the same time...but I could literally see her mouse dragging and dropping various things across the screen! Talk about Big Brother!

Compared to Google Presentation or Microsoft Powerpoint, the answer is easy: Prezi takes the cake. It's just as user-friendly as both of those tools, but more importantly, the final product is just more interesting. I suppose that, if you were in an especially corporate environment, perhaps some of the additional features that Prezi offers might not be appreciated or appropriate...but in a school or library setting, where you are trying to get particular information across to your audience? It's hard to ignore just how much Prezi offers, both in its looks and its usability.

The Makerspace Inventory

Writing the Makerspace inventory was a fun, albeit slightly overwhelming process. Having to take the entire project's inventory into consideration is hard enough, but having to then also elaborate on what our aims as a group were, who we were specifically trying to target, why we chose the concepts and materials that we was this more 'contextual' material that proved to be the hardest stuff to really nail down and articulate inside of a compelling paper.

My group members, Sue and Jenny, did a great job divvying up the information and shooting it my way. Our "process" involved both Sue and Jenny finding the requisite information on our Makerspace materials, then sending said information over to me, where I  crafted the paper that we then collectively used as our "guide" to creating the Prezi presentation. Looking over both the paper and the presentation, I'm proud of what we accomplished: we had a really good core idea for the Makerspace, we set up a four-week class that had distinct aims and goals, and we even came in under budget. All in all, while tough at times to juggle all of the various strands of the paper, I think that writing the Makerspace inventory was a rewarding exercise, as well as a nice "first step" into the overall "Makerspace" concept.

Friday, July 18, 2014


Overall, I was really impressed with both the template for the () and the way that the technology allowed me, Sue, and Jenny all to edit and collaborate together at the same time.

We split up the group work into three sections: Sue took the School Improvement page, Jenny took the Literacy Culture page, and I took the Contact Us page. While there's an innate limit to just how much you can fit inside a Contact Us page, I did try to give it a proper facelift: I deleted what information was there and replaced it instead with a list of the three of ours email addresses, with the offer being that, should anyone need help, they can email us (theoretically). I also included the Rebecca Crown public library phone number, as well as a banner from the site, just to give the page a little bit more personality.

This hews pretty close to what I envisioned a "virtual learning commons" looking like. The way that the three of us are able to edit the same piece of work at the same time is a huge plus, and comes with a ton of great potential for quicker communication.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Choosing Blogger

As you can already tell, I ultimately chose Blogger as my blog-tool-of-choice. I did this for a few reasons.

The main reason I decided to go with Blogger was simply because of its ease-of-use. It may sound cliche, but in all honesty, Blogger–out of all of the options listed–was just the one that seemed to me to be the easiest to grasp. What's more, as a relative newbie to this whole blogging thing–as evidenced by my blog that I created last week–I can personally attest to the fact that Blogger is very user-friendly and not overwhelming in the slightest, meaning that as a potential tool in helping patrons/teaching students/delivering presentations/etc., it could be extremely handy.

I liked a few of the other options on the list–Quora was decent, and I almost went with WordPress, which had a similarly easy-to-absorb interface. On the whole, though, Blogger was just the one that I came away from the most impressed with. It's a testament to Blogger's design that I already feel completely comfortable with how to use it.

Challenges to Digital Literacy

To me, the challenge that would seem to be the most difficult to overcome out of the five challenges listed in the "School Libraries Cultivate Digital Literacy" piece would be choice #4, Instructional Time. What's tricky about this notion is that, while it might seem like a relatively simple issue–after all, how hard could it really be to teach kids how to use different technology tools?–the actual process of educating students on how various technologies work is something that is going to take a lot of patience and is going to come with a lot of 'wrinkles.'

By 'wrinkles,' I'm referring to unexpected issues that inevitably crop up. Educating a classroom full of students on how a particular program works is bound to come with its share of difficulties. Not every student will gain as strong a grasp on the program as others; truthfully, the same could be said for any material that is taught, be it math, English, history, etc. The only real difference with teaching a computer program or technology tool is that there is a lot more at stake, financially. This leads me to the main reason that I think that finding and using Instructional Time will prove more difficult than one might initially assume: how does one determine with relative definitiveness which programs will prove beneficial?

With math, English, history, etc., there's more or less one way to learn to do something...but when it comes to technology, there are various tools that all do the same thing, albeit via different directions and processes. What's more, the amount of various tools is only ever increasing, making for more and more potential options...and in the process, making it tougher and tougher for teachers to experiment, try out, and ultimately select the program that they want to integrate into their curriculum. The goal when it comes to educating students on a new concept is to make it as easy to grasp and understand as possible...but with technology changing so rapidly at such a fast rate, the challenge for teachers will be knowing which tools to devote their precious class time to instructing students on how to use.