Category Archives: mobile

Transform Twitter into a Research Tool for Students

Today I went to a great jamboree of school librarians from all levels – university, high, middle, elementary, and a few in between (of course, I was my usual hybrid self).  This was a first step towards more effective communication in order to facilitate college readiness among K-12 students, and there was a lot of sharing and venting and struggling to get on the same page.  Lexiles and DIBELS and critical thinking– oh my!

I promised to share a fun tech tip on the College Readiness group wiki, and I will definitely post a link to this once my membership goes through.  Ready?

How to Research a Current Event Without Breaking a Sweat

1)  Make sure your cell phone plan is set to unlimited texting.

2)  Sign up for TWO Twitter accounts if you do not already have one.  You want a PERSONAL account and a RESEARCH account.  Since you can only have one Twitter account associated with a single email address, you can open that second Twitter account using Gmail (use your Gmailusername+researchprojectname@gmail.com).

2b) FOLLOW the research account with your personal account.

3) Log onto Twitter with your personal account.  Go into Settings and select Mobile.  Verify your cell phone number.  Make sure you follow the instructions on the right side of the screen with the phone icons – the ONLY account you want to have turned ON is your Twitter research account.  (The default for phone following is OFF so this is usually not a problem if you already follow lots of accounts.)

4)  Open a new browser tab.  Go sign up for Twitterfeed.  Give it your Twitter research account info.

5)  Open another tab, and find a news site that has RSS feeds for different topicsNYT or the BBC are good starting points, or you can pick a specialized site like AllAfrica that will have just the right info you need.  (Stymied?  Use the criteria in Consider the Source to select a good online news site.)

6)  Once you have an RSS feed selected, copy and paste it into your Twitterfeed account.  It will test the feed and make sure that the new posts from the RSS feed will now tweet out THROUGH your new Twitter research account.  You have effectively made a custom Twitter news channel!

7) Repeat steps 5 and 6 a few times as needed – don’t get too many, because you don’t want your phone blowing up constantly. (See @readersadvisory and @edunewsus as good/bad examples of custom Twitter news accounts I have created using many RSS feeds.)

8) By now, your phone should be texting you any new stories from the feeds you threaded through your research account.  Not only will these stories be stored in your research Twitter account (and you can Favorite the ones you want to use!), but they will also come to you in real time – reminding you about the project on a regular basis and letting you have immediate access to new information.

It sounds a little complicated (especially if you are not a current Twitter user or RSS feed master).  Yet this is a perfect example of how a typical social media site can be transformed into a powerful automated research tool!  Twitter is not just for sharing with colleagues or chatting with friends – it has the ability to transform your cell phone into a critical support system for schoolwork.

More Questions Than Answers: Month 3 of the Year of the E-book

First, a blog post got passed around on Twitter. Then the NYT picked up on it, and the following week this video was posted to YouTube:


(better version of this from Penguin’s Digital unit)

Got your mind properly blown yet? (Yes? Good.)

This is just the start of what promises to be a really ground-breaking year of user experience with e-content. In fact, I think we may have to stop calling them e-books. I knew that the iPad would be a game-changing device because of its ability to connect content with video and touch as well as connectivity, but to see its ability to utterly transform content is AMAZING.

I know we’re going to see more of this when the Microsoft Courier makes a debut, and as soon as the Asus eee Pad comes on sale later this year the market will be blown wide open. Just as the touchscreen smartphone became the norm in a little over 2 years, it will take even less time for tablets and “pads” to do the same.

But what else will be transformed? The evaluation of this content is going to be paramount for consumers – a traditional book or media review is not even going to start to cut it for interim consumers stuck between now, where we are in a real Wild West stage of development and innovation and the future, where (hopefully) standards for e-content will emerge… in some way or another. The same e-content could look radically different on one device than it does on another, and lose or gain functionality when ported to yet another.

I’ve said in the past that digital content needs to be device agnostic, and I’m willing to stick to that as an ideal for now. But things are getting very interesting, and it is nearly impossible to deny at this point that the publishing, reviewing, and bookstore/library industries are getting ready to pass through a fundamental change. Will consumers who bought a Nook only three months ago be satisfied once they see what their money could have bought in Apple’s iPad bookstore? Can Kindle fanatics reconcile themselves to plain black and white e-ink when interactivity and animations are available on new-style tablets?

Let’s see what Q2 of 2010 brings.

Happy 2nd Anniversary from IL2009

I’m excited to celebrate 2 years of blogging here! I wanted a new place to collect library thoughts so began this blog at IL2007 in order to do just that. This has been a great space for me to explore the random library, education, and literature-related ideas that flow through my head. Sometimes I feel like I should have named this blog schooling.ME because that’s a more accurate way to describe it :) Having a dedicated blog space has really helped me to think deeply about all the bits and scraps I read about in my RSS feeds, tweet about on Twitter, and text about with friends.

That said, there are even more issues (relatively speaking) this year at IL as compared to two years ago. I have been following the Twitter backchannel chat and trying to pull out the themes that seem to be dominating the conversation this year:

THANKS. First, thanks to all who attended our presentation yesterday, with @lorireed & @librarianbyday & myself (@erindowney). For the lady in the audience who wanted to learn more about RSS, I recommend my wiki at http://cyber64edu.wetpaint.com/page/aggregators%2Freaders and to follow up with http://tinyurl.com/2rf25c . Good luck and drop me an email if you’re not feeling it gel for you!

PART ONE from Bobbi Newman
PART TWO from me:

NOSTALGIA. Despite our love of all things shiny & techno, there was a lot of talk in the keynotes about the solitary experience of reading, the scent of paper, and the sensory cues that tune us into this alternate world of deep contemplation. Although we acknowledge that libraries provide a new and wonderful node of community convergence, walking the line between preserving that singular & personal experience with information and the collective experience with the same is proving difficult for us emotionally. (Imagine how this affects how our patrons see us!)

CONTROL. Directors and other decision-makers are no clearer, according to attendees, about the fact that controlling dialogue online is at best illusory and at worst dictatorial. Transparency and extension of professional trust is the sentiment of the day. The boat has sailed: Internet communication means that we’ve created a sort of uber-democracy where voices cannot be stifled, no matter how much we may not want to hear them. The new proactive approach to service is to constantly scan the conversation and to become a part of it in productive, positive, and meaningful ways. Not participating is no longer a viable option.

LEARNING. Folks have expressed in various forums that libraries are still doing something very well – being one of those places where true learning can take place and personal passion can be pursued. Traditional schooling and the idea of teaching is transforming mightily, and the attendees here seem to be of the opinion that creating life-long learners is a process happening outside traditional institutions of learning. But this means letting go of our egos and seeing ourselves as coaches or facilitators rather than “teachers,” and is a point of friction.

RADICAL CHANGE/BUREAUCRACY. This dichotomy is not working for people. Librarians need to be set free to experiment, to fail, to try and dabble and poke about in order to bring about the change that’s needed to keep up with our users. The world is moving very quickly, and we stand the chance to exponentially lose street cred & relevance. Red tape, delays, paperwork, and other things keep us lumbering along like the dinosaurs (and many see us this way). Flexible, nimble, and ephemeral teams are more relevant as an organizational structure for today’s library.

From my perspective, these were all topics we were talking about 2 years ago at IL2007 but today’s conversations are much more intense. Transformative change only occurs when we can get our home institutions on board and gain critical mass with our own coworkers. If IL2007 was “try something new,” IL2009 is “DO something NOW!”

Even more e-readers, and mobile thoughts

At our annual Staff Day extravaganza on Columbus Day, Columbus Metropolitan Library‘s director Patrick Losinski gave a nice keynote about today’s library challenges and opportunities. His library concentrates on three key constituencies: young minds, power users, and virtual users. I think these are three sets of people you’d do well to make your primary service groups…

And speaking of power users and virtual users, I’ve kept rounding up the e-reader news & thinking about the issues. Check it out:

B&N E-Reader goss as well as SCOOP!

Spring Design reader will reportedly feature the Android OS

NYT weighs in:
Libraries & (digital) readers
and also
Brains and electronic reading

Mother Jones on ecological aspects of e-reading

I downloaded a book (and I liked it… sort of)

I felt as though, after my last post, I should play more with electronic books so that I can speak from a position of experience. So, I fired up my Kindle app on my iPhone – downloaded only because it was free – and flipped through my purchases, such as they were. I had only downloaded a short story and a few sample chapters, so I had no real experience at extended reading on my phone.

Because I’ve been enjoying the TV show True Blood based on Charlaine Harris’ novels, I decided to try the first in her Sookie Stackhouse series. I had flipped through them years before, and thought I might give them another try. After all, reading tastes change and I needed an “average” book to try out: something I would have bought in paperback, not too long or too short, just an average sort of book in order to get an average experience reading using Kindle.

Well, that was a mistake.

Dead Until Dark was a fun little book. So fun, in fact, I was eager to see what happened next in the series. And with an electronic book, all you have to do is hit the download button. It’s like a direct delivery system for book addicts; Kindle crack, if you will. The rush of instant gratification was a little magical and a little thrilling. There I was, in the backseat of a car, and within moments I was reading the continued tales of a vampire-dating waitress from Louisiana. I was about as happy as a real book lover could possibly be.

But that feeling didn’t last very long after I was done. For me, books are just about as social as anything else in the world. So of course I started thinking of people I would recommend this series to. And I realized that I could recommend all I liked, but that I wouldn’t be able to lend them my copies of the books! I’d have to hand over my phone in order to lend out my “books.” And in my mind, that’s a big loss. One of my big readers’ advisory mantras is that recommendations are only as good as your ability to connect the reader and book as fast as possible. Nobody likes to wait, and there’s a reason why Big Chain Bookstores engage in the “here, let me hand you the merchandise” practice: it cements the deal.

So while the e-book version was convenient for me as a solitary reader, it led me into a dead end. Even if I was able to “gift” my digital copy to another reader, it would still only be able to be read on an iPhone or a Kindle itself. I think the experience left me a little poorer than it found me – although now I’ve read the books, I’m not able to share that with other people unless they are willing to pay about $6.00 and go out to find the books themselves.

I’m inclined to think that this hurts the publishing industry more than it supposedly helps them. I rarely lend out an entire series of books, but I frequently lend the first copy in a series to friends and colleagues who are willing to give them a try. How many subsequent sales does that drive? Also, the price point seemed pretty arbitrary to me. I could pay between $2.00-$6.00 for a used paperback copy for the same book locally, and have the residual value of the physical book left over for sharing, etc. In theory, e-books are so cost-efficient to deliver to the consumer that it totally disrupts the distribution model. You only need one copy of the book on a central server to make a copy of for each reader, so I hope more of the profits would go to the writer (but I strongly suspect this isn’t really the case). And finally, publishers are losing their cheapest form of free advertising. Nobody I encountered that day knew I was sitting there reading Dead Until Dark. They had no clue. When carrying around a physical book in public, I usually get at least basic questions from people I encounter like “is that any good?” or “do you like it?” Now those chance encounters are all closed off.

So in the pros column, we have convenience and portability as well as instant gratification. But in the cons column, I experienced a lot of frustration in trying to share my reading experience. E-books also seem expensive given their limitations and restrictions.

While I won’t be repeating this experience with downloadable audiobooks (I am notoriously unable to listen to books, so it wouldn’t be a fair experiment), I do feel like I’ve gotten more insight on the electronic reading experience. If anyone has thoughts to share, I’d like to hear what you have to say in the comments section.

Uglies free online!


One of the most popular series for teens is a limited-time free download in .pdf format! Of course, they’re promoting Westerfeld’s newest book, Leviathan, but who can complain about that? As more and more publishers make their works available in online forms, I can see more and more ways that you could leverage this free/cheap material for classroom use. Of course, the best aspect of the online text is its infinity – instead of having to police limited numbers of physical copies and tell students to hustle and read so others can have access too, every student could log in and read online, or download to their personal device– no waiting.

On a related note, education stands to gain the most from asking publishers to give up on DRM and concentrate on better ways to maximize revenue.

Technically speaking


This week was pretty productive, technically speaking. I did a Cyber 6 Pack workshop with some school library media specialists, and made lots of notes about how I need to adjust the presentation as I forge ahead. But in other news, we discovered that we might have problems giving wireless access to a local school participating in a 1:1 laptop program (Macs!).

Our crack IT teams are exploring the issue and will try to isolate the problem. Even though this school isn’t in our service area, the kids with the laptops use our libraries. I think it’s vital to provide all users with a great experience to the best extent possible, so the outcome of this situation is important to me. Plus, when we have users bringing in their own laptops it greatly eases the demand for our desktops – resulting in more access for all patrons. It’s a win – win.

Another awesome thing I saw this week was a recording studio in a NZ library. I have agreed with colleagues for some time that what we need is a sort of library “gadget lab,” where users can come in and explore new technology and find out what it’s all about. If it doubled as a recording studio for video and audio, all the better! We are doing more and more podcasting and vidcasting so a room like this would help us as well as patrons. It’s called Beatbooth, and lots of users are flocking to its affordable hourly rates and cool library location. You couldn’t wedge a 5 piece band in there, but it’s got a keyboard, mic, and Mac. Awesome :)

Trends in Mobile Tools & Applications for Libraries

Megan Fox, Simmons College presenting.
web.simmons.edu/~fox/mobile

Mobile tools are part of daily life for our patrons – how can we be part of our patrons’ info-seeking lives? It’s not a “librarian” v. “handheld” dichotomy… it’s how to be part of that handheld life.

Ubiquity of mobile devices: 3 billion mobile phones v. 1 billion PCs. 80% of teens use text messing regularly. They say that email is only for “business.” More users are being equipped to do more and more with their mobile devices! She shows us a lot of nice phones with qwerty keyboards, new interfaces for input, like thumbpads and sliders. Points out the larger screens to better use multimedia content and video/pic capabilities. Oooh, iPhone: the holy grail of mobile messaging. Of course, I noted earlier in the conference that attendees with iPhones were ultra-mobile and constantly connected… totally unlike those of us struggling for a wifi connection. She’s pointing out the multi-touch interface and orientation both horiz and vert. She calls them “gesture devices?” Nokia’s 810 is similar but also have a slide-out keyboard. Verizon Voyager has that same look but has a clamshell full qwerty keyboard. Centro by Nokia is a mass-market version of the same for only $100.

Handheld computers – UMPC Ultra Mobile Personal Computers. 7″ or smaller display… Samsung Q1 ultra has keyboards on both sides of the screen so you don’t take up that real estate with a screen-based keyboard input device.

Mobile web demands a different sort of information coming their way… shorter text, simplified pages, etc. All quite logical.

Strategies for facilitating our info stream to mobile users:
.mobi domains and Zinadoo
Search engine: Find.mobi

ILS vendors offering mobile optimized catalogs… all the major players getting into this. Making library staff LIS modules with barcode reader attachments like the ones we’re testing now. Pocket circ mentioned. Wireless workstation = Innovative.

Answers.com has released a mobile interface. Mobifusion has partnered with traditional pubs like Worldbook and etc. to provide content. This is of high interest to schools, I should think. Why purchase sets of encyclopedias when kids can get stuff on mobile devices in the classroom?

Transcoding: Squeezer.net the big player. Services are seen by originators as bastarding their content?!? They strip out stuff like javascript and things that might slow down the data transfer. (i can’t find a good link; I may be misspelling this)

Databases are addressing mobile interfaces – and talking about doing it out-of-house by licensing someone like Squeezer. Other content is being mobilized through iPods, SparkNotes, and etc. Test prep also popular. Britannica is available for iPod!!! I can see us having to help patrons convert content for vacations, etc. if they want some of our info to be mobile. We will need to look at how we offer different versions of our info – 5 years from now we will def. need to offer “standard” and “mobile” versions of database logins, etc.

90% of all music downloads in Japan are to mobile phones.

Wifi is increasingly popular for downloading content. Spoken word study materials are gaining popularity. iTunesU is big in universities. Shows us the iPod Touch – basically a non-phone iPhone. I can see that lending devices or having a “Device lab” for patrons may become an important thing for those wanting to see what our content will be like on different platforms.

Museum411, OnCellsystems, etc. are using your own device to give you a tour of a facility. Great for libraries! She mentions Google SMS use. HarperCollins Australia are sending book extracts to phones for promotions this way.

Simmons can now send citations to students’ phones via text! This would make the catalog very handy for us… mentions Teleflip and GizmoSMS. I know we’re heading in the right direction this way. Wake Forest is integrating a whole host of campus services via cell and text. Clicker systems offer a great way for a classroom to quickly assess students’ “temp” in class.

(Note: this is an excellent .edu presentation. It should have been adapted for the Internet@Schools track.)

So what’s next? Companies are working to “push” ads to your mobile device. They’re offering small discounts in exchange for watching or listening to ads. As in Asia, they’re moving towards only carrying the cell to pay for purchases, etc… libraries will have to find a way to roll our cards into these devices too. Google Checkout now has a mobile version! Gpay is a new service, coming up. Projectors are being built into cell phones for sharing – SUPER HOT. Glasses that project from a mobile device are also being developed. Gyroscopic interfaces being developed as well for mobile devices so that you can tilt and flick to quickly read things without lots of buttons, etc.

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