Surprise for our CDA’s

Jo-Anne, Jenn and I want to congratulate the CDA’s who successfully completed the Spring into Learning 2.0 program. The blogs you created were fresh, interesting and a lot of fun to view. To keep you going throughout the summer your supervisor Josie offered her 2.0 prize as an incentive. So who won? To find out check out the short video included in this post. Congratulations everyone.

August 23, 2007 at 2:46 pm Leave a comment

And the winner is…..

We’d like the final entry for Spring into Learning 2.0 to begin with some of your thoughts about the program:

  • I know for sure I would never have tackled a project like this on my own.”
  • “The whole exercise has encouraged me to continue exploring.”
  • “Much, much, much more fun than I could ever have imagined.”
  • “It seems like only yesterday that as novices, we were invited to join the 2.0 world and now, only a few short weeks later, we are masters!”
  • “In a few words it was fun, confusing, frustrating, refreshing, challenging but most enjoyable.”
  • “Although each activity did have its moments of frustration, I am glad that I got to learn all of it.”
  • “I found it fascinating to be able to read everyone’s thoughts and impressions. There is something to be said in the power of the pen – (or Pencil) as one blog so prominently pointed out!”

And we’re thrilled and tickled by how the program has even made an impact in your non-work lives!

  • “My youngest son still won’t add me as a friend in facebook and some of my nieces have warned me that some of the content might not be suitable for me.”
  • “My kids were REALLY surprised when Mum was on Facebook.”
  • “I made Wikis for party planning, helped my son make a blog with highlights of his trip to Europe, and set up RSS feeds that I’m using on a daily basis.”
  • “Learning 2.0 has inspired me to start working once again on my Web Master Certificate.”

Jo-Anne, Jenn and I are enormously proud of you and all that you’ve accomplished. And we’re super thrilled that you’ve had fun while doing it! We have loved looking through your blogs each week. It’s amazing to see how they’ve developed throughout the summer. And we know it hasn’t always been easy.

We had three goals when we started Spring into Learning 2.0:

  1. To discover how Web 2.0 technologies could be used to help our students.
  2. To collaborate – talk to each other – work together.
  3. To have fun and explore.

You’ve achieved every goal!

And now to put you out of your misery. The Library Technicians that have completed Spring Into Learning 2.o will each be receiving special incentive for a job well done. They will be sent to you shortly. Circulation desk assistants will receive a certificate of achievement for the successful completion of the Spring into Learning 2.0 program. Congratulations to all of you!

And now, the winner a Kodak Easy Share Camera is……


August 17, 2007 at 5:47 pm Leave a comment

Week 16, August 6: Wrap Up

Week 16 is wrap-up week!  Your final task is simple – summarize your thoughts and reactions to what you’ve learned over the past 15 weeks.

On behalf of the implementation team I just want to say that Jenn, Larry and I are thrilled with the work you’ve done. You’ve mastered every task presented to you with creativity and skill. Great work everyone – A+.

A+

August 7, 2007 at 3:58 pm Leave a comment

Week 15, July 31: Catch Up, Play and Relax

Spring into Learning 2.0 is coming to a close.  The final weeks will be your time to catch up, relax and play with the tools you’ve been exploring these last few weeks.  Don’t forget to let us know when you’ve completed a module.

August 1, 2007 at 5:50 pm Leave a comment

Week 14, July 23: Browser Tools

Here’s where it all comes together — in your humble browser.

You know those Web 2.0 tools that we’ve been exploring over the past few months? Increasingly they can be controlled, streamlined and tightly integrated into that basic piece of software we all take for granted — the browser window that we use every day for accessing, displaying and bookmarking pages on the Web.

Think of your car’s dashboard. At its most basic, it houses a steering column, speedometer and fuel gauge . That’s all you really need for driving.

But over the years, dashboards have come to accommodate a plethora of features, some of them useful for some people but less useful for others: ashtrays with cigarette lighters; tachometers; temperature gauges; pop-out cupholders; stereo units with MP3 jacks for your iPod; and even GPS-based navigation systems. Not to mention DVD players and Blackberry cradles.

At some point it becomes a question of how many functions — and how much distracting clutter — can be squeezed into the spaces around our steering wheels.

Well, now our browsers are up for grabs. Fortunately, we have control over what goes on them. We can customize Firefox or Internet Explorer (or Opera or the rest) as personal dashboards. We do it by downloading extensions — small add-ons that add new functionality.

But wait, this has been happening anyway, with more and more features creeping into our browsers.

Browser History 101

Rewind to late 2004: Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) had driven Netscape out of the marketplace and commanded more than 90% of the browser market. Then, some staff at Mozilla (the organization that had produced Netscape) came up with a new browser: Firefox.

Unlike Netscape, Firefox was not “bloated” with features. It was fast and sleek. Unlike IE at that time, it was very secure. And it introduced a new paradigm: tabs. Instead of spawning new browser windows on your desktop, you could have them arrayed as tabs within one browser window. Other innovations: a built-in Google search box, and a popup blocker. The browser dashboard was getting snazzier.

Quickly people began downloading Firefox, which now has nearly 15% of the browser market, eroding IE’s dominance. Eventually last fall, Microsoft released version 7.0 of IE, with much better security — and those cool tabs.

Third-Party Extensions

But something else happened, too. Because Mozilla is a not-for-profit corporation, it makes its source code available to everyone — “open source”. Soon third-party developers began creating free add-ons — those extensions — to enable people to access and use their favorite websites directly via Firefox’s toolbars. (You may recall that a similar thing happened with Facebook — open source code and an explosion of widgets.)

Today several dozen extensions are available for Firefox, in several categories — for example: bookmarks; downloading & file management; language support and translation; photos & media; privacy & security; Web data & alerts (e.g. RSS feeds); search tools; and Web-developer tools.

Pimp Your Firefox

Adding these add-ons is popularly known as “pimping your browser,” because of the way they spruce it up — like a customized Cadillac. Typically, these extensions pull live data to your toolbar — so you can browse headlines, for example, without having to visit the websites that the data come from. For example:

  • Local weather conditions when you mouse-over an icon;
  • New-email notification for multiple accounts;
  • the latest, most-popular del.icio.us bookmarks or Digg articles, available via a drop-down menu.

Other extensions let you work with the pages displayed within your browser window — customizing how Google pages look, for example. Firefox extensions for Web developers let you sample the colours on a page, or measure the size of a page’s images. Microsoft now lists extensions for IE, though there aren’t nearly as many as there are for Firefox.

The downsides of all this customization and personalization may be obvious. One is clutter — the more gizmos you add to your browser, the busier it looks and the more “real estate” it consumes on your screen, leaving less room for pages in your browser’s window, for example.

Also, it’s another form of bloat. If Firefox is checking your local weather + your email + Digg + del.icio.us every five minutes, that’s taxing your bandwidth as well as your PC’s resources, slowing down your browser and other functions. The fox no longer runs so much as trots.

Activities:

  • Look at the extensions for Firefox and IE. Examine what they do.
  • Download one and add it to your toolbar — you can always remove it later.

In your blog, respond to both these questions:

  1. Find an extension for Firefox or IE that you like. Explain why it’s useful.
  2. Looking at the extensions in general, do you think they’re useful tools? Give examples.
  • Also, if you haven’t downloaded Firefox, download it and explore it and blog about your impressions of it in comparision to IE.
  • Email your blog’s link to the gmail account.

Readings (optional):

Questions? Concerns? Email or phone Larry (x3535), or contact him via chat!

July 23, 2007 at 12:43 pm Leave a comment

Week 13, July 16: Second Life, Gaming and Virtual Worlds

What are virtual worlds?

Wikipedia describes virtual worlds very well: “A virtual world is a computer-based simulated environment intended for its users to inhabit and interact via avatars. This habitation usually is represented in the form of two or three-dimensional graphical representations of humanoids (or other graphical or text-based avatars). Some, but not all, virtual worlds allow for multiple users.”

planet.jpgTwo terms you will see often when discussing virtual worlds are: MMOGs and MMORPGs. MMOGs is an acronym for Massively Multiplayer Online Games. These are online games that many people (sometimes hundreds) play at the same time. All players inhabit the same virtual world and the world is available online 24×7 (except for computer maintenance downtime). Examples of MMOGs are Second Life and There. MMORPGs stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games. These are the same as MMOGs except that people can take on the role of an “avatar”. A lot of MMORPGs are in the fantasy genre and the avatars have special abilities or powers. Dungeons and Dragons is probably the most popular MMORPG and it pre-dates online games. Another popular example is World of Warcraft.

Virtual worlds in education and libraries

Libraries and educational institutions have been exploring the use of virtual worlds to educate and provide service. Recently there has been an explosion of these types of applications. See this long list to get an idea of the many organizations that are involved in educational projects in Second Life.

secondlife.jpgDefinitely Second Life has been one of the more popular environments that libraries have explored. Second Life is one example of an MMOG and was created by a company called Linden Labs. One of the first library organizations to enter Second Life was the Alliance Library System of Illinois. Alliance partnered with OPAL (Online Programming for All Libraries) to form Info Island, a “library island” on Second Life that provides reference as well as programming and space for library-related events and training. Health Info Island followed soon after. This island provides health-related reference service and consumer health-related events and programming. There are now many libraries in Second Life, particularly on the island called Cybrary City. Check out McMaster University’s library on Cybrary City.

Activity for this week

For this week’s activity, you’ll be registering for an avatar in Second Life, taking a photo while you’re there and then posting your photo and writing about your thoughts about Second Life in your blog. Specifically, write about:

  • Your ideas for how libraries could use Second Life to provide service or
  • Why virtual worlds and gaming should be of interest to us in libraries or
  • Your opinion on whether or not libraries have a role in Second Life and other virtual worlds.

Be sure to include your avatar name in your posting!

  • If you feel more comfortable, you can create an avatar in Second Life in teams of two or three and create one avatar for all of you. Just be sure to create separate blog entries in your individual blogs for this week’s activity and record your own thoughts and ideas on the questions for this week.

Here are the steps:

1.) Go to Second Life and register for an account (free). There is a big orange button on the left side of the home page. Click the button to sign up. Before you sign up you might want to think about what your avatar’s name should be. You will get to choose from a list of pre-determined last names. You can choose whatever you want for your first name. You can also choose to be male or female and human or animal (animal avatars are called “furries” inworld.)

2.) Download and install the Second Life software to your computer.

3.) Open Second Life and log in.

4.) To take a snapshot:

a.) Click File from the main menu.

b.) Choose Take Snapshot from the dropdown menu.

c.) Click the Save Snapshot to Hard Drive radio button.

d.) From the What Size Image Do You Need? Dropdown, choose 320×240.

e.) Click the Save button.

f.) Choose where on your hard drive you would like to save the snapshot. The file is saved as a .bmp file. Your desktop is usually a good location.

g.) Upload your snapshot to your blog as you normally would. TIP: If your blog tells you it doesn’t like the format of the snapshot, open the snapshot using Microsoft Paint. Save the snapshot as a .jpg file (choose File, Save As… and JPEG from the dropdown menu.) Try uploading the snapshot again to your blog.

snapshot-in-secondlife.jpg

An example of a snapshot taken in Second Life.

Second Life basic tips

* To search for a person, place or thing, click the purple Search button on the bottom bar. Be warned though that the search function is not very good. You can use the search button to search for Mohawk College. Just type Mohawk College (and be sure that “Place” is selected.)

* use your arrow keys to walk forward and backwards

* to get somewhere quickly, click the purple “fly” button on the lower bar. Use page up or page down to fly higher or lower. Use page down for a gentle landing after flying.

* If the Second Life world appears dark, choose World from the top menu and then choose Force Sun – then, choose a time of day.

* To save a place so that you can return to it later, click World from the top menu bar, then choose Create Landmark here. Your landmarks appear in your inventory. Click the purple Inventory button in the far right corner to access your inventory.

* Click the Map button from the bottom bar to get an overview of where you are situated or to go someplace quickly. Once the map is open, put your cursor on a location and click the Teleport button. This is sometimes better than using the Search button when you are looking for a particular location.

* To add a contact, click the Friends button on the bottom bar, then click the Add button. You can then be alerted when “friends” come online.

secondlife4.jpg

A snapshot of Mohawk College in Second Life.

Further readings

If you would like to read more about Second Life, here are some resources. If not, dive right into the activity for this week!

Edumove: Sites of interest to educators in Second Life: this web site shows you the highlights of the more interesting educational applications in Second Life. They point out such fascinating spaces as NOAA’s Meteora and the International Space Flight Museum: can’t miss destinations in Second Life!

Second Life Education Wiki: a place for educators to share ideas of how best to use Second Life in education. Gives you a sense of how Second Life can be used in an educational setting.

Who’s on Second? A podcast by Wayne Macphail who is a part-time instructor at Mohawk College and who designed the space for Mohawk College in Second Life.

Second Life: an introduction: some conference materials from Connections 2007 presented by Marilyn Gris, Wayne Macphail and myself.

July 16, 2007 at 2:06 pm Leave a comment

Week 12, July 9: Online Social Networks

Quick: what has 100 million members? The Republican Party? No — too small! The correct answer is a social network website called MySpace.

Remember when Dorothy said (at the end of The Wizard of Oz), “Oh, Auntie Em, there’s no place like home”? Well, social network sites are increasingly “home” for millions of students. When we speak of social networks, we increasingly mean MySpace and Facebook — websites that let users set up an account that’s like a little piece of turf where they can put all their personal information and invite their friends. In a very real sense it becomes their very own home or “presence” on the Web.

The Personal Web

There, they can store all their favorite photos and links (or, feed in their photos and links from sites like Flickr and del.i.cio.us). They can describe themselves and list their hobbies and favorite music and movies.

Facebook screenshotWhat’s more, all their friends are there, too. So it’s like a neighborhood, or a block party. And increasingly, these students are spending most of their Internet time in these environments — communicating with friends via internal email and chat, connecting with new people at their schools, and “writing” on each other’s “walls”.

Writing On Walls?

What these sites offer, in other words, are easy-to-set-up personal websites literally brimming with cool tools. For that reason, their popularity is enormous. Facebook is currently one of the hottest “properties” on the Web, and a likely takeover target by Yahoo! or Google.

Once you’re a Facebook or MySpace member, you can establish connections with your friends and join groups. Above all, Facebook and MySpace are ingenious networks, consisting of many separate networks based around things like schools, companies, and regions.

High School Confidential

For example, just click to find people who graduated from your high school the same year that you did. (Larry found only three — but then, older folks don’t tend to join Facebook!) Roughly 75,000 people belong to Facebook’s Hamilton, ON, network, while more than 40 belong to the Mohawk College Staff group. (Networks are big, groups are smaller.)

t-shirtIn fact, Facebook began life as a Harvard University student’s project to create an online yearbook. And to this day, Facebook is hugely popular with students, to the extent that older adults can feel out of place. (The New York Times recently ran an article titled omg, my mom joined facebook!!)

The Future of the Web?

Though MySpace remains more popular than Facebook overall (with more than 100 million registered accounts), it has come under criticism for being cluttered with ads and plagued with spam. While MySpace is more public and freewheeling, Facebook is more controlled, private and organized. And according to The Guardian, Facebook appeals to a higher socioeconomic class.

Both sites take an open-source approach, allowing people outside their companies to write applications that run on top of their networks. For example, applications that feed in your photos from Flikr, or allow you to “map” the countries you’ve visited.

There are, of course, other social network sites. Twitter features “instant communication”, whereby you can “blog” briefly (entries are limited to 140 characters or less) and throughout the day (whether from your computer or cellphone), giving your friends constant updates on your whereabouts, thoughts and impressions. Dogster and Catster are networks for the four-legged crowd. And now there’s Hamsterster, a site for caged rodents.

Activities:

  • Go to Facebook and set up an account. It takes just a minute or two. And don’t worry — it’s very private, and you can delete your account in seconds (if and when you want to). NOTE: your Mohawk email won’t work for Facebook — you need to use a different email account. If you don’t have another email account, join MySpace instead.
  • Once you have your account, find Larry’s profile (you can keyword search larry mccallum) and either send him a message (it’s very private) or “poke” him (poking is wordless, and it doesn’t tickle).
  • You will find that Larry’s profile is quite boring — he has very few friends, although he does have a slideshow of Newfoundland pictures embedded from his Picasa album. This is fairly typical of older people on Facebook.
  • Next, to see what a more typical profile is like on Facebook, keyword search for Larry’s niece: jen harrison. (HINT: she goes to Mercer Island High School and is pictured at right. Still can’t find her? Click on Larry’s “Friends”.)
  • Explore Jen’s profile. Note how many friends and photos Jen has and how many groups she belongs to (it’s mind-boggling). NOTE: Jen’s profile was “locked” but she’s unlocked it so you can see it. Also find and examine this profile: Crystal Smith-Langmead. Note how many applications and “widgets” Crystal has on her page — for her moods, feelings, food fights, etc.
  • Next, join a Facebook group or network yourself — either the Mohawk network or Mohawk College Staff group. (Remember: networks are big, groups are smaller.)
  • Have a look at the postings on the front page of Twitter — e.g. how brief they are.
  • Finally, blog about your impressions and send the blog’s permalink to the gmail address. (In the same email, include the name of your Facebook profile so Larry can find it, if you used a Facebook ID other than your name.)

Further reading (optional):

Questions? Concerns? Email or phone Larry (x3535), or contact him via chat!

July 6, 2007 at 8:54 pm Leave a comment

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