Monthly Archives: September 2010


A while back, I was reading my twitter feed and came across a retweet from a library colleague: Here’s a shot in the dark – Anyone know an Applied Geneticist willing to Skype into a high school biology classroom?

We have one of those right here at UMR. Kelsey is an amazing professor and a delightful, energetic person.  I thought she’d be perfect for something like this, and so I contacted her to see if she’d be interested.  As I suspected, she jumped at the chance and was excited to be part of it.

Jerry’s reaction (via twitter):

My PLN is AMAZING!! Looks like we’ll be able to get that Applied Geneticist to Skype into biology classroom. Never thought it would happen!  (I’m assuming his use of PLN means Public Library Network.)**

I gave both Jerry and Kelsey contact information, and the deal was struck.

Meanwhile, back in Florida, Jerry tweeted this:

Thanks to my PLN, we have booked an expert for an AP Biology class at my school. We’ll be Skyping with a geneticist from U of Minn. Amazing.

So soon, Kelsey will be getting up early and chatting with a classroom full of students in Florida.

There are a few things about this that strike me.  Firstly, how cool is this??  Secondly, it was wholly the use of social media that allowed this to happen.  I don’t know Jerry at all, and frankly am only peripherally connected to the person that retweeted the original request.  However, with the power of social media, a high school teacher in Florida was able to reach out and grab a biologist from Minnesota to guest lecture in his class.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, this could portend a new way of delivering education. If a professor at a major research university can guest lecture in a class a thousand miles away, who else can we get to talk to our students? How much more will the subject matter be brought to life if we can chat with experts actually doing the things the students are studying?

Finally, this is a lesson for all educators that are looking for resources, even those that at first blush don’t seem to fall into the purview of the library: Ask. Your. Librarian.  You’d be amazed at the things we can do. We naturally want to help people, and if it’s in our ability to do so, will find the resources you need.  Librarians have a terrific network and have no qualms about using it to find the things our patrons need.  So, ask.  We just may surprise you.

**Update**  Turns out Jerry’s acronym means Personal Learning Network. Leave it to me to assume it had something to do with librarians!


Filed under Academia, Customer Service, Libraries and Librarianship, Techie stuff

Never forget.

In light of recent events, it seems that the primary reason for all the drama has been lost.

Nine years ago tomorrow, everyone’s world changed.

Never forget.

Howard Kane, Rest in Peace.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon him.

Thanks to Project 2,996.

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Filed under Miscellaneous

New world

It’s a new school year, and for some of our students, a new world.

The nursing program here at MPOW has decided that the sophomore nursing students will have their textbooks this year as e-books.  I’m currently listening to the Elsevier rep talk about the e-books for the new nursing class.  Interesting delivery – rather stern grownup talking to children. Tries to make jokes about entering the faculty side of things rather than the student side, saying that there are students in Wisconsin that have tried and have been reported.  “Those Wisconsin people are cheaters.”  Niiiice.

No real training flow; it’s apparent this guy is a sales rep and not a trainer.  Which means, no doubt, that much of my time this semester will be to help these students figure out how to access this stuff.

The books themselves seem to have some nice features – video clips, learning activities, audio chapter summaries. 

(Has to re-log himself in at one point and has an aol email address.  Really??  I suppose that’s snobby of me, but…..really???)

The only training tip he has apparently picked up is to ask the occasional (insulting) question.  “Why would that be a good thing?  Anyone?”  (Bueller?)  There is no real flow to this presentation, to the point that I’m getting a bit confused as to what the students need to do.

I’ve now taken to asking leading questions to help clarify things. 

The books can be downloaded onto a computer.  Access also in the cloud; they can apparently be synched.  Can only be downloaded once, unless there’s a problem in which case tech support can help with an additional download.  Files are too big for a jump drive.  (Just suggested an external hard drive to a student that doesn’t have a home computer. That will work, apparently.  And so why didn’t he say so?  My sense is that, even though he’s the rep for a very techie product, he’s not very techie.  And problem-solving isn’t his gig.)

Not e-reader compatible, though an iPad might work.

Works on IE and Firefox.  Google Chrome not working properly right now (pointed out by a student.)

Once you get into the book, it’s fairly straighforward. Books allow you to highlight, make notes.  Different colors available.

One of the functions of the downloaded version is that the students can “friend” the faculty member and then share notes.  There is a social networking portion of this, so students can friend each other.  A study group could share notes and study together, for example.

Sorry, Elsevier, but this was a terrible training session.  For future reference, this technology is new enough that you need to send someone to actually do training, not just wander though the product.  This guy doesn’t know enough tech stuff to be able to answer what seem to be basic questions. And tends to blame the user, when in doubt. Keeps throwing them back to IT support for stuff that a trainer should know.

That being said, this will be an interesting experiment. having students use e-books instead of paper books may or may not work well for all, and it will be interesting to see how the students work with this product.  I’m already sensing some push-back from some of the students, and my guess is the issues of broadband access and/or dedicated computer access weren’t considered when the decision was made to do this.  (My experience is that many people in urban areas just don’t know that broadband simply isn’t available in many rural areas, no matter how much the customer might wish otherwise.)

I’m finding this product fairly user-friendly, but it may be a bit overwhelming for someone that isn’t terribly tech-savvy.  I have a feeling this is the wave of the future for textbooks.  The learning curve is going to be a bit steep for some. It will be interesting to see how this goes, and how different products from other vendors might look.

It’s a new world, even for a librarian with a virtual library.

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Filed under Academia, Libraries and Librarianship, Techie stuff