I met one of my most trusted professional collaborators and dear friends at an orchestra camp when I was 16 years old. I hated high school and was generally dour, a surprise to those who know me post-college. Trying to make sense of my identity in a community that was not accepting of difference didn’t give me much to smile or laugh about. Playing classical music was my outlet and I met wonderful, supportive friends through that venture. But no one made me laugh quite like Carla Martin did between rehearsals in the middle of Maine in 1998.
We lost touch when we went to college, but thanks to a Mark Zuckerberg production called Facebook, we reconnected when we were both working in Cambridge in 2008. We talked a lot about teaching and higher education since we were both in graduate school, me in library school, Carla in a ph.d program at Harvard. As our responsibilities shifted towards classroom work, we both noticed on Twitter that we were experimenting at the intersection of humanities, social science, and technology. We started talking more about what works in classrooms and what doesn’t, what types of tools are available and how to recast products in an academic context. Talking about our work in the context of the digital humanities community has only put the uniqueness of our relationship into focus.
Last week, we presented a flipped session about faculty-librarian collaboration at Digital Humanities: The Next Generation. As Lindsay Whitacre noted in her presentation on Saturday, “DH is not just a new set of tools and methods, it’s a new set of relationships.” I and many others have said before that Digital Humanities is a team sport, a collaborative venture that cannot be sustained by lone wolves or solitary geniuses. Digital Humanists must be as serious about building and sustaining relationships as they are about building tools.
My relationship with Carla is one of those important ones. I am a better librarian for knowing her, for listening to her talk about the logistics of scaling up digital projects to larger classes, for asking questions about how to support first generation students with skillfully crafted assignments and syllabi, and for helping me better understand how librarians can support junior faculty with their institutional knowledge. She’s forthcoming with examples of assignments that work, for thinking about new ways of marketing courses, and for hands-on activities in classes that I can talk about in my local community. We don’t work for the same institution, so our conversations are casual collaborations, but we can practice communication strategies we can bring home and use in our local contexts.
Our presentation dealt with miscommunications between librarians and faculty. It’s an elephant in the room when we talk about how to thoughtfully incorporate technology into classrooms. Some faculty may have an expectation that librarians and technologists passively will enact whatever they want. Other librarians may have a fear that faculty don’t value them professionally. Some faculty may feel like librarians can be passive aggressive with them when talking about workloads. Other faculty may feel like librarians can be dismissive of their technology skills. Bad communication patterns are also reinforced by higher education hierarchies that put faculty at the top and librarians towards the bottom. In my experience, librarians and faculty have excellent, complementary skills that when put in service of students, learning and research can be a powerful force for good. Librarians are masters of process; the research process, increasingly in many cases, how to manage technology projects or experimenting with technology in their practice. Faculty are masters of the content, experts in their field. I read a quote on the Feral Librarian’s blog this week from Deborah Jakubs:
“…librarians are learned and talented and bring skills and attitudes and services to the university that most regular faculty both admire and need. So rather than constantly trying to compare ourselves to faculty, and often coming up short, let’s celebrate the differences and complementarity.”
Why not leverage these complementary skill sets to build a relationship to enable digital humanities, whether it be in a research or classroom setting?
In addition to providing tangible benefits to our students and to our faculty, I think individual faculty and librarians themselves can benefit from working in teams and from participating in engaged professional relationships. Beyond doing my job better, my relationship with Carla and other faculty members enrich my life and work generally, especially since we still laugh as hard together as we did in 1998.
When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad in 2010, many people bemoaned it as just a consumption toy aimed at dilettantes who were interested in gaming and viewing cat videos. No one would use the iPad for any meaningful creation, tweeted angry internet users. The hype built; zealous Apple fans slept outside stores to buy the first generation iPad. Personally, I wasn’t ready to spend the money or brave the crowds to purchase the device, but I was also unwilling to write it off. I read reviews and critiques, marveled at the iPads I encountered in the wilds of Yale’s libraries. The introduction of the iPad came at a point in my career when my technology confidence was at a low; I was trying to figure out what I needed to learn, where I needed to go to advance my young career. I knew something needed to change, I just did not know what quite yet.
I soon found my answer in that September when I broke down and bought an iPad. It was love at first swipe.
At first, I primarily used iPad as a reading device; I replaced paperbacks at home with ebooks and furtive reading breaks at work with saved articles in Instapaper to read at night. I wrote email and tweeted at conferences. It became my constant companion at work and on the couch. However, my first generation iPad wasn’t a device I used to do any meaningful writing beyond emails and social media updates. Was I a dilettante? However, I began experimenting with the iPad in classrooms and random office hacks where few other people in my places of employ necessarily were. I gained confidence and when I started my new job at Hampshire, I ran with mobile devices and pedagogy at warp speed.
Last year, I purchased a third generation iPad. The purchase coincided with me traveling and blogging frequently. My adventures in technology let me to work with Markdown and PlainText. Digital Humanities became a core part of my job. Writing took on renewed importance in my life. During the fall semester, I began writing exclusively in PlainText and publishing my blog in Markdown using the nifty iOS app, Poster. I began writing in the app Drafts. Slowly but surely, I found that I began using my iPad more frequently than my laptop and that I was using my iPad to write more than to read. I suppose the consumption palace was giving way to creation after all.
I became a more thoughtful creator with the iPad as I gained more confidence with technology, which might seem counterintutiive. Apps like Poster and Drafts helped me wade into Plaintext and Markdown. As I gained confidence and learned more, I became a more educated technologist. My writing benefited too; I love being able to follow up on fragments of ideas, or on a photograph. Writing in Drafts made that possible. I always hated writing in long-hand, my handwriting too awful to bear going back to, I loathe writing in Word with all of its buttons and foibles. I love the distraction free interface of writing in Plaintext. I love how flexible it is, moving from Drafts to my Plaintext editor on my Mac and then then into iOS apps like Poster to publish these missives on WordPress in Markdown.
What if the iPad is a trojan horse of sorts; a machine so simple and intuitive that it makes people comfortable enough to push themselves to use technology in different ways? To experiment with new ways of working, writing, thinking, and connecting? In classrooms across higher education, tablets are en vogue. At ISIS, we often talk about the next big thing in educational technology or how we are using existing tools in resources in new ways. What if tablets are the conduit to more successful adventures in technology that can push our students (and us!) into new directions?
Teaching with technology has made me consider how to introduce students to new situations, how to learn about technology, how to use different tools. Borrowing from my own experience, it helps to start small, with discrete tasks and tools as opposed to unattainable goals like ‘build a photography repository.’ I find that working with iPads in my own technology practice gave me manageable goals and tasks to gain new competencies, but it also gave me the confidence to take new risks.
I think part of that stems from the fact that there were expectations already built into the laptop about how I could or couldn’t use it, assumptions that drive many women away from technology. I think students might have similar feelings regardless of gender. They think they know what to expect of themselves with their laptops, what if tablets are a clean start for them, too?
I deleted my Instagram account this week. I was sad to go; Instagram was fun! It was social, I loved the rad photo filters and the ease of sharing my pics over various social networks without much fuss.
Over time, I also began to appreciate the integration with Foursquare and Facebook’s maps to document where I traveled to during the past year or so. I also happily set my photographs free with Creative Commons, allowing me to contribute to a rich, image sharing community. However, the changes Instagram proposed to their terms of service forced me to re-evaluated that relationship for the following reasons:
- Sharing is Caring. I use Creative Commons images a lot. The are the visual meat of my LibGuides and my teaching aids. I feel strongly that I should contribute to the corpora of open images myself. Instagram used to enable me to do so, but no longer.
- Teaching Moments. I taught a module on social media last semester in a course about theatre criticism. The experience made me think critically about how we talk about social media in higher education and what students need to know to be good stewards of their social media presences and how to effectively evaluate the information out there on the web. I thought this Instagram firestorm would be a good opportunity to see what else is out there and that my vision quest would be a good teaching moment.
Here’s what I found for iOS.
I read this post about Instagram alternatives as well as some other best of 2012 apps for the iPhone that included Camera applications. I downloaded them all onto my iPhone and began experimenting. Here’s the rundown:
- Anypic (free) This app has a cute interface and easy sharing options, but lacks the filters that made Instagram so fun to use. I appreciated that you can share previously photographed images into the app, but the dearth of traffic on the app coupled with the lack of hipster filters were deal breakers. Verdict: I deleted this app.
- Backspaces (free) This app is less of a photography app and more a visual storytelling app. You can’t take photos with Backspaces, but you can import photos from your Camera roll and create stories with photographs and textual annotations. Often when I travel, I take a fair share of photos with my iPhone. I’d take a lot of photos on Instagram that were all shared, sometimes out of context. Backspaces is a nice way to summarize a trip or an event without clogging your friends’ feeds or showing stuff out of context. I made a Backspaces story about my winter break and I enjoyed taking snapshots with various camera apps and then pulling it together to share on Twitter. Best of all, I was able to share the story with my parents via email. Verdict: This app stays on my iPhone’s home screen.
- Camera + (.99) This app kept coming up in best of 2012 app lists for iOS. For under a buck, I thought I would give this app a shot. It has all the things I love: pretentious filters, easy sharing options, a slick interface, and some bonus features like a stabilizer and more user friendly zoom. You can take a nice snapshot, or put more work into staging something more complicated. It’s scalable. Verdict: This app won a place on my iPhone’s home screen.
- KitCam ($1.99) This app also came up several times of best of 2012 app lists I read over break. This app is a combination of Hipstamatic and Camera +. There’s a lot in this app for more sophisticated photographers, including film options and multi-exposure. There are nifty sharing options to various social media outlets and users can also decide to save images directly to Dropbox rather than saving to Camera Roll, which I like. However, the user interface is a little clunky; this is not an intuitive app. There is a definitely a learning curve, but if you are really into digital photography and want to do more than take quick snapshots with your iPhone, there is a lot this app can do. Verdict: This app is on home screen probation.
- OpenPhoto (free) OpenPhoto combines camera functionality with a sharing platform and web storage. It’s Hipstamatic meets Flickr. The OpenPhoto folks are interested in making a WordPress for photos with this service. You can take filtered photographs with the app’s camera AND you can sustain a gallery of photographs within the app as well as with photos taken from other camera apps on your phone. You can sync to Dropbox easily. It doesn’t duplicate images unless you prefer to duplicate an image. Open Photo users can control permissions of their images easily from their website. If you want to cross over from Flickr or Instagram or Facebook for your web collection, OpenPhoto offers a reasonably priced pro account, too. Verdict: This isn’t my go to photo taking app on the iPhone, but it does win a place on the home screen so I can easily access my images.
- Twitter (free) Around the time of the Instagram/Twitter dustup in late 2012, Twitter introduced hipster filters within its camera app. It’s a nice little feature that’s easy to use. I like the range of filters and the ability move and scale images. However, I tend to take photographs AND then decide to share them rather than tweet with images. If you’re workflow is the other way around, the Twitter photo set-up might work well for you. Verdict: Not my cup of tea, but I still love you, Twitter.
- Flickr (free) Lots of folks on my Twitter feed are going back to this oldie but goodie, which has recently come out with a very nice iOS app. Social and scalable, Flickr has long empowered users to control how their photos are used by others. It’s easy to set your images free with Creative Commons. Verdict: We are a proud Flickr Pro household, and I love that we can now access Flickr on computers and on mobile devices.
Summing up:I am still adjusting to a post-Instgram life. I am happy that when I take pics with Camera + or KitCam, it’s not a burden for my Twitter followers to see the image by clicking through links. I miss the Foursquare integration, but I am settling for the geographical approximation. However, I really excited about the OpenPhoto team’s vision for their service being an open platform for users to control their photographs and build other applications. I really enjoy being able to use KitCam and Camera + to take photographs, share those photographs and have a place to keep all of them and manage them accordingly.
Of course, in my role as an instructional librarian, I think this a great lesson in social media and data management about where your stuff lives and what control, if any, you have over it. As Ryan Block pointed out in his recent Bits post, not actively managing your social media presence can result in dead services selling your data long after you have abandoned them. As we instruct students about how to manage their social media presences and try to gain better control over what search results come up when they are Googled, the Instagram debate is an excellent object lesson to show students about how to make the best choices for them. Instagram isn’t going away; media outlets have been reporting that the service continues to grow in spite of the backlash from the terms of service change. I want my students to have all the information to make the best choices about where to live on the internet.
It was the end of the semester and the library was filled with sleepy students stumbling towards project and paper deadlines. For as many students as I’ve emailed and met with this year, I wondered about students who need my help, but who, for whatever reason, don’t know that I’m available to support their research. It made me wonder – who did I miss?
Earlier this winter, I had the opportunity to co-lead an ISIS seminar with my friend and collaborator Carla Martin. Together, we talked about how faculty, librarians, technologists, and administrators can effectively support first generation college students. Cultivating and sustaining diversity in higher education is a passion of mine. As librarians collaborate with various constituencies across campus to foster student success, I am very interested in looking to see how librarians and technologists can act in solidarity with all of our students, not just the ones who know we are there to help them.
The question of how librarians can best help first generation students began to percolate when I heard Susan Gibbons talk about her seminal work with the Rochester Study, her brilliant collaboration with anthropologist Nancy Foster Fried. In it, Gibbons and Fried studied library users at the University of Rochester and then made recommendations on how to improve services and spaces in libraries that better reflect the needs and behaviors of students. One of their findings was that when many students come to a roadblock with their academic work or research, they go to their parents for help. This development was not something librarians at Rochester expected, but was one that made sense given the rise of the ‘helicopter parent’ generation. Librarians at Rochester responded to this shift by holding library orientations at the beginning of the year for *parents* as opposed to orientations for entering students. Their message: “when you kid calls for help, refer him/her to a *librarian*.” For many students at Rochester, this message was effective. Students called parents, who sent them to librarians. Other institutions have followed suit, prioritizing orienting parents at the start of the year rather than entering students.
This strategy works with many students – here at Hampshire, we did a very successful parent orientation in the library this fall. However, it left me wondering about first generation students, many of whom do not go to their parents when they are in academic distress, many of whose parents might not have even attended orientation themselves. Who did we miss? Who do we continue to miss?
During orientations, libraries can partner with student life programs aimed at underrepresented students who might already be on campus early for their own pre-orientations programs before the general ones for all entering students begins. Maybe that’s an opportunity to do some targeted programming?
I also think that there are ways that we can amend our practices to be more inclusive generally. During our ISIS session, Carla talked about creating inclusive guidelines for her courses that depended less on outside knowledge or cultural capital and primarily on knowledge acquired and gained in the class itself. As librarians, we should not make assumptions about what our students know or don’t know. When we teach research education sessions, we must teach to everyone. When we meet with students one on one, we should try to ask holistic questions that help students move beyond screen issues to get to the heart of their obstacles. It might not be about sources for a paper, but about something else entirely. We must be able to refer them to support services across campus to address their concerns.
First generation students contribute mightily to their campuses. They bring a unique perspective; some are international students, others at many elite colleges might hail from underrepresented parts of the United States, others might be veterans who served their country prior to enrolling in college. Colleges and universities are rich, dynamic communities that can provide all students with unique learning communities in their dorms, in their classrooms, and over meals. But first generation students sit at many intersections and cross many demographics in colleges and universities. We know they’re there, but we don’t always know how best to reach them. That’s why sessions like the ISIS one Carla and I co-facilitated are important: better serving our first generation students should be a priority in all higher education libraries, at big public universities and small liberal arts colleges. How can we make inclusive policies and procedures that incorporate and include all the students we serve? How can we design programming to reach students who go to their parents – or don’t – or utilize other campus constituencies to help them along during their college years?
I love doing research consultations with students. I take pleasure in helping them narrow broad topics that could sustain six dissertations into reasonable research morsels for 10 and 20 page papers or successful Division III independent projects.
How do students go from topics that can sustain six dissertations to topics appropriate for a senior project or 20 page research paper? Often, students can begin to narrow and refine their topics once they do some reading. However, one of the persistent roadblocks students encounter during this phase is how to find the first source they need to address their topic. I find that for many students, finding the first *relevant* source is always the hardest part.
To surmount that obstacle, one of my common recommendations is for students to pick a reading from their course syllabus and look it up in the library catalog – or in an article databases like JStor or Project Muse – to see what the subject headings and/or the keywords are. Then, the student can click on the most relevant word or heading and voila, instant sources!
But locating that interesting reading from the syllabus and remembering which saved pdf it was on the cluttered desktop can be a challenge for many students in the age of the learning management system. When I was in college ten years ago, I read from the trusty course pack, a giant set of readings that I kept in one place and could easily reference. These days, many students download readings to their desktops; some do so with an organizational scheme, others without one. Watching students deal with information overload these past few semesters, I started thinking about how their course readings, research, the LMS, and Zotero could intersect in powerful ways to empower students to successfully manage research over the course of semesters.
This year, I am very excited to be on a Kahn Liberal Arts Institute short project called “From HyperCities to Big Data and #ALT-AC: Debated in the Digital Humanities.” As part of the project, the organizers assigned participants reading that we could download from Smith College’s LMS. Great! I could download the pdfs to Dropbox, open them in iBooks and read. Then I realized that if I did that, these pdfs would just live in the pdf graveyard that is my iBooks library on my iPad. Many of the readings were excerpts, decontextualized for their full citations in the library. How could I connect the citations to the excerpt so I could easily keep track of both?
So, I saved the citations from Moodle into Zotero, downloaded the pdfs to Dropbox, attached them to the citations in Zotero, read and annotated PDFs on my iPad. Great!
Which got me thinking about students and research. I evangelize about Zotero in my research education classes about using it to collect and manage citations for research projects. But what about using it to manage their coursework, too? That way, when prompted for an example of a class reading that resonated, that could put them on the path towards successful source gathering, they could have it right there in the library?
I know for me, keeping professional reading I do in Zotero, always on the ready to generate bibliographies to share with colleagues has been a boon to productivity and my personal knowledge management. Now, to evangelize about this workflow for managing course assets!
I did a research session for an education class just after the second presidential debate. No better object lesson than to imbue in students how the skills we learn in doing research for academic papers be be applied outside of the library’s walled garden into the wild, wild web, a piece of inspiration I received during a char booth lecture last year. The session was energetic, the students invested. And then it came up, “did you always want to be a librarian?”
No. I didn’t grow up wanting to be a librarian; I didn’t even think about becoming one until I was in grad school studying history. I had this other life before becoming a librarian, historian. Then it also hit me; I wasn’t always ‘technically’ a librarian, I was an archivist. In a sense, since graduating from Smith College in 2004, I’ve had three careers; grad student, archivist, librarian. How did I manage those transitions? I leaned on my liberal arts training to retrain myself to learn the skills I needed to attack the tasks at hand. Or, as I said to the professor, “no one can repossess my education; I’ve always been able to make sense out of my world and learn what I need to learn to keep going.”
Which brings me to this article by Cathy Davidson forwarded to me by a colleague at Mount Holyoke while I was walking back to the library and this quote:
“The new liberal arts curriculum I am advocating is about the ability to learn, the ability to learn any time, any where, to have the skills and the networks and the communities and the practices and the introspective capacities to see what you need to get you beyond your old habits and cultivate new ones that serve you better.”
The research education that I’m providing for my students isn’t just how to do research for a paper or how to use this tool to complete this project, but a framework about how to effectively seek new information to learn new skills. In a changing economy, college educations shouldn’t be the training for just the next five years, but the methods, networks, and support to sustain people for the next fifty.
But this quote was the most pressing for me:
“That should be the starting point of educational reform. The quest to give every graduate the tools to fight off ignorance. In a changing world, ignorance is only one technology away. “
As everything changes, we can’t just teach people ‘just in time’ skills, but we need to teach students to be able to teach themselves new skills ‘just in time’ to use them. Without a robust framework to seek and evaluate information, our students will not be able to reinvent themselves ten or twenty years out of college. And then what?
I get fired up about higher education and librarianship because I truly believe that going to college can change one’s life. It’s not just about future earnings or rooting for a football team, but sense making, equipping students with the tools to reinvent themselves and lead meaningful lives. The same skills we impart on students to apply in their research papers are the same ones we need them to apply later in life when they need to decide how to vote. College is all about expanding one’s world, learning in global context, learning to live with ambiguity, and asking new questions. Cathy Davidson is absolutely right, “If we can recast the liberal arts curriculum to train resilient global citizens, we will be offering the most valuable education imaginable.”
For me, dragging my laptop from office to classroom to teach is can be a pain. As you can see, my laptop lives on a stand, connected to a second monitor, complete with a wireless mouse and keyboard. Chuf, chuf, chuf to the classroom.
Inconvenience aside, when I am teaching with visual aids, I feel like my laptop is a barrier between the class and myself. The laptop obscures my face and in order to do demonstrations from the internet, I feel like I am tied to the seat where the laptop is living during the class. To that end, I made it a goal for myself to use my iPad more in teaching this year, especially since some of our classrooms have Apple TV which allows users to beam images and texts from iPads directly to screens. Fortunately, I found a new, neat, free presentation app for the iPad called Haiku Deck.
Michael Rose over at TUAW wrote a neat little review that provides a strong overview of the app’s features, but I want to talk about using this app in the context of teaching.
- Clean text that is easy to read on a screen.
- Timesaving, instant access to Creative Commons images. It’s a pleasure to build presentations in this app.
- Ability to easily swipe through slides while presenting.
- Easy export and sharing. I like the idea of tweeting some of my presentations.
- Free on iOS, a major plus since I was about to buy Keynote for iOS.
- Paying for additional layout options.
- An app that only works in landscape mode whether presenting or editing.
- To my knowledge, you can’t repurpose slides between presentations. This is a disappointment since I sometimes like to repurpose slides across presentations I do. I wish there was a way of keeping a cache of slides in the app that could be recycled across presentations.
- Not as easy to embed URLs into presentations, which can be a help sometimes when doing more technical demonstrations.
I road tested my first presentation during several of my classes last week. It looked good on the screen. The image quality wowed my students. Overall, I really enjoyed teaching from the iPad, especially now that I can be cord free with Apple TV. The pad sat on my lap and I felt like Mr. Rogers, in a good way.
Best of all, I made eye contact with everyone in way that was not possible when doing presentations with the laptop. I had a blast and I think my students did, too. Thanks, Haiku Deck, I think this is the start of a beautiful relationship.
One of the reasons why I love librarianship is because it demands continuous learning. For me that learning happens in a variety of contexts: conversations on Twitter and in person with colleagues near and far, conferences, published books and blog posts that relate to trends and issues for academic libraries, and online tutorials to learn about new technologies. The sum total of continuous learning often costs more than I can spend out of my own pocket or what my employer is able to subsidize. To that end, I am grateful for ISIS, Information Services Instruction Support, a dencetralized group of technologists, librarians, and librarian/technologists who practice primarily in American liberal arts colleges that convenes remotely through videoconferecing. Each month, there are a series of drop in sessions and more formal sessions on a relevant topic that folks can enjoy, held the first and third Friday afternoons of each month via the (virtual) Adobe Connect Room at Mount Holyoke College.
I was not aware of this amazing grassroots organization until I began working at Hampshire College in 2011. Once I started receiving messages from the Five College listserv, I learned about ISIS, its mission, and its possibilities. One of the founding members who works at Mount Holyoke, Alex Wirth-Cauchon, invited me this summer to join the program committee. I was delighted to join this group not only to collaborate with colleagues across the country to help deliver timely content, but also to use the role to do additional outreach to other librarians who might not be aware of ISIS and generate some excitement across the library community about its programming and networking opportunities.
During the academic year, I am going to try to tweet ISIS sessions as they go along to create an additional backchannel and hopefully as generate conversations with other folks outside of the usual librarian-technologist mold to weigh in on our programming and questions. I haven’t registered a hashtag yet, but I am planning to tweet with this one: #isis-edu; we’ll see if folks converge on it or not.
Here’s the schedule for this semester’s programming:
- September 7 ISIS Drop-In Session
- September 21 ISIS Seminar
- October 5 ISIS Seminar
- October 19 ISIS Drop-In Session
- November 2 ISIS Seminar
- November 16 ISIS Drop-In Session
- December 7 ISIS Seminar
- December 21 ISIS Drop-In Session
ISIS Seminars and Drop in Sessions happen the first and third Friday of the month from 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM (ET) in the Adobe Connect Room.
- * Adobe’s “Getting Started Guide” can help you make sure you are ready:
- https://admin.adobeconnect.com/common/help/en/support/startmain.htm .
- The browser test page is also useful for trouble-shooting connection troubles:
I look forward to seeing many of my readers there.