I never win prizes after taking surveys, but there is a first time for everything, right?
Towards the end of my time at Hampshire College, I took a survey about sexual harassment and entered a contest to win an iPad mini. To my surprise, I won!
I’ve documented my love of the iPad on the blog earlier this year, so I figured I would revisit an iPad review in light of the new addition to my gadget arsenal. Spoiler alert: I love it, but not without reservations.
Size: The third generation iPad is light and thin, but the iPad mini is miraculously light and thin. It’s a noticeable difference. I can hold the mini in one hand while reading in bed or on the couch. It’s a breeze to cart around during the day and I hardly noticed its weight in my bag shuffling between work and home. Typing on it is also a welcome change. No stranger to live-tweeting conferences on my iPhone (too small) or iPad (okay), the iPad mini is just right, as my live-tweeting of the Five College All-Staff Round-Up proved.
Performance: The mini is just as fast and responsive as its third generation cousin. Apps download quickly, webpages open quickly, and I am very pleased.
Display: :( The retina display on the third generation iPad is awesome, and I definitely miss it on the mini. However, I keep myself reaching for the mini because the size is so perfect for my needs, which include writing, editing, email, note taking, web browsing, and heavy reading. As much as I love the mini, I still find myself saying, “CURSES, THERE ISN’T RETINA DISPLAY.”
Conclusion: Had I not won the mini, I would not have purchased one of my own. I have an iPad that I love already. and the lack of retina display makes me sad. However, if/when Apple releases an iPad mini with retina display, I would definitely buy one. The smaller tablet size is fantastic; I love the flat back of the mini, the light weight, and ease of use.
If 2012 was my year of the iPad, then 2013 is my year of automation. I credit ProfHacker for many things in my development as a technologist, and I am going to add automation to the list.
I started my automation journey slowly. Last year, I began using an online calendar tool called Lizibot to cut down on the number of emails I passed back and forth with students about arranging appointments. It changed my life in a small but measurable way. I wrote fewer emails, students knew right away when they could meet with me, and now – for the class I co-teach – I have a link right to my calendar, so there’s no more messing around with weekly, mercurial schedules for me. Following my foray into Lizibot, I began experimenting with text expansion tools, specifically by downloading TextExpander for iOS. Again, It’s a pleasure to be able to write drafts of emails without having to type my phone number, email address, or standard closing salutations for email.
The next automation wave crested after reading a Profhacker post about IFFT. IFFT is essentially “if this, then that” moderated by a third party. It’s dead easy. The Profhacker post breaks it down well. Since that’s been published, many more time-saving ”recipes” have been added to the voluminous library. I especially like the “if I change my profile photo on Facebook, then it changes on Twitter, too,” recipe. But the recipe with the most impact on my working life is the once which states: “if @en appears on my Google calendar appointment, then a meeting note template in Evernote is created.” Thanks to this blog post, I now have a powerful tool to take meeting minutes easily.
Automation might make me sound like a robot, but it allows me work smarter. The meeting notes template is a great example of that. I realized that having a template for taking meeting notes wouldn’t just make me more organized, it forced me to take more effective notes, making the task of acting as minute taker less tiresome. By having predetermined fields like ‘attendees’ to fill in immediately and ‘action items’ to fill in throughout the meeting, I could listen more actively and my notes ultimately would make more sense. And I added a section called ‘to do’ that allows me to remember complementary activities long after the meeting is done. Gone were the panic moments when I didn’t know what was talked about or remember action items I needed to add to a list. Awesome.
Here’s my take on Rubin’s original recipe that I referenced in the first paragraph.
Automation saves me time, but it also gives me something else: headspace. By automating parts of my working life, I have the headspace to think; I have a few extra minutes to daydream, an ability to carve out an outlet to think about my work in new ways. By having those few moments to take a step back and reflect, I can actually think about what’s next, what’s coming, where I want to go, where we need to go. Automation allows me to sit back like the West Wing‘s president Josiah Bartlett and ask: what’s next?
Sometimes, you just need a moment of Zen; time to reflect while doing a more mindless task. Today’s moment of Zen brought to you by the Hampshire College Library Book Scanner.
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.
Last week, ISIS hosted an online seminar about bake-offs, processes through which individuals and institutions decide what new tools or technologies to purchase. Generally an activity in the purview of Information Technology departments, we had the pleasure of hearing a presentation from Sarah Oelker, a librarian from Mount Holyoke College, who talked about how a group of Mount Holyoke librarians applied bake-off principles to the process of sourcing technology solutions for the College. Here’s a look at Sarah’s awesome venn diagram:
It’s a great visual to help us think about how libraries and technology departments can contexutalize making decisions about our resources, and how we should try to meet our community’s academic needs through our purchases and services. As we embrace a ‘just in time’ collecting model – one that allows us to purchase that book a faculty member needs on a moment’s notice or to have a cache of power cords for students to borrow to charge their laptops in the library – how do we think about software as not just a tool, but also as something to collect?
Which brings me to a larger question: should libraries collect software now? As digital humanities centers proliferate and as heated debates come up about whether 3d printers should be in libraries, the nature of our collections is also shifting. How does/will/should that impact our collecting strategies? As libraries and information technology departments scale up to meet new demands for ‘digital’ scholarship, how do we balance the needs for ‘just in time’ and ‘just in case’ acquisitions with tools that have utilitarian value now and historical value later?
From where I’m sitting, the answer is that yes, we need to collect software, but the what and the how are other questions for which I don’t think profession yet has a cogent answer. For collection development librarians, the ground is shifting away from bibliography and toward patron-driven acquisitions for monographs and journals. I believe this shift provides an opportunity to work closely with our colleagues in IT to map out strategies for successful collection and stewardship of software, especially as librarians increasingly support classroom technologies. In any case, it represents another step towards utilizing the library as incubator of new ideas and practices, instead of just as a repository for the old.
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.
Email is a burden we all share. Profhacker publishes frequently on quick productivity hacks to enhance management of the daily e-mail deluge, from productivity hacks to text expansion. In the Library with a Lead Pipe has also penned an excellent email management post.
Like many front line Research & Instruction librarians, I’m busy. I am always looking for ways to save time on all tasks from the mundane to the complicated. Scheduling meetings is an example of a mundane time suck. Last year I realized that I could cut down on my number of e-mail exchanges by implementing some way for students to schedule meetings with me without having to EMAIL me.
One evening, while doing some research on digital curation, I came across a link to tungle.me, a neat calendaring tool that allows people to make appointments over the internet. AWESOME. At first, I was worried this was a pipe dream in the land of unicorns, but tungle.me was the real deal. I signed up, added that neat site to a QR code on my door and began saving loads of time by sending links to tungle.me rather than enduring long electronic negations about Wednesday versus Friday meetings versus Monday meetings.
I was rolling along until I received a sad email from tungle.me announcing that they were sunsetting this service to turn their attention to other matters at Research in Motion. Dejected, I began investigating other options. I put out a few cries for help on Twitter, and vendors responded with helpful links to a variety of services. Today, I found my new calendar solution: Lizi.
Lizi is my new personal assistant. And below I will break down why I hired Lizi to manage my calendar.
1. I was able to import my tungle.me account right into Lizi and keep my user name, caropinto.
2. It jives with Google calendar, Twitter, G+, & Facebook to get to know my contacts.
3. It saves locations for possible meetings, including my office at Hampshire College and my favorite off-campus coffee shop.
4. It’s easy to set preferred times that fall outside of the normative 9-5 Monday through Friday window. I love being able to instruct Lizi to not schedule meetings on days when I need additional prep time to teach or do committee work off campus.
5. Lizi also provides users with the option to schedule a call as opposed to setting up a meeting. Often, with off campus collaborators, I won’t necessarily want to schedule an in person conversation, but instead a phone call or virtual meeting. I appreciate that those folks can just go ahead and schedule a call with me.
Using a service like Lizi is more than a timesaver; it’s also a wonderful outreach tool. I love being able to meet my users’ needs by providing them with a direct link to my calendar. It reinforces the message I send when I teach research education sessions that I am available to meet. Lizi provides my students and faculty with an easy and direct connection to my calendar, saving time for everyone involved. It’s a win-win!