Wow, ten weeks goes really really fast here at EdLab! Tomorrow’s already my last day, and to follow the precedent set by Scotty and Rebekah, I’m going to take this opportunity to post about my experiences as an intern this summer and talk about the projects I did.
(All the goodies are after the jump)
Promotion and Content Gathering/Creation
Our first big project was working on promoting Vialogues in preparation for the announcement that Vialogues had received an award from AASL (American Association of School Librarians) in the category of “Best Websites for Teaching and Learning”.
We decided to contact school librarians and school librarian educators, but first we decided to increase the amount of library-related content available on Vialogues by scouring the internet for videos that we thought best taught library concepts or promoted libraries.
In doing this, we found there was very few videos targeting students anywhere in the K-8 range (most of them targeted college students, with some that were also appropriate for high school students). So I took the opportunity to create a video introducing a database to students in grades 4-6.
To do that, I had to learn how to use Camtasia, and after teaching myself the software, I was up in running in just over a day. The Kids Search tutorial video is my first attempt at ever making a video in Camtasia, and I think it came out pretty well (IMHO).
Fun with Meta-Camtasia
At the start of the summer, Jo mentioned that we would be creating mSchool courses of our choosing. I had no idea what to make mine on, until Jo suggested I make a course on using Camtasia (after my Kids Search project)(To view the course, log in to Moodle).
Creating the videos was its own special nightmare, though the nearly two weeks I spent making them flew really quickly. I set up shop in an abandoned office down on G and chugged away on creating the content for the course. I figured it didn’t make sense to have a course on using Camtasia without actually using the program to make the content. That lead to some mindbendiness when I was staring at the Camtaisa screen in the Camtasia screen for long stretches of time.
Now, I’m not a super big fan of online courses on LMSes, mostly because I feel they’re usually a mess and tend not to engage the user, so my main goal was to attempt to design a course that was engaging and well-laid-out. I broke my course into nine topics and integrated assignments, quizzes, Q&A forums with video lessons (that were uploaded to Vialogues to allow for discussion and interaction alongside the content).
Making the course work better visually was more of a collaborative effort. Greg was the first of us to figure out how to use CSS to change the background from stark white to something more interesting. I took it another step by creating a background image with a white bar at the top to preserve the header at the top of the page and tinkering with so it’d appear correctly in different screen resolutions. I found a video of Moodle tips that mentioned making labels to break up the vertical scroll of death that Moodle’s famous for, which I passed around. I created a custom navigation box on the side of the page, and though I was looking for a way to pin it to the side (so it’d stay fixed while the page was scrolled through to make navigation easier), Rebekah found the code before I did. Sharing is caring, and our mSchool courses were pretty kick-butt.
Keeping it moving:
Acquisitions and ILL-in’
As it’s summer, it’s high time for people to go on vacation, and the staff down on G is no exception. I spent two weeks covering acquisitions while Usa went on vacation, seeing firsthand how patron-driven acquisitions works. I had some prior experience doing acquisitions, but I had never used Millenium before, which is the current ILS of choice here at TC. (If you’ve never used it/seen it, just know that system was developed at a time when sticking “millenium” in a product name meant it was looking to the future, not 12 years ago.) Because I had some prior experience, it was easy to pick up doing acquisitions here.
When Usa returned from her vacation, it was time to switch to covering ILL (interlibrary loan) while Dilcia was away. While acquisitions is relatively straightforward (even taking into account having to use Millenium), ILL was a giant ball of confusion. That mostly was because the program used for ILL, ILLiad, was designed to have the most complicated workflow of any library program ever. (At least, it felt that way.) Early on in covering ILL, the four of us (myself, Rebekah, Greg, and Laura) were all trying to figure out why things weren’t working. We eventually figured it all out through the power of teamwork (and some tutorial videos). It was a relief when the items we requested started arriving!
Example of bad workflow design: After assembling a workform to request an item from a library, you have to click “Send Request”, and then go across the screen and hit “Request Sent”. It took a few days to realize we needed to click the redundant button to actually send the request....
Coming to a library near you?
The last of the really big projects we worked on was putting together a proposal for the Gottesman Library to adopt Blacklight. Blacklight is an open-source OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog) that can sit on top of the Millenium ILS we have. Not only does Blacklight work as a regular library catalog, but it can also include individual journal articles from the databases TC subscribes to and archival content (digital and not-digital). Columbia already has a version of Blacklight in beta, CLIOBeta.
To write the proposal, we had to research the product, related products, and the features we could gain from implementing a next-generation OPAC (as it’s termed). It was my first time working on a proposal, but I’m sure it won’t be my last, so it was a really good learning experience. We haven’t heard yet if our proposal has been accepted, but either way it was a worthwhile endeavor.
In addition to the main projects/tasks I had, I dabbled in a few other areas this summer. Most prominently, I wrote weekly EdLab Reviews as part of the content-creation effort in advance of the launch of NLT. I ended up doing two different language-learning products (DuoLingo and Lentil), two programming-related products (CoreDogs and Code Avengers), two game portals for students (iCivics and PowerMyLearning), and a few others (Project Gutenberg, Pocket, Ahead, and Veri). I learned quite a bit in playing with these products, even the ones I didn’t like as much.
I also went down to the subbasement a few times with Laura, Greg, and Rebekah to do things in the archives. We worked on identifying some boxes that contained unknown contents, looked for images for an exhibit, and reshelved items that had been used by researchers.
Then there was cataloging. I got to put a bit of my cataloging knowledge to use on a pile of unclassified library materials (some of which needed full catalog records). Usually the library does what’s called “copy cataloging”, where the records are copied from a single source (usually either OCLC or the Library of Congress), but when other libraries don’t have the book already, we have to create the record ourselves. On top of that, sometimes there are records, but they don’t have call numbers. Assigning call numbers is complicated (and requires having access to the full LoC schedule), but something I had experience with, so I helped out there.
I also did some research and reading related to library instruction videos and teaching information literacy. While not directly related to my tasks here at EdLab, the research I did in my first week on instruction videos informed my development of all the instructional videos I created for Vialogues and the mSchool. I’m now interested in learning more about instructional design and I think I can go back to the library classroom and do a much better job of engaging my students.
So, what’s next?
After tomorrow, I’m taking a short break before returning to my regular job as an adjunct (aka part-time) reference/instruction librarian at Nassau Community College. I’m also going to continue my search for the yeti (or as it’s better known, search for a full-time job that makes use of my knowledge and skills).
In addition to some of the badges I made for Rebekah last week, I think I also qualify for a Camtasia badge:
I want to thank Laura and Jo for giving me the opportunity to work here this summer and learn from everyone here at EdLab. I picked up a lot of interesting things, some of which I didn’t know anything about before arriving here. They were also very helpful and supportive, which was awesome. I also want to give a shout-out to Rebekah and Greg, who are easily the best team I ever worked with.
I’m going to leave this here as a parting gift. I may have mentioned it early on as a great example of kitschy teaching videos, and I think it’s good for a few laughs: