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Katie Fraser's blog and website

I'm an academic librarian, working in the UK Higher Educational sector, supporting academics and students. Prior to this, I was a researcher, working with social and learning technologies.

My interests include the application of emerging and traditional technologies, research support in libraries, learning spaces, evidence-based practice and the professional development of library and information workers.

You can find out more about more about me from the links to the left. Note that the views expressed on this website/blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other individual or organisation.

CPD23 Things 17 and 18: Tools for presenting information online

September 19th, 2011

Picture of fuschia

Making your message flower depends partly on content, partly on presentation

This blog is part of 23 Things for Professional Development, a course encouraging information professionals to explore online tools.

Although Thing 17 – presentation tools Prezi and Slideshare – and Thing 18 – screencapture through Jing and podcasting through Audacity – appeared out of order, my slowness in getting to them allows me to tackle them as intended! All are tools which I’m familiar with in various detail, and my engagement with them has varied according to need on a number of different levels. This post primarily discusses how I have / might use these tools for teaching.

Let’s start with Prezi. It’s a really fascinating tool, and one which I’ve seen applied with great success. Here’s a Prezi I prepared for use with a class of Physics and Astronomy students last year. It all needs updating over the next couple of weeks, as a few of our systems have changed. The idea behind it was to contextualise the hands-on elements of the session (using bibliographic databases and RefWorks) within the broader picture of information literacy skills, so that students (hopefully!) see the tools we’re learning as part of a wider picture. Feedback on the session was mixed (some were very positive, some were slightly seasick!) but I’m persevering this year, and the positive comments were very positive! I’d recommend it, especially if you literally want people to ‘see the bigger picture’ behind a concept. I’ll be delivering our Graduate School Media Zoo training on Prezi this coming semester, so I’ll be revisiting Prezi then (and to update the Physics and Astronomy session).

Slideshare, well, I have an account, but it’s a big old non-event. I’ve uploaded the slides for one session I taught there, but students weren’t impressed, and they all got me to email them the ‘real’ presentation instead! Presentations I’ve delivered for external events have usually been hosted elsewhere, but I will make more of an effort to duplicate them in my own space in the future. Addressing the question asked in Thing 17, I don’t think that Slideshare could replace my online CV right now. It doesn’t fit the skills that I see as my selling point!

Screencapture via Jing is a flat ‘no’ from me. I’m asked to use the tools my workplace provides – Adobe Presenter and Captivate – to make this kind of presentation for my job, and while I’ll enthusiastically revisit Jing whenever I have the need, now’s not the time to be learning two overlapping tools! I’m currently designing three Chemistry tutorials on finding information and the literature in Chemistry using Presenter. I’m facing a similar aim and challenge here as I describe for the Prezi, making sure I contextualise step-by-step ‘how to use this tool’ information within an information literacy framework.

Finally, Audacity. I actually learnt how to use Audacity in my MA Librarianship. I like the tool a lot, but I haven’t found a reason to make a podcast since. It’s not because I’m not an auditory person – I listen to podcasts, and music a lot. But for me, a tool doesn’t really enter my consciousness until it meets a need, and I don’t see a need for solely auditory information the types of session I currently offer, or want to offer.

What thinking about all these tools has revealed to me, is that my teaching takes a very set format: communicating information through a combination of visual and audio channels, and then asking students to try things themselves. This is a combination of the kind of session I find easy to deliver, and the kind of session I am asked to deliver. Perhaps a long-term goal should be to break out of that box a little!

CPD23 Thing 14: Referencing Software

August 29th, 2011

Mendeley screenshot

My publications in Mendeley

This blog is part of 23 Things for Professional Development, a course encouraging information professionals to explore online tools.

Thing 14 is referencing tools, and we’ve been specifically encouraged to try the free tools Zotero, Mendeley and CiteULike. I’ve had varying degrees of experience with these different tools, as an ex-researcher and academic librarian. Zotero, I tried when it first came out, but didn’t really take to managing my references in my browser. I watched a video about the updates it’s had, and it’s still not really appealing to me. CiteULike, well, I use it for collections of references occasionally, but find it a little basic in its referencing functionality for ‘proper’ writing. I have a personal and a work account, but I don’t really exploit its social networking features very much.

For my day-to-day referencing needs I use Endnote, having started with this during my early PhD (in about 2003/4) and stuck with it since. I’ve usually been a student or a member of staff at one academic institution or another which supported Endnote since then, so I’ve never been forced to explore free alternatives in any depth.

However, in the spirit of trying new things, I decided to give Mendeley a go. I’ve seen this in action in sessions at work, but I’ve never experimented with it myself in any depth. I’m actually revisiting a past project currently, so I had a genuine purpose for using it (which I’ve found really helps you get to grips with a referencing system) and you can import your Endnote Library into it, so it allowed me to build on what I already had. Here’s my main thoughts:

  • The pdf import (drag and drop into the Mendeley interface) is a really great function. It doesn’t always work perfectly, though, and I found one of my own publications in the online catalogue in a massively inaccurate format.
  • If you have any publications, then you can ‘claim’ them, which is a function that I really like (CiteULike lets you do something similar).
  • As a copyright-aware librarian type I really liked that I could use the desktop version to organise my pdfs locally, but didn’t have to share these online.
  • There’s an active Mendeley userbase in my institution, so I found brilliant instructions from an academic and one of our library systems team on setting it up to search our electronic holdings.
  • It looks much slicker than Endnote, and works much more smoothly; even despite Endnote 15’s recent addition of pdf annotation, it makes Endnote look clunky.
  • Like so many of the free tools described in CPD23, I can’t actually use the desktop tool at work, as it requires local software installation, and I don’t have the rights.
  • I’ve heard that it’s reliability isn’t always brilliant, which makes me a bit nervous. Reliability is something that I really want from a referencing solution (even if it’s something I never really get!)
All in all, so far I love Mendeley. I’m going to stick with it for the time being and test its Word plug-in thoroughly before I decide whether to keep it for life, but I can actually see this replacing my beloved Endnote.

Bitesize CPD23 Thing 13: Online collaboration and Filesharing

August 18th, 2011

Groupwork desks in the library

Online and offline collaboration spaces are a little different

This blog is part of 23 Things for Professional Development, a course encouraging information professionals to explore online tools. The current post is in ‘Bitesize’* format.

Online collaboration and filesharing (namely Google Docs, wikis and Dropbox are the tools considered in Thing 13. I’ve used all of these in my time, but don’t really think I’ve used any of them to collaborate to the degree afforded. Google Docs and Dropbox I almost entirely use to share with myself (i.e. for file storage in the cloud) except for my running spreadsheet, which I share with my partner. Wikis, well, I’ve contributed to wikis developed by others, but usually only adding a small element to a well-structured whole.

The main reason for my lack of use of these tools is that I usually only collaborate on documents in the workplace, and there we are expected to use folders on shared drives to store files. I know these services are there, and I’m hoping I’d spot the scenario in which to use them should it arise!

*A truncated post to allow me to briefly consider CPD23 Themes I didn’t have the chance to investigate more deeply.