Sunday, August 9, 2015

New tool - gif maker!

We have mean bees in our yard that make a habit of attacking the honey bees on the sunflowers, and today I caught one in action.  My husband suggested I make a gif - so here it is!

I had success with - it was indeed easy to use.

My first ever gif.  It's a good one!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Digital Literacy in Action - Civic Engagement

Last night, the first of (too) many GOP "debates" took place.  I had an interesting experience while trying to watch the event that highlighted the importance of digital literacy skills.

In the last few days, we've fielded questions at the library about the time of the debate and where it could be watched.  I helped one of our regulars find a schedule of all the debates between now and the election - but didn't look closely at the details for this first debate.

I guess I should have - it turned out that only cable subscribers could watch the debate live streaming on the internet.  That ruled me out, and probably some of the people calling the library for information about the debate too!

But not all was lost - for those with a bit of tech savvy.  After determining we would be skunked through normal streaming sources, my husband searched around and found a YouTube channel that was showing the debate.


Marcus Harun, a young journalist based in Connecticut, was literally filming his television screen and broadcasting via YouTube so those of us without the precious cable subscription could still see the debate and learn about the "top tier" of GOP candidates.  This worked great, until about halfway through the debate when YouTube pulled his stream for copyright violation.

Not to worry though!  Marcus had a backup broadcast going, using Periscope.  We were able to watch the rest of the debate this way.  What was most interesting though, was the things Marcus had to do to ensure this stream wasn't pulled down too.  We think he must have been getting warning messages from Periscope, because he started to make sure that he was visible in the broadcast at all times, and he occasionally turned it off for discussion.

This is a great example of digital literacy in action, on both ends of the experience.

From our end, we started with the desire to watch the debate on our computers (as we do not own a television).  Once we determined it wasn't a straightforward (free) endeavor, we used our skills to find an alternative viewing option.  Our determination to watch the debate gave us the motivation to persevere.

On the broadcaster's end, he made the decision to circumvent traditional viewing methods based on the belief that information should be freely available, especially for the sake of an open democracy.  He used his technical skills with recording equipment and several websites to provide the opportunity for more people to be involved and engaged in the democratic process.

Both of the people I know of that called the library for information about the debate would not have been able to take advantage of these alternative viewing methods, due to lack of access.  I'll not get into the political ramifications of locking down a portion of the democratic process to only those that pay for access.  That's a different (but very important) issue.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Those questions...

It took a few days, but I'm back to answer the questions posed in the last post:

  • What resources can we use to duplicate what November describes (e.g., transforming an existing space into a space that becomes a launching point for community-changing endeavors grounded in strong digital literacy skills?
  • What are we (and can we) be doing to encourage our learners to use digital literacy skills in ways that "leave a legacy” (i.e., something that the learners can continue to own and share long after the formal learning opportunities conclude)?
  • What can we do in defining and fostering digital literacy to support work that has an identifiable purpose that is meaningful to our colleagues and our learners?

Very good questions...

In most libraries, we work with the physical space we currently have.  It can take years to get new buildings, and even remodels require a good deal of planning and money.  Librarians are really good at rearranging what we have in order to try new things, with the least amount of budget expenditure.  At my library, we transformed the area near the entry into what we call the Lifelong Learning Center.  Here it is prior to the final addition of tables and seating conducive to collaborative work.

I really like the open feeling of the newly revamped entrance area

It's be three years since the remodel (really?!!), and now I often see people working together on computers and we hold many of our "Book A Librarian" sessions in this space.  I'll have to take a photo tomorrow to show what it looks like - it's kind of funny to see it in this state before the furniture was added.  This may not be the source of any groundbreaking developments, but we do provide a space for people to learn and work together.  Two of our other branches were remodeled into Creative Tech Centers, which provide an array of equipment and programming focused around technology.

Question two - not much, yet.  I cannot think of anything my library system has done to really encourage any sort of "legacy" by the people we offer technology training to.  In fact, I think it's been quite the opposite.  We offer generic classes teaching basic computing skills, and a few people come but overall attendance is slim.  What's lacking?  CONTEXT and PURPOSE.  A generic class to learn how to use Word is nice, but boring.  The learners need a reason to learn that will carry on after the class occurs.  Our Book A Librarian appointments are popular because people have specific learning goal in mind, and they receive personalized help.  This still does not encourage a legacy, however.

Question three - for my coworkers, our purpose is to help the people that walk in the door.  Therefore we need to have a level of digital literacy that enables us to provide high quality service.  Until now, this has meant the ability to help people download eBooks to their devices, or showing them how to access their flash drive or print from the public computers.  Obviously the potential for so much more exists.  In the next few months, my work will consist of expanding digital literacy skills for my coworkers, who can in turn open doors for our customers.

This course has given me so much to think about.  Everyone needs meaning for their learning.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Leaving a legacy...

This week, our first task is to watch this fantastic TEDxNYED talk by Alan November.

We have three questions to ponder:
  • What resources can we use to duplicate what November describes (e.g., transforming an existing space into a space that becomes a launching point for community-changing endeavors grounded in strong digital literacy skills?
  • What are we (and can we) be doing to encourage our learners to use digital literacy skills in ways that "leave a legacy” (i.e., something that the learners can continue to own and share long after the formal learning opportunities conclude)?
  • What can we do in defining and fostering digital literacy to support work that has an identifiable purpose that is meaningful to our colleagues and our learners?
I can tell that this exercise is a little more difficult than our earlier tasks, as here it is Wednesday and nobody has posted on the weekly discussion board yet!  Difficult is not quite the right word - what this task takes is a bit more thought and it's not so easy to quickly type out an answer.

I watched the video two nights ago, and took a few notes.  Then I watched it again, and added to my notes...
A photo posted by Anne Murphy (@librarianguish) on

Rather than answer the questions directly, for now I'm just going to make note of my notes.  ✏️

  1. Involvement in community gives meaning
  2. Critical thinking and problem solving
  3. Don't teach any particular technology --> short term
  4. Find a problem, THEN use technology to solve it
  5. Dignity and integrity of work; adding value
  6. Leaving a legacy adds value
  7. PURPOSE!  There must be a purpose to the work
  8. Peer to peer learning is effective (social interaction)
  9. The ecology of learning has changed
  10. Contribution = ownership of learning

I've got more thinking to do on those three questions, and how I might answer them in the context of my work both with library staff and our patrons.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Crap Detection - Fake Accounts on Twitter

Have you ever received an obvious spam email or blog comment that's trying to look legitimate?  On the surface they might seem okay, but a quick read gives them away.  Here's a snippet from a recent blog comment I received:

Unbreakable & collapsible, multifarious from stock bloom flower vase.
While performs the done gathering as accustomed cheap flower vases one.
Charm vase made of hard-wearing and flexible soft materials.
Absolutely fill it with copiously then it takes show improvement as a flower vase.
Fatiguing davy jones's locker layer helps it continue firmly with sprinkle in it.

Pretty obvious, isn't it?  But spammers and bots aren't always quite so obvious - it takes a bit of crap detection (and skepticism) to spot them before you click on a link that might infect your computer with a nasty virus.

Let's look at an example from Twitter.  Yesterday I was followed by an account that didn't pass the smell test with me.  How many problems can you find in this screen shot?

Gina Randolph looks like a nice enough person.  I don't watch television, but her face seems familiar to me - can't place it though.  Beyond that, there are some things going on with this account that should raise the alarm bells.

  • Twitter handle:  @ArangoKryukova - a foreign sounding handle by itself is no problem, but in this case there is nothing about the account that matches a name like this.
  • The bio blurb makes no sense:  "The most effective remaining stock promoter is one that I have not yet blogged .... This blog has a terms of use that is incorporated by reference"

  • Location = Las Vegas, baby!  Kind of cliché, don't you think?
  • Every single tweet contains a shortened link through a site called - click on them if you dare!  I didn't.  And the photos often don't have any connection to the topic of the tweet.

Bubble dog is horrified at the economic decline in China!  See how horrified bubble dog is?  Bubble dog weeps for China.

Bubble dog wants a treat.  As long as it's not made in China, because it might kill him.

Somehow, this account has 2,638 followers - who are these people?  How many of them automatically followed our friend Gina when her account followed them, without checking the details?  Quite a few, I imagine.

A little bit of investigation goes a long way.  I'd much rather follow Pogo the Death Clown than Gina.   Research tells me that Pogo is followed by real people that I trust, and his account has a wide variety of posts including original thoughts and retweets.  Pogo may have a strange name, but that's a good indicator there's a real person at work on that account.  I can follow him, and if it turns out I don't like his tweets, I can unfollow him.  No big deal.  I'm going to have to say no to Gina however.

I sure do like bubble dog though...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A new tool!

One of our assignments this week is to try something new and expend our digital literacy skills.  I mentioned in an earlier post that I don't have a very good record with video production and editing, however I'm not quite ready to go there (though I do have an idea of what I might try).   I am quite comfortable with static imagery, and really like visual representations of information.  It seemed logical then to create some sort of visual to go along with our class content.

Last night I searched for sites where one could create an infographic, but I wasn't happy with the options I found.  Fortunately I came across mention of Canva while poking around the US Digital Literacy site (there's a gold mine!)

Then I made something.

During our first week we looked at Doug Belshaw's Eight Elements of Digital Literacy, and I loved his graphic based on the periodic table.

When we started talking about Rheingold's literacies, my mind wanted to see everything in a way that I could easily compare them and think about how they overlapped or differed - but there was no quick visual available for Rheingold's list.

Until now!

I think I'll get some good mileage out of Canva.  It was very easy to use and I can already think of specific needs I have for upcoming presentations at work.  I'm glad I discovered it!

If you're interested in visual representations of  information, I recommend Information is Beautiful.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Digital activity inventory

2010 ended on a swell note - good riddance to a stressful year!

Before moving on and trying something new, I figured it might be a fun/frightening exercise to try and remember all of the sites I've been involved with or posted on since first stepping into the digital realm over 10 years ago.  In no particular order...

I'm sure this list is missing something - in fact I know it is (I'm just drawing a blank).  I've also left comments on numerous blogs and news sites, participated in discussion forums, and contributed little bits here and there all over the internet.  This may seem like a lot, but this list represents about 13 years of my life.  That's a pretty significant chunk of time.  Some of these sites were great, but don't exist anymore (Multiply).  Some I've tried out, but they haven't panned out to be anything much (Ello).  If nothing else, I can capture my username by signing up for the various sites even if I don't ever do much.

These days, my top usage sites are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest, and G+.  And Blogger for those times when I feel like waxing non-poetic...

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Rethinking Digital Literacy - week two begins!

Welcome back!  The second week of the ALA eCourse "Rethinking Digital Literacy to Serve Library Staff and Users" is sliding by already.  I'm feeling like the first week was just a warm up, and that we're really going to get into the thick of things this week!

Our first activity is to watch this video, then answer some questions.

What specific, identifiable digital skills and tools are they developing and using?

A lot!  Here's what I saw as I watched the video:

  • Typing/keyboarding
  • Presentations including visuals
  • Contribution/collaboration (wiki)
  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Fact checking
  • Video editing
  • Design layout (newspaper, yearbook, website)
  • Filming
  • Photography/image manipulation
  • Public speaking (morning announcements)
  • "copywriting" announcements
  • video production
  • Skype (video conferencing)
  • Online social communication
  • Computer network
  • Hardware maintenance
Some things are implied based on what I saw, but that's a pretty packed list of skills.  The one word that springs to mind to describe a lot of the things they're doing is COLLABORATION.  I don't recall much in the way of that when I was in school, until much later in library school when I had a few group projects.  I'm not sure I'd call some of those very good examples of collaboration, to be honest.

How much of what those young learners can do are we able to do?

Speaking for myself, I'm not doing too shabby compared to them.  In a pinch, I could do most of these things to some degree if needed.  My weakness is video production/editing.  It's just not something I've been particularly interested in, and therefore I haven't done any on my own.

Okay, maybe there was that one time I added music to a video clip of my son feeding pancakes to seagulls.

When I think about my coworkers, I see a broad spectrum (there's that word again!) of skills depending on the individual.  Some of us are more eager and interested in learning how to do new things with technology, and pursue it outside of work.  This is great, as we bring those skills with us every day and they often come in handy!  Some staff learn what's needed to get the job done and do a bit with tech for personal reasons, but aren't as into it.  I also observe staff that are proficient with computers as a tool to look things up and otherwise serve our users, but who aren't comfortable with the myriad of devices people bring in the door.  Quite a few of the above listed skills are still beyond many of my coworkers, primarily because they aren't needed in our day-to-day work.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Rethinking Digital Literacy - Entering the Fray


I'm finding it difficult to believe that the first week of this course is over!  We all made our entrance to the learning space on Monday, and after reading and watching the initial pieces about digital literacy people began sharing their thoughts.

This week's assignment was to come up with a concise definition of digital literacy.

Easier said than done!

There are so many elements and variables, so rather than try to capture them all in my definition, I came up with this:

Digital Literacy is the synthesis of technology skills with the ability to consume and create information and communication in a digital environment.

I think a lot of people have a vague idea of what digital literacy is:

Using computers to do stuff!

We all know it really isn't that simple, but it can be difficult to describe.  Digital literacy is a spectrum of skills and knowledge, that much is clear.  It's not just the ability to use technology in a competent manner - what one does with it and how they do it is an important factor.

One resource I particularly enjoyed was Doug Belshaw's TEDx talk "The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies."  Not only did he have a delightful accent, but he also brought up a point that really struck home with me.  At about the 12:54 mark in his talk, he shared a slide showing the arrow of digital literacy pointing to the intersection of "individual interest" and "important issues."

INDIVIDUAL INTEREST.  This is what motivates people to improve their digital literacy skills (though they might not be thinking of what they're doing in those terms).  Certainly some people are forced into learning new skills depending on circumstance, but a good deal of digital literacy progress comes when an individual has a personal stake in the outcome.  Once I thought of a specific interest-based example, it became much easier to describe the progression of digital literacy skills including technical, cognitive, and social facets.


I've already begun thinking about how what I learn in this course will inform my work.  One of my focuses for the next year and a half is to "create a standard of digital literacy for all public services staff."  If our staff isn't digitally literate, then how can we possibly help our library patrons improve their skills?  But what does it mean for library staff to be digitally literate?  How can I guide them to improve their skills without it seeming like something they grudgingly have to do?  These are just some of the questions I'll be looking to answer as I work through this course and beyond.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Can you spot a fake?

Earlier today I was  responding to a comment on my initial post about the definition of digital literacy, and I ended up using the example of digital photography to illustrate how competence with a technology tool does not mean one is digitally literate.  Here's what I wrote, in response to the question...

"Is technology competence the same as digital literacy?"
Technology competence is a crucial aspect of digital literacy, seeing as we're talking about activities that take place in the digital environment which implies the utilization of technology in some manner.  The ability to utilize technology tools in itself does not however indicate that somebody is digitally literate.  I think we're all coming to the conclusion that digital literacy is a spectrum of skills and experience, and competence with the technology is the first step to higher levels.  I'll use digital photography as an example.
The entry level to this set of digital literacy skills would be the ability to operate a camera - turning it on, then taking a photo; perhaps using some of the settings to adjust the output.  A person at this level might only ever print the photos they take.  We would consider them to have basic competence with their camera, but not be digitally literate in this particular interest/skill set (which does not preclude them from being highly digitally literate in another skill set).
So what does it take to be digitally literate?  Our photographer may next learn how to transfer their photos to their computer, which adds a new realm of technical skill.  Soon they may wish to share their photos with friends and family, which might lead to learning to attach files to emails - now they're starting to combine technology tools and learn transferable skills.  At this point   there are two possible paths of increased skill.  The first is photo manipulation using software like Photoshop.  The second path is towards broader sharing on the internet - a person can do either or both, depending on their interests.  Once they make the decision to start sharing online, the 8 elements really come into play - our photographer is no longer operating in isolation.  Say they join Flickr - suddenly they are sharing their photos with the world, and have the ability to give and receive comments, and they may become as much a "consumer" of images as they are a producer.  As they travel the online world, they might use their knowledge of photo manipulation and critical thinking skills to easily identify fakes that frequently fool the masses...

colorful photoshopped lemons

These ARE NOT lemons injected with food coloring, no matter what they say on Pinterest.  This is a stock photo of oranges that has been photoshopped.

Perhaps this is why it's so difficult to come up with a concise definition - digital literacy is a spectrum that includes a wide variety of skills which can vary depending on interests and desired outcomes!

Thursday, July 16, 2015


See-ming Lee

I've created this blog as a companion to an ALA class I'm taking this summer - Rethinking Digital Literacy to Serve Library Staff and Users.

For now, the purpose is to record my ideas and insights as I work through the course.  Digital literacy is an endless topic, and no doubt this blog will grow as needed.  Eventually, it may become a tool for communicating with coworkers on the subjects of digital literacy and emerging technology.  I will be exploring other platforms as well, but in the meantime I'll start with what I know.  Nothing wrong with that!

So far this week I've been reading a lot on the concept of digital literacy, and already I feel my sleepy synapses firing.  It's taking a few days to warm up, but I'm reaching good velocity now.

Stay tuned.