About Judy O'Connell

Educator, learner, blogger, librarian, technology girl, author and consultant. Transforming education and libraries. Innovation for life.

Have you got a pirate in your school?

Something that rather belatedly crossed my professional radar has been the ‘antics’ of the Dread Pirate Roberts. I first caught up with this topic sitting in a hotel lounge in Singapore, reading the Forbes Asia September issue. Here was a fantastic challenge to the ongoing discussions of what happens online, including challenges to ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and the whole matter of appropriate global citizenship. The truth is, we must be aware that online environments can be manipulated as well as manipulative – and in that sector, drug trafficking,  porn and the sex trade exemplifies everything that is destructive to society despite the so-called ‘democratic’ right of people to engage in their own peculiar passions and vices.

So it was increasingly sophisticated anonymity tools in online environments that created a bustling online narcotics market – and in this realm Dread Pirate Roberts was king of the waters, running the booming anonymous narcotics bazaar known as the Silk Road . What’s interesting to me is not only the ethical issues of drug use and marketing etc, but ALSO the communication mechanisms that are deployed online.

The Forbes reporting on the Dread Prirate said:

An entrepreneur as professionally careful as the Dread Pirate Roberts doesn’t trust instant messaging services. Forget phones or Skype. At one point during our eight-month preinterview courtship, I offer to meet him at an undisclosed location outside the United States. “Meeting in person is out of the question,” he says. “I don’t meet in person even with my closest advisors.” When I ask for his name and nationality, he’s so spooked that he refuses to answer any other questions and we lose contact for a month.

All my communications with Roberts are routed exclusively through the messaging system and forums of the website he owns and manages, the Silk Road. Accessing the site requires running the anonymity software Tor, which encrypts Web traffic and triple-bounces it among thousands of computers around the world. Like a long, blindfolded ride in the back of some guerrilla leader’s van, Tor is designed to prevent me–and anyone else–from tracking the location of Silk Road’s servers or the Dread Pirate Roberts himself. “The highest levels of government are hunting me,” says Roberts. “I can’t take any chances.”

How many of your students are aware of these unofficial and anonymous back-channels?  I know I am not. Seems that neither were any of the Dread Pirate’s family.

A media report today tells us that it’s the End of the Silk Road. On Wednesday, the FBI announced that they arrested 29-year-old Ross William Ulbricht, the Silk Road’s accused administrator, in the Glen Park branch of the San Francisco Public Library.The FBI hasn’t yet revealed how it managed to track down Ulbricht in spite of his seemingly careful use of encryption and anonymity tools to protect his identity and those of his customers and vendors who visited Silk Road as often as 60,000 times per day.

My question is – which kid is going to be the next dirty ‘entrepreneur’?  Which library or cafe  is going to be that kid’s base for disruptive activities deployed via online environments?

Digital citizenship programs in schools?  What a challenge!

Are you curious about RDA in school libraries?

The story of knowledge is a story of history, and one that directly relates to the way we have wanted to infl uence and educate the young members of our society. Recorded information, and the documents or carriers which carry information forward, has come a long way since the emergence of oral traditions and records on clay tablets and the like. The Library of Alexandria was in many ways the fi rst grand repository of information, organised and made accessible as an offi cial repository for scholars.

For hundreds of years libraries consisted mostly of printed books and journals, and so these were mostly what library catalogues described. As information technology developed, new kinds of information resources were produced, which information agencies such as libraries also started to collect, such as photographs, sound recordings (phonograph records, tapes, CDs), films and videos. School library collections were almost entirely books up until the 1970s when audiovisual resources along with the proliferation of educational print resources such as charts and ‘big books’ brought a wave of change. At about this time librarians started to talk about ”materials’ or ‘resources’ as the generic name (rather than ‘books’ or ‘volumes’) for what they dealt with in their collections, and started to describe a much larger range of materials in their catalogues.

So from a school library point of view, library catalogues have been an important example of an information organization and access tool, since a catalogue is essentially a database with a complex range of access points (metadata) to information resources using data elements in the record, such as author or title. Until recently this structured and consistent approach to cataloguing in our school libraries was built on the Anglo-American cataloguing rules  (AACR2) ensuring uniform accessibility to information in whatever format was wanted, because of the resource description detail that is embedded in such a catalogue record. However, these catalogues were stand-alone end points to what was in a particular collection, and typically had to even be used within the walls of the library.

Fast-forward to the digital era, and the rapidly changing information environment that is has brought. We see that we have reached a period of time where information has never been more abundant and accessible, and conversely the need for efficient management of that information more critical than ever in the history of human information and knowledge endeavours. We now have the technology to provide global connection anywhere on computers – that also includes the digital capabilities of mobile and tablet devices.

This change in the information environment has generated a significant shift in our understanding of shared information resource description and access across connected systems, organisations, and in web environments outside of the catalogue.

So what IS RDA?

Librarians and other information professionals were among the first to realise the importance of the Internet in the provision of information services, and it is also they who have understood the impact of digital environments on the production, distribution, storage and consumption of information.   Information agencies have worked hard to provide the cataloguing details required to ensure that information can be retrieved, and it is because of this that the Resource Description and Access  (RDA) and it’s specific ‘vocabularies’ were developed and implemented around the world.

In fact, it was June 2010 that AACR2, the cataloguing standard in use for the last thirty years, was challenged with something new – the publication of RDA as a replacement cataloguing standard.  As the biggest change in bibliographic standards since the adoption of MARC21 ten years ago (coming from USMARC), the new rules have inspired much discussion in the cataloguing community and beyond. RDA is a new standard for metadata description of resources held in the collections of libraries, archives, museums, and other information management organizations. Building on AACR2 it aims to provide a comprehensive set of textual guidelines and instructions for creating metadata covering all types of resource content and media. RDA focuses on the data elements needed to meet the user tasks specified in the FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) and FRAD (Functional Requirements for Authority Records) conceptual models. The use of FRBR concepts allows the relationships between multiple versions of a resource to be presented to users in a meaningful way including being displayed in a simpler, clustered format making it easier for the user to locate the item required.

RDA essentially standardizes how metadata content is identified, transcribed and generally structured, although it is independent of any specific metadata encoding. RDA also identifies a general set of metadata elements, and can provide a controlled vocabulary for use as the content of an element. Although RDA is being developed primarily for use with resources curated in a library environment, consultations have been undertaken with other information management communities, including publishers and those operating in the digital world, to try to ensure effective alignment with the metadata standards used in those communities.

RDA is proving to be an important building block in the creation of better catalogues and resource discovery systems. It provides for the creation of metadata, which meets users’ needs for data content and also facilitates machine manipulation of that data for searching and display.

RDA in Australia

Metadata standards relating to elements, format and transmission used for descriptive cataloguing in RDA have gradually been adopted around the world, including Australia and New Zealand during 2013. So once the National Library of Australia announced that it would implement RDA in early 2013 it became important for all people working in the library and information industry to have some understanding of the purpose of RDA and its implications for the library catalogue.

Resource Description and Access, is designed to help us transition to the technological capabilities of the Internet, today and into the future by having us identify the entities and relationships at the element level that machines can use better than they have been able to in the past in our MARC records.  RDA will also work when we package the elements in MARC records as we will have to do for some transitional period. RDA is not an encoding system or a presentation standard for displays, but instead specifies how to describe the things in our bibliographic universe – resources, persons, corporate bodies, etc., and the relationships among those things.

The RDA Toolkit provides instructions necessary for implementing RDA in libraries. Although the preferred way to access RDA is online via the RDA Toolkit, print copies of the RDA instructions are also available for purchase. http://www.rdatoolkit.org/

RDA is not completely different from AACR2, but it is more than just a new edition. Some of the most notable differences include:-

  • Fewer abbreviations
  • Allowance for local cataloguing standards to meet the needs of the community
  • Specific format descriptors for non-book and electronic resources
  • Record information as it is presented on the item
  • Explicit identification of each possible element for inclusion
  • Record all authors and contributors
  • Dropping of the rules to do with the (ISBD) arrangement of elements, making the new code ‘format neutral’
  • Elements covering both the attributes of the library resource and the attributes of the people and organisations associated with the resource (so that it covers the creation of authority as well as bibliographic records)
  • These elements are based on the FRBR user tasks (finding, identifying, selecting and obtaining), and, in the case of the attributes of people and organisations, the FRAD user tasks
  • Covers the construction of records for abstract ‘works’ that an item might be a manifestation of, as well as for the manifestation itself
  • More international in outlook (e.g. doesn’t prefer English names)

Whether RDA will give rise to a ‘cataloguing revolution’ is as yet unclear, as it will be possible to continue producing records using it that look remarkably similar to those based on AACR2. The question is whether libraries will implement it more fully, and use it as an opportunity to integrate their cataloguing data with other metadata elsewhere across the web!

The real power of RDA is derived from the implementation of the new conceptual models for catalogues:

  • Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records focuses on what the user needs to find, identify, select and obtain.
  • Functional Requirements for Authority Data focuses on what the user needs to find, identify, contextualise and justify.

A library management system that embeds RDA, along with FRBR and FRAD, can provide a very rewarding search experience for the user. Once library management systems embrace these concepts and fully implement RDA, catalogues will truly be there for the convenience of the user! We will have complementary ways of organizing things to open up more pathways for users to find what we have in our library collections and related resources beyond our libraries.

Access the National Library of Australia information about RDA at http://www.nla.gov.au/acoc/resource-description-and-access-rda-in-australia

Extract from:  O’Connell, J. (2013). RDA for school libraries: The next generation in cataloguing. ACCESS. 27(3), Vol. 27. September, 4-6.

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Vicki & Chuck Rogers

Standing on stilts – and a new degree!

Sometimes we are too immersed in what is around us, and find it hard to look out beyond the crowd to a place that brings not only excitement, but also the the kind of stimulation that any creative mind seeks. That’s what education aims to be about of course, but we can’t always succeed.  In that sense I am really lucky to be working in an environment that does support standing on stilts – if you are willing to take up the balancing-act challenge!

So on that front I have been lucky to have the support of my Faculty to stand on stilts – big time!.  We’ve now officially launched the website about our newest degree offering, the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation). In this degree will be undertaking to meet the challenges of learning in a connected world, and helping our post-graduate students (who will already be outstanding teaching practitioners)  develop the capacity to be responsive to the challenges that this connected world brings.

In examining the concepts and practices for a digital age, we will of course engage with as many of the recent developments which are influencing learning and teaching in an increasingly digitally-connected world. By examining key features and influences of global connectedness, information organization, communication and participatory cultures of learning, I hope that our students will be provided with the opportunity to reflect on their professional practice in a networked learning community, and engage in dialogue to develop an authentic understanding of concepts and practices for learning and teaching in digital environments.

We will be reviewing and reconstructing understanding. We will be standing on stilts and looking for the contexts for innovation and change in day-to-day professional practice. Overall we will be encouraging professional learning through authentic tasks and activities through collaboration with peers; by immersing ourselves in readings that are thought-provoking; by adopting a stance of inquiry, reflection and analysis, and by engaging with new knowledge in the context of the daily transactions of learning and teaching.

The new degree follows a flexible structure, allowing students to craft a program of study that meets their own (and often diverse) professional needs.  The range of subjects on offer are varied, following the foundation subject “Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age“.  I will be teaching this subject myself to kick-start the degree program, because I want to!  I believe that this new degree program is going to be demanding, exciting, challenging, invigorating, and  will allow us to build professional connections between us and a real excitement for future possibilities.

OK, you say – get off your stilts now!  Stop dreaming!

The fact is that I am totally committed.  As a Courses Director, I am not expected to teach.  But in fact, I will be teaching the foundation subject because I want very much  to engage with our first cohort of students to get a measure of what is possible, and to ensure that our degree program can respond together to the challenges that new knowledge networks bring us.  You, the first cohort, will indeed lay the foundations of the purposes and future learning opportunities for anyone entering the program.  Let’s do it!  Come and join me in the challenge.

I will be holding the first round of online information Webinars about this degree program next week. If you are in the least bit curious, do sign up and join me for a chat. You’ll find the link to sign up for the webinar at the degree program website.

If you haven’t quite caught up with the rapid changes in our connected world – consider this.  Yesterday saw the world scrambling to update their iPhones to the new iOS7 operating system.  I was like a kid in a candy store as I played with my device for hours. I exchanged views and opinions with my global online colleagues via Twitter and Facebook. It was a ball!

I also work online all the time – and talk, plan, dream, sigh in these virtually connected environments. What will it be like when iRobot comes into our working environments?

iRobot was founded in 1990 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology roboticists with the vision of making practical robots a reality.  Since then they have produced robots that vacuum and wash floors, clean gutters and pools and patrol war zones.  At InfoComm which was held in Orlando, Florida last month iRobot announced they were partnering with Cisco (videoconference and telepresence solutions company) to bring an enterprise grade iRobot Ava 500 video collaboration robot to market.  iRobot blended their self navigating robot with Cisco’s high definition TelePresence technology (EX60) and wireless access points to allow offsite workers to participate in meetings where movement and the ability to change locations quickly was simple.

Ava 500 gives new meaning to the term mobile videoconferencing.  It’s no longer a case of mobile describing where you can take your equipment but where your equipment can take you!!

AVA 500 telepresence robot in action

Navigation is controlled with an advanced suite of sensors consisting of laser, sonar, 2D and 3D imaging, cliff sensors and contact bumpers.  Ava can move in any direction just like a human and safely transport herself to a meeting (having already mapped out the floor plan of the building).  She can adjust her height to accomodate who she’s meeting with (seated or standing) and can moderate her speed and alter her path if she senses humans in the environment (to get to the meeting on time).  She automatically returns to her charging station after the meeting is over.

Ava comes with a dedicated iPad which is used to schedule and control her attendance at meetings.  You can select Ava’s meeting destination by tapping a location on a map or choosing a room or employee name.  At the scheduled time Ava is activated to take you where you want to go.  You can elect to travel from the charging station to the selected location in either private mode (screen appears blank) or in public mode (screen shows video of you – see above).  If public mode is chosen you can see and be seen by others and can even stop to have a conversation with a colleague on the way.

Ava is targeted for availability in early 2014.  Thanks to the DIT blog at CSU for this eye-popping information.

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by John Flinchbaugh

Metadata and your Big Data?

Humanities is an area ripe for exploiting big data, enabling scholars to analyze topics more broadly and deeply than ever before – whether in the form of books, artworks, music, or any other digitizable format.  In this video, Amanda Rust, Assistant Head of Research & Instruction, Arts & Humanities at the Snell Library of Northeastern University, Boston, MA tells us about her experience of and visions for the use of big data and digital humanities.

#MysterySkype for a global adventure

A promotion arrived in my email today that has to be worth grabbing!  If you are not already hooked into Skype in the Classroom, then here is a great opportunity to get started.

#MysterySkype is a global guessing game, devised by teachers, to be played between two classrooms around the world. The promotion says that it’s suitable for all age groups and can be used for subjects such as history, geography, languages, mathematics and science.

1. Find a class – Join the list and message or tweet teachers you’d like to connect with.

2. Arrange a time – When you’ve found a class you’d like to Mystery Skype with, agree on a date and time for your lesson.

3. Share your story – Share your  Mystery Skype stories, photos and videos. Share them on Twitter by mentioning @SkypeClassroom and using the #MysterySkype hashtag.

More information to tantalize you at this link.

An international school library perspective

Balinese dancerThis week I am delighted to be immersed in international perspectives on school libraries and teacher librarianship as I participate in the 42nd annual conference of the International Association of School Librarianship. IASL conferences provide a gathering point for leaders and practitioners in the field of school libraries, and has allowed me to meet some amazing and inspirational people over the years. This year, the IASL conference “Enhancing Students’ Life Skills through the School Library”  is hosted in Bali, Indonesia by the Indonesia Association of School Library Workers, an independent organization facilitating school library workers to improve competencies and develop school librarianship in Indonesia.

After preparing the conference paper “Building a Vibrant Future for School Librarians through Online Conversations for Professional Development” I was fortunate to be able to present a lively presentation and discussion session (translated into Indonesian) about digital environments and the work of the School of Information Studies to support online conversations as part of the personal learning networks in this context.

Being web savvy includes Twitter

These days the need for educators to be web savvy is a given.  What’s not so much understood is that being web savvy includes being social media literate!

The digital transformation has produced some extraordinary online tools for flexible education, which enhance students’ learning and promise innovative pedagogy for teachers. However, they can also be daunting and challenging for educators. It is clear that teachers cannot ignore these tools, which go far beyond just Facebook and Twitter. Educators are now dealing with Generation Z – students born after 1995 who have hardly known a world without social media and have always lived a life measured in bits and bytes.

Be web savvy to keep up with Generation Z became a case in point.  Recently I was asked to write this small piece for Times Educational Supplement @TES on this very topic. Nice!  I admit that what I submitted is not exactly as it turned up on screen (the print version looks grand), but that is the way of journalism racing to meet deadlines.

If it wasn’t for Twitter and the wonderful help of @TESAustralia I would still be cringing at the formatting errors – because traditional email was not resulting in a ‘fix’!! It’s true – I’m web savvy, but I had to be social media savvy to be connected with the right person to fix this tiny problem.

Being web savvy has many dimensions – and social media savvy is but one of them. My example is a silly little one of course, but it was important to me! Luckily there are many powerful examples of teachers who understand the full concepts and connections inherent in being web savvy, and I knew that when I included a few key friends and colleagues in my article. Thank you to @kathleen_morris, @BiancaH80, @dbatty1, for being my exemplary representative Australians, including Ivanhoe Grammar’s iCyberSafe.com.

Disclaimer:  I didn’t pick the title of the article!  You have to love a subbie’s take on what teachers might want ;-)

Image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Neal Fowler

What’s with all the conversations?

You know how it is these days – everyone seems to be looking at some kind of an iDevice or another, where-ever you turn. It’s easy to make trivial comments about the iSociety, but let’s face it – the future of technology and information is anything but trivial!

Last year I discovered that I could speak to my mobile phone – literally ask it a  question.  With the power of SIRI (Apple’s iOS information navigator) my mobile phone gave me some answers right there on my screen.  It would seem that soon there will be no need to read an answer to a question with voice responses being the norm, and in another few decades there may not even be a question!

While we grapple with devices, interfaces and screens in our daily lives, the futurists tell us that we will BE our technology and information will be who we are and what it made us.

As we watch the fast-paced changes taking place in technology, the web of data and the social connections between us, the value of information as knowledge remains the core business of librarians and info-nerds. The “Fourth Revolution,” proposed by Floridi (2012)  describes the current information age, an era in which our understanding of both self and world is significantly altered by sudden changes in the information climate and which are directly attributable to the advent of computing machinery from Alan Turing (1912-1954) onwards.  As curators of knowledge and cultural history the burning question in this fourth revolution undoubtedly lies in our ongoing ability to manipulate and manage information flow.

The digital revolution has given us instant communication and easy global connectedness, with mobile technology and its influences in particular growing at warp speed – in 2013, there are almost as many mobile-cellular subscriptions as people in the world. This digital transformation has produced some extraordinary tools for flexible learning, which are exciting for both students and teachers and promise new and innovative methods of teaching. However, these tools can also be incredibly daunting and challenging for educators.

Thomas and Seely Brown (2011), who explored this new culture of learning in our world of constant change, explained how much the Internet has changed the way we think about both technology and information. In this new culture of learning, information technology has become a participatory medium, giving rise to an environment that is constantly being changed and reshaped by the participation within information spaces. They argue that traditional approaches to learning are no longer capable of coping with this constantly changing world. Teachers no longer need to scramble to provide the latest up-to-date information to students because the students themselves are able to take an active role in helping to create and mould it, particularly in areas of social information.

To support and nurture learning in these evolving environments is a challenge, and why using digital mediums to communicate, collaborate, and curate in the management and dissemination of information is important. Library and information science academic and professional development programs should be designed to enhance personal professional networks and personal learning conversations.

I’m pleased to welcome a new group of students into our degree program for Teacher Librarianship. These ‘students’ already have a wealth of professional experience as teachers behind them, but our professional program for them is already challenging them with  new cultures of learning  – and it’s only Week 1!

It’s exciting to see the evolving information ecology that these students are moving into. What’s more exciting is that with such a great new bunch of students, I know that teacher librarianship will be in safe hands in the future.

Floridi, L. (2012). The fourth revolution. The Philosophers’ Magazine, (57), 96-101.
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change (Vol. 219). Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

Image: The Family Pile cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Blake Patterson

The mother of all demos

The first computer mouse held by Engelbart sho...

The first computer mouse held by Engelbart showing the wheels that directly contact the working surface (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Following on from my last post which included mention of the historical turning points created by Douglas Engelbart, who died on July 2 at age 88, I wanted to share a record of some of that.

If Douglas’ name doesn’t ring a bell, then look at your computer mouse and give thanks to this World War II radar technician who came up with the idea in the 1960s. Engelbart also influenced computer use in other ways, such as working on the use of multiple windows, network computing technologies. In addition, his lab helped develop ARPANet, which was the government network that predated the Internet.

A bit of his history is captured and available on YouTube. The Mother of All Demos is a name given retrospectively to Douglas Engelbart’s December 9, 1968, demonstration of experimental computer technologies that are now commonplace. The live demonstration featured the introduction of the computer mouse, video conferencing, teleconferencing, hypertext, word processing, hypermedia, object addressing and dynamic file linking, bootstrapping, and a collaborative real-time editor.

Extraordinary!

Creating change, creating the future


What a great week for change and development it has been!  In a significant point in history I saw today that one of the world’s innovators, Douglas Englbart died, and there was plenty of commentary reflecting his myriad contributions circulating in the globe’s media.

The Computer History Museum explained:

Engelbart’s most important work began with his 1959 founding of the Augmentation Research Center, where he developed some of the key technologies used in computing today. Engelbart brought the various strands of his research together for his “mother of all demos” in San Francisco on December 8, 1968, an event that presaged many of the technologies and computer-usage paradigms we would use decades later. His system, called NLS, showed actual instances of, or precursors to, hypertext, shared screen collaboration, multiple windows, on-screen video teleconferencing, and the mouse as an input device.

It was interesting to read that Engelbart conceived the computer mouse so early in the evolution of computers that he and his colleagues didn’t profit much from it. The mouse patent had a 17-year life span, allowing the technology to pass into the public domain in 1987. That prevented Engelbart from collecting royalties on the mouse when it was in its widest use. At least a billion have been sold since the mid-1980s.

Meanwhile, as the last century continues to fade, CSU staff are busy this week nurturing the potential future innovators in information studies -  through the Melbourne study visit of libraries and information agencies, and the mid-year residential school for latest new students in the Bachelor of Information Studies.

Melbourne Study Tour

These two activities combined have seen a host of excited students – but the newest recruits were easily the most amazing bunch I’ve seen so far.

If they keep up the level of enthusiasm they have shown this week – watch out world!

I’ll be chatting to them about the social networking subject of course, and they are the first lucky bunch to be introduced to our new Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/SISCSU and Twitter account https://twitter.com/SISCSU.

No fear -  the School of Information Studies staff are a talented bunch.  We even provide our own entertainment for students, lead by Damian Lodge – lecturer, ALIA Director, and classical guitar maker!

Image: 25 Years of Apple Mouse Evolution cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by osaMu