If you don’t do it, it doesn’t exist!

I admit, I’m a little late to the party, and my recipes  are simple to say the least. But you know, one of the very best things about learning and working with students and fellow educators is always being fortunate enough to find more to learn! There is no shortage of ideas that can be done.

My main work is with professionals – teachers in schools and post school settings.  So we are not talking new learners!  Now I don’t buy the digital native argument for a minute, but I do wring my hands in despair at educators who don’t keep their minds and hearts open to exploration, innovation, and learning in whatever way is needed to ensure that the role we play as an educator is guaranteed to be useful – even if only in a very small way.

Yet I understand things not always coming easily. If you can’t ‘find the URL’ to a item, I’ll help you learn (yes, I still get asked that question). But I’d much rather you asked me a complex question about professional practice, information curation, or ways or managing information flow. Why?  Because these are some of the key challenges for educators.

So back to that basic recipe I mentioned – yes, I finally faced up to the fact that I NEED to be using IFTTT for more effective information gathering as part of my subject delivery processes. I have my colleague Dean Groom to thank for the final push. We’re playing in INF541 Game Based Learning, a subject which Dean is teaching after heading the writing team of Groom and O’Connell again. Wow, the years have flown since we got into online environments and virtual worlds with our small books back in 2010.

But nothing has changed since then. Still learning. Dean showed me how to set up IFTT to gather a running record of what’s happening in our subjects, and how to push that information back out as part of our participatory learning experience.

What is IFTTT?

IFTTT empowers you with creative control over the products and apps you love. Recipes are simple connections between products and apps.  I knew this, and until now the only recipe I had running was an email of a new recipe to me each week. But I never did anything else.  Dreadful.

The amazing thing is that IF Recipes run automatically in the background. Create powerful connections with one simple statement — if this then that.

For example:

So now I am using three recipes, taken from shared recipes available at the site, and also one customized by Dean.

Now we are both doing the following:

  • Collecting all the tweets with the subject #hastag in a Google spreadsheet.
  • Collecting all the blog posts that relate to the subject from my Feedly category to a Google spreadsheet
  • Sending back to twitter the new posts that turn up in the Google spreadsheet.

This is all automatic.  What does this allow?

Participatory sharing ||| Data collection ||| Subject tracking |||

Now we have the opportunity to quickly confirm (or otherwise) the extent of a students actual participation in the back-channel as part of the course experience – a vital part of monitoring student engagement and program effectiveness. There are many other formal channels, of course, but the social media aspect was one that I was never quite happy about.

I’m embarrassed I didn’t do this sooner! But of course, that’s why I am still learning from my peers. :-)
Image: creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by venspired

Our connections and the flow of knowledge

Learning is the process of acquiring knowledge, which is an active process and operates at both individual and social levels. When it comes to information behaviour within this context there are a wide range of theories and models which represent thinking and research investigations in this field. Existing models have elements in common, though most models in library and information science focus on information seeking and the information user, while those from the field of communications focus on the communicator and the communication process.  It is certainly worth stopping and revisiting these models, to better understand the ‘cognitive actors’ or other influences at play (Robsons & Robinson, 2013)

What I’m particularly interested in are the Information seeking behaviours and places of information seeking which are constantly changing, and of course growing in possibilities all the time. While we can study models in depth, as academic or professional pursuits,  when we consider how we think in the digital age, Bradbury hits the nail on the head for some of our common issues:

Our modern-day information processing is both careless in how it is consumed and how it is related back to others: rarely do we intentionally seek out an article, comb through it, and then selectively disperse it to an appropriate recipient. Rather, we come across it online, skim the headline or sound bites, and blast it indiscriminately via social media.

The complexities of information behaviour are so important to understand and be responsive to.   What can we hope to do about this, or what is being done? After all, you could say that digital technologies tend to outsource much of what could potentially be reflective thinking to an external device that provides a quick, pre-formed answer!

I was quite taken by a reflection on the Fourth Age of Libraries, and will share an example here from author Sean McMullen:

Recently,  for a story that I was writing, I researched intelligence in crows. So my first stop was to type ‘intelligence and crows’ into Google. I was instantly offered 8,180,000 links. At 5 seconds per hit, working 12 hours per day, it would take about two and a half years to check them all. Everyone can surf the Internet, but librarians can do it effectively. Since I am more interested in using information than finding it, I will continue asking librarians for help.

Yes! Information seeking, and good information behaviours will continue to involve quality curation and equally open information dissemination processes.

Two reports

Two reports I picked up this week add to my pool of readings to help with my thinking about the information era dilemmas.

We  have to nurture the ability to read – and read well!  Measuring the impact of thousands of libraries across multiple countries is quite a formidable undertaking, but with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,  an external research team examined from Room to Read examined  libraries in Laos, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Zambia, and South Africa. To establish a baseline, they began evaluations at the schools before a Room to Read library was established and tracked progress in reading habits over the course of two years.

The most exciting takeaway from the study is that they have been able to confirm empirically that  libraries are helping children become independent readers.
Read the full report summary.

The second useful report to examine comes from the Knowledge Exchange, and the report Sowing the seed: Incentives and Motivations for Sharing Research Data, a researcher’s perspective. A qualitative study, commissioned by Knowledge Exchange, has gathered evidence, examples and opinions on current and future incentives for research data sharing from the researchers’ point of view, in order to provide recommendations for policy and practice development on how best to incentivize data access and re-use. Researchers’ experiences, data sharing practices and motivations are shown to be heterogeneous across the studied research groups and disciplines. Incentives and motivations ask for development of a data infrastructure with rich context where research data, papers and other outputs or resources are jointly available within a single data resource. Different types of data sharing and research disciplines need to be acknowledged. This  report that shows what a long journey is yet ahead of us, to beat the general google-grabbing of low-level information, because better quality material is hidden. Download the study ‘Sowing the seed: Incentives and Motivations for Sharing Research Data, a researcher’s perspective’

Moving forward

So let’s focus on technology and supporting services.  Libraries are a significant focus point in our communities, and technology is the other. As we invent more technology and forms of media, we also need to reinvent our community interactions as virtual and physical spaces of exchange for cultural and knowledge development. Libraries can continue to lead the way in this – from the national services to the quality services in your small local school library.  Building reading along with development and refinement of information seeking strategies and long term information behaviours,  educators and organisations need to remain open and responsive  – skipping the fads that are not supported by research and proven to stand the test of rigorous investigation.

The good news is that libraries are morphing. Read the Near and Far Future of Libraries .As archives become digital and machines become smarter, what function will libraries serve ten years and ten thousand years from now? See what some interesting experts had to say!

Our priority has to be our connections, and creating a flow of knowledge for all ages, across communities, nations and people. Our connections and the flow of knowledge is vital through building on critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.

If you love something – set it free!


Andrew Robson, & Lyn Robinson. (2013). Building on models of information behaviour: linking information seeking and communication. Journal of Documentation, 69(2), 169–193. doi:10.1108/00220411311300039

Image: creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by whatmattdoes

The Internet Scout Report


Teachers often mention to me how difficult they believe it is to keep up-to-date with current quality research and information.  Of course, it isn’t – but only if you have developed a robust strategy for accessing and managing an information flow relevant to your own professional management and learning needs.

Even before all the amazing tools at our fingertips today, I was able to stay ‘in touch’ thanks to the amazing Scout Report. Back in the pre-RSS days, this report provided me with material I could easily share with school staff in my own edited weekly newsletter.   I still subscribe to the scout report, and occasionally snag a piece of information to share.

What is the Scout Report?

The Scout Report is the flagship publication of the Internet Scout Research Group. Published every Friday both on the Web and by email subscription, it provides a fast, convenient way to stay informed of valuable STEM and humanities resources on the Internet. Our team of librarians and subject matter experts selects, researches, and annotates each resource.

Published continuously since 1994, the Scout Report is one of the Internet’s oldest and most respected publications. Organizations are encouraged to link to the Scout Report from their own Web pages, or to receive the HTML version of the Report each week via email for local posting at their sites. Organizations or individuals may also use the sharing options after each annotated resource to email the resource or share it via social media.

The editors of the Scout Report take great pride in finding and sharing the best free Web-based resources we can find.

Each week, the Scout Report’s editors select and annotate approximately eight websites or online resources in each of two categories: Research & Education, and General Interest. Websites in Research & Education tend to focus more heavily on STEM subjects, while those in General Interest span a range of arts, humanities, and curiosities.

The Scout Report

Visit the Internet Scout at https://scout.wisc.edu/ and find out about all the projects and publications.

For the current issue of the Scout Report visit  https://scout.wisc.edu/report/current

The Scout Report Archives collects and catalogs each annotated resource featured in the weekly Scout Report and special issues. Users may find resources of particular interest to them using a keyword search, an advanced search, or by browsing by Library of Congress subject headings.

Past issues of the Scout Report are also available for users to browse at their leisure. These past issues are available chronologically by date.

This issue is located https://scout.wisc.edu/report/2014/1212The email version provides the linked summary followed by annotations.

You should consider signing up, if you haven’t already done so!

Why I FLIP instead of SCOOP

It’s summer here in Sydney, and anyone with any sense is flipping in the water or scooping sand at the beach. I’m not so lucky, being wired to the world via my workdesk. But like many of us I am not alone, and for that reason curating content to revisit, and share along the way is part of what I do.

In the social media sense, content curation is  the organizing, filtering and “making sense of” information on the web and sharing the very best pieces of content with your network that you’ve cherry picked for them .

It comes down to organizing your sources, knowing which of them are trust worthy, and seeing patterns.

So for educators it comes down to  keeping up the pace in adopting these strategies and using tools to publish curated content in the sense of ‘reporting’ what’s happening. So I see myself doing these things:

  • first level curation : curating my own content for myself (my own ‘go-to’ repository with tools like Diigo, Delicious, Evernote, Flipboard, Facebook, Flickr, RSS readers etc, and sharing this because my online tools are socially connected
  • second level curation: curating content for others via targetted tweets or Google+ circles, Facebook pages, Facebook groups, wikis, livebinders,  etc. (Does Paper.li fit in here seeing as it is automated?), so sharing at this level is a direct extension of the first level of personal curation.

Now I can see a reason for educators to move into  third level curation as a form of info-media publishing.  Think of this as dynamic content curation that’s about helping keep up with the news.   The flow of information through social media is changing:

While we’re dismantling traditional structures of distribution, we’re also building new forms of information dissemination. Content is no longer being hocked, but links are. People throughout the network are using the attention they receive to traffic in pointers to other content, serving as content mediators. Numerous people have become experts as information networkers.

Now I can use all my social networking resources and return information back to my social community at the third level of curation.

Social content curation is about collecting, organising and sharing information – in a new package. I’m no archivist. But I am a digital curator of information for myself, and perhaps for others. Back in 2011 I said that  I was interested to see how (what I call) the third level curation evolves. I like the idea of socially connected ways of publishing ‘what’s new’ and ‘what’s newsworthy’ as an ‘aside’ to my ‘go-to’ information repository such as my social bookmarks.

I wrote about Scoop-it, and for quite a time I used Scoop-it quite successfully – for my own purposes and to follow other ‘scoops’.

In 2014 I have largely abandoned Scoop-it – and that is BECAUSE of the way it shares information!  I am totally and completely fed up with finding an interesting recommend in my  FB page  or in my Twitter feed (as and example), from a trusted Scoop-it curator. I completely detest that I HAVE To go to the Scoop first, and THEN to the actual recommended read.  This annoys me so much, that I have abandoned using the tool myself so as not to annoy my curation followers in the same manner! If you use Scoop-it and I see your recommend in my media stream – I’m most likely going to ignore it!

Now I am using Flipboard, because it does the same job, in a much nicer format, PLUS  it doesn’t force a user back to the whole board.  Millions of people use Flipboard to read and collect the news they care about, curating their favorite stories into their own magazines on any topic imaginable. Thousands are using it to create fantastic education resources.

This is magic!  If someone is keen to join or follow a Flipboard, then that’s great.  But in the meantime, we have a perfect tool at our disposal to create a collection for targetted needs.  I’m still experimenting – but I think it’s a great tool.

Endgame. Won.

Thanks to Sue Waters for The flip-a-holic’s ultimate guide to subscribing, curating and sharing using Flipboard. http://theedublogger.com/2013/06/12/flipboard/

Find Judy O’Connell at Flipboard https://flipboard.com/profile/heyjudeonline

Reference: Boyd, D. (2010). Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media. Educause Review, 45(5), 26-28.
Image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by David

Your information flow might be so last century

It’s Monday morning, and as I sit down for my morning cup of tea and toast, I open my iPhone to see what’s in my email, and what items in my calendar will need my attention. I can take a little time over this, as I don’t have a long commute to work ahead of me, though I will ‘commute’ across the country (online) while I collaborate with my colleagues on curriculum standards and content alignment in the work we are doing for the new degree.

Next, as I flicked through Twitter (because I like to do that, and because it’s an important information tool) I stopped – and sighed at the struggle still before us of convincing teachers in K-12 schooling that they have to keep up! Well, there are lots of things they need to keep up with, and their own knowledge discipline is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about information flow – the stuff of our knowledge networks, and the fabric of our connected lives.

In just a couple of minutes of my twitter feed (never mind all the hours I was asleep) I found:

I suspect that I don’t take my information flow nearly as seriously as I should. But at least I try! You should try too! We know that there is a lot happening, and that there are various ways of responding to the speed of info-change. Putting your head under a rock is not one of them!

As Stacey explains in her post Extreme Curation:

I’ll admit it! Sometimes I’m a bit slack and while I endeavour to manage my information well sometimes I just can’t be bothered. So now I think I have the answer “extreme curation for slackers”.

Our Edublogger guru Sue Waters provides us with the brilliant Flip-aholic’s Ultimate Guide to subscribing and sharing.

Just to add to the mix, Darcey Moore explores his own new workflow in Writing and Worflow: Scrivener and Simplenote, explaining:

Workflow, for a whole range of professional needs and personal pleasures, is constantly being disrupted lately as tools and processes morph daily or my understanding deepens of what is possible.

Enough said!

If you are involved in education in some way and you’ve still got people who believe that email, google searching, and journal subscriptions are ‘the go’, then you’d better scramble into your Tardis and get to a timezone that’s relevant to the needs of students today.

Image: Dr Who cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by aussiegall

From manuscripts to big data

The global popularity of the Internet and the ready access to information via web searches has led people to expect access to almost any kind of cultural material via a web browser.

As  Burnable books states, it’s hardly controversial to note that the digital revolution over the last ten to twenty years has changed the face of medieval studies. Nearly every major manuscript archive has launched a digitization project, with hundreds of high-resolution images added every week, it seems, and eye-catching portals inviting new users to click through and examine the treasures within.

Medieval manuscripts have entered the era of Big Data, a phrase that emerged a couple of years ago to capture the character of information storage, retrieval, accessibility, and usage in the networked worlds of the early twenty-first century.

Burnable Books will feature over the next several months a series of invited guest posts on the topic “Medieval Studies in the Age of Big Data.” Medieval Studies in the Age of Big The Data serial forum is worth reading, especially as it deals with the issues of big data, digitisation, digital revolution, speed vs wisdom, culture and knowledge.

Bibliotheca Apostolica

The Bibliotheca Apostolica, as the Vatican Library is known, is one of the oldest libraries in the world and contains nearly 90,000 historic books, documents, papyrus texts and other ancient treasures. Among its treasures are early copies of works by Aristotle, Dante, Euclid, Homer, and Virgil. Yet today access to the Library is limited. Because of the time and cost required to travel to Rome, only some 2000 scholars can afford to visit the Library each year.

Digitizing its contents in order to preserve the Vatican’s historic treasures and make them available to scholars and historians around the world has become a priority, and the Vatican is embarking upon a multi-year project to digitize, store, archive and put the entire collection on line.

Image: Rothschild Canticles (in Latin) cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Beinecke Library

A calendar page for January

Calendar pages for January, Hours of Joanna of Castile, Bruges, between 1496 and 1506, Additional 18852, ff. 1v-2

Another year and another set of calendars!

I have always enjoyed choosing the ‘right’ calendars to see me through another year, and now I also enjoy  making my calendars from previous year’s holiday pics using iPhoto.

Calendars are part of our cultural and artistic history, and well worth exploration. Calendars with illuminations and other miniatures are often found in manuscripts from the medieval era, and particularly in Books of Hours or other texts intended for individual owners. The Book of Hours often begins with a calendar, with the entry for each month spread across two folios.  The listings of saints days and feast days are surrounded by intricate miniatures depicting a variety of labours for each month.

The most significant feasts or celebrations are often written in gold or red ink (hence the phrase ‘red letter days’). Along with listing these important dates, many medieval calendars (particularly later ones) include a miniature of the relevant sign of the zodiac, as well as a scene of the ‘labour of the month.’

In an ongoing series on the Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts blog, you will have the opportunity to take a closer look at images from medieval calendars. This year, the featured calendar comes from the ‘Golf Book’, a mid-sixteenth-century Book of Hours (Additional MS 24098; soon to be featured on Digitised Manuscripts). The calendar pages in the Golf Book are spread across two pages, with the first page for each month somewhat unusually reserved for a full-page miniature.  In the foreground of the opening January scene (above) is a man splitting wood for a fire, assisted by a woman close by.  Behind them a man and his wife, who is nursing an infant, can be seen in their home, warming themselves by the fire.

Calendar page for January, from the Golf Book (Book of Hours, Use of Rome), workshop of Simon Bening, Netherlands (Bruges), c. 1540, Additional MS 24098, f. 18v

For me, there is a direct  link between calendars, libraries, and medieval manuscripts such as the Book of Hours! My very first library clerical job was as part of  the small library team in the Rare Book and Special Collections Library at the University of Sydney. My desk seemed to be buried amongst rare treasures. A wonderful acquisition that was much treasured was just meters away, along  with items as diverse as Norman Lindsay manuscripts and old scholarly dissertations.

But I’ve never forgotten the beauty of the  Book of Hours. Use of Paris. Paris. Circa 1460-1465.

This richly decorated manuscript of personal prayers, psalms and recitations with accompanying illustrations taken from the Christmas story with a total of some seventeen miniatures seems now to mark the beginning of a long life associated with books, libraries, and the preservation of culture, knowledge and ideas.

We mark time with calendars. We prepare with calendars.  I hope our calendars in 2013 are filled with the beauty and promise that befits who we are and what we should strive to be.

Happy New Year!