Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Death by Powerpoint

I was speaking to a lecturer today who presents his lectures the 'old-fashioned' way by just talking about his subject for an hour. Although I can do a library tour off the cuff I suppose I am still dependent on visual aids of a sort (pointing to things in library mainly) but if I'm giving a classroom talk I either do a live demo of e-resources or use Powerpoint. I tend to shy away from live demos if I can because there is a lot of potential for it to go wrong and because I get embarrassed by the long pauses while each screen loads (as the tumbleweed blows by) and fill in by making stupid comments. The fact that there are no computer rooms for teaching on my campus also prevents my team from running workshops which would be my preferred mode of delivery - although not always practical when faced with a class of 200 students.

So for library inductions Powerpoint is my friend, it does what I want it to do, I can manipulate the screen to show the perfect database search that would never ever work properly live and these days you can do some quite fancy visual stuff with it. Our Powerpoint presentations have got a little more sophisticated over time and with improvements to the software (we use Microsoft Office 2007). We are very aware of the visual impact and tend to use arty images that will appeal to the students. We put in links that will work if they want to use the presentation as a self-paced tutorial in Blackboard. We also use animation but try to avoid lots of whizzy effects if poss.

This year we are using two presentations: the first is up and running when students enter the classroom and is designed to attract their attention and give them something to focus on while we finish setting up. It consists of striking pictures from our image databases (Education Image Gallery, Bridgeman Education, ARTstor, VADS etc) on a black background with a description of each image - including copyright info of course. The Powerpoint rolls on gently in the background changing each image every few seconds - it seems to have a slightly hypnotic effect on some of the students. The second is a fairly convential library talk that my colleague Rachel Pownall has created but it uses visuals from our virtual tour that look really fresh, she also uses clip art and tools like Wordle to create interesting slides. With the revamped leaflets that we are giving out this year I feel that we're putting forward quite a professional image. I wonder what library inductions will be like in the future?

Did you know you can save Powerpoint slides in a variety of formats including jpeg? This is how I've inserted screenshots into this post. This a picture of Anthony Gormley from Education Image Gallery and an image from the virtual tour (above).

Friday, 26 September 2008

Customising blog

I'm enjoying playing around with the different ways you can cutomise your blog. I've just added a 'gadegt' that displays classic children's book art although that means I've ended up with Angelina Ballerina at the bottom of my page - hope it's something better tomorrow.

A passing fad

Why have a called my blog 'The Passing Fad'? Well I've already mentioned that I'm not good at sticking with things but it's also a reference to my current Web 2.0 project. There are critics who believe that things like Facebook, blogging and other Web 2.0 functions are hyped up and have no real longevity. I think they may be right that certain services will not survive for a variety of reasons - in some cases it's beause they cease to be the latest trend but it could also be beause of competition or technological or financial change. However I do think that Web 2.0 represents a paradigm shift in the way we think about the web and those changes will be far-reaching even if the names we associate with Web 2.0 now cease to exist. My task is to identify those Web 2.0 elements that we could use in the Information Services department to improve our services - it's a pretty broad brief and I'm going to use this blog to work out some of my thoughts on this (even if no-one else is reading it!).

Monday, 22 September 2008

Emailing large documents

Have finished writing up the Arlis 'Caught in the Web' event (have basically produced a mash-up of biographies, abstracts and links) and sent it to Natasha, the Arlis Business Manager - hopefully it will end up on the website. I also have to send some handouts and other documents that the speakers created, this is where I run into problems. My colleague Rowan has sent me 5 documents: 3 Word handouts, a Powerpoint presentation and a Google SketchUp (.skp) file. They all started out too large to send by email so I've compressed the pictures in the Word and Powerpoint docs but the SketchUp file is enormous. This prompted me to look into sharing documents online but this has also proved to be a dead end - I tried Google docs as I already have an account but the limits were too small to allow me to upload everything and the formatting of the Word documents went very funny on screen (perhaps that's supposed to happen?). It also wouldn't recognise the .skp file even though that's also a Google product. So I've decided to burn the files to CD-R and send by snail mail...

Friday, 19 September 2008

Web 2.0 in the office

I promised that I would give a shout to some of the other speakers at the 'Caught in the Web' (CITW) event, well I've got a good excuse to mention Rowan Williamson. Rowan is a colleague at Kingston, she's the LRC Manager and we share an office. As I am typing this blog entry (in between reading my email, instant messaging hubbie and checking out a new social networking facility on Blackboard), Rowan is taking part in an online seminar on accessible library facilities for disabled students. I only know this because her headphones aren't working so I'm half listening in as well. Rowan did a very good workshop at CITW on using Google SketchUp to create floor plans and virtual tours. I would thoroughly recommend that you have a go at SketchUp yourself (even if it's only to redesign your kitchen) but make sure that you work through the tutorial first.

Web 2.0 for libraries

Last week I was one of the organisers of the Arlis EPDC event, 'Caught in the Web' which was on Web 2.0 for art and design librarians. We had some really great speakers including long standing bloggers Martin De Saulles and Sheila Webber. Martin's blog is at www.mdesaulles.net and Sheila has two blogs, the Information Literacy Weblog http://information-literacy.blogspot.com/ and her very amusing Second Life blog http://adventuresofyoshikawa.blogspot.com/. I will try to give a mention of the other speakers in my future posts.

Why Blog?

So why have I set up this blog? Will it be more than a passing fad in my life (like Second Life, Facebook etc.)? Given that I've never managed to succesfully keep a diary it might be a bit of a struggle to keep this one going but I'll give it a shot. I have several reasons for setting this up:
  • I have been doing a Masters module at work on IT in Higher Education and this blog might help me to work through some of my thoughts on this
  • My managers have assigned me a project to look at Web 2.0 and how we might use it in our department so ditto
  • Doesn't everybody have a blog these days?

So we'll see how it goes.