Tuesday, February 21, 2006

del.icio.us sayings

Joshua Schachter, from del.icio.us, gave a talk at a future web apps summit that Simon Willison attended -- and took notes on. They're wonderful snippets of thought relating to del.icio.us, RSS, and tagging (as well as more techie concerns).

Here are the bits that made me either nod my head in approval or mentally tag for more consideration:
When you chose what to build, solve a problem you have yourself so you can be
sure to understand it. Passion counts.

Aggregation is often a focus of attention (latest, most active, etc.)

As the population gets larger, the bias drifts; del.icio.us/popular becomes
less interesting to the original community members. Work out ways to let the
system fragment in to different areas of attention.

Tagging is mostly user interface - a way for people to recall things, what
they were thinking about when they saved it. Fairly useful for recall, OK for
discovery, terrible for distribution (where publishers add as many tags as
possible to get it in lots of boxes).

Automatic tags lose a lot - doesn't help the user really achieve their goals.
That's why the "add to del.icio.us" badges don't let you suggest tags.

Value in Delicious is in the "attention" - auto-tagging detracts from this.

Make users do the minimum amount of work. But make them do something.

You have to speak the user's language. "Bookmarks" are what you call them if
you use Netscape of Firefox - most users these days know the term "favourite"
instead. Half of his population (? users) didn't know what a bookmark was.

And here's a line that made me -- as a librarian -- stop and stare:
"Beware librarians" - some people want to give tags a specific, underlying
meaning. Don't let them.
Come on...

Anyway, his comment re tagging as most useful for recall -- for the person who tagged it -- reminded me of Roger Schank's "Tell Me A Story: Narrative and Intelligence" (1990), a book I keep returning to in thinking about tagging as well as cataloging (yes, the librarian kind).

Here's an excerpt from the foreword by Gary Saul Morson, summarizing Schank's argument:

"What enables ... people to respond intelligently? The answer, for Schank, is that they have previously mulled over their experiences and labeled them in multiple interesting ways. From a sequence of experiences they have constructed a narrative; they have reflected on this narrative and found a number of ways in which it is significant; and in so doing, their memory has attached several labels to the story, which allow them to recall the story when another narrative suggests similar labels. Once the earlier story is recalled, these people can reflect on pertinent comparisons with the current situation. Present wisdom depends on earlier indexing.

In effect, then the real moment of intelligence occurs not (or not only) when one is reminded of the pertinent story, but when the pertinent story was stored in memory. Intelligence occurs earlier. It is closely related to good indexing."

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

You only learn what you need to / want to

"I give them just enough technology to be able to navigate. What they learn because they want to is much more effective than what I can teach."

-- Quote from an article in Edutopia re high school students learning to make films.

In this upcoming workshop Beth and I are doing, that's what we need to do: whet the appetite of the teacher/librarians. We don't have to be the experts -- we just need to tell the story of our own journey, in the hopes that it will make them want to explore the road themselves.

To be travel agents, not travel guides -- as one article on teaching information literacy (which one was that?) put it.
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The business of storytelling

Storytelling is a big story throughout the Internet. It's particularly interesting how business and marketing have taken it on board. See, for instance, this posting excerpt:

"Don't sell me a product, tell me a story!" from The Intuitive Life Business Blog
Marketing through telling stories doesn't stop there, it
infuses all that you do to market yourself and your business.
Consider two of my favorite business authors, Tom Peters and Jim
Collins. One of them is focused on participating in the business of
business, of sharing his evolving story and his view of which
businesses are and aren't successful, while the other is locked away in
his ivory tower, selling products and doing research that he'll share
when his next book is published. Which is which? You tell me: visit Tom Peters' Web site and Jim Collins' Web site for yourself. The difference is glaringly obvious.

Yes, the power of blogs is in the collaborative story.

From another business blog, another posting (Naked Conversations: Story Telling v. Product Selling ) comes this comment about speakers at conferences and how the best ones tell stories:
Malcolm Gladwell was our favorite last year. He was selling his book, but he didn't talk much about his book.
A case of showing what a good storyteller he was, rather than telling people he was. Of course, Gladwell has been a favorite of mine for years -- from the days when he was just in The New Yorker and I would rip his articles out to save.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

My personal attention structures....

Slowly but surely I am creating a constellation of attention structures that allow me to follow the plot on Web 2.0, Library 2.0, School Library 2.0, etc., adding up -- with any luck -- to School Librarian 2.0. The cutting (librarian) edge story on information unfolding in the Attention Economy.

So this is the blog.

Then there's my wiki -- where I store the files I might reference here (like any papers I've written and want to share with people) -- as well as my bibliography of favorite writer/thinkers. I'm using pbwiki for that -- and find it quite easy to use. Can't say I've tried out every feature -- but there's plenty there to try. My wiki is definitely still "under contruction"...

For bookmarking, I have an extension collection going over on del.icio.us

What books have I read lately? Check out my Reader2 (that was "squared") site. I'm trying out another "catalog your own books" program called LibraryThing where I track and tag books that could be used in the PYP programme -- e.g., tags based on the Learner Profile and the PYP Attitudes and Concepts.

I haven't really put up any personal photos yet. Instead Flickr is where I'm storing photographs of primary libraries (ones I've worked at available to the public and ones I've just visited available just to friends). This was done to help a bunch of teachers get ideas of how they might like to modify their primary library.

Gmail is indispensable for the collection of listservs I belong to -- where I tag posts as I read them, accumulating my own annotated database, so to speak.

Bloglines is where my RSS feeds come in to.

Then, last but not least, I still rely on IKeepBookmarks as my "home page" when I fire up Mozilla, displaying my most commonly accessed links -- laid out as main plus subfolders. Of course, the most commonly accessed links are all the other attention structures just listed.

That old question... what to call oneself....

Reading about the "blended librarian" movement (started by Steven Bell and John Shank) makes me wonder whether a blended librarian is just another name for a teacher/librarian -- only at the university level.

Here's their mission statement (it features that teacher/librarian mantra -- collaboration):
The Blended Librarians Online Learning Community is librarians, faculty, instructional designers and technologists, and other academic support personnel working collaboratively to integrate the library into the teaching and learning process. It is designed to encourage and enable academic librarians to evolve into a new role that blends existing library and information skills with those of instructional design and technology. To that end, the Community leverages innovation, collaboration, and communication to bring together its members in a virtual environment for professional development and learning opportunities.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

The point of college/university is what?

Refreshing report in the Guardian (UK) -- "Another Hard Day in the Library" -- earlier this month from Germaine Greer and other academics about how they really spent their university days and the long-term benefits of NOT forcing students to attend lectures and tutorials (as Oxford is threatening to do via contracts with the students).

I always felt college was mainly four interesting walls within which to grow for four years. Greer says it better:

Kids don't go to university to sit at the feet of their elders and betters; they go to university to meet each other.... Because this is what uni is, the first time young people have their own collective space to organise or disorganise as they please.... Dragooning undergraduates would be to delay their maturation still further, so that they never achieve the autonomy on which our whole political system should be based.

Made me think about the importance of young people having "their own collective space" online to "organise or disorganise as they please" -- and the need for human attention structures. Lanham in his article on general education in the digital age (see yesterday's posting) makes the point that "considered on the largest scale, the undergraduate curriculum is an attention-structure."

Greer also argues that incompetent teachers are often far more valuable than good ones -- because they make you react to their incompetence -- and hence move you further along towards your own competence.
"Surely not!" is a more salutary reaction to a statement from a teacher than "Precisely". As I used to say to my students, "Confusion is the most productive state of mind. Respect your confusions. Don't let me waft them away."

Carol Kuhlthau would surely agree.

Greer also makes a case for lectures being replaced by digital multimedia versions:
In 2006, it would make more sense to issue the lectures on DVD, and spend the hour in the lecture room dealing with student's questions. In my day, students were supposed to be critical listeners.... The very best teacher is the one who really enjoys being made to look a fool by a student.

Lectures are a misshapen survival of medieval pedagogy, which took authority as absolute and understood the teacher's sole duty to be that of expounding it. Lectures have no place in a system based on critical thinking....

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Blogging Characters?

So Dwight, the US equivalent of Gareth on the TV show "The Office", has his own blog, eh? Andy Carvin suggests other TV characters he'd like to see start one.

Made me think about having students set up a blog for a novel's protagonist, with the class taking turns blogging that character's life beyond the pages of the book.

The first book I thought of was "Flat Stanley "-- as there is the long-standing tradition of sending snail mail letters containing him around the world (I know I once hosted him in Ho Chi Minh City) -- and, sure enough, a simple search reveals Stanley is already very much alive online in the blogosphere, e.g., here, and here, and here.

What other characters would be well-suited to start their own blog?

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Future librarians?

The effectiveness of library schools -- what they should and shouldn't be teaching and doing -- has been bandied about in blogs recently, e.g., Technology and Education: Are Library Schools Doing Enough? on Tame the Web blog.

Another blog (I forget which) posted a reference to the article "Crying Wolf: An Examination and Reconsideration of the Perception of Crisis in LIS Education".

Coming up in April in Singapore there's the Asia-Pacific Conference on Library and Information Education and Practice (A-LIEP)-- entitled "Preparing Information Professionals for Leadership in the New Age". I'm particularly looking forward to it because some of my former professors from Charles Sturt University (Australia) will be attending -- and I hope to meet them for the first time. Having done my masters via distance learning (while living in Phuket, Thailand -- never having been to Australia), technology was an integral part of my library science education.

In terms of preparing for the future, one theorist few people in librarianship seem to be paying attention to is Richard Lanham.

Okay, he's not a librarian, but he has a strong vision of the role librarians should be playing in the Attention Economy. Over ten years ago he addressed the ARL (Association of Research Libraries) and outlined "The Economics of Attention", a concept he then turned into an article in 1997 (available on his website), and now a book is due out in May 2006 from the Univ of Chicago Press.
In an information-rich world where human attention is the scarce commodity, the library's business is orchestrating human attention-structures.
He was lamenting the closure of university library schools back in 1997 ( see his essay "A Computer-based Harvard Red Book: General Education in the Digital Age") precisely because he feels librarians are ideally placed to become the architects managing the convergence of content, delivery, and manipulation of information.

I'm hooked on his idea of attention-structures and thinking about how rhetoric plays into the new literacies in the school library.

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