Thing 15: App-palooza! The Snapguide App

As a school librarian, I know that learning comes in many different forms. Sometimes it is more formal, like when I’m delivering bibliographic instruction to a class, or more informal, like when a student has a ready reference question. Often I am readily available to assist my students face-to-face. Many times my students have real complex questions related to their research, and often they just need how-to directions to complete a task. Then there are times when I am not available in the library (e.g.: weekends, holidays, etc.),  learning is an asynchronous activity that may not follow a clock or a calendar. An app that I recently found that could address these needs for how-to directions is Snapguide.

I do not remember where I first saw this app, but it intrigued me. Here were how-to guides that people had created and posted. guides about crafts and recipes, how to fix a fence and make a martini. These contained step-by-step guides with pictures and text, complete with supply lists. These guides displayed nicely on smartphones, tablet devices, and computers. Like other forms of social media, these could be shared with other services and embedded on web pages and people could add comments. You could easily search Snapguide by keyword or category. While it does not have a section for education, it does have one for technology.

Creating a guide is easy. You need an idea, a collection of screenshots or photographs to illustrate your project, and text to describe the steps involved. I decided to build a guide about using library ebooks. We started developing our ebook collection last year and I need to find ways to better promote them. Perhaps this could be done with Snapguide. Using only an iPad, I took screenshots, annotated these images using A+ Signature, imputed these into a Snapguide, added directions and published my first guide. Later I shared this with my High School mobile tech students, made some quick edits, and re-posted my guide.

Thing I like about Snagguide includes:

  • Ease of Use. People can be used to easily find instructional information on a wide-variety of topics. Materials view well on any device.
  • Ease of Creation. The app on the iPad is fully functional, providing all of the options found on the web site
  • Flexible End-User Experiences. Several of the details of my images appeared at the edges off the screen. Clicking on the  image will display it full-size with these details now in view. Clicking on ‘print’  will display each slide with the text instructions, just like we often created for how-to instructions.

It would be nice if there was a Snapguide for education, this service does indeed have some interesting applications in a school library. Guides could easily be created for searching the library catalog and the various research databases. Guides could be created for providing instruction on information literacy and media literacy topics. Some of these may already exist in Snapguide. I’m going to enjoy finding ways to use Snapguide as part of my library and media-literacy instruction and as a vehicle to expand my library program. It is an excellent tool for use in both flipped classrooms and mobile technology friendly situations.


Thing 10: Productivity Tools

Civilian Conservation Corps Members Learning the Difference Between Fir and Pine Trees.

Norr, Roy. (1936). The Civilian Conservation Corps boys are being taught the difference between fir and pine trees on the Columbia National Forest, Washigton. USFS photo #340009. From the Gerald W. Williams Collection, OSU Special Collections & Archives: Commons. No known copyright restrictions.

When I initially saw that this lesson was productivity tools, my initial thought was ‘well, that’s rather subjective’ since many (most?, all?) the tools we’ve looked at during this online course could be used for productive purposes. So what exactly does productivity tools mean to me and to my students? I think it means collecting and organizing digital information for research projects and that means social bookmarking. For this final lesson I explored Evernote and Instapaper.

I remember seeing Evernote on many iPad advertisements before I bought mine. I was not sure what it was or what it did but it looked cool (hey, an elephant never forgets) and the app was free. Although I did download it, I did not have an opportunity to explore it, until now. I discovered that with an Evernote account, one could access items bookmarked through the web browser, a tablet computer, or a smart phone. It would also ‘remember’ photos and voice memos (at least on smartphones and tablets). Web pages could be  bookmarked and everything (web pages, voice memos, photos) could be annotated, tagged, and shared with others through email or some social networking services. This is indeed a cool tool.

Instapaper is a similar bookmarking tool which advertises itself  as “a simple tool to save web pages for reading later.” While the mobile app is available for purchase, I only explored the online version. This service only bookmarks web pages, these also can be annotated and shared through email. Users can also link and share through several different social networking services. In addition, many social networking services and newsreaders can send items to one’s Instapaper account for later reading (I did not investigate this feature).

I could see myself easily using both of these tools for different purposes. I could easily see myself using Evernote as a research tool because of its scope of media that can be saved and the ability to tag items. I could even see myself introducing this tool to High School students working on research projects. I see myself using Instapaper as a professional development tool. If the mobile app works as well as the online service, this would mean that I could easily bookmark articles and web pages of interest to be read later.

For me, social bookmarking tools are important productivity tools when one considers all of the online information that one is exposed to on a daily basis. As a teacher librarian, I feel that these are often under utilized. I see people bookmarking websites with their web browsers and many times sharing just URLs with others through email (hey, how about some metadata?) or through print with really long URLs that are difficult to retype. While well intended, this can be frustrating for the recipient. The other day I received an envelope at school through the interoffice mail. Our BOCES had recently invited Kathleen Odean to introduce educators in our area to the best new YA books for 2012. I was unable to attend this workshop and I heard that it was excellent. Inside this envelop was a copy of the resource book that Odean had shared during the workshop. As I opened the booklet and noticed a QR barcode inside which linked readers to her bookmarks on Diigo. It was a pleasure to see another person using a social bookmarking web site to share resources with others. I do, indeed, look forward to her next visit to our area.

Thing 8: Collaborating, Connecting, Sharing

Telephone Boxes

Some of the first telephone boxes to grace Dublin’s streets. Installation was in preparation for the thousands of people who descended on the capital from all over Ireland, and from all over the world, for the 31st International Eucharistic Congress in June 1932.
Telephone Boxes. Independent Newspapers PLC. [1912-1936]. The Independent Newspapers (Ireland) Collection, National Library of Ireland on The Commons.

The role of a school librarian continues to change. Long gone is the image of someone that just checks out books and shushes noisy students, although some people probably think that this is what I do all day. From my experience- collaborating, connecting, and sharing with teachers and students more accurately reflects my activities in the library. Two tools that I am currently exploring for this blog post are Google Docs and Skype.

In late January at the technology committee meeting, it was announced that Google Docs would soon be made available at in the district. The way that it is set up for us is that we have access to Google Docs with cloud computing and document sharing within our district yet we cannot share outside our school district. While I had heard of Google Docs years ago yet I had not yet explored it in any great detail. Until now. I did log in and explored some of the basic productivity tools (word processing, spreadsheets, etc.) and document filing. I also read about the ability to create and share editable documents with others, and I saw that blogging, photo sharing, and many other apps were available. This was going to be fun, however, it was going to be a learning and exploring process. While I am fine with this type of learning, I know that it drives others nuts.

This week I have had some interesting experiences with Google Docs at school. First, I was sent a copy of the minutes from a technology user group  meeting. The group met the previous day after school and one of the teachers took the minutes during the meeting to later share this document with group members shortly after the meeting, It was a pleasant surprise the next morning to see this document since I had not been able to attend this meeting. The next day I received calendar invitations from Google Calendar. These were from one of my Spanish teachers, we were planning for Foreign Language Week presentations next week and she was sending me the dates and times of the different presentations. Way cool, different aspects of Google Docs that were created and shared with me on two different collaborative projects. I am looking forward to learning how to create and share similar files and information with others at school.

The other tool I am currently exploring is Skype. Earlier during the winter holidays, I helped  my mother set up her Skype account so that she could easily communicate with her granddaughter. While she has not called me for technical support since then, so I really don’t know if it is working for her or if she has not yet used it. I have also played around a little bit with FaceTime, however since I don’t use either one my experience is minimal. Welcome back to Foreign Language Week preparations. Two of the presenters, and perhaps a third, are not local and these people asked if they could Skype into the library to meet with our students. Skype had been used a couple of times last year at our school and I heard stories of how difficult it was to use. While I am comfortable coordinating and supporting educational technologies in the classroom, I did not know what to expect on this topic. I am not sure what has changed, however when I asked, it appears that now Skype is something that can easily be done. While we still need to get the software installed and then tested before the presentation, I am excited to see this happen. I could easily see this technology being used for brining guests into the classroom, to meet with others that are unable to meet in at school, and to participate in webinars for professional development.

Other experiences with collaborating, connecting, and sharing include: curriculum writing with a business teacher using a wiki as a collaboration tool, using Dropbox to make my files available remotely on my mobile devices and to share with others; using Doodle to schedule meetings; using Survey Monkey to create online surveys to gather information from students or teachers; collaborating with another school librarian to create a LibGuide to share with other school librarians as part of a training on LibGuides; and exploring how students could use Diigo to collect and annotate resources for their research projects. There are a lot of neat, different tools that meet specific needs and sometimes this is just what is needed for the task at hand. In industry they talk about ‘just in time delivery’ of products and services. Tools like these allow school librarians to provide this same type of service with information and documents to further support classroom instruction and related programs and services in the school district. No longer is sophisticated informational technology relegated to just the computer technology department.

Thing 4: Photo Sharing, Part 1

I remember many years ago when I was working on my MLS and I was taking the required management course. One of the projects we did, in collaboration with a local library of our choosing, was to create an annual report for these libraries. We had a detailed rubric of items that needed to be included, which included photos of people using the library.

Herbert George Ponting and cinematograph, Antarctica, January 1912. By National Library NZ on The Commons

Herbert George Ponting and cinematograph, Antarctica, January 1912. By National Library NZ on The Commons

Photos (and now also movie and audio files) are excellent vehicle for illustrating and documenting library-related activities, including education and training. Back in the late 1990’s when we wanted to share photos, we were limited to printing our photos unless we stuck them onto a web page. Tools like flickr were not readily available like they are today.

Fast forward to years later when I started as a teacher librarian, I was confronted with policies and practices that, while well intended to protect our students, were confusing and less than clear about what I could or could not do with digital photos and related media. Due to this situation, I have not done too much with online photo sharing as part of my library program.

Students should be exposed to taking and sharing their own photos. In addition to learning about artistic and photographic techniques, they should also be learning about things like tagging and licensing of their media files. If I were teaching a course on media use, I would also be tempted to broaden the topic of photo sharing to include file sharing. We often ask students to work together on school projects but they are often left to their own devices on how to best share their files between themselves. While many times the students will come up with acceptable practices (e.g.: using email to send a file to someone), sometimes they will do something inappropriate like sharing account passwords. We need to include in our lessons ways to properly share media files (photos, movies, word documents, powerpoints, etc.) as well as our expectations that our student will use these tools properly.

As part of this lesson, I will further explore and describe my recent experience with using flickr in my library and how photo sharing could be used in a school environment to share information with the community.

(As for the photo of Herbert George Ponting in Antarctica with his camera, it kinda looked like I was there today with our winter weather advisory for the snow storm in Central NYS.)