Category Archives: University Tech

Highlights case studies and forward thinking campus-based technology.

Excuse me, Prof. – Can I Twitter that?

I take notes, share those notes, and build a community with my peers – just by using twitter -it’s really quite simple.

This is how I feel about Twitter in the classroom.  But the 9/18/08 article over at Techdirt, and the comments in particular, paints some different hues (see: “Should you live blog/twitter a class?“).

Last weekend I was engulfed in one of three weekend intensive sessions in Michael’s “Library 2.0 & Social Networking Technologies” class.  As he went through his well-honed version of “The Hyperlinked Library”, I thought, “man, it would be cool to capture some of this and my reflections.”  At this point some might be saying, “yes, Kyle, you should be taking notes.”  But I took it one step further.

I hopped on Twitter, signed up for a quick account, and started tweeting(?) my heart out with every thought and quick reflection.  I also linked my tweets straight into my class WordPress MU blog.  Soon enough, a classmate had seen my twitter and we became reflective friends.

But at lunch time I timidly asked Michael, “yea, would you be mad if I Twittered class?”  Those of you who know Michael would know that angry would not be his response to this.  He was more intrigued and interested and happy than anything else.

If you’ve read the Techdirt article you know that this is the complete opposite reaction than that of the NYU journalism professor.  But I will admit, I’m just as guilty as most students who zone off in class and dive into the ether that is Facebook – and I’ve done it in Michael’s class, too (*sorry :/*).  But I turned my lust for technology and social networking into a productive method by writing my reflections in Twitter.  On top of that, I got to know some of my classmates before even saying a “hello” to them.

As Brian Rowe, a commenter in the article, wrote:

Sharing what you learn or don’t learn is an important part of being global citizen and helping free culture

I couldn’t agree more.  But some couldn’t agree less, as in this comment by Vince:

I can’t defend this. I believe this material should not be posted outside of the classroom…this material is not owned by the student.

He continues to say:

Universities usually have some sort of internal CMS such as Blackboard or WebCT that allows them to share classroom material and most professors actively use these systems. Theres [sic] no excuse.

I agree with Vince, students shouldn’t and legally can’t copy their professors’ academic work for public access unless that is their wish.  Michael posts “The Hyperlinked Library” here at TTW, but I still wouldn’t post any other of his materials without permission.

What I’m doing is taking brief reflective notes – similar to how I would do it in a notebook – and providing my classmates with an opportunity to respond to my reflections.

I’m curious:  Any grad students (or any student readers for that matter) who blog or use Twitter in class?

~Kyle Jones~
TTW Contributor

On the Learning/Information Commons

I’ve become fascinated with the idea and implementation of the Commons in academic libraries of late. It’s very much part of what I call The Hyperlinked Library. These past few months, I’ve wrote about the commons at ALA TechSource blog. Please take a look if you are interested.

Twitter in the Classroom

Twitter breaks down barriers in the Classroom:

As an experiment, Parry made Twitter a class assignment and got his students to engage in microblogging as homework. He observed how Twitter became the link that connected conversations inside and out of class. “Because the students had the shared classroom experience, when something came up outside of class that reminded them of material from class time, it often got twittered,” he notes. “This served as a reinforcement/connection between the material and the ‘real world.'” He also discovered that it changed classroom dynamics in a positive way, encouraging more respectful and productive interaction between students by turning the class into a community.

I’m finishing up syllabi for the fall and I’m thinking this might be a good thing to try with my two sections of LIS768. Remember this article from the Chronicle?

Jason B. Jones, an associate professor of English at Central Connecticut State University, uses his iPhone to post a message to Twitter after every class session as “a way to jot down a little reflection about the class — how it went, things that were frustrating or worked really well — so that I can remember them later.” Students who see the messages often give him a reality check, though. “If I thought something didn’t go well, I’ve had people say, Actually we understood that fine, we were distracted by something else or we were just tired,” he says.

Blackboard plans to add a Twitter-like messaging tool to its course-management system, which is used at hundreds of colleges around the country. The company recently announced plans to acquire NTI Group, a company that sells text-message notification systems to colleges for use in emergencies. NTI’s systems don’t have all the features of Twitter, but they could be used in similar ways.

“We’re going to incorporate that technology at the classroom level,” says Michael L. Chasen, president of Blackboard. For instance, he says, “Professors could send a message to their entire class to let them know that class has been canceled this week.”

And this is useful as well:

Another idea, provided by Doug Belshaw on his teaching blog, is to use Twitter for quick questions from students about assignments, readings, and the like. The problem is that you could receive these tweets 24/7. To eliminate that possibility Belshaw suggests the following: “Unlike a direct message which can only be seen by the recipient, placing @user name directs the ‘tweet’ (Twitter update) at the intended recipient whilst allowing everyone to also see it. This facilitates virtual ‘classroom discussion.’ Anytime someone responds to you using the @ symbol, it is logged in the ‘replies’ section of your personal Twitter page” (). Belshaw extended this notion, noting that students are not limited to just the class to answer questions. He writes, “As with the personal learning network (PLN) facilitated by Twitter in the edublogosphere (usually through the TwitterFox plugin for Firefox), students can also ask questions of those they only know online” ().

Several faculty have shared their experiences with Twitter in their blogs. Karen Miller Russell () used it in her communications class, taking her lead from Kaye Sweetser’s social media class (). Both are instructors at the University of Georgia. As Russell explains, she set up a Twitter account, locked it so that only her students could follow, and then invited students to register. She asked that each student do five posts to the account over a 48-hour period. The posts could be about anything. As Russell reported, the class, far exceeding expectations to merely experiment with a new medium, actually generated a list of how Twitter could be used in advertising, public relations, and marketing: “Participate in conversations, build relationships — not the ‘hard sell’; get feedback on ideas, programs; data mining (learn about interests, trends, issues, etc.), including polling the audience; announce sales or promotions; make appointments; provide event updates and live coverage of events; and build a trusting community” ().

I would love to hear some experiences from educators who have used Twitter in their teaching.

CeLIBration at Georgia Tech

Brian Mathews writes:


  • Just to be clear, this isn’t an instructional session, it’s a celebration. It’s a “welcome to Georgia Tech” event. It’s a chance for students to have fun in the library and to meet their fellow dorm mates and peers. It shows that we don’t have to be so serious all the time– that we are approachable. We want them to see the space, live in it for a few hours, and hopefully feel less intimidated later in the semester. Plus it is a fun bonding experience for staff too.
  • I mentioned last year that we designed concurrent sessions and we streamlined that even more this go around. Our goal was to move people around every 30 minutes so that they could participant in more events.

Click through to see the images and video of this event. Heck, the video is so cool, here it is:

McMaster Macs Coming Soon!

This September, McMaster Libraries will be introducing Apple computers in the public areas in both Thode and Mills Libraries. Come September, you’ll find a sea of brand new machines, including iMacs, Mac Pros and Apple laptops.

Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with the Apple operating system. All of these stations will be dual boot, which means you’ll be able to start them up and run either the Apple or Windows operating system.

The integration of Apple computers at the libraries allows for greater flexibility and a wider range of software choices. In addition, it gives library users a choice about which operating system they would prefer to use.

Thode Library will have the following mix of machines available on the newly renovated first floor:

  • 12 Mac Pros with 30? screens for multimedia functions
  • 38 iMacs
  • 30 laptops
  • Nice! 

    Amazon Confirms Student Kindle

    Amazon confirmed our speculation that they are planning to target colleges and universities with a new version of the Kindle, reports the Seattle PI. Textbooks are a $5.5 billion annual market, and most publishers now offer electronic versions of their textbooks. McGraw-Hill Education, for example, publishes 95% of their books electronically as well as in print. But there is no compelling device to read them on. The new Kindle will likely be a large screen version of the original, which is much better suited for textbooks.

    I’m interested in this but in my classes, we use a lot of articles and online resources. I wonder if we’ll see good old Foundations of Library and Information Science by Richard Rubin coming soon to Kindle…

    CeLIBration Time Again at Georgia Tech

    Brian Mathews writes:

    Yes, it is CeLIBration time again. Our annual welcome event for freshmen the Saturday before the Fall semester starts. Past CeLIBrations

    I have to be honest– I wasn’t really feeling it this year. Don’t get be wrong, we’ve had some great events over the years, but with the wedding and book deadline in September, my heart wasn’t into it. But then I looked at the line up and we have a lot of cool games. This might actually be our best one yet. I am totally in now.

    • Dodgeball Tournament
    • Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament (there are actually leagues: video)
    • Speed Dating
    • Poker (not one, not two, but three tournaments this time!)
    • Team Trivia
    • Project Runway
    • DDR & Guitar Hero
    • Pizza, Soda, Popcorn

    That’s just a taste. Other activities we’re still pulling together include the student Improv group, a live band, student radio station DJ, board games, and a logic competition. Of course I’ll have a full recap later, but I am getting hyped for next weekend.

    An interesting note—when this started many years ago it was all about the LAN Party concept—all about video games. We’ve evolved from that. There will still be some videos games, but that’s a very minor part of the attraction. Those appealed to a particular niche but we aim for the whole pie, not just a piece.

    What we’ve arrived at is that students enjoy interacting with each other in the physical world too—throwing balls around, laughing, playing cards, etc. A lot of librarians out there are geeked on gaming, but don’t forget about real world games as well.

    Freedom to Install

    Kyle, a TTW contributor, blogs at The Corkboard:

    As I gear up to do the annual fall round of computer imaging/updates to all the public terminals it gives me time to reflect on MPOW’s approach to academic computing: if they need it, get it for ‘em.

    Our library has full control over our default setup for our machines, including:

    • Operating system choices (XP, Vista, or, heck, why not both?)
    • Browsers, we’ve got three! (FF, IE7, Safari, and we’d add more if requested)
    • Open-source goodness (7Zip, Nvu, Open-Office, etc.)
    • Office suite, we run ‘03 and ‘07 (and we’re the only place on campus that supports ‘03 now)
    • + oh so much more
    Basically, what I am saying is that we provide options – lots of ‘em.  And if we don’t have what our students need for academic purposes, we add it – because, really, why wouldn’t we?
    In many ways I fear leaving MPOW when I graduate from Dominican U. and move onto my next glorious library position.  The fear of unnecessary computer restrictions and technological bureaucracy is at the top of that list.  That’s not to say that I don’t deal with some of that at now, but it’s in small batches and small batches can easily be tossed to the side or bypassed in some way.  But to meet a big nasty roadblock that says “NO” just won’t cut it in my mind.
    I hope Kyle has loads of cool opportunities and finds many libraries that embrace the freedom to install.
    Shameless disclaimer: On a personal note, Kyle is also my graduate assistant and it will be bittersweet to see him graduate. His work setting up course sites, etc is excellent. The future library that gets him will be lucky indeed.

    How Can Libraries Use the Cloud?

    King Cloud


    I’ve been using Apple’s .mac service for years, since 2001 as a matter of fact. The recent upgrade from .Mac to MobileMe has garnered a lot of press for the problems, breakdowns and failures of the service meant to “push” data to my iPhone, my Macs and to the service itself, described as a “cloud.”

    Luckily I haven’t had much issue with the upgrade/switchover. I will say, however, that I think for a couple of weeks in July some emails I sent took a long time to get where they were going as did some I received. Compared to folks who lost loads of mail, that’s not the end of the world.

    Apple is trying –  as are other companies – to tie into this idea of cloud computing. I’m fascinated by this – could all of my data someday be stored in the cloud, be it at Apple’s, Amazon’s or some new service? Could I easily access my data from any PC, Mac, phone, tablet, etc at my disposal? And the number one thing on this music lover’s mind” could my entire 5,264 item, 34GB iTunes library live in the cloud and be accessible from anywhere I have a wifi or cellular connection to my phone, home stereo, car stereo, etc?? That’s what Kusek and Leonard were forecasting in The Future of Music.

    For more, don’t miss Robin Hastings’ presentation “Collaborating in the Cloud” at  Slideshare

    So, we’ve reached a time when much of my data could be stored in other places and accessed from anywhere. Will Richardson just posted:

    Of course, this raises some eyebrows, and I invariably get questions and comments along the lines of “How do you trust Google to keep your information secure?” or “What if you can’t get on the Web?” These invariably lead to conversations about how mobile devices and Web enabled phones are changing the landscape and how the potential reward of easy collaboration and sharing at this point at least outweigh the risk of losing files.

    Between IBM’s recent announcement to build huge data centers to support “cloud computing” for its customers, Kevin Kelly’s recent Ted Talk about the next 5,000 days of the Web, and the continuing discussion on the Fast Forward blog, it’s pretty apparent that we are shifting away from our reliance on one or two devices to hold our information and that our focus is now becoming what devices give us easiest access to that information on the Web.

    (Thanks Will, your post reminded me I’ve had this in draft for awhile!)

    Don’t miss Will’s post and then click through to check out Kevin Kelly’s talk at 

    What do the next 5,000 days of the internet look like? Kelly says the Internet has already become “one machine” and our devices are windows into it. I wonder how libraries might make the most of this trend?

    Some idle thoughts while I sync the iPhone with new music and apps:

    Understand converged devices are everywhere. The days of “No Cell Phones” in the library are long gone. Courteous cell use in our libraries is very important but banning cell phones – a user’s window, if you will — should by now have gone the way of the dodo. We’ve said this before: these converged devices are much more than just phones. Encourage use. reach out to users this way. 

    Allow unfettered access to the cloud. Locked down PCs won’t help users get to their data. This means offering multiple browsers, providing the fastest connections you can, and security measures that do not block access to what users want. Hardware access too: I carry a 160GB portable drive everywhere with all of my stuff on it. I may need to plug it into your library computer someday to sync data. Please let me.

    Understand that the cloud may also be a valuable information resource in its own right. how many times have we answered a reference question via Facebook, wikipedia,  blog posts, a Flickr picture, etc. These are all viable means to get answers. Tap into user-generated data as a resource. It may become one of our most important mechanisms.

    Utilize the cloud to save time and money. Be aware that Google Docs and similar will only get more share of the application market, as Will Richardson illustrates. Maybe offering access to Google docs and instruction on how to use them would be a useful way to save time and money. That’s why I am so interested in universities contracting with Google for apps and email. Maybe only a few computers in your library will need MS Office in the future. Maybe OpenOffice and some online version of the same will allow us a lot more freedom to spend our dollars and time on other improvements.

    Understand the importance of personalization. Kelly addresses this toward the end of his talk. People are personalizing their information experiences and spaces. How many years has Amazon welcomed me back with open arms, and a few suggestions for purchase?  Libraries should allow them to do the same with our systems and services. Look at some of the recent innovations with OPACs to see where this is headed. Affording personalized connections into the cloud might make the library a gateway to user’s data and put library resources in their view. Blocking access — Facebook? MySpace? — negates this benefit and dampens this possibility.

    Local and Personalized

    Don’t miss the most important aspect: localization. Many of the new social networking apps on the iPhone tap into using my location in various ways. It’s messy, weird, kind of silly, but speaks to the promise of what could come. I might easily find three vegetarian restaurants within a mile of a conference hotel via localized search on my device. I might tap into the wisdom of three other hikers while exploring a national park via services like “Find Twitter users near me.” This is where the privacy discussion becomes so important. We need to understand how much is too much (see the image at the right) and how much is too little (“No photos in the library! It’s a privacy thing!”).

    The Kelly video and Will’s post, as well as the little tone my iPhone makes every time an email comes into it from the cloud, gives me a lot to think about.

    How else might we tap into the cloud? What are the great possibilities? What are the pitfalls?

    Flickr image: