The Innovative Educator: 10 Proven Strategies to Break the Ban and Build Opportunities for Student Learning with Cell Phones

This is a very cool and comprehensive post on tactics you can use to use cell phones and smartphones in the classroom. It takes into account the resistance that many of us experience when seriously moving forward on mobile device friendly projects.

What speaks to me in this article is the focus on working with the tools you already have. We need to be the people who solve problems

The Innovative Educator: 10 Proven Strategies to Break the Ban and Build Opportunities for Student Learning with Cell Phones.


Organization & the Digital Collection

I’ve been spending a great deal of time recently harmonizing our database lists between our different online locations. I recently completed a first draft of a unified database list. Tech limitations have been the main driving force behind this exercise in excessive librarian geekiness. While updating our OPAC requires learning web design circa 2002, it is simple HTML. The “easy to use” backends of vendor tools have been causing me significantly more problems.

On our legacy OPAC we have divided the databases up onto general categories to point faculty and students toward general sources and more specialized databases by program. This is the setup most of our patrons are used to. I am working on duplicating and standardizing these categories across all of our services, including our OpenURL resolver and our federated search. It is in these tools where most of my complications have shown up.

With Serial Solutions recent update and merger with WebFeat we gained a lot more control over how our data is displayed. Nonetheless, there are some frustrating gaps in the configuration options.

While I can create the display order for our databases, I can’t actually create categories on the “search by database” page. Where I can create categories, the names of the databases are obscured.

Serials Soloution, in their efforts to make the backend easier to use are determinng policy and practice for our library. We’re engaged in a decades long experiment in throwing Ranganathan’s First Law right out the window. Our libraries are now digitally chaining our items, limiting knowledge to forms, digital locations and uses permitted by the content owners. Some of this is ignorance, but much of this change from physical ownership to digital licensing is being pushed past us because Librarians are not paying attention to the implications of licensing arrangements.

What’s the soloution? I’m not entirely certain, but I have some ideas. If you have a chance to work with a consortium, do so. If your purchasing budget is such that you can effectively bargin with vendors, choose those with more open policies. Work with open access programs at your University to reduce the stranglehold vendors have over some types of content. Complain about poor design decisions, the lack of cutting edge options and the paucity of open API’s to your software vendors.

Our new book chains are not the only option as we transition from physical books to a digital age.

A Coding Challenge – Organize my PDF library

I have a massive library of PDF documents. Many of these are ebooks, most of them are individual journal articles from my six years of enthusiastic study. I need a way to organize them besides my highly detailed file system that I use Google Desktop Search to search. (I am a librarian after all)

But I have seen the future, and it is… Mac only. It’s called Papers.

I’ve also discovered the world of E-Comics and this amazing application, ComicRack.

So, Papers downloads metadata about PDF files from a number of different sources, but doesn’t seem to use the file name except in very specific instances, like PubMed’s unique file naming system. ComicRack has an exceptional parser for file names, getting it right almost all the time. Papers allows you to search within files, by author and title. ComicRack can be extended to read PDF’s, but doesn’t have the ability to search within them and you would expect with a piece of software set up for displaying images. It’s strength is in reading and organizing.

So, this is what I need. I need a program that can parse file names, identify ISBN’s of print versions of the work or download journal information from databases like PubMed and JSTOR. I need to be able to search within documents. I need to be able to create lists and to display PDF’s with both graphics and text. Optical Character Recognition would be nice, but not essential. I would also like it to have the ability to name files based on rules set up, I’ve invested a lot of time into my organizing system and I’d like to preserve my standards of Lastname,Firstname – Title.

Anybody know of something that resembles a mashup of Papers and ComicRack? Let me know. The academic world needs it.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Tags: , ,

Business Tools – The USB Toolkit

One of the most effective tools that you can have is a USB key. Most people use these just to store files but their usefulness goes much further than that. This is the first post of a series I’m going to be doing on the specific tools you can use. To begin, you need a good USB key. My current model is a 512 mb off brand that I picked up 2 years ago for about 20 bucks. At the time this was really inexpensive, but prices have fallen significantly. You should be able to pick up a 4 Gb model for the same price with a little searching.

There is an initiative called U3 that markets a standard for USB drives that allows you to launch programs that meet their standards. I am making a recommendation against these particular drives. In my testing of them, I found that they require administrator rights to run on a PC and thus they are largely useless in most corporate and university environments. Also, this proprietary system has already been made obsolete by a free and open source program launcher, which I will be featuring tomorrow.

The short of it, avoid U3 drives unless they are a really good deal. If you do buy one, re-format the hard drive using the HP USB Disk Storage Utility, I suggest FAT or FAT32 file systems for ease of use and compatibility.

HP USB Disk Storage Utility

Knowledge Management Tools – TiddlyWiki

TiddlyWiki. Sounds like a toy. In some ways, this clever bit of Javascript, HTML and CSS is a toy. It is a fascinating proof of concept in which an entire wiki is contained within a single webpage.

Wiki’s usually require a server to make the public aspects editable from the internet. These wikis (like Media Wiki, the software that runs Wikipedia) are faster with large implementations. With TiddlyWiki you can sign up for a hosted wiki at, password protect it, and download it to a computer with the ability to sync changes back and forth to the host side. The hosted wiki can be password protected and you can require a password to make changes. Since everything is in CSS, HTML and Javascript everything contained can be exported or imported if needed.

What can you do with TiddlyWiki?

  • Take notes and link connections between different notes
  • Tag notes and generate lists of all links
  • Use a variety of ‘Flavors’ including a GTD (Getting Things Done) version optimized for planning and calendaring

TiddlyWiki does require a bit of a learning curve, including the wiki markup language and experimenting with customization.

I personally used TiddlyWiki for notes for my first three semesters of library school.