Free Web Tools for Top-Notch Presentations

One does not simply (Boromir meme)Visually appealing and energizing slideshows are the lifeblood of conference presentations. But using animated PowerPoints or zooming Prezis to dizzy audiences delivers little more appeal than packing slides with text on a low-contrast background. Key to winning hearts and minds are visual flair AND minimalism, humor, and innovative use of technology.

Memes

Delightfully whimsical, memes  are a fantastic ice-breaker and laugh-inducer. My last two library conference presentations used variants of the crowdpleasing “One does not simply…” Boromir meme above, which never fails to generate laughter and praise. Memes.com offers great selections, is free of annoying popup ads, and is less likely than other meme generators to be blocked by your workplace’s Internet filters for being “tasteless.” (Yes, I speak from personal experience…)

Keep Calm and Ask a LibrarianKeep Calm-o-matic 

Do you want your audience to chuckle and identify with you? Everyone who’s ever panicked or worked under a deadline will appreciate the Keep Calm-o-matic. As with memes, variations are almost infinite.

Recite This

Planning to include quotations on some of your slides? Simply copy and paste your text into Recite This, then select an aesthetically pleasing template in which the quote will appear. Save time, add value.

Wordle

This free web tool enables you to paste text or a URL to generate a groovy word cloud. Vary sizes, fonts, and color schemes too. Note that Wordle’s Java applet refuses to function smoothly in Chrome. There are other word cloud generators, but Wordle is still gold.

Dictation

This is the rare dictation tool that doesn’t garble what you say, at least not excessively. It’s free, online, and available as a Chrome app. Often when preparing presentations, I simply start talking and then read over what I said. This is a valuable exercise in prewriting and a way to generate zingers and lead-ins to substantive content.

Poll Everywhere

Conduct live polls of your audience using texting and Twitter! Ask open-ended or multiple-choice questions and then watch the live results appear on your PowerPoint slide or web browser.  Poll Everywhere and equivalents such as EverySlide engage audiences and heighten interest more than a mere show of hands, especially for larger audiences in which many members otherwise would not be able to contribute to the discussion. Use whenever appropriate.

Emaze

This online presentation software offers incredible visual appeal and versatility without inducing either vertigo or snoozes. Create your slides in the browser, customize a range of attractive templates, and access from any device with an Internet connection (major caveat, that). You must pay to go premium to download slideshows, but this reservation aside, the free version is an outstanding product.

DoNotLink

Ever attempted to show a website containing misinformation or hate speech as part of an information literacy session but didn’t want to drive traffic to the site? DoNotLink is your friend! Visit or link to shady sites without increasing their search engine ranking.

Serendip-o-matic

Simply paste some text, and this serendipity search tool will draw on the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), Flickr, Europeana, and other open digital repositories to produce related photographs, art, and documents that are visually displayed. Serendip-o-matic reveals unexpected connections between diverse materials and offers good, nerdy fun to boot. “Let your sources surprise you!”

So . . . what free web tools do you use to jazz up your presentations?

Jobs in Information Technology: October 29

New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.

New This Week

Head of Guin Library, Oregon State University, Newport, OR

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a  job posting.

Midwinter Workshop Highlight: Meet the Field Research Presenter!

We asked our LITA Midwinter Workshop Presenters to tell us a little more about themselves and what to expect from their workshops in January. This week, we’re hearing from Wayne Johnston, who will be presenting the workshop:

Developing mobile apps to support field research
(For registration details, please see the bottom of this blog post)

LITA: Can you tell us a little more about you?

Wayne: I am currently Head of Research Enterprise and Scholarly Communication at the University of Guelph Library. Prior to joining the Library I worked for the United Nations in both New York and Geneva. My international experience includes work I’ve done in Ghana, Nepal, Croatia and Canada’s Arctic.

LITA: Who is your target audience for this workshop?

Wayne: I think this workshop will be most relevant to academic librarians who are supporting research activity on their campuses.  It may be of particular interest to those working in research data management.  Beyond that, anyone interested in mobile technology and/or open source software will find the workshop of interest.

LITA: How much experience with programming do attendees need to succeed in the workshop?

Wayne: None whatsoever.  Some experience with examples of field research undertaken by faculty and/or graduate students would be useful.

LITA: If you were a character from the Marvel or Harry Potter universe, which would it be, and why?

Wayne: How about the Silver Surfer?  By living vicariously through the field research I support I feel that I glide effortlessly to the far corners of the world.

LITA: Name one concrete thing your attendees will be able to take back to their libraries after participating in your workshop.

WayneYou will be equipped to enable researchers on your campus to dispense with paper data collection and discover new efficiencies and data security by using mobile technology.

LITA: What kind of gadgets/software do your attendees need to bring?

WayneNothing required but any mobile devices would be advantageous.  If possible, have an app that enables you to read QR codes.

LITA: Respond to this scenario: You’re stuck on a desert island. A box washes ashore. As you pry off the lid and peer inside, you begin to dance and sing, totally euphoric. What’s in the box?

WayneA bottle of craft beer.

More information about Midwinter Workshops. 

Registration Information:
LITA members get one third off the cost of Mid-Winter workshops. Use the discount promotional code:  LITA2015 during online registration to automatically receive your member discount.  Start the process at the ALA web sites:
Conference web site:
Registration start page:
LITA Workshops registration descriptions:
When you start the registration process and BEFORE you choose the workshop, you will encounter the Personal Information page.  On that page there is a field to enter the discount promotional code:  LITA2015
As in the example below.  If you do so, then when you get to the workshops choosing page the discount prices, of $235, are automatically displayed and entered.  The discounted total will be reflected in the Balance Due line on the payment page.
preconference
Please contact the LITA Office if you have any registration questions.

Are you an iPad or a laptop?

I’ve never been a big tablet user. This may come as a surprise to some, given that I assist patrons with their tablets every day at the public library. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Nexus 7 tablet. It’s perfect for reading ebooks, using Twitter, and watching Netflix; but the moment I want to respond to an email, edit a photo, or work my way through a Treehouse lesson, I feel helpless. Several library patrons have asked me if our public computers will be replaced by iPads and tablets. It’s hard to say where technology will take us in the coming years, but I strongly believe that a library without computers would leave us severely handicapped.

ipad_laptop-01One of our regular library patrons, let’s call her Jane, is a diehard iPad fan. She is constantly on the hunt for the next great app and enjoys sharing her finds with me and my colleagues. Jane frequently teases me about preferring computers and whenever I’m leading a computer class she’ll ask “Can I do it on my iPad?” She’s not the only person I know who thinks that computers are antiquated and on their way to obsoletion, but I have plenty of hope for computers regardless of the iPad revolution.

In observing how patrons use technology, and reflecting on how I use technology in my personal and professional life, I find that tablets are excellent tools for absorbing and consuming information. However, they are not designed for creation. 9 times out of 10, if you want to make something, you’re better off using a computer. In a recent Wired article about digital literacy, Ari Geshner poses the question “Are you an iPad or are you a laptop? An iPad is designed for consumption.” He explains that literacy “means moving beyond a passive relationship with technology.”

So Jane is an iPad and I am a laptop. We’ve managed to coexist and I think that’s the best approach. Tablets and computers may both fall under the digital literacy umbrella, but they are entirely different tools. I sincerely hope that public libraries will continue to consider computers and tablets separately, encouraging a thirst for knowledge as well as a desire to create.

LITA Forum: Online Registration Ends Oct. 27

Don’t miss your chance to register online for the 2014 LITA Forum “From Node to Network” to be held Nov. 5-8, 2014 at the Hotel Albuquerque in Albuquerque N.M. Online registration closes October 27, 2014. You can register on site, but it’s so much easier to have it all taken care of before you arrive in Albuquerque.

Book your room at the Hotel Albuquerque. The guaranteed LITA room rate date has passed, but when you call at: 505-843-6300 ask for the LITA room rate, there might be a few rooms left in our block.

Three keynote speakers will be featured at this year’s forum:

  • AnnMarie Thomas, Engineering Professor, University of St. Thomas
  • Lorcan Dempsey, Vice President, OCLC Research and Chief Strategist
  • Kortney Ryan Ziegler, Founder Trans*h4ck.

More than 30 concurrent colleague inspired sessions and a dozen poster sessions will provide a wealth of practical information on a wide range of topics.

Two preconference workshops will also be offered;

  • Dean B. Krafft and Jon Corson-Rikert of Cornell University Library will present
    “Linked Data for Libraries: How libraries can make use of Linked Open Data to share information about library resources and to improve discovery, access, and understanding for library users”
  • Francis Kayiwa of Kayiwa Consulting will present
    “Learn Python by Playing with Library Data”

Networking opportunities, a major advantage of a smaller conference, are an important part of the Forum. Take advantage of the Thursday evening reception and sponsor showcase, the Thursday game night, the Friday networking dinners or Kitchen Table Conversations, plus meals and breaks throughout the Forum to get to know LITA leaders, Forum speakers, sponsors, and peers.

2014 LITA Forums sponsors include EBSCO, Springshare, @mire, Innovative and OCLC.

Visit the LITA website for more information.

Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) members are information technology professionals dedicated to educating, serving, and reaching out to the entire library and information community. LITA is a division of the American Library Association.

LITA and the LITA Forum fully support the Statement of Appropriate Conduct at ALA Conferences

Jobs in Information Technology: October 22

New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.

New This Week

Head of Technology, Saline County Library,  Benton,  AR

Science Data Librarian,  Penn State University Libraries, University Park,  PA

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a  job posting.

Women Learning to Code

keyboard

I am a user of technology much more than a creator.   After I completed a masters in educational technology I knew to better use the skills I had learned it would benefit me to gain a better understanding of computer coding. My HTML skills were adequate but rusty, and I didn’t have any experience with other languages. To increase these skills I really did not want to have to take another for-credit course, but I also knew that I would have a better learning experience if I had someone of whom I could ask questions. Around this time, I was made aware of Girl Develop It. I have attended a few meetings and truly appreciate the instruction and the opportunity to learn new skills. As a way to introduce the readers of the LITA blog who might be interested in adding to their skill-set I interviewed Michelle Brush and Denisse Osorio de Large, the leaders of my local Girl Develop It group.

What is Girl Develop It?

MB: Girl Develop It is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing more women into technology by offering educational and network-building opportunities.

DL: Girl Develop It is a nonprofit organization that exists to provide affordable and accessible programs to women who want to learn web and software development through mentorship and hands-on instruction.

What sparked your interest in leading a Girl Develop It group?

MB: I attended Strange Loop where Jen Myers spoke and mentioned her involvement in Girl Develop It.   Then several friends reached out to me about wanting to do more for women in tech in Kansas City, so we decided to propose a chapter in Kansas City.

DL: Growing up my mom told me my inheritance was my education, and that my education was something no one would ever be able to take away from me.  My education has allowed me to have a plentiful life, I wanted to pay it forward and this organization allowed to do just that. I’m also the proud mom of two little girls and I want to be a good example for them.

What is your favorite thing about working in the technology industry?

MB: Software can be like magic.  You can build very useful and sometimes beautiful things from a pile of keywords and numbers.  It’s also very challenging, so you get the same joy when your code works that you do when solving a really hard math problem.

DL: I love the idea of helping to create things that don’t exist and solving problems that no one else has solved. The thought of making things better, drives me.

Why do you believe more women should be working in information technology?

MB: If we can get women involved at the same percentages as we have men, we would solve our skills gap.  It also helps that women bring a different perspective to the work.

DL: The industry as a whole will benefit from the perspective of a more diverse workforce. Also, this industry has the ability to provide a safe and stable environment where females can thrive and make a good living.

Are there other ways communities can be supportive of women entering the information technology industry?

MB: We need more visibility to the women already in the industry as that will make other women recognize they can be successful in the community as well.  Partly it’s on women like me to seek out opportunities to be more visible, but it’s also on the community to remember to look outside of the usual suspects when looking for speakers, mentors, etc.  It’s too easy to keep returning to the names you already know. Conferences like Strange Loop and Midwest.io are making strides in this area.

DL: I believe it starts with young girls and encouraging and nurturing their interest in STEM. It is very important that members of the community provide opportunities for girls to find their passion in the field of their choice.

Are any of you reading the LITA blog involved with Girl Develop It? I’d love to hear your stories!

Midwinter Workshop Highlight: Meet the Programming Presenter!

We asked our LITA Midwinter Workshop Presenters to tell us a little more about themselves and what to expect from their workshops in January. This week, we’re hearing from Elizabeth Wickes, who will be presenting the workshop:

Introduction to Practical Programming
(For registration details, please see the bottom of this blog post)

LITA: We’ve seen your formal bio but can you tell us a little more about you?

ElizabethI once wrote an entire Python program just so I could have a legitimate reason to say “for skittle in skittles.”  Attendees will meet this program during the workshop.  I can also fix pretty much anything with hot glue. 

LITA: Who is your target audience for this workshop?

Elizabeth: This workshop speaks to the librarian or library student who is curious about programming and wants to explore it within a very library-centric context.  So many of the existing books and resources on programming are for people with extensive math backgrounds. This workshop will present the core concepts and basic workflows with a humanities voice. 

LITA: How much experience with programming do attendees need to succeed in the workshop?

ElizabethAny amount is helpful, but nothing is required.  I’ll be presenting the topics from the ground up, presuming that folks have never seen any code before.

LITA: If your workshop was a character from the Marvel or Harry Potter universe, which would it be, and why?

ElizabethI would say Snape, if I had to pick a character.  But hear me out! The topic might seem moody and unapproachable, but on the inside just wants to love!  Also, programming is really like potions class, where you are combining lots of little pieces very precisely to somehow produce something shiny and beautiful.  My final argument: Alan Rickman.

LITA: Name one concrete thing your attendees will be able to take back to their libraries after participating in your workshop.

Elizabeth: Attendees will leave the workshop with a greater understanding of assessment strategies for material selection and a solid structure on which to build as a self-taught programmer.

LITA: What kind of gadgets/software do your attendees need to bring?

ElizabethParticipants should bring a laptop (not a tablet) with an operating system they are comfortable using.  Macs are easiest to set up but any current computer will work.

LITA: Respond to this scenario: You’re stuck on a desert island. A box washes ashore. As you pry off the lid and peer inside, you begin to dance and sing, totally euphoric. What’s in the box?

ElizabethPerhaps I’m singing because the box brought me a singing voice.  But seriously, I’d be super excited to get sunscreen in that situation.

More information about Midwinter Workshops. 

Registration Information:
LITA members get one third off the cost of Mid-Winter workshops. Use the discount promotional code:  LITA2015 during online registration to automatically receive your member discount.  Start the process at the ALA web sites:
Conference web site:
Registration start page:
LITA Workshops registration descriptions:
When you start the registration process and BEFORE you choose the workshop, you will encounter the Personal Information page.  On that page there is a field to enter the discount promotional code:  LITA2015
As in the example below.  If you do so, then when you get to the workshops choosing page the discount prices, of $235, are automatically displayed and entered.  The discounted total will be reflected in the Balance Due line on the payment page.
preconference
Please contact the LITA Office if you have any registration questions.

E-Learning in the Library

Pixabay, 2008
Pixabay, 2008

Online education has extended its presence to public libraries. Online learning and career training, by services such as Ed2Go and Lynda, are usually offered complimentary to college and university students. Similar services such as Gale Courses, Universal Class and Treehouse are geared toward public library use.
Gale Courses is a subscription service of Cengage Learning. It is a hybrid of Ed2Go, offering courses that range from GED preparation to PC Security. Courses are six weeks in length and are instructor led.
Universal Class offers hundreds of courses on a variety of topics, including dog obedience training, to patrons of diverse interests. Courses are self-paced and users can begin a course at anytime.
Treehouse is uniquely geared toward web design, development and programming for personal computers and mobile device applications. Users can select self-paced educational Tracks that are focused on a specific development area.

An alternative to MOOCs
A considerable population of the general public cannot afford to pursue a formal education. Extending the services of the library into web-based learning, online courses provide access to continuing education for the general public. The mention of free online education is not complete without a nod to massive open online courses (MOOC). MOOCs can be non-profit or commercial. They offer free or affordable online education, of varying course structure, to students around the world. Though MOOCs and open courseware are comparable alternatives, library-hosted continuing education offers additional incentives from those of most freely available online courses.

Education as a service
One advantage to using a service provided by the public library is that patrons can use the computers available on site. For patrons lacking home computer access, they can incorporate another library service into their education. Continuing education courses are free to library card holders at participating libraries. If your regional library does not offer the service, you can always purchase a library card from a participating library. Considering that each course can range from $50 to the mid $100s, the benefit of access to hundreds of courses outweighs the cost of purchasing a library card. Patrons will receive a certificate of completion for each completed course and in the case of Universal Class they will receive continuing education units that are approved by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET). Treehouse opts for using a point-based system and Badges, digital awards, which signify a user’s progress. Online education also helps to highlight the public library as an evolving source of public information.
All three continuing education providers, offer free trials and demo courses for anyone interested in their services.

Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself – Vol. 2

Ada Lovelace
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852)

Happy Belated Ada Lovelace Day, LITA Blog Readers! In honor of Ada Lovelace, the forward-thinking mother of scientific computing, I’m highlighting opportunities to really get to know your data (and users) in this Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself installment.

Once again, Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself (TYBYWY) is a curated selection of upcoming free webinars, classes, and other opportunities designed to help you learn and master new technologies and stay ahead of tech trends.

Your Monthly MOOC  -

This edition of TYBYWY, I am recommending a Coursera MOOC helmed by faculty from UC San Diego. Human-Computer Interaction Design may sound like a dry topic- but I know that you know that we all need to get better at designing online experiences that please and engage our patrons, constituents or students. The course promises to,  help “you build human-centered design skills, so that you have the principles and methods to create excellent interfaces with any technology.” This five week course sounds like an excellent and immersive opportunity for next gen librarians to get their sea legs in designing for better user experiences.

Worthwhile Webinars –

ProQuest and Library Journal are teaming up for a three-part webcast series on Data-Driven Academic Libraries, developed in partnership with ER&L. Excited yet? What if I mentioned that speakers include librarians from Yale, Harvard, and University of Southern California? Now you’re in.

This series includes the following sessions:

A Little Something Different –

Classes and webinars are helpful learning opportunities, and I encourage you to take them, but you can also learn a lot through involvement and discourse. And there’s no better place for that kind of interaction than on Twitter. To commemorate Ada Lovelace, and to get you immersed in the Technology TwitterCom, here some excellent twitter accounts to help TYBYWY.

The Ada Initative – Named in honor of the Countess herself, The Ada Initiative is a nonprofit organization that seeks to increase women’s participation in the free culture movement, open source technology and open culture.

Digital Public Library of America – The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to all. They post pretty pictures and useful information.

The Open Source Initiative – The OSI, a non-profit corporation with global scope, supports education in & advocacy for the benefits of open source software & communities.

LITA – Shameless self-promotion, I realize, but are you following us yet?

Tech On, TYBYWYers-

TYBYWY will return 11/14. Let me know if you have any specific requests!

 

The Library and Information Technology Association