A Post at Last

I told my wife and son the other day that maybe I should rename this blog: “Insert Clever Post Here”!! I really should write here more often… even if I don’t have anything clever to say. I just have not had time! Here’s an attempt…

Since I last wrote, a lot has happened in my professional life, all of which has kept me plenty busy. So maybe I could say I have an excuse…. maybe. What’s been going on? Well…

  • A number of people left my department for one reason or another last year (retirements, moving on to other positions, etc.); one of them was my co-leader of the Research and Instruction Department
  • I became the sole leader of  R & I, a now more merged group of librarians and academic technologists (I am no longer Director of Technology for Research and Instruction, just Director of Research and Instruction)
  • I led a search for and filled four open positions – three library liaisons and a web applications manager/systems librarian. The last two positions were filled in January. (I should note that I had fabulous and dedicated search committees who helped me tremendously through it all.)
  • Last fall, I and several other members of the Library and Information Services staff (including academic technologists and several librarians) stepped up and team-taught First Year Seminar library sessions, many of us for the first time. (I think we did quite well!)
  • I helped write and received IMLS and NEH grants with my collaborators at Brown University, the University of Virginia, and several other institutions for the TAPAS project, a digital humanities tool for publishing and archiving text encoded documents
  • I’ve been meeting for the past few months with a faculty working group to try to define how Library and Information Services fits into the curriculum and to discuss Information Fluency

And there’s been a lot more!

It has been an interesting year to say the least: constantly changing, often challenging. But I have to say I am really excited about my department and the directions my projects and our services are headed these days. The collaborative project I am involved with outside of Wheaton, the TAPAS project, is moving out of the planning stages and is starting to be developed. And at Wheaton, four new, energetic, and intelligent people have joined an already collegial, smart, creative group. We’re ready as a department to do great things.

So now, I need to get back to writing about them!

Back to Blogging? Thoughts about presentations…

I’m back!

Maybe.

After nearly two years of letting this blog languish (Twitter is so much easier!), I’m posting something again.

Me presenting with Prezi at a NITLE conferenceI just finished presenting with Bryan Alexander, NITLE’s Director of Research; Trina Marmarelli, Instructional Technologist, Reed College; and Bill Junkin, Director of Instructional Technology, Eckerd College about alternatives to the standard PowerPoint presentation. Bryan gave a nice introduction to how people are starting to break away from bulleted slides. Trina talked about a new form that people are imposing on PowerPoint called Pecha-kucha. Bill gave a demonstration of Ubiquitous Presenter — a tool that allows a professor to annotate Powerpoint slides on a tablet PC while students “tag” the them. And I presented on a web-based presentation tool called Prezi, for which I created this screen cast. (The picture with this post is me using Prezi for the first time at the NITLE Instructional Technology Leader’s Conference.)

I think we just scratched the surface of this topic in the hour that we had, but it was a great start. The way that people are doing presentations is changing … or has changed … and  in a good way! New forms like Pecha-kucha and the Lessig Method,  and new technologies like Prezi and Ubiquitous Presenter, which themselves encourage different approaches to presentations, are shaking us out of the deadly bulleted slide and encouraging us to communicate more clearly with our audiences.

When we are thinking about Information/Technology Literacy/Fluency for our students, this should be part of the conversation. We are well past the time when undergraduate students have to learn the mechanics of Powerpoint. Most of our students have been using Powerpoint since Middle School, sometimes even Elementary. What they still need to learn (and what we should be teaching them) is how to use this and similar tools to communicate effectively. And the stuff we covered today, it seems to me, could play a big part in that.

Back to… Blorking?

Blorking? Is that what you’d call it? Blogging at work… Blogging about work. That’s what I mean. I still do blog with my wife and son for family and friends. Someone once described that blog as a “perpetual Christmas newsletter,” and I guess that’s kind of what it is. But I haven’t blogged about work for a while.

I started as an enthusiastic blogger, for work and otherwise. I think I had 4 or 5 weblogs going at one time when I first discovered social software five years ago. I had my aquarium blog where I meticulously logged setting up a new fish tank. (I know… geek, right?) I had a personal blog, which I didn’t publicize very much, and therefore no one read; it started on Blogger and then I moved it to WordPress.

At work, I had a Social Software blog, where a librarian and I linked to all that we thought was cool in Web 2.0 before it was even called that. (I remember writing a post titled something like “And the term of the year is…. Web 2.0” a few months after starting the site.) I had blogs for projects that I was working on at Wheaton: TEI for Small Liberal Arts Colleges, Blackboard @ Wheaon, etc. I started a group blog with the other Faculty Technology Liaisons in my department called The Latest and Greatest and then a year or two later I moved it to a local server and called it “RNI: Ruminations and Notations on Information.” (Not a great name, I know. I was trying to play off of our department’s name: Research aNd Instruction.)

All of those blogs failed… or rather dribbled out. Only my family newsletter blog remains. As you can tell by the links I provided above, a few of them still stand as tombstones; I deleted others (usually when I got sick of getting email notifications of spam comments.) In each case, I felt too busy to write and/or was not motivated because I wasn’t writing for much of an audience.

So, why try again? I am no less busy than before, so maybe this blog is doomed to fail as well. But I have been twittering in two places — one account public, the other only for co-workers to see — and have found through the low-pressure highly social micro-blogging format that I could find the time to write at least a few things every day. And on occasion I have wanted to say more than the 140 characters would let me. This would give me that chance.

The other thing that happened — when I started in my new position, I decided to get more organized with how I “get things done.” I have been experimenting with all sort of Todo list apps to help me out. (For a while, I was using Remember the Milk, but recently when I got my iPhone, I settled on Toodledo.) And I now actively organize my notes from meetings on my laptop. I started with Journler, but decided that I would like to have access to those notes from any computer. So, I set up a private note-taking blog for myself using WordPress. In addition to recording factual notes (i.e. “this is what happened at this meeting”), I also find myself writing a few posts where I am actively trying to think about where we are headed as a department or where academic technology seems to be headed and what role Wheaton should play in that direction. It occurred to me that some of those thoughts could (maybe even should) be said outloud.

So, here goes. Another attempt. Maybe it’ll stick this time. We’ll see. Back to blorking!