Friday, April 17, 2009

Moodle Course Management System for Librarians

For those of you haven't heard of Moodle, here is a description from their website. "Moodle is an Open Source Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)." Basically you install it on a web server and can use it to manage and deliver courses online. That is really an oversimplification, it can be used for many different purposes. The session I attended the Library Technology Conference was hands on and doesn't really translate that well into a blog post, so I am going to concentrate on ways that I think it could be used by SELCO and its member libraries.

Moodle is a very mature open source project which is being used in many educational settings including at the University of Minnesota. It has a low cost to implement and a relatively low learning curve. Moodle could replace at least two third-party tools that we currently pay for. It seems like a direct replacement for Coursewhere, and Moodle can do surveys so we wouldn't need Zoomerang any longer. Here are some of the other ways I think it could be used.

SELCO has been creating a lot of flash based video tutorials for simple topics such as, how to reset a pin, how to use the catalog, and how to use MNLink. They have tutorials on cataloging and Horizon. They have also been producing video content on their SELCOtv site. Moodle could be a one stop shop to aggregate all this content. This content could also be included in various courses on Moodle and augmented into full-fledged online courses, complete with required reading, assignments, activities, and quizzes to measure the expected outcomes/competencies/goals. It could take the place of some of the on-site classes, and would be available to the librarians 24/7. It could also be used to supplement the face-to-face training happening on-site.

Moodle could also be used by libraries to deliver training to their patrons. It could be used to train patrons on the new Aquabrowser front-end to the catalog. It could be used to train librarians on new services available in their library. There was a separate session at the conference on using Moodle as an online forum for book clubs. Moodle has discussion forums, wikis, databases, and the list goes on.

Moodle runs on a standard LAMP(Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack which is a platform that could be easily leveraged for other websites/services. For instance, there are a lot of libraries that are moving to drupal as a content management system for their websites, drupal runs on LAMP. The LAMP stack could be leveraged by any library that wants to do a more advanced website than simple html, or blogger posting to their site.

I've just outlined a few of the uses of Moodle. I'm sure once we started using it in earnest we'd find lots of other uses for it.

Reading for Digital Natives

I recently went to the Library Technology Conference and attended some very interesting sessions. This post will be the first in a series about some of the sessions I found most interesting.

Reading for Digital Natives, presented by Carol Soma, was one of the best sessions I went to. The slides at the previous link are a pretty good outline for the session. I didn't realize how much different the brain of a digital native is from someone like me who is considered to be a digital immigrant. I never really thought of myself as a digital immigrant. I started messing with computers when I was 8 years old, and have tended to be an early adopter of technology, but my son has had his own computer since he was three. My first computer was text only, his can play high-res movies. When I started using the internet, it was text based and you used gopher to retrieve documents from servers and downloaded at 2400 bits per second. His internet is full of pictures, video games, movies, and the text isn't green on a black background. He downloads all that at around 1.6 million bits per second. When I look at all that, I have to admit there is a big enough difference between his experience and mine that I am definitely a digital immigrant, he is a digital native, and none of the following should surprise me.

  • The visual cortex in brains today are 20% larger than brains measured 20 years ago.
  • If you show a digital native and a digital immigrant 100 pictures, the native will recall 90 of them, the immigrant only 60.
  • Digital natives don't notice black and white text. They are attracted to burnt orange, neon green, and red. Textbooks have taken notice and are starting to reflect this.
Slides 7 and 8 show how we scan a page for information versus how the digital native scans a page. For us it takes 7 eye movements and is basically left to right. The digital native does it in 4 eye movement that basically scan the title and make an X on the page. They are scanning to see if anything jumps right out at them.

Digital natives are good at visual skills, mind mapping is a good tool for them. They like to learn things through experience rather than through lectures. It needs to be interactive. They expect things to happen at light speed and be easy, fast, and fun. They don't really "get" revising and rewriting. They are so used to multitasking, that they don't necessarily realize when they need to focus to do a better job. Also because of their multitasking nature, things tend to end up in the habitual learning center rather than in the application/analysis part of the brain. So they can memorize facts, but can't necessarily apply them to other situations.

Some things to keep in mind when dealing with reading difficulties. Intensive reading instruction after age 10 can create lasting changes in the brain. Our current education system tends to put the bulk of its focus on reading K-3, but reading really needs to have a K-12 focus not just K-3. We need to teach reading at all levels and in all areas. We need to have them read aloud and think aloud. Have them predict what will happen in what they are reading. Show them how multitasking actually slows them down. Have them show their work to an audience. Don't rely heavily on PowerPoint, kids use PPT because that is what their teachers want, but it's not a technology they would choose for themselves. Use tools that are familiar to them. Gaming will be more engaging for them. Moodle is good for organizing classroom material online.

Those are some of the highlights of the session. I would encourage anyone who is interested in more information to download the slides. There is a great bibliography at the end. I would pay special attention to the documents by Mark Prensky.

Really? A whole year?

I can't believe it's just a week short of a year since my last post. I kind of go in bursts on these things. Expect a flurry here shortly.

Here is a comment about my previous post. We have since decided to go with Aquabrowser for the new catalog front end at SELCO. I think the project is going well in general, a bit slower than we had hoped but I think that tends to happen with most large projects. Hopefully things will start to accelerate and our timeline won't slip too much.

Friday, April 25, 2008

New Initiatives

We had a good SELCO board meeting Wednesday night. I received my "23 things on a stick" flash drive, and my name was drawn out of the hat for a DVD player. That was a cool surprise! There was good discussion about the new Strategic Plan for the consortium. I'm particularly excited about the Teen programming component. We also decided to go ahead and take a serious look at creating a new catalog utilizing Endeca.

Endeca is a great product used by a lot of large e-commerce companies. I'm glad everyone seems excited about it, but I think we still need to take a look at the alternatives as well. Solr is a similar open source project that is used by a lot of large e-commerce companies as well. It's not as slick as Endeca, but I think it is worth a look as well. Here are some links if anyone is curious.

Here is a list of sites using it for their guided navigation/search.

There are some pretty big sites in that list.

I do see some libraries in the list as well.

I also think we should be looking at AquaBrowser as well. They are a more library specific company. They've built a lot of the social aspects into their product. They do things like import LibraryThing tags and reviews, and allow patrons to do tagging, reviewing, and networking. Definitely worth a serious look. Plenty of libraries in their list of customers.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Thing 23. Final Thoughts

This was a good experience. It was a lot more time consuming than I was expecting. I definitely can tell I spent more time on the early things. I did learn quite a bit, especially about the more library specific sites. I definitely plan to play more with LibraryThing.

Thing 22. What Did I Learn Today?

I'm constantly learning new things about technology, that's the nature of having a tech job. What I don't generally do, is ask myself how the library might use whatever I'm looking at. I think about what it can do for the business I work for. So my resolution is to make a conscious effort to start thinking more about how the things I run across could have an application in the library setting.

Thing 21. Beyond MySpace: Other Social Networks

There are a lot of social networking sites out there. I use to keep in touch with the MN MySQL User Group. I use Linked-in to keep track of my former co-workers and colleagues, here is my profile. I notice from my Linked-in connections that a couple of my former co-workers are now in charge of operations at Ning. They are definitely smart people, no wonder Ning has such a great architecture.