Twitter in Classrooms – a round up

This semester (Spring 2012) I’m involved with a class called Writing for the Web.  This class is full of experiments and a wonderful group of students who have been really great sports about trying said experiments.  One of the things we’re playing with is using twitter for out-of-class discussions (and sometimes in-class, too).

I’ve been curious about how other classes are using tools like twitter for their communication, so I’ve been collecting hashtags and readings. I’m listing them here without commentary in case other folks are searching for such materials. If you know of a class or a relevant reading, please share in the comments!



“Why Tweet? (And How To Do It)” by Anne Trubek

Jay Rosen interview on his Twitter strategy

Who Gives a Tweet – Carnegie Mellon

Alan Jacobs – The Sentences of Twitter

Classroom Backchannel – ProfHacker

Anatomy of an Idea – Steven Johnson


Ebooks: something new, something borrowed

Just as live theatre continued after radio, and radio survived TV, and TV goes on despite the internet, so, too, will paper books coexist with digital books for a long, long time.  At first, ebook creators tried very hard to mimic the older sibling, which had a few centuries to mature into its own style, with page numbers, chapters, tables of content, margins, and nice bindings.

Finally the ebook is starting to experiment with a style of its own, though the wardrobe changes are happening fast, depending on where you look. Below are a couple ebook trends that I find particularly interesting.

Something new

A couple background bits to better understand my interest in ebooks of late — first, I’m a bibliophile and librarian. Second, while I was getting my graduate degree, I took a few classes on user experience design and usability.  At the time, I thought about usability in terms of websites for library catalogs, databases, and so on.  I was fascinated to see how storytelling became an element of user experience, and now I see user experience entering the realm of book design.

In the paper form, books did not seem to stray far from the traditional codex format.  Now that ebooks are morphing into apps, almost anything is possible.  The table of contents doesn’t have to be a table anymore, chapters don’t have to follow each other, and the whole notion of page numbers can be turned into something else entirely.

Along these lines, I’ve been following a few blogs that are diving into these questions.  My favorites so far:

  • New Kind of Book by Peter Meyers – some of his pieces are repeated at the blogs below, but I still think it’s worthwhile to catch each of his posts
  • Digital Book World – this multi-author blog looks at ebooks from the publishing point of view, more fascinating than I would have thought
  • Publishing Insight on O’Reilly Radar – the more technical side of ebooks and publishing

I’m excited to see the traditional idea of “what is the book” turned upside down.  Perhaps, after a heady phase of experimentation, we’ll end up using the old book trappings after all, even in our ebooks.  Or maybe, as future writers grow up reading ebooks of varying formats, they’ll begin to write in completely different styles that push ebook formats into further changes.

Something Borrowed

Another trend popping up again lately (seems to come and go in waves) is serialization.  When I think of serialized books, I think of old London magazines in the late 1800s selling pieces of Charles Dickens stories and then later, selling Sherlock Holmes cases to such raging popularity that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had to bring the character back after killing him off.  I find it somehow strange that there hasn’t been a online serialized story that has gone viral quite like Dickens or Conan Doyle did in their day.  The blog format seems like the perfect tool for such a narrative unfolding over time, but it just hasn’t taken off in that way … as far as I know, at least.  The closest thing I’ve seen to something like this was the @MayorEmanuel twitter feed during the Chicago election.

Another, shorter Twitter story unfolded recently, as described by Peter Meyers.  And there have been reports of serialized ebooks coming out, with various levels of pricing options:

As readers become accustomed to using devices like the Kindle and iPad for subscriptions, I wonder if serialized fiction will make a comeback.  We have some serialized fiction now in the form of TV miniseries and sitcoms, but I’m hoping for something better.  Deep down I see serialized fiction as the format that will usher in a tidal wave of social reading — people talking about the latest piece of the story over dinner with friends or over coffee at work. Maybe it’s just me, but one big thing I think we would gain from a shared experience of literature (over the shared experience of TV, for example) is the space for imagination, the wiggle room for interpretation that is hardly present (or to a much lesser extent) in the visual and aural world of TV.

Would you subscribe to a novel?  Would you read a chapter at a time as it was released, or save them until you had the whole book?

And most of all – what do you see as the biggest difference to emerge so far between ebooks and paper books?

Low Tech New Book Lists for your Library

Maybe your ILS doesn’t offer a new books list feature.  Maybe the person who knew how to do it moved far, far away.  Maybe you know how to do it with your ILS, but it seems too complicated.  Or maybe you just don’t like the way your current new books list looks and works. If your library has holdings in OCLC, you have some free options online for giving patrons a New Books List using WorldCat – whether or not your library is a Local WorldCat subscriber.

These are options that we’ve considered at Briar Cliff University’s library – which has a small collection with less than a hundred new additions each month.

Option 1: WorldCat Profile

If monthly updates are frequent enough for you, you can find your library profile in WorldCat, which includes items added last month.  For example, here is Briar Cliff University’s profile where you can also search for your own library: .  The information on your library’s WorldCat profile is taken from the WorldCat Registry.

Briar Cliff's WorldCat Profile

This New Books List will automatically update to show last month’s new items, around the first of each month.  Here is an example of a larger library’s profile page: Sioux City Public Library. This will be limited to 500 items, so if your library wants to feature a lot more than that, the next options might suit you better.

Options 2 & 3: Lists and Tags

You can create an alternative to the WorldCat Profile by setting up a free WorldCat user account for your library. Here is Briar Cliff’s WorldCat user account profile vs. our WorldCat Registry profile.

Having a WorldCat user account gives you a number of features:

  • mark “favorite” libraries
  • save searches
  • add reviews to items
  • add tags to items
  • watch lists created by other users
  • create lists

At Briar Cliff, we are in between two OPACs at the moment.  We still have the simple but clumsy one from our ILS provider, and we are experimenting with Local WorldCat as a free Quick Start user.  The WorldCat interface gives us and our users far more options and enhancements than we can get from our ILS catalog interface, such as Google Books previews, user reviews from other websites, automatic citation formats, and integration with several social networking platforms.

The two features we’ll look at in terms of promoting new books are WorldCat Lists and WorldCat Tags.  Here is a comparison of how these might be used by your library:

Lists Tags
limit of 500 items no limit, see the fiction tag as an example
Lists can be public or private. Tags are only public.
Lists keep a running total of how many times they’ve been viewed by WorldCat users other than the list owner. Tags do not show any statistics or view counts.
Lists can have an overall description and individual notes on each item. Tags cannot add notes to individual items.
Lists have 3 different view options: Details, Covers, and Citations – which also provides export into various formats and style guides. Tags only have 1 view, but can be easily selected and moved into a list in bulk.
Only the user account that created the list can add items to the list, so anyone adding items to the library’s new books list would have to be logged into the library’s WorldCat user account. Any WorldCat user can use any tag on any item, so you might get other people’s items mixed into your tags. However, it is possible to distinguish between items tagged by one user vs. items tagged by everyone. Tags might be a better option for team efforts.
Examples of library’s using lists for their new books It’s harder to search specifically for tags in WorldCat. From what I’ve been able to find, the only way to do it is to manipulate the URL like this:

At my library, we have a library gmail address which we used as our WorldCat login.  For the time being, we’re experimenting with both a WorldCat list and using tags. We’re also toying with the idea of using tags or lists to distinguish new books for specific departments on campus.

iPad as Social Creature

The iPad is a social device.  In some truly amazing case studies – the Pompeii team, this school in Scotland – the iPad is successful because everyone involved has one.  In a solitary use, it can also help the user do amazing things such as David Hockney’s artwork, but an educational setting calls for more collaboration. This is where the iPad shines.

You might think, “Of course the iPad is social. It has all kinds of apps for Twitter and Facebook and chat and what not.” While that’s true, it is not exactly what I mean by social. I had a different kind of social in mind that I had not been able to see in action up until last night. Two of us from the library were invited to give an iPad demonstration to a group of students in one of the residence halls. There were about twelve students in attendance. According to a quick show-of-hands survey, three had seen our iPad demo before and over half had some other iOS device. I talked for a couple minutes about the iPad lending program at the library, about the difficulty in choosing apps, asking them to give us ideas (immediate response: Angry Birds), and then asking for questions.

One of the students said she had heard there were some schools giving out ereaders to all their students and wanted to hear more about that. (By the way, reader, if you’re interested – I have a collection of links to such examples in my Delicious bookmarks.) I said there were some folks on campus who were throwing around the idea of getting iPads for the next incoming class, and there were other folks on campus who wanted all the students to have a choice of device. The benefit of letting students choose their own ereader is that there would be a healthy mix of experiences for comparison. The benefit of having the same device for everyone is consistency and easier collaboration.

To illustrate, I brought up an app we’ve only had installed on the iPads for a couple days: Share Board. I started the board, and then the students clustered around the other three iPads and joined my board. I started drawing, they saw it on their iPads. They started drawing and within seconds everyone was completely focused on one of the iPads, reaching over to tap on the screen and see the colors flying around. We pre-load the iPads with old library photos, which the students were able to easily insert into the whiteboard and sketch over. As an observer, it was fascinating to me to see how much this simple thing could captivate their attention. I kept expecting them to start getting bored with it since there really is not much you can do with Share Board other than, well, share. But students not holding an iPad were shouting instructions to the 3 students holding a device, which would then make the students in the other groups start laughing. They even asked me to make a blank board for them so they could start over again. Eventually we pulled ourselves free of the white board, and they started exploring other apps. Now that they were in clusters around the iPads, any other app they opened became a social experience, too. One group started using the Anatomy Lite quiz and turned it into a game, pointing and tapping together. This inspired another group to do the same thing and soon there was a competition going to see which group could get to the highest level. Not Angry Birds, mind you. Anatomy. Pointing at bones and muscle groups. And they seemed to enjoy it!

I have high hopes for other interactive screen-sharing apps, such as Fuze Meeting and Meeting Mngr Pro but have yet to try them out in a meeting setting.  I am very surprised that more apps don’t offer this feature. For example, I would LOVE to see interactive screen sharing in my favorite note-taking app Notes Plus, which allows for handwriting, typing, and drawing – handling all this input in beautiful ways.  Or imagine what an academic writing group could do if everyone could share comments in real time on an app like GoodReader?  The more potential I see in the iPad, the more frustrated I am that we aren’t there yet.