Welcome to iHCPL. This site was created to support Harris County Public Library's iHCPL Learning 2.0 Program; a discovery learning program designed to encourage staff to explore new technologies and reward them for doing 23 Things. The program is adapted from The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County's Learning 2.0 Program.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Week 8: #19 Web-based Apps: They're not just for desktops

The availability and use of online productivity web-based applications (think word processing & spreadsheets) has exploded over the past two years and with good reason! These powerful applications provide users with the ability to create and share documents over the internet without the need of installed desktop applications. Some experts speculate that this emerging trend may mean the death of Microsoft Office and other software-based productivity tools, while others think web-based applications have their place, but not in the office. But, no matter which side of the office suite platform you side with, on this both sides seem to agree; web-based apps have their place.

One large benefit to web-based applications is that they eliminate the need to worry about different software versions or file types as you e-mail documents or move from PC to PC. Another bonus is that they easily accommodate collaboration by allowing multiple users to edit the same file (with versioning) and provide users the ability to easily save and convert documents as multiple file types (including HTML and pdf). And, you can even use many of these tools, such as Zoho Writer and Google Docs to author and publish posts to your blog. It's this type of integration with other web 2.0 tools that also makes web-based apps so appealing.

For this discovery exercise, participants are asked to take a look at a web-based word processing tool called Zoho Writer, create a simple document and then document your discoveries in your blog. If you're up to the challenge, you might even export your document as an HTML file or publish it through Zoho to your blog.

With Zoho and other web-based applications, the possibilities are endless.

Discovery Resources:

A short list of web-based productivity applications put together by Helene Blowers in Zoho Writer and exported as HTML.

Discovery Exercise:

  1. Create a free account for yourself in Zoho Writer.
  2. Explore the site and create a few test documents.
  3. Try out Zoho Writer's features and create a blog post about your discoveries.
  4. Submit your week 6-8 exercises for credit and bling.

If you're up for the challenge, try using Zoho's "publish" options to post to your blog. (optional)

BTW: Here's a document put together by Helene Blowers listing beneficial features of Zoho.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Week 8: #18 Social Networking: Making friends in the comfort of your own home

If you aren't able to view the embedded video, click here.

Social networking sites, such as MySpace, Facebook, and Ning, are changing the human fabric of the Internet. With these services, anyone with access to the Internet can create their own pages and profiles, including personal information, photos and videos. Often the services that host the social networking sites provide several different ways for people to communicate with one another, including blogging and instant messaging features.

People can use these social networking sites to connect with someone halfway around the world or with someone in their own city who shares common interests. Many of the social networking sites have their own theme or personality that initially attracts visitors to join the community. MySpace is a popular social hub, Facebook was created for college students and still has that feel, Yahoo users can log in to Yahoo!360, LinkedIn is aimed at professionals and Xanga is a haven for bloggers. These are just a few of the general social networking sites out there.

Other online communities have grown out of special interest groups. Do you have a flair for decorating? Join the "Rate My Space" group on the HGTV site. Do you like designing or wearing different t-shirts? Here's a site where you can create, vote, and even have your designs sold to others. Maybe you're more interested in NASCAR? Try Infield Parking. Devoted pet owners can even create profiles for their dogs and cats at their own friend making sites. No matter what your interests are, there's probably a social networking site out there for you and others like you.

Remember the lessons learned in Week Four when using social networking sites.

Discovery Resources

  • Watch this video -- Social Networking in Plain English
  • Take the Facebook tour
  • Newsweek article on the growth of Facebook

Discovery Exercise

  1. Take a look around several of the social networking sites and make note of your likes and dislikes.
  2. Post your thoughts about social networking in a blog post. Were there any particular sites that appealed to you?

    MySpace - http://www.myspace.com/

    Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/

    Ning - http://www.ning.com/

    Yahoo!360 - http://360.yahoo.com/

    LinkedIn - http://www.linkedin.com/

    Xanga - http://www.xanga.com/

    Rate My Space - http://ratemyspace.hgtv.com/

    Threadless - http://threadless.com

    Infield Parking - http://www.infieldparking.com/

    Dogster, Catster - http://www.dogster.com/ , http://www.catster.com/

    Create an account for yourself with the social networking site of your choice. (optional)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Week 7: #17 Blog About Technology

For this thing, simply blog about anything technology related. Yes, it can be anything that relates to technology! You just need to share a few thoughts.

Be sure to add at least one comment to any post on another participant's blog. That's what online communities are all about -- connecting and communication.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Week 7: #16 So what's in a wiki?

If you aren't able to view the embedded video, click here.

A wiki is a collaborative website and authoring tool that allows users to easily add, remove and edit content. Wikipedia, the online open-community encyclopedia, is the largest and perhaps the most well known of these knowledge sharing tools. With the benefits that wikis provide the use and popularity of these tools is exploding.

Some of the benefits that make wikis so attractive are:

  • Anyone (registered or unregistered, if unrestricted) can add, edit or delete content.
  • Tracking tools within wikis allow you to easily keep up with what has been changed and by whom.
  • Earlier versions of a page can be viewed and reinstated when needed.
  • Users do not need to know HTML in order to apply styles to text or add and edit content. In most cases simple syntax structure is used.

As the use of wikis has grown over the last few years, libraries all over the country have begun to use them to collaborate and share knowledge. Among their applications are pathfinder or subject guide wikis, book review wikis, ALA conference wikis and even library best practices wikis.

Discovery Resources:

  • Wiki, wiki, wiki - from PLCMC's Core Competency blog
  • Beginner's look at Wikis from Meredith Farkas
  • What is a wiki? - Library Success wiki presentation
  • Using wikis to create online communities

Discovery Exercise:

For this discovery exercise, you are asked to take a look at some library wikis and blog about your finding. Here's a few examples to get you started:

  • iHCPL Sandbox wiki
  • SJCPL Subject Guides - a pathfinder wiki developed by the St. Joseph County Public Library system
  • Book Lovers Wiki - developed by the Princeton Public Library
  • Library Success: a best practices wiki
  • ALA 2007 Annual Conference wiki - an example of a wiki created to support a specific event
  1. Access the iHCPL wiki and create a login account for yourself.
  2. Either add your blog to the favorite blogs page on the iHCPL wiki or add a favorite or two to other pages on the wiki.
  3. Now that you are more familiar with wikis, create a blog post about your findings. What did you find interesting? What types of applications within libraries might work well with a wiki?

So, what's in a wiki? Find out by doing some exploring on your own.

Added: The wiki password is HCPL.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Week 6: #15 On Library 2.0 & Web 2.0

Library 2.0 is the term used to describe a new set of concepts for developing and delivering library services. The name, as you may guess, is an extension of Web 2.0 and shares many of its same philosophies and concepts, including harnessing the user in both design and implementation of services, embracing constant change as a development cycle over the traditional notion of upgrades, and reworking library services to meet the users in their space, as opposed to ours (libraries).

Many have argued that the notion of Library 2.0 is more than just a term used to describe concepts that merely revolve around the use of technology; it is also a term that can be used to describe both physical and mindset changes that are occurring within libraries to make our spaces and services more user-centric and inviting. Others within the profession have asserted that libraries have always been 2.0: collaborative, customer friendly and welcoming. But no matter which side of the debate proponents fall, both sides agree that the libraries of tomorrow, even five or ten years from now, will look substantially different from libraries today.

Discovery Resources:

OCLC Next Space Newsletter -- Web 2.0: Where will the next generation of the web take libraries?

Five Perspectives:

Wikipedia - Article on Library 2.0 with great references

A Librarian's 2.0 Manifesto

Discovery Exercise:

  1. Read two or three of the perspectives on Library 2.0 from the list above.
  2. Create a blog post about your thoughts on any one of these. Library 2.0 - it's many things to many people. What does it mean to you?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Week 6: #14 Getting not-so-technical with Technorati

So now that you've been blogging for a while, you might be wondering just how big the blogosphere is. Well, according to Technorati, the leading search tool and authority for blogs, the number of blogs increases by 175,000 each day with over 95.8 million blogs currently being tracked by the site.

Yes, these numbers are astounding, but as you've already seen for yourselves, blogging is so easy that these publishing tools are being taken advantage of by almost every industry, including libraries.

So how does a person get their blog listed as part of the blogosphere and how can you tag your posts with keywords to make them more accessible through a Technorati search? The answer to the first question is that your blog is probably already being captured by Technorati due to the fact that you're already using Blogger, the most popular blogging tool. But if you want to join the party and have your blog officially listed on Technorati and also take advantage of the watchlist and other features, you'll need to claim your blog yourself. As for tagging posts with Technorati tags? This is easy, too. All you need to do is add a little bit of HTML code to the bottom of your post (see my example below) and Technorati will pick up these tags when it spiders (or web crawls) your site.

There are a lot of features available through Technorati, including different ways to search for blogs. You can search for keywords in blog posts, search for entire blog posts that have been tagged with a certain keyword, or search for blogs that have been registered and tagged as whole blogs about a certain subject (like photography or libraries).

Discovery Resources:

Tools - Widgets and other Technorati tools
Technorati WTF (Where's the Fire?) & Popular features

Discovery Exercises:

  1. Take a look at Technorati and try doing an advanced search by typing "Learning 2.0" as a keyword search in Blog posts, in tags and in the Blog Directory. Are the results different?
  2. Explore popular blogs, searches and videos. Is anything interesting or surprising in your results?
  3. Create a blog post about your discoveries on this site.

If you're up for a challenge, learn how to tag your posts with Technorati tags so they can join tag searches. Create a post about something. It can be anything you want and add the HTML code to the bottom to tag it as "iHCPL." You might also want to consider claiming your blog and creating a watchlist. NOTE: when adding HTML code, you'll want to make sure you're in Blogger's Edit HTML window. (optional)

There's a lot to explore.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Week 6: #13 Tagging makes the web 2.0 world go round

If you aren't able to view the embedded video, click here.

Tagging is an open and informal method of categorizing that allows users to associate keywords with online content (webpages, pictures & posts). Unlike library subject cataloging, which follows a strict set of guidelines (i.e. Library of Congress subject headings), tagging is completely unstructured and freeform, allowing users to create connections between data anyway they want.

In the past few weeks, we've already explored a few sites - Flickr and LibraryThing to name two - that allow users to take advantage of tagging and in week 3 many even used a common tag (iHCPL) to create an association between photos that we individually uploaded. This week, in addition to exploring Technorati tagging, we want to also take a look at a popular social bookmarking site called Del.icio.us (typed in as http://del.icio.us/ ).

Del.icio.us is a social bookmarking manager which allows you to bookmark a web page and add tags to categorize your bookmarks.

Many users find that the real power of Del.icio.us is in the social network aspect, which allows you to see how other users have tagged similar links and also discover other websites that may be of interest to you. You can think of it as peering into another user's filing cabinet, but with this powerful bookmarking tool each user's filing cabinet helps to build an expansive knowledge network.

For this discovery exercise, you are asked to take a look at Del.icio.us and learn about this popular bookmarking tool.

HCPL has a Del.icio.us account for reference resources here.

Discovery Resources:

  • Otter Group Del.icio.us tutorial (8 min. video) - Highly recommended, but slightly fuzzy video quality.
  • Several habits of highly successful Del.icio.us users
  • Us.ef.ul - a beginner's guide to Del.icio.us

Discovery Exercise:

  1. View the 8 minute Del.icio.us tutorial to get a good overview of its features.
  2. Take a look around Del.icio.us using the iHCPL account that was created for this exercise. Note: In this account you will find lots of resources that have been highlighted or used throughout the course of the Learning 2.0 program.
  3. Explore the site options and try clicking on a bookmark that has also been bookmarked by a lot of other users. Can you see the comments they added about this bookmark or the tags that they used to categorize this reference?
  4. Create a blog post about your experience and thoughts about this tool. Can you see the potential of this tool for research assistance? Or just as an easy way to create bookmarks that can be accessed anywhere?

Create your own Del.icio.us account. (optional)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Week 5: #12 The "Library" Elf will remind you!

Okay, let's all admit it -- even library employees sometimes forget to turn in their borrowed items on time!

The Elf will help take care of that problem by reminding you when items are due, when holds are ready and about to expire and will give you a list of everything you have checked out. Alas, it won't check under the seats of your car to find that missing DVD.

HCPL does provide a reminder service for library cardholders. If you are having trouble receiving notices or if you would prefer RSS or text messages, the Elf is the tool for you.

Discovery Resources:
Demo of Library Elf
FAQ of Library Elf

Discovery Exercise:

Register your library card (or cards) with Library Elf and track your items and requests. Post on your blog what you think about this service.

Submit your week 3-5 exercises for credit and bling.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Week 5: #11 A Thing about Library Thing

Are you a book lover or cataloger at heart? Or do you enjoy finding lost or forgotten gems on the shelf to read? Then LibraryThing may be just the tool for you! Developed for book lovers, this online tool not only allows you to easily create an online account and catalog of your own, it also connects you to other people who have similar libraries and reading tastes.

Add a book to your catalog just by entering the title -- it's so easy you don't even need to be a cataloger to do it -- or connect with other readers through your similar reading tastes. There are lots of ways to use Library Thing. You can view your books on a virtual shelf, add a widget to display titles that are in your catalog or install a search box on your blog.

So, why not join the ranks and create your own library online? With over 240,000 members (BTW: LibraryThing has a group forum for librarians and over 16 million cataloged books) you're bound to discover something new.

LibraryThing is not the only personal cataloging application out there. You might also try All Consuming (not only catalog books, but music, movies and even meals!) or Goodreads.

Discovery Resources:

About LibraryThing

Tour LibraryThing

Blogging LibraryThing

Discovery Exercise:

  1. Take a look around LibraryThing and create an account.
  2. Add at least 5 books to your library.
  3. Blog about your findings and be sure to link to your LibraryThing catalog.

Put a Librarything widget on your blog. (optional)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Week 5: #10 Play around with Image Generators

If you aren't able to view the embedded video, click here.

Generators? No, I'm not talking about those gas powered back-up things. The generators I'm talking about allow you to easily manipulate image and graphics to create fun images like these:

One of the discovery resources for this "thing" guides you through building an avatar. Safety is a major point for avatars, but it's also a great way to express yourself and your interests without showing an actual picture of yourself.

For this discovery exercise, please just have fun. Find a few interesting image or text generators to play around with and write a post in your blog about one of your favorites and display the result. Often adding the image you mocked up to your blog is as simple as copying and pasting code that the page provides. If not, you may just need to right click on the image and then save it to your hard drive before using Blogger's image button to add it to your post.

If you're having difficulty getting your image added to a post in your blog, ask a co-worker for help.

Discovery Resources:

FDToys - try the magazine and movie poster cover generators!
Avatars from Yahoo!
Customize comic strips.
Choose from a variety of image generators.
Meez yourself an avatar.

Discovery Exercise:

  1. Play around with some image generators and find one that you like.

  2. Post the result of your discovery process in your blog. Note: Be sure to include a link to the image generator itself, so other participants can discover it too.

Take some time and have fun with this exercise. And remember to be tasteful, too.

Subscribe to the Generator blog, each post delivering an interesting new Image Generator.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Week 4: #9 Finding Feeds

Now that you have a newsreader (your Bloglines account), you can begin adding other newsfeeds that interest you. There are several ways you can locate newsfeeds:

  • When visiting your favorite websites -- look for newsfeed icons that indicate the website provides it. Often a feed icon will be displayed somewhere in the navigation bar of the site.
  • Use Bloglines search tool -- Bloglines' search tool lets you search for newsfeeds, posts, citations and the web. Use the "Search for Feeds" option to locate RSS feeds you might find interesting.
  • Other search tools that can help you find feeds: Feedster (one of the largest collections of news, blogs and podcasts), Topix (news and media outlet feeds), Syndic8 (open directory of feeds submitted by users) and Technorati (a popular blog finding tool).

Discovery Exercise:

  1. Explore a few of the search tools located above that can help you locate newsfeeds.
  2. Create a blog post about the experience. Don't know what to blog about? Here are some questions to get you started...Which method of finding feeds was the easiest for you to use? Which search tool was the easiest to use and which the most confusing? What kind of useful feeds did you find in your travels? Or what kind of unusual ones did you find? What other tools or ways did you find to locate newsfeeds?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Week 4: #8 Make life "really simple" with RSS and a newsreader

If you aren't able to view the embedded video, click here.

You've heard of RSS? You've seen those small, funny tags on websites? You have no idea what it really is?

RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication" and is a file format for delivering regularly updated information over the web.

Think of RSS as the ultimate web filter for news and events. Many users (yes, RSS is still just catching on) go from website to website reading the latest news, information or blog posts from their favorite writers. RSS allows you to choose which of these you want sent to a central location. It's like having virtual newspapers sent to your virtual door. You stop at one location, one that you've created, and read the latest from all of your favorite places.

You could use RSS to get the latest headlines from CNN, have Netflix update you automatically with new movies coming your way, or to keep up with your best friend's blog entries.

This week’s discovery exercises focus on learning about RSS news feeds and setting up a Bloglines account (a free online newsreader) for yourself to bring your feeds together.

Discovery Resources:

  • RSS feed tutorial video from CNET.
  • Using Bloglines tutorial -- follow steps 1-3 to set up your Bloglines account. Steps 4-9 are optional and cover subscribing to different types of feeds (photos, podcasts, etc.)
  • YouTube video from Helene Blowers on adding RSS feeds.

Discovery Exercise:

  1. Follow the discovery resources above to learn more about RSS and newsreaders.
  2. Create a free online Bloglines account for yourself and to it at least ten newsfeeds through your reader. See the tutorial from the discovery resources, steps 1-3 for instructions.
  3. Subscribe to some of the iHCPL participant blog feeds or HCPL Flickr photo feeds.
  4. Create a post in your blog about this exercise.