Tag Archives: Conference Reports

New Media Consortium Summer Conference

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

I attended the 2012 New Media Consortium’s summer conference located in Boston at the MIT campus for the first time, accompanied by Joe Antonioli. It was an invigorating several days of talks around new technology and education. I want to introduce you to some of the great speakers and ideas that I encountered. The embedded videos are short but get to the core of many of these ideas. Please take at least a few minutes to scan them and watch further if you find them interesting.

I began the conference with an entire morning session with Dr. Jeff Borden of Pearson called “Personalization : How Far Can (Should) We Go?” He advocates encouraging creativity, giving students safe places to fail but holding them to mastery. He cautions that too much personalization can be a bad thing, when “filter bubbles” over-personalize our experience, but data can provide invaluable feedback to both educators and students. He covers a lot of the same material in the following short video from a different conference. It’s worth watching.

This video, clips of which were shown during Kaltura’s presentation “Enhance Your Online Learning Environment with Video”, highlights the profoundly transformative effect that technologies as simple as YouTube can have. Just the first 7.5 minutes of this video will get this point across:

Several of the talks I attended were about game based learning and gamification as powerful tools for engagement and active learning.

In “Just Press Play: A Unified Game Layer for Education” Andrew Phelps (Rochester Institute of Technology) introduces “Just Press Play” an achievement/badge based system which provides a scale of accomplishment for students to engage in a range of activities and track what they have experienced.

Brett Bixler’s 20+ ways to Add Game-like Elements to Your Learning Designs

During “Which? The Academic Technology Card Game” David Thomas put forth the simple idea “Time is valuable. Entertainment values your time.” We played a card game that “inadvertently” got us talking about academic technology. It sparked inquisition and discussion and it really was fun. The following video is his short TEDx talk “What Makes a Place Fun?”

Helen Keegan urges us to take risks to get people curious. She used a “pedagogy of deception” when creating a fictional person whom the class followed via social networks.

My takeaway was that there really are opportunities to do things in new ways now, genuinely new ways that don’t simply transplant old practices into new technology, that are worth exploring. The message seems to be, take risks, encourage creativity, and get students engaged in learning by leveraging the new social, mobile, visual, storytelling, and gaming technologies.

More to engage with:

New Media Consortium Summer Conference presentations playlist Includes Joichi Ito’s opening keynote.

Tweets (Some top tweets from our own Joe Antonioli!) (click the all link for the full list)

iTunesU contains many of the talks

Innovative Users Group (IUG) meeting – Chicago 2012

Arabella Holzapfel, Shawn O’Neil & I (Barbara Merz) were at the 20th IUG in Chicago – beautiful city – love the lake, parks etc. etc. The meeting was quite interesting too. We’ll give brief highlights of the sessions we found to be useful, and we’ll download the associated materials, which in most cases will include PowerPoint presentations, to the folder \orgs\LIS\LISstaff\ILS III Millennium User Materials\IUG 2012 materials for your enjoyment & edification.  An observation I (Shawn) had after attending these workshops is that Middlebury College is ahead of the curve to many other Institutes in technology. Our network infrastructure seems to be superior to others.

  • “Running a User Experience Group in the absence of a Sys Admin.” (BM). Bentley University. Without a Sys Librarian, III duties fall to a group of 7: 2 tech support, 2 reference, 1 circ, 1 tech services, 1 special collections. 8 staff can access the III helpdesk. Very interesting model.
  • “Sierra Roadmap & Update” (BM) III’s pitch for the wonderful new world of Sierra. Sierra will have 100% of Millennium functionality.
  • “Learning Library-Specific Context to Mobilize Library Catalog” (BM) At University of Miami concern for the usefulness of the OPAC on mobile devices, even though searching starts with Summon, led to the adoption of Bob Duncan’s mobile stylesheet, with modifications to take care of their OPAC customizations. Definitely worth follow-up.
  • Load Profile Forum (BM & AH). Useful review of resources available to load profilers. Wiki available but underutilized! Time for Middlebury to review RDA implications.
  • “Automation: Boost your Productivity a Thousand Times.” (BM) Good tech geek presentation. Use of Expect in various flavors, AutoIt plus Java to automate repetitive tasks e.g creating review lists from record numbers, barcodes etc.
  • Systems Managers Forum (BM) Mostly controlled by III staff member talking about transition to Sierra + how things would work in Sierra. Take away message – III’s efforts will be largely directed to Sierra development from now on, even though they insist that Millennium development is continuing. My conclusion – Middlebury should consider the future of our ILS with all due haste!
  • “When your item types just don’t work anymore” (AH) was a discussion about how and why a library totally revamped their item types (going from around 10 to 101) to help them better identify various formats of material, which in turn aided greatly in tracking statistics of all kinds for all reasons. Most of it is useful ‘inside baseball’ stuff, but one intriguing thing that came out is that they (a public library in Oklahoma) loan out bike locks.
  • Two useful sessions focused on using Millennium (and, in one session, additional assistance from an outside vendor) to aid in weeding (AH). (One library had 100,000 volumes in off-site storage to weed.) Interesting factoids: Jefferson County Public Libraries in Colorado (my home state!), with 10 branches, serving 548,000, orders 100-120 copies of bestsellers. They run their weeding list weekly and withdraw about 120,000 items each year.
  • Four useful sessions dealt with various aspects of batch record loads, particularly those for e-books. (AH) One session was presented by staff from San Jose State University, where they provide e-books from 17 different providers/platforms, and have patron-driven acquisitions programs from three different vendors. They use a combination of tools, including Excel and WinBatch scripts, to de-dupe and perform other necessary functions on batch records.
  • “Using circulation data to validate an approval plan” (AH) described one library’s journey towards refining their approval plan profile (for print books) to match or surpass the circulation rates for firm orders.
  • “Getting the most out of Print Templates” (SO) –creating and using print templates for everything from spine labels to hold slips.
  • “Centralized Weeding: using create list and icodes to streamline the weeding process” and “Millennium Makeover magic: weeding in an INN-Reach consortium”- (SO) The 1st presentation dealt with both public and Academic libraries and the later was an academic library that was involved with  INN-Reach. In both, faculty  was given a say over the weeding. There seems to be no standard method for choosing what is to be weeded.
  • “Creating lists for Beginners – Why created the wheel again” (SO)  In other words, use others’ lists (with permission).
  • “Confounding by Copyright?” (SO) It seems guidelines change all the time and you can “buy protection” for copyright privileges.

Top Picks from DrupalCon 2012 Denver

We (Adam and Ian) were in Denver, Colorado this week attending the annual US Drupal convention. In addition to attending sessions, we were able to connect with colleagues from other institutions including Amherst, Wellesley, Lawrence University, UNH, and CSUMB. We sponsored a “birds of a feather” session, with Amherst, to introduce interested parties to Monster Menus, a Drupal module that Amherst and Middlebury use to add a site hierarchy and manage permissions on our site. This session was surprisingly well attended by about thirty participants and we had a lively discussion about Monster Menus’ capabilities and limitations. We also attended multiple sessions on using Drupal in higher education to hear what people at other schools were doing with the platform.

All of the sessions can be watched on the conference website (use the tabs across the top to browse each day’s sessions). Adam and I will highlight some that we found especially engaging, but if there’s one we missed that you think others would enjoy, please share it in the comments.


Dries Buytaert: Dries is the guy who created Drupal and currently runs the leading Drupal consulting business and serves as President of the Drupal Association. His talk covered where the development team is focusing for the Drupal 8 release. There are three main areas of focus, (1) mobile compatibility, (2) modernizing the development API with the Symfony framework, and (3) improving the user interface for content authors. He announced a tentative release date of August 2013 for Drupal 8.

Mitchell Baker: Mitchell is the “Chief Lizard Wrangler”, the head of the Mozilla project that produces the Firefox browser and Thunderbird email client among other efforts. She talked about the “Maker Ethic” and how the goal of Mozilla it to enable and promote the freedom to create, write, and publish. As she describes, the Firefox browser is but one product to enable this freedom and only one of the many projects Mozilla is engaged in.

Luke Wroblewski: Luke gave a very entertaining presentation arguing that we now need to develop web applications for mobile devices first and worry about the desktop experience second. He presents amble data backing up this assertion, which is guiding the mobile-first goal for Drupal 8. Adding responsive designs for mobile interfaces to our platforms is a 2012 goal for the Web Applications Development workgroup here, so we’ll be doing a lot of work in this space shortly.

Ian’s Picks

Designing Fast and Beautiful Maps: This talk describes the TileMill and MapBox mapping tools, showing how you can transform a simple spreadsheet into an interactive map interface that can easily be added to a Drupal site (or any other website). Though this is probably not something that we’d use for the main campus map it looks like a great tool for one-off mapping projects including student research. By the way, if you have a map that you’d like us to feature on the site or in MiddLab, contact me and I’ll be happy to help you get that map online.

I just want to edit a node and Five things we need to create an awesome experience for content creators: These discussions describe the initial thinking about the user interface for content creators in Drupal 8. While we won’t be moving to that platform until late 2013/early 2014, and some of the decisions about the platform may very well change by then, this is an early warning about what to expect. I should note that some of the features they discuss, like inline editing, are already available to us thanks to the Monster Menus module developed by Amherst.

HTML 4 S – While We’re Waiting for the Revolution: We spent a lot of time thinking and talking about adding HTML5 features to our sites, but that’s not always possible due to assumptions made by the back-end systems as well as browser compatibility. This talk discusses the steps we can take to get “close enough” on HTML5 adoption and some of the pitfalls we’ll encounter that are specific to Drupal, though much of the information here is Drupal-agnostic. I’ll give a small warning that the speaker is quite colorful and animated in his speech.

Adam’s Picks

Real World Performance Analysis: How to Identify Performance Problems in Your Own Sites: This talk provides a good strategy for tackling performance issues in Drupal sites without wasting time on optimizations that won’t have a big impact.

Keeping The Lights On – Operations and Monitoring Best Practices:  This session is focused on practical tools and techniques you can use to keep “your fingers on the pulse” of your site, from availability to performance to security.


Also, we were able to enjoy Colorado for a bit before the conference.

Looking forward to next year in Portland, Oregon, or perhaps Munich or São Paulo later this year!

MiddSTART at CASE D1/D2 Conference

I was in New York City on Monday at the CASE D1/D2 conference to present MiddSTART with colleagues Maggie Paine, the Director of Advancement Communications, and Molly Sullivan, the Assistant Director of Donor Relations. My role was to speak briefly about the technology behind MiddSTART and answer any technical questions that came up. You can view the slides from our presentation in this PDF.

MiddSTART went live in September 2010, but it wasn’t until March 2011 that we’d finalized the site, added student projects, and begun advertising it. Since then, MiddSTART has raised $58,955 from 380 donors in FY11 and an additional $26,183 from 214 donors in FY 2012. The average gift size as $155 in FY11 and $122 in FY12. Between the two fiscal years there have been 50 repeat donors.

On the technology side, MiddSTART is a WordPress blog, on the same server as this LIS blog, just with a custom theme. Each post on the blog is a different project and is linked to a different form that Advancement staff create in our Harris Connect Alumni Community. Each of those donations forms has a unique code, which can be seen in the nightly reports that we fetch from our credit card processor. Those donation amounts and the names of the donors are added to a custom database table in our WordPress site and used to calculate the donation totals for the MiddSTART projects.

Most of the questions at the conference had to do with concerns from other schools about this taking away from undirected giving, but we’ve seen that a large number of the donations (187 in FY11, 109 in FY12) were from people with no previous history of donating to Middlebury. Many also give to multiple projects and like the experience of communicating directly with the student(s) using their gift to carry out the project work.

Just last week we set up MiddGOAL, a copy of the MiddSTART site that is solely focused on Athletics fundraising. Right now people can fund the teams’ training trips through the site, which you’ll see has already brought in over $10,000 in a little less than a week.

NMC Summer Conference Report

Last week, I attended the 2011 NMC Summer Conference at UW Madison. It is a beautiful campus, surrounded by a charming and accessible city. The Terrace, on the backside of the Memorial Union, made me think of the Waterfront in Burlington. The stores and restaurants on State St reminded me of the feel of Church St, although I do not believe I could have found Ashak here in Vermont, which was delicious. Continue reading

Cataloging for Non-Catalogers

From Carrie:  This morning, I attended a Lyrasis webinar called “Cataloging for Non-Catalogers.”  Since I supervise a few librarians who do cataloging, I figured I could use a refresher.  Many years have passed since I took the required cataloging class in library school!

The instructor was enthusiastic (“We can catalog a-ny-thing!  Even the Dr Pepper I’m drinking right now!”).  The content was elementary (purpose of cataloging, cataloging terminology, examples of catalog records).  I’m glad to have a renewed familiarity with the work that our fine catalogers do.

From Rachel:  Also sitting in on the Cataloging for Non-Catalogers class, and learning to speak Cataloger.  I found the resources and links the presenter provided very helpful.  It’s great to have so much of this information easily accessible on-line.

From Carrie:  I’ve added these two sites to my delicious bookmark collection:

And of course, there’s lots of documentation for catalogers on the Cataloging page of the LIS Wiki.

Scholarly Communication Seminar

I attended an online ISIS (Information Service Instructional Support) seminar on scholarly communication this afternoon.  It was led by Marilyn Billings, Scholarly Communication & Special Initiatives Librarian at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  Marilyn provided an overview of the current scholarly communication landscape. Continue reading