Friday, October 13, 2017

Tweeting and Blogging at Conferences

This post was taken from my Learning Technologies class, where we were instructed to discuss web 2.0 options that we use in our classroom.  I took a slightly different stance on this project as I do not work with students on an ongoing basis.  I instead choose to discuss blogging and using Twitter at conferences as a means of obtaining and recording knowledge that I have gleaned from the presentations that I have attended.
When I was a student of Library Science, one of my assignments required the creation of a blog.  Ever since that time I have used my personal blog to record information that I have learned along the way from school, from conferences, from my professional practice and from life.  Some of it is for my own personal reflection, and some of it is to inform others about innovative tools or techniques that I have experienced (and not always successfully).  One of my tags is Thwarted by... with each post discussing something that went wrong during one of my library instruction sessions.  Starting a blog is easy.  There are a couple of different options that you can choose from such as; Blogger and Wordpress.  Once you select your page layout and style, you can begin creating content on your blog and publish it immediately to the world.  Most blogs are mainly textual, but you can also create a photo blog or a combination of the two.
My blog is on the Blogger site which offers various templates and page layouts.  I appreciate that I have the option of editing and deleting posts that are no longer relevant.  I can tag each post with self-selected categories and I can view statistics for my page.  For example, I currently have 223 posts with the majority of them covering instructional librarianship and the use of technology.  I have had 7661 page views as of this morning.  My most popular post has 615 page views and was written about a conference presentation from a library instruction conference in 2012 on the topic of literature mapping.  The majority of my posts are viewed between 3 and 20 times.  But by who, I have no idea.  That is the one disadvantage that I can see to creating a blog.  Even though there is an option to comment, no one ever does.  So for me, my blog is still stuck firmly in Web 1.0.  For this reason, I started using Twitter at conferences to have more of the digital conversation.  For example here are my posts from a conference that I attended in 2015,  I used the blog as a narrative to record my notes from each individual session that I attended, but I also augmented my conference experience by using Twitter to share quick tidbits along the way.  The screen shot below shows a portion of my Twitter activity during that conference.  Although I am not a huge fan of Twitter, I do enjoy using it at conferences as a means of connecting with individuals who are also attending the conference.  I find that it is a great social networking tool in this particular environment.  I tweet key takeaways from the sessions or points that resonated with me during the presentation.  I only tweet positive comments and do my best to create at least two tweets per presentation.  I don't pick favourites on Twitter!
 C-EBLIP Tweets
The majority of my librarian colleagues are also on Twitter.  I find that we tend to use it as a professional network, whereas I find that Facebook tends to be more personal.  My director and my direct supervisor are both on Twitter, so it is a good opportunity to share what I am learning when I am at a conference.  They will often comment or retweet my posts.  At least they know I am actively engaged and that the funds used to support my professional development were well spent! In our department we are required to hand in a brief overview of any conference or professional development activity that we attend.  To this end, I am able to summarize the information that I have posted on my blog and on Twitter easily after the fact.  
For more information, you may be interested in looking at the following articles.  Both are from a librarian perspective, but general enough to appeal to a broader audience.
Ojala, M. (2008, April). The Art of Twittering. Information Today. p. 26. Retrieved from The Art of Twittering.  This article provides an overview of using Twitter at a conference.  
Calishain, T. (2016). Blogging. Online Searcher40(3), 42-45. Retrieved from Blogging.  This article discusses the origins of blogging, various sites that are freely available and how the content is discovered by the user.  

Asynchronous Learning, Lectures and PowerPoint

Advantages and Disadvantages of Asynchronous Learning

The main advantage of asynchronous learning is that the learner can participate in their studies at a time that is convenient for them.  My graduate degree was 100% online, I worked, had young children and did my homework in the evening after everyone was in bed, so I believe that this is a true advantage of this form of learning.  According to Hughes (2014), learners have the ability to learn at their own pace and can review the classroom materials as often as necessary in an asynchronous environment.  While I can attest to the ability to review materials at my leisure, the pace of the class is dictated by the assignments that are due and the overall course content.  Although you can leave things to the last possible minute, the learner cannot really control the overall pace of the class.  That is probably a good thing, as many of us are not self-directed enough to complete tasks that have no assigned due date.  Some disadvantages of asynchronous learning include detachment from your classmates and potential feelings of isolation.  I think humans are social creatures and enjoy the opportunities to discuss topics and learn from their colleagues.  Without an active discussion board, those opportunities would not exist.  Another disadvantage that I would note is that the class time is not limited to a typical class length.  My professors at graduate school would often assign as much content as they wanted within the week.  Responding to discussion boards took hours of my time, much longer than a 3-hour lecture.  And I was forced to contribute (good and bad thing).  In a face-to-face (f2f) lecture, if I didn’t feel like contributing, I could avoid making eye contact.

Is 'Lecture' a Bad Word?

The term lecture has become a catchall phrase that can mean anything from the traditional ‘sage on the stage’ all the way to a modern view encompassing the ‘guide on the side’ methodology of instruction.  Although the term tends to have a negative connotation, I think of it as the concept of the standard class time allotment.  I believe that online classes are more likely to fall prey to ‘traditional lecture format’ than any class that I have attended f2f in recent years.  In my experience, f2f classes, more often than not, contain a participatory element.  There are group activities, discussions, hands-on experiences and so much more.  I will agree with Bates (2015) that the more traditional format of a lecture where the expert talks and the participants listen is likely dying out.  But teachers and learners who engage in critical thinking and active learning are the future.  Teachers help students understand materials.  They synthesize huge amounts of knowledge into manageable chunks.  Learning builds on a solid foundation and instruction is scaffolded.  
My library instruction sessions are all offered in a f2f learning environment.  In my opinion, my classes are most successful when I have the opportunity to include plenty of active learning techniques, such as: demos, group and solo reflective exercises, quizzes, polling, etc. Perhaps because these are the classes that I enjoy teaching the most, these are the classes where I feel the students are most engaged in my instruction.

Is PowerPoint Evil?

In my Learning Technologies class we were asked to watch a TEDtalk and then comment on the topic covered.  The Phillips TEDtalk is highly entertaining and educational.  He discusses our use of PowerPoint software and how it is done well and not so well.  He states that PPTs can help to illustrate a point, prompt the presenter, provides an overview of the materials covered, notes key points and generally complements the presenter and the information that is being presented. I appreciated the comment made at the end of his talk, when he said that your PPT should not distract from you, because ultimately you are the presentation!  The problem is that most people don’t create successful PPTs.  They load the slides with content, the text is hard to read (size, colour, amount), there is little contrast on the slides and the information is quickly forgotten.  Also in the TEDtalk, I liked how he suggested that the presenter should have the greatest contrast in order to draw the audience’s attention to them.  
Bates, A. W. (2015).  Teaching in a digital age [Open Textbook].  Retrieved from
Hughes, A. (2014). Comparing asynchronous and synchronous learning [Webpage].  Retrieved from
Phillips, D.J.P. (2014). How to avoid death by PowerPoint [Video file].  Retrieved from

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Retrospective Blogging

It occured to me that I haven't linked to any of the blog posts that I have contributed to the Brain Work blog (C-EBLIP) in a really long time.  Here are the links and the titles:

Pro Tip #2

The Snipping Tool is possibly the greatest tool on your computer that you didn't know had.  I am taking a Learning Technologies course this semester and in it the instructor has included information about cool tools that enhance your use of technology within the classroom.

The Snipping Tool allows you to capture the portion of the screen that you need and copy it to a clipboard or save the item as a picture in four different file formats.

Here is a picture of my dog that I snipped from a larger image.  An interesting caveat for use of this tool is to make sure that you are legally allowed to use the image or item that you have snipped.  And you will need to credit the source that you took the item from.  I am allowed to share this picture, because I took it!

Why would you use this feature?  Well, you could use print screen, but then you would need to crop your image and right click copy image is not always an option, especially if it is only a portion of an item that you need.  From there it is super easy to save, paste and share your snip!

Pro Tip #1

Do you know this simple trick for using PowerPoint like a pro?  Instead of clicking through slides to skip content, use the shortcut # and then enter.  So if you are on slide 29 and you need to skip content because you are running out of time, enter the slide number that you want to go to, such as: 37 and then hit the enter key.  The audience will never know that you skipped 8 slides.

For more shortcuts and wonderful technology tips, see:  

Monday, September 11, 2017


On Friday, I was tasked with presenting to one of my largest audiences ever - 178 students - for one of the longest orientation sessions I have ever given - 90 minutes.  I was nervous to say the very least.
I find orientations challenging.  I want to make a good impression on the students (kind, friendly, helpful and perhaps funny).  I want to provide crucial information, but I do not want to overwhelm them with too much information that will be quickly forgotten, or worse, not relevant.

The majority of our orientations at Saskatchewan Polytechnic happen in a computer lab with a small group of students.  I really appreciate the opportunity to get to know students in a more intimate setting.  I also really like that they have a chance to participate in some hands-on learning activities.

So the challenges that I faced with Friday's orientation:

  • It was Friday, after lunch and the last thing that the students had to do that day
  • It was in a lecture theatre
  • Everything that could go wrong did go wrong with technology (PPT did not have default setting of presenter view checked, projector turned off, couldn't get screen to show Internet browser).  Good reminder to go into the classroom in advance and test everything out!
  • Students laughed hysterically when I told them a story about shushing a patron
  • Some students were overheard saying I was adorable.  To me this was a huge compliment, because I want them to feel comfortable coming to me in the future with reference questions.
  • Students gave the impression of being very engaged
  • I had a student come to my office immediately following the session to ask a question

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

And that's a wrap

Today is the day.  The day in which the book is available to the public!

It is funny as a researcher, you are ecstatic that the process is complete, yet a little troubled by the looming question of 'what will you work on next?'