Thing 22: Mobile Things

“…did you know that in just one hour mobile users will have carried out 68 million searches on Google, generated $3 million worth of ad revenue from Google ads, and made 8 million purchases through their devices with Paypal? In the same time mobile users open 2 billion emails, send 1 billion WhatsApp messages and 768 million text messages, while 29 million will have accessed Facebook .”                                                                    (Dealsunny.com 2016).

The use of smart phones and other mobile technology for seeking information is growing. To illustrate, take a look at this real time graphic  on mobile usage statistics shared on Stephen’s Lighthouse blog, from Dealsunny.com. 😮  It will blow your mind.

“Nearly two-thirds of Americans are now smartphone owners, and for many these devices are a key entry point to the online world.”

“More than half of smartphone owners have used their phone to get health information, do online banking.”                                                          (Pewinternet.org 2015)

The above quotes are from a 2015 Pew Internet Research study of American smartphone usage.  I would confidently say that the trend may be global.  This book review provides a look at new research on children’s and adolescents‘ info behaviour.  And in developing countries smartphone usage is rising rapidly, increasingly being used to access information, especially health-related information.

mobile-phone

Public Domain Image by Olu Eletu via Unsplash.com

As librarians we need to be on top of our game as far as mobile apps are concerned.  We should not only be seen to be using them, but we should be able to confidently teach people how to use the popular ones.  It is therefore important for us to remain abreast as best we can.  Articles such as this one I saw shared on Facebook a few days ago – Librarian Approved: 30 Ed-Tech Apps to Inspire Creativity and Creation – are a huge help.

After reading Rudaí23 Thing 22, by Wayne Gibbons, I was interested in finding out about the Gum app, since I had not heard of it before.  It was quick to locate on the App Store, simple to activate, and really user-friendly. I scanned the barcode of one of my favourite textbooks, and left my first comment, or ‘gum‘.

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Looking at their website, they’ve used a clever marketing strategy…alliteration…  “conversations on comics”, “poems on products” and “notes on novels”.  😀  That says it all.  The  potential for library users’ to converse about books internationally, right there on Gum, is huge. This article from a blog ‘The Library Voice’, shows how it was used successfully within a library situation. (Thanks to the author of Thing 22 for sharing this link.)

Gum is a super user-friendly, free app. There is no need to first enter an email address and create a password or user account.  It loads, requests access to the phone camera, and you get scanning.  To leave a ‘gum’ the app asks to create a user name. Once you create your comment, you ‘stick’ your ‘gum’, and it appears on your ‘wall’.  Gums can be managed, edited, deleted, and products unfollowed.  Apparently new gums on the same products create an ‘alarm’ that rings on your phone.

If we were to promote this app by means of posters in the library, or even face-to-face, it could really take off within a library community or reading club.  The apps for Goodreads and LibraryThing etc., are fantastic, but a user account is required. Also, Gum is not restricted to books only, so we can get info on popular household products, food items, PC games, tech tools and more.  There is a 12+ age restriction to the app, because, besides the user T & Cs,  there is little control of who posts what. So teachers beware.  However, there is a reporting tool, that, when activated, opens a ready-to-send email, guiding you on specific info sought regarding the product or comment.

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Another app that I personally enjoy is Adobe Spark Video. It is one of the trio belonging to Adobe Spark – Spark Post, Spark Page and Spark Video.  Admittedly, it is only available on Apple products, (sorry Android users …) but oh my!…it has never been easier to quickly create interesting presentations, lesson aides, info slides, portfolios and more. *shows thumbs up* 😀

What better way to use that old iPad or tablet, lying around in the library…set it up as an info display.  iPads are increasingly used in classrooms worldwide; teacher librarians can utilise this app to create interesting lesson segments.  Public librarians can have presentations which they all share to guide or instruct on certain topics upon request from users. Voice-overs are easy to record, as long as you know what you want to say.  I created this presentation on Information Literacy for a MOOC that I was doing a while ago.  It is far from perfect, but was fun to make. The target audience was a year 11/12 group of school children; please, academics, be forgiving as you keep that in mind. 🙂

When you’ve tried Adobe Spark Video, do let me know how you feel about it via the comment box below. Most of all, have fun. 🙂

I am super excited to know that I’m on Thing 23 of 23 Things next week.  Woohoo!! Really looking forward to ‘Making it all work together‘.  Until then, thanks for stopping by. 🙂

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Featured image by Frederic Koberl via Unsplash.com (Public domain)
Clipart used from clipart.com

 

 

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Thing 16: Collaboration tools

Six years ago I was one of three people (two coordinators and the HoD) responsible for drafting weekly class tests for each module on English language training, across different levels.  For uniformity purposes collaboration was vital.  They contained speaking activities, listening activities, reading extracts, images, clip-art, and questions of varying format. However, collaboration was a nightmare. First, our time was taken up with different tasks in the normal day-to-day running of the ESL department. Second, when we could, we would work on our local PCs, back up on the flash drives, and then go into the local network’s shared drive to back up again and create a master copy. If one worked at home, the documents would be copied from a flash drive to the work PC, overwriting a previous copy, and then again placed on the shared drive, overwriting the master copy. When we all worked on these tests over the weekend, there we would be, on the first day of the week, trying to retrieve and edit the same master documents, but in turn, as only one person could access a particular master copy at a time. 

Confusion

Confusion by Stuart Miles courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Needless to say, the entire process was a mental battle, trying to establish which was the latest and final edit! In the end each task often ended up with multiple copies, and all three of us at a loss as to which was the actual copy to use. Not only would we have to ensure that the copy on the shared drive is the correct one, but all our local backups needed overwriting, as well as the documents of the flash drives. We realised that our collaboration was a shambles!  As far as drafting final tests were concerned, it was all best left to one person, we decided.  The downside was that that person was sent multiple emails (leading to new stress)  Cool_sign with questions and suggestions for additions, and telephonic debates on the side.  The whole process was stressful and was repeated weekly.  Somehow we managed to get the tests issued on time every week, but only after many private hours spent by one person, at the weekend.

PC Frustration

Has the above story rung a bell, or revived old unpleasant memories? Made you confused and exhausted? Good! Because it drives home my point on just how wonderful it is to have Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, OneNote and all the other programmes that allow effortless collaboration.  Microsoft’s SkyDrive (now OneDrive) was available from about 2008, but cloud computing was a mystery to most of us, and those who were not techie-minded were adamant – they were not going that route.  Witchcraft

Even our IT department was suspicious of the cloud, and consistently avoided any queries.

Dropbox was around soon after, but again, not widely used.  Google Drive was only created in 2012, long after I left the ELT department. Had we have had those programmes and their current features, oh, our lives would have been made so much easier.

collaboration

Collaboration by Urs Steiner on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

So averse was I to creating backups of backups of backups, that as soon as I began my course in 2010, I immediately turned to SkyDrive and Amazon Drive. When Google Drive arrived, it quickly became the popular choice.  Today, documents can be created within these drives, shared, commented on, and collaborated on.  google docsNo constant backing up and transporting of flash drives. It is safe…in the cloud. 😀  (Indeed, the onus is on the creator of the document to keep a back-up of his/her documents on site, but at least the documents and files on the cloud are not on a device that may drop, become damaged, corrupted, be mislaid, or anything else.)  Truly wonderful. And now I can just about hear all those questions and comments regarding security and the cloud?!  Haha, well after 6 years of using it privately, I would never, ever, NOT EVER, look back!

Bullseye

 

Win target by Stuart Miles courtesy of freedigitalpotos.net

 

Earlier this year, as an intern in the school library,  I was tasked with designing reading badges.  These were digital images created with an online badge maker.  To share them with the librarian would have resulted in countless emails containing rather large image files.  Instead, I stored them on Google Drive, and shared each grade’s folder with her, automatically sharing the documents within. All she needed to do was to click on the link, open the folder, edit and/or save the file on her computer for printing.  No pain. No flash drives. No back and forth emailing. The folders were downloaded onto her PC, organised according to grades,   all ready to go.

Today, in the library where I volunteer, no-one seems to be using  collaboration tools.  It may be that their needs are different, but I have on multiple occasions wished I could give someone access to a document or form that I have created for the library, instead of having to email it as an attachment.

My favourite  is Microsoft’s OneNote, which I use to take notes for both professional and private use, and create documents with to share with friends or family. It is user friendly, has multiple features, available on all devices, also allowing collaboration between different users.  The writer of Rudai 23 Thing 16  has provided a super explanation of Google Drive and Doodle as collaboration tools. (I have made my entry into Thing 16’s  Google Drive document, by the way. )

Cloud computing. heart Cloud collaboration. heart My personal thanks to the founders  and developers of these software.

Thing 17 will be a reflective practice blog entry. Until then…cheers. 😀

Images: 
Featured image: collaboration by Laura Billings on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Gifs from giphy.com; clipart from wpclipart.com.

Image of Google docs by Steven Combs on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Thing 4: Pssst! It’s that ‘G’ word…

Google logo for blogs

Google logo for blogs, by SEO on Flickr, under a creative commons (BY-SA 2.0) licence.

 

As librarians we’re into communication and collaboration, the topic of Thing 4.  Google is the focus of this topic, but in my opinion, as educators and librarians, we are obliged to know the benefits of the commonly used communication/collaboration applications out there.   In this way we will be able to speak about them with authority, and assist others when the need arises, to make a choice or to set up their accounts.

From personal experience, making use of different services, if possible, makes for more efficient working environments.  Cloud computing has been a favourite of mine over the past 5 years, as it has kept me sane. Seriously.

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Flickr photo Descending Clouds, by Gary Hayes, under creative commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) licence. 

I understand that there are people asking valid privacy questions regarding the ‘cloud’, but after spending years backing up stuff, first on floppy disks, then on CDs, then external hard drives and memory sticks, and backups of backups, it’s such a relief to pop a doc into a folder on your desktop and to know that it’s taken care of – probably for good. It’ll be there whenever and where-ever needed! (Unless of course, a disaster strikes at the location of the storage warehouse, but hey, it’s their job to make backups, right?) :p  Yes, I know, I know…it’s right and proper to still keep a backup yourself. 🙂

Not having to remember what to back up, or having to lug those devices around and, most of all, not having to guard them so that they don’t get damaged, is such a bonus. When my hard drive went on my laptop a few years ago, I lost a couple of unimportant documents and a few of our latest photos, but nothing serious.  My habit of placing everything in a cloud drive paid off.  When the new drive was installed, it was merely a case of carry on as before, after installing the desktop folders which sync automatically.

I use cloud services from Amazon, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive and Flickr. Oh and iCloud, since I’m an avid Apple fan.  Because of my love-hate relationship with Google, I purposely avoided Gmail and Google Drive, until a few months ago when I began as an intern librarian at an international school. School-wide they used Google Education Apps – everyone communicated and collaborated (with parents too) using Google tools.  I saw the benefits first hand and realised that vast amounts of time and paper were saved while increasing cooperation and efficiency.  At the time I proposed to learn more about Google’s capabilities, but it didn’t happen then.  After 4 months at the school I sought out an internship at a different library.  What I did do though was to follow a few very talented and skilled people on Twitter, who are Google certified teachers, to be able to learn from them. Here are two: Alice Keeler and Catlin Tucker.

So, if it sounds like I’m selling something…I am – the Cloud! Not necessarily only Google.  Although Thing 4 focuses on the Google ecosystem (as I’ve heard it referred to) and make no mistake, it is impressive, personally I favour MS Office and its related apps. Here’s a shout-out to  OneNote logoMS OneNote…a note-taking, collaborative app that I have used for years (sadly not to its fullest potential); I use it all the time, across all my devices with great success.  I’ve heard it said that Google’s equivalent, Google Keep, is not quite up to the same standard.

Flickr photo shared by Microbiologybytes, under creative commons (BY-SA 2.0) licence.

Consequently, when I looked at Thing 4, my initial reaction was “Oh no, why the emphasis on Google!”

Oh no

Flickr photo, ‘Oh no’, by Courtney McGough, under creative commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) licence.  


However, I explored and worked through the tasks.  Reclaiming my Gmail account, setting up two-step authentication, checking the privacy settings, and setting up a profile took the greater part of 2 hours since it was all new to me.  But admittedly, once that’s done the hard part is over. I am really impressed with the functionality of Gmail. 🙂 It is a great email app.  Exploring the tools took another hour, after which I chose a few that I would use regularly, to link to my account:

  • Google translate: living in a country where Arabic is the first language, I often have to translate something, and this works really well for me. We’ve been expats for so long, I sometimes need Google translate to find words in my other mother tongue, Afrikaans. (I grew up speaking English to my mom and Afrikaans most often to my dad and other relatives.)
  • Google calendar: is really efficient, and just recently became even more so with this feature.
  • Google maps: saves my life regularly on the roads here in Doha, with infrastructure development taking place on an ongoing basis. Now that I have set up my Google account I can personalize the map app.
  • G+: a social app, similar to Facebook. Google-plus-iconSince I’ve only just set up my profile, I can’t comment on it, but it is nice to know of another manner in which like-minded professionals can connect and communicate around similar interests. I’m not on Facebook because I choose not to be at the present time, due to time constraints, but G+ appears to be more focused towards interests. I chose to follow an animal lovers group and a Smartphone Photography group for now. Will aim to search for Rudai23, and a couple of library accounts soon. A G+ account is also needed to be able to communicate using…
  • Google Hangouts: Hangouts_IconGoogle’s chat function, either via messenger or video.  I’ve seen it used in a conference setting and it worked well.  Yesterday, I tried a hangout with my daughter in Australia.  After initial PC sound battles, it was quite effective.  Google hangouts allows up to 10 people simultaneously on video chats and many more on messenger.
  • Google Drive: offers an impressive 15 GB cloud storage to subscribers.  It is shared across Drive, Gmail and Google Photos, a mobile feature that some like and others are sceptical of. According to Rudaí23 writer, Stephanie Ronan, Google Photos organises, categorises and even animates some images. Not sure I’ll be testing this photo app, though, as I’m happy with Flickr.

This last week I experienced the joy of using the cloud. I had a large volume of library signs and a Powerpoint presentation to deliver to the library where I volunteer.  I had designed these documents at home. Instead of emailing them, I was able to download them from my cloud storage, onto the desktop at work.  Here I could edit them, resize them for printing, and collaborate with fellow librarians on their design.  This method minimizes the correspondence by email.  We all know that emailing large attachments can be problematic, so downloading from the cloud is truly the way to go.  Sharing a link to the document by email or messenger is also a way to share, and this is used especially when you are not personally going to be at the point of download.

As an example, here is a link to the reading badges on my Google drive, for Grade 5s, that I created using online SaaS, for a school’s reading ‘Across the Genres’ programme.  (If you’re a teacher and you’d like to use these, they can be downloaded with my compliments. 🙂 )

That’s my take on thing 4’s communication and collaboration tools.

Till next time, and thanks for reading this far. 😀