Getting Around, 21st Century Style

As it is an unually warm, sunny and beautiful day here in the Bluegrass, a colleague and I decided to leave our packed lunches in the fridge and go out to eat.  On our way back, an undergrad student asked us where Dickey Hall is located.  (Why do people always ask me directions?  Do I that obviously look like I answer questions for a living?) Now, I only know the location of a couple places on campus – the law building, the main library, the fine arts library (and that’s only because I have meetings there) and the Student Center.

After deciding that neither I nor my colleague knew the location of Dickey Hall, we suggested that the student go to the Student Center and get a map. He replied to our suggestion with  “A map?! I don’t know how to use a map…I can only get around using GPS!”  I am not a smart phone user, but an unscientific visual survey of the students I see passing by the Ref Desk indicates that many are.  Bearing in mind that I have never used a GPS,   I wonder if campuses  should start to include GPS coordinates on maps and campus info webpages.   On a related note, I wonder if libraries could also use it for directing patrons around their collections.  I know I’ve heard of Geocaching contests in libraries, so you must be able to get a fairly tight location.


Online Course Management Systems

Interrupting hiatus for brief rant-like post…

I just spent an hour doing TWEN training with our teaching faculty and their staff assistants.  Am I the only person that’s bothered by (a) Wexis created course management systems, and (b) TWEN’s dominance in these?

I don’t have a problem with TWEN as a system. It works fine for me. However, I don’t like how it (and the Lexis CMS, although in my various affiliations with four different law schools, I’ve yet to see a law professor use it) make the experience of using a legal database…less special. Hmmm. I’m trying to think how to phrase this without sounding like the talk my mother gave me about sex when I was 13. Shoot. I don’t think I can.

Okay, Lexis and Westlaw are great. They’re filled with all sorts of information and can deliver it quickly. However, using them is not without consequences. So a legal researcher really shouldn’t use them until they’re ready and can appreciate all the consequences. Given the severity of the consequences, using Wexis should be a really special event. And when a student is logging into TWEN every day to check a syllabus or see the standings in the Ping-Pong Tournament (an actual TWEN page at UK), Westlaw starts to feel like just another web page and not something that will let them rack up a $60,000 bill in two hours. (Again, an actual story I heard from a firm librarian.) As far as TWEN’s dominance, I think it gives West a little more of a leg up over Lexis in the hearts and minds of our students.

So, what to do about this? Well, I suppose that one could request that professors use both the West and Lexis CMS’s in their classes. That’s pretty unlikely to happen, though. We could hope that Hein creates a CMS, which would take out the competition between the the two big guys. Or, we could MacGyver something up with Web 2.0 apps.

In the most recent edition of LOEX Quarterly, Krista Graham has an article titled “Piecing Together an Online Toolkit,” which goes through some free applications that can take the place of a commercial Course Management system. They are:

Just through some poking around the Internet, I’ve also found the Sakai Project and ATutor, which are both Open Source Course Management systems. I wonder how possible it would be to get buy-in from our teaching faculty to use one of these?

Okay, back to hiatus and back to taking care of business.

My Mom Facebooked Me

I spent a good chunk of my afternoon at the annual Women’s Law Caucus luncheon, which this year honored soon-t0-be retiring UK Law Executive Dean Carolyn Bratt.   The luncheon was attended by over one hundred members of the Lexington legal community, Judges, as well as UK Law Faculty and students.  I sat with a group of students since sitting with lawyers and hearing about their 60 hour work weeks usually depress me.

Admittedly, I was zoned out for most of the lunch, thinking about ideas for my upcoming SEALL talk.  When I refocused on the table conversation, I realized the students were speaking – let’s say not favorably – about a faculty member at the law school.   I don’t even no who they were talking about, but at the exact instant that I focused in, one of the students realized I was sitting there and gave the sideways head nod in my direction to the speaker as if to say, “SHUT UP.”

At that moment, I realized that for at least some of the students, I had become “The Man.”

So what does this have to do with Web 2.0?  Well…I, like many educators on Facebook, struggle with the question of whether or not we belong on Facebook.   And if we do decide to be there, how we should behave.  Are we their “friends”? Does one “poke” a student?  Look at their profile?  Send good Karma their way?   I don’t have any answers to this, although there is a group of educators on Facebook (Faculty Ethics on Facebook) who are trying to come up with a set of guidelines for this activity.  Also see recent Chronicle articles here and here.

I recently was introduced to the feelings that my students may be having towards me when they come across my profile on Facebook.  About a month ago, I logged into Facebook to see that I had a friend request.  It was from my mother.  Yes, instead of wearing a t-shirt that says, “I Facebooked Your Mom”, I can now wear a t-shirt that says, “My Mom Facebooked Me.”  Unlike our disastrous MySpace experiment, she signed up for Facebook on her own initiative and seems to be sticking it out.

I think there’s a couple of reasons for this.  One, Facebook is much more private and she’s not getting bombarded with friend requests from strangers.  Two, her students (Have I mentioned my mom is a high school Sex Ed teacher lately? *shudder* Feel. My. Pain. ) are teenagers and thus primarily on MySpace.  Finally, and this is why I think Facebook is better than MySpace, is that she is really enjoying the applications.  Especially Srabbulous.  My mom is a FIEND for Scrabbulous.  (And, I’ll have the good folks at Hasbro know, we’re enjoying it so much that we’re probably going to go out and purchase a physical set so we can play when I’m at the farm. )  She’s not so big on the virtual gifts, though, but I have to run to a meeting in about a minute and can’t go into details about that fun experience.

But it has had some weird moments.  Like when she e-mailed me to see if I was feeling better and she only knew that because I happened to put it in my status message that I was sick. (I generally try to keep my parents on a need-to-know basis when it comes to me being sick since I’d hate for them to worry.)  And I’m waiting for the inevitable quiz down about my male friends on the site.   But so far so good, I guess.  If she can handle it, so can I.

Facebook Pages Insights

No, I haven’t come up with some grand thoughts about Facebook Pages. “Insights” is a service provided to Page adminstrators about visitors to their Facebook Page.

Here’s some screen shots (click to enlarge):



I’m hoping that you’ll be able to see in the second shot that there’s a currently blank box with a note that reads “To protect the privacy of our users, demographic data is not available until your page has 10 fans.” For someone who is as obsessed with checking the sitemeter on her blogs as I am, my initial thought was “Awesome…we’ll be able to see if we’re connecting with students through Facebook.” Then I put on my librarian hat and started to wonder if this was an unacceptable invasion of user’s privacy. Is it anyone’s business if a someone chooses to check out my library’s Facebook Page? Further, if we put an OPAC application on there, who will be able to see searches? Hmmmm…

I love it when a plan comes together

Much to the dismay and consternation of anyone who has ever cared for my well being (parents, teachers, etc.), I majored in Anthropology in college.   My minor was Biology and I was for the most part interested in micro-evolution and using DNA to track it, but due  to the requirements of my program I have an interest and working knowledge of Cultural and Social Anthropology as well.

So, anyway, you can’t imagine my excitement when I found this blog post connecting the Kula ring to all the social objects (poking, games, wall comments, blog posts, blog comments, etc.) that one finds on social networking programs.  I am seriously geeking out here.  I will have to think about this some more.

But first I need to call my mother and tell her that my undergrad major was not a complete waste of time.