Friday, November 2, 2007

Web 2.0 Training - Promoting Play Through Online Discovery

Meredith Farkas, Distance Learning Libraries, Norwich University, Vermont
Helene Blowers, Public Services Technology Director for the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County

Meredith's Training Experience: Five Weeks to a Social Library

Drupal was selected as the online course management system. It allows multiple blogs so each individual in class can have an individual blog but all can be accessed at one site. It can create static web pages. Chat rooms and wiki “stuff” can be employed.

MediaWiki -- the same software used by Wikipedia -- was put to use as a “sandbox for participants to play in.” is similar to YouTube and is nice for both podcasts and video content. (Linda’s note: I used to post the second batch of conference podcasts.) It’s also a one-stop shop for multimedia. offers a good display of screencasts, which are like showing movies of what you’re seeing on your desktop to others.

They discovered that robust web conferencing software wasn’t free. OPAL -- a membership organization for libraries -- offered them free access to their platform.

They used both synchronous (everyone working online simultaneously) and asynchronous (log in when it’s convenient) sessions.

Examples of libraries that have implemented Web 2.0 resources and done it well are important to include.

Students were required to write one blog posting a week in which they reflected on their learning. Meredith contends this “makes the learning more sticky.” They permitted outsiders to comment on the students’ blog posts and were delighted when some of the aforementioned Big Names participated. They were even more thrilled when the Big Names wrote about students’ comments on their own blogs.

Weekly chat sessions were scheduled. They divided students into eight groups to meet with a facilitator once a week.

The final project was to create a proposal for using one or more social library tools in their libraries. The ambitiousness of some of these projects was quite impressive and very gratifying.

Everything on the Five Weeks website has a Creative Commons license. We were encouraged to steal their ideas and use them!

If you do plan your own class, be sure to provide for both experiential and reflective learning. Provide ways for people to have many different conversations about what they’re learning.

Use tools that aren’t so difficult to learn that they become a barrier. Be flexible when technology problems arise. They will!

Be open about the process and allow criticism from inside and outside the project. You may need to change your plans midstream. It’s all about Library 2.0, which is characterized by being flexible. We’re in perpetual beta!


Playing with technology is essential to learning technology.

Reflective learning is critical -- it makes ideas stick.

Learning from peers can be more important than learning from a sage on the stage. Instructors were participants and were learning, too. They “ate their own dog food.”

Online learning can be developed on the cheap. Their only cost was server space and that expense was minimal. This form of training is very doable.

Helene’s Training Experience: Learning 2.0
and Learning 2.1: Explore ... Discover ... and PLAY!

“Learning is more important than the training aspect of it.” Learning 2.0 is another online discovery learning program.

Listen to Helene's hour-long 23 Things presentation on the SIRSI Dynix Institute site. See also:

66% of the staff at Helene’s library voluntarily signed up for the program and enjoyed it. She was able to offer an MP3 player as an incentive to those who finished the class.

Explore Discover Play!
is a continuation of the 23 Things program. It isn't conducted by a trainer. Each month, a different person takes over and is given the server password to post one or two new discoveries. Everyone -- us included -- can ask to be one of the monthly guides. Recently a librarian from Guam did the posting.

What can we do to keep up with these changes?

Don’t worry about the “What ifs?” Don’t delay to schedule a program until is perfect and you consider yourself an expert. Just consider yourself a player and go forth!

Definition of player: 1. One who engages in a competitive sport. 2. Somebody who plays.

If we’re going to become knowledge players, here are five tips:

1. Devote 15 minutes a day to keep up and explore new things. The information landscape is constantly changing. One of Helen's recent discoveries is Animoto. You can quickly upload photos and create a music video.

Subscribe to at least five blogs using an RSS news reader. Helene’s recommendations: LibrarianinBlack by Sarah Houghton-Jan, Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch, Nicole Engard’s What I Learned Today, Wired, and Learning 2.1.

3. Tag “play items” in if you can’t take time to explore when you find good things. Stash play items for others. Helene’s tags her new finds “mustblogthis” so she can quickly find them when she has time to explore.

4. Create a learning blog. Build your own toolbox.

5. Play! Give yourself and others time and permission to play.

How can you help others navigate the learning maze?

Throw away your trainer/teacher title. Become a learning guide. We don’t have to know all the answers. Be like a wilderness guide and cut the reeds out of the way to guide others towards discovery. Participants can share with us and help us learn, too.

This is not about training, which is about us and our goals, but rather is about learning, which is about the learners and their interests and needs.

Two things need to be present to learn:

1. Engagement

2. Motivation

Remove the classroom

Challenge yourself as you develop learning activities. Is there a way to remove the classroom? To encourage the participants to benefit from peer-to-peer sharing?

Remember exposure is the first step towards learning. Focus on exposure to tools that learners haven’t used before. They’ll gain confidence in their skills.

Learners have as much to share as guides. Build an environment where everyone can learn.

Focus on FUN!

Both presentations are posted on SlideShare.

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