How School Librarians Could Work Better Together
by Niels Damgaard, Senior Adviser for School Libraries and Web 2.0,
For some years I have participated in different ways in various international organizations (e.g., ENSIL, IASL and IFLA), working for better school libraries worldwide. I am increasingly concerned about how these organizations manage to reach out to those school librarians who are NOT able or willing to pay for expensive travelling and expensive conference fees and other meetings and events scattered around in the world. In fact it is my impression that it is the same bunch of people (±50) in these organizations, able and willing to travel on their own or on their employers’ budget, who are meeting each others again and again year after year. But for the rest of us there is NO hope of personal participation in remote conferences. What is offered to the thousands of ordinary school librarians during and after
In Norway we successfully offered a course for librarians: the Web 2.0 School. From April, 2007, to March, 2008, ten full course-days were offered. Participants studied Library 2.0 , School Library 2.0, blogs, wikis, podcasts, screencast and video, social software, RSS feeds, and information focal-points such as Netvibes and Pageflakes. They were introduced to a part of the new society where librarians together can produce and share information. Participants used all kinds of social software, and at the last gathering there was a show of all the blogs, Wikis and screencast the attendees had produces during the last ten months.
If the school libraries in the future shall have any change to survive, I think it is important for them to be “retooled” (thanks, Joyce Valenza, for this contribution): to be able to give their customers (teachers and students) help in selecting, using and advising about the new tools for production in the Web 2.0 world.
As you may know, Norway is a long country: more than 2500 km from north to south! Therefore our course was constructed as follows: there were three kinds of participants: some were present in Oslo, others listened and participated in real time from their home or work computers, and the last group enjoyed the talks via MP3 files and PowerPoint presentations asynchronously. A wiki set-up collected all information on every topic, and offered instruction ion before – during – and after the monthly meetings. In the morning we normally enjoyed talks from interesting speakers sitting in Scandinavia, Spain, or even America via our virtual meeting room. We used a cheap OPAL-room where we are able to transmit via the Internet both audio and PowerPoint, using chat at the same time.
Attendees could decide just a few days before the monthly events how they wanted to participate: face-to-face, virtually or asynchronously; they also chose whether to follow only one event, several events or all. We learned that half of the attendees enjoyed all ten sessions; the rest attended between one to eight days. In the beginning, many were interested in attending the course in Oslo in person, but after a few events more and more preferred to stay at home to join virtually in realtime. We had attendees from all corners of our remote country on this course, many sitting on small islands and other remote places, enjoying the Web 2.0 tools for the first time.
What Did We Learn in Norway from the Web 2.0 School?
We are now able – very cheaply – to set up a system where we can educate and work together over long distance in real time. We are able to have attendees from all our small islands who can stay at home enjoying their course without having expenses travelling up to 2500 km!
Attendees can choose the days they can afford and have time for, and they can communicate with their colleagues who are interested in learning and training about the same topics. To record we used a simple and cheap microphone (Logitech AK 5370, about $50) and the free software Audacity (or iSound, about $30). The web room is an OPAL-room for $250 per year, which offers 24 seats. All recordings were edited and transferred to MP3-files for better performance after the event in the free program Audacity.
This course will be continued this fall and spring of 2009. Additionally, we are now focusing on a ten-month course for school librarians AND teachers working together to play and interact with Web 2.0 technology in order to prepare them to incorporate these tools for their own teaching as well as supporting their pupils from K-16 schools in Norway.
What about the International Situation?
Why could we use this experience? First of all, to offer international events virtually for “all the rest of us” who are NOT able/willing to come to the event. Preparing a conference is hard work, I know, but think about how you could have some (if not all) of the presentations recorded and stored as MP-3 sound files to download. On SlideShare PowerPoint shows and MP3 files can be “glued together” to give access for free! Cost and ease of use are no longer an argument for not recording events.
We should bring in speakers from the whole world via the net (Webinars like the OPALroom or even the free program SKYPE is very useful) to bring down the expenses (avoiding travel and accommodation costs) for setting up events, and then invite “the rest of us” virtually for a low price – or for free sometimes! ASLA in Australia is setting up a free NING at http://aslaonline.ning.com for debate before their third virtual conference, which is a good start!
So I am looking forward to join coming events together with thousands of other school librarians around the world as virtual attendees to listen and enjoying the speakers in real time or asynchronously via podcasts – and to participate virtually
and comment on this article at this blog.
About Niels Damgaard
Niels Damgaard is currently Senior Adviser on School Libraries and Web 2.0 in the Norwegian Resource Centre for Libraries (Biblioteksentralen AL). He has taught and worked as a site school librarian for fifteen years in Denmark, Greenland and Norway. For the past twelve years he has been busy setting up courses together with the University of Agder (UIA) for teachers running school libraries in Norway, and in the last four year more than 400 librarians and teachers running school libraries in secondary schools have been taking his own courses. Niels edited the IFLA section 11 Newsletter from 2005 to 2007, and won the Newsletter of the Year Award in 2006. He finds his inspiration from worldwide networks such as the WebHeads, the EVO (The Electronic village), The WebAcademy, 23-things and other places, where he can study Web 2.0 for free.
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