Welcome to iHCPL. This site was created as an adjunct to Harris County Public Library's iHCPL Learning 2.0 Program; a discovery learning program designed to encourage staff to explore new technologies and reward them for doing 23 Things. In addition to our staff, we would like to encourage our customers to explore these same technologies. The program is adapted from The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County's Learning 2.0 Program.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Week 5: #12 The "Library" Elf will remind you!

Okay, let's all admit it -- even library employees sometimes forget to turn in their borrowed items on time!

The Elf will help take care of that problem by reminding you when items are due, when holds are ready and about to expire and will give you a list of everything you have checked out. Alas, it won't check under the seats of your car to find that missing DVD.

HCPL does provide a reminder service for library cardholders. If you are having trouble receiving notices, want to keep track of multiple library cards, or if you would prefer RSS or text messages, the Elf is the tool for you.

Discovery Resources:
Demo of Library Elf
FAQ of Library Elf

Discovery Exercise:

Register your library card (or cards) with Library Elf and track your items and requests. Post on your blog what you think about this service.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Week 5: #11 A Thing about Library Thing

Are you a book lover or cataloger at heart? Or do you enjoy finding lost or forgotten gems on the shelf to read? Then LibraryThing may be just the tool for you! Developed for book lovers, this online tool not only allows you to easily create an online account and catalog of your own, it also connects you to other people who have similar libraries and reading tastes.

Add a book to your catalog just by entering the title -- it's so easy you don't even need to be a cataloger to do it -- or connect with other readers through your similar reading tastes. There are lots of ways to use Library Thing. You can view your books on a virtual shelf, add a widget to display titles that are in your catalog or install a search box on your blog.

So, why not join the ranks and create your own library online? With over 240,000 members (BTW: LibraryThing has a group forum for librarians and over 16 million cataloged books) you're bound to discover something new.

LibraryThing is not the only personal cataloging application out there. You might also try All Consuming (not only catalog books, but music, movies and even meals!) or Goodreads.

Discovery Resources:

About LibraryThing

Tour LibraryThing

Blogging LibraryThing

Discovery Exercise:

  1. Take a look around LibraryThing and create an account.
  2. Add at least 5 books to your library.
  3. Blog about your findings and be sure to link to your LibraryThing catalog.

Put a Librarything widget on your blog. (optional)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Week 5: #10 Play around with Image Generators

If you aren't able to view the embedded video, click here.

Generators? No, I'm not talking about those gas powered back-up things. The generators I'm talking about allow you to easily manipulate image and graphics to create fun images like these:

One of the discovery resources for this "thing" guides you through building an avatar. Safety is a major point for avatars, but it's also a great way to express yourself and your interests without showing an actual picture of yourself.

For this discovery exercise, please just have fun. Find a few interesting image or text generators to play around with and write a post in your blog about one of your favorites and display the result. Often adding the image you mocked up to your blog is as simple as copying and posting code that the page provides. If not, you may just need to right click on the image and then save it to your hard drive before using Blogger's image button to add it to your post.

If you're having difficulty getting your image added to a post in your blog, ask a co-worker for help.

Discovery Resources:

FDToys - try the magazine and movie poster cover generators!
Avatars from Yahoo!
Customize comic strips.
Choose from a variety of image generators.

Discovery Exercise:
  1. Play around with some image generators and find one that you like.

  2. Post the result of your discovery process in your blog. Note: Be sure to include a link to the image generator itself, so other participants can discover it too.

Take some time and have fun with this exercise. And remember to be tasteful, too.

Subscribe to the Generator blog, each post delivering an interesting new Image Generator.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Week 4: #9 Finding Feeds

Now that you have a newsreader (your Bloglines account), you can begin adding other newsfeeds that interest you. There are several ways you can locate newsfeeds:

  • When visiting your favorite websites -- look for newsfeed icons that indicate the website provides it. Often a feed icon will be displayed somewhere in the navigation bar of the site.
  • Use Bloglines search tool -- Bloglines' search tool lets you search for newsfeeds, posts, citations and the web. Use the "Search for Feeds" option to locate RSS feeds you might find interesting.
  • Other search tools that can help you find feeds: Feedster (one of the largest collections of news, blogs and podcasts), Topix (news and media outlet feeds), Syndic8 (open directory of feeds submitted by users) and Technorati (a popular blog finding tool).

Discovery Exercise:

  1. Explore a few of the search tools located above that can help you locate newsfeeds.
  2. Create a blog post about the experience. Don't know what to blog about? Here are some questions to get you started...Which method of finding feeds was the easiest for you to use? Which search tool was the easiest to use and which the most confusing? What kind of useful feeds did you find in your travels? Or what kind of unusual ones did you find? What other tools or ways did you find to locate newsfeeds?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Week 4: #8 Make life "really simple" with RSS and a newsreader

If you aren't able to view the embedded video, click here.

You've heard of RSS? You've seen those small, funny tags on websites? You have no idea what it really is?

RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication" and is a file format for delivering regularly updated information over the web.

Think of RSS as the ultimate web filter for news and events. Many users (yes, RSS is still just catching on) go from website to website reading the latest news, information or blog posts from their favorite writers. RSS allows you to choose which of these you want sent to a central location. It's like having virtual newspapers sent to your virtual door. You stop at one location, one that you've created, and read the latest from all of your favorite places.

You could use RSS to get the latest headlines from CNN, have Netflix update you automatically with new movies coming your way, or to keep up with your best friend's blog entries.

This week’s discovery exercises focus on learning about RSS news feeds and setting up a Bloglines account (a free online newsreader) for yourself to bring your feeds together.

Discovery Resources:

  • RSS feed tutorial video from CNET.
  • Using Bloglines tutorial -- follow steps 1-3 to set up your Bloglines account. Steps 4-9 are optional and cover subscribing to different types of feeds (photos, podcasts, etc.)
  • YouTube video from Helene Blowers on adding RSS feeds.

Discovery Exercise:

  1. Follow the discovery resources above to learn more about RSS and newsreaders.
  2. Create a free online Bloglines account for yourself and to at least ten newsfeeds through your reader. See the tutorial from the discovery resources, steps 1-3 for instructions.
  3. Create a post in your blog about this exercise.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Week 3: #7 Photo Editing Tools

Very few of us are able to take a perfect picture, whether it is of a library Harry Potter party or your annual family reunion. Now there are a variety of free online photo editing tools available to crop and lighten and resize digital photos (some will even add special effects!).

Or create a lolcat (or dog) like the one on the right.

Discovery Resources:
  • Pixer - Very easy to use online photo editor.
  • Snipshot - A bit more sophisticated, but still easy to use.
  • Picnik - Requires registration, but will work with your Flickr account.

Discovery Exercise:

Edit a photo using one of the tools listed above and post it to your blog.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Week 3: #6 More Flickr Fun

Like many web 2.0 sites, Flickr has encouraged others to build their own online applications using images found on the site. Through the use of APIs (application programming interfaces), many people have created third party tools and mashups that use Flickr images. Here are just a few samples...

  • Trippermap - allows you to graph a trip on a map with tagged photos.
  • Colorpicker - lets you find public photos in Flickr that match a specific color.
  • Trip planner - lets you build a travel itinerary and photo site.

Discover more Flickr mashups, webapps, and tools.

Discovery Exercise:

As each of us becomes more comfortable with using Flickr, we can make better use of it for our photos. Your discovery exercise for this "thing" is to:

  1. Explore some of the fun Flickr mashups and 3rd party tools that are out there. (You are not limited to the three listed above.)
  2. Create a blog post about one that intrigues you.

One of the most popular tools is FDToys trading card maker. You can create your own trading card, just like these librarians did.

So, have some fun discovering and exploring some neat little apps.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Week 3: #5 Discover Flickr

If you aren't able to view the embedded video, click here.

Library Pirates
Originally uploaded by lcaroleb
Photo sharing websites have been around since the 90s, but it took a site called Flickr to catapult the idea of "sharing" into a full blown online community. Within the past year, Flickr has become the fastest growing photo sharing site on the web and is known as one of the first websites to use keyword "tags" to create associations and connections between photos and users of the site.

Discovery Resources

Discovery Exercises

The library uses Flickr for our branch photos. Flickr is also great for sharing personal photos with family and friends. This exercise should get you started:

  • Create a free account in Flickr and upload a photo into your Flickr account, then post it to your blog. Make sure to tag any photos want to share for use in this exercise with "iHCPL2" and mark them public.

Be careful when titling or describing photos on Flickr, don't use real names or personal information or make them viewable only to family and friends.

Here are specific instructions on how to post a picture from Flickr on your blog.
- Log into Blogger
- Log into Flickr
- Find the photo you uploaded
- Get to the page where you can edit the picture (there are options just above the picture)
- Click Blog This
- If you don't have a blog connection, it will walk you through setting one up
- Now, go back to your photo, click Blog This again
- Select your blog name
- Enter the title & text for your post (if any) - remember the picture will post automatically
- Click Post Entry

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Week 2: #4 Online Safety and Sharing

Participating in online communities and sharing requires understanding different expectations about privacy and safety. If you write a blog post about "The Most Humiliating Experience of my Life," please be aware that you are sharing this story with anyone who has an Internet connection. You must also be careful with sharing photos and personal or financial information.

Some things to think about when creating content and using online services include:

  • Am I sharing appropriate details about my work or personal life?
  • Do I have permission to post someone else's photo?
  • Am I sharing financial information with an unprotected source?
  • Is the person I'm communicating with who I think they are?

This is in no way meant to alarm anyone! Please just take a minute to look at a couple of resources that will make you feel more comfortable writing posts for your blog that you feel confident in sharing.

Discovery Resources:

  • Think! Before You Post - with illuminating video.
  • Guide to online privacy put together by the Center for Democracy & Technology.
  • Free Range Librarian's ideas on blogging and work.
  • Internet safety for everyone by HCPL.

Discovery Exercise:

  • Create a blog post discussing your thoughts on online safety and privacy. How comfortable are you sharing online?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Week 2: #3 Grab Yourself a Blog in 3 Steps

If you aren't able to view the embedded video, click here.

Now that you understand how this program will work, it's time to set up your very own personal blog to begin recording your thoughts, discoveries and exercises. For this program, we recommend that you use Blogger *, a popular free online blog hosting service that is extremely easy to use.

Creating a blog using Blogger takes just three steps:

  1. Create an account.
  2. Name your blog.
  3. Select your template.

Once you've created your blog here are two important things to know:

  • To add posts: The maintenance interface that you will use to add posts, edit or change the set-up of your blog is accessed online at http://www.blogger.com/ . Be sure to write down your login and password.
  • To view your blog: Your blog address is http://xxxx.blogspot.com/ , (xxxx)=the unique identifier you entered in Step 2. Be sure to also write down your blog address.

If you run into problems or would like more information about blogs and using Blogger here are some discovery resources you can use:

OK --- Now, it's your turn...

Discovery Exercise:

Each day is a new learning experience! Use the first post in your new blog to explore what is your own individual learning style.

  1. Setup a blog for yourself using Blogger.
  2. Add a test post or two. Use one of your posts to write about which learning habits from the tutorial are easiest for you, which are hardest and why.
  3. If you wish, add your blog to the list of participants.
  4. Have fun!!!

* Use of Blogger is only a recommendation. If there is another blog hosting site that you are more comfortable with, please feel free to use it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Week 1: #2 Lifelong Learning - Motivate Yourself

Among libraries, lifelong learning is one of those core values we shelve our books by.

So, it makes sense that before we embark on this new online learning and discovery journey that we should take a few minutes to view this motivational slide show.

This short presentation will give you some tools to help you get moving and organized.

Discovery Exercise:

If you aren't able to view the slide show, click here.

For the first exercise, view this tutorial and write down which learning habits are easiest for you and which are hardest. Make a contract with yourself about your learning habits. You will use your personal blog (which you will set up next) to post your thoughts about lifelong learning.

Have fun! If you haven't jumped on board yet, it's never too late to become a lifelong learner.

Next Week: Creating your blog so you can begin tracking your journey.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Week 1: #1 Discovery has never been so much fun...

Welcome to iHCPL's learning program and blog. Chances are if you've found your way here you're interested in learning about and playing around (yes, playing is allowed in libraries) with some new Web 2.0 tools that will help you expand your information literacy toolbox.

iHCPL is an online learning program that encourages our customers to learn more about emerging technologies on the web that are changing the way people, society and libraries access information and communicate with each other. Our staff began this program three weeks ago and this blog is an adjunct to their program.

Over the course of the next nine weeks, this website will highlight different discovery exercises to help you become familiar with blogging, RSS news feeds, tagging, wikis, podcasting, online applications, and video and image hosting sites.

To familiarize yourself with this project, be sure to read our About page. The FAQs should answer most of your questions about this program.

So, fasten your seat belts, grab your mouse and get ready for a discovery adventure...and remember, its OK to play in the library and have fun!

Stay tuned for the next item up for discovery...or better yet, subscribe to the RSS feed.