Training, Snowball Fights, and Chocolate Hugs and Kisses

Snowball fights as a training technique? Yes, if we are to brave enough to follow the example provided this morning by Stephanie Gerding and Brenda Hough in their latest MaintainIT Project train-the-trainer webinar, “Using MaintainIT Resources for Technology Training.”
Here’s how it works: participants in a workshop are encouraged to write their questions down on sheets of paper, crumble the papers into ersatz snowballs, and toss their snowballs at others in the classroom. Those retrieving the snowballs unravel them, read the questions, and attempt to respond so that everyone becomes a trainer-teacher-learner and no one holds back on asking questions for fear of appearing stupid.
If that one isn’t enough to bring a class to life, Gerding and Hough also recommend chocolate hugs and kisses. If workshop participants are struggling with a classroom problem, they are comforted with chocolate kisses or other pieces of chocolate which serve as confectionary hugs.
As is the normal procedure with other MaintainIT Project train-the-trainer webinars, this one offered plenty of opportunities for interactions contributing to the support of a lively community of learners. The exchanges often felt as if they were examples of the snowball fight technique in action: participants used a combination of chat entries and live comments made over the phone connection we shared to toss best-practices training ideas back and forth, and many hit their virtual targets. Carol Bean, a reference librarian in Palm Beach County (Florida), provided a link to a series of BeanWorks blog articles she wrote on how to work with older adults who are learning how to use computers. And it won’t surprise anyone that Infopeople’s free archives of past training materials and webcasts and webinars snowballed their way into the exchange, along with mentions of Marc Webb’s Book a Librarian project.
Gerding and Hough also displayed an intriguing willingness to take risks. Giving co-presenter status to everyone attending the webinar, they increased the interactivity tremendously, but also introduced the possibility that any of us could affect the presentation in unexpected ways—as we inevitably did. One person, during a previous presentation, inadvertently closed out the entire visual feed, leaving us only with the audio portion for the last few minutes of the webinar. And it is not uncommon for co-presenters to forget that if we try to advance the slides or move to previous slides on our own computer monitors, we’re actually changing the visual display for everyone—something Hough and Gerding always react to with unbelievable grace even though, by this time, they must want to slap all of us silly for repeatedly making that mistake. (No chocolate hugs and kisses for us.) The result is that our MaintainIT Project colleagues, through this level of interactivity, provide trainers the hands-on experience of learning what it means to be a co-presenter in real time and learning how to guide other trainer-teacher-learners in an interactive online learning environment.
Those interested in taking advantage of this unusual learning opportunity will find up-to-date listings of MaintainIT train-the-trainer and other webinars posted online. And for the latest Infopeople webinars, please check the current listings on the Infopeople site.

The Liveliness of Archived Webinars: Mary Minow, Copyright, and Legally Safe Graphics (Part 2 of 2)

Having moved past the surprise of discovering that even archived webinars offer unexpected and amazing levels of interactivity, we find plenty of wonderful content which Mary Minow continues to provide in the recording of her Infopeople “Finding (Legally Safe) Graphics for Presentations and Websites” webinar.
Trainer-teacher-learners and others intrigued by PowerPoint presentations which rely on a dynamic mix of imagery and text rather than on text-based bullet point formats will surely consider Minow’s presentation an early holiday gift. She guides us through the process of determining what we should and should not do in obtaining images from the Internet; lists several sites which offer incredible amounts of material just waiting to be used (please see the “Webliography of Legal Graphics” handout linked from the middle of the archives webinar page); and even offers a variety of useful and easy-to-follow suggestions on how to provide attributions for the images we use. And an unexpected benefit of watching this archived version is that, by using the “archive navigation” section on the right-hand side of the screen while viewing the webinar, we can jump from one section of the recording to another if there is something we want to skip or review.
Minow leaps right into the center of her presentation by offering tips about the use of images produced by government agencies. The news here is mostly good: if an image is produced by the U.S. government and posted on a U.S. government site, it’s probably available for use without copyright restrictions. Minow, at the same time, warns that we can’t be too careful and that we should check to be sure that what we’re viewing is an actual U.S. government site as opposed to a quasi-government agency which may retain control over the use of the images posted on its site.
In offering other potential sources of imagery for those preparing non-commercial presentations, she calls our attention to what is offered by sources including Library of Congress, New York Public Library Picture Collection Online, and Wikimedia Commons images. She briefly and in mercifully plain English reviews the topic of Creative Commons licenses governing the use of large numbers of online imagery. She then provides samples of how we can provide appropriate attributions for those images which we are using, and leaves us with a wonderful resource to peruse: the Nolo publication The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More.
As we near the end of the archived webinar, we are left with at least a few great reminders which bear repeating: check carefully for the source of images before assuming that they actually available for use without restrictions; check for and follow any requests and instructions provided by those who have created and posted images before we use them in another context; and never underestimate the ease with which permission to use an image can be obtained—sometimes a simple email to the creator of an image provides all we need to safely and legally proceed.

The Liveliness of Archived Webinars: Mary Minow, Copyright, and Legally Safe Graphics (Part 1 of 2)

The liveliness of archived training opportunities—including Infopeople webcasts and webinars—was never so apparent to me as it was yesterday while I was viewing a recording of an event I missed earlier this week: the Infopeople offering of Mary Minow’s “Finding (Legally Safe) Graphics for Presentations and Websites.” It also made me once again realize that in a Web 2.0 e-learning world, we are never quite alone and we are always deeply in the moment.
As I follow the link to the hour-long program from the webinar description page, I am surprised to see that I have a chance to sign in with a user name. Intrigued, I take the bait; I simply type my own name in at the “participant login” prompt and click on “enter.” Before the recording begins to play, I see that I am either in a replica of the actual webinar “room” or somehow actually have become a live audience of one for what I am about to see. As the session begins, I see exactly what the live audience viewed and heard during Minow’s presentation: the house-keeping announcements about how the session will proceed are audible; the PowerPoint slides for the webinar (also available from the webinar description page) are progressing as they had on the day of the webinar; the chat which had taken place near the bottom left-hand side of the screen is appearing as if in real time; and the interactive buttons allowing participants to respond with a “yes” or a “no” to questions are visible.
Enjoying the presentation and curious as to how far the illusion of interactivity extends, I click on the “yes” button (the checkmark near the bottom of the screen) in response to a question and see my choice appear on the screen. I also play with the emoticons—those silly little icons allowing e-learning participants to express emotional reactions to a presentation by selecting anything from a smiley face to a hands-down symbol—and am having a great time, like a five-year-old free of parental supervision, expressing reactions to a presenter who will never know what I am thinking. Until I realize I apparently no longer am alone. For, glancing at the list of participants displayed at the bottom of the screen, I realize that someone else has chosen to watch the same archived program at the same time I am watching it, and now I have a virtual classmate.
It’s a strange and interesting feeling to know that we can, if we agree to do so, conduct our own live chat about the material while engaged in viewing the original presentation. And there is a potentially great tip here for colleagues sitting at desks throughout a large urban or small rural library system: if everyone agrees to watch an archived presentation at roughly the same time without traveling to meet in one central location, there appears to be no reason why we can’t time our viewing in a way which allows us to carry on a live chat in this virtual classroom and continue the discussion after the broadcast ends—as long as no one logs out.
One final surprise comes as the archived recording reaches its conclusion: the session evaluation form comes up on the screen as if someone were still here waiting to see what I am thinking. So, playing along to see what will happen, I fill out the form and click on the “submit” button, watching as my comment apparently speeds off to join the comments of those who had attended the session two days earlier. And the thing is, in a virtual archived classroom setting, no one can hear you scream with joy.
Next: Mary Minow’s Guidance on Locating and Using Legally Safe Graphics for Presentations and Websites

George & Joan’s webcast fiasco: the sequel (of sorts)

For anyone who tried to tune in to the George Needham and Joan Frye Williams webcast this past Friday on Challenging the Assumptions of Legacy Librarianship, you know that the technology gods were not smiling on us. Our taping location at De Anza Community College suffered a severe network outage just as George and Joan were starting their webcast. After half an hour of troubleshooting, it became clear that the network was going to be down for a while, so we made the tough decision to scrub the live broadcast.
We did tape it, and so you can now watch the archive now, or listen to the podcast version. George and Joan were hoping to get some good questions, and will be happy to respond via email to questions from folks who listen to the archive. The PowerPoint that they used can be downloaded here.