Web 2.0: Mashups, Libraries, and Training (Part 3 of 3)

If we want to visualize a future drawing upon library mashups—combinations of data from different sources into a newly created tool for training-teaching-learning and many other purposes—we could do worse than to view a few of the search engines which are incorporating mashup technology into the way they display search results.
Jill Tinsley, an MLIS candidate from the University of Arizona, was among the presenters at the California Academic & Research Libraries North Information Technology (CARL North IT) Interest Group workshop “Mashup the Library” late last month at Santa Clara University, and her one-hour overview of “Information Visualization Using Mashups and Web 2.0 Tools” nearly inundated us with possibilities. (The PowerPoint slides, which were previously used for a New Media Consortium (NMC) presentation in February 2008, can be found at the bottom of an NMC page under the heading “Attachments” and provide fodder for hours of exploration on the topic.)
Starting with Grokker.com, she led us into a world of searching which currently draws from Yahoo!, Wikipedia, and Amazon.com to provide information on a wide variety of topics. Although the results can be viewed in a text-based “Outline” format, the fun begins when we choose the “Map View” format. The “map” is actually a large circle taking up about half of a screen, and includes smaller circles of interrelated topics; searching for the term “mashups” itself, for example, gives the large circle of the mashup universe, and smaller circles labeled “new application,” web applications, “music mashups,” and several others. If we choose to focus on music mashups, we click on the music mashup circle to view a new, larger circle with links within that category. By drilling down further into that visual display by clicking on new links, we continue until we find what we want or we zoom back out to the previous visual maps.
An entirely different display comes up through oSkope, which can be set to search Yahoo!, flickr, YouTube, and a few other sites we can select before proceeding. The results are displayed as a series of full-color thumbnail images, and we can manipulate the displays by choosing from several options on the screen. Placing the cursor on an image quickly brings up information about where the link will take the us and displays user tags which have been attached to that site.
The lesson here for teacher-trainer-learners is fairly obvious: if we want to display more visually interesting searches while engaged in workplace learning and performance, we can incorporate Grokker, oSkope, and many of the other tools which are quickly becoming available to us.
For further exploration: Online recordings of a dozen sessions presented during the NMC Symposium on Mashups held April 1 -3, 2008 are available, as are resources on nmcpedia. CARL North IT plans to post recordings of the “Mashup the Library” program. One other new development: another interesting example of mashups went live several days after the CARL North IT conference, in the form of the cuil search engine; it’s well worth exploring and has one the cleanest displays I’ve seen in online search results.

Web 2.0: Mashups, Libraries, and Training (Part 2 of 3)

For trainer-teacher-learners who had not yet made time to read the New Media Consortium (NMC)EDUCAUSE 2008 Horizon Report on emerging technologies, the California Academic & Research Libraries North Information Technology (CARL North IT) Interest Group workshop “Mashup the Library” last Friday at Santa Clara University provided a day of revelations.
Data mashups—“custom applications where combinations of data from different sources are ‘mashed up’ into a single tool”—received the bulk of the attention from NMC Vice President Rachel S. Smith and other presenters throughout the day, and those of us in attendance couldn’t help but walk away with an appreciation for this as both an old and new technology. Old, in the sense that mashups by different names and formats have been around for centuries in the form of data such as population figures combined with maps to provide graphic illustrations of how these pieces of information interact. New, in the sense that combining a Google Map with information about apartment rental data from craigslist is less than a few years old. As new technology tools such as VUVOX are developed and users combine data from different sources into VUVOX presentations, all of us involved in training-teaching-learning are going to find that we can push beyond the limits of what has previously been possible in designing and presenting effective learning opportunities in the library workplace.
The current ability to combine library location information with a Google Map to help library staff, members, and guests find library facilities is rudimentary compared to what is possible. A far more sophisticated mashup I recently encountered is the GeoLib project coming out of Florida State University College of Information under the direction of Christie Koontz; users can view mashups of maps and data including population characteristics from the U.S. Census as well as library-use statistics for thousands of American libraries.
And when we apply mashups to workplace learning programs, we don’t have to stretch much to imagine a new-staff orientation session prepared in VUVOX and delivered live, online, and even asynchronously through a mashup of graphics, links to pertinent documents, and connections to audio and audiovisual files created with Flip cameras and other easy-to-use tools which are being introduced to library staff through Infopeople workshops. The same tools might also be used to create introductory tours of libraries for new employees as well as for library members and guests via mashups delivered to cell phones as mobile broadband capabilities increase over the next couple of years.
Best of all is the probability that new authoring tools which are being developed will “enable non-technical users to create sophisticated products without programming,” the report’s authors confirm—which means that those of us who are more enamored of providing learning opportunities than in immersing ourselves in the complexities of coding will soon have incredibly productive tools at our fingertips.
Next: Mashups in the Search for Information

Web 2.0: Mashups, Libraries, and Training (Part 1 of 3)

Because I’m a soft touch for creative uses of presentation tools, I was completely taken by New Media Consortium (NMC) Vice President Rachel S. Smith’s use of a cutting-edge online resource last Friday during an onsite event at Santa Clara University.
Serving as the first of several presenters at the California Academic & Research Libraries North Information Technology (CARL North IT) Interest Group workshop, “Mashup the Library,” Smith provided an engaging overview of the 2008 Horizon Report on emerging technologies (published jointly by NMC and EDUCAUSE) by using an emerging technology mashup tool: VUVOX.
To call VUVOX a step up from PowerPoint is like calling IMAX a step up from early versions of color television: the relationships and parallels are there, the results dynamically and explosively different. PowerPoint, at its best, offers a series of slides which can be interconnected through combinations of text, images, and links to websites as well as online audio and video files to produce a narrative flow—one slide at a time—for trainer-teacher-learners and other presenters. VUVOX, which is currently in its testing (beta) phase, functions as seamlessly as a Chinese scroll by using every online resource imaginable to provide an uninterrupted audiovisual flow of information. The result is visually stunning. And memorable.
As Smith herself noted in a brief conversation after her presentation, VUVOX was not specifically designed to be a formal training-teaching-learning tool; the VUVOX site itself promotes it as a way to “create one of a kind stories in an instant” by mashing up (combining) whatever video, audio, and text we have available. Recognizing the integral nature of story in training-teaching-learning, however, sets all of us up to explore VUVOX’s possibilities for onsite as well as online learning, and it appears that a well-designed VUVOX presentation can be an effective learning tool for live as well as for asynchronous learning if links to VUVOX presentations are created on a library intranet’s training site.
What was most engaging is that most audience members hardly commented on VUVOX and how she used it. Smith’s presentation, which was created with NMC colleague Alan Levine, is true to the spirit of first-rate training-teaching-learning experiences in that the tool is subservient to the information being shared with any audience she faces. It includes things as simple as copies of the Horizon Report covers for the past five years, screenshots of the Horizon Project wiki, links to videos illustrating the use of emerging technologies such as grassroots video, and an invitation to participate in the creation of upcoming Horizon Project reports. And it is up to the presenter or an individual viewer at a computer monitor how quickly or slowly the scroll moves since it is easy to pause, forward, or reverse the flow of the imagery.
Next: More on What the Horizon Report and Mashups Offer Trainer-Teacher-Learners