Putting Technology to Work: Notes from A Presentation at VALA 2010

By Daniel A. Freeman |

I am pleased to announce that the first paper from the 2009 CAVAL Visiting Scholar project was published as part of the proceedings of VALA 2010, a conference held in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia two weeks ago. VALA - Libraries, Technology and the Future Inc. is an Australian non-profit that promotes the use of technology in libraries, museums and other institutions originally “established as the Victorian Association for Library Automation in 1978 in response to the emergence of automated library catalogues and other technologies that were revolutionising the industry at the time.”

Sadly, I was not there in person - I’d be happy to be away from the Midwest winter for a few more sun-drenched Aussie days. But I was there via technology, presenting and interacting with the crowd. The whole process of doing the research and the way we’ve used technology every step of the way has got me thinking about the bigger implications for conferences and learning.

The research project is ongoing, examining the impact and success of Learning 2.0 programs in Australian libraries. Why Australia? As Warren Cheetham, my co-investigator on the project, said at VALA: The Yarra Plenty Library was the first library in the world to adapt Helene Blowers “23 Things” program in mid to late 2006. From there, the program has grown exponentially. Helene recently wrote:

Don't ask me the number of libraries or organizations? With programs having been run by the National Library of Norway, the State Library of Victoria, Maryland public libraries statewide, 23 Things on a Stick for multiple libraries and organizations, I really have no way of knowing the total impact or number of organizations that have adopted the program. But from my delicious links and growing communications folder I can tell you this... the number is definitively over 700 and more then likely hovers somewhere just under 1000 organizations worldwide. 

Last year, we ran a national survey for program participants, a survey for program administrartors and during my 5 week visit last fall, we conducted focus groups with library staff of various libraries. Working with Warren and Richard Sayers, our “project leader” for CAVAL at that time, has been wonderful! The data set is huge and will be published in various articles over the next year or so - VALA being the first.

Which brings me back to the tech that helped us along the way. Warren and I recently wrote a short piece called “From a Distance” in the Jan/Feb edition of inCite, the news magazine of the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA)

In it we described our use of technology tools like Skype, Dropbox, Flickr, to plan the research and study visit. For VALA, I added a few more tools to our aresenal. Worried that Skype or other VOIP tech might fail us during our presentation, Warren, Richard and I decided that my portion would best be done via pre-recorded video.

I’ve been meaning to do more with video and this was a perfect opportunity to test the tools and my abilities. I experimented for a day with my Flip Video Ultra HD but found the sound quality lacking. Using a USB microphone and Apple’s iMovie, I was able to record within the application via my big iMac’s iSight camera. It yielded 1024 X 576 video that I could edit and manipulate. I shot one 3 minute clip of me welcoming the group to our talk and talking a bit about the project background. There is a spiffy map feature built into iMovie  that creates slick world map animations - a perfect way to let the folks watching in Melbourne know where I was.


What I learned: recording 3 minutes of video is HARD! It seemed to take forever as I started, flubbed and started over again. It’s one thing to speak to a group - I do that all the time -  but it’s different when the speech is being recorded. I think I finally said to myself “Get a grip” and just did it.

The other two sections were created by exporting our Keynote slides to iMovie. I then recorded an audio track with Garageband to overlay on the slides, matching my timing up and saying “Warren, please go to the next slide please.” Warren was able to advance the slides as I spoke, creating a seamless experience. We put the video files in the Dropbox folder we share for the project.

During the presentation, I listened via Skype and monitored the Twitter chatter about the session, answering questions and pointing people to our research site. We think that some in the audience might even have thought I was live on the big screen because the transitions were so smooth.

After experiencing how EDUCAUSE can create such an open, engaging conference via various technologies last month and the experience with VALA, I’m becoming even more sold on the idea of these tools breaking down the barriers of space, time and money for conferences and for learning. I would like to see more free archived video and more encouragement of real time interaction beyond the walls of the convention center for all of our conferences. The worries about losing conference attendees because of free content offered on the Web may be a concern for some, but I recall hearing that EDUCAUSE LI had an INCREASE in delegates this year. 

Education benefits as well - especially online classes that often seem to be text-based. When I finally got the video thing right, I also recorded two quick shout out posts to my classes for our class sites. It was easy to do - I just pretended I was suddenly in front of the class and had a few things to share. Bumping into two students this week in the hallway at Dominican, one remarked that she was very happy to see me on video during our month long breaks between class meetings. Note to self, I thought, do more video. I’m rather excited now to explore recording lectures this way, and asking my students to contribute video as well.

I’m also excited to share more of the research and also excited to see where all of these tools take as we continue to learn and explore. Please share your tech and presentation/teaching success stories here! I’d like to include them in a future post and in my teaching.

CAVAL: http://www.caval.edu.au