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November 26, 2015 / carlispina

Annotate The Web With TLDR-ify

If you have ever encountered a situation where you want to share a website but highlight a specific portion, TLDR-ify is a nice option for accomplishing this. Whether you want to highlight a few words or a whole section of a website, the tool is very easy to use, free, and does not require registration.

To use the tool, all you need to do is install the TLDRify button in your Bookmarks toolbar or, if you prefer, install the Google Chrome extension. To then annotate a website, you simply go to the page, highlight the text you want to point out when sharing, and click the TLDRify button. You will receive a shortened link to the page with your selected content highlighted as well as buttons to copy the link or share it via email, Google+, Twitter, or LinkedIn. All of these features are available without registering for an account with TLDRify. However, if you want to track or manage the links that you share through the service, you will need to sign up for a free account. TLDRify is an interesting option for annotating and sharing websites. It is a good tool for collaborating with teams, sharing with friends, and highlighting specific content for students.

November 23, 2015 / carlispina

Inclusive Design Toolkit

Last week, I wrote about the Design Thinking for Libraries Toolkit and today I will be taking a look at another toolkit meant to offer a new perspective on design projects. Though it may not be the first thought that comes to mind, in reality, Microsoft is continually involved in design projects. Viewed from this perspective, it is no surprise that they have put a lot of thought into design processes and ideals. One of the products of these efforts is their Inclusive Design Toolkit, which they have released under a CC BY-NC-ND license.

This toolkit has a more narrow focus than the Design Thinking for Libraries Toolkit. It focuses specifically on how design processes and projects can be more inclusive. As the manual in the toolkit emphasizes, this does mean making items accessible for users with disabilities, but it means more than this too, including making items usable for those with “permanent, temporary and situational disabilities.” The manual is a great introduction to these concepts. As the manual states, this is not meant to replace other design techniques, but instead “is made to work within an existing design process.” It is a great way of ensuring that your design team is on the same page regarding inclusive principles.

In addition to the manual introducing users to inclusive design, the toolkit also includes a separate PDF of activities that will help you gain experience putting the ideas from the manual into practice. These activities are set up to work with groups and have information about the expected length of time needed for them, which is helpful when using them in meetings or workshops. Taken together, these documents are valuable tools for making sure that your design practices are inclusive.


November 19, 2015 / carlispina

The Design Thinking For Libraries Toolkit

While doing my course work for a master’s degree in education, I got to take a few classes that focused on design thinking. Though many people think of these concepts as relating specifically to product design or engineering, the concepts can be equally helpful in other settings. I found the idea of applying this process to developing educational tools and techniques very interesting, so I was intrigued when I discovered that IDEO had “partnered with the Chicago Public Library in the U.S. and Aarhus Public Libraries in Denmark, observed over forty librarians across ten countries, and synthesized learnings from their initial design experiments into this toolkit.” This new Design Thinking For Libraries Toolkit is aimed at libraries interested in making use of these techniques in their own projects and to achieve this end, the materials are written to make design thinking accessible to even those who do not have prior experience with these concepts.

Design Thinking Diagram

Funded by the Global Libraries program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Design Thinking For Libraries project provides three resources that can be downloaded for free on the website after you register using your name, email and location. The Toolkit Guide, the Toolkit Activities Workbook, and the At-A-Glance Guide form a complete package that introduces the design thinking process and demonstrates how it can be applied to “solve everyday challenges at the library.” The At-A-Glance Guide is intended for individuals or groups who have a limited timeframe in which to get a crash course in these topics. It can be completed in a single day and includes everything needed to get a taste of design thinking. Though I’m not convinced that this guide alone would be enough to really lead a librarian down the path to implementing design thinking effectively, in reality, it is meant to serve primarily as a teaser for the rest of the toolkit and I do think it could be a great tool for libraries trying to decide whether design thinking would work for them.

Libraries with more time, or those that have already worked through the At-A-Glance Guide and are hooked, can turn to the lengthier Toolkit Guide that provides more details, several case studies, and lots of illustrations. The Toolkit also includes a 60-page workbook of activities and exercises that can facilitate putting these techniques into practice. According to the website, “[o]n average, working through the entire toolkit can take 5-8 hours a week for the next six weeks, depending on how much time you have on a weekly basis with a team or on your own.” This is a pretty big commitment for most teams, so I think that it makes sense to check out the At-A-Glance Guide first to make sure these techniques will work for your institution. But, if you have been curious about design thinking, this toolkit is a great way to give it a try with minimal effort. Even better, they invite feedback, so check it out, see if it can help your library, and let them know what you think!

November 16, 2015 / carlispina

Find Movies and TV Shows Online With CanIStream.It

CanIStreamIt LogoIf you love to stream TV and movies and want to quickly find your favorites or if you are trying to decide which service to subscribe to, it can be difficult to figure out where specific shows are available. CanIStream.It is a search tool to simplify that process. Rather than searching separately through each option, you simply search once and see where the movie or TV program is available across platforms.

When you run a search for either movies or TV shows (currently you can’t run a single search for both), CanIStream.It will return everything that fits your search criteria. You can then click on the availability button to see every platform that streams a particular result. At the top of the page, you will see information about the movie or TV show pulled from IMDB. In the case of movies, you will see the availability of the item on various platforms directly below this information. For TV shows, you must first select specific episodes, but you will then see the same information. The results show both streaming and digital purchase options in separate sections. If the selected content isn’t available on a particular platform, you can still sign up to be notified when it becomes available, though to access this feature you will have to sign up for an account. CanIStream.It currently searches through content from a wide range of sources, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, RedBox, and more. My only minor quibble with the tool is that you have to specify whether you searching for a movie or a TV show up front, which is easy to do, but also easy to forget. Even in spite of this, I find myself frequently using CanIStream.It to see where movies and TV shows are available. It is a great tool for quick searches of digital media and more.

November 12, 2015 / carlispina

Create A Timeline With Timetoast

Timetoast logoRecently, I wrote about how to create timelines with TimelineJS, but there are other great tools available for creating interactive timelines too. Timetoast is one such tool. Using this tool, you can create free timelines, though if you pay for a subscription, you can also access additional features such as collaborative features for creating a timeline with a team.

When you first start to create a timeline, you will be asked to name it, add it to a topic category, and, if you want, add a picture for the top of the timeline. You can also keep the timeline in draft mode until you are ready to publish it. You will then see a blank timeline with the option to add either discrete events or timespans to your timeline. Events must have a title and a specific date, but can also have an image, link, and brief description. Timespans are also required to have a title as well as a start and end date. They can also have a link and a description, if desired. Once you have added all of your desired events and timespans, you can navigate through them using the arrows at the bottom of the timeline. Each event is displayed as a small image (if you have added one), the date and a title. To see additional information, such as the description and link, users must click on the event, which then expands and centers on the screen to display additional information. Timespans similarly only show the title until they’re expanded. The finished timeline has a nice look that isn’t overly cluttered since extra information is only displayed when clicked. In addition, published timelines can be linked to, embedded, printed, or displayed in a full screen view. Users can also add comments to timelines.

While a current drawback of Timetoast is its reliance on Flash for advanced features, their FAQ suggests that they are working to improve the experience, so hopefully they will move to an approach that makes timelines fully accessible on devices that don’t offer Flash support. Overall, Timetoast seems to be actively developing and releasing new features in response to user requests, including additional support for B.C. dates and easier ways to create accounts for collaboration on Premium accounts. If you are looking for another timeline option, this is one worth checking out, particularly if you have the budget to pay for premium features.

November 9, 2015 / carlispina

Collecting Cats With Neko Atsume

Neko Atsume LogoSince its debut a few months ago, Neko Atsume has been a very popular mobile game, gaining a large number of players and mentions on a wide range of online platforms. While this might not seem surprising since popular new mobile games debut all the time, the interesting part of the Neko Atsume story is that its popularity has been despite the fact that the app was entirely in Japanese. Many Japanese speakers played the game, but at least as many people who didn’t speak or read any Japanese at all have also taken to enjoying the game. The fact that the game is simple enough to play even without being able to read the instructions has spawned its own conversation and ACRLog post about what libraries can learn from this success.

But, despite (or perhaps because of) the success of the Japanese-language version of the app, it has now been translated into English as well, making it accessible to an even wider audience. Given the launch of this new English-language version, now is a great time to explore the app if you haven’t already.

Available for both iOS and Android devices, Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector gives you access to a yard and the ability to “buy” food and toys to attract a variety of cats to this yard. The currency of the game is fish, with grey and gold varieties buying different items for the cats. These items range from kitty chow to fancy climbing toys, including pretty much every type of food and toy that cats might like in between. As you buy items and move them around the garden space that serves as the backdrop for the game, different cats come to visit. You might catch them playing with the toys or simply lounging on cushions, but if you entice the right cats to come and enjoy your garden, they might also give you gifts. These gifts can include fish, which can in turn be used to purchase more items for your garden, as well as other “Mementos.” As you buy more specialized items,  you will begin to see a wider range of cats, including some that wear costumes or play with only specific items. Though the game has a few other features, including the option to take pictures of the cats in your garden and options to share information with your social networks, it really is quite simple, a key feature that made it popular with non-Japanese speakers even before it was translated. Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector is not a complicated game, but it is one that you can come back to throughout your day for a few minutes here and there. If you are a fan of cats, check this game out for your latest mobile game addiction.

November 5, 2015 / carlispina

Integrate Polls Into Your Google Slides With Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere is a useful tool for creating interactive online polls for use in classes, presentations, or anywhere else where you want to get feedback from an audience. It allows you to create a wide range of types of polls and quizzes from multiple choice questions to clickable images that record where participants click on an image uploaded to the system. Poll Everywhere even offers options for brainstorming or collecting questions from your audience as you present. Though the tool offers a number of pricing plans specifically for educators, including a free option for use with up to 40 respondents, more advanced features do require a paid subscription. It is a great option for interactive polling that has been popular, particularly with educators, since its debut.

Recently, the tool became even more useful when it launched a Chrome extension that makes it quick and easy to integrate your quizzes and polls into your Google Slides. To take advantage of this new feature, all you need to do is create a quiz or poll in Poll Everywhere and install the Chrome extension. Once you have done that, poll responses can be integrated into a slide by simply choosing the Insert Image option in Google Slides and pasting the URL for the live results of your poll into the blank. The results will display in the slide and will update in realtime making it easy to show your audience the results as they are entered. Though Poll Everywhere has long been a nice tool, this feature makes it even more convenient to use. If you are looking to add interactivity to your classes and presentations, it is well worth a try. You can check this feature out in action in the video below and read more about the process on the Poll Everywhere blog.


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