Emerging Technologies Workshop Series

So, as I promised when I discovered that I'm sort of famous, in a very nebulous way, I'm going to talk a little bit about the workshop series, for the benefit of those of you who aren't in GSLIS. And because it's library content in a roundabout sort of way, which has been lacking recently.

The workshop series grew out of a conversation with my supervisor at the Tech Lab, after I mentioned that I was going to do a workshop on how to set up Bloglines (an RSS reader) to tie in with a lecture on RSS feeds and blogs in libraries that I organized for ASIS&T. I wanted to do the workshop in addition to the lecture because I wanted people who came to the lecture to get the tools to delve right into the land of library blogs, not just hear about it. I figured it was unlikely that most people would go home from the lecture and make a point of sitting down to figure out how to set up an RSS aggregator, how to populate it with feeds, and how to find the blogs we saw in the lecture. So, I decided I'd offer a workshop to walk them through it. That led to a discussion of all the Web 2.0 things going on right now that my supervisor and I think that people should at least have some vague idea of — not a broad or deep knowledge, but at least enough to understand how they might leverage the technology personally, and how it might be helpful professionally. That turned into "let's do a series." In short order, we came up with a list of topics, decided it would be co-sponsored by the Tech Lab and ASIS&T, and picked out dates and times (we offered each one twice — once in the evening, and once in the afternoon). The workshop topics were:

  • How to Set Up An RSS Aggregator
  • Tagging & Social Bookmarking
  • Podcasting & Internet Radio
  • HTML & CSS
  • Wikis
  • How to Buy A Technology Gadget

Don't know what these things are? Don't worry, a lot of people don't, and that was the point — these are designed to be introductions. Our goal was to cover enough in the workshop that people could walk away with enough knowledge to go back to an application like del.icio.us later and remember how to use it, or at least feel comfortable playing around to figure it out.

Tech Lab staff were required to be involved in the planning and execution of at least one workshop; most people opted for two or three, based on what they already knew about or had an interest in learning. We had hoped to get ASIS&T members involved as well, but there was very little interest from the membership, with the exception of two people — one of whom collaborated long-distance, as she attends the Simmons program at our satellite campus in Western Mass. I hope that in the future, more ASIS&T members will want to participate.

My role had two parts. Obviously, I helped develop the idea and put out the call to volunteers from ASIS&T. Then, I worked on three of the workshops: RSS, tagging and gadgets.

Overall, the workshops were quite successful and I have heard, personally and through the grapevine, various positive reports from students who have attended them. We've decided to offer them again in the fall, with a few modifications learned from experience:

  1. More consistent publicity. The workshops that were the best-attended were those that were publicized (signs and listserv announcements) early and frequently. Because I was involved in the first two workshops, I did the publicity for them. I forgot to make a point of telling the people working on the other workshops that they should remember to do their own publicity, so it suffered for a couple of others. For a couple of reasons, I think it makes more sense to have one person doing the publicity for them all, and I actually do mean myself. For one, I make fantastic signs. And by the time I started publicizing the second workshop, I had a good system for hitting listservs.
  2. More involvement from the ASIS&T membership. I hope this can be achieved by my saying things like "if you went to this last semester, you're qualified to teach it." Because really, when you're teaching workshops like this, if you've used the technology at all, you're good to go. Plus, I can tell them that someone from the Tech Lab who knows about this stuff will be right there with them. This time around, we had a couple of members, myself, the chair and a couple of other members who are also Tech Lab staff.
  3. Smoother delivery. Like anything else, making and delivering workshops is something you learn through trial and error. I can only speak for the workshops I've done so far, but there are a couple of things I'd tweak in both of them. In one case, with a well-attended workshop, it ran over. I'm sure that the people who developed the others have changes they'd like to make as well.
  4. Re-thinking the gadgets workshop. This one focused on showing people where to go when they were doing research before buying a gadget (like a digital camera or a laptop). The first round of e-mails to the listserv didn't make this quite clear enough, and we got some questions and comments that indicated people thought the workshop was about troubleshooting problems with gadgets they already own. We offered those folks some information, and then I edited the e-mail to make the topic really obvious. Attendance on this one was down a bit, though we did have two faculty attend. I think that if people weren't planning to buy something in the near future, they didn't see much value in attending, especially given that they were during the last two weeks of class.
  5. That being said, we'll start them up earlier in the semester, since we won't have to do as much work setting up and preparing materials.

Overall, this was a great learning experience for me. I was surprised to find out that I actually enjoy doing this kind of thing, which was really neat. I didn't think I had really changed all that much since the last public speaking I did (oh, you know, fall '98) but 7.5 years have gone by since then, and I would hope I've changed in that time! I'm sure it also helped that I was talking about stuff that I understand to people who wanted to know about that stuff.

If you're curious about any of these topics, you can take a look at the websites, slides and handouts that we created for them. They are linked from the ASIS&T and Tech Lab websites (scroll down a bit).

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One thought on “Emerging Technologies Workshop Series

  1. Thanks so much for getting the ball rolling on this — it was a great idea, and well executed. I’d love to help brainstorm a few new topics for next semester… One that occurred to me today after hearing what someone was doing at their internship was GIS/mapping/GPS/etc. Don’t know what we could cram into an hour-long workshop, but there’s definitely a lot going on in this area!

    -DD

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