Fair Use and Vampires

In honor of Fair Use week, this week, I wanted to respond to a blog that quoted one of my posts recently. In the article, the author, Anthony Hogg, discusses some takedown notices he received and the ensuing legal battles. He also makes an important point: “Fair use is an invaluable safeguard against over-protective and malicious complainants. It’s not just useful for articles like Erin’s ‘Seeking Vampires in London,’ it’s beneficial for all writers, journalists, artists, teachers and students.”

Case in point, take a look at this picture:

From Jason Edmiston

This is a drawing used in one of the PennWIC blog’s own posts. Clearly it is a fair use, mashing up various monsters and in this particular instance used to advertise Halloween programming at WIC. If one had to ask the permission of the Stoker and Shelley estates, or Universal Pictures, this kind of picture would never be created. Additionally, PennWIC’s mashup contest, or even the phenomenon of mashups themselves, would be equally impossible.

Fundamentally, fair use is an essential safety valve protecting our ability to free speech. As Rebecca Tushnet says in Copy this Essay “Sometimes a copy is just a copy; other times it is vitally important speech.”

One of the great advantages of the internet is the open and free commentary that it allows. I am gratified that Anthony Hogg, a person whose work I would likely never encounter in my work as an academic librarian, was able to find my work about fair use helpful and that he was able to quote my work (utilizing fair use) in order to make a point about his particular situation. Though fair use may not be a stake in the heart of copyright, nor should it be, it should remain an important tool for all people who need to use it for the purposes of “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research” on an open internet and within a free society.

Happy Fair Use Week to all!

For more information:

Fair Use Week –

Copyright Office –

Penn Copyright Guide on Fair Use –

Stanford Fair Use Site –

Categories: Pedagogy

3D Printing at the Education Commons!

The Education Commons has just acquired a few 3D printers! We have one 5th generation Makerbot, and 2 Makerbot Minis. We’ve been testing the printers and our procedures over the past week, and the printers will open for campus use on Monday, February 16. We’re excited about offering the printers for all Penn students, faculty and staff. Penn’s campus has a number of 3D printers already, including the School of Engineering’s AddLab. The printers at the Biomedical Library and here at the EC are open for any use you might be interested in.

We’ll start with printing objects and then move to training people on how to use the printers. There are a number of sites with pre-made 3D printing objects set up on them that you can check out, such as Thingiverse, 3D Warehouse, and Smithsonian X3D. We’ll offer workshops soon where you can learn the basics of the software to create your own 3D objects for printing. Keep an eye on our workshops calendars at the Education Commons and Weigle Information Commons to find out about workshops.

Aside from these nuts and bolts about the printers, we’re very excited to see how people will end up using the printers. We certainly expect a good number of academic uses, and I can’t wait to see some of creative uses you all will think up for these machines. Whether you want to make yourself a Penn logo, something for your club or athletic team, or just anything else you can think of, we’re happy to help you out. Most of us have heard of 3D printing in some form or another by now, and while we’re not quite ready to help you print a lawnmower or replicate some of the Ben Franklin statues on campus (though maybe in miniature?), these printers can definitely help you with rapid prototyping, printing out your own art, making floor plans, or anything else you can think of that fits in the Makerbot’s build volume (about 11x6x6 inches).

This is a new service so please let us know what you think as you start to work with the Makerbots. If you have comments you can email us at or just let us know right at the EC desk. We’ll definitely be paying attention and improving our process over the coming weeks. For more information about how to request a print job on the Makerbots check out our 3D printing page.

Categories: Pedagogy

New NVivo Resources

Demand for NVivo has grown quite a bit in recent years. We find it is a great tool for analyzing video and audio interviews, surveys, journal articles and even tweets. We first wrote about NVivo in 2012, and our lit review post from 2013 is in the top-five list with over 2,000 views. In 2014, we wrote about Charlene Wong’s research and Rosie Frasso’s teaching with NVivo. Lately, we receive requests each week for NVivo training, and then we really miss Shimrit Keddem, our former presenter who created our wonderful NVivo guide.

We’re glad to announce that staff from QSR International, the makers of NVivo, will present a NVivo for Literature Reviews webinar just for Penn on February 19 – register now!

QSR will also hold a two-day fee-based hands-on workshop here at Penn on March 9 and 10. Since Penn Libraries is hosting the workshop, QSR has provided a few complimentary seats. (To be considered for one of them, please complete our online form.)

Categories: Pedagogy

Hoesley and Seltzer Programs: Apply now!

We are accepting applications from undergraduate students for the Hoesley Digital Literacy Program and the Seltzer Family Digital Media Awards through March 16.

We accept a cohort of about 15 students each year to the Hoesley program. We welcome applications from all current sophomores and juniors. The program aims to demystify technology, provide hands-on training and a website building project, and foster career connections. You can browse related blog posts.

We select five to six students each year to receive Seltzer awards. Each student has the ability to purchase $1,000 worth of equipment (both hardware and software) for use on an academic project for one year with a faculty supervisor. At the end of the year, the equipment is made available to all of campus through our equipment lending program. You can browse related blog posts here.

Please feel free to stop by to ask us questions about the two programs and join us on March 4 for our Spring SAS Majors Dinner.

Categories: Pedagogy

Voice-over PowerPoint for Beginning Japanese

Back in November, some of us WIC staff members found ourselves listening intently to a room full of Japanese speakers in Goldstein Electronic Classroom for an entire day. No, we weren’t there to learn beginning Japanese. Rather, we were teaching students in JPAN 011 how to use voice-over PowerPoint to present themselves and their interests in a new final video project for the class. Although we’ve assisted many other classes with video projects, this was the first large-scale language class we’ve supported working solely with voice-over in PowerPoint. It was a great success for all involved!

The whole process began in fall 2013, when Suyu Kuo, the course coordinator for JPAN 011, took a voice-over PowerPoint WICshop to improve her skills for using technology in the classroom.  This academic year, she received a grant to develop a new multimedia project, called “Japanese Self-Introduction Video Clip thru Voice-Over PowerPoint,” and called upon WIC to help develop the assignment and teach both the course instructors and students how to do voice-over PowerPoint.

After teaching Suyu and the other faculty members, Sachie Koizumi and Kenji Endo, how to do voice-over in October, we discussed the assignment parameters: how long each video should be, what should be included in the videos, and where students could upload and view each others’ work easily while keeping their work private. WIC created a Google Doc tutorial explaining the voice-over process and uploading videos to each class section’s Canvas discussion board.

In mid-November, we met with each class section for a total of 50 students. For the first part of class, we taught students how to make a voice-over PowerPoint and let them practice with sample slides. The instructors had prepared an excellent example presentation in Japanese to model what a successful end project should look like; students practiced on this sample, using a well-developed script in Japanese. They were then ready to get working on their projects, with both WIC staff and their instructor there to help.

At the end of the semester, students uploaded their final projects to a Canvas discussion board for their section and were able to view and comment on their classmates’ projects. Students also completed a Google Form survey with questions including: how they liked this assignment, how the technology did or did not improve their language skills, and whether they had known how to do voice-over before this class, among other questions. Many students enjoyed the assignment and thought it was a good way to enhance their speaking and listening skills, while also learning a new feature of PowerPoint that many had not known about before this class. We even got to view an exemplary student video, which we’re hoping to add to our Student Work Showcase.

This experience with voice-over PowerPoint provided a valuable opportunity for both faculty and students to engage with technology for language learning. In Suyu’s words, “This video project allows students to compose their messages in a creative way through ‘multimodal’ communication that includes the textual, aural, and visual resources.” Working with the JPAN 011 faculty and students also provided an excellent example of how WIC fits into library course support from beginning to end.

Here at WIC, we’re seeing more and more video projects crop up in language classes and are excited that we’re building a bank of projects and ideas in this area for all faculty and students to share. If you have an idea for a project involving new media and need a sounding board, we are always happy to help! Feel free to fill out a training request or get in touch with us at and we would be eager to work with your class. Thanks to the JPAN 011 faculty and students for a great fall semester project!

Categories: Pedagogy

‘R’ from a Design Perspective

Hi! I’m Oforiwaa Pee Agyei-Boakye. I’ve been an intern at the Weigle Information Commons since last fall but this is my first blog post. So far, the internship has been exciting as my involvement with educational technology at the Weigle Information Commons connects with my work at the School of Design. The Weigle Information Commons and the Vitale Digital Media Lab support students with their visuals (which is of grave importance to me as a designer) and assist students with up-to-date statistical software programs.

Coming from the School of Design, specifically the City and Regional Planning department, I have explored software including PhotoShop, Illustrator, AutoCad, Indesign, ArcGIS, and R for my projects. Although projects in the School of Design sound like they may be only visual, we engage with statistical data analysis as well.

Over the years, data analysis has evolved through various stages as the volume of data has increased. Technology kept pace with that and developed R; in fact, most data analytics have switched from Excel to R. R is a free open source statistical program with a steep learning curve, and it is getting increasingly popular. It has Mac, Windows and Linux operating system versions. Students and professionals whose work involves lots of data use it extensively. An advantage of R is the fact that it can be used to do increasingly complex models.

In city planning, R is mostly used for data correlation, regression modeling and logit modeling. I used it in my Quantitative Methods classes, Introduction to Transportation Planning last fall, and currently am using it for a Planning by Numbers class this spring. A basic familiarity with descriptive and inferential statistics helps to make better and more effective use of R.

City Planners use it to assess planning and urban policy data in order to address a planning problem or question. Applications of R in City Planning include: (i) analyzing population, economic, and settlement patterns across Metropolitan and Statistical Areas; (ii) understanding the determinants of housing and real estate prices; (iii) understanding mortgage foreclosure patterns; (iv) identifying the characteristics that explain travel behavior and mode choice; (v) identifying the factors contributing to Presidential election wins; and (vi) understanding the determinants of homelessness by metro area.

For example, to analyze Philadelphia housing, rental and real estate demand, R studio will be used to analyze housing and census data. Housing census datasets such as how many Philadelphia residents live more than one person per room, how many structures are dilapidated, or what rent prices run these days, can predict that.

R used to analyze average number of trips across counties in Philadelphia – Delaware Region for various income groups.

The R language is not easy to learn initially, but once you grasp it data analysis is simple. R also integrates nicely with other visual design programs that WIC provides assistance with – from poster creation to PhotoShop and Illustrator, and general help in the Media Lab. The Commons can help with R software support (see library guide!), and custom workshops – or stop by to see our statistics tutor, Doug Allen, for specific questions on Tuesdays and Wednesdays this semester. Be on the lookout for more about R at the Commons this semester!

Categories: Pedagogy

Welcome Wes Martin and Chris Vandegrift

I’ve been waiting until the semester gets going and activity in the lab picks up a bit to start posting, but I want to introduce our newest lab consultants, Wes and Chris.  Please stop by the lab to say hello!

Wes Martin started working in the lab last semester, and filled the position left vacant by Tayarisha Poe.  He comes to us from Connecticut, where he worked as a graphic designer.  He is also a recent graduate of the Art Institute of Washington.

Chris Vandegrift worked both here in the lab and the Music Library previously as a student worker, but he comes to us most recently from SAS Computing. He is a writer and new media artist whose work has been exhibited internationally, and he has also been active as a member of CAMRA. His first day was January 5.

Categories: Pedagogy

Representing the Complexities of War Online: Dyana (Wing) So, C’16 and her summer in Israel

Last summer,  Dyana (Wing) So, a college junior majoring in Visual Studies, visited Israel to work on an IIP summer internship sponsored by Penn. In an interview with Blake Cole and Manda McElrath from SAS Frontiers, she talks about her experience there. She discusses her interest in comparisons between virtuality and virtual reality, and shares how being on social media shaped and reshaped her world view.

While she was in Israel, and as part of her internship duties, she wrote for an online news website,, focusing on technology. She has continued writing for them upon her return, and her latest two pieces are on cyber security and green gardening.

In her video interview, Dyana said that one of the most valuable lessons she learned in the process of her internship is actually how quickly research moves along. In order to further her understanding of virtuality, she read philosophical texts on the definition of virtual. But the virtual itself in the form of social media was moving and changing so rapidly that Dyana observes that research happened much faster than she had expected or was prepared for. She was doing the primary reading for her research, while also monitoring social media, and she discovered much more than she bargained for: the hostilities between Hamas and Israel worsened quickly while Dyana was there. Of the experience, she says:

“being in a foreign place shaped the text I was reading.”

So, apparently, did being on social media during the struggle that happened last summer. The combination of both doing the background reading and seeing things unfold on social media locally led Dyana to her main research question for the summer: How does social media sharing shape the impact of war?

Dyana cites Betaworks’ Girard Lotan as a current practitioner of the social media research model which interests her. Logan wrote a piece about his work in the Huffington Post in July. In “Israel, Gaza, War & Data: Social Networks and the Art of Personalizing Propaganda,” he says of social media:

“Not only is there much more media produced, but it is coming at us at a faster pace, from many more sources. As we construct our online profiles based on what we already know, what we’re interested in, and what we’re recommended, social networks are perfectly designed to reinforce our existing beliefs. Personalized spaces, optimized for engagement, prioritize content that is likely to generate more traffic; the more we click, share, like, the higher engagement tracked on the service. Content that makes us uncomfortable, is filtered out.”

Dyana sums up what she learned from Lotan nicely in her video interview:

“Facebook is a reality space that filters all of our interests.”

Back at Penn in mid-January, Dyana will spend time time puzzling over her experiences in Israel and how it connects with her major. To help her along the way will be skills she learned in our Hoesley Digital Media Literacy Fellowship. Through this fellowship, in coordination with Penn Libraries staff, Dyana designed a personal website. She uses her website to bring together more traditional media pieces with her writing and digital art. She also uses it to blog and connect with the “digital reality” which she’s dedicated herself to studying. My email interview with Dyana follows:


JME: Could you talk more about what virtuality and virtual reality mean in the context of your work?

Dyana: It’s difficult to define virtuality and virtual reality because, as I found in my research, it varies across disciplines. But for the purposes of comparing them, I did have to define the terms. Virtuality is defined as “the state of being enough, relative to reality.” Virtual reality refers specifically to the common conception of games played and human-to-human interactions/exchanges carried out through a digital platform — specifically social media. I consider social media to be a kind of virtual reality because it acts as an extension of real social experiences, as inspired from and in constant reference to real events. It’s the way we communicate and interact; it’s ‘real enough’ that it suffices and thus, it also becomes part of our reality. I used Gaza and Hamas conflict as a case study because it was in this particular conflict where social media interactions not only became part of the real-time war narrative, they were impacting the war experience (the latter was inspired largely from my own experience abroad in Israel while the conflict was taking place).

JME: Why are you interested in digital media in particular?

Dyana:  I am interested in digital media because its dynamism as crowdsourced, manipulated, interactive, rapidly reproduced, and highly adaptive visual content raises interesting questions about the capacity of human digital literacy and what seeing/knowing really means. My major, visual studies, constantly asks these questions and I am personally interested in the ‘cultural’ aspect of vision – how does what we see shape who we are? I was brought up in the digital age, but it was in having worked first in traditional media then transitioning into digital (in design, photography, and video) that I realized how my experience has informed how I read our largely digital world.

JME: Why do you continue to write for even though your internship has ended?

Dyana: I continue to write after NoCamels because I realized how much I enjoy articulating my thoughts and informing others. Writing for NoCamels taught me to be more direct and to write for an audience that wants to learn more. That was very inspiring and it empowered me to polish my areas of interest further and exercise the power of the pen/keyboard — of research and opinion — more. Since NoCamels, my writing (outside of school work) is housed in a currently-private blog where I type up my thoughts and literary reviews of sources and news articles I read. I blog occasionally on my own website but that kind of writing is more personal and reflective towards my own life.

JME: How do you see your major informing your continuing work on social media and virtual reality?

Dyana: Visual Studies informs my work in helping me study areas of interest through a specific lens. On the surface, the sense of sight appears so commonplace and inevitable to the human daily experience that it’s almost negligible. But it’s in the differences of the human mind and how it develops that so many varied perceptions are gleaned from a common viewing experience — whether that is ten people looking at Van Gogh’s Starry Night in person, or whether it’s 100 people responding to a photograph about the conflict between Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces.


Categories: Pedagogy

Join the Early Books Collective!

The Early Books Collective officially begins on Wednesday, January 28, 3:00 p.m and continues on Wednesdays throughout the semester:  Vitale II Media Lab, Kislak Center, 6th Floor, Van Pelt Library. Register in advance or drop in.

We invite undergraduate students (and all interested parties) to join the collective to learn the TEI encoding language and to transcribe the the 17th century text: The Booke of Prittie Conceites–very merry, and very pleasant, and good to be read of all such as doe delight in new and merry conceites.

Why join the collective?

We will be working with the Early English Books Online (the EEBO database) Text Creation Partnership (TCP).  If you are interested in Early Modern or Renaissance studies from any discipline, love books and deciphering unusual print and typography this collective is for you. EEBO is an important database for primary texts from the 15th through 17th century. You’ll become close friends with the “long s” and an expert at deciphering ambiguous spelling and creative abbreviations.

Interested in the digital humanities?  The TEI encoding language is the encoding language used to transcribe and encode the texts in the Text Creation Partnership. This will be a valuable skill for your digital humanities toolbox.

We already mentioned the opportunity to work closely with  16th and 17th century texts–you’ll be reading and recording every word. Enjoy the language and style of early modern English.

Do you enjoy puzzles and challenges? Learning TEI means we’ll be working through problems and being creative with problem solving together.

Finally, make your mark on an important scholarly tool. We’ll be contributing our transcribed text back to the EEBO database and the Text Creation Partnership.

Join us! We’re looking forward to working with you.

Categories: Pedagogy

Got Tableau?

Tableau is a professional-level data visualization and analysis software. It’s easy to learn, easy to use, and 10-100x faster than existing solutions. It represents your data table like a spreadsheet. So if you are familiar with Excel, the way Tableau organizes data will feel adaptive. Once you have imported data into Tableau, you can easily create graphs, filter data dynamically and go deeper into your data with built-in statistics functions.

What makes Tableau so outstanding? It can help people to see and understand their data in a more straightforward way. And more importantly – it is extraordinarily user-friendly. You don’t need to know anything about coding, just simply connect your data with Tableau, then pivot with dimensions and measures, shift between views with drag-and-drop technology to build graphs. Here are some examples!

Personally I like Tableau because of its efficiency and good looks . I have used it to visualize large datasets, which Excel can struggle with. There are always millions of ways to tell stories about your data. Tableau allows you to try different graphs easily. Simply drag your data to the corresponding columns/rows and choose chart types, you can easily get an initial chart for your data. Once you have found an idea you like, Tableau provides various options to polish your chart.

Tableau provides great support on new users. In addition to training videos on their website, they have weekly training sessions on how to visually analyze data. If you have particular questions regarding this software, their online community is prompt to respond.

Try Tableau Public first, it’s powerful and free! What’s even better? If you are a full time student in Penn or at other accredited schools, you can  get a 1-year student license of Tableau Desktop for free! Contact me for a demo – I will be available at the desks of the Weigle Information Commons and Education Commons all semester.

Also, if you are interested in exploring more data visualization tools, Penn Libraries’ Digital Humanities LibGuide can provide your more ideas!

Categories: Pedagogy

Lucky You: A Primer for Next Week’s Workshop “Unexpected Discovery: Serendipity in the Research Process”

Universities abound with stories of serendipity: finding the text that transforms your research while waiting in line to check out books, not cleaning the beaker fast enough and growing a new scientific solution, discovering a surprise letter in a folder in the reading room, leaving your recorder on only to notice later that you hold a previously unheard sound. Researchers collect and prize and share these stories, to guard against the toil scholarly work entails and to remind themselves of the possibilities of breakthrough. Serendipity, it seems, is just what a budding researcher needs to harness.

Training for serendipity might seem like a ridiculous proposition. Isn’t the point of unexpected good luck that it is unexpected? Isn’t the whole proposition of serendipity that we happily stumble upon a new avenue, a new solution, a new vision that was previously not there?

Researchers who study the phenomenon in scientific discovery, innovative scholarship, and creative production resoundingly say, “no.” (See, for example, “Making My Own Luck: Serendipity Strategies and How to Support Them in Digital Information Environments,” by Stephann Makri, Ann Blandford, and Mel Woods, or “I’m feeling lucky: Can algorithms better engineer serendipity in research — or in journalism?” by Liam Andrew.) It turns out that being prepared to make use of the unexpected can be encouraged by our environments and facilitated by our mindsets.

Next week, we are offering a workshop that explores some ways the serendipity can be encouraged within various research resources (Artemis, HathiTrust, StackLife, and the stacks). We’ll talk about serendipitous research encounters and spend the majority of the session exploring various tools that allow for unanticipated insights and outcomes in research.

Unexpected Discovery: Serendipity in the Research Process
Monday, January 26, 2015, 10:30am – 12:00pm
Collab. Classroom, Rm 113, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library
More information and registration (not required):

Categories: Pedagogy

Announcing camra@Penn Fellowships – Apply now!

We’re excited to share a note from our partners at camra@Penn, a great campus organization promoting new media literacies. camra@Penn is accepting applications for the SSMF 2015 Fellows Program from undergraduate and master’s degree students for a January 26 deadline.

The SSMF Fellows Program provides undergraduate scholars and media makers at the University of Pennsylvania with the opportunity to explore and engage multiple media forms for their own research projects with the support and guidance of experienced researchers. Fellows must show interested in an individual media-based project they would like to work on during the program. This can be for a course requirement, an independent project, or a senior thesis.

Each Fellow will become part of the camra community and attend special fellow events during the spring 2015 semester, attend the Media Festival (March 27-28), and work one-on-one with a camra mentor on their projects. In May, Fellows will have the option of submitting their media work in a camra Media Projects Competition. Apply online before January 26.

Categories: Pedagogy

New Semester, More Lynda

In October 2013, we launched a pilot project lending Pro licenses for remote use. We started with 4 licenses to reserve and increased that to 6 after we saw more demand. The licenses are so popular that we now have 10 for remote use every day of the week, in addition to 2 licenses for walk-in use in the Media Lab. You can read more about the borrowing process and check out a license on our remote lending page. offers a great way to complement our in-person WICshops. Almost every topic we teach is available self-service on Lynda. We hope you will take advantage of the extra licenses this spring. Happy learning!

Categories: Pedagogy

New Open Access Publication Requirement for Penn Dissertations

Open access publication at Penn took another step forward recently. Soon, all Penn PhD scholarship will be available not only to people who have access to the Penn Libraries or to a ProQuest subscription, but also the entire world.

In 2014 the Graduate Council of the Faculties in consultation with the Council of Graduate Deans has made a requirement that all Penn dissertations be deposited in ScholarlyCommons. This new requirement will help graduate students market their work to potential employers, ensure the discoverability of graduate student scholarship at Penn, and help to bring Penn into alignment with the policies of many of its peer universities.

According to the new policy, which takes effect in December of 2015, all Penn dissertations must have a print copy deposited in the library and an electronic copy placed both in ProQuest’s Dissertations & Theses database and in ScholarlyCommons’ dissertations series (which has provided students with the opportunity to deposit since 2009). Students also have the option of placing a three year embargo (with possibilities for extension) on releasing their dissertation in ScholarlyCommons.

In order to help students and professors with this new policy the Penn Libraries in collaboration with the Graduate Division of Arts and Sciences has created a new online dissertation manual available at This new site has information about the new policy, guidelines for formatting the dissertation, and copyright concerns.

For more information about or help with the new policy, go to:

Almanac Announcement – Jan. 2015

PennBook Policies

Dissertation Manual Guide

Or e-mail

Categories: Pedagogy

Happy New Website!

A new year, a new website! Take a sneak peek at:

It’s been a long and winding road to get here. We began discussing ways to simplify our website in 2012 at meetings of the WIC Faculty Advisory Group and the WIC Program Partners Group.  In 2013, we integrated search on our blog and website. In 2014, we chose eCity to help us understand the Drupal website platform. They conducted focus groups this summer to identify expectations for the WIC and EC websites. Students, faculty and staff brought us their perspectives. We heard loud and clear the need for a mobile-friendly, visually appealing, responsive website.

Inspired by the designs of the new Penn Libraries website and the Penn Giving website, we began building pages in October. Our graduate student interns helped us with a complex moving process. We go live on January 12.

Our new website synthesizes content across the Weigle Information Commons and the Education Commons. We need your feedback to improve our new site, so please let us know what works and what does not!

Categories: Pedagogy

Touching Old Books, Relieving Stress

For the past two semesters, I’ve been very lucky to work with Michelle Taransky’s two Critical Writing Program (CWP) classes, “The Poem that Changed America” and “Writing by the Numb3rs.”  Not only do I have a personal interest in these literary topics, but working with Michelle and her students has also been a highlight of my time as a librarian at Penn so far. When Michelle and I got to talking about the fantastic rare and special copies of various Beat and Oulipian materials that the Penn Libraries hold, we thought it would be a great idea to bring her students to the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) to actually touch and feel the materials that inspired their research this past semester. So, during reading days and after students submitted their final class assignments, we did just that!

David McKnight, Director of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, presenting materials to the “Writing by the Numb3rs” classes

David McKnight, the Director of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, put together an eclectic set of materials for both class sessions in the historic Lea Library on the 6th Floor of Van Pelt Library.  Materials for the “Howl” class included varied editions of Allen Ginsberg’s poem, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, as well as works from those who influenced Ginsberg and other Beats, including William Blake, Walt Whitman, and William Carlos Williams. All of us got a kick out of some special paraphernalia, including a Beat-inspired cookbook (think recipes with magical mushrooms) and a bumper sticker that says, “HOWL if you <3 City Lights Books,” the independent bookstore in San Francisco where Ginsberg’s “Howl” was first published in 1956.

Students explore primary materials, including postcards and correspondence, in the Oulipo session

For the Oulipo group, David gathered many special materials for the students to browse, including Penn Libraries’ expanding Harry Mathews collection. Not only was David able to tell us so much about the highly selective Oulipo group and their influences, but he was also able to share some anecdotes from his continuing correspondence with Harry Mathews.

The Rare Books sessions exposed students to the concept of materiality and the story behind each individual book, which is ever important to literary and historical studies as works continue to be digitized and collected online. The great thing about the Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s location in the Kislak Center is the possibility of what can happen when you combine old texts with new technologies, especially in the Vitale II Lab where lots of digital humanities scholarship is going on.

Taking the time to hear David’s expert knowledge on these topics and to touch some old books really expanded students’ knowledge of the materials they researched this semester and hopefully helped relieve some finals-time stress in the process. Many thanks to David, John Pollack, and all the folks behind the scenes who helped make these sessions possible!

Categories: Pedagogy

Re:humanities DH Conference

For all undergraduates interested in Digital Humanities, there is a very exciting opportunity coming up to get more involved in the field, have your work showcased, and meet other undergrads and professors who share your DH interests:

Re:Humanities is the first national digital humanities conference of, for, and by undergraduates, now in its fifth year. The conference’s theme for this year is “Save, Share, Self-Destruct.” It is organized by Re:Hum Working Group, comprised of students from Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore Colleges. The group seeks undergraduates who engage with contemporary currents in digital humanities, scholars who both apply digital methodologies in traditional humanities research while posing critical questions about those technologies. As the only national DH conference run by and for students, Re:Humanities explores all aspects of digital scholarship through multimodal approaches.  The conference, this year at Swarthmore College, will take place from April 9-10, 2015.

The group invites all Penn undergrads (especially those interested in Digital Humanities) to submit a proposal on criticisms or projects at all stages. The submission deadline is January 1, 2015 (Midnight GMT).

Please come and talk to us if you need help developing or carrying out an idea.  This is a very exciting opportunity and our staff at WIC would be excited to make appointments and help you with whichever project you choose.

Proposals that are concerned with but not limited to the following are encouraged:

* Criticism of new media technologies and practices

* Archiving of personal and academic texts and literatures through new technologies and media

* Collaboration and solidarity in the digital humanities

* Hybrid practices, interdisciplinary media, and subversion of cultural and political norms

* Intersections between academic research and a public audience

* Public preservation of histories and cultures

* Risk, trial, and error in new media

* Privacy: digital footprints, cloud storage, and Big Data

* Self-destructing data and Do Not Track technology

* Identity as shaped by excessive information or data deprivation

Explore some of our resources here at WIC, on Student Work Showcase, Demystifying the Digital Humanities, Playing Games with Metadata, and the Penn Humanities Forum for ideas.

For updates, stay connected on Twitter, Facebook  and check out the video from last year’s event

Categories: Pedagogy

Hoesley Networking Mixer

Hoesley students and WIC staff gather at a networking dinner.

We learned about each other’s career aspirations at the Hoesley Networking Mixer on December 5. Students in this year’s cohort presented drafts of their professional websites, and gathered suggestions from administrators from around campus, including the WIC Program Partners Group. We reflected on the challenge of self-introductions in different contexts – What do you include? What do you emphasize? What do you skip over? How do you present yourself and judge the context you find yourself in? All these questions are important regardless of one’s age or years of experience.

Students had used WordPress and Squarespace for their sites, and experimented with photos, videos, 3D molecule models and musical interpretations. Seeing each other’s work on the big screen was inspirational! We look forward to our students publishing their websites in the months ahead.

Categories: Pedagogy

It’s Elf Week

Join us today (and, frankly, probably every day this week) in the Vitale Digital Media Lab for our annual viewing of Elf.  If you have other holiday-themed movies you’d like to watch, bring them in and we’ll do our best to add them to the queue.

This fantastic image comes from Scott Campbell’s excellent “Great Showdowns” blog.

Categories: Pedagogy

Active and Collaborative Learning

Teaching social media tools in the Collaborative Classroom

Having researched learning spaces over the past couple of years, and having taught some active and collaborative workshops of my own in Van Pelt Library’s new Collaborative Classroom, I’ve become more interested in how faculty are using active learning classrooms (ALCs) to better engage students with each other and with course material. This semester, I was lucky enough to do a number of active-learning-related things: present about Penn Libraries’ Collaborative Classroom together with Sam Kirk at a local conference, travel to another university to learn about how their ALCs work, and observe active learning right here in our own Collaborative Classroom.

In September, Sam Kirk and I presented at the annual PaLA Conference in Lancaster on the evolution of learning spaces in academic libraries. Particularly, we highlighted spaces at Penn Libraries, including WIC, the EC, and the new Collaborative Classroom. We talked about our experiences working with both technology and patrons in these spaces, and most importantly, how you can engage in active learning even if you don’t have a formal active learning space.

Our audience members hailed from both public and academic libraries alike.  They engaged in some active learning themselves in our session to imagine their own ideal library learning spaces. It was great to learn how other libraries are re-imagining traditional library spaces to accommodate new teaching and learning methodologies.

Medium-sized ALC at the University of Minnesota

Also in September, I had the special opportunity, together with staff members from all around Penn, of visiting the University of Minnesota’s Science Teaching & Student Services center (STSS), which features 14 active learning classrooms of various sizes (from those that seat 27 to those that seat 171). During just a few hours at the university, our group toured each size classroom, spoke with university administrators about classroom use, effects on student learning and engagement, ways the university has assessed student outcomes in active learning classrooms, and observed a 130-person introductory biology class.

In the biology class, about 15 tables of 9 students worked on an “inquiry,” which involved annotating a diagram of DNA replication. Each group worked together to draw the figure on their whiteboard and collectively annotate it, with certain group members assigned to transcribe, look up information on the computer, and touch base with the instructors and TAs. It was fascinating to see the groups work within their tables, across tables, and even to answer their own questions as they went through this active learning process. To finish, all groups took a picture of their diagram and emailed it to the professor, who then selected one picture to share with the class and analyze.

One of the most important takeaways from this active learning observation included students’ accountability for group work. Because group work is such a large part of each student’s grade, measured by in-class quizzes, peer-reviews, and end-of-term evaluations, students feel a collective responsibility to ensure that all work produced is of high quality. One instructor reported that students will even call each other out if anyone in the group is texting or on Facebook when they need to be paying attention (sounds like every instructor’s dream come true!).

Here at Penn Libraries, my active learning experiences this semester culminated in observing Dr. Cathy Turner’s English class, “Modern America.” My involvement in Cathy’s class started at the beginning of the semester when she requested using WIC’s iPads each week so that students could collectively edit poetry in a class Google Drive account, project it on the whiteboard walls, and annotate over it with marker (Cathy has also used our iPads for collaborative learning in past courses). This was Cathy’s first semester teaching in the classroom, and she also experimented with other collaborative text-annotation tools, including Annotation Studio, with the help of subject librarian Sam Kirk.

Students finding and projecting advice columns from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle

During the class I observed, students used laptops at each table to find and then project onto the whiteboards advice columns from the Brookyln Daily Eagle in the early-1930s. Tapping into actual printed material acted as a way for the students to shed more social and cultural context on their current reading assignment, Nathanael West’s novel Miss Lonelyhearts.  Students rotated around each table reading each others’ discoveries and contemplating connections to the novel, including similarities and differences in tone, topic, language and authenticity. Then, in their groups, the students brainstormed general social/cultural/political themes that pervaded the actual Brooklyn Daily Eagle advice columns, and how these connected to issues West highlights in Miss Lonelyhearts.

I had such a great time participating in Cathy’s class and am very grateful to her and her students for inviting me! It was fantastic to see how active learning is working right here in Van Pelt Library, especially in a humanities class, and it gave me lots of ideas to incorporate into my future workshops and research. I’d say my active participating in active learning did increase my own understanding of these topics, a “meta” experience not uncommon in active learning pedagogy!

Categories: Pedagogy
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