Socializing with Social Media

(From left: Pam Harris of Swarthmore College Libraries, and Illene Rubin and Mallika Sircar of Penn Libraries)

Back in June at PhillyDH@Penn, I presented a workshop called “Social Media Tech Tools,” which provided a show-and-tell of six different social media tools that we use here at WIC and some tips about using social media to engage our audiences. The workshop took place in Van Pelt Library’s new Collaborative Classroom, which encourages flipped classroom and active learning methods via the room setup and technology. The room is also conducive to socializing as folks are collaborating and moving around the room, making it an ideal space to discuss social media.

One PhillyDH@Penn attendee, Pam Harris, Head of Reference at Swarthmore College Libraries, came to my workshop and thought it would be great for her staff members to take a summer field trip to Penn Libraries, see the Collaborative Classroom, and learn more about using social media effectively. So, this week, we did just that! We opened the workshop to Penn Libraries staff members as well, so that we could do some cross-institution sharing and socializing while discussing social media. Pam and seven of her staff members ventured out to Van Pelt Library, and we had a great time talking about social media tools. We kicked off the workshop with a bit of pre-workshop homework – a quiz called “Can You Tell What Makes a Good Tweet?” posted recently in the New York Times. The quiz encouraged us to ask and discuss the following questions: What makes an effective tweet? How can we create more content-heavy tweets without overwhelming our audiences? How can we better reach our respective audiences via creative content using various social media platforms?

While my presentation focused on specific examples of how we use social media at WIC, the floor opened up to examples of how Swarthmore Libraries and Penn Libraries staff members use social media for different purposes. We then did some structured “playing” with various tools; we rotated around the classroom tables every 5 minutes (enforced by the infamous Penn Libraries gong!), working on collaborative activities: using the world map on Flickr; testing new features in Instagram; creating a library spaces board on Pinterest; creating a story of choice on Storify; and using Mentionmapp with Twitter. Each group was very engaged and learned new things from each other by working through the activities.

(From left: Terry Heinrichs, Annette Newman, and Jessica Brangiel, Swarthmore Libraries)

(Mindy Weinberg and Manuel De La Cruz Gutierrez, Penn Libraries)

One lesson learned in the workshop is that social media is ever-changing. Even if your library or organization has a social media management system in place, platforms change and new features are added, which makes it hard to keep up with handling various accounts. We discussed that instead of joining every social media platform out there, it’s best for an organization to pick a few and devote time and resources to them. Sometimes, this is easier said than done, and one takeaway from the workshop was clear: we all struggle with strategies for handling social media in one way or another. If we have the attitude that we’re all in this together, we can learn from each other to figure out which tools and strategies work best for creating interesting content and reaching our target audiences.

Thanks to Pam Harris and the Swarthmore College Libraries and Penn Libraries staff members for making this workshop so enjoyable!

Categories: Pedagogy

You do you.

This guest post by Kelli Liu, a sophomore from southern California majoring in biology and Apple campus representative, describes her thoughts on software upgrades.

Like many people, I am a creature of habit and I often find myself resistant to changes unless I find them absolutely necessary. This aspect of change is extremely applicable to my life when it comes to updating my life technologically. Everyday I am bombarded with my apps, email, and softwares notifying me that my current version is outdated and that I must update immediately. However, I often become really comfortable with the structure of a software, app, or email format that I am using, and I find that often times when I update I regret the decision immediately. New updates are certainly nice and more developed, but sometimes they are not better for me.

So how can we know whether or not we are ready for an update without passing that point of no return? Apple just recently announced the launch of iOS 8 this fall, and like many people, I’m wondering—should I update?

Updates bring many changes, but the most sensitive and visible effect is the display and organization of the software. A company certainly finds their updates to be beneficial for the consumer, but sometimes I feel better off and more comfortable with an older version. Download speeds and more search options aren’t going to feel like a big change, but faced with an new interface, one will either love or hate the new version of their software.

For example, an update can go two ways:

  1. Too simple to more advanced and functional (like an app, for me my banking application, that felt a little outdate finally upgraded to include features that you’ve been waiting for, like finally being able to transfer funds between accounts on my phone, etc.)
  2. Perfectly functional to too complex with unnecessary additions (like my email or Facebook, which for me created new updates that didn’t make the interface any better, just more complex and harder to navigate).

For many people, updating from iOS6 to iOS7 was the latter. This fall, Apple announced it launch of iOS 8. It’s been advertised to include top of the line features, graphics, and demands; however, these new additions might just feel like extra fluff.

Whatever you decide to do in the fall, to update or not to update, I prompt you to consider this—the change in cloud compatibility and more sharing isn’t going to affect the way you use your phone—the change in the design will.

If you aren’t happy with a more complex interface fraught with shortcuts, new built in apps (the ones you can’t remove), and more swiping options—don’t update.

If you hated the update from iOS7—you probably shouldn’t update (especially if you finally became accustomed to iOS7)

If you are ready for something new and more complex—then you should update.

You do you.

Categories: Pedagogy

Symposium 2014 Brainstorm

Undergraduate Student Panel 2014

Please mark your calendars for October 31, 2014 for the 2014 Engaging Students Through Technology Symposium and join us for two open brainstorming sessions to plan the day:

Our annual symposium is designed for faculty. Last year, we brought together people from 11 of the 12 schools at Penn, and students reflected on their experiences with the “flipped classroom”.

For the morning, we plan an undergraduate student panel and a faculty panel, each with no more than five presenters. For the afternoon, we plan small group discussions, presentations, demonstrations and hands-on workshops.

We would like to identify broad themes as well as hot tech ideas. We are in search of thoughtful questions to ask our student panel. What should we take on this year? Join the conversation!

Categories: Pedagogy

Serious Gaming

What is a “serious” game?  Up until about a year ago, I didn’t really know what it meant, and kind of thought it sounded like an oxymoron.  Since then, I have been researching and making serious games–you can find my first one here.  At some point in your life, you’ve probably been in the midst of a task and realized you or someone else had turned it into a game.  Maybe your mom tricked you into thinking raking the leaves was a game by telling you and your brother that whoever got the most leaves into a pile the fastest would win.  Maybe your boss gave out points for a job well done in an employee of the month competition.  As a Penn Freshman, you may remember competing in a scavenger hunt during the Library Social here at Van Pelt Library.  Have you ever come across a game and got the feeling there was more going on than just fun?  If you answered no, odds are that will change soon.  Serious games include any game with a goal beyond pure entertainment, and they are making appearances in all kinds of places–especially digital games.

Sure, serious games include the chores game your mom made up and playing The Oregon Trail at your elementary school computer lab when you were 8.  But the goal doesn’t have to be chores or education.  Advergames are basically game version of advertisements, like the Chester the Cheetah platformer–if it got somebody to associate Cheetos with fun, then mission accomplished.  (Of course this may have backfired because that game was the worst).  Newsgames can offer interactive documentaries as a way to absorb current events.

If you’re not sure if a game is really a game, it’s probably a serious game.  Some empathy building and political games are meant to convey the perspective of another in a more powerful way through asking the user to try out making the decisions in the life of someone else, like in Darfur is Dying.  Others seek to use a larger community than what would be found otherwise for some really impressive advancements –just look at Foldit, which asks users to figure out ways to fold proteins properly.  When players get all the way up to folding proteins that modern biological science had yet to figure out how to fold, some players have actually made significant scientific advancements by solving the puzzle of folding the proteins.

Sometimes the game’s purpose is not obvious.  Persuasive games like the recruitment games for the U.S. army certainly qualify as serious games, but this is a space that lends itself to ambiguity.  Is Call of Duty a persuasive game?  It could also be seen as an army-recruitment-type game, complete with revisions of history in which America is constantly the scrappy underdog.

And of course, the educational game has come a long way since The Oregon Trail.  Sure, a lot of us have fond memories of fording rivers and hunting way more buffalo than we could carry (seriously, why couldn’t the rest of my party come help carry the food back to the wagon?).  But did anyone actually learn anything?  I’m pretty sure I learned that Independence Rock was a thing and that dysentery was pretty scary, but like many of these early educational video games, they were either more fun or more educational.  Modern educational games are trying to strike a balance, harnessing the motivational power of playing a game for fun with the learning potential involved in figuring out how to play something.  Since you have to learn to play a game better and better in order to advance (if it’s designed well anyway), if the gameplay action is something educational, you’re bound to learn something.  Good game design relies on making the learning process of improving gameplay skills as easy on the player as possible, which can make for some pretty great educational opportunities.

So if you are interested in how learning happens, you may be interested in checking out serious games.  If you’re interested in making a game here at Penn, make sure to check out the Computer Graphics and Game Technology graduate program, Penn Apps or Professor Kevin Werbach of Wharton’s work on gamification, including the gamification courses LGST 240 and LGST 640 (the former for undergrads, the latter for MBA and grad students) and this very popular Coursera class.  Outside of Penn, the Games for Change community would likely be happy to have you, and make sure to check out the smaller indie games cropping up these days–there are some pretty great innovations coming from individual and small groups of game makers, and they often include some great serious game options.  If you’re interested in turning something into a game, or making your first game from scratch, feel free to stop by Weigle Information Commons to chat with me.

Personally, I like making educational games (like this one for learning physics–note that you’ll have to install Unity Web Player, a free extension), but whatever game you want to make, we’ll figure out a way to get you started.  No programming or art skills required.

Categories: Pedagogy

Free Website Platforms: WIX and Weebly

If you’re thinking of creating a website and not sure where to start, this is the blog post for you. Fortunately, we live in a time where you no longer have to know everything about how to code your own website scripting with HTML, CSS, PHP, etc. You can use a content management platform! Content management platforms allow you to build a full website, directly in your browser without any prior knowledge of website development.  Even better, there are free content management platforms (which allow you to do a lot, without having to bump up to the premium packages with additional features), such as WIX and Weebly.

If you’re just getting started and looking for a free content management platform, you may have heard names such as WixWeeblyWebswebnode or squarespace. I myself use WIX to host my personal portfolio (click here to see my WIX website).  I’ve also used Weebly (through the web-hosting site ReadyHosting) to create the website for Peter A Rotella Corporation, a construction company in upstate New York. You can create a website as your personal portfolio, as I have; you can create a website to host your artwork and photography with links to your Etsy page or DeviantART account; you can even use these content management platforms as venues to host your blog (although, for more personal things you may want to go through the WordPress or Tumblr routes).   While you may have a different purpose for creating a website, it is important to note that working with these tools creates good results, even though they’re free.



  • WIX can help you create beautiful and professional websites. WIX is a very design-centered platform, created in mind with those who have an image or a mood that they want to convey through their website, be it through color schemes or background, which may add a certain level of appeal to your website.  Some of these pre-made templates are much more beautiful and detailed than what you get from other content management platforms.  If you’re not the creative type and need help in building a beautiful design, Wix’s pre-made templates will help you get started.
  • WIX offers a lot of flexibility with ability to place images, text and buttons wherever you want on each page of your website. I love the variety of ways in which you can customize what you are doing to your webpage through WIX.


  • With so many options, and ability to put any text box or image anywhere, it is easy to make a page cluttered, or to put inappropriate text colors over clashing backgrounds. There are so many options that it might be difficult to figure out what you want and where to find it.
  • Once you’ve picked a template and begun using it in WIX, you can’t switch to another template. A way to get around this is to explore multiple templates before choosing one, but it’s still less than ideal.
  • Compared to the Weebly, it is more difficult to work directly with a support representative to answer your questions.

On-Site help
WIX offers good support for their website creation platforms – which is ideal, because WIX can be used to do some not-so-basic things.

WIX offers a tab for everything to do with the WIX-editor, which covers topics from editing tools, to adding in WIX apps into your website. WIX offers walk-through videos, and a descriptive walk-through for each topic. This support page also gives you in-depth information on managing your website.

(click here to see WIX’s support page)


  • Weebly is clean, simple, and professional. Weebly offers a simple click and drag interface that allows you to create a professional website very quickly. You really don’t have to be too critical about the formatting of the locations of your newly added text boxes or images, as Weebly auto adjusts the spacing between any divided section. In this way, it adds a sort of “smart” design assistance, which can help prevent your website from becoming too cluttery).
  • If you are not familiar with website design, Weebly offers more structure than WIX. Also, their on-site help is a little bit more “easy access.” If you decide halfway through your project that you don’t like the template that you’re using very much, it’s easy to pick another template without starting all over.
  • I love the storefront option offered though Weebly, which allows you to connect with Paypal directly through your webpage, and to format your storefront creatively.


  • I would not recommend Weebly if you want a highly personalized website. Weebly offers somewhat limited customization options, especially for different themes, which may not offer any color or design customization. I’ve tested out a lot of templates in order to get just-the-right-one for Rotellacorp, and there are a few free templates that hardly allow any color preference adjustments.

On-Site help
Getting help with Weebly is really easy (click here to see Weebly’s support page)

Weebly offers simple, easy to follow walk-through assistance for everything from moving a set of columns to custom HTML embeded widgets. There are even training videos, and live chat options.

All in all, WIX and Weebly are both great website platforms. There are things I like better about WIX, but I definitely think that Weebly  makes web-design totally painless. When it comes down to it, you really need to experiment with either or both and see what you like.

If you’re interested in finding more about WIX or Weebly, join me at an upcoming WICshop. On July 17th, from 2-3:30pm there will be a hands on workshop where we will be using WIX (sign up here). One July 21, from 2-3:30pm there will be a hand on workshop where we will be using Weebly (sign up here).

Keep in mind that we don’t have to publish anything that we create at these workshops, but you certainly can! If you have any questions regarding these or any other content management platforms, please feel free to ask me (Allison Snyder), or stop by the WIC desk!

Categories: Pedagogy

Flipping the Classroom: A WIC Year in Review

Each year, Penn Libraries holds a Pecha Kucha event as the culmination of the year’s Public Services Forum meetings.  The event provides librarians a chance to share research, past projects, or new ideas for the upcoming year.  This year, I decided to do my 20×20 presentation on my experiences with video tools for flipping the classroom over the past year at WIC.  In particular, I focused on our work with educators at the Penn Language Center (PLC) in conjunction with their Certificate in Instructional Technologies and Online Learning.  After working with PLC language educators over the past year, we also enjoyed viewing the outcomes of their projects in May at the PLC Annual Teaching and Showcase Award Program.

Such projects have inspired us to host new events, like Scholarship, De-Printed, and offer new workshops on flipped classroom and other audio/video tools for showcasing online teaching and research.  It’s also tempted us to look back on the various video projects we have participated in with language classes and document these in a publication that we’re working on for the CALICO Book Series.

Please take a look at my presentation above to see our adventures this past year in flipped classroom tools at WIC (spoiler alert – my Prezi recording goes over the strict 5 minutes for Pecha Kucha!).

Categories: Pedagogy

Fab Four Needed!

We are looking for four fabulous graduate students to take WIC and EC into the new academic year. All four positions (two at WIC and two at EC) require a one-year commitment of 20 hours per week. Our interns do everything – they teach workshops, write for PennWIC, staff the WIC desk and the EC desk, and help with a variety of technologies. They participate in library chat assistance and reference desk assistance. This page and the video below (made by Nancy Bellafante a few years back) describe what we do and why you would want to join all of us! See application details.



Categories: Pedagogy

Summer Digital Scholarship Workshops in July and August

Originally posted on The Thread:

Keep current with developing research methods and tools with our summer offering of Digital Scholarship Workshops.

All workshops are at noon and, unless noted, are held in the 6th floor seminar rooms of the Kislak Center in Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center.

Coming up right away on July 15 (Tuesday)
Practical Open Access – History, examples of copyright agreements and licensing options. Presented by Shawn Martin and Dot Porter. Learn more and register

July 16 (Wednesday) Meyerson Conference Center
Omeka Overview – A Guided Tour of Omeka presented by Dot Porter. Learn more and register.

July 22 (Tuesday)
Choosing the Right Exhibit Software – Join Nick Okrent and Katie Rawson to learn how to present your scholarship to the best advantage. Bring your ideas and suggestions.  Learn more and register.

August 12 (Tuesday)
Mind Mapping and Beyond - Manuel De la Cruz Gutierrez and Molly Des Jardins will lead you…

View original 21 more words

Categories: Pedagogy

Using Master Pages in InDesign

Master Pages are meant to make your time in InDesign a bit easier, but if you don’t know what they are, or what they’re for, then you’d better believe that they just complicate things! Hence, this post: how to use master pages in InDesign. The first thing to know is that a Master Page is essentially a template page that you can create within your document. By default, you have a blank Master Page, and it’s called Master A. All of the pages that you make in InDesign, unless otherwise arranged, follow the template of Master Page A, and since Master Page A is blank, all new individual pages are also blank until you add things to them.

Now, what happens if we add a border around Master Page A? To edit the Master Page, double click the page greyed out below.

Because I am working in spreads, my Master A is also a spread. I will add distinctly different borders to the left and right side so that we can see the difference between them.

As page 1 is a single page, rather than a spread, it only shows the border of the Master A right side!

Master Pages are a quick and easy way to add header and footer titles, borders, and other fun design elements to your documents. I encourage using them to make different styles of pages for your publications.

Categories: Pedagogy

Don’t let others mess up your spreadsheet!

There are two kinds of Excel users – administrators and simple users.

Sometimes, a spreadsheet will be a classified document that should only be shown to certain people. Sometimes, you have to put considerable effort into an Excel template with all the nice and tidy formatting and complex formulas, and you will not want others to make any changes without notifying you. In either case, a password can help with that!

Secure your spreadsheet with a password
  • While you are saving an Excel file, go to the File tab - Save as
  • Find the Tools button in the bottom and choose General Options
  • If you want to require that others need a password to view your spreadsheet, add a password in Password to open
  • If you want to require that others need a password to edit your spreadsheet,  add a password in Password to modify
Note: If you unfortunately forget your password, there is no easy way to get your data back. You can Microsoft Excel’s official warning here. Lock certain cells with a password
  • Right-click on the cell you want to protect and choose Format Cells
  • Under Protection tab, check the box before Locked

  • Then go to Review tab, click on Protect Sheet or Protect Workbook

  • Add a password to protect the sheet or workbook

  • After all of this, when you go back to edit the selected cell, you will see a warning like this:

  • Whenever you want to unlock the cell, just go back to Review tab, and choose Unprotect Sheet or Unprotect Workbook

As always, if  you have questions about this or other aspects of Excel, please stop by the Weigle Information Commons during my Excel office hours, and I will help to troubleshoot your problem!

Categories: Pedagogy

Learning Space Design

Last week, I had the rare opportunity to facilitate a webinar on learning space design with Joan Lippincott, Henry Myerberg and Jeanne Narum. After the live WebEx webinar, I recorded my comments with a PowerPoint voiceover.

A wonderful side-effect was the chance to reconnect with colleagues. Marjorie Hassen, Director of the Bowdoin College Library, shared her insights with me about the planning for the Weigle Information Commons, the Education Commons and the Collaborative Classroom. Jeff Douthett at Classroom Technology Services  reflected on space renovations around Penn and gave me a great sound bite for a future webinar when describing the disconnect between reality and hype: “You can’t strap a motor on a tricycle and call it a Harley.”

John MacDermott from SAS Computing and I talked about the active learning classrooms sprouting around campus this year. John recorded audio clips in response to my questions:

How did you explore user needs? (3 min)

What technology and furniture choices did you consider during planning? (1.5 min)

What factors affected your decisions? (1 min)

Any surprises along the way? (2 min)

Any suggestions for colleagues? (2 min)

In a live teaching situation, I gauge engagement by head gestures, smiles and eye contact. In a webinar, I end up wondering how it felt to be in the audience.

As in past experience, I found presenting this webinar unsettling. At one point, there were 100 locations that joined us. The concept that so many could hear my voice and see my slides while invisible to me did not feel natural. Fortunately, Jeanne, John and Henry kept the conversation light, helping break my sense of isolation.

When I teach in person, I rarely write a script or time myself. For this webinar, I edited and timed my script so many times!

Do you share my reactions to teaching online? Do let me know in your comments.


Categories: Pedagogy

World Cup on the Big Screen

Working on your media project but don’t want to miss the big game? No problem! Join us in the Vitale Digital Media Lab this afternoon to watch South Korea vs. Belgium in the World Cup on the big screen while you work!  The lab closes at 7:00pm tonight.

Categories: Pedagogy

From 2002 to 2014: An Odyssey

Please take a minute to help us on our journey. This poll will close in a few days.

In May, we invited you to share your ideas in focus groups. Many of you joined us for some great conversations. One undergraduate student commented, “The WIC website looks like it was created in 2002!” For those of us who have been around since the 1960′s, this did not seem too bad. But clearly this is not good enough. We have more than a decade to catch up on.

Your responses will help us reconsider the structure for the WIC and EC websites. Please share this call for feedback widely!

Categories: Pedagogy

Congrats to Video Contest Winners 2014!

We congratulate the winners of the 2014 Make a Point Video Contest!

  • First Prize: WE by MengXi Cissy Tan
  • Second Prize: The Most Astounding Fact by Kaitlyn Danielle Levesque
  • Third Prize: Iconography & Fantasy by Daniel Haun
  • Popular Choice Award: Upenn Happy Video by Aditya Narayan

View the winners online.

We thank our judging panel of faculty, staff, students and alumni, and the many faculty who encouraged their students to participate in our annual contest.

Online Voting Results:

  • Upenn Happy Video: 99
  • Live the Life You Want to Live: 57
  • The Most Astounding Fact: 53
  • Children of Hope: 37
  • WE: 36
  • Iconography and Fantasy: 25

Categories: Pedagogy

Printing a booklet in InDesign

If you’re making a booklet in InDesign, then you’re already on the right track. Don’t worry about rearranging your pages so that they print in the correct order when folded, instead, make your document in normal sequential order (1, 2, 3, etc) and then follow the directions below to print it in booklet format.

This is my six page booklet. 

If you’re printing directly from InDesign, simply navigate down to “Print Booklet” in the File menu.

In most cases your default settings are fine.

This is the visual difference between saddle stitch and perfect bound (thanks to Clear Print!):

Navigate to the Preview panel, and select Print Settings.

Within that window, choose “Printer”.

Now you can turn on double-sided printing.

Make sure you have short-edge binding selected as well!

This is your end result:


Go forth, booklet makers!

PS: If you’re not printing from InDesign, simply export a PDF of your document and print from Adobe Acrobat! They have a much simpler booklet printing option.

Categories: Pedagogy

Welcome to Allison Snyder

Please welcome Allison Snyder who is staffing the WIC Desk through the summer. Allison comes to us from Binghamton University’s Bartle Library, where she was a collection development intern. She is a SUNY graduate with a background in Business, and has just completed her Masters in Library Science from Simmons College’s  Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Please stop by to say hi and introduce yourself!

Allison will soon join our Program Intern Xuanyao Cindy Jiang in presenting Excel training.


Categories: Pedagogy

Got Audio?

So you want to work with audio?  Well, we’ve probably got what you need. This post contains a rundown of useful audio equipment you can borrow from the Vitale Digital Media Lab.

Also, here are a couple tips to keep in mind while you’re using the equipment:
1. Record the best sound you can.  It’s a lot harder to fix sound after it’s already been recorded.
2. Familiarize yourself with the equipment and practice recording with it before using it on a critical project.

Maybe you want to borrow headphones so you can watch that video in Canvas or on YouTube without disturbing the guy at the next table in the library.  We also highly recommended connecting headphones to your videocamera or audio recorder while recording so you can monitor the sound that your device hears and make any adjustments if necessary. Headsets
Add a microphone and a USB connection to headphones, and you’ve got a headset. These are great for Skype and FaceTime.
You can also connect one of these to your PS3 and talk to your team mates while you play Call of Duty. There’s a volume control on the USB cable itself, and you can mute the microphone by clicking the center button (if the blue or red light is blinking, you’re muted). You might need to change your system’s sound preferences to use the headset both for input (the microphone) and output (the earphones)

We lend a few different types of microphone:

This is a table-top USB microphone that plugs into your computer (or iPad, if you bought Apple’s USB camera connector kit!).  It does not connect to our video cameras.  The Snowball mics generally provide considerably better sound quality than the built-in mic on your laptop computer.
[] Shure SM58
The Shure SM58 is probably the most popular vocal microphone on the planet.  It’s a professional quality cardioid dynamic mic best used for vocals—both live performance and studio recording—but also perfectly suitable for micing musical instruments or drums. The SM58 has an XLR connector—not the 1/8”, 1/4”, or USB connections that you’re probably familiar with.  If you need a microphone for a PA system on campus, it’s likely to require a mic with an XLR connection.  We also have a microphone stand (with a boom) for the SM58 that we lend separately.
[] Shotgun
Shotgun microphones are good at picking up the sounds directly in front of them, while blocking out much of the sound to the sides and rear.  The ideal situation is not to record in a noisy environment to begin with, but sometimes you don’t have a choice, and a shotgun mic is one of the things you can use to limit the noise on your recording.  Also, sometimes you can’t get a microphone right in front of your sound source—for example you want to video tape someone but you don’t want them to hold a microphone.  Currently we have Azden SGM-DSLR shotgun mic, and these are a good choice if you need an off-camera microphone from a relatively short distance (3-8 feet or so).  These use LR-44 button batteries, so remember to turn them off when you’re not using them.
[http://www/]   Boundary Mics
We have 2 omni-directional boundary mics, purchased at the suggestion of a lab user.  Both have XLR connectors, but we’ve included a Blue Icicle in each kit so that you can also connect them to the USB port on your computer.  Lindsey and I tested these when we got them, and although we preferred the sound quality of the Zoom audio recorders, these boundary mics do a better job than the built-in mic on your laptop.  They’re a good choice if you looking for something to place in the middle of a table and record a meeting, for example.  We have a Shure MX393 and an Audio-Technica U841a.
[]   Wireless Lavalier Mics
We get a lot of requests for these.  It’s tough to find a reasonably priced wireless microphone system that uses standard 1/8” (3.5mm) plugs.  This is a good consumer-grade product that does a great job in most situations, with a range of 200 feet under ideal circumstances (no walls, interference, etc.) It comes with a transmitter, which you attach to the microphone, and a receiver, which you connect to the microphone port of your videocamera/audio recorder/computer/etc.  Both are powered by AA batteries, so remember to turn them off when not in use to conserve battery life. This kit comes with both a lavalier/lapel mic that you can clip to a speaker’s shirt and a handheld mic.  You can use one or the other, but not both simultaneously.


Zoom Audio Recorders
I love these guys. I personally own 3 different models and use them all. The lab lends several models.  All of them make excellent recordings. They’re all stand-alone recorders (meaning you don’t need a computer or other device to use them) but they can also act as external USB microphones.  And all offer up to 24bit 96k audio recording in wav or mp3.

  The Zoom H1 is the simplest to use. It’s also light-weight and small enough to slip into your pocket. Push the button to start recording, and then push it again to stop.  Most of the important settings are controlled by well-labelled switches on the device itself rather than bring located in a menu system the way they are in the H2 and H4.  Get about 10 hours of battery life from a single AA battery.
[]   The Zoom H2 and H2n are my go-to all-purpose recorders.  The only time they don’t deliver is when I need an XLR input. Two AA batteries.  I’m not in love with the menu system in these or in the H4n, but you’ve got to put all those features somewhere.  If you’re not sure which recorder to borrow, go with one of these. After you push the record button, make sure you seen the time counting up so that you know you’re really recording.
[]   The Zoom H4n has 2 phantom-powered XLR jacks (to use with microphones like the Shure SM-58 mentioned elsewhere in this post) and two 1/4” jacks which let you connect your electric guitar or bass directly to the recorder.  You can also use the H4 as an audio interface between your sound source (microphone, instrument, etc.) and your Mac or PC.  The H4n is overkill for most people’s recording needs.  It also eats up batteries like crazy, so bring extra AA’s and/or plug it in while you’re using it.

Here are a few other audio related items you can borrow from the lab

  Blue Icicle
The Blue icicle has a single purpose: to allow you to plug an XLR mic into a USB port.  It includes a small volume control knob, and it provides phantom power to condenser microphones. No driver required.
[]   Midi keyboard
The Oxygen8 is a great little keyboard. It has 25 velocity-sensitive keys. It requires only the included USB cable to power it but can also be powered by 6 AA batteries (not included).  It has 2 MIDI out jacks to connect to MIDI devices from your computer or as a stand-alone controller.  Please note that this is not a stand-alone keyboard.  To generate music it needs to be attached to your computer or to a MIDI device.
[]   Software
In the lab, we have GarageBand, Adobe Audition, and Audacity.  GarageBand comes free on every Mac computer, and Audacity is free to download for both Mac and PC.  Audition is more powerful, but since it comes as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud, it’s not cheap, so using it here in the library is a great (and free) option.  We can also help you out with your project if you get stuck while using any of this software.

You can get help and find more info about borrowing our equipment at

All current Penn students, faculty, and staff are eligible to borrow from us.
We’re eager to hear your feedback, so please let us know if you have any suggestions on how we can improve the system further.

Also, I’m always interested in knowing if there are there other things you’d like to see us lend!

Categories: Pedagogy

Student Panel Highlights

Now that the dust has settled on another academic year and we begin preparations for fall, it’s useful to look back and reflect on what we’ve learned. This past November, students gathered for a panel discussion at the Engaging Students Through Technology Symposium facilitated by Urban Studies faculty member Andrew Lamas Together, they explored which new media teaching strategies work best, how to build a better classroom, the ways in which education might evolve, and much more.

At one point, the panel debated over what level of quality videos should be in order to be truly helpful in the classroom. This discussion is particularly useful to teachers wondering what it is that students are looking for in supplementary digital content.

Later, Michelle Ho made some daring statements about the future of pedagogy that may shock some viewers. Her vision of the future may seem like science fiction–a dream or a nightmare depending on your point of view. Please feel free to share your reactions in the comments section!

We’ve edited clips from the panel into a YouTube playlist with more thoughts from the panel, so take a look and keep the discussion going!

Categories: Pedagogy

Mashup Contest Memories

The editors of the Penn Libraries e-newsletter (check out the latest issue) invited me recently to add my voice. I tweaked the “You’ve Got to Read This” feature into “You’ve Got to Watch This” so folks could vote up their favorites before June 16 for the Popular Choice Award for Video Contest 2014. We will announce the contest winners next Friday at PhillyDH@Penn 2014.

The conversations brought back good memories. Over the years, our campus contests have drawn national attention to individual works of student creativity. The contest entries are sometimes serious, sometimes funny, often quirky and always surprising. Some students who create videos for our contests study digital media, while others are in disciplines where it would be unusual to make a video for a course. For this latter group, the contest can provide a creative outlet and an opportunity to explore something they might not have tried otherwise.

A panel of students, faculty and alumni, led by Peter Decherney, professor of Cinema Studies and English, selects the winners each year. Online voting fuels the Popular Choice Award. We award $500 worth of equipment to the first-place winner and interview them about how they made their video. I find these reflections as interesting as the entries.

Several videos featured first on our contest pages have moved to a larger stage:

All of this speaks to the reasons why we began the contest in 2007: showing students that visual and media literacies matter in today’s world. In the process, we have created relationships with faculty through our annual video contests. Faculty members assign video projects in their courses and use past submissions to our contests to guide their students. They encourage their students to submit videos to our contests after turning them in as class assignments. Developing this feedback loop of creativity and scholarship that can inspire future classes has been really rewarding to me personally.

Categories: Pedagogy

Backyard Brains in the Classroom

This spring, BE 310, Bioengineering Lab II, took on a project to combine robotics and biology, using WIC’s iPads and cockroaches. Using a hardware set and an app from Backyard Brains, students in the class taught by David Meaney and Susan Margulies used their own muscles and brains to drive the muscles in cockroach legs.

When Sevile Mannickarottu first approached us with his idea, we were surprised to learn about this use for iPads. Fortunately, it was easy to install the free app on 12 of our iPads.

Backyard brains is an app aimed at high school students that allows basic neuroscience experiments. This project took its concepts a step further. Using EMG sensors to gather the electrical impulses from their own muscles, students took that output, fed it into a PC and used it to translate the readings into impulses that drove the cockroach legs. The iPad cameras were used to video-record the legs in motion, allowing students to accurately monitor how legs move naturally, instead of haphazardly. After recording and analyzing the movements, they were then able to program the PC to allow it to move the cockroach legs naturally using just their own muscle impulses.

This was certainly a creative use of our iPads! The app can be run on smartphones, but the size of the iPads made them ideal for video recording and analysis as well as running the app. Our iPads are available for classroom lending, and have been used in a variety of ways, including connecting students with rare books and teaching Cantonese. We hadn’t explored Backyard Brains before this project. We welcome new app requests inspired by course needs. Often we can help with identifying and installing apps as well. I’m sure there are plenty more surprising ways to integrate iPads into the classroom out there!

Categories: Pedagogy
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