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

Symposium 2014 Wrap-Up

This year’s Engaging Students Through Technology Symposium was a great success with over 130 attendees from all 12 schools at Penn! Our guiding question this year was: “How can technology empower our students, and us, as learners?” Students from all over Penn took our pre-Symposium “Make Your Voice Count!” survey, and their words helped guide discussions throughout the day.

Enjoying lunch in a WIC Data Diner Booth. Photo by Jaime Marie Estrada, WIC Social Media Intern.

We’ve captured the day via Storify and Flickr with lots of pictures and tweets for you to explore. Please check back soon for event videos and comments from attendants.

Thanks to everyone who made this year’s Symposium a success!

Categories: Pedagogy

The Most Important Keys on the Keyboard

Remember to Save.  

Whether you’re typing up your research paper, editing a video, or putting the final touches on a PowerPoint presentation, don’t forget to save your work.

The funny thing is, all of us have been  hearing this our entire lives, and yet never a semester goes by without a few of our users losing hours of hard work simply because they didn’t save as they worked.

Remember to Save

  • If you’re on a Mac, like the ones in the Vitale Digital Media Lab, just type CMD-S
  • If you’re on a PC, it’s CTRL-S

It takes no time at all just to tap those 2 keys as you’re typing along.

If you’re using a program that offers it (like Microsoft Word or Adobe Premiere), you might also want to set the auto-save feature to save every 5-10 minutes—just in case.

Please, please, please:  Remember to Save  (I’m hoping if I say it enough, you’ll actually do it.   :)

(It’s also a really good idea to back up your work to another location, but that’s a topic for a different post)

Categories: Pedagogy

Social Media, Privacy, and Your Brand

In September 2014, as part of many changes to come for their privacy program, Facebook began to roll out something called privacy checkups. It is a built-in feature that reminds you when you’re posting something publicly. There’s a pretty good tutorial about it here:

Read more after the jump…

This quick tutorial in using the privacy settings on individual posts may seem basic, but it’s easy to forget that you can (and probably should) be aware of who is reading your posts. Every post you make can be customized to a specific audience. You can choose to share the post with only “friends,” or a specific group of people you can choose by typing their usernames in, or you can choose to exclude specific groups of people by making a list of them. Keep in mind though that unless you use the “Only Me” feature, anyone who is in your allowed group can take a screenshot of your post and share it far and wide.

This is important to remember when working on a personal brand. Facebook may not seem like a place where you need to be concerned with what you say, specifically because it’s a closed group of friends unless you have a public profile, but anything you say can become public very quickly despite your best intentions and intelligent use of privacy settings.

For example, based on a 2012 Pew Research Study published as an infographic in 2013, teenagers are a specifically active group on social media and they don’t protect their privacy as actively as they could. 64% of teens with Twitter have public profiles. 14% of teens with Facebook have completely public profiles. 33% of teens are “friends” with people on Facebook that they’ve never met.

None of these statistics are inherently negative, but it is important to increase the literacy of students as they go to college, and then eventually are on the job market. Educating oneself about the nature of social networks and how to best utilize them early on is one way to boost your chances of success later. Everything we say and write online is stored and becomes part of our digital footprint.

Meanwhile the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse proposes five types of social networks as follows:

The folks there have a lot to say about these different types of networks and how best to use them, so click on over and read about each type in more detail. Can you guess which social media platforms belong in which category?

In addition to understanding the types of social media sites out there, you need to keep on top of how they change over time. There are many bloggers and websites that periodically review changes in social media, privacy alerts, and also discuss personal and professional branding.

One of my favorites is professional social media manager Tereza Litza. She blogs on LinkedIn about her experiences managing professional brands and a lot of her advice carries over to personal branding as well. In a recent blog post about the 9 mistakes you might be making on social media, she quotes Jason Squires and adds useful tips. I’ll echo my three favorite recommendations here, but if you want to read them in full detail, click on over to her post:

  • Focus on quality, rather than quantity
  • Focus on what works
  • Follow the rules for each network

She posted this article on We R Social Media, which I find a great source for social media tools and ways to measure your audience!

In January, I will be writing a follow-up post that goes into more detail about the Facebook changes for the new year. Keep the PennWIC Blog on lock!

Categories: Pedagogy

SketchUp Software

I have used a lot of 3D modeling tools mainly to design and develop products and to create simple scenarios. I have found SketchUp to be a great tool.

It allows you to create 3D models of everything and anything you want – it’s intuitive, fun and free for anyone to use. If you want to redecorate your living room, invent a new piece of furniture, model your city for Google Earth or make a stage for a theater production, nothing could be simpler and faster than SketchUp. It has been designed for architects, engineers as well as film makers, game developers and related professions.

The 3D warehouse makes it easy to add in commonplace objects to give the presentation a “wow” factor and the Extension Warehouse gives flexibility to pick a plugin for any specific task such as rendering, 3D printing or wood working.

I like SketchUp because it is easy to use. You can quickly make complex objects, and the basic version is free. However, the tool does get fiddly when you focus on close-up details. It doesn’t have the functionality of parametric software such as Solidworks or Pro-E (now called Creo) where you can edit feature by feature instead of changing a whole block at a time. But then again, it is the lack of complexity that makes Sketchup faster and easy.

Please join me for a workshop tomorrow, December 4, and check back here for online materials afterwards. We will explore hands-on how to give shape to your imagination.

Categories: Pedagogy

A Fab Fall for the (Digital) Humanities

As the days get shorter and the weather much chillier, I’m not only reminded of how quickly fall semester is passing, but also of the many great humanities and digital humanities events I’ve had the chance to attend over the past few months here at Penn.

It seems appropriate to kick off a discussion of the humanities at Penn with the (wonderfully and fittingly named) HAIKU Conference: The Humanities and Arts in the Integrated Knowledge University. The conference, sponsored by the Office of the Provost’s Art & Culture Initiative, offered two days of multidisciplinary presentations, discussions, and performances addressing questions such as, “What do the humanities and the arts have to offer contemporary efforts to integrate distinct bodies of knowledge within the research university?” and “How will the humanities and the arts retain their specificity within this climate of integration and is it even important that they do so?” Scholars discussed topics including (but not limited to): what “art-making” means in the 21st century and the importance of the artist in the academic community; using digital storytelling to capture the history and memory of a particular community; questions of how translation can lead to inequality in representing a culture or nation; and the trajectory of creative writing programs in US higher education, as they differ from core literary programs.  The breadth in topic diversity at HAIKU indicated the continued influence of the arts and humanities on various research disciplines and how they enlighten all of us who make up the “integrated knowledge university.”

The Penn Humanities Forum (PHF) has held many exciting discussions this semester. With a theme of “color,” PHF events have explored issues from race and diversity to visual literacy and scholarship. The kick-off event for the Humanities Forum – “The Writer’s Palette” – featured Zadie Smith, a London-born novelist and current professor of Creative Writing at NYU, in conversation with Penn’s own Professor of English, Jed Etsy.

Screen shot from the PHF event website,

Smith’s novels and stories are known for exploring complex issues of ethic and race relations, and dynamics of diversity across geographical and cultural boundaries. Smith herself is of mixed race background (her father English, her mother Jamaican); this question of identity and belonging not only has gained momentum in her writing but also featured prominently in her discussion with Prof. Etsy and the audience here at Penn. For me, the most poignant takeaway from Zadie’s talk involved an idea of “not knowing” others – that everyone, regardless of their race, ethnicity, and/or outward appearance, retains a nature of opacity to others and even to the self at times. In other words, folks aren’t as transparent as we make them out to be; whether a fictional character or someone we encounter in the world, it’s ever important to realize that “knowing” a person is a complex process that involves much patience and an open mind.

In addition to the PHF, the DHF (Digital Humanities Forum) hosted fascinating discussions on using color in digital tools to visialize information. Two events featured Ryan Cordell, an assistant professor of English at Northeastern University and a Mellon Fellow in Bibliography at the Rare Book School: “Viral Texts & the Technologies of Authorship” and “Visualizing Literacy and Historical Networks with Gephi.” The Viral Texts project examines 19th-century literary texts and nonfiction prose that was circulated and freely reprinted by various newspapers and magazines (copyright wasn’t exactly an issue in the 19th century). The project uses computational linguistics and data visualization tools to analyze the connections among publications and ask new questions about public print in the 19th century.

A screen shot from the Viral Texts project, from

After presenting on the Viral Texts project, the DHF held a “Tools-and-Techniques” luncheon in which Cordell went into more detail about Gephi, the free integrative visualization platform that enables showing network connections among “nodes” (things you’re representing) and “edges” (lines that connect the nodes). Gephi is relatively intuitive and easy to use; however, Cordell did warn that there is some data cleanup necessary before jumping into the program. For me, the network connections created on Gephi made it clear which newspapers, in Cordell’s example, were important players in 19th-century print culture. I can only imagine the number of research questions (about cultural, economic, political issues, etc.) that one could ask in starting to visualize and analyze such information.

In accordance with the PHF’s “color” theme, a few of us from the Penn Libraries recently hosted the Undergraduate Humanities Forum in a workshop focused on how actual colors can enhance scholarship. Topics included: color to express information; color to assist with research; color to reveal trends and biases; and color as a creative tool. The discussion ran from creating colorful network graphs (using Gephi, for example), to creating collages of photos on Instagram, to using conditional formatting in Excel to visualize climate change, to colorblindness and issues of accessibility. It was tremendously inspiring to discuss the students’ individual projects and how much interesting work humanities undergraduates are contributing to Penn’s scholarly community.

Overall, it’s been a very exciting fall for the (digital) humanities here at Penn.  As a librarian supporting digital scholarship, I am ecstatic to see all of the projects that folks across the university are involved in, and I hope to attend many more such events next semester!

Categories: Pedagogy

Cut and Paste, Then and Now

Last week, we had the rare opportunity to chat with this year’s Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Fellows in the Humanities thanks to Kimberly Kolor, a fellow who is also in the Hoesley Digital Literacy Fellows Program. We prepared by brainstorming around this year’s theme of “Color”, a wonderfully flexible and creative theme indeed. Vickie Karasic, Katie Rawson and Rebecca Stuhr joined me in providing a whirlwind tour of tools (Artemis, Instagram, Gephi, Excel, PhotoShop, and more). We talked about how fast the tools are changing, and how one is never really ever up-to-date. As I was listening to the students describe individual research projects and the presenters explain how digital humanities tools make new types of inquiry possible, I was struck once again by how useful metaphors can be for sense-making across contexts and disciplines. In a recent post on the Schoenberg Institute’s blog for example, Dot Porter provides a beautifully detailed tour of reuse and adaptation over the centuries. I loved this image of medieval cut-and-paste followed swiftly by find-and-replace in XML. As we explore ways to “mashup” video and images, I wonder if future generations will look through our creations, painstakingly reconstruct the steps we took, and speculate about our motivations and logic!

Categories: Pedagogy

Stats Software Help @ WIC

At WIC, you can already get help with writing, speaking, technology, copyright and more. In addition, we’re glad to announce that Douglas Allen will begin providing assistance with statistical software. (Douglas was here last year thanks to GAPSA support.) Douglas will assist you in collaboration with our Social Sciences Data Librarian Christine Murray.

Douglas can assist you with statistical software including STATA, SPSS, R and Excel. He welcomes questions about proper commands, seeking help with compiling useful syntax files for repeated analyses, or troubleshooting issues with data processing. He cautions that his assistance is not intended to help students decide on the suitability of a given statistical method for their research, pick which datasets to use, or interpret results. Douglas  is a fourth year doctoral student at the Annenberg School for Communication. His research investigates how public interest journalism will survive as it transitions into the digital age and moves increasingly online where advertising support is harder to find and norms of free access discourage paying for content. He has his Bachelors in Economics and his Masters degree in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University, and several years of experience as an energy consultant in California.
Categories: Pedagogy

Filter beyond ‘Filter’

Filter – the little funnel shaped icon in Excel, may be one of the most frequently used functions in Excel. Tell Excel one or several conditions and let Excel return those rows that meet your criteria. It works perfectly well in one single column.

However, sometimes you may want to filter one column according to the corresponding value in another column – in such a case, Filter may not be the most convenient way.

Here is an example. One patron recently came to my Office Hours inquiring about filtering in her Excel worksheet. She has two columns here, like this:

She would like to get all values in column B if the number in B is larger than the corresponding number in A.

While Filter might seem like the best option for this problem, it cannot really help you to compare the value in the same row but in different columns.

Thus, here I introduced her an useful function – IF function.

The syntax is like this:

IF(logical_test, [value_if_true], [value_if_false])

According to the definition from the Microsoft website, the  IF function returns one value if a condition you specify evaluates to TRUE, and another value if that condition evaluates to FALSE.

So, now let’s try this out.

In cell C1, we type:


For this function, I basically tell Excel that if the value in cell A1 is smaller than the value in cell B1, then it will say “YES”, otherwise, it will say “NO”.

Then I can use AutoFill to fill the rest of the rows – thus you can get a column with “YES’s” and “NO’s.”

Now you can easily use Filter to filter out those rows with “YES’s.” Done!

If you are not familiar with AutoFill and how to input a function, you can refer to this handout here!

As a second way, you can also use Conditional Formatting to solve this problem.

Under the [HOME] tab, you can find the Conditional Formatting button in the [Styles] group.

  • Choose the range B1:B7 first, then click on Conditional Formatting
  • Choose [Highlight Cells Rules] – [Greater Than]

  • In the dialog box, put “=A1″ in the empty box, then click OK.

  • Now you will find that all the rows that meet our criteria will be highlighted with the selected style.

Conditional Formatting can use colors and styles to help you “filter” out the records you need. I found this visualization method really easy and helpful!

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

Happy Halloween!

Awesome 3D art by Gekimura

Happy Halloween!

Be sure to stop by the lab today for a candy bar, and while you’re here stay and watch The Nightmare Before Christmas with us!

Categories: Pedagogy

Your words: Student Survey Results

Tomorrow, we expect over 220 people from all twelve schools at Penn to come together at our Engaging Students Through Technology Symposium. Our first one, in 2008, brought 48 people. Each year, the event has grown in popularity. It’s a rare opportunity to sit together, talk, and listen.

This year, we designed a survey with brainstorming sessions and launched our “Make Your Voice Count” campaign in early October. We are glad that 56 students took time to chime in! They gave us, in the 2014 Student Survey Results, fully 16 pages of ideas to mull over tomorrow.

Following opening remarks by Kim Eke, five faculty will speak on the morning faculty panel – Jeffrey Babin, Rosemary FrassoMarybeth Gasman, Jeffery Saven and  Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw. After they speak, Peter Decherney will facilitate an undergraduate student panel with Rebecca Hallac, Laura Petro, Virginia Seymour, Lucas Siegmund and Dyana Wing So.

We will live-stream the faculty panel, the student panel and the lightning round. Videos will available later on the Penn Libraries YouTube Channel. We also plan to use Canvas in many ways throughout the symposium. Looking forward to a packed day!

Categories: Pedagogy
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