Archive | Tools RSS feed for this section

FlipQuiz: A Great New Teaching Tool

24 Sep

I’m teaching Health Sciences Librarianship for the University of Rhode Island’s Library and Information Studies graduate program this semester. Sometimes, I think we can learn as much being a teacher as we do being a student. In this case, I’ve been learning to use a number of new tools, new concepts, and new ways to teach online, and for distance learners. I’ve had to read a lot of theory and try out a bunch of resources and it’s still only September!  Fortunately, I think my students are both patient and open to the trial and error of my learning. 

This week, I discovered a terrific new tool that I want to share via this blog. I think others will find it pretty useful, too. If you’re a fan of learning via games (as I am), give FlipQuiz a try!

NCBI Game

Feel free to click on the game board and play, but don’t share answers with my students! :)

Follow the Leader

17 Sep

I read a really interesting post on the Harvard Business Review’s blog yesterday titled, “Convincing Employees to Use New Technology.” Any regular reader of my blog knows that I’m fascinated with new technologies, behavior change, and the intersection of the two. I’m particularly interested in how they come into play in science and in libraries, the two places where I spend my working hours. For all that technology has done to reshape both of these areas, I continue to be amazed at how reluctant many scientists and librarians are to try new things and adopt them into their work habits and processes. Despite a growing body of evidence that helps us see which tools work well and which don’t, what behavior changes improve efficiency and which create distraction, and how we can more effectively advance our information dissemination, sharing, and networking, many still say, “No thank you!

The post from HBR hits on several reasons that might explain the reluctance, not the least of which is the lack of investment companies or organizations or institutions place upon adoption of these tools. 

The real return on digital transformation comes from embedding new work practices into the processes, work flows, and ultimately the culture of organizations. But even in cases where the value of adoption is understood, cost containment often takes over. Faced with limited budgets, companies focus on the most tangible part first – deploying the technology. Adoption is left for later, and often “later” never comes. (Didier Bonnet)

I’ve observed this pattern on multiple occasions, but one of the clearest was when I was working on a study involving the use of Twitter to help people lose weight. The idea was that the microblogging service could be used to develop a free, easy to access, online support group that could supplement in-person meetings of people in a weight loss group. What we learned, though, is that unless people are already active users of Twitter, we needed to build in time and effort to help participants develop behavior patterns around communication that involved Twitter. Without this, we were really seeking two behavior changes instead of one, i.e. behavior changes around diet and exercise, as intended, but also the adoption of a social media tool. (See “Tweeting it off: characteristics of adults who tweet about a weight loss attempt,” Pagoto et al, Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 2014 Jun 13.)

I’m sure that you can think of your own experiences where your organization or department or library or university implemented a new intranet or new personal profile pages or a blog. “It’s a GREAT IDEA!,” everyone thinks, but then lacking much motivation or incentive to contribute to it, the new, great idea slowly finds its way to the big cloud of wikis that went nowhere. Over time, we become jaded and cynical and whenever we hear someone suggest the next newfangled new idea, we immediately think, “Yeah, right. Like that ever works.

Yet, recognizing this, I think the HBR post hits on a fact that can, in time, truly make a difference in the adoption of tools:

Lead by example. You can influence the transition to new digital ways of working by modeling the change you want to see happen – and by encouraging your colleagues to do so. For instance, actively participating on digital platforms and experimenting with new ways of communicating, collaborating, and connecting with employees. It is the first important step to earning the right to engage your organization. Coca-Cola faced huge challenges when it deployed its internal social collaboration platform. Only when Coca-Cola’s senior executives became engaged on the platform did the community become active. As the implementation leader put it, “With executive engagement, you don’t have to mandate activity.” (Didier Bonnet)

From the Journal of Cell Biology. Used with permission https://www.flickr.com/photos/thejcb/4117496025/

From the Journal of Cell Biology. Used with permission https://www.flickr.com/photos/thejcb/4117496025/

One of the scientific communities doing a lot of leading here is the neuroscience community. When I began working on the neuroimaging project, I was thrilled to see how active this community is online. They have well-developed data repositories, online journals, information portals, and resources for cloud computing. (See NITRC, as an example.) They have an awareness of and openness to the ideas of sharing; to moving their science forward by using the tools that make sharing so much easier today. Indeed, I was brought on to the neuroimaging project to help improve a few processes along these lines.

And then this morning, I saw an announcement of another new online tool launched for the neuroscience community, this one an extension of the Public Library of Science’s (PloS) Neuro Community, a site on the platform, Medium*, “created as a collaborative workspace for reporting news and discussion coming out of this year’s Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting on November 15–20, 2014.” Moving past “simply” tweeting a meeting, the Society instead is thinking ahead and building a place for openly sharing, contributing, and reflecting before the meeting happens. And it will be successful. You know why? Because those who initiate these tools in the neuroscience community are the leaders of the community. They have been a part of their past investments, seen the pay off, and thus continue to invest more for the future.

We need this same kind of leadership in libraries, in the Academy, and in other areas of science. Those of us who see and/or have experienced the value of implementing new technologies into our work need to be fairly tireless in banging the can for them. We need to continue to lead by example and hopefully, in time, we will all reap the rewards.

*I’ve become a big fan of Medium over the past months as a place to keep up with a lot of interesting stories on the Web.

Match Game

9 Jul
One of my all-time favorite shows of the 70s, The Match Game!

One of my all-time favorite shows of the 70s, The Match Game!

I found out yesterday that a friend and colleague has accepted a new job and heading off to a different city, different library, different adventures. For a long time, I looked at job announcements. Sometimes I still do, particularly when they pass across social media sites (Did you know that Queen Elizabeth is looking for a librarian to oversee her personal library?) or on professional listservs (It’s hard to ignore a job opening in France – the cafes, the coffee, the atmosphere. Tres bien.) But I don’t actively seek out the sites that post jobs and I don’t think about the possibility of doing something else. I do have a mobile coffee cart that I’m working on – a 3-wheeled bike that I’m outfitting to sell coffee at festivals and farmers markets – and on occasion I play in a band, but those things are fun. I have no dreams of quitting my day job to do either of them full-time. 

And that, folks, is a first. 

I have worked at a whole slew of different jobs ever since I was 15 years old, earlier if you count mowing lawns and babysitting. I earned a bunch of degrees at a bunch of schools, always trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my vocational life and thinking that if I only had the education, I’d be all set. For the past 8 1/2 years, I’ve been a librarian. Like putting together your fantasy team, it looked good on paper, me and the library. We were a good match. I love libraries (their physical forms) and research and looking stuff up. I love the feeling of finding an article or a citation or some quirky fact or figure that eludes most others. I love looking, looking, looking and going down all of the many paths of the many things that you come across while you search. I love having a whole brain-full of trivial facts; the result of browsing through so many different subjects. I love that I do well on “Jeopardy!” (at least in the comforts of my living room).

Still, even after a number of years being a librarian, I could find myself too regularly wondering what it might be like to work in another library, in another place, in a different discipline. I eventually came to accept the fact that this was just my nature. I’d always be a little unsettled in work.

I also always believed that promotion was the way of success in a library. Like lots of kinds of work, I just assumed that I’d start off at one level and then work my way up, accepting more responsibility along the way. Libraries are fairly flat organizations, at least the ones I’m most familiar with, and so you basically move from being a librarian to being some kind of administrator. If you’re really good, you become a library director.

A few years into my career, I figured that’s the path I ought to pursue. Things worked out in my library that I got a supervisory role, overseeing our Research and Scholarly Communication services. I was the head of a group, even if the group consisted only of two or three people. It was a step in the upward direction. 

But despite that “right path,” I found out that it wasn’t me. I’m not much of an administrator. Some of this I learned pretty easily. Some was more than a little difficult and took a good bit of a toll over time. Eventually, I began to think that it was time for me to look for something else. I just figured that I’d reached that time – like lots of other times before – where it was time to try something new. Time, time, time. Time’s up.

I began to look at job ads. I began to look around my own campus at other opportunities, places and positions where I could maybe use the knowledge that I had, but do something different. I thought about applying to be a project manager or project coordinator. I thought about how I could persuade a research department of the benefits of having a project manager who also knew how to be a librarian. Think of how they’d never again have the headaches associated with NIH Public Access compliance. They’d never have to worry about calling someone from the library to help them with difficult searches or bibliographic management. I could manage projects AND do that. That’s what I was thinking. That, along with job opportunities in really fun cities.

But then fate struck (better fate than lightning). The supplemental grant awards for informationist services were announced. My library director thought we needed to apply for one. As the story goes, we did, we got an award, and I got a new job. Bing-Bang-Boom. Kind of.

I’m not sure that my library director has always known what to do with me. I can admit that I was probably something of a frustration from time to time. What do you do with a librarian that doesn’t quite fit the mold of the work that needs to be done? What do you do with an employee who you know is always kind of feeling a little out of place? What do you do when skills and interests don’t match with the usual progressions and/or promotions? These are the kind of questions that directors and administrators have to struggle with, which might be why I’m not very good at it. I don’t have that much patience.

Fortunately, I do have a director who saw an opportunity and who said, “I think that you’d be really good at this.” Doing this job meant that I had to give up the supervisory role. It meant that I had to accept that my best skills don’t lie in the areas that will lead me up the promotional ladder. But it really is okay, because while I might not be going up any traditional ladder of success, I’m finding the kind of success that I really can’t imagine I could find in any regular route. I feel like I get many of the benefits of working as a solo librarian, without having to leave the nest altogether. I can be entrepreneurial without having to risk losing my health insurance and retirement. I can gain a whole lot of new colleagues without having to leave behind old ones.

In many ways, I’m working the same way that researchers and project managers and analysts and others on the research teams work. It’s the best of both worlds. Everyone is a team player, but with somewhat subtle differences from being on organized teams within a larger structure (like the library). Everyone is also a bit of a renegade. It reminds me of Russell Crowe’s character in that movie where he plays the cop who takes down Denzel Washington, the drug dealer. He’s a really good cop, but he doesn’t work so well with others, that is until he finds the right “others.” When that happens, he ends up leading a pretty formidable team. 

Now I’m no Russell Crowe (I don’t look nearly as good in a skirt, gladiator or no), but I do think that I work for a few people who are like him. Or at least like that character. The PIs I’ve come to know and work for over the past few months are people who need to do their own thing. They can work within a set of guidelines, but they’re all freelancers, a bunch of really smart and inquisitive people who want to figure out the answers to a lot of questions that interest them. And to do that, they build teams of people around them who, I think, might be kind of like them. They look for people who complement their skills, while also matching their personalities.

Library directors do this too, though they might not always have quite the latitude and flexibility of the PIs. Over time, a library can take on the personality of its director. It can certainly follow the directions and interests of him/her. Two of the library directors that I respect most are my own, Elaine Martin, and Jean Shipman, the director of the Eccles Health Sciences Library at the University of Utah. They couldn’t be much more different in terms of their outward personalities and they each have different passions in terms of the services and directions that they want their libraries to provide and go. But they are both extremely successful and effective in their roles. 

In the same way, I see all sorts of personalities and visions and work styles and leadership styles and more in the different researchers that I’ve come to know. Principal investigators who have successful labs and studies build good teams around them; teams made up of people who match what they need. (As an aside, both Elaine and Jean are PIs on major grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.) It really is a lot about finding and/or making the right matches.

And all of this is a really rambling way of saying that if and when we’re lucky enough, persistent enough, stubborn enough, and/or any combination of these, we can find the right position where who we are and the skills that we possess match up with someone else’s needs and skills and personality. I also think that this particular phenomenon (for lack of a better word) is really difficult to define and quantify, and as such makes it hard when it comes to telling anyone how he/she/they might find success in this informationist role. People ask, students ask, colleagues ask, other library directors ask, the grant funders ask… but as of yet, I’m not quite sure what the answer is. I do know, however, that I’m for once not even thinking about what another job could be like. This one is pretty great every day. 

 

Science Boot Camp for Librarians v. 2013 (Sketchnotes)

20 Jun

I had the great pleasure of planning and being a part of the 5th Annual Science Boot Camp for Librarians. As in the past, it did not disappoint in terms of content, learning experiences, networking, and fun. If you’ve been reading my blog all along, you know that I’ve been honing my skills at sketchnoting and scribing over the past month, thus I tried my best to capture at least two of the 3 session topics and speakers in this manner. A number of folks noticed my drawing during the lectures and asked me about them. I promised to share them, so here they are:

Topic: Agriculture Session 1 - Overview

Session One: Agriculture – Overview Lecture

Agriculture_B_Sketchnotes

Session One: Agriculture – Applied Lecture

Public-Health_A_Sketchnotes

Session Two: Public Health – Overview Lecture

Public-Health_B_Sketchnotes

Session Two: Public Health – Applied Lectures

I’m afraid that I couldn’t keep up for the analytic chemistry session. The subject was pretty foreign to me and I found that I needed to think differently to follow along. I also presented within the capstone session. Presenting and sketchnoting simultaneously is covered in the advanced courses. I’m not there yet!

TEDMED at Home

17 Apr

My workplace is live streaming the terrific annual event, TEDMED, this week. Many of the talks eventually become available through the TED website, so if you’re not able to watch now, do check in at a later date to see what gets posted. In particular, you might want to watch Larry Smarr describe his hard-to-imagine quest for gathering, tracking, and analyzing every kind of microbe living in his colon. Perhaps it sounds a bit dry, but trust me, it was a fascinating talk.

If you’re interested in mobile health, don’t miss Deborah Estrin’s talk on the work she is doing at Cornell towards an “Open mHealth” movement. Assessing our “social pulse,” she argues, can tell as much about our health as anything, and doing such a thing is becoming more and more possible with the advent of so many tools and apps available for mobile devices. (Visit Small Data to use/see your own small data.)

EVERY academic librarian, along with every single person who utilizes the resources of an academic library, needs to watch Elizabeth Marincola speak on, “What happens when science, money, and freedom of information collide?”  Marincola is a business person and a publisher… and a VERY strong advocate for making published scientific research available to all. “I don’t know anyone who believes that the mission of science is the comodification of data.” GREAT quote!

Max Little spoke of the role of applied mathematics and “prediction competitions” to drive science forward. Amy Abernathy proposes the wonderful idea of Info Data Drives, based on the model of blood drives, where individuals can donate their health data to build the kind of data sets needed to solve complex medical mysteries. Mick Cornett, the mayor of Oklahoma City, talked about how his city redesigned itself for people, as opposed to automobiles, and in doing so went from being on the list of “Most Obese Cities” to “Most Fit Cities” in a matter of a couple of years. Even more, building infrastructure that focuses on community, recreation, and other healthy social activities has made Oklahoma City a destination for many young adults and families, bringing with them the talent and skills needed to keep a city thriving. Sally Okun is the first nurse to grace the TEDMED stage and, not surprisingly to me, she was the one speaker so far who hit home the importance of listening to what patients say. She’s involved in some really interesting contextual language research, trying to develop a lexicon of patient language. I’ve made a note to follow-up on it.

The morning also brought a couple of terrific interludes; Jill Sobule (I loved her already, but now that I know she’s the TEDMED troubadour…) sang a song with fantastic lyrics that I’m afraid I can’t provide here on this family/work-oriented blog. Let’s just say, in the wake of bombs going off at the Boston Marathon, politicians arguing over gun control, and every eye focused on immigration reform, Sobule gives me a nice little refrain to sing over and over again in my head (“When they say, ‘We want our America back’…). Thank you, Jill. And if you’ve never seen Zubin Damania’s alter ego, “ZDoggMD” and his PSAs for different health issues, well you’ve just never seen an internist rapper before, have you? Check him out!

Finally, our very own Myrna Morales, Technology Coordinator for the NN/LM NER, worked with the students organizing today’s streaming to make it possible for a few of us to give our own TED Talks during the breaks! I’m really pleased and honored to work in a library where six people stepped up to the plate and spoke. I captured them on video and after editing (and if I receive permission from the individual speakers), I’ll share their talks on my blog. In the meantime, here is my own and very first TED Talk. Not quite ready for the big leagues, but it was awfully fun to do. Hope you enjoy it!

The $64,000 Question (Odds and Ends)

27 Feb

My week of birthday celebration is behind me now and what a week it was, filled with a party and a holiday and a lecture to a data management class and a professional group board meeting. One is hard-pressed to complain about a full, fulfilling life. Thanks to all of my friends and colleagues near and far who helped me celebrate well.

The full schedule left me with a bunch of notes in my notebooks, things that I don’t have the time to expound upon right now, but I want to offer as “odds and ends,” in case you might find something useful in any/all of them.

First, the word of the week appears to be EMPATHY. It’s come up in two different books that I’m reading; Dan Pink’s, To Sell is Human, and Lee Lefever’s, The Art of Explanation. I recommend both, by the way. Pink’s book offers advice on moving people, getting them to buy what you’re selling – a service, an idea, or an area of expertise. Lefever’s is about… well, it’s pretty self-explanatory … the art of explaining things to people. It’s an art, he argues, and thus something that we can learn to do. For both of the author’s, a significant key to success in these areas is empathy. Being able to put one’s self in the mind and shoes of another helps to get our point across.

It seems a pretty good message for me as I seek to find my place on research teams. The better I understand the people that I’m trying to sell on the idea that they could use an informationist on their team, the better my argument will be. Likewise, the better I can explain what the heck an informationist is in the first place, the better I’ll not appear to them as an alien from the planet Librarius.

I have the opportunity to give a lecture next week to students in our graduate program in Clinical Investigation. It’s a course on Team Science and the faculty member teaching it said to me, “You’re always going on about how it’s important to have an informationist on the team. Come teach my class one day.” It goes without saying that I’m working up my empathetic nature so that I can both explain and sell this group of clinicians and researchers on the idea. Stay tuned for a report of how well I do.

**********

I really enjoyed giving a lecture last week to the students taking the Data Management Planning class in Simmons College’s GSLIS program. It’s a small class and the majority of students are auditing it, as they are already professionals working in the field. We had a great discussion about the skills one needs to find success as an embedded librarian. I’ve posted my slides from the lecture to my Slideshare account. As you might imagine, they are more visual in nature than textual, but you may be able to get something from them.


**********

On my embedded days, when I’m not in meetings, I often search out a quiet spot somewhere on campus (not in the Library) where I can work uninterrupted. We have a new research building on campus and during this transition time when people are slowly moving in to the new lab spaces and the cafeteria has yet to open, there are many good places that fit the bill. Yesterday morning I was sitting in what will eventually be a bustling lunch area, preparing for the weekly team meeting, when a few students came and sat at a nearby table. Recalling an assignment that I once had for a writing class, I eavesdropped on their conversation and took a few notes. They looked like this:

Conversation

Ignore the “Also overheard…” bit in red. I just found that really funny and worth a doodle. No matter how new an HVAC system, it seems we just can’t help but complain about the temperature in a room. Must be encoded in our DNA.

No, the part I want you to notice is what I heard the students saying AND the question it prompted me to write. I don’t have an answer for them. Do you? Is a plan the same thing as a solution? If I went up to them and talked to them about creating a plan for managing their data, would this be helpful? I’m not sure and my lack of sureness left me with the question, “Have we got a solution we can offer?” As you note, it could be “masterful,” if we can create it. (By the way, that was a quote from one of the students. Not my word.)

EDITORIAL: A Colleague emailed me after I first posted this, telling me that my notes didn’t make sense. He was right. Here’s a bit of clarification – They said, “I could have saved a whole day of work if there were standards and consistency in file formats.” Then one said, “That’s a masterful idea if there is a master table.” But such a table doesn’t exist and they don’t have time to go back and make one now. Do we have a solution for them that helps them now or can we just make suggestions for the future?

**********

Finally, I’ve been looking for a tool that will help me keep my projects and tasks and ideas and such in order. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to trade in my notebooks. (As a matter of fact, I got a fresh supply of Field Notes journals on Sunday, courtesy of my wonderful spouse.) No, pen and paper and doodling will remain a staple for me, but I need an online tool to help me organize a working schedule and working demands that aren’t quite as routine as they once were. Yesterday, I stumbled across Curio 8 and downloaded the free 25-day trial to my Mac laptop. In a word, “Whoa!!”  It’s pretty rare nowadays to find something that you can figure out how to use in about 10 minutes. It’s not a high-powered project management tool, but that’s probably to its advantage for me right now. I don’t need a lot of bells and whistles, but rather something that I can put into use quickly and easily. I have a feeling this is it. Is anyone out there using it? If so, I’d love to hear your feedback before I decide on purchasing. It’s not overly expensive ($100), but I like hearing from others before putting my money down.

That’s it for this week’s check-in. Oh! Except to say that I realized this morning that you can enlarge the font size on an iPad to make reading an ebook on it easier. Is this a new feature? Nah… but my 50 year old eyes are!

He Said, She Said (and who can possibly remember?)

13 Feb

One of the tasks I have as an informationist on the study team is to help improve communication. In fact, it’s Aim #1 in the proposal we wrote to the National Library of Medicine for the grant: “Develop tools to improve data specification and communication.” For most of the past month or so, I’ve been working on a data request form. Back and forth and back and forth we go with iterations of it. Last week, it finally went through a test-drive as one of the principal investigators used it to request several analyses from our analyst. (Isn’t it convenient for an analyst that s/he does analyses? So clear. An analyst analyzes. A librarian… librarianizes? We should be so lucky.)   It’s back in my hands now to make a few more tweaks based upon her feedback, but it’s coming along nicely. Hopefully, it will become a well-used tool in the future, making the communication of statistical analyses between requester and analyst  more efficient.

As I sat in on yesterday’s meeting, I heard in the conversation another area where a tool would help improve communication between team members. Much of the history of this study can be found in email correspondence. Often, someone will say something like, “I remember that we changed such and such to so and so back in 2010,” and the indication is that somewhere in the virtual mound of emails of 2010, there exists documentation of this change. Everyone remembers the email, the discussions during team meetings, the outcome, etc. but the details are sometimes lacking. When it comes to writing articles, however, a lot of these details become very important pieces of information needed to describe exactly what happened and when. I began to wonder if we had a searchable archive of all of the email involved in the study, would it be a useful tool for the team. I posed the question later in the afternoon (via an email, of course!) and heard back from several people that they agreed.

To figure out how to accomplish this task, I began searching for things like communication log software, email exporters, and tools for Outlook. I also revisited Zoho Creator to see how and if it could work to create a database for these things. Basically, my thinking was to export pertinent fields like date, sender, and body of the email; index them (using tags); and make them searchable. Then, if someone was curious about the development of the phone counseling system, s/he could do a search for “MCRS” in all of the emails and receive a nice, chronological report of everything communicated about the process during the software development. “This is good!” I thought.

Screen Capture of search results.

Screen Capture of search results. A mini test.

I set to work downloading the add-on tool for Outlook that I decided on, Code Two Outlook Export. It was pretty straightforward, no hiccups or frustrations. Then I practiced exporting the “Informationist” folder in my email inbox. The export gave me a csv file that I then opened in Excel. I didn’t get exactly what I wanted, so I tried a few other export field options until it looked right. At this point though, I could tell there will be a good bit of cleanup to do in the Excel file. We have a lot of stuff in the body of emails – stuff that runs all together in an Excel cell. I decided to delete content in the body of the emails that was irrelevant and/or redundant. This helped a lot. Once I had the spreadsheet the way I wanted it, I then uploaded it into a new application in Zoho Creator, did some more tweaking here and there, and eventually got something that worked!

Admit it. It’s always a rush when you create something, isn’t it? 

I sent some screen shots to the team members and asked for feedback. Already I’ve heard from several who think it’s a great idea! It will take some doing to collect and cleanup several years of emails related to the study from everyone involved, but I think it will be a real help. Also, the system will be in place for future studies. As a matter of fact, I already have laid out in my mind how I can use this with the new CER group that I’m going to be embedded in soon. As their email list is fairly new, it will be a much easier start-up.

If you decide to try either of these tools – or if you’ve instituted a similar email archive to help with communication within a group – I hope you’ll share your experience in the comments section here. It will be great to hear what works for others.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,593 other followers