StoryCorps App

I wrote about TED talks and listening to the TED Radio Hour podcast back in September of 2013. The 2015 TED Conference was recently held in Vancouver, Canada. As part of the conference, TED awards the TED Prize to "an extraordinary individual with a creative and bold vision to spark global change."

This year's winner is Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps, and his Prize wish was to take StoryCorps global with a free StoryCorps app.

Storycorps_logo_10_yearsYou've probably heard of StoryCorps as it's been around since 2003. There's even a national program for StoryCorps to partner with libraries for patrons to share their stories. Having this program in your library required professional recording equipment and training for staff and volunteers. A great program but not feasible for all libraries.

The new StoryCorps app changes all that! Now, recording and sharing stories of your patrons, your family, and your friends is as easy as your smart phone or tablet. The app is available for both iOS and Android devices. StoryCorps even has questions to get the storytelling started.

How can you use this in your library? If your library has iOS or Android tablets available for either staff or patron use, download the app to them. Then, it would be easy to host an event for patrons to record and share their stories. Or, if you loan out tablets to your patrons, they could record stories of those who may not be able to come to the library. What a great way to collect local history and share it with the world.

Survey Results in Google Forms

Survey2I learned something new last week! I have been helping Corey Baumann, Delivery Coordinator, create a survey to evaluate their services. If you haven't taken it already, you can take it here until March 10.

We were looking at the spreadsheet and trying to figure out how to best analyze the results. Over 100 of you have already taken the survey so the spreadsheet is huge and awesome! 

Then, we were looking at how to close the survey on March 10 and I saw "Summary of Responses." Could it be? Had I really not known this existed all this time? So, I clicked on it and was amazed with the results. Here's one screenshot from the results so far. Isn't it pretty? 

SurveyResults

 

Build With Chrome

How often at your library do you see a pile of LEGO blocks poured out onto a play surface and think about what a chore it will be if you have to do clean up, or if you are the one who has to replace lost parts. Those days could be a thing of the past!


While doing some LEGO “research” I came across a site called Build with Chrome. This is a site where LEGO and Google Chrome teamed up to bring you an online environment where you can build with virtual LEGO blocks.


You don’t have to sign up for an account, but if you do you can pick out a chunk of land on Google Maps and build your own piece of paradise and have it published for the whole world to see.

 

RFID or not to RFID? - that is the question.

I don't think I've ever blogged (bragged) about the SCLS mobile RFID tagging kits.  Years ago (!) SCLS used grant monies to purchase equipment, carts and bins in order to provide a shared resource that libraries could "check-out" when they decided to implement RFID.  Providing these kits has meant that libraries using Bibliotheca software were not required to a) purchase their own mobile tagging kits or b) rent taggging stations. 

We have 4 mobile tagging kits; each kit contains an antenna (aka pad), FEIG reader with power cord, a laptop with both flavors of Bibliotheca tagging software, power cord, mouse, barcode scanner and a surge protector delivered to your library in a stylish grey delivery bin. We also have 3 carts that you can also borrow, if you do not have a cart in-library that you can use. The carts do not include a battery so you will need to use an extension cord to provide power to the equipment.  At your request, we will provide hands-on training in the use of the software and equipment.

If you are an SCLS LINKcat library, you can submit a reservation for use, with estimated dates, on the online Koha Support form.  Kits are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

PowToon for presentations

The folks over at the SPLAT (Special Projects Library Action Team) blog recently published a nifty post about PowToon. PowToon's mission is to provide "minimalist, user friendly and intuitive presentation software that allows someone with no technical or design skills to create engaging professional 'look and feel' animated presentations."

What can you do with it?
Use their templates and styles to design engaging animations and videos to convey your message. Jazz up a presentation. Present your statistics in an infographic video format. Scroll down their "About Us" page to see PowToon's current styles.

Here's a quickie TechBits promo video created using one of the PowToon templates:

How much does it cost?
The basic plan is free and will give you standard definition videos with PowToon branding uploaded to YouTube or hosted on PowToon. Upgraded plans will give you HD, download, and other options. There are also pay-per-export options.

How easy is it to use?
I spent a couple of hours playing around with it initially. Without watching any of the tutorials, I was still able to figure out how to get things moving. I imagine after watching some videos, I could do even more amazing things!

Examples
Check out the SPLAT example, PowToon examples, or my first attempt at an infographic-type video using @FakeLibStats' fake library statistics to see more about PowToon.  

 

(Don't follow SPLAT or @FakeLibStats yet? You should!)

 

Have you found a good tool for creating animated presentations? Share it in the comments!

 

Windows has a Built-in Unit Converter

Recently, I discovered that the Calculator program that ships with Microsoft Windows has its own built-in unit converter. I usually just use Google if I need to find how many ounces are in a liter, or convert Celsius to Fahrenheit. However, if I'm on a laptop without internet access, like stuck in the desert with a broke-down car and some stranger says the nearest shop is 4 leagues away, and I don't know how far a league is...I feel comforted to know that I could find that out.

To access the unit converter we first need to open Calculator. We can do this by either typing "calculator" into the search bar at the bottom of the Start menu, or navigating to Start > All Programs > Accessories > Calculator. Calculator generally looks like this:

Calculator

To open the unit converter, click on the View menu, then select "Unit conversion" near the bottom. We can also get to it by pressing the hot-key sequence of Ctrl+U. That brings up this handy pane that looks like this:

Converter

From here we select what type of unit we want to convert, then the 2 metrics we want to convert between, type in our starting value, and voila! Isn't that just awesome?

 

TeamViewer

My parents and in-laws ask for my help with their computers often, but they live over 100 miles away. MP900430487  It's difficult to troubleshoot over the phone.  It's much easier when I can just remote into their PCs and fix the problems myself.  The product I use is called TeamViewer.

TeamViewer is remote control software free for private use and it's pretty simple to use.  I do recommend using it for home use if you are the go-to person in your family when it comes to computer support.

Two heads are better...

Recently, I was working with a colleague on a problem when I happened to notice that they had some rather unique Windows PC desktop wallpaper. Each of their two monitors had a different image associated with it. Even more interesting, the images were two halves of a larger image, thus forming a wide panoramic view across the pair of monitors. I'd had no idea that was an option, at least not an obvious one.

Brian credited Michael with showing him how this can easily be done by choosing a Panoramic theme for Windows (thanks, guys!), then he showed me how too:

  1. Right click the Desktop.
  2. Choose Personalize....
  3. Choose Get more themes online (this link is near the center right hand side of the window).
  4. Choose Panoramic (dual monitor).
  5. Pick from a wide variety of panoramic themes.

Awesome sauce! Yet at the same time, not quite good enough. Where's the ability to pick one's own images for this feature? After a little more snooping around on the Interwebs and I found my new favorite toy: the Dual Wallpaper tool, part of the open source Dual Monitor Tools package.

These tools do not require installation, so anyone may use them (no help desk call required). Just unzip the package and double click. Once you've got the Dual Wallpaper app running, then:

  1. Select one or both monitors.
  2. Click Browse... to select an image.
  3. Choose a Fit method.
  4. Click Add Image to apply the adapted image.
  5. Repeat as needed for the other monitor.
  6. Click Set Wallpaper.

You can set up either one large panoramic image that spans both monitors, or choose two completely separate images, setting one on each monitor.

Virtual Reality for Everyone

We all know that Google is always coming out with cool new technology, like Google Glasses.  Well, they have done it again and came out with a virtual reality visor that you can make yourself.  All you need is some cardboard, two lenses, a magnet, velcro, a rubberband and a smart phone.  MacGyver has nothing on the folks that came up with this idea.  You can read the CBS article entitled Google Cardboard puts virtual reality in everyone's reach to find out more about it.  If you're interested in how it works then take a look at the below YouTube video that is found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxAj2lyX4oU.

 

If you want to build it yourself you can download the plans from this website.  If you need help building it then take a look at the below YouTube video, found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPHVjHxEqAo, that walks you through the making of your own Google Cardboard.

 

I think that this would make an awesome MakerSpace project.

LinkWISCONSIN Drive Test App

Do you ever wonder how you can be of use when driving around the backroads of Wisconsin?

Well, it is possible now with the LINKWisconsin Drive Test App.

What is it?

It is a smartphone app that measures mobile broadband connectivity on a regular basis.

How does it help improve broadband access?

Each test is grouped with thousands of other tests to help validate coverage throughout the state. Analasys of these tests helps find potential reasons for weak coverage. Local testing enhances their knowledge of underserved areas and may be considered while awarding the PSC's Broadband Expansion Grant.

How can you help?

  1. Install the App! Go to the web site first to read about the App. Then send an PSCStateBroadbandOffice@wisconsin.gov to request the App.
  2. Help LinkWisconsin find stakeholders in your community who can work with the LinkWISCONSIN Team to install the App for better testing!