Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Using clips of movies in the classroom.

The Library of Congress's Copyright Office has released its latest round of DMCA exemptions and there is a big one in there for faculty who use DVD's in teaching.

First some background. This rulemaking process undertaken by the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office is designed to, "determine whether the prohibition on circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works [in the DMCA] is causing or is likely to cause adverse effects on the ability of users of any particular classes of copyrighted works to make noninfringing uses of those works." If so, then the Library of Congress can exempt that class of works from the Act's prohibition on circumvention.

Here are a couple of pieces that go into more detail, one from Inside Higher Ed and one from a Chronicle Blog (which is really good by the way, and will be followed put by a how-to guide to actually ripping DVD's.)

Bottomline: it always was legal to use clips of movies in the classroom to help teach particular concepts or content, but the DMCA stopped teachers getting clips of movies off DVD's. Now this exemption to the anti-circumvention provision of the DMCA means that that barrier to getting these clips has been removed.

IT departments and libraries will have to understand how to rip clips from DVD's so they can help faculty who want to make use of this exemption.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Kindle Android App Review

I downloaded the droid Kindle app to my Verizon LG Ally so that I could read books (Jane Smiley's latest novel, Private Life, and OffBeat Guides' Sao Paulo Travel Guide) while on vacation in Brazil and to test the program since we at Olin are beginning to invest more in e-books and in mobile computing. Here are my initial thoughts.

The app is great in terms of portability. Instead of carrying a number of paper books with me I can fit a bunch of titles (I certainly haven't found the limit yet) on my phone. I downloaded the books quickly and very easily before leaving the states (why I can't -- or won't -- do this in Brazil is a different story and concerns Verizon's own brand of money grubbing idiocy not the droid Kindle app, but more on that in a later post.)

Readability is good as well. The screen is backlit so reading on the plane and in bed has been fine, even outside in cloudy Sao Paulo. The text size can be adjusted, and the font (a comfortable serif style, which cannot be changed) is comparable to a printed book as well. The pages turn instantaneously with a convenient tap on the appropriate side of the screen. About 70 words fit on the screen (though this depends on the text size one selects) which is fine, although it means one turns a page far more often than would be the case in even a mass market paperback. This contributes to a somewhat disjointed reading experience (exacerbated by Jane Smiley's character strewn narrative.) The app automatically takes you to the last page viewed when you open the book again, which a great. So for vacation novels the app works well. I will certainly use it again.

The experience of using a travel guide is less happy. Here search and navigation through the text is very important and the app falls down badly. The table of contents consists of clickable links which is good, but there is no index and the text is not searchable a major drawback for this kind of reference. There is a reference in the app to search coming soon, so maybe this will change. There is also no ability to see any context (smaller images of the pages before or after your text, or some information about the chapter of the book for instance.) The only information you can see is a vague indication of how far, in percentages, you are into the title. One possible solution to this would be to set ones own bookmarks and the app does allow you to do this. However, you cannot edit these bookmarks and they are identified with an incomprehensible position location and some text from the page, not even the closest subtitle. Not very helpful. Finally, the app taunts the user with a function called , but no ability to actually write a note! Also you cannot change the size of images, so the map of the excellent Sao Paulo Metro system is utterly useless.

All of this means that that app does not meet the needs of researchers (even very relaxed vacationers) and certainly not of scholars or students, but works well for pleasure reading, which is in line with the results of a recent survey from the Chronicle.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wikis in Higher Education

There was an interesting piece by Steve Kolowich in Inside Higher Ed today on wikis in higher ed. he concludes that unless wikis find a satisfactory way to attribute specific content to individual contributors they will not satisfy academic researchers, but they that have been more successful in teaching and administration.

I am not sure I agree that they have been more successful in teaching or administration. I have used them in the classroom (as a glorified annotated bibliography in a one credit information course) and in administration (as regular readers of this blog know the Olin Library's strategic plan is a wiki.) The major problem I have found it the lack of enthusiastic adoption by the group one wants to participate in building the wiki. I think this is because the barriers to entry -- logging in, and the WYSIWYG editing features -- are just a bit too high for casual users to manage, even those who have no problem with other web based technologies. That combined with a the lack of attractiveness of much of the content (I am shocked, shocked, to find that our library staff are not as excited about strategic planning as I am!) leads to a lack of uptake.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Painting the Exterior of the Library

This summer we are having the exterior of the library painted. You can follow progress on the Olin Library's Facebook page. But I couldn't resist this photo of the sky blue ceiling of the atrium at our entrance. This is something of an American tradition. Don't worry, the rest of the exterior will be a variation on the Rollins' Mediterranean stucco style.

Friday, July 02, 2010

ALA Advocacy Day 2010

Tuesday was Library Advocacy Day, a sweaty but a fun, and I hope productive, time was had by all. Of particular concern to me was to assess the interest amongst Florida legislators on the Federal Research Public Access Act (H.R. 5037 and S. 1373) and to make sure they understood how important this bill is to college librarians and the people they serve.
There is a lot of cynicism around U.S. government but I always get a great feeling when I am on Capitol Hill. Groups of ordinary citizens are purposefully walking from office to office earnestly lobby for their particular issues. On the day we were there the flags were at half mast for Senator Byrd, and the Kagan hearings were in full swing. It just gives me that warm and fuzzy, democracy in action feeling.