For trainer-teacher-learners who had not yet made time to read the New Media Consortium (NMC) – EDUCAUSE 2008 Horizon Report on emerging technologies, the California Academic & Research Libraries North Information Technology (CARL North IT) Interest Group workshop “Mashup the Library” last Friday at Santa Clara University provided a day of revelations.
Data mashups—“custom applications where combinations of data from different sources are ‘mashed up’ into a single tool”—received the bulk of the attention from NMC Vice President Rachel S. Smith and other presenters throughout the day, and those of us in attendance couldn’t help but walk away with an appreciation for this as both an old and new technology. Old, in the sense that mashups by different names and formats have been around for centuries in the form of data such as population figures combined with maps to provide graphic illustrations of how these pieces of information interact. New, in the sense that combining a Google Map with information about apartment rental data from craigslist is less than a few years old. As new technology tools such as VUVOX are developed and users combine data from different sources into VUVOX presentations, all of us involved in training-teaching-learning are going to find that we can push beyond the limits of what has previously been possible in designing and presenting effective learning opportunities in the library workplace.
The current ability to combine library location information with a Google Map to help library staff, members, and guests find library facilities is rudimentary compared to what is possible. A far more sophisticated mashup I recently encountered is the GeoLib project coming out of Florida State University College of Information under the direction of Christie Koontz; users can view mashups of maps and data including population characteristics from the U.S. Census as well as library-use statistics for thousands of American libraries.
And when we apply mashups to workplace learning programs, we don’t have to stretch much to imagine a new-staff orientation session prepared in VUVOX and delivered live, online, and even asynchronously through a mashup of graphics, links to pertinent documents, and connections to audio and audiovisual files created with Flip cameras and other easy-to-use tools which are being introduced to library staff through Infopeople workshops. The same tools might also be used to create introductory tours of libraries for new employees as well as for library members and guests via mashups delivered to cell phones as mobile broadband capabilities increase over the next couple of years.
Best of all is the probability that new authoring tools which are being developed will “enable non-technical users to create sophisticated products without programming,” the report’s authors confirm—which means that those of us who are more enamored of providing learning opportunities than in immersing ourselves in the complexities of coding will soon have incredibly productive tools at our fingertips.
Next: Mashups in the Search for Information
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