Category Archives: Instructional Technology

Promoting Subscription Databases

One of the biggest problems that libraries have with promoting access to their subscription databases is that individuals have no idea what is in the database, and why they would want to use them. One of the most obvious audiences for many of the databases are youth who have homework assignments, that they could use  information from the databases to complete. But many students think these subscription databases are just the same as the Internet. Showing students what they can find in the databases is the first step to getting them to figure out how to use them.

In createing a tool that would increase student’s motivations to use databases, I wanted to focus less on how to use the tools, and more on what students would find in databases and why they would want to use them. To that end, I selected four databases aimed at students from 4-12 grades, and created a slide show that showcases the types of information these databases produce. Like an advertisement, this slide show is designed to entice students into wanting to learn more, and not to fully explain every step.

I took the slide show I made in Power Point, and hosted it at SlideShare. SlideShare is a free service that takes slide shows created using various software tools, and hosts them. This allows people to view them who do not have the software that the presentation was created with, as well as creating an embeddable file that can be displayed on a webpage for users to view without moving to a new page.


Trial Instructional Videos–Trying out different software!

I’ve been playing around with some different screen capture software to see what works, and what is possible to achieve with each. From what I’ve seen, the hardest part seems to be figuring out what to say and avoiding saying “um.” Since I’m a poor MLIS student, I’m just using free software without any editing tools.

The first software tool I tried was Debut . A very quick and easy download, it took a matter of seconds to download and install. It has a very intuitive interface, and I was able to begin recording right away. There is a little quirk I’ve not been able to figure out a way around. You can set the size of the screen capture, but you can’t set a delay for starting recorrding. And without editing capabilities, I can’t seem to figure out how to erase the first moments when the recording program shows up. Regardless, I’ve made a sample video using Columbus Metropolitan Library’s new Kids’ Catalog.

Original Video – More videos at TinyPic

The next one I tried was Webinaria, which has the added advantage of hosting the files in flash format. It also has some basic editing features built in. The problem I had with the software was that it didn’t seem to work the way it was supposed to. Every time I tried to convert the files to Flash it crashed the program, and while it allowed you to insert text in the video it didn’t have a way to save the file besides converting it to flash which didn’t work. Fortunatly, I had another software tool on my computer to convert the video to flash, otherwise the file was WAY too big to be hosted anywhere.

Here is the Webinaria video I made, also for the CML Kids’ Catalog.
The Webinaria website offers a link to embed the video, but I’ve not been able to get it to work, so I included the direct link.

Making Instructional Videos

Besides using the built in camera on my laptop to practice storytimes, I’ve never actually made a video of any sort, let along an instructional one. I have watched a fair number of these videos, in my online classes, and during the Learn & Play program, and so understand that there are various ways that they can be put together. Helpfully, this past month’s School Library Journal ran an article on creating screencasts called “That’s Infotainment” . This contains information on what types of instructional videos are currently being used, tips on how to make them, reviews of software, and how to publish and promote them.

From this article, and the instructional videos I’ve seen over the years, I’ve seen a number of different kinds of instructional videos. One way that I’ve seen used is pairing power point presentation or slide shows with audio commentary. This is good for lectures, and can be combined with screen shots to demonstrate steps to take in any process. On the whole, it seems to be a very text heavy medium, which makes it difficult for children to follow. It might be best for library catalog stations that do not have audio capabilities or fast processors.

Another option is using a video camera and recording someone demonstrating something, using props, and even the occasional sign board. These aren’t as easy, since you have to have a pretty good quality camera to get a clear picture, and a steady hand or tripod to hold it. Plus it is hard to show someone how to use a computer program using a video camera, because of the glare off the screen if nothing else.

Perhaps my favorite instructional video method for library technology instruction is the screen capture. It allows users to see what the steps look like, and what to do when, while still allowing for sound and text together. The problem with this is that most of the screen capture utilities are quite expensive, and even more so are the editing tools required to polish them.

While I continue to review these libraries’ electronic resources, I will experiment with the various tools out there to create screencasts and other electronic instruction tools. My next area for review are the electronic databases that libraries subscribe to, either directly or through State Library services.