Category Archives: Pretty Sweet Tech

NCompass Live: Pretty Sweet Tech – Teach Kids to Podcast, or Start Your Own!

Learn how to ‘Teach Kids to Podcast, or Start Your Own!’ on next week’s Pretty Sweet Tech FREE NCompass Live webinar, on Wednesday, November 25 at 10am CT.

I have a large number of requests for podcasting resources and information, so I decided it is time for this podcasting webinar guide! You don’t have to be an audio expert to get started in podcasting. Beginners can get started with just a smartphone and a dream. Whether you want to guide patrons to start their own podcast, or start your own library podcast, this is the place for you!

By the end of this session you will:

  • Understand the basics of podcasting, from start to finish.
  • Have access to a set of recommended software & equipment.
  • Walk through and access my Podcasting Guide for Librarians.

I hope you see you there!

Special monthly episodes of NCompass Live! Join the NLC’s Technology Innovation Librarian, Amanda Sweet, as she guides us through the world of library-related Pretty Sweet Tech.

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • Dec. 2 – Reading Diversely
  • Dec. 9 – Esports and Evidence-Based Connected Learning
  • Dec. 30 – Pretty Sweet Tech – Video Production: Tools, Tips and Tricks

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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NCompass Live: Pretty Sweet Tech – Computers in Libraries 2020 – Greatest Hits

Hear about the Greatest Hits from Computers in Libraries 2020 on next week’s Pretty Sweet Tech FREE NCompass Live webinar, on Wednesday, October 28 at 10am CT.

There were hundreds of great sessions at Computers in Libraries 2020 this year. This week’s Pretty Sweet Tech will highlight just a few of my favorites from this year’s conference. So if you’re interested in all things technology in the library, and you were not able to make it to that conference this year, this is the place to be! Here are some of the topics we will touch upon:

  • Libraries and the Future of Work
  • Closing the Digital Skills Gap
  • Makerspaces 2.0

This conference offered a lot of great ideas, and hopefully this Computers in Libraries 2020-Greatest Hits session will give you plenty of great ideas for your library!

Special monthly episodes of NCompass Live! Join the NLC’s Technology Innovation Librarian, Amanda Sweet, as she guides us through the world of library-related Pretty Sweet Tech.

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • Nov. 4 – Letters About Literature
  • Tues. Nov. 10 – Creating an Open Educational Resource: Grenzenlos Deutsch, German Language Online Curriculum
  • Nov. 18 – Summer Reading Program 2021: Tails and Tales
  • Nov. 25 – Pretty Sweet Tech
  • Dec. 2 – Reading Diversely
  • Dec. 9 – Esports and Evidence-Based Connected Learning

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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NCompass Live: Pretty Sweet Tech – Revamping Your WordPress Website

We’ll be ‘Revamping Your WordPress Website’ on next week’s Pretty Sweet Tech FREE NCompass Live webinar, on Wednesday, September 30 at 10am CT.

There have been quite a few changes to WordPress, especially in the past year. Since the start of the pandemic, there has also been a growing need for online resources and activities. Now that people have had a taste for these online resources, the need for quality online material is growing. Your library can help!

This webinar will act as a guide to help you refresh your library’s WordPress website. Here’s what we will cover:

  • What is WordPress and what changed?
  • What should I put on my website?
  • How can I learn new WordPress skills?
  • Turning a planning page into a website.

You will walk away with a step-by-step quick-start guide for getting your website up and running. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect as you’re just getting started. You can add more as you learn more. If you’re in Nebraska, feel free to email me at amanda.sweet@nebraska.gov for a planning consultation and/or WordPress walk-through.

Special monthly episodes of NCompass Live! Join the NLC’s Technology Innovation Librarian, Amanda Sweet, as she guides us through the world of library-related Pretty Sweet Tech.

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • Oct. 21 – Migrating to an Open-Source ILS in an Academic Library: How to Celebrate Successes and Bounce Back from Problems
  • Tues. Nov. 10 – Creating an Open Educational Resource: Grenzenlos Deutsch, German Language Online Curriculum

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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NCompass Live: Pretty Sweet Tech – Technology vs. Human Values: How To Take Control

Explore ‘Technology vs. Human Values: How To Take Control’ on next week’s Pretty Sweet Tech FREE NCompass Live webinar, on Wednesday, July 29 at 10:00am CT.

Special monthly episodes of NCompass Live! Join the NLC’s Technology Innovation Librarian, Amanda Sweet, as she guides us through the world of library-related Pretty Sweet Tech.

Have you ever felt a knot of fear and uncertainty in the pit of your stomach while using certain technology? I do. The first companies that come to mind are always Facebook, Google, and Amazon. These companies set the gold standard for technology, then teach others to do as they do, using free or low-cost tools. You may have heard the phrase: “if a tool is free, it means that you are the product”.

In this session, we will explore what it means to be the product of the tech generation. Is this really such a bad thing? Do the actions of technology companies reflect their values? Do these companies reflect our own personal values, and the desired values of our community? Or is the world being re-shaped by technology tools? To find out, we will explore major tech companies, dive into our own personal values, and see how it all stacks up.

At the end of the session you will have access to a variety of activities, discussions, and book group options designed to help you and your community align big tech with your own values. Keep in mind that these tools are experimental. As tech grows, we must all experiment with how to best deal with this changing landscape. Attend this session if you want to try something new and take control of how technology is shaping the world.

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • Aug. 5 – The Kreutz Bennett Donor-Advised Fund: Grants to Nebraska’s Small-Town Public Libraries
  • Aug. 19 – Drive-Thru User Testing

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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NCompass Live: Pretty Sweet Tech – How to Make Digital Literacy Less Boring

Learn ‘How to Make Digital Literacy Less Boring’ on next week’s Pretty Sweet Tech FREE NCompass Live webinar, on Wednesday, May 27 at 10:00am CT.

Special monthly episodes of NCompass Live! Join the NLC’s Technology Innovation Librarian, Amanda Sweet, as she guides us through the world of library-related Pretty Sweet Tech.

How would you describe Digital Literacy to a patron without making it sound dull as dirt? With more people turning to online learning and resources during the current crisis, Digital Literacy skills are more important than ever. Learning things like online privacy and security, how to effectively communicate online, and how to find and evaluate information online are all vital to our success in the world. Yet many patrons just don’t care. It’s boring.

In this session, I will provide some ideas of what has worked in libraries I’ve visited, and ask you what has worked in your library! We won’t cover all the topics in digital literacy, but you will get a general idea of how to convert a dry digital literacy category into an entertaining learning event! Instead of advertising a “How to Communicate Online” event, call it “What Are You Trying to Say?”

Don’t bring people together over privacy and security. Connect people through a shared desire to stay safe in the wilds of the inter-webs. Make it a game that parents can play with their kids. You are caught in the inter-webs! Avoid the digital obstacles to get you and your kids out safely. Make sure to end the session with a splashy handout they will want to stick on the fridge.

These are just a few of the tantalizing ideas you will encounter in this session. If you want to learn more, check out my Digital Literacy Guidebook. More resources and ideas are being added daily this month. If you’re in Nebraska, the course to Build a Digital Literacy Plan starts on May 25th.

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • June 3 – Automating Virtual Student Library Cards
  • June 10 – Identity and Impostor Syndrome in Library Makerspaces
  • June 17 – Who are These People & Why are They in My Library? Using Empathy & UX to Understand Your Library Patrons

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Pretty Sweet Tech: Building Media Literacy

PEN America and the EveryLibrary Institute are offering a Train the Trainer workshop to help librarians teach media literacy on May 27 and May 28 at 1pm Central. The toolkit they offer is versatile, however these resources are especially important as COVID-19 misinformation runs rampant, potentially endangering our communities.

As technology grows more complicated, so do the scams. In a world of social distancing, we are all becoming more reliant on technology to communicate, make purchases, and more. This workshop is about finding information online in a world filled with misinformation.

I just registered for the workshop myself. It is free and runs through Zoom. Before the workshop, take a sneak peek at Pen America’s Guide on COVID-19 and Disinformation.

Some of these tips are tried and true, others are borrowed, or might make us feel blue. But the information is necessary, helpful and timeless. Give it a try, you might learn something new!

If you want to see what the Nebraska Library Commission is doing to help build digital skills, check out my new Digital Literacy Guidebook.

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Pretty Sweet Tech: New Digital Literacy Course

For those who are adding or revamping new digital literacy offerings in your library, the Nebraska Library Commission is offering a comprehensive course to Build a Digital Literacy Plan for your library!

There is no one way to implement digital skills. However, we can explore what our community needs, and how the library can help through a combination of developing programs in-house, working with local and national organizations to meet each community’s growing digital needs. By the end of this course, you will:

  • Define digital literacy in your own words, with practical examples.
  • Identify a target audience to narrow focus and seek the best sources to meet tangible needs.
  • Explore a variety of digital literacy categories to determine what works best for you and your community.
  • Use planning worksheets and guides to build a digital literacy plan and prioritize what and how to deal with important items.

Along the way, we will share ideas and compare notes of what worked for others in the state. If you would like to register for this course, please go to http://nlc.nebraska.gov/scripts/calendar/eventshow.asp?ProgId=19463. I’m teaching the course, so I hope to “see” you there.

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Pretty Sweet Tech: 3D Printing Personal Protective Equipment

In this time of crisis, we are all looking for ways to help the healthcare industry do their job safely and effectively. Many homemade face masks, face shields, ventilators, and more have been cropping up. How do we help in the safest way possible?

How to Help

If your library wants to help, I recommend taking a look at the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s FAQs on 3D Printing of Medical Devices, Accessories, Components, and Parts During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Here are some highlights:

  • Most 3D-printed masks are generally not certified or tested as N95 compliant. This should be noted for recipients.
  • The mask may look like a normal mask, but a 3D printed mask may not provide the same level of barrier protection, fluid resistance, filtration and infection control.
  • The CDC is working with approved organizations to establish better 3D printing guidelines for those who would like to help the cause.
  • Make sure you practice quality control and sanitize your environment, according to these guidelines.

For designs that have been reviewed for clinical use through a partner of the CDC, visit the National Institutes of Health 3D Print Exchange. Please note that each design has a recommended material type.

Points of Note for Makers:

  • PLA filament, the 3D printer filament commonly found in most library printers, is not currently recommended for printing face masks.
  • The best way to help, using PLA, is by printing clinically reviewed Face Shields, or ear comfort guards.
  • Make sure you read other maker’s comments and test the durability of your designs yourself before sending them to healthcare workers.
  • Follow these instructions to disinfect your work environment and follow quality control. There is no need to transfer disease through the shield that is supposed to stop the spread of disease!
  • Make sure the printer is not open to the public. Public libraries can be germ factories!

If you or a local organization has been building your own 3D printed design, please consider submitting your design to be FDA approved and tested. This is the CDC recommended way to safely be part of the solution. As always, I hope this post finds you healthy and well in these unusual times.

Posted in General, Pretty Sweet Tech, Technology | 1 Comment

Pretty Sweet Tech: Low-Tech Through the Mail

Today, I’m keeping it old-school. Many kids are stuck at home with nothing to do and libraries want to help! One option is sending printed activity packs, and digital literacy resource sheets through the mail. Here are the steps to get going fast:

  1. Post on your website, or social media, that you have Activity Packs for kids of all ages available through the mail. Or, call around and let people know this is a new offering (for those without computers).
  2. Ask these questions:
  • How old is your child, or children?
  • What subjects do they like?
  • What do they like to do for fun?
  • Do you need help monitoring what kids do online? (parents might be a bit more aware of the time their kids spend online when everyone is stuck in the house).
  • Do you have any digital resource questions?
  • What is your address? What name should I put on the envelope?

You can use Google Forms to post a link to a quick, free form online:

3. Go to these websites and find the appropriate resources:

4. Print and mail.

It’s time for libraries to get a little creative in reaching patrons at home during these unusual times. Libraries can make life a little easier using just a printer and a phone.

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NCompass Live: Pretty Sweet Tech – Chatbot Demonstration Using Scratch

Let’s chat! Join us for a ‘Chatbot Demonstration Using Scratch’ on next week’s Pretty Sweet Tech FREE NCompass Live webinar on Wednesday, March 25 at 10am Central Time.

Special monthly episodes of NCompass Live! Join the NLC’s Technology Innovation Librarian, Amanda Sweet, as she guides us through the world of library-related Pretty Sweet Tech.

I have mentioned chatbots quite a few times in the past. Today you get to see one take shape, one step at a time. We will be using Scratch, the drag and drop programming tool to make our chatbot come to life. This session is based on the tutorial from Raspberry Pi. You do not need a physical Raspberry Pi to be able to complete this tutorial.

After running through this tutorial, we will review a few tools that can be used to take our chatbots to the next level. There will also be a resource collection to learn more about chatbots and what to watch out for as the technology matures and grows into many different areas of life. By popular demand, there will be access to lesson plans and activity ideas galore!

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • April 1 – Beta Testing for Social Wellbeing
  • April 8 – How to Add Movement to Library Programming
  • April 15 – Amplified Advisory with Video Book Talks

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Pretty Sweet Tech: Are We Used to Learning Online?

With more schools and libraries closing during the Coronavirus pandemic, we are made to focus on online learning and digital resources for both patrons and librarians. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

I put together a Digital Literacy Guide with plenty of resources to learn technology, digital skills, and life skills for any and every subject. The skills in the “How and Where to Learn Online” are helpful for both librarians and patrons who would like to expand technology, business, and a variety of other skills.

Elsewhere on this page are tips and tricks to study and stay organized when learning online from home. It seems easy, but time management can be difficult with distractions from family members and entertainment options. Learning online from home also requires a different level of concentration. Going on the computer at home is sometimes associated with leisure time, or other activities. How do we change the mindset to get stuff done and work towards a goal? The “Best Practices for Learning Online” section can help with these issues.

Finding health information, news sources, and evaluating information is also part of learning online. Find tips and tricks for this here as well.

I hope you all stay safe and well during this pandemic. If you do get quarantined, try to see it as an opportunity to build new skills online. You can come back stronger, smarter and prepared to take on the world!

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Pretty Sweet Tech: Lesson Plans for Community Planning

As the population grows in Lincoln, we are faced with growing transportation, housing, environmental, economic, and a variety of other problems. Similar categories are found in areas across the state and around the world. These problems are not always seen as the most pressing or fancy problems on the planet, but they are important.

Many of the problems facing us now and in the future require us to look at the problem from many different angles so we can solve the problem for everyone, not just a vocal few. So I’m planning a set of lesson plans that are interdisciplinary, and is not locked down to just one piece of technology. This lesson plan mimics the way we would encounter technology in the real world. Life doesn’t happen in subjects. The community is our classroom.

Over the next several blog postings, I will be building the foundation for this series of lesson plans.

Introduction

Our goal is to find ways to build a better community. Consider this scenario: Your city is planning a new housing development and wants to ensure this new area has room for upward mobility, access to resources, and is sustainable in every way. The city wants to encourage ride-sharing, provide quality affordable housing, job options, and sustainable living. As city planners, you can help make that happen.

First we need to learn more about the people who will live in these houses. What do they want out of life? How do they prefer to live? What is and isn’t working with what we are doing now?

Lesson 1 Overview: Dreaming

In this lesson we will consider what makes a good community living arrangement. What are the life goals of the community members? Is the current environment helping, or hurting? How do we live now, and how would we prefer to live? Not just the housing itself, but the full community. What makes a good place to live?

Lesson 2 Overview: Planning & Demographics

It’s time to do a bit of research and planning for this new community. We know what we want in a community. What about others? Which income bracket needs housing? Is there room for upward mobility? What are the current and/ or desired demographics that make up your community? Where are the local businesses? Where do people work? All the questions.

Lesson 3 Overview: Outside Influences

What are the systems at play here? Here we will use the Sustainable Development Goals as a rough guide to determine which systems are at play. It helps to have a full picture of what our community members are dealing with when designing and building the best community possible.

Lesson 3 Overview: Potential Solutions

It’s time to decide which of the factors we discovered are most important. We can’t make everyone happy, but we can do the best we can with what we have available. Start designing solution concepts. Which other systems do we need to work with to accomplish our goals? Build teams.

Lesson 4 Overview: Try It & Adjust

How do we knew our plan is working? What do we need to learn along the way to build a better community? Which tools, technologies and systems would make our lives easier?

It is at this point that we can introduce technology tools and instruction. The next sections of this lesson plan will focus on a variety of technologies and how to assess applicability, sustainability, and identify tools that help.

Without laying the foundation above, we are simply learning new tools. How do we know these tools are making a positive contribution to our communities if we don’t know what kind of community we are striving towards? Let’s see how this idea shapes up over time.

If you’re interested in testing this series of lesson plans in your community, please contact me at amanda.sweet@nebraska.gov. Let’s try something new.

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NCompass Live: Pretty Sweet Tech – Which Coding Language Should I Learn?

Which Coding Language Should I Learn? Find out on this week’s Pretty Sweet Tech FREE NCompass Live webinar on Wednesday, February 26 at 10am Central Time.

Special monthly episodes of NCompass Live! Join the NLC’s Technology Innovation Librarian, Amanda Sweet, as she guides us through the world of library-related Pretty Sweet Tech.

My brother is a software engineer. About four years ago, I asked him which coding language people should learn in the library. He looked at me blankly and asked “well, what do they want to do?”. Honestly, lots of things. Building websites, programming robots, learning the internet of things, building video games, designing virtual reality, learning the basics of artificial intelligence. You know. Coding.

I thought his head was going to explode, there were just so many variables and approaches to each one of these concepts. I had overloaded his processor! Over the past few years, I narrowed down this question of “which coding language should we learn?” and approached everything from an absolute beginner level perspective. I organized the information into buckets based on what people want to learn.

This session is all about where to get started with the most popular technology skills in industry right now. Want to learn websites? Easy: HTML, CSS and Javascript will get you started. Want to learn robotics? Try Python, then work your way into C++. Augmented and Virtual Reality? Start with HTML, CSS and Javacript, or launch right into C#. What about artificial intelligence? Start with Python in Tensorflow. This session will be jam-packed with tools and resources to ease learners into complex technology from an absolute beginner’s standpoint. Some of these tools can be used in library programming, while others are geared towards the self-directed learner who wants to know how to take the next steps on their own.

Who is this session geared towards? Makerspace librarians, children’s and teens librarians, and anyone interested in connecting library patrons with resources to learn technology concepts.

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • March 4 – The Healing Library: Responding to Trauma in Your Community Through Nontraditional Lending
  • April 1 – Beta Testing for Social Wellbeing
  • April 15 – Amplified Advisory with Video Book Talks

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Pretty Sweet Tech: Auto Complete Lesson Plan

Not my hands

I was typing an email on my phone last night and Google kept trying to put words in my mouth. Some of them were things no human being would ever say, others were eerily close to what I was planning to say. I have a Google Pixel smartphone and I recently found out this feature is called Smart Compose. Instead of only recommending the end of a word I’m typing, the system might recommend a full sentence.

I decided to try an experiment. Every time those light grey recommended words popped in, I tapped on them to accept the recommendation. I got some interesting results. Some were way off, others were eerily accurate. I tried it with responses to emails, and fresh email drafts with no recipient. Here’s what I started to notice:

  • Responses to emails resulted in longer recommended phrases
  • Initial email drafts with no recipient resulted in small, one-word recommendations to the end of sentences.
  • Business formatted emails resulted in long recommendations of formal sentences
  • Casual emails resulted in off-the-wall recommendations of things I would never say.

Good times were had by all. Anyway, the lesson plan idea is pretty simple here. Have learners observe their auto-response texts and emails for a while. If the person has auto-response deactivated on their device, temporarily reactive the service. It can be turned off later.

This observation can be done over the course of a brief lesson, or observed over the span of a week. Just ask people to write an email or text, then choose the autocomplete option. Highlight or mark out the autocomplete section so it can be identified later. This activity can only be done with Gmail or another Google service that has Smart Compose enabled.

Ask people to consider these questions:

  1. Would you ever say any of the things Google recommends?
  2. Did Google’s recommendation change what you were originally going to type?
  3. Was the recommendation better or worse than what you had planned (consider phrasing, politeness, grammar, etc.)?
  4. Do you like the Auto Complete option?
  5. What do you think Google is looking at to make these recommendations?
  6. How will this change the way we communicate?

Additional Resources

Gmail Autocomplete Feature Unveiled (YouTube): See Smart Compose in action and hear from the team that made the feature.

Here’s How to Use Gmail’s Smart Compose: The Verge shows you how to enable Smart Compose if you haven’t upgraded to the new Gmail yet.

Google’s AI-powered Smart Compose feature is coming to Google Docs: The Verge describes in more detail how the system works and how to use the beta in Google Docs.

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Pretty Sweet Tech: What is Future Ready?

It seems a bit impossible to truly be Future Ready. We do not know what the future holds. Now we are trying to prepare schools and our workforce for the unknown. Currently we are two decades into the 21st Century.

My search for a solution to the problems of the future left me with a series of big questions:

  1. What do you want the world to be?
  2. What do your friends want the world to be?
  3. What are the problems of today that are preventing your ideal future from happening?
  4. How do different systems in the world work together to impact the world? What does this look like closer to home?
  5. What are your current skills and interests?
  6. How can these skills be used to solve current problems?
  7. Which skills can you develop to solve these problems?
  8. How can we all work together to find solutions?

Mostly, how can the library help to bring the community together and provide the resources to learn? The real problem seems to be agreeing on a problem, the root cause(s), and a solution. One person can agree with themselves, but one person cannot change the world in a bubble.

Here’s a fun fact: the United Nations built a framework for their ideal world. This idealism appears in a neat infographic:

This is a nice starting point. But what does this mean for each individual? What about for the community as a whole? Which of these issues do people care about enough to take action? Here in Lincoln, NE, the Urban Development team is focused on reducing poverty, building sustainable communities, and creating decent work and economic growth for lower-income individuals, as seen in the Urban Development Team’s 5 Year Strategic Plan. That planning committee cares.

Are other people in the community aware of these goals? Do they have skill sets that can help? We know the problem, and there is a need. What makes people take action? How can the library raise awareness of this problem, find out how people can help, then provide tools and a platform to act?

Honestly, there is no universal solution to the problems of the world. These problems are systemic. One-shot programming makes people think. It does not change life-long habits. We are preparing for the 21st Century, not the 22nd. What causes long-term, positive change? What requires change?

I don’t post this because I have all the answers. I post this because I don’t. I post this because it is the only voice I have. I decided that if I’m going to use my voice for anything, I will try to say something that will have a positive impact on the world. That is a skill that will stand the test of time.

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Pretty Sweet Tech: Voice Assistant Lesson Plan

This is a quick and easy lesson plan I put together to demonstrate how searching for information online is vastly different from using a voice command to retrieve information via Amazon Echo, Google Home Mini, or another voice assistant. How do we determine which information is best when we can’t see it to verify?

Lesson Duration: 45-60 minutes

Audience: Adults, Teens, 6-8th grade

Prerequisites:

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand how voice controlled technology impacts the understanding and selection of information.
  2. Brainstorm new ways to analyze information using voice commands.
  3. Understand why we need to verify sources.

Materials:

  • Computers with internet access
  • Smart device with voice assistant enabled (ex. Amazon Echo, Google Home, smartphone)
  • Notebook & Pen, or Electronic note-taking device

Lesson Preparation:

  • Set up all computers and devices. Make sure the internet is connected on all devices.
  • Charge devices before class, or have outlet access.
  • Make sure devices have microphone and voice assistant enabled, if using a device other than Amazon Echo or Google Home.

Lesson Outline:

Voice command devices like Amazon Echo are getting more popular by the day. Do we know how this new convenience will affect information seekers? Let’s find out. This activity is designed to compare the different between looking up information online versus finding and retrieving information verbally. We will explore the pros and cons to accessing information using voice commands.

Introduction (5-10 minutes):

  • Introduce instructor
  • Explain the popularity of voice-command enabled devices.
  • Show examples of devices and how they are used in the world.
  • Warm-Up Activity: Ask if anyone has used voice commands in their everyday life to find information, control devices, or otherwise interact with the world. Have voice commands ever given you an unexpected result?

Finding Information Online Activity (10 Minutes):

Whether it’s a recipe, the latest news headlines, a DIY video, or information about a health concern, we all find information online every now and again. I would like you to find a current events headline. When you find it, jot down how you know the information is real.

Discussion:

  1. How did you decide this information was real?
  2. What is your source?
  3. Can you find another article reporting similar information?

Guidelines for Real vs. Fake (5 Minutes):

Take a look at this Real or Fake infographic from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) to see how the experts spot fake news. Did your news story prove to be real or fake? How can you tell? Have a brief discussion.

Voice-Command Information (15-20 Minutes):

Take out your voice-command device. Use the wake word and ask the device to find information about a current events topic. Find an article and look back at that Real or Fake inforgraphic.

Discussion:

  1. Using only voice commands, how can you tell if this is real?
  2. Can you find all the verification information listed on the infographic?
  3. Was it easy or difficult to find information to verify the source?
  4. Would you use voice commands as your only way to find information?
  5. What do you think will happen as more people find information using voice-command enabled device without a screen?

Conclusion (5 Minutes):

  • Sum up what the learners discovered during the activities.
  • Ask the learners if they have any questions or would like to learn more about any of the topics covered.
  • Remind everyone to search safely and find good information!
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Pretty Sweet Tech: Machine Learning on Code.org

Happy holidays everyone! This post will be short and sweet as we get ready for the holiday week. I stumbled across this Machine Learning activity on Code.org to help kids learn about the impact of artificial intelligence. The lesson has eight sections and is jam-packed with good information!

It starts with a video from two practitioners in the field, speaking without jargon for a younger audience. Honestly, this activity is fun and informative for adults as well!

You’ll learn how machine learning learns how to read data to make predictions about incoming data. The activities in this set are all ocean themed! Start by teaching the AI algorithm how to tell the difference between what is a fish, and what isn’t a fish to sort pollutants out of our water. Then, move on to find out how bias can enter the equation.

Eight sections later, and you will have learned the basics of how machine learning works, along with some of the pitfalls. Extend the activity by trying to apply it to other situations. Which occasions work best for machine learning in the real world? What doesn’t work as well?

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Pretty Sweet Tech: Emerging Tech Changes Fake News

For those who have built good digital literacy habits, it is becoming second nature to check your sources, find out when the article was published, verify sensationalist headlines, check facts, and double check the URL.

There are an abundance of tools and resources available to help us discern real from fake news. This fake news infographic from the International Society for Technology in Education outlines some of the best strategies.

This is how we interact with news online. What happens when we ask Alexa for a highlight reel of today’s news? We tend to keep ourselves busy and it can be nice to check the news while on the run. A digital personal assistant like Alexa or Siri are a great, hands-free option to stay up to date.

There is a downside though. How can we verify sources in an audio-only delivery system? Have you ever asked Alexa to provide three sources to verify the news article? I did. It doesn’t work so well.

Are you able to detect spelling errors when a long URL is spelled out to you letter by letter? Personally, I don’t always do so well with that task. I prefer to have things written out so I can verify and process information.

Will we go back and check the news later in the day to verify on a desktop? Can we tell the difference between real and satirical information when we can’t see the pictures to go with the words?

Do we know which other sources are out there if an algorithm chooses what we see? How do we know which decisions went into the algorithm? Do we really want to be that reliant upon a personalized digital assistant?

We are all already struggling to keep up with digital skills and to establish positive digital literacy habits. Perhaps we should all take a step back here and re-evaluate the way we are implementing digital skills.

Are the tools we are building going to help us with Internet of Things powered devices, Artificial Intelligence powered services, and immersive digital worlds? Can we identify the deep fakes generated by artificial intelligence?

I don’t have the perfect solution for this. Especially since Twitter and abbreviated news sources can be an equally big problem. But it is something to think about when you ask Siri for answers.

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Pretty Sweet Tech: STEM Reading Lists

Happy Friday! This is going to be a short post because I just wanted to share a few of my favorite sites for STEM books and resources:

STEM Recommended Reading List for Coding & Robotics: This list from Make Wonder, the company that makes Cue, Dash and Dot robots, curates this awesome collection of books, separated by age range.

The National Science Teaching Association also has a list of books and resources for K-12. This list is curated by “volunteer educators, identified in cooperation with the Children’s Book Council”.
We Are Teachers offers a list of 50 STEM Books to teach science, technology, engineering and math.

Goodreads has a set of Listopia collections for STEM and STEAM fiction in just about every category you can imagine. This isn’t a professionally curated list, but there are some good picks with reader reviews available.

I’ll stop here because if I add more list options, you tend to see the same books over and over on every list. Happy reading everyone!

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Pretty Sweet Tech: Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a method of problem-solving that puts the user first. For some, design thinking is the best thing since sliced bread. For others, it’s just a new label for the same old thing.

Here’s a diagram to give you a visual of the steps in design thinking:

Truth be told, design thinking originated in Stanford and has been around for two and a half decades, long enough to filter into other methods of problem-solving. Over the years, people have added different flavors, and applied the methodology in different contexts. More often than not, each new flavor is branded with a slightly different title and description.

So yes. This is my flavor: Design Thinking for Librarians. For one brief, shining moment I thought I had the greatest epiphany in the world. Then I did a quick Google search and found… Design Thinking for Librarians. But in a different flavor, made by librarians out of Denmark and Chicago. That one is wheat, and mine is a marble rye. Then I found ALA’s Design Thinking page on the Library of the Future page. Then I was just sourdough.

Then I dug a little deeper. These flavors of design thinking all stem from Stanford’s model, but appear drastically different based upon the setting. My flavor is adapted for selecting makerspace equipment in the library, as seen in this Design Thinking for Makerspaces worksheet. I also made a worksheet for Design Thinking for Websites over the years.

My point is that theories branch off into a million different things. Just because two websites have the same name does not mean they contain the same information, nor should they necessarily be applied to the same subject matter. Yet, everybody has a valid point to make in their application. There is enough Design Thinking for Libraries to go around. And around. And Around. The process isn’t linear, it’s iterative design.

To learn more, check out the NCompass Live show I did earlier today on Design Thinking.

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