Friday, February 29, 2008

Presenting virtually on presenting virtually

I'm going to be presenting a talk on improving presentations in virtual worlds for a virtual conference held in a virtual world. The Virtual Worlds: Libraries, Education and Museums Conference will be held in Second Life at the New Media Consortium Conference Center (NMC) on March 8, 2008. I'm tentatively scheduled to present at 11am Second Life Time (US Pacific = 2pm Eastern, local for me). My official topic is "Applying Distance Educational Theory to Virtual Worlds" and I'm going to be talking about how applying constructivist-type educational theory can improve the presentation experience online.

I'm also calling this my "Anti-PowerPoint PowerPoint". Too many people feel that they must have slides, and that the slides must cover everything they are going to say. It's especially tempting to do so when presenting online, because you usually end up posting your slides somewhere, and you want them to speak for you. However, slides should usually illustrate your talk, not give it for you. It's a problem that is just made worse by the technological behavior of slides in Second Life. I've been to several presentations where I never saw the slides, because the images wouldn't show up on my screen fast enough (part of the dreaded SL "lag"). By the time I could start to see the slide, the presenter was going on to the next one.

All my materials--yes, even the slides (all 6-7 of them)--will be posted online. That's part of my message, in fact: making materials available, in several formats, makes sense pedagogically and technologically. It helps your students review and process, aids in accessibility, and helps prevent disaster when the inevitable technical catastrophe occurs. Win/win/win!

After the conference, I'll post the links on this blog.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Importing Word bibliographies into Refworks

Our Systems Librarian, Tim Klassen, discovered a set of instructions for formatting a Word file (actually a .txt file) into something that Refworks can read. Someone at the University of Aberdeen compiled this detailed guide to formatting citations, such as a bibliography from an already existing paper, and importing them into Refworks.

Here's the PDF version of the Word to Refworks guide.

It's still a lot of work, since each citation needs to be spaced, punctuated, and labeled just so. Depending fast a typist you are, and how quickly you get the hang of the labels, this might be quicker than copying and pasting from a document to the manual entry form*, or searching for all of your citations and exporting from the databases. It's frustrating that something that can produce a formatted citation can't read one, but I know there is too much variation in citation content to make that easy. However, since even the database citations frequently need editing, even a partial import could be useful.

The University of Aberdeen library has more guides for Refworks, too.

*By the way, someone pointed out to me that I had been doing this the hard way. Instead of copying and pasting field by field, switching back and forth from window to window, they suggested that I paste the entire citation into one field of the form, like Title, and then cut and paste within the form. Less switching back and forth makes the whole process faster. Thank you!