Small Tools / Big Ideas Conference at FIT
Now that the dust has settled, we wanted to blog about our October 7th conference held at FIT. The premise of the conference was to understand the relationship between digital repositories -- specifically image repositories -- and the plethora of possible instructional tools that could make the repositories spaces for active learning. There were over 180 participants from more than 75 institutions across the country. Rachel Smith, from the New Media Consortium began the day with a keynote that reminded us that what we think of as technology is simply a normal part of our student's natural environment and that we, as educators, should not cling to a sense of its newness and artificiality, but allow what we think of as "technology" to become as invisible as it is to our students. The morning session, "Big Ideas," looked at a variety of different types of repositories. Barbara Taranto, Director of the Digital Library Program at the New York Public Library talked about the incredible success of that project which averages over half a million hits a day. The images on the digital gallery may be freely downloaded for personal, research and study purposes. Barbara lauded the variety of new and different contexts in which these images could now appear and pointed to the ways in which, on sites like Flickr, the images were sometimes stripped of their metadata and decontextualized. Barbara posed this as an issue, asking us to think about what happens to the meaning of an image, and the uses it might be put to, when it is removed from its context. In essence, she pointed out that this use of images, which is already rampant, could be further magnified as images become a kind of free currency disassociated from their sources and original uses. Using wikipedia as a model, Barbara suggested that informed communities could make it their responsibility to enhance the meaning of these untethered images. What fascinated us about Richard Baraniuk's (Director of the Connexions Project at Rice University), talk was not just the learning object repository and builder that allows faculty to, in essence, share learning objects that they've created, and reconfigure them as courses, but also, the way in which this was going to impact the textbook publishing industry. Rich mentioned Lulu -- and the idea that faculty could now self-publish these recombined learning objects (covered by creative commons licenses) and distribute them through Amazon. We were particularly impressed that Thomson publishing was on-hand as a sponsor to engage in a continuing dialogue about the future of textbook publishing. In fact, since we both teach art history online, and therefore have essentially written course texts, we are thinking about publishing via this new medium. Although faculty will draw from a variety of image repositories -- those that are institutional and those that are licensed (like Artstor), it is clear that they will continue to develop and maintain their own individual collections. The project Henry Pisciotta (Arts and Architecture Librarian at Pennsylvania State University and member of the Advisory Board of LionShare) talked about -- Lionshare -- allows faculty to share images among eachother and across institutions using peer-to-peer software that can authenticate users and allow for federated searches. Carl Jones and Ben Brophy, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries talked about the intersection between the repository that MIT developed, DSpace (which is not configured well for images) and Stellar, MIT's learning management system. We were particularly interested in their efforts because of SUNY's work with uploading images from two SUNY campuses into DSpace to create a pilot digital image repository that can be shared across the 64 campuses of the State University of New York. After eggplant parmesan and some collegial chit chat, we reconvened for the second panel, "Small Tools," moderated by Michael Feldstein. Our idea here was to discuss tools that are important to making the image repository a learning environment and also to emphasize the necessity for interoperability. In our opening remarks, we used the metaphor of the repository as a planet orbited by different tools, that could be used as needed by faculty. The tools we focused on were an image annotation tool developed by Columbia's Center of New Media Teaching Teaching and Learning (not currently available outside of the Columbia community), Tuft's VUE, SFMoMA'sPachyderm, and Scholar's Box. At the end of the day, in the roundtable, Carey Hatch, Assistant Provost for Library and Information Services at SUNY, asked the participant (representatives from FIT, Artstor, MDID, and Almagest) to talk about integrating these tools within a digital repository based on their real-world experiences.