Monday, March 20, 2006

my kids rock the wiki house

A student came up to me a few weeks ago, all worked up because our ip had been blocked on wikipedia - he couldn't edit a page he was using for a class. He'd learned something for his project he didn't see on wikipedia and wanted to add it.

So he went into the user talk and made his points - and came back to me 20 minutes later with a few pieces of paper printed out from 'our' user talk page - he got his point across, and the wiki community came up with a compromise. Real world learning on all kinds of levels.

Check this out:
Excuse me, this is a school library IP. Can you really punish the entire school for the vandalising actions of just a few. Seems like an injustice to me, though I do not know the wikipedia's policies on this matter. Thank you. ~Jesse S. of Winnacunnet High School Hampton NH

And the response, a few minutes later:
Okay, the block should have expired now. I did not realize that this was a school IP, if I had, the block would have been shorter to limit the collateral damage. In general, we use blocks to prevent vandalism, sometimes that is the only way to stop it. It is regrettable that it affects innocents, if you have a registered account and your IP winds up being blocked for a long period of time, you will be able to e-mail the blocking administrator, explain the situation and hopefully you will be unblocked soon. Sorry for the trouble. Sjakkalle 15:44, 7 March 2006 (UTC)

The whole conversation.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

we so cool . . . update

so far, so good. there were some trouble-shooting phone calls with my-friend-our-first-volunteer-reader over the weekend - I had given some piss-poor technical directions on one part, which reminded me why testing is such a good idea. Got the file, had to spend some serious time doing various things with it - serious time only because things like uploading .wav files and renaming id3 tags was new to me. It's in the LibriVox forums right now, an editor has claimed it, and soon it will be ready for prime time.

The project manager called the reading "charming." Which made me grin like an idiot. I love it when things work.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

We so cool . . . the testing phase

At work, my boss wrote a grant so I could have some fun - we bought iPod shuffles and circulate them with audiobooks on them, which we get either from iTunes or Audible. Since we were wicked early in this game, we still get a lot of phone calls about this from school librarians all over the country, everything from how-to nuts and bolts type stuff to how to get people on board and believing in the project.

I've also attended a couple talks or conferences here and there where apple set up somebody to talk about what they are doing with iPods in education. Each time the person has mentioned having students create audiobooks - out of current, popular books. Each time I have asked about copyright. Each time the person has answered that it's ok 'cuz they're not selling it. Or, it's ok 'cuz its kept within the school. And the audience usually agrees, and because I'm just somebody in the audience, I bite my tongue while shouting in my head that they are in fact, breaking copyright law.

Fast forward to the good stuff: our new initiative is to try and partner with, a group of stellar volunteers creating audio versions of out-of-copyright stuff that are really high quality, and available to all online, including us, for free. We're starting to recruit super-kid volunteers, I posted on LibriVox and they were pumped to give it a go. What made it all come together in my head was the LibriVox volunteers started talking about a method whereby people who didn't want to read would edit other people's files. I don't have time to edit these files, and while the super-kids are super-great, they are also super-busy - asking them to read a chapter of a book is one thing, to spend the time editing is another.

We couldn't find an apple product that we could use as a portable, circulating digital audio recorder - I looked. Since the new versions of iPods recently came out, the accessories haven't caught up. And there are angering quality issues. So we purchased a Sony Hi-MD with microphone. We were able to really quickly and easily record onto the Hi-MD, had to use their software to transfer it from device to computer, but for the very first and probably the last time ever, Sony has done the right thing. It recognizes files created on the machine using a line in as being your own. You can import them in their format, and use their software, or you can import them in .wav format. Which means I can then open them in a number of different ways, and convert them to different file types.

Inigo Montoya (as me), "Fezzik, you did something right!"
Fezzik (as sony), "Don't worry, Inigo, I won't let it go to my head."
(best if you can imagine the voices of these characters from the Princess Bride in your head)

This was a point I was really worried about, and could not really and truly know if it was going to work out until I had it in my hand. Very worrisome when you are spending someone else's $385. I knew I'd be able to do it somehow, but had visions of twenty steps. This was three.

So this weekend a friend with experience reading textbooks for the blind is going to be recording Hans Christian Anderson's The Elderbush for LibriVox, using our new toy. This will be our test file for making sure we can upload it and get it to an editor in a reasonable fashion. Then, bring on the kiddies.