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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Comparing Wearables

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Watch Sensor

The updated Geeks Bearing Gifts class features an overview and discussion on wearable technology. As we near the holiday gift giving season it may be an ideal time to learn about more wearable technologies as these items are some of popular gifts this year. Wearable technologies are defied as devices or sensors attached or affixed to a user to measures activity or biometric information, some wearable devices feature applications that allow them to act as extensions of mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets.

A timeline of the history of wearable technology provided by Mashable reminds us that wearables have been around since the 1960s and that the technology available today is what makes today’s wearables more consumer friendly. Thanks to technology innovations, today’s computer and senor technology is smaller, cheaper, and possibly more accurate than ever before. Forbes magazine recently called 2014 the “Year of the Wearable.” According to a new ABI Research report an estimated 100 million wearable health monitoring devices will be sold over the next five years. The report notes that both “[c]onsumers’ growing interest in and awareness of how mobile health devices can improve patient care and bolster health-related activities” and “[a]n increasing ability to collect health care data through various devices and share that data with health care providers and payers” are driving forces in the growth of the wearable market.

 

Much of the success surrounding wearable technology is in the applications of wearables for health, fitness, and even safety. Success of early products such as the Nike Fuel Band and the FitBit are tied to their ability to monitor fitness information, perhaps encouraging wearers to work out more or allowing for a review of their overall fitness regime at the end of the day. In addition, many wearables now feature  the ability to encourage others and inspire friendly fitness competitions. While new devices are constantly entering the market, PC Magazine provides an overview of some the Best Activity Trackers for Fitness.

While fitness trackers remain some of the most popular gadgets for consumers, biosenor technology to track and record other aspects of healthcare are also on the horizon. With sensors many points of data can be collected and possibly analyzed to improve aspects of health.

Cloud Computing Security

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Cloud Computing computers

Thinking of storing information in the cloud? Cloud computing use in libraries, business and for personal use continues to rise. Today more services are available through cloud services than ever before. Cloud computing, as described by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, is large groups of remote servers that are networked to allow centralized data storage and online access to computer services or resources. Cloud computing makes it easy to access information on the go, to store and retrieve files from any computer.

As more information and data moves online and into the cloud questions rise about the security of cloud systems. The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) is one organization that provides information, certification, and training on cloud computing security. In  report, The Notorious Nine: Cloud Computing Top Threats in 2013, the executive summary describes “[T]he most significant security risks associated with cloud computing” as “the tendency to bypass information
technology (IT) departments and information officers.”

The CSA goes on to further describe nine of the top security threats associated with cloud computing as well as provide information on how to overcome these threats.

According to the CSA the top nine threats associated with cloud computing today are:

1. Data Breaches
2. Data Loss
3. Account Hijacking
4. Insecure APIs
5. Denial of Service
6. Malicious Insiders
7. Abuse of Cloud Services
8. Insufficient Due Diligence
9. Shared Technology Issues

One of the most common issues in cloud computing security relate to how cloud data is stored. According to some reports storing more than one user’s data on a server may result in data leaks and breaches. As a result proper data isolation is an important component of cloud security.

For additional information on cloud computing security review works such as Cloud Computing Protected: Security Assessment Handbook.

November SCR CONNECTions Recording

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Circuits inside a computer

The recording of November’s SCR CONNECTions webinar, Making & Innovating in Libraries: Thoughts from the Front Lines with guest speaker Tara Tadniecki, Engineering Librarian at the University of Nevada, Reno’s DeLaMare Science & Engineering Library, is now available in the SCR CONNECTions archives. Links to presentation materials & transcripts are also available.

Join us December 17th for our next webinar Across the Spectrum: Health Information Resources for the LGBTQ Community with Naomi Gonzales of the NN/LM SCR.

 

 

A Look Back at Internet Librarian 2014

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Internet Librarian 2014

Each October librarians from across the United States and Canada gather at the Monterey Conference Center, the original home of TED Talks, to share ideas and learn about new and interesting technology related to library services. This year I was lucky enough to have a proposal I submitted on Moodle and Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) selected for presentation at the conference. For my presentation I shared ways the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, South Central Region (NN/LM SCR) had used new Moodle features to transform the online version of the Super Searcher class allowing more and more people to take part in the class and learn new content each year.

I also attended other sessions at the conference and used the hashtag #internetlibrarian to share what I was learning. Below you will find find some of the topics, presenters, and links I found useful.

Tablets in Public Libraries

Jezynne Dene, Library Director for the Portneuf Library in Chubbuck, Idaho presented on the Gizmo Garage. The Gizmo Garage is a joint project with the Idaho Commission for Libraries and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The aim is to provide hands-on experience with mobile technologies for library staff and patrons. Dene’s presentation provided great information and ideas for getting your staff comfortable with mobile technology. Using the Gizmo Garage staff were allowed to take devices home for personal or work use and try them out. They were then required to provide a review of the product including information about why they liked the device or why they didn’t. The results were great, staff became familiar with different operating systems and then felt comfortable fielding questions from patrons with devices.

In addition the project also funds classes for library patrons. Some good advice from the presenter included having a list of core competencies for tablets and mobiles, including some basics like how to turn the device off and on, how to use the camera, how to find and download apps and more. Another good suggestions was to have users with the same devices or operating systems in one class. Instead of mixing up Android and Apple iOS offer classes focused on one or the other.

Website Security

Cyber Security is an issue that all organizations must continue to revisit, repair, and upgrade. A presentation by Tonia San Nicolas-Rocca and Richard Thomchick of San Jose State University provided some resources to ensure your website is secure. It is important for any organization to review their policies and standards when it comes to web security. It is also important that libraries continue to use web security measures to protect patron privacy. An important step an organization can take to ensure security and privacy is to use Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure or HTTPS to add a layer of encryption to ensure that information exchanges are kept private. Resources from HTTPS Everywhere can help you make sure your sites are secure. Another tool to check your website encryption and security is the SSL Server Test from Qualys.

Internet of Things

Evening session keynote speaker Lee Rainie from the Pew Research Internet Project provided an overview of the Internet of Things (IoT) and what the coming wave of connected things could mean to libraries. Rainie’s presentation left more questions than answers when it came to what the data is telling us about the IoT. While it is unclear if the IoT will lead to more job creation or result in the loss of jobs to new technology one things is clear, librarians will be able to help with training and education when it comes to the IoT. This new technology will require new skills and insights that libraries will be able to provide. In addition, global connectivity will create a larger marketplace for the exchange of goods, services, and ideas.

Another big issue related to the IoT will be concerns about privacy and the digital divide. Rainie theorized that librarians have the skills to help users understand issues related to privacy as well as the tools to bridge many people trapped by the digital divide.

Further information about the Internet of Things can be found in the May 14 report from Pew Research.

New MedlinePlus Mobile Sites in English and Spanish

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

M+ capture

Yesterday, MedlinePlus released new versions of the MedlinePlus Mobile sites in English and Spanish. The mobile site URLs are http://m.medlineplus.gov and http://m.medlineplus.gov/espanol

Like the original versions of the mobile sites, the redesigned sites are optimized for mobile phones and tablets. Unlike the original mobile sites that contained only a subset of the information available on MedlinePlus, the new sites have all of the content found on MedlinePlus and MedlinePlus en español. They also have an improved design for easier use on mobile devices.

The key features of the redesigned mobile sites are:
• Access to all the content available on MedlinePlus and MedlinePlus en español
• Improved navigation using “Menu” and “Search” menus to access search and major areas of the sites
• Enhanced page navigation with the ability to open and close sections within pages
• Updated look and feel with a refreshed design

This new version of MedlinePlus Mobile is the first step in redesigning MedlinePlus and MedlinePlus en español to behave responsively. Responsively designed Web sites automatically change their layouts to fit the screen of the device on which they are viewed, whether that is a desktop monitor or a mobile touchscreen.

In 2015, the MedlinePlus team will release a fully responsive version of MedlinePlus to provide a consistent user experience from the desktop, tablet, or phone. This will remove the need for a separate mobile site. Users will then have one destination for MedlinePlus (www.medlineplus.gov) when using any device.

Until then, try out this first offering of MedlinePlus’s responsive design on your smartphone at http://m.medlineplus.gov and http://m.medlineplus.gov/espanol. Send us your feedback and comments about the new site via the Contact Us link that appears on every page.

Free Antivirus Options

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Computer virusAccording to PC Magazine “Not having antivirus protection isn’t just a personal risk: Unprotected computers can be springboards for attacks.” It is important that any computer you use have properly installed and updated antivirus software. Antivirus software is computer software used to prevent, detect and remove malicious software from an infected computer. In today’s connected computer world viruses can quickly spread from one machine to the next if antivirus is not properly used or updated.

While may large organizations rely on antivirus solutions such McAfee or Norton there are other solutions that work just as well for little or no cost.

The experts at PC Magazine recently provided an online comparison of several free antivirus products they were able to test in a lab environment. Free editions of antivirus options such as Bitedefender, AVG, and Panda Cloud Antivirus all scored well.

There are many choices for free antivirus solutions available and this review highlights the strengths and weaknesses of many. It is important to install and run antivirus protection not only for the security of your computer but also for the security of those you network with. Don’t let an unprotected computer infect others! Be sure that the antivirus software you use is updated regularly as new viruses are frequently created.

NN/LM Ends Support for Internet Explorer 8

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Internet Explorer 10 logoDue to recent software updates on National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) websites at nnlm.gov,  Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) is no longer supported. Some read-only sections of nnlm.gov will continue to be available via IE8. However, anyone using IE8 will probably not be able to submit assignments in online courses utilizing the NN/LM Moodle framework, and may not even be able to access and log into Moodle courses. Other nnlm.gov services that require data to be posted to the server are also likely to fail. In addition, DOCLINE will not support IE8 after the end of 2014.

Please visit the NN/LM System Requirements page to see a complete list of supported browsers. For best usability, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) recommends that libraries begin talking to their local IT departments about upgrading their browsers to at least Internet Explorer 10.

Starting January 12, 2016, Microsoft will drop support, including security updates, for older Internet Explorer browser versions. Only the most recent version of IE for a supported operating system will receive technical support and security updates. Microsoft’s Stay up-to-date with Internet Explorer blog page provides a good explanation of why IE users should upgrade to the most current version.

Web Usability and Accessibility

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Browser Web Address fieldThe terms usability and accessibility are closely related and frequently used by those in web design fields. You may have even heard someone on your staff bring up these terms when discussing your organization’s website. These terms have very different meanings but when the principles of usability and accessibility are applied correctly they can enhance a website and lead to better overall use and broad access to your organizations information.

According to the W3C Organization “usability is about designing products to be effective, efficient, and satisfying. Usability is part of the human-computer interaction (HCI) research and design field (which is much broader than usability testing). For web developers, a key aspect of usability is following a user-centered design (UCD) process to create positive user experiences.” As you can see by this definition there is a strong emphasis on the user and how the user will be interacting with the product, in this case a website.

Usability testing is one of the best ways to find out how a user will try to access information from your resource. While usability testing can most effectively be done with the help of a trained professional there are may ways to prepare for an effective usability test. Usability.gov provides a wealth of information on usability including a brief overview for Planing a Usability Test.

There are a variety of free and for-cost online tools that can help you and your organization with usability testing. A list of 22 Essential Tools for Testing Your Website’s Usability was created by Mashable a few years ago. While some of the services on the list of have merged with others, the list is still a good overview of the type of online tools to help with usability testing.

While testing website usability is the key to ensuring that the users who visit your site are able to quickly and easily find the information they need, accessibility ensures that the widest range of users can access the information on your site. According to the W3C Organization “accessibility is about ensuring an equivalent user experience for people with disabilities, including people with age-related impairments. For the Web, accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with websites and tools, and that they can contribute equally without barriers.”

As we saw with website usability testing is important. The same is true for accessibility. There are a number of standards that website designers should follow to ensure that their site is accessible through Section 508 Compliance. Section 508 is an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that requires Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.  However, trying to keep all the accessibility rules straight can be difficult. For this reason there are a number of tools that you can use to help create an accessible website. A Complete List of Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools is available for free from the W3C Organization. The W3C Organization also makes available some useful guiding tutorials on various topics related to accessibility.

Data and the Quantified Self

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Are you using technology to track personal data including health and fitness? If so then you are taking part in the “quantified self” movement. The term quantified self was coined by Wired Magazine editors Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly in 2007 but the idea of using computer technology, especially wearable self-tracking sensors, to record data began in the 1970’s. Today’s wearable technology including fitness trackers and smart glasses, products like Google Glass, combined with increased access to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are revolutionizing the way we track, store, and use personal data.

By tracking, collecting, and analyzing data about their daily life users can increase their self-knowledge and possible improve their well-being. In April Susannah Fox of the Pew Research Center spoke at the first Quantified Self Public Health Symposium. In her presentation Fox presents the idea that health outcomes, especially for patients with chronic conditions, can be improved through tracking. According to the data from her research 7 out of 10 American adults are tracking health data in some form but only a small percentage are using technology to track their data. In addition to personal health tracking Fox also found that caregivers are often tracking health data for loved ones. Overall, the presentation demonstrates that there is a need for new and better technologies on the field of tracking, especially for health data. The video of her presentation can be found below.

One result of data tracking through the idea of the quantified self is that it can result in too much information. A recent post from NBC News addresses the issue of information overload and the quantified self. While some people are already tracking and using technology the post demonstrates that the field is expected to see continual growth over the next two years.

While the idea of the quantified self and increased self-knowledge can mean access to more data it may also mean that individuals may have more difficulty interpreting the data in order to make lifestyle changes that improve overall health. While wearables have potential the post also provides insights into how each device quantifies things differently which can make interpreting data even more difficult. In addition most trackers and devices do not have a way to share information easily or confidentially with healthcare providers, another potential problem.

The concepts of the quantified self and wearable technologies are addressed in the updated Geeks Bearing Gifts class.

Flip Your Classroom

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Librarian at computer with students

The concept of the flipped classroom has been around since the 1990’s but today’s technology is helping educators more easily adapt their teaching environments to the flipped or blended learning style. With a flipped classroom students learn new concepts and content by watching video lectures and then doing “homework” in the classroom, allowing the teacher to have more guidance and interaction with students. This model inverts the traditional education model in which content is delivered via lectures in class and reinforced through homework outside of the classroom. The flipped classroom concept has also been seen as one the top educational trends for the near future, as outlined by the 2014 Horizon Report. Current trends demonstrate the success of the flipped classroom model in areas of high school math and science. Learders of the flipped classroom movement, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, recently released their book Flip Your Classroom, which is now available form the NN/LM SCR Lending Library.

Using flipped classroom techniques can be challenging, especially when applying the concepts to library workshops and instruction. A recent post on ACRL’s Keeping Up With… Series focused on flipped classrooms and highlighted some ways to bring flipped concepts into library instruction. Authors Candice Benjes-Small and Katelyn Tucker provide sound advice for librarians interested in flipping library instruction. They suggest working closely with teaching faculty and ensure that students complete online assignments before coming to the class or workshop. Additionally it will be important that students who come to class be held accountable by the teaching faculty and in the preparation process some plans should be made for what to do with students who come to the class unprepared. Can they use a computer and headphones to view the content and catch up? Is there an alternative way to get them involved in the class if they did not complete the assignment?

In preparation for flipping library instruction librarians may want to consider the use of online tutorials or materials that they or others have already created. A quiz or worksheet may need to be created to ensure that students have completed the online preparation assignments before diving into class work. Once students are ready class time with the librarian can be devoted to searches that the students are considering using for their research topic. The librarian then becomes a “guide on the side”, standing by to provide examples and collaborate with students for successful searching.