Tuesday, 10 October 2017

My journey so far doing the Rudai23 course (Thing 6)

This is a reflective blog based on the first 5 elements (Things1-5) of the Rudai23 course. Blogging lends itself nicely to being reflective and putting a structure to your thoughts and before knowing about Thing 6 I had already done one here.

This process is supposed to enhance my learning and application of skills through critical thinking and self-reflection.  Self-reflection is something I have been doing for years, being a gay person has made me reflect on who I am and what I want to do in life.  Whilst being gay is a little more normal now, it still causes one to think about one’s family, faith, place in your community and society.  It challenges one to step outside of society norms and plough your own path.  For a lot of Irish gay people losing your faith is a major life changing experience but it is necessary as in their eyes we are “inherently evil” and one cannot be happy with that hanging over your head.

The critical thinking element of this lesson is more difficult for me.  In work, I deal with (& love) data, spreadsheets, reports & the facts to be reported.  I know it’s a rather singular mindset but it’s what is drilled into us from doing our Junior & Leaving Cert exams... i.e.

·       Here is a list of facts. 
·       This is what the examiner wants in the answer...even though the question says “What is YOUR opinion”, they don’t want your opinion, they want their “correct” opinion regurgitated back.
·       Do NOT think for yourself.
·       Do what you are told
·       And here’s the next list.
·       Wash, rinse, repeat.  

When you look at how every month we report statistics to the LGMA, it’s no different really.  The Service Indicators - footfall, issues, events, new membership, active membership – do not measure the intangible, the uncountable elements of the job.  But for me these are what matter, like nurturing a love of reading in children, providing outreach to isolated communities and even speaking to a lonely person.  This lesson asks us to do something that we never learnt in school or have to do in work.  This will be a challenge.  I will also give observations about the course and (cheekily) suggesting some small improvements. 

Things 1-3.

Every day I like to learn something new, I read every day (not trashy newspapers), I try to expose myself to new authors (currently reading Zero World by Jason M. Hough) and I’m an avid Scrabble player so love learning new words.  Play Scrabble for a while and rejoice when you see RETAINS on your rack and smile when you can recall all 11 anagrams.  I volunteer to help run the Wexworlds Festival in Wexford, this keeps me on my toes with current and new trends.  The last couple of years have been a steep learning curve for the festival as all of the committee are learning new skills.  If something crosses my path that I do not understand, I educate myself and make a decision as to how I feel and what my informed decision is.  (I hate that quote “Everyone has a right to an opinion”.  No they don’t!  It could be a stupid, racist and a hurtful opinion.  Educate yourself and have an informed opinion)

I consider a day that I haven’t learnt something new, met someone new or tried something different to be a waste of a day.  

Learn something new everyday
(source - here)

Some will have noticed that my blog is a little bit different that most other people doing the course.  Most have approached the project from the point of view of being a librarian, some people’s “Thing 2” was their journey on becoming a librarian and they will be using the course to learn new skills and eventually enhancing the experience of the person visiting the library (either walking through the doors or engaging on-line).  Whilst I will be learning the same “Things” I will not be doing this.  Why? 

I am not a Librarian, I am a clerical officer and have worked in many different offices in Wexford County Council since 2001. There are other staff in Wexford County Council Public Library Service assigned the duties of website management and different social media platforms.  I have very little input into our existing web presence.  I provide I.T. support to our branches but this is not seen or experience by the public, although this has given me a lot of knowledge and I.T. experience.  I have had to learn and upgrade my I.T. skills due to volunteering with local LGBT groups and the Wexworlds Festival, so this has also given me a lot of I.T. knowledge and experience. 

I will be using this course to tie together a mix of my existing knowledge and the new things I learn.  I hope this will then manifest through my blog and promotional work I will be doing for the Wexworlds festival.  Knowing beforehand that my approach would be different than a lot of people, I decided to blog about what I know and love.  This made Things 1-3 easy, mostly consolidating my existing knowledge.  I’ve had in the back of my mind to start a blog for a couple of years so now I have the perfect opportunity and reason to do it. 

Things 4 & 5

For Things 4 & 5, things (excuse the pun) got a little more complicated, but not outside of my ability.  From the start of the course it has been quite cumbersome to use the different elements due to heightened security measures following the Wannacry ransom-ware virus.  This is unavoidable from both our point of view and the course providers.  It requires staff where I work to get a member of I.T. to download and install each program/app and unblock different websites, for example Youtube, Blogger, Flickr, Powtoon & Screen-o-matic.  There are 11 of us doing the course in work so this is a lot of work for the I.T. department.  Neither Powtoon or Screencast-o-matic for Thing 5 would work at all for me. It will be hard for some people to persevere with the course if this continues for all of the lessons especially if they are fitting the course in between their normal hectic duties.

One suggestion I would make is to give a complete list of all programs and apps that will be used so participants can be better prepared.

Ease of Use & Practicality

The first thing I want to mention is the size of the text in the emails is too small.  Font size 12 is the acceptable standard size for text, course emails are in Georgia 6.5.  Please make it bigger.  (For those printing, Arial 12 is a good balance between readability and ink-economy.) When thinking about the ease of use and readability of my blog, I use font size Calibri 11 which I like and the size is good. However, whilst I love the graphic on the top of my blog...

Picture at top of blogger page

I don’t like the layout further down the page, the picture that defaults is too big and I would like to see the first couple of lines of text of the blog so I will need to play around with the layout and templates a little to get it more to my liking.

Layout of blogger page and template

This would be the first constructive reflection I have that I need to work on.  I will probably have to lose the image at the top for a more favourable template.

I am fairly computer savvy so for the staff that do not have the experience the course is a little more difficult.  I suppose that’s part of the point in the whole course, learning skills you do not have, but for some the learning curve will be huge. I remember coding on a Commodore 64 in the 80’s so have grown up with computers.  Oh how I loved Windows XP!

As with life, you need to move on or become a dinosaur.  This course has been great for me.  It’s been an easy way to bring together the scattered I.T. knowledge and experience I have gained over the last 30 years.  I really enjoy having a blog and fully intend continuing it after the course. As the saying goes “Write what you love”.

I really enjoyed Thing 4, and can see huge potential.  I am an amateur photographer & making a video of photographs was fun and easy with Quik. I can see this having a practical application when there has been an event on in the branch.  Thing 5 has also been useful making video screen-casts.  I plan on making a whole series of how-to-videos for patrons about all of our e-services.  Hopefully management will like them. I had to source a different program to use other than Screencast-o-matic and eventually found CamStudio.  This was another great program to use and was very intuitive.  The ability to add text and speech, ensuring both deaf and visually impaired users can follow the video is good.

In conclusion, I’ve enjoyed the course so far and am looking forward to the rest.  I still have a few gaps in my knowledge, like how to tie-in and manage different social media platforms and twitter but will be adding these to my repertoire.  Next thing to do is have to look at the layout of my blog to make it more appealing, then onto thing 7 and apply for my Visual Communicator badge.

(from Library Association of Ireland’s point-of-view, maybe consider changing the size of the text in the emails and providing a list of programs/apps we will be needing our I.T. depts. to give access to and install)

Live long and Prosper
John “The Captain” Ryan


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