As this new year begins, before I jump into another whirlwind of multi-tasking, I’m taking a deep breath and looking back at what I’ve accomplished over the past year. In case you’ve been wondering why there hasn’t been a blog post from me in a while, I thought I’d fill you in on what’s been keeping me so busy – and I’ll try to post more detailed information about some of these soon. Though my life doesn’t break down anywhere near as neatly into two parts, I’ll break this into sections about my student life and my professional life, and if you read both you’ll see how much they overlap.
Part 1 – My Student Self
First of all, looking back to last January, I’m reminded of how I relished in the “free” time in between semesters to participate in as many webinars and follow as many online tutorials as I could! Last year at this time I sat in on webinars about Linked Open Data, transformative aspects of digital learning, Search Engine Optimization, and even the indexing process for the Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations App. Throughout the year I’ve continued to benefit from the generosity of organizations who make their digital learning opportunities available openly for free. I’ve also benefitted greatly from Vassar’s subscription to the tutorials at Lynda.com, adding to my arsenal for Photoshop, WordPress, Drupal, iMovie, and SEO. I’ll keep cramming in as many of these as I can, and recommending that my students at Vassar do the same!
I’m continuing to work my way through my MLIS degree at SU, one class at a time (2 during the summer), and I created a page on my WordPress blog to showcase all my class projects from my coursework so far, at https://ardenkirkland.wordpress.com/lisportfolio/ . I learned a lot from the projects I worked on this year . . .
In my spring Metadata class (with Jian Qin), I got just the hands-on experience I was looking for with the alphabet soup of metadata, with exercises in DC, CDWA, VRA, EAD, and even a group research project about RDFa. For my final project, I developed an in-depth application profile I call “Costume Core” (http://www.ardenkirkland.com/costumecore/) for cataloging and encoding objects of historic clothing. Building on existing standards from the VRA, CDWA, and Dublin Core, this is a first step to develop a standard that the costume history community can agree upon, and that we can use for HistoricDress.org (a little more about that in Part 2). This project also allowed me to pick up on my ongoing project of comparing catalog records for historic clothing objects from a variety of museums, in both public and private formats, analyzing what work will be needed to make our records interoperable.
My summer class on Information Policy allowed me to finally start to catch up on my core courses for the degree, as opposed to the Digital Library electives I’ve been taking for my CAS. I loved how the discussions in this class really pushed us to consider the implications of policy at institutional, local, state, national, and global levels, and my two research projects allowed me to analyze some of these concepts in depth. For “Cultural Heritage PSI: The World Digital Library as a Case Study” I helped my group to set up a WordPress site to showcase our research examining the World Digital Library as an example of Public Sector Information (PSI) for cultural heritage (http://www.ardenkirkland.com/CulturalHeritagePSI/). I’m continuing to explore the ideas we discussed in this paper, as I follow the LOD-LAM community (Linked Open Data for Libraries, Archives and Museums) grapple with ways of opening up content for public re-use.
I also wrote a paper about “Stakeholders in the Orphan Works Debate,” exploring the oppositional perspectives of six of the stakeholders who provided their comments in response to the United States Copyright Office’s 2012 Notice of Inquiry regarding orphan works (http://ardenkirkland.com/KirklandOrphanWorks.pdf). Perhaps even more helpful than the paper is a color-coded matrix I created for an appendix, to help myself and others to quickly visualize the opposing viewpoints at hand (http://ardenkirkland.com/KirklandMatrixOrphanWorks.pdf).
I’ll briefly mention that the Information Policy class also gave me a forum to work through some of the ongoing debate over MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). In the spring I sat in on a formal “Faculty Conversation” at Vassar (this is a program for faculty to organize discussion groups) about MOOCs and online learning in general, and enjoyed the diversity of perspectives in the group, especially with regard to the complex role of educational technology in a liberal arts college like Vassar, where pedagogy is primarily based on intimate seminars and face to face relationships between faculty and students. The class allowed me the opportunity to read in greater depth about the implications of MOOCs with an eye to institutional and governmental policies, and to focus on the difficult labor issues at hand when MOOCs can dangerously become more of a business model than a pedagogical model.
I took advantage of my other summer class, on Information Architecture, to develop a strategy for portfolio websites for individual artists that takes advantage of current systems for structured data, going far beyond the HTML gallery websites that are typical for most artists I know. My sculptor husband, Michael Ciccone, was a willing guinea pig, allowing me to use his work (and his current website, which I designed far too long ago) as the basis to develop a prototype (report – http://ardenkirkland.com/Kirkland-MichaelCicconeStrategyReport.pdf ; prototype – http://ardenkirkland.com/Kirkland-MichaelCicconePrototype.pptx). Now it’s just a matter of finding the time to actually implement the changes I’ve proposed in my strategy – another project for 2014!
For another core course last fall, in Reference and Information Literacy Services, I built on some of my previous work to create an in-depth lesson plan for a workshop for undergraduate students to start using Omeka (http://ardenkirkland.com/IST605_Kirkland_Lesson_Plan.pdf).
This helped me to articulate something I’ve been thinking about for a while – student projects to build digital collections have value not only in relation to their content area, but also as a means of improving digital literacy. Once the steps of production for such a resource are made visible to students, they are able to better appreciate other such resources as consumers, and are more able to view such resources critically.
Another project for that class was to create an infographic related to information literacy, so my experiences with undergraduate students (joined with the timing around Thanksgiving) inspired me to come up with the metaphor of the “Research Pie” (https://magic.piktochart.com/output/947690-research-pie-wide). The tag line is “why have just a slice, when you can have the whole Research Pie” and it uses a dessert metaphor to explain primary, secondary, and tertiary sources.
In addition to my formal classes and the online professional development I mentioned above, I also had a wonderful opportunity in August to take part in a New York digital literacy initiative: http://diglitny.org/index.php/about-the-project. I attended a one-day “Train the Trainer” workshop that included not only an introduction to how to teach this rich digital literacy curriculum, but also how to teach adult learners. I came away with a thick handbook and a flash drive with digital files for the full curriculum content. Of course, all that content is also available on their website, at http://diglitny.org/index.php/trainers, and all the digital files are openly licensed so that you are free to re-use the content as you see fit for your community, including re-branding materials for your library or organization. I didn’t even realize until mid-way through the workshop that the curriculum was largely developed by my fabulous advisor at SU, Jill Hurst-Wahl. I’m looking forward to putting this training into practice!
In September, I began an additional part-time job, but I’m including it here under my student experience instead of under my professional experience because I’m working as a research assistant for my professor at SU, Jian Qin. I really enjoyed my Metadata class with Dr. Qin, and appreciated her generosity when I reached out to her with questions during my Information Policy class about the process of developing metadata standards, so when I had the opportunity to apply for a research assistant position with her, I jumped at the chance! Throughout the fall I worked with her, and with teams of other faculty and graduate students, on two different grant-funded projects.
First, I have been helping to edit a wiki presenting a Capability Maturity Model for Research Data Management. The team working on this project is compiling and describing best practices for all aspects of the research data management lifecycle, grouping them into key process areas and showing how processes and practices can increase in maturity, becoming institutionalized for greater reliability. In my continuing work to edit and format this entire document as they write it, I am gaining exposure to a wide range of scholarship regarding research data management, and learning a great deal that I will be able to apply to my future work. As this project is particularly grounded in science data management, I’m appreciating the opportunity to branch out from the humanities and learn different approaches, but I’m also constantly aware of the parallels in humanities research, and eager to point them out to the team so that this document can benefit a wider research data audience.
Second, I have been a web developer, partnering with another student, to build a new website (using Drupal as our content management system) to share the work of a project to study network analysis of research collaboration around the GenBank international data repository (of genetic sequences). I have enjoyed applying all that I learned in my information architecture class to this project, and it has also been a great opportunity to become proficient in Drupal. I’ve also been exploring the use of Drupal modules to add microdata formats with schema.org vocabularies to structure the data on the website as Linked Open Data. Once I can really get that working, I’ll be eager to incorporate schema.org microdata on some of my other projects.
What other project, you might ask? Well, I guess that leads us into Part 2 of my Year in Review, about my professional life, so stay tuned!
(by the way, if there’s an ad below this, please don’t hold it against me – one of these days I’ll set aside some time to move to a self-hosted WordPress installation so I can be ad free)