I have wanted to try creating a LibraryBox, a self-contained, wireless digital resource-sharing device for a long time now. I finally took the plunge and ordered a TP-Link Wireless Router, the basic hardware requirement for a LibraryBox from Amazon. It arrived yesterday, so I spent most of today setting it up. I made slow but steady progress and managed to successfully install PirateBox, on which LibraryBox rests. I disconnected the Ethernet cable like it said, then nothing. No WiFi access, no SSH access, bricked. Luckily there were some “if you can’t SSH” instructions on Jason Griffey’s LibraryBox site. So I started over again. This time I was much quicker despite having to work around the dire warnings about “Man in the Middle” attacks.
The assignment for Week 4 of Teach the Web has merged with the assignment for Week 5 as the whole project took much longer than expected. My idea was to put together a small Popcorn project on how knowing a little HTML and CSS can let you augment public domain ebooks to provide an enhanced learning experience. The video does not go into details on how to do this, but gives some basic ideas as to what is possible. The next stage of this project might be to provide step-by-step instructions for finding public domain ebooks, unzipping the epub file, editing its contents and then re-zipping the files.
Every day there seems to be yet another exciting open library/book project announced on the web. Here are just a few recent ones that I think are interesting.
LibraryBox is a project that not only lets you carry around a whole library of public domain books in your pocket, it also lets you make those books available to anyone else in the immediate vicinity via the wifi capabilities of the box. Public domain books are not the only thing that you can serve up as the box can also be used for providing access to all sorts of information – Open Educational Resources (OER), Health Care resources, clues for a scavenger hunt, etc. One big advantage of LibraryBox is that it can be used in situations where there is restricted or no internet access as it is its own self-contained network.
LibraryBox is a project derived from David Darts’s PirateBox. There are hundreds of examples of how PirateBox has been used. One interesting project was undertaken by Cogdog who took a PirateBox on a four month road trip in 2011 and collected stories by allowing people to upload them to the StoryBox along the way. You can read about this on Cogdog’s blog, StoryBox.
You can create your own PirateBox or LibraryBox. From what I understand, the main difference between the two projects is that the Pirate Box allows uploading of data whereas the LibraryBox is an anonymous server of resources. The creator of LibraryBox, Jason Griffey, says that if you can bake a cake, you can create a LibraryBox. I have baked lots of cakes, so now might be the time to create a LibraryBox. PirateBox instructions are also available.
unglue.it is a Kickstarter-like project for digital books. At any one time unglue.it has campaigns to crowd-source funding for a selection of titles. If a campaign is successful, the funds raised are used to pay the author and create a digital copy of the title which is licensed under Creative Commons. The book is then free for anyone to read. This is interesting as it turns the whole publishing model on its head. The project has started slowly with four books already unglued and two more currently looking for funding this month (May 2013) including:
Feeding the City by Sara Roncaglia
There are a variety of ways to contribute to this project – help fund a book, make suggestions for books to be unglued, and libraries can even help with creating cataloguing records.
DPLA – Digital Public Library of America
The DPLA was launched in April this year and has lofty ambitions to “bring together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world”. It plans to be a portal to deliver information, an advocate for an open intellectual landscape and to be a platform for new and transformative uses of its assets. Check out some of the apps have already been created to interface with the date in the DPLA:
- DPLA Map which renders a map based on your current location that includes location pins for resources in the DPLA database related to your location.
- Culture Collage which lets you view a cascade of images from the DPLA related to your keyword search.
- OpenPics, an iOS app, that lets you search for images across multiple collections from the DPLA and share the resulting images. Just now it looks like it is searching only the New York Public Library, but the capacity for more collections is there. The OpenPics software itself is open source and you can even see realtime usage statistics.
The DPLA is a actively seeking partner institutions with digital collections to share, but it is also looking for other types of contribution as outlined on its “Getting Involved” page.
Book as API
I recently attended a conference session entitled “Book as API” which was presented by Hugh McGuire of PressBooks and Alistair Croll, Solve for Interesting. The idea behind the presentation was that books would be much more useful if they were opened up via APIs so that the content could be accessed and used in different ways. This caused considerable consternation amongst many of the publishers in the room, but I think it is a really interesting idea. One way of doing this would be to create “smart” indexes. Index entries could be coded with classes to indicate if the entries were people, places, events, etc. This would allow machines to then use that information to create something else.
Dracula Dissected by Chris Hughes is an example of what can be done when a book is opened up, broken down into small pieces and rebuilt. This site lets you experience the book in a variety of different ways – by interactively looking at the journeys taken in the book, by viewing the letters independently from the rest of the text, by chronology or just by looking at background material.
Anyone interested in dissecting a book?
As part of my study leave, I have been looking at creating ebooks. So far I have used various tools including iBooks Author, the free software from Apple that lets you create books for their iBookstore, and PressBooks which is an ebook creation platform based on WordPress.
The book, The Mules are Splendid Company: One Man’s Experience in WWI Africa, is based on a series of letters that Thomas Wilson, a civil engineer from the Borders of Scotland, wrote home from East Africa during World War I while he was serving in the 3rd Battalion of the King’s African Rifles and later the Royal Engineers. It can be read online at PressBooks or downloaded at no charge onto an iPad from the iBookstore.
The plan is to create additional epub versions of this book that can be used on Kindles and Kobos and tablets running the Kindle and Kobo software. I want to try creating a visual ebook directly on an iPad using the Book Creator app.
Just like drawing something forces you to really look at it, remixing something brings a deeper understanding of the artifact and how it was created. My remixing activity involved remixing a Popcorn project. I had looked at creating a Popcorn project a couple of times previously, but was always thrown off by the “import video” imperative as I didn’t have a video to import. Perhaps I was trying to make cake pops with a popcorn maker.
So through remixing I have learned a bit about Popcorn Making and also about some interesting apps to try. Here is my remix of Dr. Karin Perry’s Popcorn Project – now called Augmented Perry Apps. Unfortunately this does not seem to be embeddable so try clicking on the image below:
Did I learn? Yes, but perhaps I would have learned more doing the Popcorn intro as I already knew some HTML and CSS. I did learn about two new tools for learning HTML/CSS and I also saw several very inspiring X-Ray Goggles and Thimble projects. The X-Ray Goggles tool could also be very handy to illustrate critical evaluation of information found on the web.
Part of the success in learning through making depends upon appealing and relevant projects that provide an appropriate level of challenge and support.
Time for another MOOC. ETMOOC was incredibly interesting and valuable, so when I received an email about Mozilla’s Teach the Web course, I couldn’t help but sign up. Topics to be discussed include: Making as Learning, Connected Learning, Open Web, Webmaking as Learning.
Here is a short video about the project.