High 5: ETUG’s Spring Workshop 2015

Last week I attended the ETUG Spring Workshop that was held an Simon Fraser University on June 4th and 5th.  ETUG is BC’s Educational Technology User Group which comprises librarians, instructional designers, instructors and others interested in educational technology from post-secondary institutions across British Columbia.  The twice annual workshops provide an opportunity for attendees to share ideas, resources, and participate in ongoing professional development.

The theme for this Spring’s workshop was High 5, the top five educational issues and trends in post secondary education as revealed by a survey of ETUG members:

  1. Academic Transformation
  2. Faculty Development 
  3. Online + Blended Teaching and Learning
  4. Assessment of Learning
  5. Evaluating Technology Based Instructional Innovation

The programme was jam-packed with keynotes, concurrent sessions and poster presentations, a few of which I’ll mention here. The complete schedule with links to session descriptions is available on the ETUG website.

Visual Practice Workshop

Visual PracticeOn the Wednesday afternoon before the ETUG Workshop proper, a group of individuals interested in learning about recording presentations with graphics got together for a workshop on Visual Practice.  This workshop was led by Tracy Kelly of BCcampus and Jason Toal of SFU.  We spent most of the session drawing on large sheets of paper taped to the walls.  Our first task was to find a partner, ask that partner five questions and record the answers with images.  After that we learned some of the basics of graphic facilitation including the use of  colours, size of text, types of lines, and other tips and tricks.  The afternoon culminated in small groups of us trying our hand at graphic facilitation of a short talk given by one of our instructors.  This gave us a good taste of the stresses of accurately representing a conference session in graphic form in front of an audience.  Those who felt strong enough created graphic notes of the ETUG Keynote while the rest of us created a Graffiti Wall to record workshop attendee’s High 5 moments at the conference.

The Anatomy of a 21st Century Educator

The keynote was presented by Simon Bates, a physics professor and Senior Advisor, Teaching and Learning at UBC.  His talk was about trends in educational technology and the skills, values and habits we need to embrace to work in this world.


Scale and Pace of Tech Change

Reach of YouTube compared to a photocopied text

Reach and Unbundling

Disruptions - Computer grading better than human grading

Disruptions – Computer grading better than human grading

The implications of these changes are far reaching , so what do we need to do to rise to this challenge.  This was the question posed by Bates which we answered using our mobile devices and a website called, Socrative. The results of this survey (now available via Dropbox) led into a discussion of the anatomy of the 21st century educator which Bates outlined as follows:

  • Scholar
  • Technologist
  • Curator
  • Teacher for Learning
  • Collaborator
  • Experimenter

The remainder of the session revolved around a resource called Peerwise, a bank of multiple choice questions, created, answered and discussed by students.  This tool  takes advantage of students’ creativity and leverages their familiarity with social media to produce a learning resource that belongs to the students.  Like any educational technology, framing and explaining is necessary for it to be beneficial.  Bates found that he needed 120 minutes of “scaffolding” for students to effectively use the resource.   Motivational tools (badges, points, leader boards) have been built into PeerWise to encourage participation.  Bates also provided stats to show how Peerwise increases student engagement and how questions submitted by students fared against Bloom’s taxonomy of cognition.

Slides from The Anatomy of the 21st Century Educator are available on Slideshare

Poster Sessions


Three LibraryBoxes on display

On Thursday evening a variety of posters were presented by ETUG members.  A complete list of the posters is available on the ETUG website.  Part of the reason I attended the ETUG workshop was that a poster I created for the Ryerson Faculty conference on LibraryBox (and licensed under Creative Commons) was modified for use at this workshop.  In addition to the poster we had three different LibraryBoxes on display, the one I created last year and two new ones created by ETUG members using a new combined router/battery unit.  We learned at this session that there are also all-in-one router/battery/storage devices being used.

Open Textbooks

Print copies of BCcampus Open Textbooks

The poster session immediately next to the LibraryBox poster was on Open Textbooks.  BCcampus has many open textbooks now available.  Usually these textbooks are used in electronic form, but  Print On Demand copies can be ordered and printed by the SFU Espresso Book Machine.  Several of these print books were available at the display.

Virtual Reality—Real Learning: Hands-on with Google Cardboard

vrThis session, led by Leva Lee (BCcampus) and Gina Bennett (College of the Rockies) gave a brief overview of Virtual Reality from the massive headsets of the 1960s through Mickey Mouse Viewmasters to the Oculus Rift type headsets of today.

cardboard2As with most of the other sessions at the workshop, there was a hands-on component – we built our own VR headsets using Google cardboard kits, downloaded a few apps and tried them out.

The last activity (using the incentive of winning a Cardboard headset to encourage participation) was to suggest some uses for virtual reality headsets in teaching and learning.  The complete list of suggestions has not yet been compiled, but some examples include learning how to perform medical procedures, virtual tours of buildings and places that are difficult or impossible to visit in person, demonstrations of painting techniques, viewing scuptures in 3D, exploring biology at the micro-level such as entering into the blood stream, etc.

Other Technologies Experienced at the ETUG Workshop


bitcoinA couple of weeks ago SFU announced that it would begin accepting Bitcoins as a method of payment for textbooks in all of its bookstores, something that I had forgotten all about until I came across a Bitcoin AVM in the Burnaby Bookstore.  It seemed like too good an opportunity to miss, so I found another ETUGer who was also interested and we each purchased part of a Bitcoin. In my case, I hope that owning even a small portion of a Bitcoin will encourage me to learn more about the currency.


Virtual Conference Attendance

Virtual conference attendee

Virtual conference attendee

In addition to the physical attendees at the workshop, we had a virtual attendee in the form of Grant Potter who attended the workshop from Mahone Bay, NS via a VGo robot.  The robot belongs to the Technology Integration and Evaluation (TIE) Lab at UVIc where it is used in educational research.  The VGo telepresence device is remotely controlled by a person with a laptop who can see, move, talk and hear as if they were attending the conference in person.  At the poster session we were able to test drive the robot.


The adventures with Bitcoins, Google Cardboard and VGo robots, interesting sessions, good food and meeting new people and people that I had previously only known online made this workshop a worthwhile and rewarding experience.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The Web in Your Pocket: Distributing Digital Resources using LibraryBox

Image of Poster Presentation

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- ShareAlike License

At the recent Ryerson University Faculty Conference I presented this poster to familiarize faculty members with LibraryBox and how it might be used in their teaching and research.  At the poster venue I had a LibraryBox for testing and had a good stream of visitors from a wide range of departments in the University – Nursing, Engineering, New Media, Sociology and Architecture.  The poster gave some background, simplified how to build instructions, some use cases, features and benefits, a map with some highlighted LibraryBox locations and some sample screenshots.  It will be interesting to see if I hear back from any of the faculty members that dropped by.

Customizing your LibraryBox v2.0 Beta

Screenshot of LibraryboxRecently I created a LibraryBox v2.0 Beta and have been spending some time customizing the look and feel of the default installation to reflect how I would like to use it and to prepare it for a couple of upcoming poster presentations. Here are a few notes on what I have discovered so far that may be helpful if you are trying to do some customization.  For more detailed information and discussion about LibraryBox 2.0 that goes way beyond look and feel, check out the LibraryBox Google Group and the Advanced Setup page on the LibraryBox site.

Files and Directories

The default installation of LibraryBox v2.0 comes with a suite of files that work out of the box.  These can be found in the LibraryBox directory on your USB stick.  Many of these files can be customized to make your LibraryBox unique. The files that govern how content is displayed can be found in the Content and Shared directories below the LibraryBox directory.  Before editing them, it is a good idea to make a back-up copy of the entire contents of the LibraryBox directory and save it to your computer.  If anything goes badly wrong when editing, you will be able to restore the original version.

Content Directory

The content directory contains several files and folders as follows:

librarybox_faviconFavicon.ico is the small 16 x 16 pixel icon that appears in the browser address bar when a user is connected to one of your LibraryBox pages.  You can create your own favicon if you wish by using a favicon generator such as:


Gpl-2.0.txt file contains the text of the GNU public license.

HTML Files

The Content directory contains several static HTML files as follows:

Home Page –  index.html
Statistics Page – stats.html
About Page – about.html

php files

dl_statistics.html.php and vc_statistics.html.php are used to track downloads and visitor counts which are reported on the home and stats pages.

STL files

These files can be used to 3D print a container for your LibraryBox.

css Directory

Contains css files used by LibraryBox pages:


The css directory contains style sheet files that govern the look and feel of your LibraryBox pages. Several of these css files come with the Bootstrap framework, a collection of tools that was used to create the LibraryBox website.  The font.css file makes use of the font files that are in the Content/fonts directory.

If you would like to change how content is displayed on your LibraryBox and use some of your own styles, it is advisable to create a separate stylesheet and put your additions and changes in that file rather than edit the default files.

dir-images Directory

This directory contains several small icon images that can be used to provide a visual cue to alert users about what type of file they can expect to download.

fonts Directory

This directory contains custom fonts for LibraryBox.

img Directory

lbx-logo-small-white      lbx-logo-small    menu-icon

This directory contains 3 small icon files.  Two of them are small LibraryBox logos and the other is the hamburger menu-icon used in the top right of the web pages.

Js Directory

The js directory contains javascript files.

Shared Directory

User-supplied downloadable files should be placed in the appropriate sub-directories under the Shared directory.  In the default installation the following sub-directories have already been set-up and are linked from the dropdown (hamburger menu) at the top right of the home page:

  • audio
  • software
  • text
  • video

These directories do not contain any files.  You can delete any that you do not plan to use (and remove the corresponding entry from the drop-down menu) and add directories for other types of content – data, images, etc.

For each directory that you wish to keep, you should have an index.html file that is the access page for the content in that directory.

Editing HTML Files

You can edit the HTML files by inserting the USB key into your computer and using your favourite editing software.  If you use this option you will need to move the USB key between your LibraryBox and computer to make and check edits.  If you have activated the ftp option for your LibraryBox, you may prefer to use an FTP client to download files, edit them and then ftp them back to the live LibraryBox.

Note about the name of the Content directory:  I found that although the name of this directory starts with an uppercase C, I could only get urls to work consistently by using a lowercase c.

Statistics for downloadable files

If you would like to maintain statistics for downloads from your LibraryBox, you will need to create the links to these files in a particular way.  All your urls should be prefaced with: http://librarybox.lan/dl_statistics_counter.php?DL_URL=/

Eg. http://librarybox.lan/dl_statistics_counter.php?DL_URL=/Shared/text/books/stoker_dracula.epub



Building a LibraryBox V2.0

TP-Link Portable RouterLast year, as part of a study leave, I built a LibraryBox using the instructions on Jason Griffey’s LibraryBox website.  I thought that I’d use it at the Ontario Library Association conference (which has very limited free WiFi) to allow attendees to download the slides for a presentation that I was making at the conference.  Unfortunately this did not work as planned as the conference venue seemed to block “rogue” wireless servers.  I could get the LibraryBox to function in the adjoining conference hotel, but not in the main conference space.  Apart from that outing and taking the LibraryBox to a makerspace symposium, my LibraryBox hasn’t been seeing much action.  To remedy this, I will be presenting a poster about LibraryBox at the Ryerson University Faculty Conference in May.  For the conference I’d like to demo V2.0 of LibraryBox, so it’s time for an upgrade.

Screenshot of LibraryboxActually I didn’t want to compromise my fully functional original LibraryBox, so I purchased a new TP-Link wireless router to make a brand new LibraryBox.  The creation of the 2.0 version was much smoother and simpler than version 1.5.  If you are thinking of creating a LibraryBox, v2.0 is definitely the way to go.

Now to load some content, do a bit more customization and to figure out why the download statistics don’t work properly.

RULA LibraryBox Takes Shape

RULA LibraryBox LogoThe Ryerson University Library and Archives LibraryBox, a self-contained, wireless digital resource-sharing device, is finally taking shape.  At present it consists of a selection of public domain ebooks (including a couple available in Canada only) and a sampling of OER textbooks made available from OpenStax College and the BC Open Textbooks Project. In addition it includes some basic information about Creative Commons licenses and a short video “Hacking Public Domain eBooks for use in the Classroom“.  As the contents of the LibraryBox are only available when you are connected wirelessly to the RULA LibraryBox, here are a few screen shots to show you what it looks like:

Screenshot of Home Screen on an iPad

Screenshot of Home Screen on an iPad


Screenshot of books page on an iPhone


Screenshot of OER page on a Nexus 7


Screenshot of remix page on a Nexus 7

LibraryBox was developed by Jason Griffey who is currently looking for funding for LibraryBox 2.0 on Kickstarter

Creating a LibraryBox

TP-Link Router and Peripherals

TP-Link Router and Peripherals

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.

librarybox_logoNow I have a basic LibraryBox with a few public domain books that I can serve up to anyone with a wifi-enabled device.  Next steps – user interface design, adding some OER and some end user testing.

Open Web Projects

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 Project

Jason' Griffey's LibraryBox

cc (BY-NC-SA) licensed flickr photo by The Shifted Librarian

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.

Photo of a Pirate Box

cc licensed (BY SA) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

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.itunglue.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 Unglue It Campaign

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:

Screenshot of OpenPic

Screenshot of OpenPic showing Share button

  • 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?