Monthly Archives: June 2013

Promising Practices for Public Access Computers, Part 3

This is the third in a series of posts on how libraries with limited resources can provide a reliable and safe public computing environment consistent with the tenets of Intellectual Freedom. If you missed the previous post on browser privacy or the post on setting up a guest account, you may want to check those out first.

rebootRestoreRxLogo

In this installment, we’ll learn how to install and configure Reboot Restore Rx, a freeware program that allows you to create an ideal state your computer will return to every time it’s rebooted. This helps ensure stability against anything your library patrons might do to it, and also helps protect their privacy by deleting any documents they may have inadvertently saved on one of your public access computers. This is a much more aggressive and thorough approach than the one we took using CCleaner, but it’s also a more involved setup process and makes future software updates slightly more cumbersome. As with previous posts, this is not an enterprise solution, and is best suited for smaller libraries with few public access terminals.

Once you’ve downloaded the program’s installer, the obvious next step is to run it. The installation process is pretty familiar until you get to this screen:

installPartitionSelectScreen

Note that your screen will look different, depending on how many hard drives you have and how they are partitioned.

You can select any or all of your partitions at this point, but in most cases you’ll simply want to select C: (checked by default) and any other lettered drives before clicking Next.

At the end of the install process, you’ll need to reboot.

Pretty painless, right? Well, there is a bit more to it than that. First, you’ll want to take steps to prevent your more savvy and mischievous patrons from disabling it. To ensure that the following changes will stick, we want to disable Reboot Restore Rx from the Shield Tray. Right click the following icon from your icon tray:

shieldTrayIcon

Then uncheck Restore on Reboot. Excellent! Now we need to prevent Shield Tray from loading at startup. An easy way to do this is using autoruns (previously discussed here). You’ll want to run Autoruns as administrator (right click it then select Run as administrator). Next, click on the binoculars and search for shield tray (or scroll through the list until you find it). Uncheck the box next to Shield Tray and then close out of Autoruns.

uncheckShieldTray

Now there won’t be a tantalizing switch for miscreant or curious patrons to toggle.

The path to the switch will still be open to them, though, so you’ll have to take extra precautions against the particularly tenacious (or those who’ve read this article). What we want to do next is lock off the Guest account’s access to the RestoreRebootRx folder. Here’s how to proceed (note: you should be signed in as an administrator). Here’s how to proceed:

  1. Open up your file tree (click the folder icon; if you don’t have one, click the Start orb, then documents)
  2. Navigate to Computer -> Local Disk (C:)
  3. Right click the RebootRestoreRx folder (you may have to scroll down to find it) then click Properties
  4. Click on the Security tabsecurityTab
  5. Click Edit
  6. Click Add
  7. In the Enter the object names to select text box, type in guest and then click Check NamescheckNames
  8. You should now see the proper path for the guest user account in the text box (something like COMPUTER-NAME\Guest); click OK
  9. Now, select the Guest account on the Permissions for RebootRestoreRx screen
  10. Check Read & execute in the Deny column (this will automatically deny List folder contents and Read, as well) guestPermissions
  11. Double check that it says Permissions for Guest above the selection box before proceeding, then click Apply
  12. Click Yes
  13. Click OK

Voila! The guest account can no longer deactivate Reboot Restore Rx without an administrative password. Good stuff. Finally, we want to reactivate Reboot Restore Rx. This is a bit trickier, since we likely no longer have Shield Tray in our icon tray (it will still be there if you haven’t rebooted since changing the autoruns. To get it back (for the current session), click on the Start orb, then type shieldtray into the search box. Execute the shieldtray program this discovers and it will be back in the tray. Now simply right click its icon from the tray, and click Restore on Reboot. This will give you the following notification:

updatedBaseline

Click OK (as though you had a choice). That’s it! I do wish you had the option to reject changes at this point, but presently you’ll have to rely on a system restore point for that.

Now you also know how to make any future changes (re: software updates) stick, so that you won’t waste time restoring to an outdated state: load the Shield Tray, deactivate the service, make the changes, reactivate the service, reboot).

Reboot Restore Rx is not a bulletproof means of preventing computer tampering, but it will alleviate a huge percentage of your routine computer lab problems. Reboot Restore Rx is easy to install and manage, allows easy updates to other software and the restore baseline, and it’s freeware. Of the free solutions I’ve tested, this is by far the most user-friendly and the least prone to crashing (I never managed to break it). Hat tip to the How To Geek for his excellent article on this program.

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Is Bismarck the Birthplace of Integrated Sports in America?

Yes, says Dennis Boyd, President of the Bismarck Historical Society. There is validity to this argument. In his well-researched book, Color Blind: The Forgotten Team that Broke Baseball’s Color Line, author Tom Dunkel notes that Bismarck was the first integrated team to win a national championship in 1935. The 1935 Bismarck baseball team was a semi-pro team that included one of the best pitchers of all-time, Satchel Paige, who the Standing Rock Sioux called “Long Rifle.”

ColorBlind

I am a native North Dakotan, and I never realized that the state hosted semi-pro baseball during the 1930s. Town baseball was very popular and the rivalry between Bismarck and Jamestown was intense, with special trains carrying fans between the two towns. Team managers recruited the best players they could find nationally, often from the Negro leagues. Baseball provided town pride and inexpensive entertainment for the fan during this depression era. For the players, baseball was a good job to have during the Great Depression because it was steady work and it paid well.

Were people in the North racist towards baseball players? Maybe not to the extent of racism in the South, but yes there was racism in the North. Newspapers displayed stereotypical images and stereotypical language when quoting Black players. People called players names on the field. Most restaurants and hotels would not allow Blacks. Players crammed into private homes or special rooming houses. But Black players were often surrounded by kids and fans when walking the streets of Bismarck, giving autographs and accepting well wishes.

The main reason semi-pro baseball died in Bismarck, and North Dakota after the 1935 championship was money. Putting together a good team cost money. Team owners and management were lucky if they made money or broke even. Also, many ND citizens were on relief because of drought and the depression and even the cheap baseball tickets became a luxury few could afford. But for a brief time in the 1930s, the city of Bismarck and the state of North Dakota had the best integrated team in the country.

“We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” –George Wilhelm Hegel

SciGirls Connect

SciGirlsSciGirls is a transmedia enterprise working towards the goal of inspiring, enabling, and maximizing STEM learning and participation for all girls, encouraging greater interest in STEM careers, where women are underrepresented.

While SciGirls is aimed at encouraging girls toward STEM careers, boys are not excluded. SciGirls is committed “to providing quality, gender-equitable, inquiry-based STEM activities that are fun for all!” SciGirl strategies have been “proven to work with all learners, including underrepresented youth.”

If you are looking for STEM activities to use in your library, the SciGirls Connect website includes activities in the following categories: Earth & Space, Engineering, Health, Environmental & Life, Physical Science, and Technology. The activities are geared towards 8-13 year olds – the age when girls tend to lose interest in math and science, or lose confidence in their own abilities. SciGirls helps you gets started with a guide that includes tips for using the SciGirls program.

Have you incorporated STEM activities in your library? Share your stories in the comments!

More Coding Club Resources for Your Library

Hosting a Coding Club at your library or in your computer lab is a great way to get teens into your building and foster their knowledge and interest in STEM fields. They also provide an opportunity for you to partner with schools and tech companies in your community. Previously, we’ve discussed how to start a Coding Club using Codecademy. Today I wanted to inform you of some other resources you can make use of.

CoderDojo logo

CoderDojo has some great guidance and resources on how to start a more formalized coding club with designated coding mentors. The Bismarck Veterans Memorial Library recently started a CoderDojo (the only one so far in our state)–kudos to them!

Kodu Game Lab

Kodu facilitates the creation of games for the PC (free) and XBox ($5 through the Indie Games channel) using a simple visual programming language. In addition to programming skills, it cultivates creativity, problem solving, and storytelling. They have an education kit you can download to help you get started. The platform is geared towards a younger audience, but can provide an excellent introduction to programming for middle school-aged youths and even pre-teens.

CodeEd's logoCodeEd is dedicated to teaching computer science to girls from under-served communities, starting in middle school. They partner with schools and programs serving low-income girls and provide them with volunteer teachers, computer science course offerings, and computers. CodeEd does make their curriculum available under a Creative Commons Attribution license, so you can make use of it even if you don’t enter into a more formal partnership with them.

Bootstrap iconBootstrap is a formal curriculum for students age 12-16. It teaches solid program design skills and applies algebra and geometry to video game design. The flexible course runs 20-25 hours. While Bootstrap is best suited for a school or school library media center, it has plenty to offer anyone interested in fostering a learning environment for computer programming. The curriculum is free and aligned with Common Core standards for algebra. All course materials, including unit guides, workbooks, password-protected teacher materials, and the standards matrix are available free of charge.

Code Club World logoCode Club World is another great resource for guidance on how to start your club, promote it, and keep it running smoothly. In addition, they provide teaching materials in an assortment of languages (here’s the English one). Their focus is on clubs for children aged 9-11, but their recommendations are pretty universally applicable.

Know of any other great coding club resources? Please share them in the comments!

What’s All the Hype about MOOCs?

The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is a recent trend for delivering online learning to virtually anyone, anywhere. As the name implies, a MOOC is open to hundreds or thousands of registered students who have Internet access. MOOCs are made possible by social networking, expert teachers, and free online resources. Usually there is no fee and no credit given for a MOOC. However, there are various permutations where an expert instructor, affiliated with a particular university, can teach her course as a MOOC and have her on-campus students take the course for credit concurrently with hundreds of online students taking the course free, for no credit. Where the ivory tower schools limit student access, a MOOC opens the doors to non-campus students, resulting in a dynamic learning environment.

MOOC2

The major providers of MOOCs are Udacity, Coursera, and edX. Most MOOCs are sponsored by a university and are taught by recognized expert teachers. These open classes let prospective students sample what a university has to offer. MOOCs can raise the profile of an institution and the teacher just by the massive online exposure and they can be used as promotional vehicles to boost on-campus enrollment.

The MOOC is still evolving. It presents some unique challenges for students and institutions of higher learning. For lifelong learners, the MOOC provides opportunities to be part of a learning community. However, like online learning there are advantages and disadvantages to MOOCs:

Advantages:

  • Convenient
  • Free or low cost
  • No travel time or cost
  • Work at your own speed
  • Social networking community
  • MOOCs may be very beneficial for classes like esoteric languages—your school can’t afford to hire a professor to teach Hindi, but through a MOOC, you have access to a Hindi expert

Disadvantages:

  • No face-to-face interaction with teachers & classmates
  • Too massive for adequate social interaction, establishing community may be problematic
  • A textual learning environment, expressing thoughts, feelings, or opinions may be difficult
  • Classes exits in cyberspace

Students have to weigh the ever-increasing costs of a college education and the debt they must take on with the prospects of viable, post-graduation job opportunities. Is the price of a college education worth it? The arrival of free MOOCs now can be factored into the decision-making process. MOOCs will not replace traditional college classroom learning, they will give students more options and more ways to learn online.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”    —Yogi Berra

Summer Science at Your Library

summer scienceThe Wilsonville Public Library in Wilsonville, Oregon has developed a “Summer Science @ Your Library” program. Just as there’s a “summer slide” for reading skills, science skills will also decline over the summer if not used. The library is in the perfect position to help combat the deterioration of skills! You don’t even have to start a new program!

Science programming can easily combined with the summer reading program you are already host every summer. With this year’s slogan being “Dig Into Reading!” you are probably already having programs about plants and geology. Keep in mind that the 2014 summer reading theme is “Science,” so it’s a perfect opportunity to combine programming!

To get you started, the Wilsonville Library offers:

  • Quick Start Activities
  • Summer Science Guidebook
  • Programming for Preschool Story Times

Have you integrated science into your library programming? Share your stories in the comments!

Great New Spaces at Cando Community Library

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of high school senor and library volunteer Hannah Alto, the Cando Community Library has three great new spaces for the young people of Cando to gather and learn. To earn her Gold Award, Hannah raised funds and coordinated the work to renovate and refurnish the library’s Children’s Room, Youth Room, and a teen study area. Local donations were matched by Cando Connections, for a total of over $5700 raised. Way to go Hannah! These cheerful, inviting new spaces are presently hosting a wildly successful summer reading program – 90 children and 17 teens registered last week in the first week of the program!

Cando Community Library Children's Room

Cando Community Library Children’s Room

Cando Childrens room 3

The Children’s Room has great new bookshelves and kid-friendly seating.

 

Cando Community Library Youth Room

Cando Community Library Youth Room

The teen study area has been used frequently for after-school study groups and fun gatherings.

The teen study area has been used frequently for after-school study groups and fun gatherings.

 

Publishing at the Public Library – Free PLA Webinar

I’m a staunch believer in libraries fostering creative growth and providing their patrons with tools and outlets for the production of artistic and cultural works. As libraries have an obvious and long-standing synergy with authors, it’s a perfect fit for them to help local writers self-publish their work. Brilliantly, PLA is offering a free webinar to help library administrators learn how to do just that!

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The one hour webinar will give you the tools you need to:

  • Better understand the role of self-published e-books within the library lending model
  • Be able to help local authors take advantage of free self-publishing tools
  • Know how to form a public library e-book self-publishing partnership

Learn more and register to attend here.

Explore Outer Space at Your Library

ExploreThe Lunar and Planetary Institute “is a research institute that provides support services to NASA and the planetary science community.” The Education and Public Outreach  department of the Institute develops “programs that engage families, educators and students in space science and enhance the public appreciation of lunar and planetary science.”

One of the programs designed to be used with students specifically in a library is Explore! It’s also a great opportunity to form partnerships with science based groups in your community. There are several Explore! modules:

Each module has activities, background, and resources. The activities are hands-on, and many are creations that can be taken home. The topics are designed to be flexible and vary in length so they can be integrated into your existing programming, such as summer reading or after school. Best of all, the activities are “easy to do, use readily available materials, and require little preparation time.”

Lunar and Planetary InstituteThe Lunar and Planetary Institute came to Bismarck in 2011 to promote the Marvel Moon module. If you’d like to check out the Marvel Moon guide, it is available from the North Dakota State Library.

Did you attend the Marvel Moon session in Bismarck? Have you integrated these modules in your library? Share your stories in the comments!

Keeping Up With New Tech: Tablets

According a new report released today by the Pew Research Center, for the first time, one-third of Americans age 18 and older own a tablet computer. The report indicates that tablet usage has grown rapidly over the past two years, from 8% in May 2011, to 18% in April 2012, to the 34% of American adults using tablets today. As adoption of tablets picks up speed, people in our communities are looking for integration of library programs and services with these and other mobile devices. Adept tablet users expect library workers will be as up to speed with these devices as they are, and new tablet users expect that we’ll be able to show them how their tablets work and help them get started.

tablets

Whether your library has already taken the plunge into offering tablet-friendly services like e-book and e-audiobook lending, library apps and the like, or whether you’re just beginning to think about getting started with tablets, e-resources, and mobile services, now is a great time to get up to speed on the different types of devices that are popular with people in your community.

To further this end, the North Dakota State Library is now lending Tech Toolkits to libraries in North Dakota. These kits contain some of the most popular devices in use today, including the iPad, Kindle Fire HD, and Google Nexus 7, among others. These kits will give your library staff members the opportunity for hands-on experience with these devices, helping them to become familiar and comfortable with them, and to learn how they’re set up, how to navigate them, and the main capabilities and uses of each. The kits loan out for three weeks, and also include guides, tutorials and instructions to help users get started. If you’re interested in checking out a Tech Toolkit for your library, contact your NDSL Field Services representative.

If you’d like more information on tablets and other mobile devices on the market right now, Endgadget and CNET have great resources, articles, and reviews – check out Engadget’s Spring 2013 tablet buyer’s guide, or take a look at collected articles and information about tablets on CNET at http://reviews.cnet.com/tablets/. Additionally, the free online learning site GCF LearnFree offers an iPad Basics course that has great, simple, step by step information on how to get started with the iPad.

As adoption of tablets continues to rise, it becomes increasingly important for libraries to be prepared to respond to the demand for services and expertise that will inevitably rise along with it. For further assistance or information, contact your friendly, tech-savvy NDSL Field Services representative. We’re happy to answer any questions or help you get started!