Context, Culture & the Classroom

I was introduced to several new constructs this semester including Blooms Taxonomy, Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Assessment, and Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions. The latter I discovered doing a deep dive on Chapter 13 of Grassian and Kaplowitz, (2009, p. 251-6). I thought that the authors’ discussion of high context cultures vs. low context ones was very interesting because it examined cross-cultural issues in information literacy in a very meta way.

In high context societies learners place a high degree of faith in the authority of the instructor and strive to create an exact replica of the material (Grassian and Kaplowitz, 2009, p. 252). An individual from a low context society favors individualism, originality and is comfortable with ambiguity (p. 252), which is often expressed by questioning authority. The discussion also delves into the differences between connected and separate learners (p. 253). It’s easy to see that there is both a wide variety of contexts and levels of connectedness that learners bring to the classroom, moreover individuals will frequently have crossover traits from one or the other. This mirrors what is often seen in a higher education learning situation, as people who are drawn to education are usually more open to change.

After reading this section of the textbook, I decided to look up some of the references and this is what led me to Hofstede (2016). His work deals with culture in general, so I searched the Digital Commons Network (2016) and found an open access article about an online course offered to students at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and at the University of Pannonia, Veszprem, Hungary (Romar, Sas, Yukhananov, Girelli, and Hristov, 2011).

The authors found difficulties in some of the technical aspects of conducting a course across such a wide time difference, but also experienced some issues with collaboration (Romar, et al, 2011, p.40) and motivation (p.47), (One of the recommendations made by the team that designed and implemented the course, was to allow for some informal interaction to enable the learners to get to know one another while testing out the software that would be used for the class (p.47).


Digital Commons Network. (2016). Retrieved November 27, 2016 from

Geert Hofstede: Cultural Dimensions. (2016). Retrieved November 27, 2016 from

Grassian, E. & Kaplowitz, .R. (2009). Information Literacy Instruction: Theory and Practice, Second Edition. New York: Neal-Schuman.

Romar, E.J., Sas, A., Yukhananov, I., Girelli, A. & Hristov, T. (2011). “Two Markets, Two Universities”: An Experimental, Cross-Cultural, and Cross Institutional Course Using Online Educational Technologies, Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge, 9(3), 37-49. Retrieved from

Technology Adoption Proposal: Google Scholar in the Law Library


The University of New Hampshire School of Law Library has materials in print and in digital format on a wide variety of legal topics that reflect the academic offerings of the school. These include numerous specialized databases, electronic journal subscriptions both individually and through Serials Solution and scholarship created by the law school community hosted in the UNH Scholars’ Repository and in the NELLCO Legal Scholarship Repository. The library is also a federal depository for government documents with a special designation as a patent and trademark resource center (PTRC). The library is used by faculty, students, visiting scholars, reciprocal students from other area colleges, and paying members of the local state bar association. The library’s depository status mandates a certain, but limited, level of public access to the physical GPO materials and one computer station.

It would be very useful to have a tool that offered a single search interface for the diverse set of resources that the UNH Law Library has to offer. At present many of the resources listed above are accessible through the Innovative Millennium OPAC MELcat:  UNH Law Library’s Online Catalog as individual titles, but users are required to click through to a login screen that then takes them to the resource. Other users will find that they need to visit individual databases. In order to deliver users a seamless search interface it is recommended that the law library pursue a two-step discovery strategy consisting of a link resolver and a discovery layer.

Discovery layers work in conjunction with a link resolver, which is software that uses OpenURL technology to facilitate direct access to electronic items such as databases and ebooks when users search for them in the catalog. There are many different ones to choose from that are compatible with our library system and coordination with other UNH campus libraries should be considered to limit expenditures. Once a link resolver has been installed and tested, it would be possible to implement a discovery layer with a unified, single search box.

Web scale discovery tools are essentially massive indexes that are created in one of two ways, either by aggregating content supplied by publishers or by using the API to query individual databases (Brubaker, Leach-Murray & Parker, 2011, p. 22). One of the functions of the discovery system is to decipher data on licensing agreements to figure out whether a library user has access to an item or not (Craigle, 2011, p.7). It is up to the discovery service provider to negotiate what database products can be harvested for the index (p.8).

Much of the value of the discovery layer is in its index. These mega-aggregates strive to have the capacity to represent everything ever published. Not every index is as inclusive as another, however, and some seem to excel in some disciplines while disappointing in others. This reflects the fact that vendors and publishers, often one in the same, must “cultivate partnerships” (Breeding, 2014, p. 13) between themselves to be able to license the rights to use one another’s indexing content. Some publishers however, will not allow their content to be indexed by any discovery service. This is due to concerns that discipline-specific proprietary taxonomies will be made freely available to anyone using the service (Breeding, 2014, p.14).

Ellero (2013) warns that having a discovery system does “not necessarily equate with librarian disintermediation” (p.313). There are some other limitations to WSDS as well. The systems seem to have difficulties handling the “blended thesauri” (p.311) from the different databases and a survey found that “patrons with advanced, discipline-specific information requirements” (Breeding, 2014, p. 13) preferred databases geared towards their area of interest.

Relevancy remains a problem (Breeding, 2014, p. 9). Known item searches are an area of relative weakness (Ellero, 2013 p. 312; Fahey, Gordon & Rose, 2011, p.4) and a user study comparing Summon and WorldCat discovery systems found book retrieval to be especially low (Brantley, 2014, p. 11, 12). Faceted searching is another area that seems to be poorly understood by users (Ellero, p. 315) While Asher (2013) makes the point that time spent teaching information literacy might be reduced if students were only required to learn one system (p.476), the curriculum will likely need to be refocused to include keyword selection and critical evaluation of resources (Ellero, 2013, p.315) in addition to instruction in facet searching.

Discovery layers can be rather incomplete in their coverage of legal materials, which might be limiting their adoption in law libraries. A 2011 survey of 58 law libraries found that discovery systems were being used in just over half of them (Craigle, p.7). Of those Encore seemed to be the most popular choice, with 44% (p.7). This is not surprising since they also make Millennium, which is used in many law libraries. However, many Encore users noted “frustration with the lack of legal information databases available for activation within the system” (p.7). A larger study involving several hundred libraries also found that legal materials were not well represented in any of the five major vendors (Breeding, 2014). In particular EDS was found to have poor law coverage (p.17), Primo users had problems with Westlaw discovery (p.18), and libraries using Summon noted problems with HeinOnline (p.19) as well as specialized legal databases (p.20). It was also mentioned that datasets were not well represented by Summon (p.19).

The law library should consider using Google Scholar instead. This is considered to be a free discovery service (Asher, 2013; Breeding, 2015). Lambert (2010) wrote that Google Scholar provides access to primary materials and indexes “secondary sources through its arrangement with third-party vendors like HeinOnline” (p. 54). It is clearly not as robust as the commercially availably solutions, it scored lowest in terms of relevancy in a study that compared five different products (Asher, p. 474). It also does not have nearly as much content. While exact numbers are not easy to derive, a rough estimate places the number around 160 million (Breeding, 2015, p. 6), while other indexes boast over a billion (p.13). Nevertheless using Google Library Links in conjunction with a link resolver it is possible to provide free “article-level links to subscription full text for patrons affiliated with a library.” In addition to providing full text where available, Google Scholar features the ability to search by case law, limit searches by patents and citation, as well as save items to a folder. Mattson (2015) notes that some of these features are similar to Westlaw and LexisNexis (p. 39). Another reason to pursue a free solution for a discovery layer now is that the “realization of Linked Data” (Ellero, p.321), might be imminent and the fact that UNH has adopted Symplectic Elements also points to implementing linked data solutions as a long-range goal.

Web scale discovery systems can offer the benefit of reducing the “cognitive load on students” (Asher, 2013, p.476) caused by selecting and repeating the same search on multiple databases. They can steer students towards full text resources that are not as well known (p.476). Breeding (2015) wrote that universities have found that discovery search interfaces “can have very high strategic value to the institutions implementing the service” (p.5). In spite of their shortcomings many academic law libraries are using discovery layers and prospective students will be comparing library technology offerings, so this is an important issue to consider. Electronic access to subscribed materials in a seamless single search format is mission critical if we are to increase our remote course offerings, as well as attract scholars from other disciplines.


Asher, A.D., Duke, L.M. & Wilson, S. (2013). Paths of discovery: comparing the search effectiveness of EBSCO Discovery Service, Summon, Google Scholar, and conventional library resources. College & Research Libraries, 74(5), 464-488. Retrieved from

Brantley, S. (2014). Discovering Usability: Comparing two discovery systems at one academic library. Retrieved from

Breeding, M. (2015). Discovery product functionality. Library Technology Reports, 50, 5-32. Retrieved from

Breeding, M. (2015). The future of library resource discovery: A white paper commissioned by the NISO Discovery to Delivery (D2D) Topic Committee. Retrieved from

Brubaker, N., Leach-Murray, S., & Parker, S. (2011). Shapes in the Cloud: Finding the Right Discovery Layer. Online35(2), 20-26.

Craigle, V. (2011). Discovery Layers in Law Libraries: A progress report on how our institutions are implementing this new technology. AALL Spectrum16(3), 7-9. Retrieved from

Ellero, N.P. (2013). Integration or Disintegration: Where Is Discovery Headed? Journal of Library Metadata, 13, 311–329 DOI: 10.1080/19386389.2013.831277 Retrieved from

Fahey, S., Gordon, S. & Rose, C. (2011). Seeing double at Memorial University: Two WorldCat Local usability studies. Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 6, 2-14. Retrieved from

Federal Depository Library Program. (2014). Retrieved November 28, 2015 from

Introduction to Symplectic Elements. (2015). Retrieved December 6, 2015 from

Library Support: Library Links. (2015). Retrieved November 28, 2015 from

Lambert, G. (2010). Casemaker unique among legal research providers. Michigan Bar Journal, 89, p. 54-56. Retrieved from

MELcat:  UNH Law Library’s Online Catalog. (2015). Retrieved December 6, 2015 from

Mattson, R. (September/October 2015). Filling the Google Gaps: Harnessing the power of Google through instruction. AALL Spectrum (20)1, 38-39. Retrieved from

NELLCO Legal Scholarship Repository. (2015). Retrieved December 6, 2015 from

OpenURL Resolver Products & Vendors. (2005). Retrieved December 6, 2015 from

Patent Trademark Resource Center. (2014). Retrieved November 28, 2015 from

UNH Scholars’ Repository. (2015). Retrieved December 6, 2015 from

Welcome to the UNH Law Library (2014). Retrieved November 28, 2015 from



More about this later…

Video games that require “visual analysis” such as Tetris could be instrumental in alleviating the symptoms of PTSD, a study has found.

Our Lady of St. Algorithm

  • Ian Bogost wrote a really interesting article in The Atlantic which raises some very good points about the automation of data and our near-religious beliefs in computers and algorithms:The world is more a hastily stitched patchwork and far less seamlessly constructed than we might believe, then it really shows the value of librarians and the value that they add to information by the organization that they impose on it.

    Many of us would like to believe that the Internet is entirely organized, and this organization happens in an automated system in an organic fashion, but neither is true. Recalling the images that photographer Michael Wolf  took depicting factory work in China often being low-tech and manual, Bogost sums it up:

  • Just as it’s not really accurate to call the plastic toy manufacture “automated,” it’s not quite right to call Netflix recommendations or Google Maps “algorithmic.” Yes, true, there are algorithms involved, insofar as computers are involved, and computers run software that processes information. But that’s just a part of the story, a theologized version of the diverse, varied array of people, processes, materials, and machines that really carry out the work we shorthand as “technology.” The truth is as simple as it is uninteresting: The world has a lot of stuff in it, all bumping and grinding against one another.
  • The point is repeatedly made in the article that there is chaos lurking beneath the surface of most systems. Years ago I worked for a temporary staffing agency, taking short term assignments in a variety of industries.  One thing I found they had in common was a a lack of organizational ability. Often they were experiencing exponential growth, and they couldn’t keep up with demand. Sometimes they were dealing with a crisis and needed extra hands on deck. One trait they all seemed to share was a culture that required its workers to perpetually hit the ground running. Instead of implementing a system to reduce work, the least amount of effort was expended to just produce the work. I felt uncomfortable with this for a while, but I eventually realized that the purpose was just to make money and tomorrow’s profitable initiatives might just require you to scrap the whole system anyway. Being nimble was key.While many commercial systems have grown with this practice, what if your industry is information?
    It is said that data moves up the food chain to become information before it can be considered knowledge or wisdom (Rubin). While the ever available and often correct Google gives us the sense that everything is known and organized, the majority of the searches that we do are not unique and there are often highly motivated people who want us to find what we seek. The more successful among them will even know what to suggest we might like. It’s those people, whether they are the people Netflix uses to watch movies and assign metadata terms, leaders of focus groups or collectors of mouse clicks, who are doing the organizing for us and computers are just another one of their tools.

    Another excellent point from the article:

  • Unfortunately, most computing systems don’t want to admit that they are burlesques. They want to be innovators, disruptors, world-changers, and such zeal requires sectarian blindness. The exception is games, which willingly admit that they are caricatures—and which suffer the consequences of this admission in the court of public opinion. Games know that they are faking it, which makes them less susceptible to theologization. SimCityisn’t an urban planning tool, it’s  a cartoon of urban planning. Imagine the folly of thinking otherwise! Yet, that’s precisely the belief we allow ourselves to hold of Google and Facebook and the like.
  • More….
  • Algorithm named to Board of Directors


I am providing a link to the screen shot I wish to share with my class, because Canvas doesn’t provide a way to insert a link into a post from your computer. Seriously. I can look for one on flickr that has a Creative Commons license, or use my web cam, because???  Anywaaaaay, here’s the screenshot:

Canvas Screenshot.

Canvas discussions not updating.

This is what happens when you enlarge text in Canvas using Safari:

Canvas LMS in normal view.

Canvas LMS in normal view.

Canvas LMS Zoomed in one time.

Zoomed in one time.








This is canvas zoomed into twice the normal view.

This is canvas zoomed into twice the normal view.

Canvas LMS zoomed into a size that is comfortable for me.

Reading yes, scrolling no.


Advanced Google Image Searching

brassdog Searched for images that are similar to this brass dog in Google Images by uploading the file directly from my computer. The first five results were links to my own web page, indexed under each one of the tags I gave it. The rest were similar in color and material, but none of them were dogs.


Page two of my results were links to other posts i had written that shared the same tags as the brass dog image.

When I clicked on Visually Similar Images at the top of the results shown above, I had even more options to choose from:


Qua Posterus Suscipio

The PTA is having a silent auction next month, so I’m making a few things to donate to it. The school’s mascot is a cheetah and paws are everywhere. I decided to etch some copper with scaled-down versions of the school’s iconic paw print sticker.

I like to use wax sheets that were originally designed for investment casting. Wax makes a great resist for the etchant. I put the design right under the translucent wax sheet and cut it out with an exacto knife.

This is what the wax looks like after it’s been applied to the copper:

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