Another Option for Product Evaluations

We frequently assist patrons with access to our Consumer Reports issues at the PSD for questions concerning various products and services. Tom’s Guide is another option for similar reviews for tech products in particular.

On the homepage you can get a list of reviewed products in this manner:

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…or you may use the “Product Reviews” dropdown to get this fuller view:

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From that view you can see Tom’s also offers links to Tech deals,

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a Forum in which users may post questions and have them answered, either by Tom’s experts or other Forum users.

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In my opinion the feature that may be of most use for our patrons is the “How To” section:

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As you can see, there are many topics relevant to using apps, devices, programs and more:

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There is also a section where one may download software and other items:

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Tom’s Guide is a good resource for our patrons seeking various types of information on tech products, from buying, to learning how to use them and even having specific questions answered about them.

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Coding for all!

What is coding? If you’d like you may access this clear, brief explanation of it on YouTube, but for those who just want a definition in a nutshell, code is instructions you give a computer so that it will do what you want. Everything that has any level of computer in it has code of some kind or another: your watch, TV, car, etc.

If someone is attempting to learn how to code, it falls within the realm of our department. We need to be able to point them to helpful, valuable resources. One great resource for coding is code.org.

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Code.org is dedicated to helping anyone who wants to learn how to code for free. They focus on underrepresented populations, such as minorities, the poor and women, but they won’t turn anyone away.

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They also want to always offer their services for free. Even those who may want to use their service and/or materials for a formal class setting.

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From their home page, click the “Start Learning” link and you find yourself here:

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You are then to choose your learning level, then you move on to about what specifically you wish to learn. It’s intuitive and simple.

You may even search for in-person classes staged in your particular area, though I have to say no classes are listed in the Memphis area. Either available classes are not listing their classes on this site or there is a dearth of such classes available in this area.

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Ultimately this topic is much larger than one simple post. This is, however, a great introduction to an entire world of possibilities.

Basic Computer Skills for Patrons

www.gcflearnfree.org is a free e-learning site full of many different tutorials of interest to those in our department. The one I will highlight today is about Basic Computer Skills.

According to their “About” page the parent site gcflearnfree.org is:

A program of Goodwill Community Foundation® and Goodwill Industries of Eastern NC Inc.® (GIENC®), all GCFLearnFree.org® educational content is designed and produced in the GCF Global Learning® building in downtown Raleigh, NC.

So they are a free site designed to present learning opportunities on many topics free to anyone who has an internet connection.

As we have many patrons on a daily basis claim helplessness when it comes to using a computer, this tool will come in handy as a way to help a patron self-help themselves. Here’s how it works.

First, the patron would need to log in to https://www.gcflearnfree.org/topics/computers/ to see the course offerings:

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You can see that there are four subheadings: Computer Basics, Basic Computer Skills, Mouse Tutorial and Typing Tutorial. Once you engage in the Computer Basics tutorial you will begin here:

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More relevant to us on the Third Floor of Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library is the Basic Computer Skills course:

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This course starts with the basic skill of how to turn a computer on, then moves up from there. Not every single component of the training is necessarily relevant to our department or library as a whole, but many of the issues frequently mentioned to us as Reference Desk Librarians are addressed in these trainings.

Many patrons will not have the time or the incentive to learn using this method, but for those willing to put in a bit of effort this is definitely a worthwhile resource to which we may direct them.

Financial Education From FINRA

Navigating finances can be difficult: you have to know about budgets, interest rates, mortgage calculators, IRA’s, 401k’s, durable power of attorney documents…the list can seem endless.

Thankfully the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has a helpful way to educate everyone in these matters and more. FINRA.org explains in their “About FINRA” page that they are…

“…dedicated to investor protection and market integrity through effective and efficient regulation of broker-dealers.

FINRA is not part of the government. We’re a not-for-profit organization authorized by Congress to protect America’s investors by making sure the broker-dealer industry operates fairly and honestly.

So, in that spirit they have created a detailed, free educational resource to help consumers, even those who may not be investors per se, navigate just about every conceivable financial situation.

When you visit the FINRA Investor Education Foundation you will find the following setup:

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Since that type is a bit small, let me just tell you that each of the fifteen boxes you see here link to a detailed tutorial on a particular financial subject. The fifteen subjects are as follows:

  • Managing Money
  • Banking & Saving
  • Credit
  • Home Ownership
  • Education
  • Insurance
  • How to Invest
  • Investments
  • Retirement
  • Social Security
  • Kids and Money
  • Difficult Times
  • Protection
  • Getting Help
  • Estate Planning

Each training is self-paced, full of helpful information and may even be paused and completed at a later time. All you have to do to participate is sign up for a free account, choose the course you want to try, then follow the links. The program leads you through the process at the pace you desire.

 

 

What’s a MOOC?!

A MOOC is a Massive Online Open Course. The basic idea is that various institutes of learning will allow people to essentially audit courses for free, or even to pay a fee to gain various types of credit, from certificates, which have limited use, to actual college credit. Details vary according to who is offering the course, but the learner is the one who decides if they wish to learn simply for curiosity and the love of learning (most common) or if they want to earn some sort of certificate or some other validation of the time spent learning (less common).

There are several websites that specialize in hooking people up with such courses, with just a few being coursera.org, udemy.com and edx.org. You can find out so much about these courses and how they work at various sites around the web, but Forbes posted a good summary recently about the future of MOOCs. Additionally, you may find the following illustration helpful in understanding how an MOOC works:

MOOC_poster_mathplourde

Basically this illustration asks several questions pointing out that the concept remains in the evolutionary stages despite being a web presence for quite some time. So, when you go to various outlets to experience an MOOC you won’t necessarily find the same experience as any other site. Some learners find this exciting, some frustrating. The MOOC doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, so, let’s look at how one in particular works.

I signed up for a course on coursera.org:

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As I became a registered, free user I was given limited access to class materials: I can follow along, complete readings and assignments but cannot take tests or quizzes or receive any sort of grade. To gain these features I would need to pay a fee to participate officially in Berklee College of Music courses. The fact that I have that option demonstrates one of the advantages of an MOOC–choice.

So, here’s just one example of what I can get for free: a video lecture from the teacher:

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As I progress through the course I will share the progress and, when the course is complete, I will give my opinion on how helpful (or not) I felt the course was.

Learning Express Library Can Help Patrons Who Cry “Computer Illiterate”

The Learning Express Library has proven helpful to many of our patrons seeking various testing materials for tests such as the HiSET or nursing areas like the HESI or NCLEX. However, did you know that Learning Express has so much more? One tutorial area that could help many of our computer challenged patrons is the Computer Skills Center :

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I selected the “Getting to Know Your Computer” link on the left (red circle) and “Computer Basics 2” on the right (blue rectangle):

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This brought me to a video tutorial:

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On the tutorial you are in total control: the video has a transcript that you can follow along with, download or even print:

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…and you can toggle between chapters as well:

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There are many other computer tutorials in Learning Express, ranging from basic topics detailed in this post, to more complex issues, such as the intricacies of learning how to navigate the internet, to even specific programs, such as Microsoft Word and Adobe products:

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For the willing patron these tutorials can lead to increased productivity and less frustration on the computer.

E-Tools You Can Use

A recent article in the Library Journal, cited below, has informed and inspired this post highlighting several useful e-tools.

C-SPAN Video Library

Do you want to see what the president said yesterday?  What about what the speaker of the house had to say about your pet issue?  The C-SPAN Video Library is the best place to begin searching for such content.  From the site: “…a way to archive and index the thousands of hours of congressional coverage produced by the network every year. The project quickly became one of the most comprehensive video archives of governmental and political content…”

Docteur Tweety

This site does charge a small fee, but it is useful to keep up with how your tweets are performing.

European Language Social Science Thesaurus

This site bills itself as “a broad-based, multilingual thesaurus for the social sciences” and is useful for those who do business within the European Union.

Google Translate Offline Capabilities

You can use Translate even when you’re offline, by taking a picture of the text in question.

The Internet Broadway Database

From the site:  “…the official database for Broadway theatre information. IBDB provides records of productions from the beginnings of New York theatre until today.”  So, it’s like imdb.com, but for theater.

Irish Films Archive

“The IFI Irish Film Archive acquires, preserves and makes available Ireland’s moving image heritage, working to ensure that Ireland’s rich and varied film history, both amateur and professional, is protected and accessible for the benefit of current and future generations. Film reels, digital materials and document collections are held in custom-built, climate-controlled vaults designed for the long- term storage of archival materials.”

Knoema

Knoema is full of helpful data on every country in the world.  “We discover, extract, and normalize data to make it usable through our open data platform. Knoema’s smart search engine moves beyond simple keyword search results to dataset discovery and auto-generated visualization collections to represent your data query.”

NewsNow

This is a UK based site, but you can personalize a free homepage with news from sources you prefer from sources all over the world.

Original article:

Price, Gary, and Henrietta Verma. “E-toolkit redux.” Library Journal, 1 Nov. 2016, p. S18+. Business Collectionhttps://goo.gl/bf4xWQ