Welcome to iHCPL: The Next Generation. This site was created as the next step in Harris County Public Library's iHCPL Learning 2.0 Program; a discovery learning program designed to encourage staff to explore new technologies. The original iHCPL program was adapted from The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County's Learning 2.0 Program.

Monday, May 24, 2010

You Oughta Be in Pictures #91: Fun with Photos

Sometimes a simple edit doesn't enhance your photos. Have no fear, image generators and fun online editing tools are here to the rescue!

There are many sites you can use to spiff up your photos. A new favorite of mine is BeFunky. Like other editing sites, BeFunky has basic and premium options. Although the basic features are not as extensive as a paid account, the free finishes are definitely worth checking out and give your photos a new life.

A couple of personal favorites are the Cartoonizer and Lomo. BeFunky also offers Goodies. You can add frames, stickers, speech bubbles and more to your photos. The one drawback of BeFunky is that the free account automatically adds its logo to your image. This may cause a distraction for your photo but if you are okay with that, try it out and see what you can come up with. You can always go to another site and crop out the URL.

is another fun site with a variety of ways to present your photos. It was originally known as FDToys and was mentioned in the original iHCPL but its so great, its worth mentioning again! If you have a collection of photos, you can make photo strips and collages. For single photos, you can transform them to motivational posters, "warholize" them, or customize it a la David Hockney!

Image Generators
Apart from adding finishes to your photos, you can plug your image into a scenario to add humor. Most often image generators use your face to plug into an image (using a celebrity body or even an art piece) but you can use the keyword search to find other scenarios. Some use GIF animation which allow your image to move.

FaceInHole and Pho.to offer a variety of scenarios and GIF animations. FaceInHole allows you to search scenarios by number of faces you want to include or by keyword search.

We didn't forget about you pet lovers either. Build your own LOLcat (or any animal or celebrity!) here. You can use a photo from Cheezburger's bank or upload your own. Whatever image you choose to use, have fun with it!

  1. FotoFlexer, mentioned in the first post, has effects similar to BeFunky and BigHugeLabs. Choose a photo to edit in FotoFlexer and either BeFunky or BigHugeLabs (Cartoonizer, Warholizer, etc). Compare the two. Were the results the same? Do you have a preference?
  2. Use one of the image generators to spiff up a profile picture. You can search Pho.to or FaceInHole for different scenarios - be creative with your search! Share your newly generated image on your blog.
HCPL Staff: Have you completed posts 89, 90, & 91? Don't forget to submit your Registration of Completion.

This module brought to you by Linda Stevens, Grace Lillevig and Veronica Garza.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

You Oughta Be in Pictures #90: Sharing Photos

Once you have your beautifully edited photos, you'll want to share them with people, or at least put them online as a backup. We have looked at Flickr before, but there are other options for sharing as well. Most sites have some kind of free option and many link to social networks like Facebook and MySpace. Sharing is easy through links or codes you can use to embed the image in Blogger or other sites.

Features to look for:

  • Free and Pro options: Depending on your needs, you may want to opt for a paid option at some point
  • Photo editing
  • Customizable privacy settings
  • Easy sharing on social networks or via email
  • Printing options if you want photo prints or products
TopTenReviews provides a brief overview of photosharing sites in this short video. In addition, they provide a comparison of 10 popular services. We'll take a brief look at a couple of the most popular options.


This is what we use to store and share HCPL's photos. Flickr's free option limits the number of photos you can upload each month and only shows the 200 most recently uploaded images. However, your images will not disappear from a blog even if they don't show on your Flickr photostream. A pro option with unlimited storage is also available.

Unique features:
  • Images are permanently stored on the site
  • Integrated editing with Picnik
  • Customizable creative commons licenses
  • Take the Flickr Tour to explore the major features.
The below image is embedded directly from Flickr.



The free option on Photobucket allows for unlimited uploads of photos and videos. The limits are 500 MB of storage and 10 GB of bandwidth (this is when the content is viewed on another site you've shared your content on). This can be an issue if you have a lot of photos and share them. Photobucket does have a paid pro option with unlimited storage and bandwidth.

Unique features:
  • Create a slide show or build a scrapbook
  • For details, see the About Us section.

Unlike the other options, Picasa is free downloadable software that helps you organize your photos on your computer. It has built in image editing software to improve your photos. Once you're ready to share you can upload your albums to Picasa Web Albums. Information on Picasa features.


Have a Facebook account? So do nearly 1/2 a billion other folks. Facebook has become a major player in the photo sharing world. If most of your friends and family are on Facebook, it's a simple matter of uploading your photos to share them. When you create or edit an album on Facebook, you can "Edit Info" and set privacy levels. You can share your albums with non-Facebookers using public links.

  1. Watch the video for an overview of photosharing.
  2. If you aren't familiar with any of these sites, browse through the public areas and their features or tours.
  3. What features are important to you when sharing your photos? Are privacy or copyright/creative commons options important to you? Which site do you prefer?
This module brought to you by Linda Stevens, Grace Lillevig and Veronica Garza.

Image: used with permission from Grace Lillevig

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

You Oughta Be In Pictures #89: Basic Photo Editing

With this module, will examine images on the web. We will take a basic look at photo editing, find ways to share your photos online, and tour a variety of fun image related sites. Completing all three posts in this module is worth 2 training hours. This module is available through July 31, 2010.

Buying a Nikon doesn't make you a photographer. It makes you a Nikon owner. ~Anonymous
It doesn't matter if you are an excellent photographer or you chop off everyone's head in each picture that you take -- photo editing tools can help enhance or correct any photo. They can help you do anything from adding captions to correcting red-eyes, from cropping to adding special effects. Luckily, there are now a wide variety of free options that are very easy to use.

I find Picnik to be very intuitive and it has a wide variety of tools available for free. You don't even have to register, though you receive more benefits if you do. You can also choose the "premium" service to get even more options.

Let's start with Red Eye. The photo being edited is of my dog, Buster. He's looking at me with a heart full of love and the flaming eyes of a demon. Picnik has a quick fix for this. Upload my photo, go to edit, select Touch-up, select Red Eye, and choose "Furball." It also works for non-furry individuals.

Now, we'll move on to cropping. I like the picture of Buster, but I'd like to take out the part where you can see the dust bunnies on my floor. [Cropping is available under Basic Edits.] You can also crop to get rid of the date imprinted on your picture, if you forgot to turn that camera feature off.

Now, to everyone's favorite part: photo bedazzling. We'll change from the "edit" tab to the "create" tab to see what kind of effects are available. You can add visual effects, like sepia or neon, insert text, fix the subject's skin problems (yes, from acne to wrinkles!) or even decorate your photos for a particular holiday. Remember, anything labeled "premium" will require a membership, but I think you'll find plenty to work with free of charge.

We've looked at these effects using Picnik, but there are other quality free photo editing sites out there, it's all a matter of preference.

  • Photoshop - The free online version of Photoshop has a huge variety of tools and effects (fun effect: Pop Color), but I find it a bit more difficult to use than other sites. Registration is required.
  • Fotoflexer - Similar to Picnik, but without the many inaccessible premium parts. Very straightforward with nice effects (fun effect: Cartoon).
Tip: To resize photos (file size) for use on the web, Microsoft Office Picture Manager (available as one of your Office programs) is quick and easy to use.

  1. Upload a photo to Picnik, Photoshop or Fotoflexer. Use at least one editing feature (red-eye fix, cropping, sharpening, resizing, etc.) and one creating feature (framing, adding text, touching up, captions, etc.). Post the edited photo on your blog.

  2. Which photo editing features are important for your use? Which of the listed sites would best meet your photographic needs? Post your answer in your blog.
This module brought to you by Linda Stevens, Grace Lillevig and Veronica Garza.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Web According to Google #88: Wave, Buzz, and Mobile

In this final post we're going to look at two collaborative applications that Google is testing as well as how to take Google with you.

Google Wave, which is currently in preview, is a way for people to collaborate. Waves include:

  • Discussions
  • Task Tracking
  • Meetings
  • Documents
  • Brainstorms.
This brief video gives a nice introduction to Google Wave and how to use it.

Will Kelly describes some possible uses for Wave such as document collaboration, team chats, sending feedback, web conferencing, event planning and much more in his article Google Wave: What's It For?.

Google Buzz lets you follow people and people can follow you through an option in your Gmail account. For instance, when you share an item from Google Reader, your Buzz followers will see the items you share. Watch this video for an overview of Buzz and how you can share items with your friends.

So many people are using mobile technology today, so companies like Google are looking for ways to take advantage of that. Google Mobile allows you to access many of Google’s cool features right from your mobile phone! If you have a web enabled phone, you can go to m.google.com to access mobile phone apps for search, maps, Gmail, and more. Google Search allows you to search Google right from your phone, and includes all of the useful search features you can access with a web browser. Search the web, find images, news, products and more.

Some other Google products you can use on your phone include:
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Reader
  • Google Earth
  • YouTube
  • Picasa Web Albums
Google Mobile Help has additional information about these and other Google Mobile products.

As we discussed in the first post, Google is always trying out new technologies, especially through Google Labs. Several of the application we've looked at during this module came out of Labs, so keep an eye on it for the next big thing.

  1. How do you think you could use Google Wave or Buzz for collaboration? Do you currently use any online collaboration tools?
  2. Read a little about one or two of the Google Mobile apps available for mobile phones. Which ones do you think you would use the most and how?
  3. Make a post in your blog with your answers.
HCPL Staff: Have you completed posts 85, 86, 87, & 88? Don't forget to submit your Registration of Completion.

This post is brought to you by Grace Lillevig (ADM) & Abigail Buchold (ADM).

Image: Flickr CC: New Google Favicon High Resolution: Tiger Pixel

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Web According to Google #87: Google Reader

Back in iHCPL: A learning Experience, we looked at Bloglines in Thing 8 as a way to subscribe to and read RSS feeds. In this post, we're going to look at Google Reader as a better feed reader.

As a refresher, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and is used to deliver updated information to a feed reader or aggregator. You can usually spot websites that have RSS feeds by the orange icon on the right, or a variation thereof. In Internet Explorer the icon shows up just above the screen and Mozilla Firefox the icon shows up in the address bar if a feed exists. You can click on the icon to subscribe to the feed, or copy the link and add it in your reader.

Why subscribe to feeds? Instead of having to go check your favorite sites or blogs to see if there's an update, the updates come to you. There are thousands of blogs out there as well as newspapers, magazines, and other media that have feeds on just about any topic you can imagine. Using a reader, you'll know instantly when there's something new.

Beyond Bloglines, there are a number of options to read feeds including from within Internet Explorer and using My Yahoo. So why use Google Reader? There are several reasons:

  • Two options for viewing feeds. The Expanded view shows the complete content of each post. The List view is an overview by blog name, post title and date - if you want a quick view to see if there's anything of interest.
  • More Sharing Options. At the bottom of each Expanded post, there are multiple ways to share a post.
    • Email lets you share by email and if you have a Gmail account you can access your address book.
    • Send to offers posting directly to social sites; set-up where you post through settings. Options include Twitter and Facebook .
    • Share and Share with Note adds the post to your shared page to which friends can view or subscribe - you decide through settings what is public.
  • Like. When you click Like, it adds a note to the post that you liked it. If other users have liked a post, it will show you that as well. You can see who liked it - and they can see you, so do be aware of this. This feature is being used in the Google Play, currently being tested in Google Labs. Google Play shows you items of intereste based on what you like.
  • Mobile. You can read Google Reader on a smart phone at reader.google.com.
  • Import/Export. In Settings-Reader, you can import feeds from another aggregator, so if you want to switch from Bloglines, for example, export your feeds from there and then import them to Google Reader.
  1. Take the tour or sign-up and try the service out. Do you currently use a feed reader? If so which one do you use? Would you switch to Google Reader if you don't already use it? Why or why not?
  2. Take a look at some of your favorite sites. Do they have feeds? If they do, subscribe to one of the feeds. Hint: Our website has feeds.
This post is brought to you by Grace Lillevig (ADM) & Abigail Buchold (ADM).

Image: Flickr CC: The duckies invade Google: Yodel Anecdotal

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Web According to Google #86: Calendar and Documents

Web-based office applications have been around for a while now, and more and more people are using these convenient tools to boost their productivity. Not only do they behave just like many of the desktop office tools we all know so well, but you can access them from home, work, school, the library, a coffee shop, anywhere you can get on the Internet!

This post is about two very useful web-based apps: Google Calendar and Google Docs. Google Calendar is a versatile tool for keeping track of where you need to be and when, plus you can share your calendar with family and friends! You can create multiple calendars that allow you to place color-coded events all in the same view—that way your entire day, week or month is easily viewable. If you so choose, you can receive email reminders when an event is coming up. You can also add tasks for yourself—they’ll appear on the calendar and in a task list for you to check off as you complete them.

One very useful feature of Google Calendar is sharing. You can connect with your friends’ calendars and view their schedules along with your own calendar events. This is very useful for coordinating branch schedules, family schedules, gatherings with friends, and more. To share a calendar:

  • Find the one you want to share in the My Calendars list on the left hand side.
  • Click the down arrow button next to the calendar, then click “Share this calendar.”
  • Type in the address of the friend(s) you would like to share with.
  • Then, select a level of permissions under Permissions Settings and click Add.
Now your friend can see your calendar!

Don’t have time to check your email or your calendar? Not to worry--you can also have reminders sent to your mobile phone as text messages. Never forget another appointment!

Google Documents is basically web-based version of the desktop suites most of us are familiar with, except you can access it from any computer with an Internet connection! You can create documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and web forms from a template or from scratch. You can keep your documents private or share them with friends or coworkers.

Also, Google Documents works well as online storage for your files! You can store any file type on Google Docs, with one caveat. Certain types of files can be converted to the Google Docs formats—this allows you to edit them later in Docs if you choose. Some file types cannot be converted, only stored. However, it is still a great way to store and organize PDF files, photos, and more for private use or sharing with friends. To upload a file
  • Click the Upload button on the left side.
  • Click "Select files to upload"and choose the file you would to upload to Google Docs.
  • Once you've chosen one, you can add more by clicking "Select more files" and adding new ones until you are finished.
  • You can then select a folder in which to upload the files (optional)
  • Click "Start upload."
Your files will then be saved to your account!


Answer the following on your blog:
  1. Create a calendar in Google Calendar and try adding some events or tasks to it. How do you think you would use Google Calendar in the workplace or at home? Do you think you would find it helpful to share calendars with coworkers, friends, or family?
  2. Try creating a file Google Docs and uploading one from your computer. Can you see yourself using Google Docs in addition to or instead of a desktop office application? Why or why not?

This post brought to you by Grace Lillevig (ADM) & Abigail Buchold (ADM).

Image: Flickr CC: Google World Logo: 6S

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Web According to Google #85: Resistance is Futile

In 1996-1997 two Stanford University students started a little project that became Google. In the 14 or so years since its launch it has added numerous other products, starting with the toolbar in 2000. A major milestone in the creation of new products was the release of Google Labs in 2002. Google Labs is a place where Google tries out beta technologies some of which have gone into production. Because Google has become such an integral part of many people's lives, we're going to take a look at several of the more popular applications over four posts. Completing all four posts is worth 2 training hours. This module is available through June 30, 2010.

Google has a variety of products available. We've previously covered Blogger and YouTube in the original iHCPL. Blogger and YouTube were developed independently and later purchased by Google. Several other applications to be aware of are:

  • Google Mail or Gmail, the popular email client
  • Google Books - Search the full text of books. Allows the user to either search or browse by subject. With a Google Account, you can create your own bookshelf with favorites, which you can share with the world. Back issues of some magazines are also available (Weekly World News anyone?) Keep in mind that not all books have full text available due to copyright.
  • iGoogle - Acts as a launch pad for wide-variety of widgets that you can install. You can also customize the look with a variety of themes. Depending on the widgets you install, you can view and launch Gmail, your Google calendar, YouTube (owned by Google), Google Reader, and get news and weather. iGoogle is an application that came out of Google Labs.
In the past several years, Google has developed several products that require a download rather than being strictly web-based. These include:
In upcoming posts we'll be covering Calendar and Docs, Google Reader, and the newer apps such as Buzz and Wave in depth.

In your blog, respond to the following:
  1. What Google products do you use on a regular basis? Why do you use them and what makes them better than a competing product?
  2. Check out Google Labs. Did you see any new products that you want to try?
  3. Search or browse Google Books. Do they have the book or magazine you looked for? Did you find any gems? How can this be used in the library?
This post brought to you by Grace Lillevig (ADM) & Abigail Buchold (ADM).

Image: Flickr CC: Google Logo 50th Anniversary Inspiration: manfry