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The Muscle Behind “23 Things” or Exercising Your Volunteer Muscle to Get Results

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The Muscle Behind “23 Things for Students & Alumni”

In this post I ask Elaine Hall (via e-mail) about the evolution of 23 Things and who are the key people behind the look and feel of this interactive module site. URL: + while we are at it here’s a link that the San Jose Public Library initially created and I think has come a long way since then:

Here’s an older example of a Web 2.0 technologies boot camp as well:

Lastly: Take a look at the Contributor’s page:, they have all done an awesome job at making this happen!


Elaine Hall is the Special Projects Manager for SLISConnect and Chair for the ALASC. Ms. Hall has spearheaded “23 Things for SLIS Students & Alumni: Essentials for Professional Success” as project manager, site blogger and content builder to name a few.
Tess: I’m pretending I know absolutely NOTHING about 23 Things so, can you give our blog readers a pitch?
Elaine: In a nutshell, 23 Things is a Learning 2.0 program that introduces learning modules on technologies, resources, and tools that have been recommended as “essential skills for success” as both a SLIS student as well as a LIS professional. Each module has been recommended, built, reviewed, and launched by SLIS students and alumni.
Tess: Was there anything in particular that prompted you to develop 23 Things? Was it something that you felt our community needed–and, why?
Elaine: I believe we have a vibrant community of students and alumni here at SLIS and as a leader in our student organizations, I have been looking for opportunities and programs that will foster a dynamic, sustainable, and beneficial community amongst the students and alumni. As a distant student myself, I have experienced the “disconnect” feeling of the online nature of the program. I combated this myself by getting directly involved wherever I could. I give kudos to SLIS and all our students/alumni who have paved the paths for these opportunities, but I think we still need more. We need programs that will bridge the gap between students and alumni, that foster professional development and engagement, that allow students to maximize their learning while giving alumni access to tools for professional success, and we need a community we can rely on for support, sharing of ideas, collaboration, and lifelong learning. In my own personal learning network, I have a motto “to find a mentor, be a mentor”. I truly believe that is the potential of 23 Things – we can work together, pass the ‘hat’ so to say in our learning, and guide each other through our journey to success.
Tess: The logo design and badge design that’s in 23 Things is awesome. Can you tell me a bit about how you vetted talent and who did what? Particularly, look at the screenshot below for Module 5. I find it very approachable from a UI design perspective:

Screenshot of Module 5

Elaine: I cannot say enough about the talents we have recruited from our students and alumni in this program – it is the heart of what makes the program truly unique! The program logo and badge designs were designed by SLIS student Simon Ho. Simon was approached by the site’s co-developer, Ben Hansen (who I also cannot say enough about!) about getting involved from the graphical design aspect. Simon has been very insightful in understanding the objectives of the program, our vision for attractive, vibrant digital badges, and patient and open-minded when working with all the tweaks, adjustments, and preferences along the way. And he always delivers on time. I’m thrilled to have him on our development team.

And while I’m at it, I must also give tremendous gratitude to SLIS student Ben Hansen. I worked with Ben on a project in Dr. Michael Stephen’s Transformative Learning and Technology Literacies course and was thrilled when he showed interest in 23 Things. His knowledge of web design, his commitment to the project, and his insight to the overall vision of the program has been above par and I can honestly say the program’s launch would not have been as successful as it was without his skills behind the scenes. What I love even more is how Ben thanks me repeatedly for the opportunity and how his involvement in this program has provided opportunities to apply his learning in other capacities outside of SLIS. Again – that is the beauty of this program. There is learning to be gained at all levels of involvement. Ben will be graduating in December and I really hope he sticks around as an alumna contributor afterwards.
Tess: Is there anything you’d like to add about the support you’ve had around the creation of 23 Things? What are some of the things you would re-introduce next year or do differently?
Elaine: Yes! There are so many people to thank for the launch of 23 Things. I would first like to thank Dr. Michael Stephens, whom I first shared the project idea with, for putting fire under its wings by immediately sharing the idea with other faculty. I honesty wasn’t prepared for the rapid response – but hey, that’s how great things happen! I would also like to thank Dr. Sandra Hirsh and Debbie Faires for their enthusiasm for the program, Lisa Valdez for highlighting the program in Student News, and for Stanley Laufer who has been tremendously supportive on the functionality and hosting of the site.
And then there are the volunteers. At present we have over 40 student and alumni volunteers in the program (and there are more volunteer opportunities waiting!). Many are listed on the site’s contributors page but there are others behind the scene that make this program possible. These include many of the SLISConnect Board Members for their support and for hosting this program, Alumni President Stacey Nordlund for her program guidance, Alumni Social Media Manager for all the promotional work (and for keeping me laughing through program development), students such as Silvia Spiva who consistently keep their eyes and ears open for new modules and opportunities for the program, student Justine Withers who has volunteered her time and experience to help guide the instructional design aspect of the program, the peer mentors in LIBR203 who are sharing the opportunity with new students, and all the module builders, reviewers, and bloggers who have or will be volunteering their time in developing the 23 Things content.
As is the case with any instructional program, the program itself is a learning process. We are all learning together and we have identified some additional opportunities for the future. These include focusing more on the instruction design aspect of the program, how to engage and build community amongst the participants, and broadening the scope of the program by working with faculty and students.
We are currently working out the details of what the next phase of 23 Things will be. The current program launched on July 10th and will run through December 11, 2013. Over the next few months, the development team will be identifying what will happen next. Will there be another 23 Things in Spring? Will we re-introduce some of the same modules or will we introduce all new content? What segment themes will be presented? What I can say is that the program will extend beyond its initial “23 Things” and we encourage all SLIS students and alumni to become a part of the conversation as we build the “next phase” for this unique Learning 2.0 program.
Tess: Elaine thanks so much for interacting with me and doing this “interview.” I highly commend your work and what the content developers and contributors have done! 23 Things is a big endeavor and, I don’t think it is not easy to develop teaching modules. While I’ve only developed curriculum for elementary school students, I know for certain there is a lot of “scaffolding” to do with new learners (see Lev Vygotsky). I can see a bit of what is going into these modules and so far so good. I do think that there needs to be more survey/feedback forms at the end of each module so that we know we’re hitting the educational goals. Again, not an easy thing to do. Kudos to you!

–End of Interview

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