23 Things - Web 2.0 made accessible in 23 steps (23Things)

Published on: 15/09/2010

23 Dingen (23 Things) is an online learning path, developed by a public library. The original concept came from Helene Blowers, Director of Digital Strategy at the Columbus Metropolitan Library (US). This online course was made available to the rest of the world via a Creative Commons license, has been copied and adapted in several countries and languages. Hundreds of people from over the world have learned about web 2.0 thanks to 23 Things, and greatly improved their digital competences.

In Flanders, Bibnet created a Flemish 23 Dingen blog, based on the Dutch version of Rob Coers. The blog can be used in three ways:

  • Everyone can learn about the 23 web 2.0 things on their own,  by using the blog as an online self-study learning path from home or the work space;
  • Several times per year, the Library School of Gent organizes blended learning courses, which comprise two face-to-face meeting and long distance learning through an electronic learning environment and coaches, using the blog as reference material;
  • Libraries can set up their own version of the 23 Things blog, thus providing a common learning space for all their employees.

Libraries play a central role in combating the digital divide, in organizing events, courses and activities to promote digital inclusion and make the public media literate. The rapid recent changes on the internet are especially interesting for librarians:

  • Web 2.0 has changed the way we interact online, and knowledge of this important social shift of internet use should be known to all librarians, so that they can better inform and educate their public;
  • Social tools, like blogs, RSS and other social networks provide new and powerful tools for libraries, to communicate with their public, reach them in their new virtual habitat, and provide them with modern library services;

The world changes, people change, the web changes, the library changes, customers change. That is why 23 Things tries to make a change for hundreds of Flemish librarians, and the libraries they work at.

Policy Context

Challenges for libraries in a digital age are larger than local public libraries can handle on their own. In order to create a cohesive, efficient and technologically up to date answer to those challenges, the Flemish  government founded a new organisation, Bibnet. Bibnet's task will be to  develop infrastructure and services for the public, keep up with  emerging technologies and build expertise in and collaborate with local  libraries.

Bibnet wants to empower local libraries and give them tools to reach out to the public in new media and social networks.  Bibnet's focal point is the searchability, linkability and enrichment of the metadata of both digital and physical collections in Flemish public libraries. Bibnet's mission is firmly rooted in the social and cultural value of the public library and its future roles in society.

Description of target users and groups

23 Things was developed for librarians, in order to introduce web 2.0 to them, and show them how they can use those tools at their work place and in their personal lifes. However, the website is freely available, so everyone can benefit from it.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

23 Things was developed, based on an American example and through cooperation with the Dutch version. It is now maintained by Bibnet vzw.

The content is regularly reviewed, based upon input from trainees and trainers

Technology solution

The blog uses Wordpress. Content from the blog is also stored on YouTube, Flickr, Delicious, Netvibes and many other web 2.0 tools.

Technology choice: Mainly (or only) open standards

Main results, benefits and impacts

Hundreds of librarians learned about web 2.0 tools through 23 Things, either by self-study or through a training course based upon 23 Things.  Our trainees are now better informed to deal with questions from their members regarding the internet and web 2.0 tools.

Furthermore, the course has made the libraries aware of the potential of web 2.0 tools for their library. Every month, more and more libraries set up their own blogs, start using social networks about their activities, share useful websites through Delicious etc.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

23 Things is a project already known in several countries and languages, and shared by a Creative Commons license.

Lessons learnt

The most important lesson we learned is that lots of people don't finish the course on their own, as a self-study learning path. There are many reasons for this dropout:

  • They postpone their course to a later date, cause they are busy, and keep doing so until it completely slips their mind;
  • They get stuck and don't have anyone at their library they can turn to for help, and give up;
  • They are not used to learning on their own, and miss feedback and company from fellow trainees.

However, 23 things is hugely popular as a blended learning course, with a mix of self-study, online tutoring and face-to-face meetings.

We are thinking of concentrating more on this blended learning approach and changing the layout and structure of 23 Things in order to make it more like a reference work, complementary to the blended course, than a self-study course in itself.

Scope: Regional (sub-national)