Monday, December 31, 2007

December Fire
Photo by our lovely Artist in Residence!

Happy New Year All! This photo was taken by our daughter when we were visiting with my sister and her family at a cabin on the Llano River in central Texas. We celebrated a late Christmas with them, and we had a wonderful, fun, relaxing time!

Here's hoping that we're all rested up and ready for the new year--we go back to school on the 2nd! YIKES! Ready or not...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cool Kindergarten Blog!

Wow! It's been over a month since I posted! I'm wondering if I'm cut out for this! I have just been swamped and I've gotten out of the habit of posting. Hmmm..

Anyway, today I was listening to EdTechWeekly, which is one of my favorite edtech podcasts, and I went to their website to see host Jennifer Maddrell's graduation picture (just earned her PhD--impressive!).

One of the congrats posts was from Maria Knee, whose kindergarten blog is here. What a fantastic blog! She's used all sorts of web2.0 tools, like Slideshare, VoiceThread, Bubbleshare, YackPack, etc. to share what her kids are doing with the world. It's just an excellent example of what can be done to connect kids to the world and to let parents/grandparents/community members into their children's learning. Very exciting. And kudos to her school district for allowing use of those tools. Most of these are blocked in my district--and many, many other districts, to state it fairly!

Bottom line: this is a fantastic web site to share with teachers to show just what kinds of projects even the youngest of students can don that take advantage of the technology that we have available. I certainly think the students in Ms Knee's classes/school will remember their kindergarten experiences. What fun they seem to be having learning!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Belated Thoughts on K12Online Conference

Wow! Is it ever easy to slide and not post for weeks! I've been swamped, for one thing, and for another, I've been a bit...disconcerted & didn't want to blog before I got my brain around a couple of things. I'll post later about that though...I needed to just get a post up tonight so that I'm over the hump and maybe I'll get back to posting semi-regularly!

I'm still trying to catch up and enjoy the K12Online presentations. So many of them were sooo good. Like many people whom I've heard give an opinion on various edtech podcasts, I thought Sylvia Tolisano's presentation, Travel Through Space and Time was just so inspiring! Her school completed a virtual "trip" to China using a Build-a-Bear to give students a focus in their studies. The entire elementary school studied Chinese customs, history, geography, culture, and then 2 teachers (with the bear) actually traveled to China. They used blogs, digital video & photography and various other web2.0 tools to keep in touch, real time, and bring the trip to the children in their school. What a great idea! And it sounds like they've really squeezed all the learning opportunities and connectivity out of it that they possibly could! I'm sure the students at her school will never forget this vivid learning experience! Wow!
Wheels turning in my brain...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Zombie Alert!

I know, I know--I've gone video crazy for the last few posts, but this one is good & I couldn't resist--it's by Commoncraft, who brought us those really useful videos RSS in Plain English, Wikis in Plain English, etc. This one is a warning about the alarming impending zombie invasion from Canada this Halloween. Beware...




Flat Classroom 2007 Keynote

Wow! Dean Shareski's keynote for this year's Flat Classroom Project (Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsey) is just a great discussion of the elements of design & things to think about as students (anyone) create their projects. The FCP is utilizing Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind as part of their framework this year, and Shareski uses these elements as talking points in his keynote.

I shared the video with my high school daughter (our artist in residence), because I thought it so spoke to her, her strengths and interests.

Here it is--wow!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

New (to me) Screencasting Tool!

Here's a screencast that I made to help our web2.0 cohort members who are doing the SLL2.0 course this fall with uploading their avatars to their blogs. Screencast-o-matic is a very easy and free tool that I will use again to create screencasts. I'm thinking of making tutorials for my teachers/students on it. Great for teaching new students how to use our PAC, making booklists on our PACs, etc. On Screencast-o-matic, the videos can remain on their site (of course, it's blocked at our school), or you can download it, embed it, etc. Very slick.

I have tried repeatedly to upload it to Teacher Tube, but I'm not having any luck. It keeps getting stuck and times out on the upload. So I'm embedding it here, although that's probably not a long term solution because it's 4 min long and 42MB. I'm learning though--this is a first effort. Any wisdom out there about using Teacher Tube, making screencasts, etc.?

How to Put Your Yahoo Avatar on Your Blog

video

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Bloggers!

Our district librarians & ed-tech team have formed a cohort of web2.0 learners, and we have some that have made some exciting discoveries! Welcome to the Blogosphere, ladies! Keep posting and commenting! It's very exciting for your fellow bloggers to get comments! Kudos to you all for taking the plunge and learning about these new technologies that are so "native" to our students' lives.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Today's Student, Yesterday's Classes

I read about this video on Dean Shareski's blog today, and I just don't want to forget about it, so I'm embedding it here:



Wow! Another great one from Michael Wesch--the same man who did The Machine is Us/ing Us!

I wonder about a video illustrating this concept of disconnect between our students and our system. What would it look like if translated to the younger students--like my elementary aged kids or middle schoolers? Thinking...

Friday, October 12, 2007

K12 Online Conference

As are many edtech teacher geeks, I'm really looking forward to the next 2 weeks' K12 Online Conference! What an amazing world we live in that people from all over the globe can be excited about this virtual event!

I'll probably blog more later about it, but I just wanted to say that Lisa Durff's blog post today made me laugh. She listed the 6 descriptors that David Warlick suggests identify today's students' different learning styles, and she commented:
today's learners are a new breed. I see myself in that list, bolstering my idea that I am not a digital immigrant, but an illegal digital alien.
I haven't deconstructed that to see what exactly it is that makes us illegal aliens, but I do feel a bit like that myself somehow, Ms. Durff! Funny observation!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Teachers as Collaborators

Twice within the last week, I witnessed teachers that I know decline to share good teaching ideas with their colleagues. Once, it was a teacher who did not want to share the link to an activity that she'd found online with another grade level for fear that they would "steal" it from her grade level. The second instance was a fellow librarian who had second thoughts about sharing, with another librarian, an Internet Safety resource she'd created.

Both instances left me feeling uneasy. I spend a good deal of my own professional learning time thinking and reading about
flat world concepts, web 2.0 tools, collaboration as a means to enhance student/self learning. This reluctance to share is disconcerting--it just doesn't fit my idea of what we're supposed to be doing as educators. AND it does not fit the paradigm of collaborative learning/teaching that our 21st century learners need to use and see being used.

Now, for the really great part of the week though. One of my goals this year is to learn to use podcasting as a way to excite students about the library. Last summer, I discovered a wonderful podcasting resource by Liz Davis, an edtech teacher in Massachusetts. I decided I'd like to adapt it for my students, so I wrote to her for permission. She was nothing but gracious and eager to share! Her email back to me really did bolster my faith in my fellow educator! Thanks so much, Liz! Not only did I find a resource that has helped me to meet one of my goals for our library program, but I've also discovered a new teacher to learn from and collaborate with! Check out her blog!

So I'm thankful for the examples that I see all over the online educators' community. Examples of resource sharing & global collaboration--there is so much out there to learn! A perfect example is coming up, starting tomorrow: K12 Online Conference! I can't wait to see what we'll learn!!!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

K12 Online Conference Next Week!



In a week, the second annual K12 Online Conference begins, and it's the talk of the edublogosphere right now. I'm very excited to about it and am really looking forward to some thought-provoking addresses and conversations as the conference gets started.

The organizers have asked that we spread the word about the conference by stating our 3 reasons for participating. See Wesley Fryer's original meme post here.

My 3 Reasons for Participating (for the first time) this year:

1. It's fantastic to have this access to so many people that are thinking about the same things I am these days as I try to create a 21st Century Library for my students & teachers. What an opportunity--and it's free!

2. The learning from this conference can go on all year long (or longer) through the archives, wikis, discussions on the K12 Online Conference site. If I get swamped in the middle of the conference (I hope I won't!), I can pick up where I need to. If I want to hear a presentation again, it's available! Powerful.

3. This conference fits my learning needs & interests right this minute better than what I have available to me locally. "Just in time" learning, I hope.

To further this meme, I am tagging the other participants in my district's Library2.0 Cohort.
I'll start with:

Lifelong Learner
Mama Librarian
and
Not Done Learning

Maybe they'll tag some of the rest of our friends!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Teachers as Learners

Behind in my reading as I come up for air from my Book Fair week...

On Sept. 3, David Warlick posted a rant about teachers and their adoption of technology, and his post generated 18 comments to date--obviously a topic that is on a lot of minds, including mine!

I've read enough of Warlick's work to know that he is a huge teacher advocate and that he has the highest respect for people in this noble profession. He's obviously heard enough excuses though! And I must say that I am with him! We will lose our "in" with students if we don't figure out a way to teach them in ways that are relevant in their world. I see that worrisome glaze over some of our kids eyes at younger and younger ages. It used to be the high school kids that had to "power down" to come to school--now it's our elementary aged kids!

I am a librarian in a district that has benefited from wonderful edtech leadership--every classroom teacher in my building, plus the reading specialist and librarian (me) have at least 4 computers in their room, their own starboard, LCD projector, Einstruction kits, access to a computer lab! Professional development for technology is ubiquitous, with Atomic Learning provided for our use, district-based after-school technology classes, campus based technology workshops, and edtech team available to us to model lessons, and more! This is the piece that so many districts leave out, and yet my district has made it almost unavoidable to have professional development opportunities available. And still we have numerous teachers that choose not to learn any more than they are forced to. Campus technology workshops are poorly attended--only the people that get paid to attend are there, even though they're filled with wonderful, useful ideas! Administrators sometimes come, most times do not.

More than a few times, teachers have stated to me that professional development & technology training should be on school time, not personal time. The overriding perception is that "in the "real" (business) world, people are paid to be trained, but the poor teachers have to do it all on their own time. By and large this is not true, from my observation of friends and family members not in education! There are workshops, trainings, professional journals, conventions, etc. all to be paid for and taken advantage of off-the-clock. That's what professionals do! That's what learning and growing people do! Shouldn't we teachers, of all people, embrace and personify the life-learner model?

The debate on this topic in the edublogosphere has simply been a rant because this is a topic that frustrates all of us so much. There aren't any answers, I guess. The people that won't go to professional training on their own time certainly aren't reading these blogs! It does make me feel less of an oddball to hear of other people who feel the same way I do though! It helps me to focus on the teachers who do want to learn something new. I'll just hang out with them!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Adult Book Note: Amagansett by Mark Mills

Just finished a compelling novel that I found through the book suggester on Library Thing. Amagansett, by Mark Mills, is one of those books that keep you turning the page and reading the next chapter. By revealing just enough, chapter by chapter, Mills had me from the start.

It is 1947, and a young War veteran, a fisherman, who has returned to his home in the Hamptons pulls in the body of a woman in one of his nets. Little by little we learn who she was and what other dark secrets her murder means to members of the wealthy summer beach community. Reviews of the novel point to the fine period details and fully realized characters of Conrad, the fisherman and Hollis, the local policeman.

This really is a gripping novel--more than just a murder mystery--and it is Mills' first! I'll definitely read more from him. Great read.

http://books.google.com

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Online Connections

Wow! I read about Jennifer Dorman's Online Connections class on Cool Cat Teacher Blog this morning and took a quick look at it. Wow! Dorman has used the web 2.0 tools that we have all learned about over the past few months and taken this course to a whole new global level. Her course has a global slant that we know is important for the 21st century. I wanted to mention it on my blog so I don't forget to go back and look it over more carefully. It really looks primo.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Books. Finally!

So far in this blog, I've written far more on the topic of bytes than books! This is mainly due to the fact that I was trying to finish SLL2.0 before school started, and its focus is technology. It's also due to my interest in EdTech issues. In fact, I have to make a concerted effort to not let the "bytes" part of my library program overtake the "books part! My EdTech bent is one factor, and the curriculum of our district, the focus on information rather than literature being another. I don't think this is necessarily a good trend in education & school libraries, however it is the current climate in Texas.

Today is a Books post though! Hooray!
A colleague of mine and I are planning an author visit in November for Children's Book Week, and I'm excited about it. I will be hosting only one author this time, while my friend has about 10 different authors and activities planned! That's a big job! I did that a couple of years ago when we had Carole and Bill Wallace visit our school, but thankfully it's a bit more low-key in my world this year!

This year, we will host science writer Elaine Scott in our schools. Elaine lives in Houston, so we are lucky to have her right in our back yard! A savvy writer, Elaine is one of the first children's authors to have jumped on the whole Pluto development! I can't wait to order and read her newest book, just published this month. It's called When is a Planet Not a Planet? It's gotten very good reviews, and I have been very pleased with the other books in our collection by Scott. So this one should be a great, and much needed addition to our astronomy collection.

Scott's last book, Poles Apart, filled in that little piece of information that children (and teachers, sometimes) seem to miss so often: penguins and polar bears don't live in the same place! My students love that book, and we have multiple copies. Penguins are always a popular topic, as any school librarian might tell you, and so are polar bears! It's a great book--highly recommended. By filling in these fascinating bits of information for our students, Scott shows her savvy. She's a good, personable presenter too--I saw her at ALA last year.

So I can't wait to host her at our school! Should be a good day!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Unblocked! Amazing!

Wow!! I'm surprised and happy that my district has unblocked my blog so that other librarians in my district can access it from school! WooHoo!

That's a good sign. Maybe districts are beginning to decide that these web 2.0 tools are not evil unto themselves. They're tools that our children are going to use--they do now--and we had better have access to them so that educators have a fighting chance to learn how to use them too and be there to guide them! Hooray for making small steps!

Google Sky--Wow!

Looks like another wow application from Google--Google Sky ! You can even use it within the Google Earth application! Looks like they have done what they did with Google Earth and created an application that stitches together the body of knowledge about the universe--in pictures. It's all very smooth and swoopy! Cool! I've only just downloaded it and haven't really gotten to play with it, but it looks like a powerful tool to use with students (and me too!) learning about the solar system.

Good info page about Google Sky is here. More here with screencast. Looks cool!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Special Hi To My Local Colleagues

Today our district librarian (AR) introduced the SLL2.0 program to the rest of my fellow librarians to see if any of them might be interested in exploring it together as a group. I thought I'd say welcome to any of you that might be exploring my blog to see what it's all about. Look back over previous posts too. Leave me a comment on a post if you come by so I'll know you've been here!

Just about everything that you see on this blog along the right side is an element that I learned about through exploring a "Thing" in the SLL2.0 program. You can learn about all of these Things too--and do it a little more slowly during the school year than I did it this summer. AR said the district cohort would be doing the program in 9 months rather than 9 weeks--so the pace won't be so frantic. It is a self-paced program anyway, so the only pressure is what you put on yourself!

Why participate in SLL2.0?
Warlick states that, in a world where the future is not certain, the most valuable skill we can foster in our young people is that of lifelong learning. Today we may not be able to accurately predict what our students' future careers, environments or even social structures will be like, but if we have taught them to learn new things for themselves when they need to, then we have done our jobs!

The web 2.0 tools that are explored in the SLL2.0 course are the tools that our children use to connect--to
information, to entertainment, to ideas, to each other. These are the tools that they are using today. I think I should at least know about them!

Additionally, these tools are showing up in numerous forms within traditional information channels too. Bloggers now get national coverage & audience at political events. They're quoted on the evening news! CNN's IReport seeks and uses viewers' videos of news events. Almost every news outlet on the Internet has a Comments function so their patrons can make their opinion known to the world. These are all web2.0 tools. They bring people together. They promote conversation and rethinking and debating.

Lastly, I must say that I found many of the tools, sites, applications and ideas explored in SLL2.0 just plain cool! Week 5 is just a blast--you'll learn about online photo sharing sites, creative sites like Scrapblog, art and design sites and lots more. Just fun stuff!

If you find that this program is just not your bag, that's ok too! I think you'll learn something useful if you give it a try though. It's a chance to practice/model that skill of lifelong learning.


Last Thought for Today...I Promise!
I believe that librarians and the school library really do help form the true heart of a school community. I also fear that our talents (librarians') will be marginalized as schools rush to do the popular, flashy thing with students where information technology is concerned. Librarians must be part of the conversation when it comes to accessing, evaluating and using information--it's what we know! We have a unique perspective that is vital to our students.
We must remain at the heart of the school for tomorrow's kids.

Busy Busy Beginning School

In teacher meetings all week long, and trying to get our library in shape for students in the extra minutes during the day! I haven't had much time to read my usual blogs or even think about my own blog.

This year I will have a new paraprofessional working with me, a friend from the school community that I've known for several years--great choice, I think. (Although I will miss my old para--she was great fun to be around and work with) Anyway, it should be a good thing, but transition is always difficult. It's a good time to reflect on practices in the library and how I can set a framework that is good for her to work in--with clear expectations and enough support--one that also works for me so I can concentrate on the teaching tasks. Team building--it's an exciting time, but it's also a big job.



Thursday, August 16, 2007

Week 9 Thing #23 Summary of My SLL2.0 Experience

Since my last post (Part 1) was a more personal one, I will confine myself to answering the questions that the CSLA team asked us to explore in our summary post about the School Library Learning 2.0 program.

What were your favorite discoveries or exercises on this learning journey?

Of course, I loved all the Week 5 activities! I think it was great timing to put the fun stuff in that week so that it broke up the "heavy thinking" part so nicely! Imagechef is very cool and I've already used it on my school web site. While I was already familiar with Flickr, I did enjoy looking thru and playing with all of FDs Flickrtoys. By the way, John Watson, who writes all these fun tools also writes a very interesting and sometimes quite touching blog called Flagrant Disregard . His blogs about Being Daddy are most wonderful--and he's a great photographer too! Check him out!

What could we do differently to improve upon this program’s format or concept?
I sometimes found it difficult to toggle between the main page and the discovery pages. Maybe put simpler links on the main page for each week and then put the tips, discovery items, curricular tie-ins, etc. all on one page for each week. ?

If we offered another discovery program like this in the future, would you choose to participate?
I absolutely would. I will keep up with some of the fellow learners blogs as well. I found some great ones!

How would you describe your learning experience in ONE WORD or in ONE SENTENCE, so we could use your words to promote CSLA learning activities?
The School Library Learning 2.0 learning experience was truly one of the most valid professional development experiences I've ever had.

Week 9 Thing #23 Part 1 Learning for Life...

The School Library Learning 2.0 learning experience was truly one of the most valid professional development experiences I've ever had.

As the "information landscape" changes (David Warlick's phrase), librarians face the opportunity to become more important and integral to the learning experience than ever before. People will need guidance to find authoritative information! As Warlick (he's one of my favorite thinkers, does it show?) and so many others insist, in an age where we can no longer predict what kinds of jobs or lifestyles our young people will face in adulthood, the most important skill we can hone in them is the ability to continue teaching themselves new things when they need to. We should model this behavior for our students--not only for the sake or modeling, but also because lifelong learning is a fundamental tenet of librarianship! Learning is what we facilitate--it's what we're about! So...we have to walk the walk!

As my friend, mentor and fellow learner said to me today, we must stay a step ahead if we can. We might not be a step ahead of our adaptable young learners all the time, but we can stay a step ahead of the norm in terms of learning new and better ways of doing things! And if our kids see us learning, then I say we've done them a favor, because we've shown them that learning is a forever pursuit!

I am wildly appreciative of the California School Library Association for the spirit of collaboration and lifelong learning that they've exhibited by making this program available to me, a Texas librarian, who will probably never be a resident of their state. The sponsors of SLL2.0 have been supportive and helpful to me and my other Texas colleagues, and we will in turn spread the word--and give the credit to this wonderful team. Thank you again for being so willing to share your knowledge and time--this was really a wonderfully engaging and pertinent professional development experience.

Week 9 Thing #22 eBooks and Audiobooks

I am a HUGE fan of audiobooks, as one might guess, since I'm such an iPod lover! First of all, audiobooks fit nicely into my life--just as with podcasts, I can listen to an audiobook during my commute time, while waiting in a traffic jam or wherever! My family enjoys audiobooks together just about every time we take a trip. I "read" books in this way that I might not have time to read otherwise.

As an educator, I find audiobooks to be a wonderfully accessible format for students. Readers who might not be able to "handle" a book that their peers are reading can listen along--or better yet, listen while reading--to an audiobook, thereby "keeping up" with their friends. In fact, when the Harry Potter series was first published, this is how my 3rd grader, who was not then a strong reader and would never have been able to read them alone, read the first couple of books. By the time the third one was published, she was reading while listening. That particular audio series was such a phenomenal production that by the publication of the 7th book, our whole family chose to read and listen to the book. The audiobooks had taken on a life of their own, and we didn't want to miss Jim Dale's performance any more than we wanted to miss reading the books ourselves!

Podiobooks, Librivox and Audiobooks with Annie are all great sources for free audiobooks--both new titles by new authors and titles in the public domain through the Gutenberg Project.

eBooks I am not as familiar or comfortable with. Possibly because I don't have a portable device that I can read them on. While I don't mind surfing the web on my laptop, I don't love to spend a huge amount of time reading on it. Also, it seems to be harder on my old eyes than a traditional book. I just don't like it.

That being stated though, I do understand that our students are more comfortable with the format, and I see that I need to explore and think more about such sites as Overdrive and the World eBook Fair.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Week 9 #21 Podcasts

Podcasts! I think podcasts are potentially the most effective professional development tool we have available to us. As in many districts, my district's latest push is for educators to engage in personal professional learning communities. I think podcasting is a powerful professional development tool that perfectly fits into this model. I know podcasting has certainly changed my professional learning!

As with so many things in life, I came to be interested in podcasts because of my daughter. She got an iPod for Christmas a couple of years ago, and I never thought I would really be that interested in one. Then I discovered how many podcasts were available! And they were all FREE! It wasn't long until I had an iPod of my own, and so did my husband!

I have dozens of podcasts, personal and professional, that I download regularly. I use iTunes primarily. There are so many really good casts that I sometimes have a hard time listening to all of them!

One podcast that I listen to every week as soon as it posts is Women of Web 2.0 through the EdTechTalk channel. In fact, just about all of the EdTechTalk casts are worth a listen. A great resource for our American History teachers is the cast produced by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. It regularly covers topics that really help bring the colonial period to life--interesting stuff like what people wore, how they made wigs, what a slave's life was really like, etc. Geek!ed! is also a must-listen each week. I like this cast because the hosts, all from a school district in Michigan, represent a variety of educators' views --from technology teacher to IT director to edtech director, etc. They are silly and thought-provoking and just fun to listen to. It is fascinating to hear how many issues we have in common, even though we are from very different & distant states.
Ooo! And I forgot to mention that so many conference sessions are now podcasted that I can "sit in" on conferences that I can't manage to get to!

I find that I listen to these podcasts in the minutes that I spend commuting or waiting in carpool lines or in traffic jams. In this way, I have a much richer professional development life than I did before. Pre-iPod, many nights my professional reading was, frankly, when I was too tired to really give it my full attention. Podcasting is a perfect fit for me.

More personal favorites are Hometown Tales (because every town has one), Rick Steves' Travel , TEDTalks video podcasts, Reading Rockets Author Interviews...


Week 9 Thing #20 YouTube

In several previous posts, I embedded videos from various sources, so I think I've covered this "Thing" already in my blog. Although I do enjoy the occasional cute kitten video or funny political video from YouTube, I must admit that most of it is not classroom material.

I will say that TeacherTube is a GREAT site for educators though. Our district seems to be particularly conservative as far as which web sites are allowed, and even WE can get to TeacherTube from school! At least it wasn't blocked earlier in the summer--we'll see if that sticks! That's good news though, because I've found many videos there that are worth sharing. While it doesn't have nearly the number of videos on it, most of them are more usable for the classroom than what proliferates on YouTube.

What I think is more exciting, is the idea of these video sharing sites--the impact they and a whole Web2.0 mentality are having on the wider culture. In the recent Democratic Presidential debate and the upcoming Republican Debate, CNN and YouTube are working to combine their resources to allow people to ask candidates questions by video online. The Democrats even ended up taking a question from a sock puppet. Wow. Now, not surprisingly, many of the Republican candidates are refusing to "play along."

I think it's all very interesting that we happen to be immersed in thinking about these web tools, and here they are making national news in this way. I wonder what the final outcome will be? Will the Democrats ultimately pay the price for catering to the "cool" crowd? Will the Republicans stoically refuse to embrace this new technology and end up paying the price instead? Will it all just blow over and turn out to be a non-issue? Or is this truly a cultural turning point as to how, and how immediately, candidates have to respond to their (potential) constituents? Interesting times...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Week 8 Thing #19 LibraryThing

I am such a book geek that LibraryThing is just my kind of place! What a fantastic site--and it's FREE for a year! Wow!

I had been to this site previously, but I didn't set up my own catalog until last month. (See random books at right). Since then, I've put many of my books in my catalog. Every time I go back to it though, I find that I lose about an hour because I can't tear myself away!

What a fun way to recommend books to patrons, advertise new books in the collection, suggest books that fit a certain curricular unit, etc. Again, I wonder if I will be able to access LibraryThing at school...


Week 8 Thing #18 Online Productivity Tools

I have played around the Zoho writer and Google docs for a few months now, and I must say that I think this change in the whole idea of applications and software is an exciting one. I've found that they work almost identically to MS productivity tools, and documents created in these applications open and function perfectly normally in MS Office. These online productivity tools could potentially replace expensive applications such as MS Word, Excel, etc. because they're free and accessible anywhere. Other than the necessity of being live online, I can see no reason to insist on MS products for our school PCs. Users can save their work in microsoft-friendly formats too, so they're useful to users who might not be Zoho/Google Docs users.

Imagine my disappointment when I found that Google Docs is blocked at my school. I haven't checked Zoho. I don't know why. I don't know why such a tool would be threatening to the network or to student safety. Perhaps the ability to publish a document wide is the objection that the district has to these tools. It is certainly too bad, because this seems like a huge "gift" to school districts strapped for funding!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Week 7 Thing #16

I am relieved to find that we can access wikispaces from school! So now my district librarian and I are able to collaborate on a mini-program for our colleagues incorporating some of the concepts we're learning through School Library Learning 2.0.

I decided to set up a wiki of my own to see how it works/how I like it. I must admit though that I have found wikispaces a tad confusing. I don't know HOW it could be confusing to me, but for some reason it is! I'm in the process of watching the tutorials again to make sure I didn't miss anything, and then I may just scratch what I've done and start over. I think I did something funky in the beginning and it's made the architecture of my wiki weird. Working on it...it can't be that hard! The whole idea is simplicity! I think it's me.

I concur with many of my fellow SLL2.0 participants whose blogs I've read, in that Joyce
Valenza's blog post entitled Ten Reasons Why Your Next Pathfinder Should Be a Wiki really puts a practical face on wikis and why they're really a perfect tool for teachers and librarians. I'll have to periodically reread it as I get a little further into my year planning! I plan to introduce wikis to my older students as well, in the form of book reviews/discussion--especially in connection with our state reading program (Texas Bluebonnet Award) nominees.

I spent some time looking around a site that I'd read about in addition to the sites listed in SLL2.0: Curriki . Curriki calls itself the Global Education and Learning Community--it's a Curriculum Wiki. I found a couple of really useful things here and here in just a few moments' browsing, so I think this might be a site worth checking in on regularly as well & sharing with teachers.

To complete this Thing, a few other uses of a wiki in the school library setting:
  • collaboration with teachers
  • event planning (book fair, author visit, etc.) with both teachers and volunteers
  • curriculum planning with fellow librarians at other schools
  • book reviews by students/teachers
  • pathfinders/resource lists
  • any project necessitating collaboration!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Week 6 Thing #15

What does Library 2.0 mean?
In my view, libraries have always had a 2.0 bent, because the ideal library program considers the patron's needs first. The overriding consideration in a good library program has always been maximizing access to information--isn't that a core idea at the heart of Web 2.0/School2.0/Library2.0?

I do believe though that in an information rich environment such as today's, libraries must continually search for ways to remain relevant to their patrons. We know we're the ideal resource people to help students/teachers with:
  • location of authoritative resources
  • resource evaluation
  • reader's advisory
  • new and promising trends in education, etc.
However, I do not think we always market ourselves to our communities effectively. Web 2.0 tools can facilitate our efforts.

Of the articles/blogposts that we read for this exercise, I found Rick Anderson's Away from the "icebergs" to be the one that I kept thinking about. His assertion that we can no longer maintain a "just in case" collection fits right in with Warlick's idea that schools must change because information is ubiquitous in the digital age--the info itself is no longer "precious." We are no longer the gatekeepers to knowledge, so we have to establish what we are going to be.

Our services must be accessible--at least in some form-- around the clock, or our patrons will look elsewhere to get their needs met. Our millennials have come to expect that! Anderson's third point is that patrons must know about and know how to use our resources, and I think this is the point that librarians in my district (including me) must really concentrate on. We are wildly lucky to have a variety of resources in my district, including research databases, unitedstreaming, teachingbooks.net, online encyclopediae and more! We know about them and how to access them--it's a constant challenge to keep our teachers/students aware! Web 2.0 tools can help!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Week 7 Thing #17

For this Thing, we looked over the California 2.0 Curriculum Connections wiki, which is an excellent resource pulling together all of the tools and ideas we've encountered in SLL2.0--plus lots more! We will need to revisit this as we work with the librarians in my district.

To complete this Thing, I posted an idea on the wiki--in the section on Wikis , I added Idea #31.

BTW, Thank You CSLA, not only
for creating this program & all its supportive resources, but also for freely sharing it with those of us who are not even members of your organization! I'm in Texas! You've provided a wonderful example of Web 2.0 spirit!

Week 6 Thing#14

I'm exploring Technorati again for this Thing. I have spent some time here in the past, but I always come away thinking I'm missing parts--I'm trying to fill in the gaps. One thing that I always forget to do is tag my posts, so I'm going to try to remember to do a better job at that.

The Discovery Exercise had us search for terms using various advanced features. I found that "school library learning 2.0" gets the results I wanted--can't forget the quotations--and the Quick View is a very handy element!

Obviously, tagging is the element that makes it possible for the "social" part of web2.0 to take place. It's the reason that we can find cool photos on flickr that are that certain shade of blue, how we can find others with similar interests--it's how virtual community building is made easy and convenient. It's very powerful, and since you can tag your work with as many tags as you want to, it is flexible too. And for the most part it works amazingly well. Tagging is perhaps the most powerful aspect of this new (to me and my fellow school library 2.0 learners) world.

However, the librarian in me (geeky, I know) also sees the limitations that come with such a non-standardized cataloging system. I found posts tagged with misspellings, with or without spaces, etc. These nonstandard tags (most of them mistakes) render that piece of work on the web invisible--that's the fly in the ointment. Just a reminder for myself to tag carefully and try to think like the person that might be searching for my work so I use effective tags.

Week 6 Thing #14

Technorati Profile

Claiming my feed (although I thought I'd already done this...)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Flickrstorm--Cool Mashup

Just as I was grouching about not being able to use various 2.0 tools at school and with students, I ran across some of David Jakes' tutorials on TeacherTube. The tutorials that really caught my eye are the ones for Flickrstorm , which is a mashup using Flickr photos that allows you to search for photos (advanced tab allows creative commons searches too), save them into sets and download them altogether onto a page with a unique URL. Students can then access the images--which have full attribution and links back to the original on Flickr--from this unique page rather than having to go into Flickr. In my district, Flickr is blocked, but I'm hoping that Flickrstorm is not . If we can use it, it will be really handy! The 3 Flickrstorm tutorials are on this page under the Photostory3 tutorials.

BTW, Jakes' Photostory3 tutorials are certainly worth the time too, as an intro to the free program and to digital storytelling in general. Thanks Mr. Jakes!!
I think I will show them to a couple of my teachers who are interested in different storytelling options for their kids.
A fellow participant in the School Library Learning 2.0 program, blogging here at Book-Case, so precisely stated what librarians' focus should be in the whole school2.0/library2.0 debate, that I wanted to quote her here:
(school librarians)
need to reorient our way of thinking from fixed goals to be met, to ongoing goals that are a work in progress. We need to be trendspotters and maybe even trendsetters for our schools. We don't need to be techno-geeks; what we need is to be good readers, good listeners and flexible professionals who value and collaborate with our patrons.
Thanks Book-Case for pulling those loose ends together for us. Very well said!

My goals as librarian are much different--more general (maybe overarching is a better word)--than those of the classroom teacher. My focus is much more on the 21st Century literacy goals being discussed in this project and by such "important" thinkers as Joyce Valenza, David Warlick and Doug Johnson, etc. Those skills include "traditional" skills such as reading, literature appreciation & evaluation, selection, etc. But they also include the newer learning that we are doing in this project this summer. Thanks Book-Case for making me think about this!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Week 6 Thing #13

This activity for School Library Learning 2.0 deals with social bookmarking, tagging, and Deli.icio.us in particular. Del.icio.us is one of my favorite web2.0 tools--I use it all the time! As I go through this activity, I am learning more about how I can organize my bookmarks (by bundling the tags), and just how the "social" part of the idea of social bookmarking works. Now I just need to carve out the time and actually prune and organize my bookmarks better!

I have found a couple of interesting links on the SLL2.0 page --one is
5 Ways to Mark Up the Web . This article discusses various ways to annotate web pages and share your thoughts with a work group or class--I've tried Trailfire, and I can see how it would be very useful in the classroom because you could have students follow your trail from site to site and your Trailfire "notes" could help them know what to study/where to go on each page. Particularly useful with younger students or special needs students. The problem (as always) is that you have to sign in to use it, and we'll probably not be able to do that at school.

As for the use of Del.icio.us at school, of course I see how the social or interactive aspect of the site is an added value to other more "traditional" sites like MyBookmarks , but frankly, I'm not entirely sure we are able to get to it through our school filter either. I'll have to check next time I'm up there. I suspect that many of these Web2.0 tools that we're looking at in this program are a half-step ahead of what our IT department is ready to allow us to do at school. I think it's getting less restrictive bit by bit in our district, but I'm still stymied many times when I want to use a cool new tool and then find that it's filtered out at work.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Changing Role of Schools

In the July/August 2007 Editor's Note, James Daly (Edutopia magazine) gives a clear and concise overview of the change in the nature of information over the last 20 years, and the change (or lack thereof) in America's public schools. He points out that business has called the shots in the formation of today's information age, and schools must now
step into a new role: assembler of the collective intellect. Educators must help students sort out the insightful from the ludicrous, assisting them in their new role as capable and critical thinkers.

Wow! He's talking about the very skills that librarians are suited to help students/teachers with! Evaluation of resources! Critical thinking!

Who says librarians are obsolete? Skilled librarians are more important now than ever--we just don't always market ourselves effectively. It's time for us to step up too.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pay Attention: Digital Learners

An interesting video that might get some conversation going about how our students learn and why. This is a conversation that we need to have on an ongoing basis in our schools, because I'm not sure some educators (in my world, anyway) really "get" it.

There's an old saying that if you keep doing what you've always done, then you'll keep getting what you've always gotten. I'm not sure that's true with our students anymore. I believe that if we keep teaching in the same way we've taught in the past, we will end up with disengaged young people who are not prepared for their life in the 21st century--in the flat world.

Here's the video by Darren Draper at T-4 Jordan School District (Utah). His list of resources is a great supplement to the video as well--the video is posted on that page as well.




Monday, July 16, 2007

Week 5 Thing #12: Custom Search Engines

As did some of the other participants of the CSLA School 2.0 program, I found Rollyo to be a cumbersome tool, and I much prefer the Google Custom Search Engine tool for my own use.

Google's interface is easy to follow and easy to customize, as is the strength of most Google apps. At the risk of having too much of a "big box store" mentality, I find it convenient to have this one place to go to find various applications. Google does a good job! That's why the name has morphed into a verb in the English language!

Back to the Custom Search Engine--I created one for my upper grade classes. Each year the 5th graders research a state and an historical figure in US History. The 4th graders usually do a project on Native American Texans and other historical figures in Texas History. I included a few sites that I know my teachers like their students to check--the nice thing is that we can go back and add to the list if needed. I will note that I would introduce this custom search engine to students after they had done some research in the authoritative databases that our district pays for! I am a librarian, after all...

This is a great tool though, and one that I knew about, but had no idea how to create! This type of learning is what makes this program sooooo helpful! I will share this with teachers and other librarians in the fall.

Test Review as Cheat Code--Wow!

Yesterday on his blog, David Warlick compared test review activities to video game cheat code sites on the internet. He asserted that perhaps if we let students write their own test reviews and study guides via a wiki, that process might be more valuable (and intriguing) than the test itself. He goes on to say that perhaps students should be allowed to use these "cheat codes" as they test:

if allowing students to create a strategy guide to use when taking their test would make the test too easy — perhaps we’re asking the wrong questions on the test.

How I agree with that statement! It's posts like these that make Warlick's blog the first one I check every morning. I think his ability to make unique connections like this makes him one of the most interesting and valuable "thinkers" we have out there sharing.

This post helped me clarify in my mind how to explain to some of my teachers that this school 2.0 "stuff" is critical for them to learn about and include in their classrooms. What a great parallel between the classroom and kids' RL this comparison is! What teacher hasn't used a test review sheet--and possibly even a student generated one! But the link to how it is pertinent in kids lives to do this through one of their tools was very helpful to me!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Week 5 Thing #11 3rd entry!

What great timing! I subscribe to Joyce Valenza's SLJ blog and yesterday's post was an extensive list of Web 2.0 tools and how these tools might be used in the classroom/library.

Many of the tools she discusses are the same ones that we've explored, however there are some additional ones too! Take a look!
Her list is in 2 blog posts: here and here .

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Week 5 Thing #11

Ning--
The next part of #11 is to explore a Ning community and comment on it. I am a member of the Texas Library Association's new Ning, called Texas School Librarians .
I see the potential of a tool like this, especially for a group as large and physically spread out as members of TLA. However, I find it a little disorienting. Maybe it's a matter of time. Seems that there's all sorts of info and various ways you can get to/link that info. My brain may just be a tad "old school" to adapt to this seamlessly. I still see the usefulness of pulling all types of communication together in one place (videos, forum, etc.)

Friday, July 6, 2007

Week 5 Thing #11

I explored several of the Web 2.0 Award Winners . Many of them are tools that I already use--some daily and some periodically. Here are my thoughts about some of them.

Favorite tool for student and teacher use:
Picnik is my favorite new find! I've been using it for about a month now whenever I need to edit photos. It is free and does not require an account. All the basic photo editing tools are there: crop, rotate, exposure correction, red eye correction, etc. These are all the tools that students need on a routine basis, and again, it's FREE!

Favorite tool for teacher use mainly:
Del.icio.us : I've used this social bookmarking tool for about 6 months and I love it. I can bookmark a site, access my bookmarks from anywhere, look at others' bookmarks to give me suggestions for other sites to peruse, and the tagging feature makes it all very easily searchable. Very cool. My bookmarks on del.icious are here .

Favorite tool that is potentially blocked by the district:
GoogleDocs!
Providing this tool is not disabled by the IT guys at school, which it may be, I can see this being very useful for students as they work on projects together. The problem that I see is that in order to use this tool, students would have to set up a google account, and that would be a problem. To have them set up any kind of email that is not controlled by the district would be viewed as a problem even with our older elementary students. So I suspect we will not be able to utilize it in our district.
However...
if we were able to use it,
the old worry about students being unable to collaborate because not all of them have access to the same software at school/at home goes right out the window with online collaboration tools like GoogleDocs. Currently in my building, we have a problem between the MS Office versions in the labs as opposed to the versions on the 4 student computers in each classroom. For simple word processing/spreadsheet work, GoogleDocs would solve the problem for free. Potentially great news for school districts that do not have the funds (or maybe the interested leadership) to update software regularly.Very powerful.

Favorite Cool Tool Just Because:
Colorblender is the coolest tool! It gives you color schemes that are pleasing to the eye when you choose one main color. RGB values are given, so you could use the information in almost any application. It would be great for students to use as they create products--anything, from powerpoint presentations to brochures or games! They could choose color schemes that are aesthetically pleasing. Very cool.

Other Cool Stuff:
City Guides/Reviews: Yelp has lots of reviews--I found a new coffee bar not far from my house that I'm going to check out!



Week 5 Thing #10 v2

ImageChef.com - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more
Created on Image Chef

Of the several image generators that I tried, I really liked Image Chef and Hetemeel the best. All of them were easy to use though, and easy to post into my blog. As far as using these with students, I'm fairly certain that they will be blocked by our filter at school. If they're not, I think students would have fun creating cartoons/signs, etc. The big problem will be copyright for comic strip characters or images of celebrities though--we must keep good judgement about copyright in mind--fair use or not!

Some of the generators allow users to upload their own photos though--this would be fun and less of a copyright worry.

Week 5 Thing #10 v2

Here is a good one!



This one is from HeteMeel .
As I read on some of the other blogs for this project, I wonder about the copyright of these images. One librarian had a Disney image--and I KNOW they're very litigious. Many of the sites note the Fair Use doctrine and the concept of parody. I wonder...

Week 5 Thing #10

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Shot at 2007-07-06
Thanks to ImageShack for Free Image Hosting

I thought this would make a good graphic for a professional development session--Fun! More later as I explore more!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Week 4 Thing #9 Blog Search Tools

BTW--Notice my cool new avatar? I found the site Voki through a blog that I read doing this exercise! Darn--my avatars just keep looking better and better! heehee

For this exercise, we were to explore several blog feed search tools online and see what we encountered.

In light of Scott McLeod's Independence Day challenge to blog about tech leadership and 21st Century skills, I thought a good exercise would be to search for his suggested tag (schooltechleadership) on all the blog search tools. I found that trusty old Technorati harvested the most and the quickest results of all the tools. Of course, some of the engines weren't really suited for this type of search (Topix, for example), but it was interesting to see the different options out there. Google got the next highest quality results.

I'm glad for this exercise, because I put all of these tools on my del.icio.us page so I can remember them!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Technology and Administrator PD

A few days ago, Scott McLeod challenged bloggers to blog about technology and leadership today. Here's his challenge:

Wednesday, July 4, 2007 is American Independence Day and is as good a day as any to celebrate independent (and hopefully innovative) thinking and leadership. I hereby invite all edubloggers to blog about effective school technology leadership next Wednesday.

As I think about leadership and technology in my building/district, I must agree with McLeod's assertion that to many, many administrators, technology seems to be an add-on. It doesn't seem to be a part of their training nor is technology an integral tool for many of them.
How might I as the librarian facilitate a change--even a small one--in the culture that has grown up in my building as a result?

McLeod asks what is one tool that might be particularly helpful to administrators in my world. My answer: RSS! It's what makes so many Web2.0 tools possible--and relevant! His assertion in today's blog entry that tech training for administrators must be job embedded and authentic makes RSS the perfect basic tool. Information that you choose because it's pertinent to your life comes to you when it's created! What more could we ask!


I plan to introduce my teachers/admin to some basic uses of RSS in the next school year--for blogs and podcasts, primarily. If educators are exposed to the power of collegial relationships made possible--almost effortless, in fact--by RSS, and they're exposed to some of the vast pool of expertise at their fingertips, perhaps a few more converts will be created! :)

Friday, June 29, 2007

Week 4 Thing #8

For this "Thing" I'm supposed to set up a bloglines account--and I already have one! I do like the fact that bloglines is web based, so I can get to it from almost any machine. However, as is the case with so many 2.0 tools, bloglines is blocked in our district. So the very place that it would be most useful is the place that I have no access to it!

At home, I generally prefer to use the Sage add-on to my Firefox browser for my RSS aggregator. This is where I find myself going, primarily. Of course, the major downfall of Sage is that it's not really fully a 2.0 tool because it isn't web-based! :(
I like it a lot though--it seems more convenient to me for use at home in that it opens as a resizable window on the left of my Firefox browser window, so it's there and easy to pull a new RSS feed into when I find one I like. And I can check my feeds easily/quickly as I'm doing other things in Firefox. As I say though, it's not available on any other machine and that's a problem.

BTW, I wonder how many people had a problem finding the Google Reader post (Discover Exercise 1 on Week 4) from Scobelizer...
You had to know to look at the Jan 20, 2007 post, and I suspect most people didn't realize that.

Did you Know 2.0---2.0

Because I can't get to videos on youtube at school, I'm embedding Did You Know 2.0 from teachertube here. We can get to that.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

March of the Librarians

Once you get started looking at YouTube videos, it's hard to stop! I found another one (from a link on The Hollywood Librarian) that is just hilarious! A parody of March of the Penguins.




Hollywood Librarian

This looks like it might be an interesting clip for staff development to stimulate discussion. I don't know exactly when this documentary (The Hollywood Librarian) is slated to be released--from their web site, it looks like they're still working on it. The librarian/filmmaker has a blog on the film's web site.
There's a trailer on YouTube for The Hollywood Librarian:

Friday, June 22, 2007

Week #3, Things 5, 6 & 7

I've been a member of Flickr for quite a while, although I haven't uploaded any pics of my own yet. I joined because my nephew has an acct where he posts pics of his family, and I subscribe to his RSS feed so I know when they have new photos of his 4-yr-old up! (She's quite darling, btw).

While I can think of myriad creative ways that Flickr might be used in the classroom, in large part I think this discussion is moot in that I can not see local school districts in my very conservative area of Texas allowing students access to this type of site. Ever. Concern over inappropriate pictures and discussions is just too great for my district to take that "chance," in my opinion. In fact, in many a workshop, we have been reminded that anything posted or saved for viewing by the public on our network should be "appropriate for even the youngest of our students" to view. Since we have 4 year olds in our PK programs, I suppose that means that even high school students' work should be appropriate for 4 year olds if it is to be published on our network or on the Internet in some way. Ludicrous.

So. Flickr is out for our schools, I should think--even if it is a tool that our students enjoy and find creative (and even appropriate) uses for. I do think it's worth our time as educators and 21st century learners to learn about such technologies--they're cool and useful! I don't see us having the opportunity to use them in the schools so that we have an opportunity to take advantage of those "teachable moments" and guide our students in using them--within the curriculum--safely and ethically.

As for 3rd party mashups, the guy who maintains FD's Flickr Toys has a really interesting blog as well, where he blogs about his family as well as his work designing software. Some of his blogs about being a dad are quite touching. He is a very talented photographer as well--his flickr page & blog are worth a look!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

VoiceThread--what a resource for digital storytelling

I don't even know what led me to this site, because once I clicked on VoiceThread, I got lost in this fantastic site! VoiceThread enables the user to add sound (commentary, music, etc) to what is essentially a slide show online. That's not even the cool part though! The coolest thing is that users can leave comments--either audio or text--so that as others watch the slide show, they can hear the rich conversation that has evolved.

What a great tool for digital storytelling! An example that I quickly found was this Flat Stanley project. This project however brings up issues of cybersafety in that the names of the children and their location are given in the thread, which is definitely not a "best practice." However, this is an idea that could be used safely and I think it would be so exciting for students!

Another thread worth visiting is Booooo for Global Warming, by a young girl named Zoe. Very effective--talk about persuasive speech and point of view! This is what we should be doing in the classroom to make those old units that we just don't want to give up (Flat Stanley) a 2.0 upgrade! Now...to get the IT department not to block it...

Week 2 Thing#3

I've created my avatar! What fun that was! I had to search for how to export from Yahoo--but I found it right away. Cool!

Week 1 Thing #2 Life Long Learning & Habits

I've joined the Blogosphere! Wow!

I've been reading blogs and listening to podcasts consistently since last summer when I attended David Warlick's session Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century at ALA. What a thought-provoking session that was! While I had been interested in various educational podcasts before that time, I hadn't really read many blogs, and wasn't sure that all of this was just cool technology or if it was really relevant to our world of education. Mr. Warlick tied up all the reasons for me that these web2.0 tools are important pieces of the information landscape for our students--and for all of us!

Easiest Habit for me--utilizing my own learning "toolbox."
I regularly use all sorts of media to try to keep myself current--
professional books & journals, web sites, research databases, blogs, podcasts, etc.

Most Difficult Habit for me--Viewing problems as challenges
A wise principal once told me, in talking about a personnel problem that we had going on our school, that in her view, no one was "wrong" for our staff. She said that when she has personnel issues, she looks at how she can change the situation rather than the person. How can she get the goal accomplished while utilizing all her staff to their best abilities. That was a perfect reminder to me of how I should think. I try to remember that concept, but I sometimes slip into the "problem" mode rather than the "challenge" mode!

Another difficult Habit for me is to start with the end in mind. I sometimes tend to have too vague an idea of the outcome I'm looking for. I have to make a conscious effort to think in detailed terms.

Lifelong Learning--that's what it's all about!