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!