Saturday, December 27, 2008

Introduction to Creative Commons--A Video

Thanks to Steve Hargadon on the Classroom2.0 ning. He posted a link to this great video that I think does a wonderful job of quickly explaining what Creative Commons is and how it came about.

This would be a good intro for teacher PD. Only problem that I see is that in our district, all social media sites like youtube, flickr, photobucket, etc. are blocked for students. Teachers can now access them though, so for photos, flickrstorm would be a good option to share with them as well.

Here's the video to share:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Edublog Awards 2008

In his blog post yesterday, David Warlick thanked his readers and the Edublog Awards for conferring a Lifetime Achievement Award upon him. What a fitting tribute to a man whose work has impacted so many people--by challenging our thinking and by so incisively analyzing the changing world and what it might mean to our profession and our kids.

I've followed David Warlick since I was lucky enough to see his presentation at the ALA Annual Convention in New Orleans in 2006. His presentation inspired me to read Friedman's The World is Flat, and later, Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind, two works that have helped me to guide my young college-aged daughter, and to change my practice as a librarian. That one hour that I spent in Warlick's workshop truly changed my brain--changed the way I look at librarianship for the 21st century, as well as education in general! Yesterday, I was excited to get Warlick's latest book in the mail: Redefining Literacy 2.0. I can't wait to read it-- I know it will reinvigorate my thinking.

In his post, Warlick worries that the Lifetime Achievement Award might indicate that he is a doddering old man at the end of his career. I can't imagine that this is even close to truth. It's just a much-deserved thank you to a man that provides leadership and challenges so many others to think about things a bit differently, inspiring those of us "in the trenches" to professional practice that will (hopefully) serve our students well in this changing world!
Thanks David! And Congratulations!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Week in Rap!

I learn the most amazing things through my professional network of people all over the world! Today I was listening to the Seedlings at Bit by Bit podcast, and Bob Sprankle's Geek of the Week was The Week in Rap. Oh my goodness! What a wonderful and engaging tool for the classroom! It is a weekly current events video--in rap! From Flocabulary, which is a NYC-based project (I need to read more about it) that works with infusing hip-hop into educationally based products. Very interesting.

Here is a sample of a recent week in rap--a particularly monumental week it was too: Election Week 2008 in the US.

The Seedlings at Bit by Bit podcast this week was particularly full of great links too--even better than normal!! Thanks Bob and Alice and Cheryl! Carla was a great guest and I learned so much this week from you! Wow!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Nearest Book Meme

"The sun was shining." What a disappointing sentence to pull from such a wonderful book! One of my favorites!

Wonder what I am talking about?
Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk blog encouraged us all to take part in this meme by Stephen Abrams of Stephen's Lighthouse

* Get the book nearest to you. Right now.
* Go to page 56.
* Find the 5th sentence.
* Write this sentence - either here or on your blog.
* Copy these instructions as commentary of your sentence.
* Don't look for your favorite

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Web Site Evaluation: UDTechToolkit

A key component of No Child Left Behind is that every child should demonstrate appropriate learning growth yearly. Joyce Valenza and Karen Janowski’s website, UDTechToolkit is an excellent source of information and links supporting such learning for all students.

On over a dozen pages, the website clearly indexes various assistive technologies freely available on the Internet for classroom use. There are pages of links for such tools as text-to-speech, research, literacy and math. The site is wiki-based, a dynamic and interactive format enabling users to add relevant information of their own. It is graphically appealing, with a Glogster interface as the home page. Screencasts, and videos appear on many pages, effectively modeling good design for users with different learning style preferences. The only drawback that I detect with UDTechToolkit is that the Glogster interface may be blocked by some school districts, thus removing one of the most user-friendly aspects.

The authors of the site are clearly authoritative in their fields. Valenza, a prominent librarian, educator and speaker, is the blogger behind Neverending Search. Janowski is an assistive technology consultant and well-known blogger at EdTech Solutions: Teaching Every Student.

UDTechToolkit is a valuable resource for 21st century classrooms, and I highly recommend it. Today’s classrooms must be student-centered, continually meeting the needs of all learners. Assistive technologies such as the ones discussed here are helpful for all students, not only those in special education, so I see this site as a wonderfully rich source of information for 21st century learners.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fair Use: Best Practices for the 21st Century Classroom

Yesterday, the Center for Social Media (American Univeristy) and the National Association for Media Literacy Education, in collaboration with several other organizations, including National Council of Teachers of English released a new Best Practices document concerning fair use for 21st century education. I haven't had a chance to fully study it yet, but I'm looking forward to reading the document and getting my thoughts together to revisit it all with my faculty.

Below is a video from their site that's worth sharing.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Digital Citizenship

Thinking about our internet safety so many others, I don't like the emphasis on "safety" that this title entails. To me, "internet safety" implies that the internet is so frought with dangers that we must go to great lengths to innoculate our kids! As I believe Nancy Willard's work suggests, our students don't set out to do dangerous things on the internet, and child predators are not victimizing huge masses of children engaged in everyday activities. As mentioned on EdTech Weekly this week (was it John Schinker who said it?) bad stuff happens on the internet to people who engage in dumb (or risky) behavior.

I think our focus needs to be on giving students the tools to act responsibly when they're using any technology. Prevention, training and making wise choices should be at the root of our message. "Internet safety" leaves out the most vital concept of the curriculum: citizenship!

So, in that mindset, I've decided to minimize my use of the term as I work with my students. I'm going to emphasize citizenship. Great message on this historical election day, eh?

Here's a wordle I came up with to use:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Collaborative, Student-Driven Classrooms

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach gave a great keynote at Maine's ACTEM conference last week, and Bob Sprankle has posted it on his site, Bit by Bit. Wow! What a great keynote to share with administrators.

Nussbaum-Beach speaks of the shift in teaching and learning that should be happening in our classrooms--a shift to a student-driven, globally connected model. One-to-one programs like the one in my district won't be successful without this major shift. I don't think it's widely understood though. I wonder if administrators get this crucial shift that is necessary. And if they don't "get it", will the teachers? Do administrators have the leeway to lead in a different way, to embrace this shift? I suspect not.

So how do we ensure a successful on-to-one?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nice Tag Cloud...

I liked the tagcloud I made today on Wordle using my Delicious tags. Shaped nicely like a tree--nice metaphor. Now I need a catchy name for it. Tree for Tomorrow's Learning? Tree2.0? If I were cleverer, I'd come up with something wonderful...ideas?

Blocked Bytes Week

This week, Doug Johnson (Blue Skunk Blog) called for an addition to Banned Books Week. He states:
if we are truly committed to "Freedom to Read" what we really need is...Blocked Bytes Week
How true! I guess that's why he's Doug Johnson!
As are many (if not most) American K-12 educators, I am continually frustrated by filtering in my district--although it has gotten better this year, admittedly. We're lucky in that fact, I suppose.

I just wonder how it is that we're supposed to guide students and foster good cyber-citizenship in them if we are blocked from the "teachable moments." A related example of this is a statement made by my principal in a school-wide professional development session before this school year started. She stated that there is no reason to ever exchange an email with a student. Her takeaway from district administrative training was that exchanging email is so inherently frought with dangers that teachers should never take that chance. She said if a student emails a teacher, that teacher should call them on the phone and talk to the parents and
then talk to the student. While I am relatively certain that this was not the intent of the district educational technology leadership, it was, nevertheless, how she interpretted policy. Oh my. We have spent millions of dollars on technology in this district, have a particularly well-respected leader in the district ed-tech department, and principals still come away with misconceptions like that. No amount of talking will change her mind, because she is blinded by the idea that inappropriate things might be said in email and that might put both students and teachers at risk. Period. It made me sad and frustrated to hear that.

Thanks Doug Johnson, for fighting for freedom along with us! Reading freely and exploring ideas, both in print and digital form, are cornerstones of democracy and freedom.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kwout it!

Trying a new tool that I read about called Kwout. Don't really know why it's called that--I think a lot of people in my world would be more likely to try tools if the language didn't get in the way, but that's another post...

Via a widget in my Firefox browser, Kwout does this:

Twitter via kwout

That is a screen capture of a piece of my twitter page this afternoon.

I can capture a screen shot easily and quickly and make it any size I need it to be. This is done with a useful little slider that sizes your kwout so you can see exactly how big it'll be before you save/upload it--love that. They mashup with Blogger so that it's wildly easy to post to my blog. Cool thing is that it says the hyperlinks within the graphic above are still hot, although I can't tell as I type this. They're not now, but they should be once this goes live. I'll see how useful it ends up being. Like it at first blush!

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Vision of University Classrooms Today....

In a post today, Wes Fryer relates a conversation he had recently with a university professor at Oklahoma Christian University, where all students are required to use Apple iPhones or iPod Touches. He relates:
When I learned this professor taught at OC, I enthusiastically said, “Wow, you’re going to have all your students bring iPhones to class this year!” His response was:

Boy I sure hope not. I have a tough enough time having them keep their laptops closed all the time during class.

I almost passed out on the spot, but I was torn by a simultaneous urge to weep.

Sadly, Wes's post reminds me of an experience that my husband and I had at a large north Texas university (over 38,000 students) a few weeks ago at Parent Orientation--our daughter is an incoming freshman there this fall. At one of our sessions, the Dean of the Honors College spoke to us. She was an engaging and entertaining speaker, using humor and compassion to make her point to a room full of slightly tender freshman parents, not yet entirely ready to set their kids off to the wider world . I was really feeling good about her message of helping all students to reach their individual goals, guiding them as they transition to the adult world with skills as well as a solid ethical base...

she said it.

She said that she makes it clear on the first day of any class she teaches that no laptops, cell phones or handheld devices are to ever be brought to her lectures. Students are to take notes with pen and "an old-fashioned yellow legal pad." Then, she said, if they felt the need to use their computers in studying or "transferring their notes later", she was OK with that. In her mind, the act of writing information down with pen and paper passes for kinesthetic learning, I suppose. And, after all, what would students ever do academically with a computer other than transfer the professor's wise words to a MS Word document? It all made me sad too, Wes, and so vividly brought to mind Michael Wesch's A Vision of Students Today.

As Wes noted in his post, this particular dean had no concept of the possibilities that 21st century tools can offer--and it seemed to be black & white to her. Computers can not be useful tools for learning in her classroom (or lecture hall). There is no room for the question How do we harness the power of this tool that keeps popping up in my lecture hall? Furthermore, this being the viewpoint of the DEAN, is there any leadership in that institution (or at least that college within the university) to foster continued learning by the professionals? To change the status quo and address the needs of these 21st century learners?

I will certainly say that the experience left me with a feeling of trepidation about dropping $8,000+/semester there for the next 4 years. I know however that 1)
the situation would probably not be noticeably different at most American universities and
my daughter will get from her experience there what she puts into it, and she's an enthusiastic learner with a strong and stable background. (She's a real keeper!)
She'll be fine. But really, doesn't she (and all those like her) deserve better?

Back to the questions that we keep coming back to: how can this change? What can we, in the profession, do? What are we doing that is meaningful, and what do we need to toss and reevaluate? How do we encourage other professionals to "buy in"?

Photo attribution: Old Notes, New Purpose by idiolector on Flickr. Creative Commons non-commercial share-alike license.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Podcasting with Purpose

Bob Sprankle's latest Bit by Bit podcast is posted, and I'm just getting around to listening to it. It is the audio from his Building Learning Communities keynote, entitled Podcasting with Purpose.

Wow! Well worth a listen! I think his title is slightly off the mark though, because this presentation explores so much more than just
podcasting, per se. He used podcasting as a catalyst for change in his classroom--a change that is much deeper than just one tool. How I would love to have had my child in a 4th grade classroom with this much authentic learning, peer teaching/learning, exploration. His is a story of how these changes are about more than the tools--the change is in the focus of the classroom (learning rather than teaching) and authentic work that engages students. Thanks to Bob Sprankle for a great example for the rest of us who are trying to advocate these changes to teachers that may not love the tools...yet.

The presentation slides are below, and you can get the keynote here. Do them together--and then share! Also, I recommend that you subscribe to his podcast feed! It's really a great one to have in your ipod!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bluebonnet Reading...

As I do most summers, I've spent a bit of time reading next year's Bluebonnet nominees and so far, I've not found what I think is a clear favorite. I've found some that I really don't love and some that I can't fathom why they've been included on the list. So far, one of my favorites (because I'm a geeky teacher at heart) is Douglas Florian's poetry collection, Comets, Stars, the Moon and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings.

I've loved his past work and so do so many of my students. His poetry is accessible to even the most stalwart of non-poetry-reading boys, and I love it that he is also an artist. This collection fits perfectly into the curriculum, has intriguing artwork, humor and information all at once. Pluto is even treated scientifically correctly! That being said, I know that some kids will like this a lot, but it will be mostly teachers that love it and find curricular uses for it. I wonder...Two more nominees that I loved reading (with minor questions) are Cherise Harper's Just Grace and MJ Auch's One-Handed Catch. LOVED them both for read-alouds. Just Grace will be accessible to many of my 3rd graders, where most of the books on this list this year may be a tad too challenging for them. I wished at the end of that book that Harper had found some way to resolve her plot without having the 2 children lie to their neighbor and get away with it. I had to groan a tiny bit on that note. To persnickety of me? Am I turning into a pinched librarian? One-Handed Catch is just wonderful--and it made me want to look into having Mary Jane and Herm Auch for an author visit! This fictional account, loosely based upon a year in Herm's childhood, is funny and touching and just has so many good jumping off places for class discussion/writing. I'd love to read this to a class. I wish Auch had left the part out about Santa not being real though...even 5th graders still want to believe! Dang! Loved, loved LOVED it though!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Krashen's Concerns about Scholastic Reading Report

The talk on the Texas school librarians' listserv for the past couple of days has been about Scholastic's latest "research" about kids' reading habits and opinions. Today, Ty Burns posted Stephen Krashen's June 20th post to the ALA forum about his concerns with the Scholastic study. (see below)

It seems to me that just about any "research" on young people's reading habits that is funded and carried out by one of the most powerful publishing companies in the field of children's literature should be accepted with skepticism. Thank you Dr. Krashen, for helping clarify some of the questionable points contained in the Scholastic study!

From: Stephen Krashen
Date: Fri, 20 Jun 2008 13:13:34 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [aaslforum] Scholastic researchers need to read more
The Scholastic 2008 Kids and Family Reading Report: Why Scholastic's Researchers Need to Read More
Stephen Krashen
June 18, 2008

Scholastic recently released a survey on how much and what children are reading these days, interviewing 501 children, ages 5 to 17, and their parents or guardians from 25 cities (Scholastic, 2008).

As is often the case, the Scholastic report was sent to newspaper reporters before it was released to the public. In other words, scholars had no chance to read it (or as they say these days, to vet it) before descriptions appeared in the press.

This is in stark contrast to the way scientific knowledge has been traditionally disseminated: Research is first submitted to professional journals, and will only be published if it passes review by other scholars. The reviewers make sure the study is done correctly, and that there is a full and competent review of previous research in the area, so that readers can determine how the results relate to previous research. Acceptance of the report can take several months, and it could be a year until the paper appears in print. At first, it is read only by professionals, those who read the journals, who often debate the results and may attempt to replicate the study.

In the field of educational research, all this has changed. Non-academic organizations (think tanks, government agencies, and private companies) with large budgets now produce their version of research, and utilize public relations avenues to send the report immediately to the media. Scholars can only read these reports well after descriptions have appeared in the media, descriptions written by reporters who may or may not have specialized knowledge, who are often unaware of other research in the area, and who nearly always have deadlines to meet. By the time the real experts read the report, it is already old news, the results have already been widely disseminated, and often stimulate important policy changes.

When the cold fusion report was released to the media before being submitted to review by other scientists, the researchers were widely criticized. When this happens in education, there are no complaints. In fact, what happens in education is worse: The studies are now given to the media before scholars can see them, and reporters are not allowed to share them until they are officially released (they are "embargoed"). In the case of cold fusion, scientists got the information at the same time reporters did.

This was the case with the Scholastic report on reading. Not surprisingly, different media reports said different things about it. Some reporters interpreted the findings as showing that reading is on a decline, e.g. WSB radio in Atlanta posted an article with the title, "Fewer kids reading for fun," and the Desert Sun in California ran the headline "Kids don't read for fun." But the School Library Journal headline was "Kids still wild about books."

Actually, it is impossible to draw any real conclusions from the Scholastic report about whether children are reading more or less than they used to. The problem is that those who wrote the survey questions did it in such a way that it is impossible to compare the results with those done years ago. The Gold Standard of surveys is the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress). Unfortunately, Scholastic and NAEP asked different questions and categorized children into age groups in different ways.

For example, Scholastic asked children if they read "never, once a year, more than once a year, once a month, 2 to 3 times a month, once a week, 2 to 3 times a week, 4 to 6 times a week, every day." NAEP asked if they read "never or hardly ever, a few times a year, once or twice a month, once or twice a week, almost every day."

Scholastic divided age categories into ages 5-8, 9-11, 12-14, and 15-17. NAEP only asked questions of nine, 13, and 17 year olds.

To analyze the amount of reading among the age groups, Scholastic presented the data in terms of type of reading done (books, comics, magazines, newspapers). NAEP only asked about "reading for fun." A comparison could not be made because many readers in the Scholastic study read more than one genre, but this information was not included.

(For a summary of recent NAEP results, see Iyengar and Ball, 2007.)

There is, however, some important data in the Scholastic report.

Children read a lot

Even though we cannot compare reading today and reading in previous years, nor can we compare younger and older readers, for reasons outlined above, it is clear that the data shows that young people are doing a lot of reading: About 2/3 reported that they read at least two to three days a week. (Oddly, Scholastic categorizes those reading four to six times a week as "moderate" readers, reserving the "high frequency" reader category for those who said they read every day).

Children respect readers

Only 9% said that the reason they didn't read more was that "reading is not cool." This agrees with our recent results: Only 7% of our sample of over 2000 children in grades 4 to 6 disagreed with the statement: " People I know who read a lot are interesting and fun" and 56% were in full agreement with the statement (Schatz, Pierce, Ghalambor, and Krashen, in press).

Poor reading competence not a barrier

When asked why they do not read more for fun, only 9% of the sample said it was because "I don't read that well." Even for the youngest group, ages 5 to 8, only 13% said this was the reason they didn't read more. This runs counter to the current wisdom that proclaims we have a literacy crisis due to children's low reading ability.

Few children dislike reading

Only 15% of the Scholastic sample said that the reason they don't read more is that they don't like to read. This also agrees with our findings: We found only 10% of our sample chose "not very much" in response to the statement "I like to read" (Schatz et. al., in press; see also Schatz and Krashen, 2006). This also runs counter to current wisdom that proclaims that children need to be bribed to read, i.e. reward systems.

The importance of self-selection

Scholastic reported that 89% of the young readers agreed that their favorite books were the ones they chose themselves. This result was consistent across all age groups and gender. The positive impact of self-selection on literacy development has been demonstrated in the research literature (e.g. Lee, 2007).

A lot of children use the internet

Scholastic reported that 79% of their sample said they used the internet and even 53% of the youngest group, ages 5 to 8, said they used the internet. This agrees with a great deal of research (reviewed in Krashen, 2007).

More internet use, more reading

Scholastic also reported that high frequency users of the internet were more likely to be high frequency readers (but see above for Scholastic's definition of high frequency reader), and were slightly more likely to have read a non-required book, magazine, comic or newspaper than low frequency internet users. Also, 37% of the entire sample said they used the internet to find a book in a series they were interested in, and 10% said they wrote an on-line review of a book they read. The relationship between internet use and reading has been studied extensively, with several studies confirming that more internet use is related to more reading, and in improvement in reading (research reviewed in Krashen, 2007).

No mention of the core problem

As is the case with all surveys of this kind, there was no mention of the core problem in literacy: Access to books for children of poverty. The Scholastic report tells us only that 47% of the children came from families earning under $53,000. Research tells us that children of poverty have far less access to books and other reading material than other children: They live in neighborhoods with inferior school libraries and fewer bookstores, and have access to fewer books in school, because of inferior classroom and school libraries (Krashen. 2004). We would expect children of poverty to have the most trouble finding interesting reading, but this kind of analysis, easy to do with the data available in the Scholastic report, was not done.

Scholastic and reading

I find it ironic that Scholastic's website first offers a visual presentation of a summary of the report. Lower down on the page they provide the option of downloading the report and actually reading it.

It is also ironic that Scholastic's researchers, it seems, didn't do much reading: There is no bibliography, no mention of previous surveys or research in this area, and, as noted above, reason to believe that the researchers were unaware of previous work. Clearly, the Scholastic report would not have been accepted by any respectable professional journal in its present form.


The Scholastic report has already been distributed widely, and as noted above was available to reporters before scholars could see it. I am hopeful that other scholars familiar with this area of research will review the report and publish their views. Their papers will, however, have a hard time penetrating the public's consciousness. Going the usual route, submission to a professional journal, with its time delay and the fact that only a handful of people will know about and even fewer will read such a paper, is no longer an option. Letters to the editor, always worth trying, are limited in length by newspapers, and only a small percentage are published; in addition, they need to submitted soon after the original report appears, which is nearly impossible to do when the report requires careful reading and analysis.

The internet appears to be the only option. Even if a website has only a modest number of readers, it is possible that those who read a post will pass it along to others, and eventually the paper will be widely disseminated. My hope is that this happens with this paper.


Iyengar, Sunil. and Ball, Don. 2007. To Read or Not to Read. Washington, DC: National Endowmnent for the Arts.

Krashen, Stephen. 2004. The Power of Reading. Westport, CI: Libraries Unlimited and Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Krashen, Stephen. 2007. Free voluntary surfing. International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 3(1): 2-9. []

Lee, Syying. 2007. Revelations from three consecutive studies on extensive reading. RELC Journal 38/2:150–70.

Schatz, Adrienne, Pierce, Kim, Ghalambor, Ken, and Krashen, Stephen.
More on the "Literacy Crisis": Do children like to read? Knowledge Quest (in press).

Schatz, Adrienne and Krashen, Stephen. 2006. Attitudes toward reading in grades 1-6: Some decline in enthusiasm but most enjoy reading. Knowledge Quest 35: 46-48.

Scholastic. 2008 Kids & Family Reading Report.

Test: Coveritlive

I've seen Coveritlive on so many people's blogs, that I decided to try it myself just to see what it was all about. Below is a test--I'm leaving it here only to remind myself that it's a tool that could be very useful. I'm thinking of instances where some of my colleagues can't come to a particular meeting and need to be caught up on the latest directives from the district! This would be useful. Obviously it is highly useful for live conference blogging too. Very cool and easy.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Another Post About Creativity...

I've been way out of the loop with my blog/professional reading for the last few weeks. End of school just always slams me, and then I got to go on a wonderful vacation, so it's literally been a couple of months since I've really read what is showing up in my google reader! I can't wait to begin looking through and thinking about what recently happened at NECC.

Anyway, this morning (since I'm still a bit jet-lagged), I got up
early and began reading David Warlick's blog--he always gets me thinking! He has a turn of phrase that so often provides a clarity that I just can't express as well myself.
In his response to Clarence Fisher's post, (
America, You've Got Trouble ), David considers how both Canadian and American classrooms can effectively incorporate the changes that are necessary to our students tomorrow.
He says:

The problem, in my opinion, began when we started to consider and to treat our students as our future workforce. When it became our industries that were at stake, rather than democracy, then we had no choice but to mechanize education, to turn it into an assembly line, where we install math, and install reading, and install science, and then measure each product at the end to make sure that they all meet the standards — that they all know the same things and think the same ways.

The sad part is that this theme of class as future work force is just about too firmly entrenched to turn around in the short months and years we have, before it’s too late. I’m finding myself promoting the creative arts skills for the sake of the economy, rather than a richer life for our children. But even within that story, I think that we can retool our classrooms in a way that does help our children inside and outside their work experiences.
Standards--and minimum standards, at that--are being used on a massive scale in our schools to ensure just that--learning at the lowest acceptable level by the greatest number of children. We put great time and effort into ensuring that minimum competencies are met by all (or most). Admittedly, we do talk professionally about "extending the learning" of all students, especially those who we know will pass the test in the end, but is that enough? It seems artificial & prescriptive to me...a bit disingenuous, in allow "extension," but primarily for the students who have already met the minimum. Is it enough that all our students know the "same things and think the same ways?" That is scary to me...and sad.

More and more, I find myself out of sync with the general practice in my profession--at least locally. Shouldn't we challenge all our kids to think creatively? Not just with the goal of better standardized test scores in mind! Honoring our students' creativity and fostering its development is what will make a difference in their adult lives--both economically and personally. Is there room for that when minimum standards consume our practice? What is the answer?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sir Ken Robinson: More on Creativity

We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we're educating our children. And the only way we'll do it is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are, and seeing our children for the hope they are. Our task is to educate our whole being so they can face this future.
Sir Ken Robinson
October 2006, Edutopia magazine
A new video, from April 2008, posted at Edutopia. (16 min)

Are you meeting the creative needs of the students in your school? Are most of our schools?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Playing with Animoto!

I spent my lunchtime playing with Animoto yesterday, and this is what I came up with. Not final--I just threw a few pics from our Multicultural Club event last week in. This is a FANTASTIC tool! Very easy to use and results that WOW!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Library Cat Travels the World!

Meet our library mascot (or would that be mascat?). Ben was a Beanish-Type Baby in a former life, but now he lives in our library by the circ desk and all our students visit him once a week. This summer, several of our teachers will be taking Ben (or one of his litter-mates, purchased on Ebay in the last few days) with them on vacation. Ben will be visiting South Dakota, Central Texas, Upstate New York, Alaska, Victoria, British Columbia, Paris, Dublin, Kazakhstan, Germany, Austria, Mexico, Hawaii and many more exciting places around the world! Traveling companions will be taking pictures of Ben in many culturally interesting places, near recognizable sights as well as in more hard-to-guess settings. Next year, students at our school will have a chance to guess where Ben traveled during his summer vacation! Hopefully this will spark some student (and teacher) interest in using our online databases for research. Google Earth, a newly discovered and well-loved tool in my building, will fit nicely into the activity too!

This project ties in with the project described in my previous post, in that for the second year, our library theme will be Travel the World...Read Good Books! This theme is shared by our wonderful counselor, and we plan all sorts of fun and hopefully meaningful activities for our K-5th graders next year to encourage an appreciation for diverse cultures around the world. Would that the district might let us collaborate in a meaningful way with actual people in other countries through wikis, collaborative projects, streaming video, etc. Change is steps...must keep reminding myself.
We may be able to get some epals set up or something of the sort, if we are lucky! That would be a step in the right direction! Exciting days for Ben!

Year End Craziness and One Big Success!

Over the years, my poor family has learned that in May, they should just leave me alone as much as possible and let me get through it all so we can go on to have summer! Last week, some colleagues and I were talking about end-of-year inventory time in the library, and it seems that I am the anomaly. Everyone else loves getting the library in order and the books all on the shelf and accounted for. Me? It makes me nervous as a cat and quite, quite irritable! Adding to the stress this year, our lovely daughter is graduating from high school, so the house has to get clean for family visits too! Yikes!

In the midst of graduating our only, getting ready for a trip to Europe and vile inventory, not to mention our book character parade on the last day of school (an old thorn in my side, long story), I also got tapped to help head up a school-wide multicultural appreciation club kickoff! I helped our wonderful counselor, who is ever diligent about keeping up lots of activities that promote tolerance and appreciation for diversity.

We had our premier event last week, and it was a great success. We had 3 sessions about various cultures--France, Mexico and Vietnam. Students rotated from one session to the next and learned a tiny bit about each culture. In one session they did a craft, in another they learned a dance, and in another they heard a folktale. Then we all had a snack from each of the cultures.

We set a limit on students to attend because we're just getting our feet under us--next year it will go wide. To our surprise, the limit was hit by 9am the morning after the permission slips went home! We had lovely participation from our Moms, many of whom speak little to no English. I think that is potentially the most powerful part of the program! We will be able to tap the knowledge & talents that these Moms have, and honor their cultures! We can get them into the school to have positive experiences, and then it might not be such an uncomfortable place for some of the families. Having lived in Germany myself, I know what it feels like to be the only person in a room that isn't understanding the language. I can really sympathize with our families that don't have much English--what a brave and wonderful thing it was for our Moms to be willing to be a part of the club. They did a lot of work preparing too! One pair of Moms made tamales of different types, one prepared a Powerpoint and made spring rolls, one made madeleines for the children to taste. I was just really so impressed and pleased with the afternoon. Tired and stressed...but pleased.

Next blog post: traveling the world with our library mascot!

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Wow! My second post today!
I'm just catching up with reading from my RSS aggregator, and I found another short article by Scott McLeod (for American Association of School Administrators ) that seems to fit into my current mindset regarding 21st century skills, NCLB and enabling creative kids in our schools!

In Blocking the Future, McLeod compellingly urges superintendents and other school policymakers to find a way to enable teachers and students to use 21st century technologies to create authentic learning environments in schools. He writes: district leaders have a critical choice to make: Will their schools pro-actively model and teach the safe and appropriate use of these digital tools or will they reactively block them out and leave students and families to fend for themselves? Unfortunately, many schools are choosing to do the latter. As a technology advocate, I can think of no better way to highlight organizational unimportance than to block out the tools that are transforming the rest of society. Schools whose default stance is to prohibit rather than enable might as well plant a sign in front of their buildings that says, “Irrelevant to children’s futures.” Note: I inserted boldface.
Strong words, but so true and so important. Thanks for eloquently saying what so many of us think, Dr. McLeod!

A Look at NCLB

At the suggestion of Dr. Teri Lesesne and Dr. Mary Ann Bell, two of my favorite professors from grad school, I read two articles--yet two more articles, I should say--that question the efficacy of mandates made by No Child Left Behind. Great food for thought as we ponder changes in our schools.

From Jordan Sonnenblick's
Killing Me Softly: No Child Left Behind

Our arts programs are gutted, our shop courses are gone, foreign languages are a distant memory. What’s left are double math classes; mandatory after-school drill sessions; the joyless, sweaty drudgery of summer school. Our kids come to us needing more of everything that is joyous about the life of the mind. They need nature walks, field trips, poetry, recess...What they’re getting is workbooks.
Study: Reading Program Doesn't Boost Comprehension
In this recent AP article, reporter Nancy Zuckerbrod visits the Department of Education's own study of NCLB's Reading First program--a study finding "no difference in comprehension scores between students who participated in Reading First and those who did not." Food for thought. These are two articles that are definitely worthy reading for school librarians and, in fact anyone with an interest in American public schools.

If we are truly making "data driven decisions" in schools today, what of these findings? It seems that we have encountered more problems than solutions with NCLB. What now?

Who among the legislators is listening and asking the real, tough, expensive questions? Can we afford to change course after the billions of dollars that have gone into NCLB changes in schools? I think of Daniel Pink's insistence that, to thrive in the 21st century global economy, the United States must find a way to encourage ingenuity, design, creativity in our workforce. These are exactly the qualities that we discourage in our students today with NCLB, in my opinion. Can we really afford not to change course? Leave me a comment and tell me what you think...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

No Sharpies for You!

I know I'm a little slow on the uptake, since this incident is almost a month old, but I just had to comment on this story from Adams School District 50 in Colorado. Apparently an 8-year-old boy used a Sharpie marker to color on his sweatshirt and then continually smelled the spot. His elementary school principal, Chris Benisch, in an effort to make a definitive stand against inhalant abuse, or "huffing," suspended him for 3 days. The school district initially backed Benisch, but later the suspension was reduced to 1 day. In response to the Rocky Mountain Poison Control Center's statement that Sharpies are nontoxic and can not be used to get high by inhaling, Benisch reportedly still felt that Sharpies are too dangerous for schools. From Colorado's
'Wow, that's a very serious marker,'" Benisch said. Despite the medical evidence, Benisch promised to draw an even clearer line on markers. "We've purged every permanent marker there is in this building," he said.
Wow. When I read this account, it brought to mind the approach of many American school districts to emerging technologies. It seems that it is just more manageable to lock down student Internet use at school rather than finding ways to incorporate safe, constructive use of a global interactive web. So many schools just take the interactive, read/write web away--like the Sharpies--rather than changing school structures and expectations. Rather than teaching students how to use these tools authentically and ethically!

I don't believe that administrators/school IT departments make the "lock-it-down" decisions that they do most of the time simply because it is the easy decision. I think it is fear of litigation driven by a fundamental lack of understanding about the incredibly positive experiences students can have when schools allow & guide them. Look at the Horizon Project for a great example of students learning globally and collaboratively.

Think what might happen if our kids could use Sharpies and the Internet. Who knows what they might be able to do!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

LookyBook !

Our group reviewed LookyBook tonight, which looks like a very interesting web site! At Lookybook, you can do just that: look at a children's picture book online--the entire thing! What a great resource for classroom teachers and librarians! It's a great selection tool as well as being a fantastic way to share the illustrations in a picture book. Very slick!

And best of's not currently blocked in our district!!!

We wondered about the copyright compliance of it all, and I did some reading--started with the terms of service. But here's an article from the Novato (CA) Advance newspaper that leads me to think that copyright is not a problem in our classroom settings.

Lookybook allows you to set up your own "bookshelf" so that you could have the books you plan to use with your classes collected in one easy place. And one of the coolest features is that you can embed a book into a web page or blog! Very, very slick!!

Here's a sample, Poultrygeist by Mary Jane Auch:

AllTop and Another Social Network for Booklovers!

In Web 2.0 class, we've twice visited and played around with Librarything--a big favorite in a room full of librarians, as one might guess. Well, I have two new links to share that I've recently discovered: AllTop and Shelfari.

I don't remember how I found AllTop, and I don't know how long it's been around, but it's new to me! Here, they collect news items from "all the top" sources, and aggregate them into collections such as education, culture, geekery, etc. How they decide what the "top" sites are, I don't know, but I've found some interesting education articles and news items here! Another nice facet is that when you mouse over an item, you get a preview. Cool!

When I was browsing Alltop the other day, I discovered Shelfari. If you like Librarything like so many of us librarians do, take a look at Shelfari! It's a social networking site for booklovers--you can create your own bookshelf that really looks like books on a shelf.I like this cool interface better than Librarything. Very cool! Librarians, go check it out!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Inspiring Elementary School Blogs!

I happened upon a wonderful elementary school web site / blog that I just have to share with my web 2.0 classmates. Go look at Pashley Elementary School's Library Blog now!

Librarian Kristina Neddo maintains a wonderful, regularly-updated blog that contains new book reviews, news about library events and fun web 2.0 projects that various classes have completed, including Voicethreads, how-to screencasts that could be used by faculty or students, and more! It doesn't look like the blog is too old, but it is really a great example of library 2.0, I think.

I'm really inspired by looking at this librarian's efforts to keep her library program vibrant--and I'm impressed that there seems to be a schoolwide (maybe a districtwide) understanding of the importance and power of emerging web technologies. I seem to spend a lot of time in my school day hitting road blocks--filtering issues, teachers/admin feeling too overwhelmed to try one more new thing, testing, testing, testing.... It's great and reaffirming to see a librarian using these webtools effectively! After looking at this library blog, I'm confident that Ms. Neddo is a leader in her school's efforts to really engage learners. Lucky kids!

Trying Out Flock Again

After watching Liz Davis' great screencast about using Mozilla's "social browser," Flock (a browser-on-steroids), I decided to try it out again. I'd downloaded it awhile ago and never really fully gave it a chance. Gotta say that I'm not totally loving all of it yet, but I might grow to like it better.

I love several of the web2.0-ish aspects of it. For example, I'm blogging from it right now! note: posting from Flock didn't work tonite, although I tested it a few days ago and it was fine, so maybe a glitch??? I'm getting used to the feed reader--I have always preferred using an rss aggregator add-on to my Firefox. It's my favorite way to read my collected feeds, although it is limited, of course, since it resides in the browser. Flock has the same problem, but I'm not comfortable with the Flock interface quite yet.

I also love, love, LOVE the clipboard sidebar in Flock, which enables you to simply drag any item--photo, link, video, pdf--to the clipboard so that you can later use it in a blog post, google doc, etc. easily. Very convenient!

Flock seems to be a me in some ways though. It takes a bit of time to load (aren't we impatient these days...), and there are several tools that I'm not that interested in right now. I love my Firefox browser because it's light and I can add whatever add-ons I know I'm going to use. Flock seems interesting enough to use it for a while though--I may love it in the end!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Week 7, Thing #16: Wikis

What a disappointment that the wiki that I've been working on to support this class and to help us plan for a possible future class is not useable on the school network. Don't know why, but all pbwiki pages lose their formatting on our network and make it such a mess to look at that it's a no-go. Strangely, it seems that if you don't log in or try to go to another page within a pbwiki, the formatting on the front page is ok. Log in or click on a hyperlink, and all formatting goes wacko and the wheels fall off the cart! How frustrating.

AR and I can't remember why we decided against wikispaces last summer & I started making the wiki on pbwiki instead. It's a moot point though because wikispaces is blocked! Shriek!

Discussion tonight centered around our Acceptable Use Policy and exactly what it might be about wikis that is so dangerous that none of them are cleared for use. That's a powerful tool that is just totally unavailable to us.

Some of us agreed though that wiki use is not as easy to "get" as blogging is--I think we need more opportunity to practice with one another. Maybe soon???

Monday, March 24, 2008

Dr. Tim Tyson--another great keynote

OK, OK, OK...I know I've been full of suggestions, must-hears, must-reads, must-sees, but I'm going to add another to my list--if only to store my thoughts here for my own future reference.

I've been listening to back-episodes of Bob Sprankle's Bit by Bit podcast for the last few days. Among insightful blog posts, he's posted all sorts of wonderfully rich and thought-provoking podcasts, including several keynotes from various conferences he's attended, including the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference last fall. Today I had a real treat hearing the keynote speaker from that conference (Bit By Bit Podcast #56), Dr. Tim Tyson of Mabry Middle School in Marietta, GA. Dr. Tyson just seems like the kind of administrator that I'd wish for to lead my daughter's school--he's a real visionary, I think. Visit his school's web site, Mabryonline , if you have a chance. Wow!

Here's a link to Dr. Tyson's Keynote, entitled Moving from Personal Knowledge to Global Contribution , linked from Bob Sprankle's great site. I think Tyson's one of the most inspiring speakers around--how I WISH we could get someone like him to speak in our district! Wish, wish....

New Video and Rethinking...

Great video I just discovered--it's a response to Karl Fisch's Did You Know . Did You Know is the most important education-related video of the last 2-3 years, imho. I think every educator, every administrator, every school board member should watch it--more than once. If you haven't watched it yet, watch it now and then perhaps read (or listen to, like I did) Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat 3.0 . It will change your outlook--I promise.

Anyway, I found this new (to me) video, called Mr. Winkle Wakes, on Scott McLeod & Fisch's shifthappens wiki, as I was trying to reinvigorate/refocus myself before returning to school tomorrow after spring break. How true it is! How wrong that it is true...

I'm left again with the question how do I foster the needed changes in my school community? Modeling doesn't seem to cut it because the most resistant teachers (and we have a lot of them) seem to think that I know how to do these things, but they could never learn. I (as librarian) have "so much more time" than they do--they can't possibly "fit it in." After school/conference period trainings are ill-attended. Administrator doesn't want to "bother" the teachers with things like Fisch's video--"we just ask so much of them anyway--we can't put another thing on their plates." Teachers are under so much pressure to focus on state testing to the exclusion of any other authentic learning/evaluation.

I've so far failed to ignite change in my school. That's clear.
What are your ideas about effecting change so that our students really are being prepared for their own future? What are you doing in your schools???

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cyberbullying Guide

On his Blue Skunk Blog, the amazing Doug Johnson has posted Mankato's new Cyberbullying Guide, which is well worth a look as we're getting our cyberbullying curriculum going in our district's libraries. The pdf contains a nice list of cyberbullying resources as well, including quite a few of Nancy Willard's resources.

BTW, Web 2.o classmates, if you're not subscribed to Johnson's Blue Skunk Blog, you might consider adding it to your Google Reader! I think he's really one of the important "thinkers" in our field today. Check it out!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

LOL Catz--Makes Me Has LOL

Funny...Couldn't help linking to it...

Humorous Pictures

funny pictures
Search LOLcats google!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Experimenting with Voicethread

Belatedly, I'm experimenting with Voicethread this week. It really is a great tool, and as I've learned from the developers' many visits on various edtechtalk podcasts, they have proven to be wildly responsive to the needs of educators--even to the point of creating an entire new service ( ) for educators unable to access the original site on their campuses. Wow!

I have experimented with putting short comments from students in a voicethread celebrating my school's 30th anniversary.

Cute! And relatively simple.
As the students and I have created this voicethread this week, my teachers have watched--and some have shown some interest in learning how to do it themselves. I find this encouraging, in that our high-stakes tests begin next week and most of our teachers are so stressed that they can hardly sleep at night!
Anyway, the process wasn't flawless, but I think it was a good thing in the end--a chance to make the point (to the adults watching, mainly) that it's not insurmountably hard to use, and that it's ok to try new things and have them turn out less than 100% perfect!

I think the project so far is cute, and the students have enjoyed it. I hope it generates some creative ideas in the classes too!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 Librarians!

Our Web 2.0 for Librarians group is discovering tonight!

Here is one of my favorite down-to-earth explanations of what Delicious and other social bookmarking tools enable us to do! Common Craft, the producer of this video tutorial has provided so many great tutorials that it's worth mentioning them over and over!
Thanks Common Craft!

And here is David Warlick's explanation--another great one!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

For Melise: Bloglines Question

Melise had a question about whether or not she had successfully subscribed to some RSS feeds through Bloglines. Here's a screencast that I created with a very cool, free web tool called Jing. Maybe it answers her question. I also told her about the RSS reader that I use at home--it's called Sage, and it is an add-on to the Firefox browser (which I love).

I couldn't figure out how to resize my Jing capture, and it was huge. I'll have to look at their FAQs, but here's a link to my screencast hopefully answering your questions, Melise! We miss you!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Great Book for Descriptive Language Lesson!

Each year at this time, my 4th grade teachers really start to hit writing skills hard with their students. In TX, 4th graders are tested on writing for the first time, so this is a major priority in the 4th grade curriculum.

Toad, by British author Ruth Brown is really wonderful piece of descriptive writing! It's a very simple and short story, so it's easy to fit into the short time frame that I have to work with as classes visit the library. I use Toad each year with my students--it's accessible to them (nice, "gooey" descriptors that the boys really get into!) and the illustrations allow me to slip in a little art appreciation on the side! The elementary art curriculum in TX is all but nonexistent--in practice, anyway--so this book affords me a great opportunity!
Thanks Ruth Brown, for your wonderful work!!