Sunday, December 12, 2010


Tonight, in a conversation with my husband, I was lamenting that I don't seem to be "in step" with my colleagues at school these days. "Why am I always so out of sync?," I asked. Without missing a beat, my hubby replied, "Confundus charm is the first thing to come to my mind."
Love that man...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Infographic: US Education Spending

Thanks to @LarryFerlazzo on Twitter for calling attention to this great infographic from DegreeScout. It compares US ed spending to other federal spending, such as defense, the War on Drugs, Food Stamp Overpayment, etc.

What's wrong with this picture? The amount of money that is declared as "Unreconciled Transactions" (2003) is roughly HALF of what we spend on education! That's the best that we can do? Every two years, we lose track of (or fail to report) more money than we spend on our children's education in any 12-month period? Wow.

Think of that in household budget terms.  Unreconciled Transactions being equivalent to the loose change that my family loses in the couch and under the car seats, we would only be able to spend about $50/year on our daughter's education! I think her college owes me a refund, btw...

I'm not sure the image I'm trying to embed below is working right, so if it's a mess, go to the link above and take a look at this infographic. It's very enlightening.

Created By DegreeScout Online Schools

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Still to Go...

Every summer I get in a frenzy about this time of year. There are only a few days left before back -to-school PD begins. Panic! The summer sales are on, many of the jobs around the house are as yet undone, I haven't gotten to visit with all my friends & family as much as I want, and I haven't read all the books I meant to! Whew!

Here's what's still on my "to read" pile! I've started 2 of them already, so I might have a fighting what am I doing here! Gotta go read!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Advocacy is Advocacy...Wherever It Comes From

The Twitterverse was all ....atwitter....this week when the Old Spice guy mentioned libraries! Love the campaign, love the message, love the Fresno County Public Library's pouncing on this opportunity to snag a little cool publicity for libraries!

As for the critics mentioned in this post by Gwyneth Jones, I so totally agree with her! Why not just chill out? This is clever, funny and current! The Fresno Library couldn't have bought publicity this effective! Sometimes the point is just to have a little laugh when we can--and if it benefits libraries, that's even cooler!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Laming it Up For the Kids

July is one of my favorite times of year! This is usually the month that I catch up on the reading--professional and otherwise--that I just don't get around to during the school year. I usually have various home improvement projects going during the month--this year, it's tiling the house, which necessitates painting walls, replacing and painting baseboards, napping frequently to avoid all of the above... I spend a lot of time on Twitter with my PLN there as we attempt to recharge our batteries for the coming year.

I also spend a lot of time viewing & thinking about professional conferences & presentations that I've missed during the year, or those that I need to see and think about again! ISTEvision is always a treasure trove of ideas and I love, love, LOVE the openness with which the ISTE approaches their annual conference. Almost everything is online--much of it streamed in real time. It really is phenomenal.

This morning, I was catching up with the amazing Teacher Librarian Smackdown, and got no further than the first round, when I had to stop and go use one of the tools that I learned about! I created this Google Search Story to promote our library and it's theme for this year:

Cute, eh? And they've made it wildly easy to do on Youtube with the Google Search Story Video Creator!

After I created it though, I realized that it will be problematic for me to post on the library web site to share with my students--anything that I want to embed on my page is always a pain, but I can usually figure out a way to make it work in our arcane program!

No, the problem will come with the curriculum department, which has intermittently supported blocking Google over the years, and still maintains an anti-google stance, for the most part. They purchase Nettrekker yearly for student use, and it is a good tool, I admit! I find that it feels "artificial" to me however. While students can use it from home, and some do, the go-to tool for most people is still Google!

As a librarian, of course I encourage my students to use authoritative sources such as our online databases for their research. I want them--and their teachers--to go to these sources first when searching for reliable information! Additionally, I want them to consider using Creative Commons images and music whenever possible, and perhaps even use Nettrekker first, to see if a "safe" web site can be found using those tools. However, I also know that Google is the first place that most
students, parents AND teachers go when they need to know something "on the fly." I want my kids to have the information literacy skills to discern which is reliable information--a daunting task these days! And it's a vital one as well. How can they do that if we create an artificial, thoroughly blocked experience for them at school? That certainly won't be the case for most of them when they go home to use technology!

So. Back to my really cute video.
I guess I won't put it on my web site. I may use it with kids later on to make the point that Google is a great tool to find certain types of information. Brings me to the point that my husband, a non-educator, is fond of making. He says that the education machine has an amazing ability to take a great idea and lame it up to the point that it's unappealing to everyone involved. I think he hit the nail on the head.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I've read Jeff Utecht's blog, The Thinking Stick, for a long time. I follow him on twitter. He's one of the many amazing people that I think of as my Personal Learning Network. SO, I'm very proud to have his new (and first, I think) book on my shelf! I bought a copy of Reach: Building Communities and Networks for Professional Development, even though he very graciously allowed free downloads for the first few days of publication. I did that too, but thought that it was only right to support the effort of a member of my PLN. I'm glad I did, too!

Although I was familiar with many of the tools and techniques for creating a PLN that Utecht focuses on, I found that his book provides the basis for a great "how and why to start" discussion. Reach is a book that I definitely plan to share this year with faculty members. Utecht explains how to find people to follow on sites like Twitter and Facebook, how to use RSS to make it easier to connect to your "tribe," and more! It's the why and the how of building a professional learning network or community online--and it's a very hands-on, practical approach. I think that it will be helpful to many of my colleagues who might be just about ready to begin reaching out for professional support, and building a unique community of learners for themselves. It could form the basis for a great PD series too, if I can find some teachers in my world that are ready!

Thanks Jeff for your work in writing this book, and for so freely sharing with your network!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Twitter Friends...Or Something Else?

Today, in a twitter conversation with some of my network, I was marveling again at how that group has deepened my thinking and professional practice. Most of this network is comprised of people who live in other places. I don't have too many local connections in that community, unfortunately, but I touch base daily with teachers and librarians all over the world. I know very few of them in the traditional sense though.

My thinking was stretched this morning by Dr. Scott McLeod's post, and then the comments, on his Dangerously Irrelevant. Today he posed the question, what do we really know about the edublogger we're sitting next to at a conference?

My thought was, what does my network really know about me? Do I reach out and share appropriately--even with my own virtual community--a community that I have chosen? Let me say upfront that I obviously don't "produce" as much as I consume online, and in that respect, am just beginning in my journey. I'm trying to share more with my network, but constantly wonder if what I have to say is that important or interesting!

As I was thinking and reading and connecting in my nerdy middle-of-the-summer way this morning, an odd thought struck me. It has to do with a person that I consider a critical member of my PLN--a blogger, podcaster, twitterer, thinker that I have come to think of as a friend and mentor. I truly feel like I know her. I look forward to reading her thoughts on so many subjects, I love to hear what she has to share when she podcasts with others in my virtual PLN.

Now for the 2.0 part. Today she began following me on Twitter for the first time. I've "known" this person for years--had her voice in my head through my earbuds, read her words, cheered for her as she shared her victories with us all...and she doesn't really know of me at all!

It just struck me how weird it must be for her when she meets someone like me, who really already thinks of her as a friend. I wouldn't feel like I'd have to go through all the normal getting-to-know-you awkwardness if I met her at a conference. I could just pick up where her last tweet left off. Until today, she would probably be completely unaware of who I am. A very odd, one-sided thing. I guess we're all trying to feel our way through the relationships we form in virtual communities.

I'm glad she decided to follow me though. Now, if I meet her at a conference, she'll at least recognize my name, and maybe it won't be quite so....creepy and stalker-ish for her! :)

Photo from Flickr by Always Be Cool.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Making Stuff: A History

Thanks to Carolyn Foote (@technolibrary on twitter) for pointing me to this thoughtful and thought-provoking post from English teacher, Katie Sauvain and embedded on The Digital Down Low .

There is so much to see and consume on the internet, that I too find myself creating less than I should--not exercising the mental muscles that I should. And I'm an adult! My students, who are immersed in this culture from such an early age, will fight this on a completely different level. Is this an even more creatively stultifying situation than my TV generation had, where a few content providers dominated the creative landscape? Ironically, it may be, due to the sheer amount of creation that is going on and easily accessible to our kids.

How does the library help? How do I assure that our library is a creation hub for our school culture? Much thinking to do this summer...and then action.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Students Connect...Thanks to Good Books!

You've all been where I was this morning: caught underprepared (read that "woefully unprepared") for my day's classes! The days have been filled with TAKS testing, crazy schedules, and meeting upon meeting, library fund raising, blah, blah...and I had simply not prepared sufficiently for my big kids! Twitter network to the rescue! Before school, I saw a tweet about Betsy Bird's 100 Best Children's Books, and the Animoto video that Maggi Idzikowski prepared to go along with it. They saved my day!! What a great basis for a sort of wrap up session with our soon-to-graduate 5th graders!

I started off with the video, first relating to them something that a professor and mentor of mine, Dr. Ruth Cox Clark, used to tell us: everyone should read Charlotte's Web once every ten years. As with most good literature, you will get something entirely new from it each time you read it! As they watched the books of their childhood flash across the screen, they exclaimed over and over again, "Oh! That was a good one!" or "I LOVED that one! Remember when Mrs. S read that to us?" All of the classes--even the ones peopled with some of our harder-to-engage students--had great discussions about the books they remembered and who they read them with! It was a great exemplar of the power of literature!

Since our last checkout is coming up soon, I challenged them all to try a book from the list that they have never read before. The books just about flew off the shelves! Hopefully many of them will be read, too! :/ All the classes certainly spent time reading and talking about their books and memories before they left--and without my directing it! It was a nice thing!

Before they went back to class, students entered the name of a children's book that they'd enjoyed & that they thought every student should read before leaving our school. Then I used Tagxedo to make this word cloud for our web site!

I'm thankful for my Twitter network! I'm going to stop blogging and tweeting now though, and prepare for my next couple of weeks' classes! I promise! it summer yet?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Twitter & PLN

Right now, just about any media outlet, product, celebrity or local business seems to have their Twitter name prominently displayed, yet in my everyday life, almost everyone thinks I'm a even bother with twittering. I think this is so odd, because some of my most valuable professional colleagues are people in my Twitter network! I find useful websites, I get great ideas to try with our students, I discover articles and current research or advocacy tips--all from this valuable network of people that I've cobbled together for myself on Twitter. I'd say it's the most valuable tool I have in my toolbelt! There's great comfort in finding that I'm not the only one in the world that spends time thinking of things like core common standards vs. AASL standards or "new and emerging tech to promote reading," which brings me to an important point!

As has been said many times over, the reason that most people who try but end up being puzzled and disdainful of Twitter is that they do not have a relevant group of people to share with & learn from. Hashtags help with this dilemma, and for the teacher librarians out there, Joyce Valenza's suggestion of using #tlchat could make the difference!

Here's how to use the hashtag to create our own Teacher-Librarian learning network:
Go to and type #tlchat in the search box. You don't even need to log in!
Up pops a list of recent tweets by teacher librarians about....library-ish stuff! At right, look at a typical example of tweets--they're from tonight.

There are so many links to be found that you could easily lose an evening just learning. Then, once you see who is tweeting with the #tlchat hashtag, you will have a number of interesting people to follow!

Once you find a few people to follow, you can see who they follow, and you are on your way to building your own network! Wildly valuable, and quite addictive....

Heads in the Sand

This afternoon, I sat down to check out my Google Reader, and found that one of my amazing Texas library colleagues, Carolyn Foote, had crafted an excellent and wonderfully thought-provoking blog post entitled No Heads in the Sand Here. It’s a must-read, in my opinion, for teacher librarians—in fact for any librarians—as we face a changing landscape in our profession.

I started writing the following as a comment on Carolyn’s post, but it got longer and longer, so I decided maybe it was really more of a blog post in itself! Thank you Carolyn for so accurately capturing the zeitgeist of the library conversation of late!

I too love Hazen's wording in the article you cite. Librarians "support and sustain ... meaningful inquiry” and through effective collection development, we consciously create a “carefully crafted, deliberately maintained, constrained body of material.” Wow! I love that!

Librarians fill a unique role in the educational framework, in that we have these long-term goals of “meaningful inquiry” and a “deliberately maintained” body of sources uppermost in minds as we work with students. Classroom teachers care about these topics too, of course, but have many other objectives to meet as well. On many school campuses, it is the librarian that focuses student effort and guides them to use authoritative sources effectively. In an age when information of all types is abundant and ubiquitous, critical evaluation is a crucial skill—perhaps the crucial skill—for our students to acquire.

Foote’s words and those of the esteemed professionals cited in her post bolster my resolve as I find myself and many of my colleagues, more and more of the time, having to fight against the perception that librarians are obsolete. This, even as we make enormous, unique contributions to student success--supported by a huge and persuasive body of research, might I add. Thanks, @technolibrarian, for giving me a document to look back at that will help me to clarify my thoughts & words as I have these discussions with others. You’re always giving me great food for thought!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Creative Commons Explained

Thanks to Joyce Valenza and Melissa Techman for pointing out this handy explanation of the ins & outs of creative commons licensing! Neeru Paharia, Ryan Junell and Matt Haughey did a great job in explaining a topic that is confusing and frustrating to many users who don't think about these copyright issues daily! Especially useful are the examples they give of when a user might want to use each license. This is a very practical guide. I'm embedding their presentation below so I can remember to use it in professional development w/ faculty & students.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Access Justified

Working in a district that typically employs what Wes Fryer refers to as "draconian" filtering policies, I am acutely aware of the frustrations caused by such uber-control. Our students can't access any sites labeled by the filtering company as "social forums," making it impossible for them to utilize Flickr, Voicethread, Glogster, Animoto, Google Books, public wikis/blogs or any number of web resources that could engage them and make their learning tasks more authentic, or current.

Recently, however, the district has begun to loosen the reigns on teacher logins, finally treating us slightly more like professionals than kindergarten students. Of course, even we can't access YouTube at school, even the entirely appropriate videos that might provide a rich resource for our students. Whether this restriction is for reasons of limited bandwidth or mistrust, I am not certain--perhaps I should give "them" the benefit of the doubt on this. Interestingly, teachers are now able to access Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc.--although we have been trained by the district that actually USING those tools at school is discouraged, as that would be unprofessional--as if banal posts are the only posts possible on Twitter. Go figure. They obviously do not connect with the people that I do on Twitter--professional educators who collaborate and enrich each others lives daily, and in real time, through this "dangerous" and "frivolous" social forum!

I relate this story because this past week, one of our administrators found that her access to Facebook was a crucial link in defusing a cyberbullying situation that popped up with some of our 5th graders.* Because she could access Facebook and determine that a threatening message had indeed been posted, she was able to deal with the bullying and confer with parents of the students involved before the situation spiraled out of control. She later came to me and voiced her relief that she is now able to use this tool. I asked her to please remember this situation, and to talk about it with her peers in administration. Slowly, I hope that the message might spread, that social networking and social learning is not inherently bad. Students and adults are going to make mistakes in its use, but if we adults aren't in the mix with the kids, how are we ever going to guide them to make better choices and learn from their mistakes?

*Yes, we all know that 5th graders aren't old enough to legally use Facebook--and we've discussed this fact with them and with their parents--but we also know that they use it anyway. Many of them have accounts that their parents set up for them, according to a recent informal survey that I did with our students.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Did You Know 4.0

The latest Did You Know video below. Wow! This is the kind of game-changing information that I don't think most teachers/administrators "get". Last week, in a conversation with colleagues, two were shocked when I said that many lower-income families and developing countries have totally skipped the "computer on the desk" model of connecting with the world, and gone directly to a powerful computer in their pocket instead. They were surprised, maybe even a little incredulous, to think of a cell "phone" as a small computer. These were young (30 yrs old or less) teachers, too! I'm obviously out of step w/ my colleagues, because I couldn't believe that they were surprised! Digital divide, Texas style.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Community Outreach to the MAX!

Wow! What an amazing example of effective community outreach! This gives me so many ideas! Kudos to Starkville, Mississippi's schools!

Starkville School District "Believe" from Broadcast Media Group on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Biblioburro an Inspiration

Thanks to a colleague, I found this wonderful story from CNN's Heroes series. It fits so perfectly with one of our Bluebonnet Nominee books for 2010-2011, That Book Woman by Heather Henson & David Small! This story is current & contemporary though, and will bring this story full circle to our kids.

Luis Soriano is a teacher and evangelist for education and the power of literacy for children and adults in rural Columbia. Twice a week, he saddles his 2 burros, Alpha and Beto (LOL), and carries 120 children's books, to the far reaches of his region--a journey of up to 8 hours a trip! Not only does he deliver books for these young minds to devour, but he teaches lessons he's prepared, and supports the adults in these families as some of them learn to read as well.

What a mission, and what a man! Thanks CNN for bringing his story, his integrity and his passion for the power of literacy to us all!

From the CNN web site:
Want to get involved? E-mail Luis Soriano at

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Too Late to Apologize: A Digital Storytelling WOW!

Thanks to the amazing Joyce Valenza for pointing out this video. From her blog post:

E-book creators, Soomo Publishing describes Too Late To Apologize: a Declaration by Tim Alden Grant, as

our first satirical video project and is part of our ongoing effort to facilitate learning in creative, innovative ways.

It was that brilliant music video remix of the Timbaland song that drew me into their e-book site.

What an amazing piece of storytelling. I'm working w/ our oldest students on the idea of telling a story with images--great example! And it even fits their curriculum!

View in full screen w/ students to get the lyrics scrolled across bottom. Wow!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Good Libraries

Doug Johnson did it again! His post today is right on the money! In these times, when so many of us are fighting for our libraries to stay open, professionally staffed, and even nominally funded, Doug has given us some crucial advocacy tools.

What Does a Good Library Tell You About a School?

It's a must-read and a great post to share widely!