Sunday, June 29, 2008

Quick Tips from the LOC

If you're a high-school librarian, you've probably spent HOURS searching the LOC's American Memory project. I sure have, and I've only worked as an LMS for a year! So I almost didn't sign up for the "Teaching with Primary Sources to Promote Traditional and Media Literacies" workshop (this link will take you to the handouts page).

Today, however, I learned a few approaches and found some very useful tools that will definitely make my lessons on working with primary sources more effective, especially since I plan to put together an entire Working with Primary Sources Packet this summer.

It's almost impossible to over-emphasize the important of encouraging students to work with primary source material. Not only do they find it engaging to work with artifacts, it also hones almost every critical thinking skill, and pushes them into those upper levels of Bloom's: analysis, synthesis, creativity and evaluation.

What better way to make Katherine Paterson's Bread and Roses, Too (about the labor strike in Lawrence, MA) come alive than with photos and eyewitness accounts of child labor, working conditions, the strike (and strike-breakers), etc? Or what could make a historical study of slavery more real than reading any of the hundreds of slave narratives online?

Enough propaganda, on to our activities.

Our presenters (the fantastic Cheryl Lederle-Ensign and Danna Bell-Russell) broke us into groups and gave each group a set of five or six folders. Each folder contained one documents one which we would examine before moving on to the next. The goal was to determine the overall theme/idea of the sources. For example, our packet started with this photo.

We spent considerable time discussing her clothing, the formal nature of the photograph, her glasses, and her social status. With absolutely no idea who she is, of course. While we talked, we took notes using a graphic organizer handout with the topics: What I Notice, What I Think, and What I Wonder. (When the presenters post their handouts, I'll provide a link to those.) The key was to emphasize details, rather than analysis at this point. Too often, kids want to jump right to what they think something means, without spending time to observe.

Then we had this sketch (click on it for a larger view) is a schematic of where the various segments of people stood in the "suffrage march line." Next came the sheet music and lyrics to a song promoting women's vote. Bright educators that we all are, we figured out by this time that we were dealing with women's suffrage as our theme. We had two or three other documents to examine, all present different aspects of suffrage (i.e. one was a map of one woman's walk across the country to raise awareness.

By the way, the woman in the photograph is Mrs. Warren G. Harding--a strong promoter of women's rights and the first woman to vote in a presidential election.

I've given students primary documents and had them analyze them based on guiding questions, but I loved the "CSI" aspect of this approach, especially in a classroom setting, where they have some background in the topic.

For a library lesson, I think I'd provide an overarching question, and definitely would have a section where they had to link their information to their research topic.

A few links you may find useful. I never found them in all the searching I've done on the site.

Teachers Page: To use as a starting point.

Community Center: Not a very descriptive title, but this page offers links to selections of documents on commonly-taught topics, lesson plans, links to other resources, and more.

Handouts: Pay special attention to the flash presentation in the first section. VERY COOL! A great promo piece for the start of a Power Point while you're waiting for kids to settle down.

Tomorrow: Using Comic Life (and ToonDoo) to create comics and graphic novels.

BTW Check out the top link in my recently bookmarked list on the right. It looks like a humorous business card Abraham Lincoln created prior to his re-election, thinking he was returning to Illinois to practice law. Actually, it's a nasty little bit of election propaganda put out by the Democratic party. Politics never changes....

Live, From San Antonio...

The conference doesn't officially start until this evening, but the Conference Center just heaves with people, and the bloggers are out in-force, as you'll see from this photo at the Blogger's Cafe. This is just one small section!

I'll risk sounding like a complete rookie by admitting I'm a bit star-struck, as I recognize bloggers I read regularly. I saw Doug Johnson walking through the halls this morning, and Joyce Valenza is sitting across the room. Way more cool than seeing, say, Johnny Depp. Well, maybe not Johnny Depp. He's the best. But certainly more cool than seeing Brad Pitt!

One goal I'd like to achieve here is finding someone who can explain the point behind Twitter to me.

In any case, I attended a fantastic workshop on using primary sources by the educational outreach people and the Library of Congress. Once they post handouts etc. to the conference site, I'll blog that.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Read This Before You Fly

A generous soul on LM-Net posted this very useful link that lists, by airline, all the different fees being charged. Since it's the season for conferences, well worth a perusal. Good to know you'll be charged $3.00 for that can of Diet Pepsi!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I Lied...

OK, so I have one more pre-NECC post!

I just downloaded Firefox 3, and have been playing with it for the last hour. Wow, I love it!

1. It has the smoothest scrolling I've ever seen on a browser.
2. It has a great new way to bookmark, that even inspired me to FINALLY organize my bookmarks.
3. It lets you alphabetize (and tag!!) your bookmarks. I've been waiting for that one. It seems like such a no-brainer.

It does other cool stuff that I haven't had a chance to test yet, but you can see for yourself here. So far, it's been a trouble-free upgrade.

Your Tax Dollars at Work (at last, something to show for it...)

I attended a workshop today on searching government sites. (Only a librarian...) The workshop was o.k; but check out these great sites I ran across while being sidetracked.

ToxTown: Explore these virtual eco-horror sites courtesy the National Library of Medicine. Choose among City, Town, Port and other neighborhoods, then explore the chemical and health concerns inherent in each.
EPA Student Center: I wish I'd known about this site when the 8th graders were researching for the Science Fair. More than the usual environmental info, the site's "In Your Neighborhood" link allows students to research the environmental stats where they live.

National Archives Di
gital Vault: New to the archives, this site offers a new Flash interface, where you can choose a collection or shuffle to be surprised. A "Collect" button allows you to drag items to create your own collection, then use your items to create a "Pathways" challenge with clues to solve, a poster or a Ken Burns-style movie, all right on the site.

Next blog will come from NECC! I can't wait!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

All-In-One Research Organizer

Have you discovered Zotero, yet? It's billed as a "personal research assistant," created by the folks at George Mason University and funded by both the Andrew Mellon Foundation and the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. And it's free.

A Foxfire add-on, Zotero helps researchers gather and organize resources, take notes, cite sources in more styles than I've even heard of, create bibliographies and share results. Students can save websites, highlight add sticky notes, created note cards--it's great! It even works with many databases, such as JSTOR.

I was thinking of subscribing to NoodleTools for the school next year and using it with Diigo, until one of our tech guys sent me the Zotero link. Now, I plan to make Zotero's installation and basic training part of Day One for all research projects.

The Zotero site also includes several good tutorials on both a basic and advanced level.

Definitely worth checking out!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Email Triage

My school email inbox currently 1,756 emails. My .Mac inbox struggles along with 1,756while my Gmail account groans under the load of over 4300 emails. I fear that email catastrophe looms, and certainly the crowding adds to the difficulties even my supposedly "expert" search attemps undergo when I try to find an email more than a week or two old.

I suspect I'm not the only one...

An article by Joe Kissell in this month's Macworld (Empty Your Inbox) gave some interesting suggestions for controlling the chaos , one of which I plan to instigate immediately. Basically, he recommends performing email triage, by deciding whether emails need surgery, can hang around in the waiting room for a while or should be sent immediately to the morgue!

In your email account, create three folders titled "Filed," "Action," and "Later" (this doesn't work with Gmail, by the way, which doesn't allow you to create folders. But try these alternative methods.)

Now start reading your email! If you can respond quickly, do so and file the original email in the "Filed" folder. Better yet, if you don't need a record of it, send it to the Trash!

Should an email demand more of a response than you have time for at that moment, drag it to the "Action" folder. This will be your priority file and should be checked regularly. When you've dealt with on of the messages, move it into 'Filed."

Use the "Later" folder for anything you may want to spend time on later, but there's no rush. Peruse it as you have free time, and file or trash them as necessary.

Time to start clearing my inbox. Wish I'd known about this several thousand emails ago....

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Designing Your Library Website

My biggest project this summer--aside from tagging all the books for the new security system!--is redesigning the library website. The current version is OK, but desperately out of date and not very fun. I want something with a more jazzy look, more interactive, and definitely more educational!

So I've been digging online and reading, trying to find ideas for what I want. I've found some pretty good resources, and thought I'd share them for anyone else wanting to work on their site.

Pam Berger's InfoSearcher blog gives a good description of the two phases involved in building a library website.

Linda Bertland's Resources for School Librarians page provides a plethora of library website links. Be sure to look at Joyce Valenza's webquest page for a nice collection of best practice sites.

Best Practices in School Library Website Design Article from UNC.

Creating a School Library Website Learning module by Rosemary Horton.

I think I'll use iWeb to create the pages, rather than Dreamweaver, as originally planned. It's just so much easier, especially for including blogs and podcasts of the video tutorials I want to do.

I'll blog more about this later, when I'm further along the process.

Monday, June 9, 2008

For Frustration, Dial '1'

I was having huge problems with my DSL last year. Yet everytime I tried to call Verizon, they sent me through what surely must be Dante's 10th level of hell: "For customer service, press 1; for sales, press 2" in a never-ending circle of obstacles designed to ensure you don't actually speak to a live person. After several days and one particularly grueling 45 minute button session, I finally blew and pressed "3" to cancel my service. Voila! A person! Who actually immediately put me in touch with another person who was able to solve my problem. Amazing how threatening to cancel can work miracles

There's gotta be a better way. And, according to the Feb. 25th Newsweek (I'm a bit behind in my reading...), there is.

The website provides the secret code for a plethora of companies that will actually hook you up with a live person far more quickly. An A-Z listing allows you to search for your company by name, then tells you what magic combination of button pushing will bring an honest-to-gosh human being onto the line.

You may never have to listen to "hold" muzak again!