Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Library Camp of the West

Check out this free un-conference, discussing all things library.

Web 2.0 Favs

If you were part of NECC08--or even if you weren't!--check out the Media Specialist Web 2.0 list of favorite tools, and add on your own.

There's also a post for what promises to be an interesting discussion--do we need to redefine "Collaboration" for the 21st Century library? Check the list of links on the left and you'll find it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Here We Go Again...

The media is suddenly intensely interested in the effect of the internet on reading skills. Last month, the Atlantic published Is Google Making Us Stupid? while today the NY Times ran a lengthy article entitled Online, R U Really Reading?

Anytime I read one of these articles, I picture of bunch of Medieval monks fretting over the printing press and bemoaning the inevitable loss of memory skills it will bring about.

To its credit, I found the Times article pretty balanced. Studies do show (and my personal experiences verifies) that online reading is vastly different from reading, say, Crime and Punishment. It promotes shorter attention span, jumping from text to text and idea to idea rather than deep sustained thought.

Yet many of the naysayers refuse to recognize the benefits of online reading: the immediacy, the ability to read multiple and varied opinions in a short amount of time, covering a breadth of material not possible in more traditional formats. If the reader has enough time and interest, depth need not be short-changed.

I've well documented in my early blog posts the profound experience my reading had on me last summer as I explored Web 2.0 technologies, almost solely online through blog postings and RSS feeds.

I am greatly troubled, however, by a comment towards the end of the article. Despite repeated studies showing students vast ignorance when it comes to thoughtful analysis of their online reading. Despite the 61% of students who failed to achieve competency levels on ETS new iSkills test (measuring information literacy), we still get bone-headed statements like this:

Some simply argue that reading on the Internet is not something that needs to be tested — or taught.

“Nobody has taught a single kid to text message,” said Carol Jago of the National Council of Teachers of English and a member of the testing guidelines committee. “Kids are smart. When they want to do something, schools don’t have to get involved.”

Oh, really.

Never mind the logical fallacy in comparing text messaging to reading, in what alternative universe does this woman live that students don't need to be taught critical thinking skills? Reading online may be a different kind of thought from sustained reading, but it requires thought nonetheless. In fact, one could argue it requires MORE analysis, as students must learn to distinguish between credible and non-credible sources, which is more difficult online than in printed text.

This comment (from an English teacher, no less) reaffirms an observation I've made over the past few months: my job involves training the adults every bit as much it involves training the students. Maybe more so, as teachers determine the amount of time I'm allowed in working with the classes. If they don't see a need, I don't see the students.

If you get a chance, take a look at the article and read some of the comments. It's an education in itself.

Photo Credits:

'Sustained Silent Reading'. Uploaded to Flickr Creative Commons
by vsqz on 19 Mar 06, 2.21AM PDT.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The NeverEnding Task

I've been working this week on re-vamping the library website. I'm on about my fifth layout, but think I finally found something I'm happy with. You can find the first few sample pages here.

It's a bit disheartening how long just these few pages took me--I had to go through a couple tutorials (Illustrator, Photoshop) to help with the graphics, which took about 10-12 hours. Then the constant redesigning. I've probably spent a good 60 hours on this so far!

One hopes the rest will go much more quickly, now that I have the general idea in shape.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Information Forensics: Move Over CSI!

I spent considerable time this morning exploring the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy's 21st Century Information Fluency site. It's a wonderful collection of information and tutorials developing information literacy (for example, I didn't know that Google and AltaVista used different default operators: Googles uses AND, AltaVista uses OR. THAT explains why AV always returned so many more hits. Duh!)

Here's a free course they offer on Power Searching, replete with videos and fun search games. CSI fans can find a useful "Information Forensics" course called WSI.

Or if you're tired of the "Google Game" searches (or the multiple Google Game links that ALSO come up in the searches!), you'll find an interesting article on creating your own search challenge.

During our PGD day next month, I'm teaching search techniques to faculty; this website will be an excellent resource and provide a font of ideas!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Combat Duty at the Westport Library

Every summer, the Westport Public Library has a HUGE book sale to raise funds. This is the first year I've gone. I foolishly had visions of leisurely browsing through books among crowds of civilized book enthusiasts.

Someone should have told me to wear combat gear.

I was there for the opening doors, planning to head for the much-advertised Greenwood Press offerings. Well. People were thronging around the rack--grabbing everything they could see without even looking at it. I was getting jostled left and right, reached to grab a book and a NUN pushed me out of the way!

Was able to pick up three HUGE boxes of books for only $250, though. And even grabbed a few of the Greenwood Press ones before they entirely disappeared!

All Together Now...

SLJ's starting a Web 2.0 bootcamp ala 23 Things, called "All Together Now". It's free, and sounds like they're giving "incentives," along the way. If you need to brush up on wikis, blogs, twitter, etc. Check it out.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Little Lord Font-leroy

My name is Jeri Hurd. And I'm a fontaholic. A true blue, dyed-in-the-serif font addict. I have more fonts on my computer than I could ever use--to the point it takes forever to scroll through them--but I just LOVE all the different styles and effects and moods one can create simply by changing fonts.

Kinda weird for someone as art challenged as I am.

I found a site today that feeds my addiction like a chocaholic in a candy story: 1001 Fonts.com.

Free, stylish fonts for Mac and Windows (check out BattleLines) and there's even a nifty little search-style box that lets you test what your text will look like with that font.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Camtasia Studia, Part Deux

I played around with Camtasia Studio some more today. In fact--for six hours! I was supposed to meet a friend to work out at the gym, and completely spaced. (Uh, huh....)

This is the intro to a longer tutorial on web searching strategies. CS links with Power Point, allowing you to record and narrate your PP slides, then add call outs and other effects in the editing stage. I'm fairly pleased with this one. And I must stay, I'm really loving this software!

I also found an excellent Missing Manual-type how to guide here.

So What's Up With Boolean??

I'm teaching a research and documentary class for Middle-Schoolers at our Summer Institute. Yesterday, I gave them a quick lesson on how search engines work, we talked about AND, OR, NOT and how they function.

I pulled out my handy-dandy search on Vikings (which always pulls up the football team). Then we talked about how to remove the football sites. I pointed out that Google doesn't accept NOT, that you need to use the '-' sign (grin--feeling very savvy for knowing that, I might add!) We typed in Vikings -football and, Voila! Had a million hits on the Minnesota Vikings. Make a liar out of me, Google.

No worries, I explained. Google has always been a bit odd, and I showed them the advanced search engine, which basically puts Boolean in a different form. "Let's try Yahoo," I said. "That will work."

A zillion hits on the Minnesota Vikings. Hmmmm. Last try, AltaVista. Same results. And they had the same advanced search engine as Google.

So what gives? Why isn't Boolean working in the search engines anymore? Anyone know? Obviously, it's easy enough to just show them the advanced engines, but it's odd that you can't just type in the terms and save yourself a mouse click!

LATER UPDATE: OK, forget all of that. I don't know what sort of bizarre alternative universe I was in yesterday, but I just played with it again, and it worked on all three engines. Weird. I wonder if I had a space in and didn't realize it?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

PB Wiki Summer Camp

PB Wiki (my favorite wiki tool) is offering a free 6-week wiki workshop, 'including how to integrate wikis in your lesson plans, what features work best to engage students and how to use the new PBwiki 2.0.' You'll connect with a wiki mentor and anyone finishing the class receives a free platinum upgrade for a year.

Feel like you're a wiki pro? Sign up to be a mentor here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Had to Share This

Toni Buzzeo, on LM-Net posted today asking for the funniest reference requests people have had. Then she posted her story. This will be hard to beat!

Mine was from a transitional first grader whose teacher (laughing hysterically, I might add) sent the child down to ask, "Mrs. Buzzeo, I'm researching sloths and I found out that they only poop once a week. But I can't find out whether they come down out of their trees to poop. Mrs. Brady said that YOU could probably find the answer." (Actually, we ended up INFERRING that the answer was yes. )

I haven't had any weird requests. How about you? If you have a funny story, post it here and I'll forward them on to Toni!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Why We Need Media Studies

I just read this in Kiku Adatto's blog on the Huffington Post.

The intensity of photo op politics so distinctive to our times was set in motion in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan and his media team, headed by Michael Deaver, mastered the art of the modern media event. So successful was the Reagan team at setting up compelling television pictures -- from using the beaches at Normandy as a backdrop to showing Reagan sitting astride his horse at his ranch looking like a classic American cowboy -- that subsequent presidents and presidential candidates emulated the art of stage sets, backdrops, and gripping visuals to convey their messages through pictures.

This reminded me again of the need to integrate media literacy into all aspects of the curriculum.

If we don't imbue in our students not only the ability to deconstruct visual messages, but the mere recognition that media images are carefully nuanced constructs with definite agenda, we set them up for manipulation by corporate and government interests and inadvertently undermine their freedoms.

This is not fluffy, "feel good" education decried by the back-to-basics movement and which NCLB was partially imposed to rectify.

With the plethora of visual media exposure for today's public, media literacy is as fundamental to a child's education as reading and writing. Only when students can as readily analyze the various media elements as well as they can The Great Gatsby*, can we declare "Mission Accomplished!"

*(OK, I recognize that they can't always even do THAT very well, but we need to spend as much time discussing and analyzing the evening news and the latest commercial as we do Gatsby!)

Librarians: Not-So-Secret-Subversives.

The government ought to know by now: Don't Mess With Librarians!

McCain is learning this the hard way, days after his security detail ousted librarian Carol Kreck from a McCain town hall meeting and cited her for "trespassing" because she carried a Bush=McCain sign.

You can watch the video here.

Kreck's court date is set for July 23.

Now, whatever your politics (and I would feel just as outraged had this happened at an Obama event), this is blatant violation of first amendment rights to free speech, and I'm thrilled Kreck is refusing to pay her fine.

This deepening trend among politicians for staged events, planted questions, and "free speech zones" far from any camera subverts what our democracy is supposed to mean.

If you want to help Carol with her laywer's fees, you can buy a McCain=Bush t-shirt here.

As Michael Moore said:
I really didn't realize the librarians were, you know, such a dangerous group. They are subversive. You think they're just sitting there at the desk, all quiet and everything. They're like plotting the revolution, man. I wouldn't mess with them.

Fighting Terrorism? Read a Book! Build a School!

Nicholas Kristof reported in his column today that the Pentagon, skeptical of the efficacy of "bombing the terrorists back to the Stone Age," placed "large orders" for Greg Mortenson's wonderful book Three Cups of Tea and invited the author to speak.

This is the most heartening news I've heard in ages. Mortenson's book describes his travails in building what ended up being 74 schools (mostly for girls) in Central Asia. Given that the Taliban recruits mostly from the poor and illiterate, what better way to fight terrorism? Morteson also argues that educated girls are more likely to restrain their sons; five of his teachers are ex-Taliban, encouraged by their mothers to leave the extremist group.

More significantly, I'm thrilled somebody in the government (the Pentagon no less!) is listening to solutions other than macho, hawkish posturing, to look at real educational solutions, not just the superficial, pro-Western propaganda (change their hearts and minds) no one believes.

And, wow, talk about the power of books to bring change. From Martin Luther's 95 theses, to Tom Paine's Common Sense to Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, to Darwin's On the Origin of Species, the written word has demonstrated the power to foment revolution and shift paradigms.

I don't know if Three Cups of Tea can bring about that kind of change, but obviously it's having an influence. Hallelujah, I say.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


I finally did it. I resisted last year, telling myself not to be seduced by flash and style. Oh, sure, I was jealous of others who clasped it in their hands and gloated. But I only muttered, "Fools," to the hundreds forced to wait patiently for the chance to call it their own, forced to lavish money extravagantly on what would, at best, offer a tenuous connection.

Yet secretly I yearned.

Then succumbed. Yesterday, I bought an iPhone.

I promised myself last year that I could buy one this year, when my Verizon contract expires. Then I decided not to when I heard of the hefty $80 to have minimum phone service, web access AND texting. Why are you doing this? I wondered. I hardly use my cell phone as it is, leaving it for a week at a time in my bag, on silent and forgotten. But I lost it two days ago. Gerald thinks that was suspiciously convenient timing. I said, maybe, but now I need a new phone.

And it's so very cool.

Never mind the rumors that AT&T has sketchy reception in Connecticut. I drive the same highway David Pogue mentions here--I hope to run into him one of these days. (Though not literally, of course.) Apparently users across the country answer their iPhone only to say "Call me back on my Verizon line!"

But it's soooo cool.

Gerald just read me an article this morning that the 3G has a shorter battery life than the older model.

But it's cool, sweetie!

Now, I'm not so foolish as to stand in line. I thought I'd outsmart everyone and NOT go to the Apple Store in Stamford, but to the AT&T store here in pokey little Fairfield. Over a hundred other people had the same idea. Arriving at 7:45 for an 8 a.m opening, I was about 98th in line. Apparently, the people at the front arrived about 5 am. Crazy!

I just went back in the afternoon when there were no lines, placed an order and my phone will be here Wednesday.

How cool is that?

So now I'm going to end here and go check out the apps store. I have to make my cool phone even more cool by adding funky new apps. Like Bejeweled2. (which is also on my iGoogle page, but who can ever get enough of that bizarrely obsessive game?)

Adults don't stop playing with toys. They just buy more expensive ones...

Need a new 2.0 App?

These sites were mentioned on LM-Net today, and I hadn't heard of them. They're both searchable web directories of Web 2.0 apps (who can keep track of all of them?!)

Go2Web20 According to their "About" page, the site archives over 2,500 web 2.0 apps. You can search by the type of app you want (e.g. timelines) or use the tag cloud. I found typing in the search tool somewhat slow and clunky (though I enjoyed the sound effects), and it seems overly precise.

For example, typing in "time" brought up 13 time-related apps. However, "timeline" only brought up XTimeline, even though there was another timeline application (TimeToast) in the earlier set of apps. I assume that's because it used "timelines" as part of its description, rather than the singular form of the word.

Simple Spark is an interesting addition to the growing set of social networking sites. I never would have thought of social app-ing, but what a no-brainer for anyone involved in staff development!

You can search the database of applications by keyword, category, or sub-category. You can also add in your own applications, if you've create any. The free registration creates an account where you can save the apps that interest you, write reviews and share the list with friends.

It might be somewhat hit or miss with the contents. I searched some obvious tools, finding Flickr listed on both sites, although neither had Jing. Simple Spark had VoiceThread; Go2 didn't.

I plan to do weekly, short tech-tutorials next year; Simple Spark may be a good tool for sharing with the other teachers. I'll keep you posted on that!

Friday, July 11, 2008

C-Span Student Documentary Competition

At NECC last week I was excited to learn about C-Span's 2009 StudentCam video documentary competition. Entitled A Message to the New President, the contest asks students to create a 5-8 minute documentary "on the issue of national significance you think most urgent for the new president."

Details will be at studentcam.org. Right now you'll find results of last year's contest, along with the winning documentaries.

I'm teaching a research/documentary class this summer, so I'll definitely have the students do this as their final project. Very motivating, I would think!

If you're interested, and wonder where to get started, I blogged about creating student documentaries here, and you can find great video resources and all my handouts here. BTW, the link to my documentary handouts doesn't work as the hosting site is down for a while, apparently.

Anyway, while you're on the C-Span site, check out C-Span Classroom, a wonderful collection of primary source videos, resourcesn and lesson ideas relating for teaching Civics and U.S. Government.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Two New Toys

I've spent considerable time over the past few months trying to find a good screen-casting tool. SnapzX is fine, but not very versatile. It only captures what you actually do, then you have to import it into iMovie to edit, add titles, etc.

I compared both Adobe's Captivate and TechSmith's Camtasia Studio, finally deciding on the latter as it allows me to save the file in multiple formats (AVI, MP4, etc.) while Captivate only saves as a Flash file.

ANYWAY, I just finished playing with my first movie on Camtasia. It's rough--the audio needs work, among other things (it didn't render very well, as you'll hear!), but I like the different tools--the ability to use call-outs (arrows, etc. to highlight key points), add text, titles, zooms--even quizzes. I think this will be a great too for creating all the video tutorials I want to add to the library website.

The big plan is to create a web tutorial for each of the major lessons I do during research projects. That way, if students miss a day (or forget part of the lesson!), I don't have to repeat myself 10 times; I can just point them to the tutorials.

While both Captivate and Camtasia are currently Windows only, I have it on hush-hush authority that both companies have a Mac version in the works for release either later this year or early next year. They also have educator discounts, and Camtasia is offering a deal now where you can purchase both Camtasia Studio AND SnagIt (their excellent screen-capture software) for only $169!

Anyway, here's my final result. See what you think. (BTW--the second "toy" is learning how to use the map viewing tool on the Library of Congress site!)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Privacy Revolution

I confess: I'm a Law and Order addict. Fortunately, with cable TV, it's easy to feed that addiction! I was watching an episode last night that started a rant my poor SO had to endure. After searching a vanished murder suspect's apartment with a warrant, Briscoe and Green found several library books. They visited the library, talked to a few librarians, and found out not only what other books the patron had checked out, but recent sites she had searched online.

I, of course, started shrieking about First Amendment rights and Hollywood's obvious oblivion to how a well-trained librarian would actually respond to such a request!

With FISA, the Patriot Act and library gag orders an all-too-present phenomenon in today's libraries, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom has launched a new online survey that will only take you a few minutes to complete. Entitled Privacy: Is It Time For a Revolution? the survey examines attitudes towards corporate and governmental privacy issues.

One can only marvel at the ironic timing--with Congress due to pass the FISA bill today, granting immunity to telecoms.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

LOC and Zotero

I was digging around the free webcasts offered by the LOC, and found this one on Zotero, a Firefox research add-on I blogged about a few days ago. Happy viewing!

I'ts A Shrinking World: Global Issues database

I don't think I've ever pitched for a product before that wasn't online and, if not free, at least VERY inexpensive. It's not a trend I want to continue, as I like to see myself as the Consumer Reports of the ed tech blogosphere. (well, I'm having delusions of grandeur there, but you know what I mean!) That's one reason I won't run Google Ads on the blog.

But I saw a demo of Gale's new Global issues database at NECC, grabbed my computer and immediately emailed my rep to sign us up--even though it won't be released until November! If it does everything Gale promises, this database will be something very different, and very cool.

I should preface this by stating my school is very big into multiculturalism and building global awareness; thus, this product grabbed my attention, in that it is the only high-school oriented, issues-focused database out there that doesn't present a U.S.-based perspective. (If you're aware of others, please let me know!)

Want to find out what Saudi Arabians think about Al-Qaeda? The database offers newspapers and videos from the Middle East (think: Al Jazeera in English, among others). Need a Chinese perspective on human rights issues? It's there.

The topics range over 400 issues and 193 countries, with interactive maps, downloadable audio, and RSS feeds to keep up on recent additions. The database also includes student research tools, including the ability to post comments and content from over 400 international journals, magazines and newspapers, selected by country-based experts. Best of all, it presents multiple points-of-view, allowing students to draw their own conclusions. I'm so tired of databases that present a "This is what happened" approach to history, virtually ignoring the unceasing complexities to any human endeavor.

Most interesting, the homepage boasts a customizable interface allowing the librarians to choose what content to show.

Like most Gale databases, this one is not cheap. But Gale is running a pre-release sale that offers a pretty hefty discount if you sign up in July or August.

In an increasingly global economy, it is imperative for us to encourage in students not only a broader world view, but a deeper understanding of other cultures and other perspectives. The U.S. is internationally infamous for its "Let them learn English," (and American English, at that!) attitude.

We were able to get away with it in a post-WW II world where we had little competition. In the 21st century we are doomed if we don't foster global knowledge and understanding in our students. We will, quite frankly, become a quaint anachronism, a relic from the not-so-distant past.

One database can't overcome all the educational challenges we face to accomplish this goal. But it's a good start.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Banned Blog Week?

A mini tempest over the blog caught me completely unawares last night. Someone had posted to LM-Net asking about ideas to read up on in preparing for a job interview as a high-school librarian. She received some excellent advice, including catching up on Web 2.0 , and I sent her the link to this blog as a good place to get some specifics on the different tools available.

Apparently, all she saw was the Iraqi death toll widget on the right there. She sent me an email that she also posted to the list-serv, saying I used the blog as a subterfuge for advancing my own political agenda, and that other unwary LM-Netters needed to be warned.

Now, it has all blown over; we've exchanged emails, taken the high road and agreed to let by-gones be by-gones. Ironically, as with all such contretemps, my blog hits increased, literally, 1,000 fold. According to my stats, I average around 30 hits per day (and most of those last less than 5 seconds!). Yesterday I had close to 700. Yeeha! Curiosity is a wonderful thing; some of those viewers may even become regular readers.

Anyone involved in such an issue, however, can't help pondering censorship, freedom of speech, and where we must stand as librarians. If my blog isn't necessarily political, this post definitely is.

According to the ALA Library Bill of Rights,
  1. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
  2. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
As librarians we have a moral and civic obligation not only to guard against personal bias in our choice of materials, but also to actively protect diverse points of view and freedom of speech. As Supreme Court Justice Brandeis stated in his decision on Whitney vs. California, "It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears."

This small spate with my blog is only a tempest in a teapot and is pretty much over. Yet it reflects a larger issue. When The Higher Power of Lucky won the Newbery last year, I laughed over the uproar caused by the anatomically correct word, "scrotum." There will always be those willing to be 'shocked! shocked!' at insults to their sensibilities.

I was less amused however, when I read in the NY Times that librarians--librarians!!--promised to ban the book from their libraries on the basis of a single word used appropriately and in context. No doubt some of these promises came from an unwillingness to face the inevitable parental challenges. While I don't believe we should buckle to the forces of intolerance, I at least understand the decision.

What I neither understand nor condone is the decision to completely ban the book from the library. Not keep it for more mature upper-elementary readers, but omit it from the collection altogether. To impose a personal set of values upon the reading materials of an entire student body. This goes against everything we, as librarians, not only should stand for, but MUST stand for.

If we allow the dictates of a vocal minority to threaten and bully others into adopting their limited agenda, we are all intellectually the poorer for it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Have you ever come home and been secretly thrilled by all the messages left on your answering machine? (Wow, I must be popular!)

Well, the little Clustr map on the right side of my blog is a lot like that. I watch it avidly, noticing the size and distribution of my clusters, what new countries I've made inroads into. Pathetic, I know.... Especially since I know most of the hits last less than 5 seconds! Still, it's comforting to think I have some sort of international outreach program going on.

Imagine my horror, then, when I glanced over at the map today, and saw a mere three dots. Three! What happened!? I helped my significant other set up his new political blog yesterday, and thought maybe his cluster map was posted to mine by mistake.

It turns out they just archived the old map, so I'm starting over... : (

In the meantime, if you have a free moment, check out Gerald's blog, Here Comes a Country. He needs more spots!

Little House, Redux?

There's an interesting discussion going on at Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature blog, as the re-visioning of Laura Ingall's Wilder's Little House books continues. Reese references a speech Ingalls gave discussing the infamous Bender family, a group of serial killers, who never made it into the Little House books.

Wilder stated she felt the topic inappropriate for children, and Reese takes issue with the fact the author apparently felt it was permissible to portray Native Americans as blood-thirsty killers, but not whites who were illegaly settling on Osage territory.

Reese includes interesting excerpts from Wilder's speech, which I need to hunt down. Ex-English teacher that I am, I'm always fascinated by the intersection between life and fiction.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

It's Not About the Technology

That's probably an odd title from someone blogging a 5 day tech conference, bit I'm happy to say it's an oft-repeated theme here. Yesterday, I attended Bernajean Porter's (of DigiTales fame) H.O.T. Comics workshop, and fully the first half of the workshop focused on content rather than working with Comic Life.

So many teachers get caught up in the gadget aspect. My district requires each faculty member to teach one "technology" lesson per year. I'm encouraging them to re-phrase that, as it creates numerous situations where teachers come to me in a mini-panic saying, "I have to teach a tech lesson. Tell me what I can do in one period!" Worse, some teachers just turn in a plan that shows students a few web sites and call that technology.

Everyone needs to start somewhere, and when you're first making the foray into 21st Century learning, it's natural to focus on the gadgets and gizmos and flashy stuff. Just don't be disappointed when students turn in mediocre projects. My first set of documentaries were AWFUL (except for the one student with a very tech-savvy brother), as both students and I learned the ins-and-outs movie-making.

As I sat and watched them, I realized I had let the students down by not spending nearly enough time in the pre-production stage. I think our planning took a week (two at most), and then I turned them loose and said, "bring back a rough draft in a month." Live and learn.

Students (and teachers) need a clear vision of their message and audience before they even touch a piece of equipment. If you are asking them to work at the upper levels of Bloom's (and if you're not, why aren't you?), they must have a solid understanding of CONTENT, first.

That's why, when teachers complain that technology projects take too long, I point out that
  1. most of that time is spent learning the content area
  2. creating a well-constructed video, podcast or whatever almost guarantees students have made that learning personal, deeply internalizing the information.
Thus, 70% of the time should be spent on learning, and only 30% on the technology. And even then only if the technology enhances the learning.

Don't have students blog if all they're doing is keeping an online journal. What's the point? They need to link to outside sources, incorporating them into their thinking. They need to engage in conversations with each other. For my Film Studies class, students used blogs as their own individualized learning center, choosing a topic of interest to them (e.g. Samurai films), then researching, viewing, exploring and using the blog as a place to "think and link." This is difficult in a journal, without spending time wandering off topic to explain what you've read. In a blog, you just link to it.

This started out as a blog about using comics for graphic novels, but wandered off into my own pet techno-rant.

I also just realized that, as I'm sitting on the floor of the convention center, my entire right leg is now completely asleep to the point I can hardly move it!

More anon.