Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mr. Picasso Head

Too funny! Things you find when you go through your reader. This is from Doug Johnson. Mr. Picasso Head (Is that a great name or what?)is a fun little tool that lets you create Picasso-like heads and save them. Here's mine. I added the title in SnagIt.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Google: Vini, Vidi, Vici!

Google earth just added a new 3D layer: Ancient Rome. Fly over the city or tour famous buildings. This should really help kids visualize it all!

Now,getting this to work is not at all intuitive (the video makes it look SOOO easy. I spent 20 minutes trying, and finally dug around Google Earth Help until I found some directions. Here you go!

1. In the Layers section, open the "Gallery" folder, then double click on "Ancient Rome."

2. This should zoom you in, and you'll see several yellow building icons. Double click on one. This pops up a description of the building. In the lower left hand of the box, there are several links. Click on "Ancient Terrain" Wait several minutes and this will download the terrain layer into "temporary places.)

3. Once the ball stops spinning, click on a building again. In the pop up window, click on "Ancient Roman Landmarks." This will download (again with much waiting) 250 buildings.

4. If you have a REALLY fast connection and a fairly recent computer, repeat again for the "Ancient Roman Buildings--5000+)

Save the files to "My Places," but unclick them when you don't want them or they'll really slow things down.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Do-It-Yourself Clickers, With Google Forms

If you go to any Ed Tech conference, the clicker vendors are everywhere. They're a good way to check student comprehension, if the content supports multiple choice type questions.

They are, of course, expensive gadgets.

It occurred to me the other day (while brainstorming at a tech conference) that you could use Google Forms to create a quiz students would take as the class works through a review lesson (for example). When they respond to the questions, Google tabulates the results in a spreadsheet that you would have open on your computer, where you could see the percentage of right/wrong answers, and adjust the review accordingly. A bit primitive, as you have no idea who answered correctly, but you could gauge the class's progress as a whole.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Enjoy the Connecticut Autumn

Playing with Animoto. They have an "educator edition" now, that lets teachers have full-length versions for free.

Here's one I made with some photos I took while walking the dogs a few weeks ago.

Wouldn't this be a great tool for book reviews? Several of our classes are working on book reports right now. I'm going to talk to the teachers about using Animoto instead, have the students find related images, create voice and soundtrack in Garage Band, then link them to the library website for student book reviews.


I blogged about Wordle during a conference last night. It's an interesting gadget, but at the time I didn't think it had much educational use, thought I tossed off a few possibilities.

Well, I'm hooked. I played with it this morning and created a cloud using several poems by my favorite poet, Emily Dickinson. Here's the result:

Wow, what a tool for evaluating themes/ideas in writing. And the results are almost as visually poetic as the original. Wordle allows you to edit for color, arrangement, number of words to display and font. I shared it with our creative writing teacher, who now want to use it with his classes.

Then Leslie shared this tool. It makes word clouds of all the presidential speeches (use the slider across the top). Very insightful, and more immediately accessible to discuss ideology than reading all the speeches. Not that that's a bad thing, but this could provide an instant analysis across the decades to show shifts in foreign and domestic policy.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Here's a new Web 2.0 tool. Wordle takes text you input and creates a word image based on frequency (similar to a cloud). Here's one I created based on a few of my blog posts.

Cool, but I was wondering how in the world you could use this in class. A few possibilities: Word poems. Analyzing text (others or your own) for key words/themes. For example, input a politician's speech and see what turns up--it could add an interesting element to a presentation.

YouTube (and Google) Sells Out...

Google made a proud announcement last week...
YouTube Sponsored Videos is our new advertising program that enables all video creators -- from the everyday user to a Fortune 500 advertiser -- to reach people who are interested in their content, products, or services, with relevant videos. Anyone can use Sponsored Videos to make sure their videos find a larger audience, whether you're a start-up band trying to break out with a new single, a film studio seeking to promote an exciting movie trailer, or even a first-time uploader trying to quickly build a following on the site.

Sounds innocuous, almost democratic, until you realize that now anyone can pay to have their video leap to the top of a search. As TechCrunch points out, run a simple search on sports, and take a look at your top result:

Not that I've watched it. But I doubt it has much to do with sports. It's only been a week since YouTube started this, and you know it's only a matter of time until these start popping up on every search.

For those of us who have finally prevailed upon the powers that be to unblock YouTube, this is a big setback. It is long past time for YouTube/Google to offer an "education" version of YouTube. Yes, there's Teacher Tube, but it lacks the sheer variety of information available on YouTube.

In the meantime, here's a nice collection of video resources from the Free4Teachers blog.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hmmmm....Google Life Anachronisms

Our Tech Director pointed out a in the Google/Life project. Well, the photos aren't questionable, but the metadata is.

Check here and here.

These are both from 1901??? I doubt Quincy Jones would be flattered at the implication! : )

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Google Life

Google announced a partnership with Life Magazine today to make almost 10 million of the magazine's (often iconic) photographs available to the public. You can find them here. According to The Guardian, only about 20% of the collection is currently available, organized by decade, and fully 97% of them have never been seen before.

Obviously, these will be great to use in history classes, but they'd also serve as writing prompts for English (or to coincide with novel readings), or for art/photography classes.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I Thought This Issue Was Settled?

Silly me. I didn't realize we were still arguing over authority control (Think: Sears) vs. folksonomies and social tagging. Yet this morning I've been mulling over the comments at two different conferences, held within days of each other.

Last week I attended CASL, the Connecticut Librarians State conference. I've already mentioned Kathy Schrock was there, giving an interesting presentation. An off-hand remark she make caught my attention, but I didn't think too much of it until after hearing part of the discussion I love-blogged yesterday. Her comment? (roughly paraphrased) I hate Wikipedia to the depth of my bones. Followed shortly by a humorous remark, "We're all librarians here, and I assume we'd like to see the web organized according to Sears."

Everyone (in our world!) knows that Kathy has long been on the forefront of all things library and technology related. So these comments surprised me, to say the least. More on that later.

Here's part two of this discussion: In the most fascinating part of the Just In Case or Just In Time discussion yesterday (and OF COURSE the section right after my battery died!) Chris and Joyce gave an impassioned call to deconstruct (dare I say destroy?) the OPAC, break databases and MARC records out of their respective boxes and allow users to mix and mash and tag and recreate information in personally meaningful ways.

This is the world David Weinberger discusses in his marvelous Everything Is Miscellaneous (If you haven't read that, it's really part of your library duties!) and is where education and the library profession MUST head if we are to remain relevant to the 21st Century learner.

Hence my surprise at Kathy's comments. I respect her as much as anyone, but that authority-controlled attitude, whether Wikipedia vs. Britannica or Sears vs. social tagging overlooks the obvious: We need both. And we only have to look at Amazon for a perfect example of where we need to head.

While Amazon uses a subject tree and places books in traditional categories, it allows users to tag them in ways they deem appropriate. A search I just ran on Civil War (I'm reading Team of Rivals at the moment), turned up not only the usual keywords and subjects, but also "Pritzker Military Library podcast," which may be a good resource for our school's Civil War unit.

I see user recommendations alongside the professional reviews, what other books users have purchased on similar topics....I would LOVE it if my OPAC did all that, and how much more motivated would my students be to actually USE the OPAC if they could use it as a social tool as well as a research tool?

Along similar lines, Joyce called for e-publishers to break the databases out of their state collections (iConn, AccessPA) or ProQuest/Gale/InfoTract boxes. We need widgets, and lots of them, so that students can add them to their Facebook accounts, I can put individual resources directly into pathfinders and wikis, rather than mere links. These things need RSS feeds, comment boxes and tools for sharing among groups.

If their promos are accurate, the new Gale Global Issues database is heading in this direction, and I'm both dismayed that its release is apparently delayed until December, but pleased they're taking the time to work out a truly unique approach, in that individual libraries can adjust its interface and content to their needs.

Now look, I know none of this is new. I'll never be one of the great thinkers in the profession! My talents lie more in the mash-up arena: trying to figure out how the big ideas work on a day-to-day level.

As librarians and educators we need to release our stranglehold on authority, revel in the wisdom of crowds (or clouds!) and use our positions as leaders from the middle to take the best of both approaches and create information tools to empower users and improve findability.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

TechMash: Glogster and Pageflakes for Booktalks?

My virtual friend Leslie, over at Webfooted Booklady, shared a link of her fun/creepy book Glog. She has a howling wind soundtrack, but I started thinking--this could be a different way of doing permanent book-talks. You could add images of the cover, read an excerpt and promote it, either singly or in groups.

Create several on different topics, load them into a PageFlakes and link it to your library site--permanent, interactive booktalks. Better yet, have the kids do them!

In fact, our 9th graders are keeping blogs of their reading right now. I think I'll talk to the teachers about having them do one of these on their top 3 recommended books, then link them to the library site.

EduBlog Awards, 2008

Drum roll, please! The 2008 Edublog Awards are here! Instructions on how to nominate are here--you do it in the form of a blog post. You can nominate a blog in any (or many!) of the fourteen categories, but you can only nominate once per category.

So go through your reader, make your picks, and nominate! I'll post my picks in the next few days.

Panel: Just In Case or Just In Time? Live Blogging

Joyce Valenza: Library as kitchen, not a grocery store. A place not to "get" stuff, but to "do" stuff. A place to remix, taste, entertain, create share. It's also a dining room--the place to share and present. Inspire, season, taste, serve, display.

(by the way, this in on UstreamTV, too)

Terry... Library as cafeteria (I sense a food theme here...). Food chosen by teachers, but students with choice of menu items. Different tastes/needs.

Chris Harris: Library as Pampered Chef Party (I love it...and you see I was right about the developing theme). Membership driven--introducing new tools and teaching you how to use them in a real world environment, so you can go him and use them in your own kitchen.

Jay...(Publisher from Gale) Library is shifting from Hunter/Gatherer to Farmer. No longer just going out to find material. Farming, grown your own, everyone can do it, nourishes community. Emphasis moves from feast/famine to sustainable.

Jim (from ProQuest) All farms--aggro, artisinal, private.


Joyce: What do you buy? What should we buy?--We can't have it all, but we want it all. Print vs. electronic.

Audience Member: What about when you can't buy because you don't have the money?

General Discussion: Curriculum support vs. serendipity. Do we have something just to have it? When we only support curriculum do we lose the serendipitous find? The joy of browsing shelves vs. online experience.

Gale Rep: Librarians as lest defense against going back to the stone age. (went over well, as you can imagine!)

Collection Development based on participation: Whatever teachers/students are involved in library, that's what you buy. (Applause for that). Joyce's question: What's missing in collection with that approach?

Audience Comment: Ask about leftover, end of year budget as source of funding.

Comment: Our bread and butter is instruction--can't just buy what kids want. Anybody can order books--we need to help students advance.

Vendor Question: Is there a Maslow's library of hierarchy needs? (good question)

Joyce's Idea: Build a wish list on Amazon that parents can access.


Different models of purchase: consortiums, packages, timed buys (i.e. I only need this for 3 months).

New models of pricing for mass purchasing.
Gale Rep: We hear you need predictability in pricing. Based on last year's use?

My battery's dying....I'll post anything of interest later!

Doug Johnson's Call to Arms

I have a confession to make. I spent the last year acting like the copyright police. Oh my intentions were good. As a teacher, I spent years grabbing whatever I needed, copyright-be-damned. Once in library school, where copyright laws and our need to enforce them were pounded into our head, I emerged with the fiery passion of the newly converted.

But it was an uneasy fit, and I was never really comfortable telling teachers what they could and couldn't do. Moreover, as I taught my new film studies class, with students eager to create video mash-ups, I struggled between my desire to encourage their creativity and my role as policeman.

Yesterday, Doug Johnson set me free.

I've read his copyright views before, but he gave an eloquent and convincing presentation yesterday attacking one of library's "sacred cows," copyright enforcement. In his words, "Our job is to counsel, not enforce laws."

I have slowly been coming to this conclusion myself, to a belief that we must push the boundaries of fair use, not cower timidly within the safety of its borders. (I'm really mixing my metaphors here, aren't I?) As Johnson stated, we must focus not on what's forbidden, but on what's permitted, and always with the needs of our students and faculty foremost. After all, the school pays my salary, not Disney.

So I think I've finally hit a comfortable middle of the road position. I no longer practice my copyright version of eminent domain, grabbing whatever I think I need, but I'm not the copyright Gestapo, either.

Doug's simple rule of thumb? If it's transformative, if it uses the work for purposes other than those originally intended, it's fair use.

Sounds good to me.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Blogging the SLJ Summit

Greetings from Hollywood, Florida! The weather's balmy, the sea is green and the beach is about 28 floors beneath me. I'm attending the School Library Journal Leadership Summit, and will dutifully blog the event.

I'm signed up for three interesting workshops...Creating and Managing Digital Visual Content, Matchmaking NF Books and Ed Tech, and Reference in the Digital Age.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Go Animate!

While not exactly a threat to Pixar, Go Animate is a fun online tool that allows students to create their own animated cartoons. It's not the most intuitive interface and the tutorials are virtually non-existent at this point, but it's easy to pick up the basics.

Here's a quick example I made in about 20 minutes.

They're still working out some kinks--it's hilarious that I tried to type "class" and it changed the "ass" part to #$!

It does allow you to record voice rather than text for speech.

For anyone seriously into digital storytelling, the obvious drawbacks of tools such as this and ToonDoo, are the limitations they impose regarding 'camera' angle and framing. You're pretty much stuck with eye level in a square box. I hope, as they evolve and improve, they can move beyond these limitations.

New Fair Use Guidelines--Hallelujah!

The Center for Social Media has been working on this for a while, and they finally released today a "step-by-step-guide" simplifying all the ins and outs of copyright law.

The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education outlines five principles, each with limitations:
Educators can, under some circumstances:

1. Make copies of newspaper articles, TV shows, and other copyrighted works, and use them and keep them for educational use.
2. Create curriculum materials and scholarship with copyrighted materials embedded.
3. Share, sell and distribute curriculum materials with copyrighted materials embedded.
Learners can, under some circumstances:
4. Use copyrighted works in creating new material
5. Distribute their works digitally if they meet the transformativeness standard.

You can download the guide here, or find more information here.

Here's a video they created; I'll use this with staff development!

Do You Glog?

Haven't blogged much the last few weeks as I've been completely obsessed with the elections. Did anyone else cry like a baby Tuesday night? (A good thing!)

I'm attending Kathy Schrock's workshop at the CASL conference today. (Hi, Kathy, if this shows up in your reader!) I've grown a bit leery of "tech" workshops, as the last few I've been to I haven't really learned all that much. Kathy showed some nifty Web 2.0 tools that I hadn't seen before, though (and I was able to share Thinkature with her, so that was cool!)

I'll share some other, but right now I'm having fun playing with Glogster--an online, interactive poster masker, that would be a fun classroom tool. Before I go too much further, I'll add one caveat that it's not fully functional with a Mac, which is a HUGE drawback, as far as I'm concerned. That's completely ridiculous in this day and age, when we're supposedly aiming for platform neutrality.

Nevertheless, the app is fun--lets you upload photos, video and audio, add text and graphics, apply a background.

Here's the completely lame Glog I made. I tried syncing with the Mac to add a video greeting. no go. I assume it works with the Windows platform. It also allows you to grab youtube video.

This might be a fun way for students to do a class presentation, and certainly more interesting than the deadly Power Point presentation. For example, I included audio of Robert Frost reading his poem, Birches. And a couple of primary source letters, along with his image. As I said, pretty lame. But you get the idea of what you can do with the tool.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sunday, November 9, 2008

To Penzu or Not to Penzu--That Is the Question

I just spent some spent awhile looking at Penzu, an online journal-writing tool Kathy showed us. It has the questionable advantage of being completely private, unless the writer chooses to share, unlike many online tools which are public by default, with the option of being private.

Penzu is low on bells and whistles--not always a bad thing!--and is just what it says--a place to journal online, with the option to add images. No comments, no online communities. It's the virtual equivalent of paper and pencil.

So here's my question: What's the point? I'm no fan of technology for technology's sake, so while Penzu saves some trees, but if you're not worried about that, why not just use a journal, especially since there's no RSS feed, so you'd have to go to each student's site individually.

My larger concern relates back to the Will Richardson workshop I attended earlier, and our necessity to move beyond merely publishing, to engage students in an ongoing dialogue to develop and extend their ideas, making connections both literally and intellectually.

Penzu obviously hinders that process. And while there is a place for "mere" journaling, I wonder if this might not be a better tool for personal, rather than educational use?

Having said that, Kathy said teachers are thrilled by it because they don't have to worry about online privacy issues. Maybe I'm just thinking like a high school teacher, and for younger students this is a good introduction to establishing some sort of online presence?