Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sharing My Toys

One of my many hats (and growing academic interests)is teaching a class on film studies. Last year was my first year, I'm teaching it again (vastly revamped!)spring semester this year, and next year it morphs into a year long class.

I run it as a combination film analysis, film production class, either of which could be a full class in itself, and trying to cram both into one semester leaves both aspects somewhat haphazzard. But we do what we can, and I'm excited next year will give us scope to do some great things.

In the meantime, I spent all day yesterday working on the class website and updating the hotlists of resources for the students. (So far it's all boys this year. And last year, in a class of 15, I only had 3 girls. What is it about film and women? I noticed on a Samsung video contest yesterday, they have a special promotion just for girls, so obviously it's an issue in the field. Not many women directors out there!)

Anyway, I have a list of resources for film analysis (they'll be blogging on a genre of their own interest), and one of video resources (for shooting their own videos). The latter would be useful for anyone interested in digital storytelling.

I'm especially pleased with the class website. I used Google Sites, because I think it gives a more "finished" appearance than PBWiki, much as I love that tool. It also works seamlessly with other Google apps, which we'll be using. I started a Google group for discussions, use Google Calendar for assignments, and could even create a page of vidoes for them to watch at home.

Even though our school uses First Class, I may have the kids set up an iGooogle page as an information management site for themselves. I've given enough Google App tech workshops to the faculty by now that many of them are starting to use the apps, so it would be a good tool to teach students some information management (I'll also have them use Reader to subscribe to each other's blogs, of course!)

Our theatre director uses Google Sites/Calendar to share all her researsal production information. It's pretty cool, and a great "best practice" for showing other teachers.

I've blogged about this before, but the problem with using tools such as First Class (or even Moodle) is it doesn't teach students how to manage themselves using tools they'll have available once they leave the school environment.

Anyway, if you have the time/inclination, I'd love any feedback/suggestions you might have.

BTW, the photo is from the Life series on Google: Hitchcock next to Dali's painting "Movies." Dali, as you may know, worked with Hitchcock on the dream sequence in Spellbound.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Media Recover To The Rescue!

The animals bought me a wonderful new camera for Xmas a few months ago (they're always very generous!), so of course I used it during Christmas. My dad recently moved to the East Coast, and this was the first time we'd spent Christmas together in quite a while. I don't have very many photos of him, for some reason, so I was making free with the camera, taking shots of him, shots of him and my fiancee, shots of his wife's Dad, a wonderful old geezer also getting up in years. I got some great photos of all of them, and was quite pleased and excited.

First thing the following day, I hooked the camera up to the computer to import all the photos. I'm still working out kinks and some of the photos were blurry, so I elected NOT to import those, and just keep the others. And, as usual, I told iPhoto to delete the images on the camera after import. Do you sense where this is going?

In my usual boneheaded way, I managed to import the photos I didn't want, and delete the photos I DID want. Panic! Catastrophe!

I dug around online trying to find suggestions for recovering deleted photos. Nothing, so I started checking data recovery software. LOTS of that, so I ran out, bought a card reader, and started downloading software.

First I tried Recover My Photos. No luck. I couldn't even figure out how to use Stellar Info's software! Moved on to File Juicer, which at least recognized there were files on the card, but three hours later, couldn't retrieve them. Tried Picture Rescue and Card Rescue with similar results.

Then FINALLY came to Media Recover which, for a mere $30, found EVERY picture I'd ever deleted from the camera, including the precious Christmas photos! Easy to use, too, with options for a deep recover (the first one I used, and it tool all night) or quick recover, which I used after I bunged up the "save" mode and had to retrieve the pictures all over again (long story!). Quick mode found all the photos in mere minutes.

So here is a ringing endorsement for Media Recover, which can also find video and other digital media files.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Creative or Catastrophe?

The Mayor of Nashville announced the merging of public and school libraries in Nashville a few weeks ago. Obviously this is a Big Story in the library world.
According to the mayor’s letter, the intention is to begin the merger with high school libraries, a move that Bengel says is intended to “strengthen the schools."

I suspect the library community at large sees this as the opening salvo in a plan to abolish school librarians altogether. Fortunately, for Nashville this is the school board's decision, not the Mayor's; nevertheless, that it's even being discussed shows, once again, how little the public understands the nature of school librarianship.

I was even talking to my Dad over the weekend about helping students with documentaries. He looked at me kind of puzzled and asked, "But aren't you the librarian? Are you doing this for fun after school?" AARRGHH!

Here are the questions that leap to mind regarding the Mayor's decision:

1) Is this merely a co-ordination of resources? Will the general public have access to the school collection? Public collections contain considerably more 'questionable" material than a school collection might. Are they now open to more frequent challenges, since they're part of the school library system? And will the general public mingle with students in the school library? How does that affect safety issues?

2) A supposed "benefit" is longer library hours during the day and in summer. Does this mean the school library will be open? Who will supervise? And aren't there increased costs in keeping the buildings open and staffed longer, defeating the original purpose? If it just means students have access to the public library, don't they already?

3) Assuming this is all a way of ultimately removing the school librarians, who will instruct? With all due respect to our public sisters and brothers, they are not trained (or certified) teachers. Of course, anyone who can conceive of this as a reasonable act, doesn't see school librarians as necessary to the instructional process, anyway.

4)How will libraries collaborate with teachers if they're not even in the same building? It's hard enough when you are!

Those are just the questions that leap to mind. I'm sure I'll think of others. This is definitely an issue to watch closely.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Nearest Book Meme

"What about the consequences?"

I should ask that question more often...

Interesting book--and one of a stack of three that were by my bed. (I'm lying in bed, blogging--which may be more than you wanted to know!) The pile also included Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, which I'm re-reading. But to put that would have sounded like I was trying to impress people. Also the Missing Manual for Mac OSX Leopard. But when I looked at the sentence for that one, even I thought "ugh."

* 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 book or your coolest but really the nearest.

From Doug Johnson's blog...

Research, the Internet, Barabasi and...Robert Frost

According to a recent Boston Globe article research at the University of Chicago claims the internet is having a narrowing effect on...well...research.

In brief, databases, search engines, etc. all algorithmically favor recent articles over older, established (or obscure) texts, leading to a smaller range of sources and a "tightening of consensus."

There are those, of course, who disagree, and I look forward to watching the debate. Though,if nothing else, Laszlo-Barabasi describes the phenomenon in his excellent book, Linked.
While, theoretically, the internet makes everything available, in actuality it creates 'hubs' that attract the majority of links, based on popularity, leaving other sites stranded in oblivion, buried in the 11+ billion pages that make up the web.

If he doesn't mind me paraphrasing him, Doug Johnson wrote that he's not sure what the findings mean--it could be the idea of "sufficiency" has worked its way up the academic ladder.

I also wonder if that "breadth" that supposedly existed earlier wasn't a function of lack of access to a broad selection of current resources forcing scholars resort to the tried and true of what was already available. Along the same line, before the days of search engines, one really had to dig to find information. I remember spending HOURS poring through the Reader's Guide just to find a few articles that our library MIGHT have. Looking at everything else along the way might have led to some serendipitous finds. Online searching with its wealth of results make that serendipity less likely.

One of the comments mentioned a new search engine that tries to build in the "Eureka!" factor. I wasn't that impressed. It seems to limit results to only 10 or so. On my first search "French revlution" the results were exactly the same as Google's. (they display results side-by-side)

The next search for Basset Hound yielded different results and did, I must say, lead me to some
cool cartoons
Google didn't bring up. Other results were rather bizarre, though.

In the meantime, the kids will continue to do what I suspect kids have always done--find a few resources and think they're finished, while I nag and badger them to dig deeper.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pathfinders 2.0

I'm reworking the pathfinder for the 8th grade research project on the 1920's. I still do a lot of the searching for them re: websites, since I don't have all that much teaching time with them. (I'm working on it....)

On the new, 2.0 version, I've included the Power Point presentation on research strategies, so they can review if they need to. I've also added the Primary Sources custom search engine I created. This, along with the databases, should still give them plenty of search practice. In high school, I start working on more independence.

I'm working on a 2 day lesson on using primary sources, complete with a VERY cool PP (if I say so myself!) and a packet. I'll post both when they're finished.

Here's a tip: I added the slides/search engine using the Google Gadgets plug-in. At first it really screwed up the layout, and they wouldn't show. But if you create a table with only 1 cell, then add the plug-in to the table, it solves the problem.

I might add here that I tried creating this in Google Sites. I really like creating blocks of information, instead of one long stream. And of course it works seamlessly with the other google elements (the pp and search engine.)

EXCEPT--I would have to invite every single student to Google Docs to have them able to view the Power Point, since there's no general HTML tool for adding widgets. Come on, Google....