Sunday, December 19, 2010

21st Century Nativity

I'm home for the holidays, and have promised myself a blogging extravaganza, to make up for my silence the last few months.

In the meantime, enjoy this...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Future is Now: Qwiki

There's been much talk the past few years about the multimedic (is that even a word!?) potential for textbooks, encyclopedias, etc. In the digital age, but few have Used that potential yet.

Well, check out Qwiki.

Monday, November 22, 2010

10 Steps to Better Searching

SweetSearch just published the Power Point embedded below (aren't we past that yet??) geared towards educators that teaches search tips we media specialists already know.  It's downloadable, so might be useful for any faculty workshops that you do. 

I just gave my search workshop to teachers, and I really wish I'd done it differently.  Basically, I just focus on search strategies, showing them the same techniques I show students.  However, having watched a couple classes come in over the past month, where faculty didn't talk to me first (it's a slow and ongoing process, isn't it??), and just told students "Go look it up,"  I now wish I had changed my focus. 

Teach the steps, yes.  But I would add a heavy component of also talking about students and searching:  how just saying "go look on Google" isn't enough.  The SweetSearch presentation has a lot of information on teen search strategies that would help faculty understand a) why students need more instruction than just "look it up on Google," and b) why it's a good idea to collaborate with the library any time they want students searching.  I think I'll talk to my boss about using one of our faculty meetings to give THAT workshop to everyone, while simultaneously promoting the library!

However, this is also good information to share with students, because they THINK they know what they're doing, and they really don't.  With that in mind, I'm revamping my search lessons to not only add the above information, but also to include pre and post lesson assessments.  I will post those and the Search Prezi tomorrow or Thursday.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Lesson: Cyber-Bullying on Steroids, Typical Media Hype...or Both?

I've debated for a day or two on whether I really wanted to wade into these waters, but decided to dive in, because it is a perfect example of so much of what we try to teach students about their online lives.

Now, I realize this is a much less inflammatory topic to discuss from the wilds of Mongolia than it would be at home, but here's a question I've been pondering the past few days: is the recent brouhaha over the Palin kids' Facebook posts a good jumping off point to discuss cyber-bullying, the media, and digital footprints?

The original post about Palin's reality show  drew what can hardly be seen as anything other than a personal attack (and the use of "gay" and "faggot" as put-downs raises another issue!),  and a not untypical example of cyber-bullying.  It quickly escalated into epic nastiness, drawing in other students.   A not uncommon online battle,  where the lack of face-to-face intimacy makes it incredibly easy to write slurs you'd think twice about saying in person.  All magnified 1,000-fold by the media hype.

Regardless of one's politics, the way this played out has been fascinating to watch, and the practically hour-by-hour media updates of the Facebook flame-wars make it a (potentially) great opportunity to examine and discuss how these things can escalate and become personal, if only one could keep personal politics out of the discussion!

I feel for all parties involved, as what should have been a local argument turned into a national storm, but that's also part of what we should be discussing with our students:  posting on Facebook is hardly a private discussion, even if you're not a Palin, and the nature of our online presence carries with it a certain responsibility, or at least a need for awareness.   The very "public-ness" of this particular example is what makes such a good topic for discussion--students would certainly be engaged!

Moreover, Facebook apparently deleted the initial thread from Tre (the first poster's) Facebook page, but someone had already captured a screenshot and passed it on to the press:  our online mistakes endure in perpetuity, digital footprints can go viral.

It's also a prime opportunity to discuss the media.  Why do serious journalistic enterprises give so much attention to what amounts to a typical teen tempest?  What are the effects, both on the participants and the national discourse?  What does it say about us as a nation that we are apparently more interested in that than in the serious problems we face?

Of course, it could also be a lesson in the current state of politics, where no corner of a person's life remains unexamined or off-bounds, and every family member is drawn into the maelstrom.

The whole thing's a mess, but would make a great lesson.  If only....

And if any of you have had the nerve to tackle this with your students, I would be very interested to hear about the discussion!

UPDATE:  With all of this, one final point (or points!) from Alex Knapp's Outside the Beltway:
But here’s the thing — Willow Palin hasn’t made herself into a public figure. She’s only famous by virtue of having a famous family....Put yourself in her shoes. Think about something stupid, mean, or hurtful that you said when you were 16 years old. Think about the shame you feel about it now that you’re an adult. Think about how embarrassed you’ve been when something stupid you’ve done was made public, even to a small circle of people. Now, magnify that — imagine that the stupid thing you’ve said has been a media focus for days. Internet, TV, you name it.
It’s not fair to her. It’s disgraceful. Willow Palin has not made herself a public figure, nor did she make a public statement. She’s 16. She’s entitled to her mistakes, and she’s entitled to not have the world talking about them.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2010 Edublog Awards

The 2010 Edublog nominations are now underway!  You can nominate your favorite educational blogs here.  My nominations:

Best Individual Blog:  Adventures of a Guybrarian

Best Educational Webinar Series:  Michelle Luhtala: Using Emerging Technology to Advance Your School Library Program

Best Library Blog:  Doug Johnson, Blue Skunk 

Best Resource Sharing:  Free Tech 4 Teachers (I'm torn on this... he tends to win it a lot, and I don't really agree with the way he's commercialized his site, but when you're good you're good, and he's making obvious efforts to promote only commercial sites he feels are useful, sooo....)_

Make Parent Evenings Interactive

Our 5th grade teacher came to me yesterday asking about using the library space for her PYP presentations to parents.  Of course that was fine with me, but in the nature of these things, talk continued and I learned she was interested in  running a Power Point slide show of student photos.

Never one to let that one slip by, I suggested some other options and eventually we decided on something I think will be pretty cool.

We are going to do a quick video interview with each student talking about their project and what they learned in the process of doing it. We will load each video clip into VoiceThread and project that in a loop. (Or try to loop it--I need to research that!  If not, I'll be there to keep restarting it.)

On a separate, nearby computer set up with a headset, we'll load up the VoiceThread in a generic account (since most parents won't have VoiceThread accounts), and allow parents to comment on their child's (or another child's) presentation/video.

Great encouragement and feed back for the students, fun for the parents (I hope!), and, of course, completely embeddable on the school website to promote your program.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Google for Librarians

Want some specific ideas for Google in the library?  Well, Google has a periodic newsletter geared especially towards that.  You can find back issues here.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Live Blogging: iFollett Workshop

Attending the iFollett workshop in Macao.  I'll post interesting tidbits as they pop-up and elaborate on them later.

8:45:  Chris Smith, from, introduced us to Titanpad.  Powered by EtherPad (which I've blogged about before), it's a tool for setting up back channel chats for classes, workshops, etc.  Very powerful, and a great way to monitor and adjust, field student questions, etc.

10:40:   Ann Krembs--our job as librarians is to be risk-takers.  Technology is kids' language, and we need to learn it.

LOC photostream on Flickr.

11:00:  Edistorm--Wallwisher on steroids.
            Student Interactives from Read/Write/Think
            Kerpoof:   digital storytelling tool
            TypeWithMe:  similar to EtherPa; real-time collaborative writing
           ArtPad:  collaborative drawing

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mental Health Break

High speed video of popcorn popping. Awesome.

Documentaries Just Got a Bit Easier

A heads-up from my friend, MaryBeth.

Thanks to a partnership between the LOC,   and the Schools of Education at the College of William and Mary and the University of Kentucky, the search for primary sources to include in U.S. History documentaries became a little bit easier.

The group compiled a set of copyright-free documentary kits on eleven different topics, with more coming soon.  Each set includes primary source documents and media, and focuses around a research question. For example, the Civil Rights kit asks the question: "How did the actions of young people after the Brown decision help continue the struggle for civil rights?" whereas the kit on Chinese immigration asks "How was a national identity constructed by the American reaction to Chinese immigration?"

Personally, I think their questions need some work.  I would prefer to see research questions forcing students to develop an argument within their documentaries, rather than just reporting.   Simply removing the "how" from the questions above would improve them.  "How" merely requires a list, while "did" asks students to take a stance and defend it with evidence. Much higher level of thinking!

Even better, of course, would be to work with students to develop their own research questions.

Nevertheless, the kits are useful, if somewhat limited in topics at the moment; one hopes they will continue to develop more and more kits!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On the Road to Borneo...

It occurred to me, I posted that I was competing to present at the EARCOS conference, but never posted whether I was selected or not.  Whoo-hoo!  I'm going!  I'm definitely looking forward to it.  If nothing else, I'm sure that, after 6 months of weather well below zero, I'll be ready for the tropics!

Coming soon:  I'm creating a  test  to use with students pre and post research training.  I want to start documenting what (and whether!) they've learned.  Will post the Google form when it's done.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Book Trailer Presentation

I'm giving a presentation tomorrow on Animoto book trailers.  I'm hoping to be chosen to present at the EARCOS conference in spring.  (Inshallah!)

Anyway, in my continuing quest to master Prezi, here is my "slideshow."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I Think I've Got It!

I blogged a while back about being determined to figure out Prezi.   Judge the results for yourself:

Now that I have the basics, I will work on finesse!

Monday, October 11, 2010

I'm Such an Idiot!!

In the "If you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?" department....

One of my big gripes with Prezi has been the seeming "wonkiness" of the resizing tool which you use to make text or shapes larger/smaller.    It never worked very well for me, and there was no rhyme or reason to whether a selected object would grow larger, smaller, or just sit there and vibrate!

I would sit there and drag in frustrated circles, generally achieving nothing.

Well, ahem.  Today I accidentally grabbed an object, and instead of making my usual circle (following the shape of the tool), I just dragged it straight to the left and--miracle!--it grew seamlessly larger.  Dragging to the right, it grew smaller.

The perils of rigid thinking, but just look at that tool!  Doesn't it imply "drag in a circle?"  : )

Friday, October 8, 2010

Media Specialists As Hyprocrites, OR Can We Really Tame the Web?

OK, now that I have your attention....   :  )

I'm just commenting on a random thought that crossed my mind as I clicked on my Instapaper backlog, while looking through the 1000+ entries in my reader, after just telling someone yesterday how woefully behind I am on my YA reading, having now taken on the K-5 group, which means I have some serious catching up to do on my children's lit, on top of keeping up with the news.  And I haven't read my Twitter feed in weeks!

Yet there I was yesterday, blithely assuring a group of overwhelmed 10th graders embarking on the extensive researched needed for their MYP personal projects, that I would show them the tools that would allow them to manage it all.

Who am I kidding??!

And if I'm overwhelmed, it's no wonder that the students, once we convince them there is more to the information world than Google and Wikipedia, stand stunned by the sheer volume of what's available to them.  I used to try to show it "all" to them.  Once I'd explained databases and the OPAC, we would spend a few days on "the web."  We'd talk portals and search engines and advanced tools and browser add-ons and RSS feeds.

I don't know if any of it sank in.  I thought I was preparing them for the vast online world, but I now think less is more.  I need to tame myself, not the web.  I will now teach a core set of manageable tools and skills, saving broader/deeper instruction for a one-on-one as needed basis.  To wit:

1)  Basic search skills, obviously.  Keywords, Boolean (at least the concept), quotation marks,  narrowing domains.  A few of the Google options, such as the wonder wheel.

2)  Specific portals, two or three depending on research focus.

3)  Two or three specific search engines, such as Google Books, Intute,  and Infomine.  I'm actually not all that fussed about Google Scholar, and tend to mention it in passing, then talk about why it's not very useful, unless you're at a big univesity.  Specifically, much of the content is behind a pay wall.

4)  Evernote, NoodleTools and  I'm a recent NoodleTools convert.  I never used to like it because I thought their citation tool was FAR too lengthy and cumbersome.  With wonderful tools like BibMe available, why should students go through that process, if even I wouldn't?   They now have a shortened MLA version, however.  So I'm trying it this year (mostly for the note cards options), and will survey students for their response to it.

I also used to show them iCyte  (which I will use instead of EverNote for middle-schoolers) and Diigo, in the belief that it's good to have options.  Now I think it just confuses them.  I really love Diigo, I might add, but it relies too heavily on good tagging for its organizational structure.  Students still need folders.

I'm still teaching the same content, I'm just increasingly convinced a large part of our technology job is to assess, winnow, and present the most useful options--much like developing a collection.

Mental Health Break

I'm such a sucker for interspecies animal stories!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Eaten any Fast Food Lately?

From Doug Johnson: This would be great for a library display--along with copies of Fast Food Nation, The End of Food, Michael Pollan's books, etc. Or for any nutrition classes.

Research: It's All About the Questions

I've been working on updating my research curriculum, starting with the handout, which was just a lot of boring text.  Face it, if it's not visually interesting, kids won't bother reading it.

More importantly, however, I wanted to refocus the lessons to put more emphasis on questioning strategies.  After three years of walking 6th-12th graders through the process (I used a modified Big 6), I realized many of the problem students encountered were a result of poor questioning skills (which may in itself may result from a lack of critical thinking. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?).

I realize Big 6 is the go-to model for the research process; it's touted as focusing on problem solving as opposed to "report writing," which is great.  However, whether it's the language describing the tasks or just the way it gets used, I feel the "problem solving" aspect gets buried and the whole process becomes too goal oriented:  Write your thesis, find the info, there you go!

Real research geared around real questions is a lot more messy, and I wanted something that kept the basic structure, but focused more on questioning strategies throughout the process.  Jame MacKenzie's
Questioning Toolkit was a good jumping off point, and I embedded some of his ideas into the Big 6 structure.  His article on The Research Cycle also informed much of my thinking on this.

I'm finishing up handouts on notetaking, plagiarism/citations and working with primary sources, which I'll also post.

As always, I'd love to hear any feedback, thoughts, critiques, etc!

Research Packet                                                                                                                                   

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Does the Internet Destroy Fiction?

I'm a big fan of Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Daily Dish.  It's smart, eclectic, thought-provoking, and has some of the smartest readers/commenters online.  (Well, except for MINE of course....   : )

I ran across this quotation from Kevin Hartnett on the blog today, and it stopped me in my tracks:
All forms of desire have their natural enemies and I find that nothing saps my desire to read fiction like the Internet does.  This is partly physiological—too much time at the computer withers my brain—but it’s partly dispositional, too.  After the last round of primaries a couple Tuesdays ago, I spent an hour reading articles about the Tea Party. When I came up for air I was in an explicitly present-tense state of mind where anything written more than an hour ago seemed to be based on a world that had already been subsumed.  Novels, which require a willingness to attend to more enduring themes, don’t hold up very well by this perspective.
Politics as a whole has a fairly degrading effect on my fiction drive. It’s not just that it’s depressing to watch the way Congress operates—it’s that it’s depressing in such an unredeemable way.  Fiction can be depressing too, of course, but there’s something intrinsically optimistic about the process by which tragedy and frailty are turned into art.
This puts the "the internet is changing our brain" argument in a new way. While it has a political focus,  I think it's true of the internet in general, if my own reading patterns are anything to go by.  I used to read voraciously--4-5 books a month at least, and that was on top of work.  The past 10 years or so, I'm doing well to read one a month.  I read more when I'm overseas, but I'm online less, and also out of that constant news cycle one gets in the States, so I'm looking up fewer reactions and "incidents"--I only heard about the Rick Sanchez/Jon Stewart brouhaha vicariously, for example.  I must say, that is one aspect about life at home I do not miss in the least.  It's a relief not to be constantly inundated with bombast.

 If the statement is true--and it certainly feels true--it's worrisome if you believe at all in literature's ability not only to enrich and inform our lives, but to transform them.  Aside from all the current studies on how the internet is changing our brains and attention spans, this may well be it's most deleterious effect, even more insidious for students, who are online from an early age and may never have the chance to develop the fiction habit.

Obviously, I am not one to denigrate the internet and online reading.  It has its place, certainly isn't going away, and it behooves us to harness its power and teach students the "art" of online reading.

Nevertheless, if it has this effect on us old farts, people embedded in the literary tradition well into their thirties, what will it do to younger, more malleable minds? Is it changing the very nature of fiction writing itself, as this suggests?

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Research Model Graph

How's that for an exciting title???!

I've been working on revamping my research handouts this week, with a big overhaul of how I present the entire process.  I'll post more about this when I upload the handout later today or tomorrow, but basically I've been rethinking the Big 6, which, in my opinion, has some drawbacks (sacrilege, I know!), and trying to incorporate a combination of Kuhlthau and Jamie MacKenzie's  questioning strategies.

As part of the revamping, I created this graphic to help students visualize the process. The grayscale version will probably photocopy better.

BookJam: The Digital Book Report Contest

Since I'm currently working on the Animoto book trailers with a group of 10th graders, I was all excited about this until I read the rules:  limited to students in the U.S.   Oh, well!

But here's the link for those of you in the States.  From the site:

Have your students pick their favorite book or a book from your lesson plan and create a song, performance, or debate. Get creative and win! Use music, props, and costumes! But make sure that it covers the core standards. We’d love to see rap songs about grammar, interactive presentations highlighting setting and symbolism, plays about conflict starring Hester Prynne to Harry Potter, and whatever else you and your students dream up!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Coolest World Clock Ever!!

From Poodwaddle. It's not just a clock, but counts down (or up!) population, diseases, U.S. Debt, deaths (and causes, and more.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Assessing Student Research Readiness

I'm taking Michele Luhtala's Emerging Technologies class on EdWeb.  She recently shared the Google Forms assessment she uses with her students.  I had been thinking about doing something similar, both as a way to better help students and to document the library program. Ever a believer in not re-inventing the wheel, I somewhat modified her form to my own purposes.

I'll use this both for the MYP personal project students AND the DP extended essays, but, really, it works with any extended research project, and is a great way to tell if students are actually ready to start the process, or if they are floundering.  It allows librarians to target specifically those students who need more help.

Send me your email if you'd like to make an editable copy of this for your own use, though I made it public, so you should be able to add it to your own Google docs.

The link above sends you to the spreadsheet. Here's how it looks as a form.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Prezi: I'm Determined to Figure This Out

I've decided I want to convert all my  lessons on Power Point to Prezi, so I've started playing around with it.  I get the gist, but I struggle in creating the path.  I can never click past the first three steps.

Anyway, I'm presenting to parents about MUN tonight, so I created a quick Prezi.  The free educator account removes the Prezi watermark, which is nice.  I also love that you can download your finished Prezi, so you don't have to rely on a good internet connection (always a big IF here in Mongolia!)

Here's my (somewhat simplistic) result.  For the two embedded groups, I wanted to zoom in on the individual phrases/skills, but gave up trying to get them in the path.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thinking in the Rut

 Caveat Emptor:  This is not the most coherent post I've ever written.  It's me (trying) to think through stuff I've been reading, my current plans for the library program, and how it all comes together.

Lately I've been chewing over an exchange Doug and I hada post of his, and one of Will Richardson's, as well as Sugata Mitra's new TED talk. (I'll embed it below).

I worry a lot that educationally, pedagogically, after 25 years of teaching, I'm in a rut.  We have all these wonderful new technologies with the promise to alter profoundly  the way we teach and to empower student learning.  I certainly work to harness that power, but am I using it to keep doing the same old thing?  Worse, am I actually standing in the way of student progress?

There's a  quotation on my computer desktop from a now-forgotten speaker:  "Teachers have the right to hide in a cave, but they don't have the right to drag students with them."  Reading over my earlier post today and thinking about my plans for the DP students,  I started wondering, "Is this really giving students the tools to become independent, self-motivated learners?  Am I putting myself too much front and center, rather than guiding students towards engaging with the material in meaningful ways?"

I look at those plans, and they don't seem that innovative to me.  True, they're new for the school, and certainly for the students.  But are they just variations on a theme, and are there better, more student-centered, ways I could be using these tools?

Undoubtedly, yes.   Will's comment that "reforms are hampered by the lack of teachers who can teach in progressive ways," should strike a note in all of us.  It is all too easy to stay in the rut, because the rut (usually) takes you safely to a known destination.  It is a (seemingly) guaranteed outcome.  Except, like the story I told Doug, staying in the rut can sometimes leave you upside down in the ditch.  If teachers keep doing what we've always done, our educational system is going to end up in the ditch, and we'll find ourselves replaced by computers.

Fortunately, and this is a rut I'm proud to stay in, I've always been one to listen to students, seek their feedback, and implement their suggestions. So an integral part of this new(ish) approach I'm taking will be to question students about what worked, what they think could be done better, and ideas they have for improvement.  Whether we ourselves are all that innovative, if we see ourselves as co-learners with the students, as sojourners on the same path, we open ourselves to new possibilities.

One thing I'm hoping, since this is so new for the students, is that their comparative ignorance of how we "should" be using technology will spark new ideas on how we can be using these tools as they do their research and write their papers.  I'm so embedded in education and pedagogy, it's hard to see over the rut; students don't come with the same preconceptions; so an integral part of this whole process will be student feedback before, during and after the process.

UPDATE:  On thinking about the implications of Mitra's talk, it's pretty powerful for libraries and media specialists.  We are all about providing access, then getting out of the way.  I can see where this would be threatening for some content-driven teachers;  if learning is self-organized, they are out of a job.  Librarians, however, would be at the very center of this. I need to think more about this and my angst-driven, somewhat self-centered musings above.  (By self-centered, I mean obviously those worries are still picturing me at the core, instead of putting faith in the students' ability to take an idea and run with it.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Connected Student

My new school is an IB world school, offering a full IB program, elementary through secondary.  Part of what that means for the library is that the 9th/10th graders and 11th/12 graders each have extended (around 4000 words) research projects/papers to write.  I've been working the past week on revising my research approach, with a nod to Buffy Hamilton's Media21 Project, as well as my interview a few months ago with Michelle Luhtala.

Specifically, I want to make social media an embedded part of what students do. I have said before that "digital natives" aren't all that adept at analytical uses of social tools; these will become a key component of the 14 weeks I work directly with the students.  I also want to adapt the Big 6 model, building in some components of Jamie MacKenzie's questioning model.  IB does a great job of pushing beyond standard essay topics into true, exploratory, inquiry-based types of projects.  Students have a difficult time framing good questions, however, so I will build in more instruction on that.

While I wanted them to keep a process blog, the coordinator put a nix on that as too much extra work not directly related to the extended essay, and he has a point; I will watch how it goes this year, though. I think keeping a reflective blog of their thoughts and processes would
  • inform their essay
  • provide them insight into their own learning style/process
  • add positively to their digital footprint
  • be a source for connecting with experts as they create their PLN

I will incorporate the following tools for student use:

iGOOGLE:   Buffy used NetVibes to create student learning portals, but I decided to use iGoogle because it more directly links to each student and the Google apps, while still allowing them to embed resources, RSS feeds and other tools via the gadgets, and to create different tabs/pages by subject.  This allows students to create highly individualized collections of up-to-the minute information.

I'll have them create at least two tabs:  The first will be general organizational info, and their own "fun" stuff: A to-do list, an embedded calendar of due dates, links to important school-related sites, pathfinders, etc.   The second will be their collection of resources, RSS feeds, associated documents, etc.

EVERNOTE:  For gathering online sources, taking notes, sharing bookmarks.

NOODLETOOLS:  For notetaking, citations.

GOOGLE DOCS:  While the nature of the extended essay (each student researches their own topic) doesn't allow for much collaboration, I'll show them the tools, as Google Forms will be useful for students needing to do surveys.    I'll demonstrate the collaborative nature of a Google doc when I have them practice paraphrasing/summarizing as a group.  I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out a way to incorporate Google Docs or wikis into this. If you have any ideas, please post them in the comments!

Obviously, it would be easier for them to share their progress with their advisors if they do all their planning/writing on Google Docs.  I'm not sure if I can ask advisors to create Google accounts just for this.  I am starting to push for the school to adopt Google Apps for Education, but that will take a while.  I'm having a meeting with the head of secondary and the two coordinators, so will definitely bring this up.

RSS FEEDS:  For gathering data, following expert blogs on their topics, etc.  I'm looking into Yahoo Pipes which, as far as I can tell, allows users to aggregate different feeds into one. I'm trying to decide if I want to talk to them about Twitter searches/feeds.  I think I'll do that on an individual basis, depending on their topic and whether I think it would be a valuable resource or not.

One thing I have to be careful about is not overwhelming them with tools.  This seems like a good start, especially for students who have never really had formal training in doing research.

I'm pretty excited about how we have decided to run this, since the entire project is outside their regular course work.  I will offer twice-a-week workshops over a course of 14-15 weeks.  Students will sign up for one of the workshops, and we'll keep track of who attends to ensure they actually get the information.  I can give individual lessons to students who can't fit in otherwise and--you guessed it!--I swear I will create video tutorials on each of the topics to put on the library website.  (I even added that to my goals for this year, so maybe I'll actually do it this year!)

If you have other ideas I could include, I would love to hear them.  Please add them to the comments, or any other comments you have on this plan in general.

As part of this I need to create and/or revamp various handouts.  I will, of course, post those as I go.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Best TED Talks to Make Use of Social Media


An interesting collection of TED talks exploring the use and impact of social media.  I plan to incorporate one or two into the big social researching lessons I'm putting together for students doing their IB extended essay.  More on that soon.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

More Self-Promotion

Doug Johnson posted his "top 72" list of school library thought leaders (or list of 72-people-I-can-think-of-at-the-moment), and I weighed in at number 38, though since I come before Joyce Valenza, there is no way I think that order means anything.  I mean, I have an ego the size of the LOC, but come on, I have some grasp on reality and the general level of my influence!

Thus, while I am honored and flattered even to be mentioned in the same post as the great Joyce, Buffy and others, I  see it as a call-to-action, something to endeavor to live up to, rather than an indication of my actual significance.

Since the Big Move, my posts (and thinking) have been somewhat perfunctory--mostly because my waking thoughts tend to be consumed with homesickness, to be honest.  So much for the grand adventurer!  However, if I may mix my metaphors, Doug's post served as a wake-up call, reminded me I have a serious job to do for the school, that I really do want to build this blog into something, if not cutting edge, at least heading in that direction, and I better stop wallowing in my self-pity and get cracking!

If you Build It, They Will Come....

...but it  takes a lot of work.

I had a shocker the other day when a teacher brought a group of students in to search for a specific type of information.  I offered to give them a quick lesson on ways to find the information more easily, and the teacher turned me down, because s/he though they should figure it out for themselves.  I must say, I was surprised into a (for me)  unusual silence.

I'd been at my previous school long enough, and embedded myself deeply enough into the program, that I'd forgotten I had to train the faculty as much (or more) as I had to train the students.  When faculty are not used to having an  LMS to rely upon, they learn to do for themselves, and may even resist offers of assistance because
1) their system works
2) they don't realize it could work better
3) they hold a mistaken belief that students (aka digital natives) intuitively understand how to work online, and
4) quite honestly, they have limited knowledge of what is actually available for use

When facing these teachers, I have to squelch my own gut instincts (usually less than tactful), bite my tongue and take the longer view, realizing I can't convert everyone in a day.  This post is my "plan of attack" brainstorm for the first semester.

1)  Quick, weekly tech workshops for faculty.  I'm keeping these very simple at first, as it's all too easy to feel overwhelmed with options.  First up, a tried-and-true lesson on search skills, followed by lessons on Google Sites for classroom websites, VoiceThread, ToonDoo, wikis and collaboration.  I created a sign up sheet with the Forms in Google Docs, and general feedback has been very positive.  I tried for a good mixture of fun and functional.

2) Our school is IB, which builds in extensive, individual research projects in 10th and 12th grades (more or less). I will meet with the two coordinators for this next week, get their ideas on where the current program needs work, then offer some suggestions for building a solid culture of research.  I'll blog more about this early next week; I'm going to put together a plan this weekend.  As I work with the students, it will trickle into their classes, as they grow to expect tools and methods to be available to them, and as they learn the skills themselves.

3)  Focus on specific teachers, build a collaborative rapport with them and help them (and their students) be successful. Word of mouth is always one of the best forms of advocacy, and nothing promotes the media center's general "indispensability" than playing an integral role in a successful lesson. Of course this means finding teachers who are open to trying something new--look for teachers who are new to the school or to teaching, as they are less engrained into a pattern and their "usual" way of doing things.  Hang out in the staff room during lunch to hear what people are doing. I planted some of my best seeds here, as people talked about what was going on in their classrooms, or what units they were planning.

4) Watch your attitude. This is my biggest problem---it's all too easy for me to come across as a know-it-all tech evangelist here to show you a new and better way, and woe to any who resist!  "What do you mean you don't want to use the library, you neanderthal??"    Modesty is everything, and remember the ALA mantra:  Lead from the middle.  I tell both teachers and students "My job is to make your job easier" and try to keep that in the front of all I do, with the full awareness that I have huge gaps in my own knowledge, and much to learn myself.  A certain humility makes you more approachable, and compassionate.  I always treasured the comment from a teacher that "you teach like you're one of us."  Well, I am......we are.

5) Not that any of us need more committees, but.... Start a library committee; in fact, start two.  I haven't done this before, but this year I will initiate a formal advisory board consisting of representatives from each division (primary, middle, secondary), a parent and two students (middle, secondary).  I will also have a more informal student advisory group, both for ideas on making the library more user friendly, as well as for advocacy among students.

SmileBox: Free Teachers' Toolbox

SmileBox, a fun photo/scrapbooking service, is accepting applications for the Teachers' Toolbox program. Similar to Glogster in that SmileBox allows users to add photos, text and videos onto an editable background, SmileBox avoids some of Glogster's online problems because it's a downloadable program that works on your hard drive.  So, no worries about inappropriate content posted by other users.

According to their announcement, "Our premium service gives you unlimited access to more than 900 Smilebox designs. You can also choose from hundreds of music options or add your own music, email and blog your creations full screen without ads, burn a DVD, and print any page at school, home or at a local retail store. We add new designs each week to keep you supplied with fresh ideas for every holiday, season and special event."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Shakespeare, Visualized

Your English teachers will love this as a very concrete way of talking about language and diction in Shakespeare's plays.

As part of his B.A. thesis, Stephen Thiel charted the language in Shakespeare's plays in various ways: by character, by soliloquies, by scene, etc.


An excellent film from the Vancouver Film School.  Of 80,000 edible plants, humans only use about 30 to make up most of the calories in our diet, and only 14 animal species.  Kind of scary to think what would happen to us should something wipe out any of those.   Good fodder (no pun intended!) for class discussions.

Biodiversity - Vancouver Film School from Vancouver Film School on Vimeo.

Free Lesson On Gulf Oil Disaster

The excellent Choices program out of Brown University is offering this free lesson on the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill.

Using political cartoons and articles from CNN, Al-Jazeera and other news agencies, the one-day lesson plan includes a handout on  analyzing cartoons, along with a Power Point presentation to guide students  in considering  "issues raised by the 2010 oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico including impact, accountability, U.S. oil dependency, and energy policy."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Google Launches Real Time Search Engine

Yesterday/today (this international date line thing is really confusing me!) Google launched a dedicated real-time search engine, for an up-to-the-nanosecond look at news, events and reactions. 

I'm a bit torn on real-time searches, since the bulk of it consists of tweets and Facebook posts; most people aren't that insightful in 140 characters.  Nevertheless, they do have their place in following events and both the media and popular responses to those events.

What makes the search engine different from the embedded feeds Google launched last fall in its regular search engine are the tools you can use to refine your search.

First, you can sort by location.  This is great for garnering non-U.S. reactions and opinions.  A search of Iraq troops, limited to Beirut produced 3 tweets (the low number is interesting--it might be a time-difference thing between Mongolia and the Middle East).  One was a re-tweet of a CNN post and the other a comment on the "anti-Muslim hysteria sweeping the United States" as a possible sign of impending US attack on Iraq.  Certainly fodder for discussion in any issues or policy oriented class.

You can also limit searches to news, images, video, books, etc.  One especially neat feature, if you click on the "more" button,  is the ability to follow threaded discussions.

Here's the official Google "how to."

Removed Captcha on Comments

Blogger has a new spam comment filter, so I'm going to remove the verification thingy and see how it goes.  That should make commenting less annoying!  : )

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

WallWisher for Collaborative Brainstorming

An "Online noticeboard maker,"  Wallwisher is a pretty nifty tool to get kids thinking about a given topic.

Once the teacher creates the original board, students can access the URL, click a spot on the board and post "sticky notes" of up to 160 characters. They can also embed video, audio or images on the note.

Below is a quick sample I created for a Model United Nations group, imagining I was having them start thinking about some of the current global and diplomatic issues.  This could also be used for vocabulary building, as a multimedia presentation tool to break away from Power Point (but easier than Prezi).

Create a site before a difficult lesson, and gather backchat questions as you proceed.

It could also be used as an easy discussion board, with student's posting comments on the night's reading.

For libraries,  you could gather student reactions/book reviews and embed the wall on your library site.

Teachers can opt to moderate comments before they are posted, always a good feature!

New Library Website

UPDATE:  Fixed the link to the website.  It helps immeasurably if you type the URL in correctly! 

I have the basics of the new library website up and running.  You can see it here.

I'm still working on getting admin to let me create a Facebook page for the library.  Think I'll build it without publishing it, and let them see it.

I wanted to embed a google calendar to display the library schedule, but apparently you can't do that with Wordpress.  There are a LOT of things you can't do with Wordpress--like a GoodReads bookshelf. I had to settle for a Flicker feed instead.

It's obviously still a work in progress--aren't websites always?--I'll add a page to display student work, add video tutorials, etc.

If anyone has other ideas for useful, interactive ideas to add, post a comment!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

First Day!

Wow, is there anything better than the first day of school!?  Whatever struggles I'm having adapting to life in Mongolia, this first day has been lovely.  New faces, new students, but the same excitement as a year full of possibilities begins anew.  Students greet each other with hugs and cries of excitement  after a summer apart; new students hang nervously on the fringe, but quickly absorb into the group.  And, of course, I have the best job in the school.

Information Literacy: Assessment

TRAILS (Tools for Real Time Assessment of Information Literacy Skills) announced updated versions of their grades 6 and 9 assessments, and brand new assessments for grades 3 and 12.

TRAILS offers both general and category specific assessments, such as topic development, identifying sources, etc. which are good tools for both pre and post instruction data-gathering to demonstrate the efficacy of your library program.

Another  way to assess skills (and I completely stole this from librarian extroardinaire, Michelle Luhtala) is to create your own assessment using Google Forms.  This has some distinct advantages:
     1) You can personalize the test to your curriculum/students.
     2)  The answers feed to a sortable spreadsheet, for easy analysis.
     3)  If you add a "Do you feel confident, or would you like more help?" question, it is then easy to identify and help students who need further guidance.

I confess, I have not done much (read: anything) with assessment before this, but I plan to start this year.

I am about to start working with 10 and 11th graders as they prepare for their individual IB projects/extended essays; I'm going to create a pre-assessment quiz for both, and I'll post it here when I'm done.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I'm Back...

Greetings from Mongolia!  It's been a rougher start than I anticipated, emotionally speaking.  I was definitely on overload the first few weeks; but now that school has started, and the familiar routines are in place (school is school, wherever you are), I'm settling, getting a routine going, and figuring out where to buy those little things like, you know.....FOOD!

Anyway, I am in the process of getting the library set up, getting policies in place, etc.  This involves of lot of rethinking of the program I set up at my old school, upgrading things that worked,  revamping (or dropping) things that didn't.

I've done a couple mindmaps of the library website in specific, and the library program in general. Add your thoughts for anything I may have left out! Notice the one on the library program has nothing on literacy yet. I'm still thinking about what I want to do with that. I will update it in a few days.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why I Love Being A Librarian

The school took all of the new faculty out for a  welcome to Mongolia dinner last night. On the bus, I sat next to the totally adorable daughters of one of the other faculty, in 3rd and 6th grade.  We started chatting about UP (the 3rd grader quoting entire scenes to me!), books where the dog dies,  Greek and Egyptian mythology (guess what books those were!?) and several other topics.  Finally, one of them asked me, "What do you teach?"  When I told her "I'm the librarian," I swear on a stack of the OED, their faces just lit up!   They broke into huge smiles and said, "Oh, I'm going to spend lots of time in the library!"

That never happened when I was an English teacher!

(grin...and I'd bet anything I wouldn't have had that reaction if I'd said,  "I'm the media specialist...." Just sayin'.)

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Before I left, I checked to see if there was going to be a Kindle offering of Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay offered the same day as the hardcover release.  There was no mention of it., and I was STRESSED!!!  I've been reading that series avidly and and wanted to read the new book along with everyone else.

Well, hoorah, hoorah!  Just looked again on Amazon, and there it is!  I can't wait!!!
Publish Post

Not Just a Flash in the Pan

Greetings from Mongolia!  I've been here about three days now and, wonder of wonders, they hooked up my internet the first day.  Still haven't managed to go wireless yet, but at least I can connect!  I'm about to set out to walk down to the school (just a short walk down the road from my flat), to take a look at the library.

In the meantime, here's an interesting animation by Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto. It depicts the number of nuclear explosions/tests from 1945-1998.  It starts out pretty slowly, but certainly starts picking up at about the two minute point.  Oddly fascinating to watch the increase in both numbers and maps across the top and bottom, designating who was setting off the explosions.

According to the New Yorker, where I found the video, the animation shows only tests,  not possession, which, of courses, leaves Israel, among others, out of the picture.

Aside from the obvious topics for conversation with students--the plethora of tests during the 50's and 60's, the spread of proliferation, I also caught myself thinking about where the tests were occurring. France, for example, tested over 200 bombs....but certainly not in France.  While the US ran many tests in our country, it also tested many on Pacific Islands.  This would be a good discussion point with students: exploitation of poorer nations by wealthy/powerful nations.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Word Verification

Since I leave in, oh, 40 minutes (!), and will be offline for a while, I turned on the word verification for comments, since I won't be able to moderate them.  That helps reduce spam comments, but I know it's a headache for you!  Still, I want comments to be visible, and it may take a week or two for me to get thoroughly back online.  Bear with me!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

OK, NOW I'm On Hiatus!

Much to do today!  I leave in less than 24 hours, so this will be my last post until I'm a) at school or b) have the internet hooked up!  Next post from Mongolia!

Guest Blogger: I'll Meet You Where Two Worlds Collide

I am very pleased to introduce you to Bib 2.0's first guest blogger.  Meet Motzie, a teen who is working actively to build a positive digital footprint.  Motzie has some decided views on  schools' failure to meet students "where they're at," and I asked her to blog about that today.  So, without further ado.......

I'll meet you where two worlds collide

The aim of schooling and education is essentially to prepare students for life in the outside world.  Sure, we also learn content from subjects we enjoy and we strive to achieve grades high enough to allow us to go on to further education, but the hope is that we arrive at school as students, and leave as adults.  

So it stands to reason that the ‘school world’ should resemble the ‘outside world’.  There is no point keeping students completely sheltered from potentially negative influences, when there will not be that protection later on in life.  When a young employee finds himself dealing with a bullying boss, there won’t be a stern vice-principal to look down her nose at him until he slinks away, embarrassed.  Instead, we are taught techniques to develop self-confidence and to deal with situations calmly and safely. 

So why is it that teachers don’t use the same formula when teaching about digital footprints?  I can only speak from my own experience, but the limited education I have been exposed to on this topic has been sadly lacking.  The focus, rather than being on developing similar coping tactics and techniques for smart and safe internet usage, seems to be on scaremongering or blatant prohibition of resources such as social media sites.
At my school, Facebook and Myspace are amongst several sites that are blocked from the server.  Supposedly, no student can access these sites.  Every member of the student body knows, however, that there are ‘proxy’ sites that allow you to bypass site blocks.  And with that, the level of social media access during school hours rises significantly.  It’s an oldie, but a goodie: “The best way to make a teenager do something, is to tell them they can’t”.  Banning these sites only serves to make them more attractive to students, who see it as a way to rebel.  If the school says we can’t use it, then it must be ‘cool’ - because the ‘school world’ isn’t ‘our world’. 

My school has been lucky enough to upgrade a lot of its facilities with some government funding.  Unfortunately, they aren’t being used to their full potential just yet.  Some teachers are starting to use Interactive Whiteboards, but primarily as a projector for slideshows.  Computers are essentially a fancier way of writing up essays and reports.  And because of this, there are some students who believed the school is wasting money on upgrades that aren’t necessary.  None of these technologies are being used in an interactive, ‘Web 2.0’ way – there is little or no connection to the world outside of school.   

As a result of this, the only positive use of the internet and technology that we are being exposed to is for research, and the ‘online world’ remains completely separated from the ‘school world’, and students have little idea about the potential uses of technology in areas other than the social sphere.
As I see it, students would benefit more from a shift in focus on cyber education. Constant scare tactics and campaigns to make students aware of the consequences of irresponsible online behaviour have passed their expiration date.  

Instead, I believe a focus on the possible benefits of using the www would be more effective.  We’ve been told about the things that can go wrong, work with us to develop positive ways of using technology.  Teachers facilitating discussions about ways to foster a positive digital footprint, establishing blogs to allow comments and feedback about work, and incorporating the use of social media in coursework (characters from classic novels such as Pride and Prejudice have appeared on Twitter and retold the story in collaboration with the other characters, using Jane Austen’s language and first-person recount style) are all ways for teachers to demonstrate that technology is not simply a teenager’s social domain. 

The more obvious teachers make it that they may not understand all technology, the more students are likely to revel in the fact that they do.  ‘Our world’ needs to become part of the ‘school world’.  In fact, the ‘school world’ should be ‘our world’.  Because it is ‘our world’ that we need to be prepared for, and distinguishing that from school, which is essentially the longest occupation many of us will ever hold, will do us more harm than good.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Visualizing Unemployment

This is absolutely chilling.  Watching it should make the situation very real for students.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

K12 Online Conference: Call For Proposals

The K-12 Online Conference is now accepting proposals for 20 minute workshops in one of four strands:

Week One:
Student Voices: As educators and leaders, we need to listen to student voices and perspectives more as we make decisions about our schools and classrooms which affect students. Student presenters in our student voices strand must be sponsored by an educator, and presentation permission forms will need to be signed by a parent for each participating student. Individual as well as teams of student participants are welcome.

Leading the Change: Innovative approaches to teaching and learning using web 2.0 tools are often utilized by a limited number of “early adopter” teachers in our schools. This strand seeks to amplify ways educators in a variety of contexts are serving as constructive catalysts for broad-based pedagogic change using Web 2.0 technologies as well as student-centered, project-based approaches to learning.

Week Two:
 A Week In The Classroom: This strand will explore how teachers and students are tangibly bridging divides between instructors, learners, classrooms, content, and experts outside the traditional classroom. Presentations will also explore the practical pedagogical uses of online social tools (Web 2.0) giving concrete examples of how teachers are using the tools in their classes.

Kicking It Up A Notch: This strand amplifies ways new technologies can be used to transform classroom and personal learning. Rather than merely replicating traditional, analog-based learning tasks, how can digital technologies permit teacher-leaders to “infomate” learning to add greater interactivity, personal differentiation, and multi-modal exploration of curriculum topics?

I Knew This Was Going To Happen....

OK, so I'm on semi-hiatus.  I just had to  point this out to those who may not know.

Laurie Halse Anderson is sponsoring a contest (of sorts) on her blog: Write Fifteen Minutes A Day;  I think I'll do it; you can read the details here.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

On Hiatus

I leave for the new job in Mongolia in four days, still haven't packed, have a few last minute things to buy....I REALLY can't spend any time online, on the blog, on Twitter.--and I have to try to force myself to stick to that!  : )

So Bib 2.0 is on hiatus for a couple weeks, until I get settled in a new country, get the internet hooked up, etc.

My next blog post will be from Ulaanbaatar!  

Enjoy your new year, as everyone heads back to school!

LOC Implies Second Rate is Good Enough for K-12?

OK, so I'm still confused...and pretty outraged.

I blogged yesterday about the new DMCA exemptions that allow re-mixing of videos for non-commercial purposes.  It looked, from the EFFA article, like students and teachers were now "covered" if they ripped small portions of motion picture DVD's to include in analytical or satirical videos of their own making.

This morning I started slogging through the actual ruling, a marvel of legalese. The exemptions address two major concerns:  1) Whether teachers use tools such as Handbrake to bypass  digital protections in order to rip clips for class view/analysis (a big time-saver, when you're showing 4-5 clips in a class!) and 2) whether students can rip clips for use in analytical or satirical videos of their own making.  The initial proposal, in a nutshell, was this:
The proposed expansions of the class involved extending the class to include all of the motion pictures on CSSprotected DVDs contained in a college or university library (rather than just a film or media studies department) and to encompass classroom use by all college and university professors and students as well as elementary and secondary school teachers and students. [emphasis mine]
With the growth of media studies in K-12 schools, the necessity of incorporating visual literacy into our curricula at an early age and  the burgeoning of film production in schools, it is a no-brainer that K-12 teachers and students would be included in the exemptions, right?

Apparently not.
NTIA supports expansion of the existing class of audiovisual works to include all college and university level instructors and students but does not believe the record justifies an expansion that would include elementary and secondary school teachers and students...First, proponents for educators failed to demonstrate that high quality resolution film clips are necessary for K12 teachers and students, or for college and university students other than film and media studies students. Because other means, such as the use of screen capture software, exist that permit the making of lower quality film clips without circumventing access controls, the Register finds no justification in the record for expanding the class of works to include such persons as express beneficiaries of the designation of this class of works.
If I'm reading this correctly, the argument is that K-12 teachers/students (or non-film studies students in general) don't need high-quality video for the classes or projects. They can use screen-capturing software (such as Camtasia) to just record video off the screen.  (Have you ever tried doing that?  The results are TERRIBLE!)  Basically, this says secondary students don't need to turn out quality video work.  EXCUSE ME?

So it sounds like we're covered if students just screen capture segments to include in their videos, or if teachers do the same to incorporate segments of film into their classes.  But NOT if they use, say, Handbrake, to rip of section from a DVD.

Thus, the LOC's argument is patently ridiculous, and privileges college students as inherently more serious of purpose. Any old second-rate video is fine for the lower grades.  Obviously, these people a) don't remember being in college and b) have little clue as to the quality video work going on in elementary and secondary schools today.

Also, why is it OK for college professors to rip sections from DVD for class analysis, but I can't legally do the same for my high-school film class?  Do they really think that, say, the two year IB Film Studies is any less serious or academic than a one semester freshman class on intro to film? (Take a look at this walk-through on the IB Film Independent Study requirements, as an example). And it's not as if media classes are the only ones doing serious film analysis.  The History and French teachers at my school spend considerable time deconstructing and analyzing films in class.

Moreover,  have you ever tried using Camtasia to capture a video segment? I have.  It's useless for serious analysis, as it skips, freezes, leaves out dialogue, etc.  The capture rate is just not fast enough for film.

So, obviously, if I am reading this correctly (and let me know if I'm not!),  there is still work to be done here. The LOC needs to understand the type of work going on in schools today, and extend these exemptions to ALL academic levels. We need to bombard the Copyright Office with calls and emails expressing our needs and providing examples of the kinds of work our teachers and students do.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Mental Health Break

From Crispian Jago at Science, Reason and Critical Thinking

GameSalad: Make Games for iPad/iPhone...Without Programming!


With GameSalad, "the world’s most advanced game creation tool for non-programmers," users drag-and-drop  elements to create games for the iPhone or iPad.  Wouldn't that make a fun library club for middle-schoolers?  Create a collection of games made available to the entire school!

In fact, (older?) students could even sell their games through the App Store.

The app offers a variety of game styles, from shoot-em-ups to adventure to car racing, and the interface is clean and easy to understand.  The site provides both video and text-based support.

Gaming addresses several technology and curriculum standards as students develop story-telling skills through the game narrative, problem solve, work collaboratively, and more. It's well worth the time, and would certainly be motivating for many students.

Here's a brief introductory video to give you a sense of it all!

LOC Adds Fair-Use Exemption: Remixing Just Got Easier (And Legal)

One area of teaching Film Studies that's always a migraine-level headache is getting the students to use media ethically. Kids always want to include clips from their favorite DVD when we do, for example, movie trailers.

Those migraines just got demoted to run-of-the-mill headache level, as the LOC and Copyright Office recently added an exemption to the DMCA protecting video remixing. The Electronic Freedom Foundation, which filed the original lawsuit explained
The new rule holds that amateur creators do not violate the DMCA when they use short excerpts from DVDs in order to create new, noncommercial works for purposes of criticism or comment if they believe that circumvention is necessary to fulfill that purpose. Hollywood has historically taken the view that "ripping" DVDs is always a violation of the DMCA, no matter the purpose.
"Noncommercial videos are a powerful art form online, and many use short clips from popular movies. Finally the creative people that make those videos won't have to worry that they are breaking the law in the process, even though their works are clearly fair uses. That benefits everyone — from the artists themselves to those of us who enjoy watching the amazing works they create.
So Scary Mary is now legal! (though, really, it always was since it's parody. It's just that now Disney doesn't have an argument) You can read the full rule-making order here.

Of course the key here is that term "for purposes of criticism or comment."  We still need to ensure students are using these clips for new purposes: analysis, satire, parody, etc.  But that's just good teaching.

Oh, and for those of you far more technically inclined than I am...they also announced that it's ok to jailbreak your iPhone!

On a similar note, while digging around their site I ran across the EFF's Teaching Copyright, a set of 5 lessons, with accompanying handouts.  While I can only dream about teachers giving me enough time to run a mock trial, I like this site in that it leans more towards exercising "thou shalts" in copyright, rather than "thou shalt nots."  I don't think it's our job to be the copyright police; we need to promote student work and creativity, rather than raising unnecessary roadblocks.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reputation Management: Vizibility

 Now here's an interesting approach to ensuring colleges, potential employers, and others see your best digital footprint.

I tried Vizibility out, and I like it.  It's easy to use:  you give them your name, places of employment, and add keywords you would like them to include.  They return the search results, and you sift through them, deciding which to include and which to delete.  When you're finished, click done, and the site gives you a button to include on, emails, profiles, etc.  or the HTML to add to websites.

This, of course, does not stop potential employers from doing their own search and finding any less-than-perfect online information there may be about you, but it at least ensures they find the stuff you want them to find!

Check out my profile below.   And thanks to the Committed Sardine for the head's up on this.

UPDATE:   Hmmm, they obviously have some kinks to work out on the HTML code.  It doesn't seem to be posting.  See that faint shadow right under this?  That's supposed to be the button.  If you move the cursor over it, it highlights and will find the search--but no button, and it comes up as a broken link in edit mode.  I tried adding it using Blogger's HTML gadget, and it wouldn't show up at all.   The website says they don't offer technical support for this.  Hardly useful, or an approach that's going to garner them users/business!

But here's the link you would add to emails, your online profie, etc.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Coming (Soon?!) To a Browser Near You: Tab Candy

I currently have about 12 tabs open on my browser.  Only 6 of them show; the others are buried in a list. One of my teachers at work always has about 26 tabs open in his browser.  It is very unwieldy and hard to keep track of all the different tabs. I'm always inadvertantly closing something I actually need.

It's still in Beta, but Firefox is working on a solution to all of this, and it looks sweet.  Here's the video.

An Introduction to Firefox's Tab Candy from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.

Doug Started It!!! The Essential Tech Tools Meme

Read Doug Johnson's post today for this to make sense.  He's right, though;  I realized last year, I was throwing WAY too many tools at the teachers; I needed to winnow it down to essentials, then add any others on either an ad hoc basis, or gradually, as they incorporated the others into their daily strategies.

So what are my Essential Six Apps?

Google Apps:  (kind of a cheat, because it includes so much, but that gets me docs, plus Google Sites, so I have a wiki).

iMovie:   Really, we have to stop privileging textual literacy.  Visual literacy is just as important (and arguably more important) in today's world. 

Facebook:  I admit, I love it. Because of my nomadic life, my friends are so far-flung, it's an easy way to keep in touch without spending 8 hours a day on email.

Skype:  It wouldn't have made the list if I weren't moving to Mongolia in 7 days.....I taught my Dad how to use it a few weeks ago, and he's now much happier about the whole thing. Ditto my SO, who gets his lesson this weekend.

Blogger/Wordpress:  Some sort of blogging software!  I have a blog on both, but Bib 2.0 is my raison d'etre these days.

NY Times website.

As to gadgets...I'm happy with my laptop and a good flash drive.

So....tag, you're it?  What apps/sites/gadgets do you find indispensable?

Free Online Grading Program Launches Soon

The ReadWriteWeb announced the launching of LearnBoost's online grading program  yesterday.  You can sign up here to be one of the first to receive a free account.  A good thing to share with teachers and administrators, especially in these days of funding crises.

From the RWW article:
The tool manages gradebooks, lesson plans, attendance and will integrate with Google Calendar - providing one account, rather than multiple accounts, to manage the classroom. LearnBoost operates on the freemium model, with a free tool as well as premium features, and as such promises to offer substantial savings to cash-strapped schools. But it's not just price that makes LearnBoost a compelling choice for educators. The product was developed and designed with teacher input, and much care was taken in the user interface.

Google Lookup

A feature you might not have known about in Google docs (spreadsheets).  You can view a text-based explanation here.  It's strictly a fact-based thing, and maybe more useful for the sciences, but I've used it for generating lists of authors/novels, presidents/terms, etc.