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.