Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Power of Vision

Lifelong Role of Libraries

Stephen's Lighthouse reposted this slide from Bill DeJohn at the University of Minnesota.  Click to enlarge.


The complete awesomeness of this just rocks my world!   Gale has created an iPhone App allowing students to access your Gale databases.  There's also one for public libraries.  Talk about reaching students where they live!!

I've downloaded it, and it's easy to use.  Just make sure students load the school version, and not the public library version.  Just call up the App store, type Gale in the search, and the two apps pop up in the first 4-5 results.  Then search for your school by state, type in your database password and you're good to go!

You can get more info here.  You can also bet that if Gale's doing it, others won't be far behind.

A Must Read...and It's Free.

Another reason to love Doug Johnson: He wrote a wonderful little book that every librarian should read...and made it a free download.

I can best describe Machines are the easy part as the "Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" for the teacher/librarian.  These are  not detailed policies or how-to's for technology, but snippets of incredible and often-overlooked wisdom we would all do well to remember.  Basically, in an easy-to-read form, Doug encapsulates the philosophies that should drive both our technology use and our decision making.

I've been reading it this morning, and here is just one snippet that struck me as profound in its simplicity:
Change anything, and someone is not going to like it.  But some people will...the real key to getting people to accept a new way of doing things is the What's In It For Me factor.  Show people how the new policy, technology or plan is going to 1) make their jobs easier, 2) make them more efficient, 3) make them more effective.

If the change doesn't result in one of these things happening, you might want to question your motive for asking people to make the change.  To make YOUR life easier is not sufficient reason (p 25).
I have always been one of the "I enjoy theory, but give me something I can do in class tomorrow" types, and I try to show teachers how technology can make their lives/jobs easier...but I need to do a better job of that and this was a good reminder not to get carried away by my own tech-enthusiasm.

The book also gave me the title for my re-branded blog, which I hope will be up in the next week or two:  The Imperative Library   (which probably also gives a nod to Buffy Hamilton's The Unquiet Library/Librarian).  In these days of slashing libraries and jobs, how do we make sure we, and the libraries we run, are an imperative in the school?

Reading Doug's book is a good start for everyone.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Share Your Screen with Skype

I was trying to explain to my 78 year old dad yesterday how to log in to his blog. (And how cool is it that my 78-year-old Dad is keeping a blog!?) I was trying to talk him through it on Skype--it would have been a lot easier had I known that Skype recently added a share your screen feature.

To Share Your Screen (for Mac and Windows)

Once your call is in progress, go to Call>Share Screen.

How easy is that?

You will need Skype 2.8 for Mac and 4.1 for Windows. 

Screen sharing is available in Skype 2.8 for Mac and Skype 4.1 for Windows.  You can share your screen with someone who has an older version and they will be able to see it, but they won't be able to share their own.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Via Laurie Halse Anderson's Facebook page...some students in Oregon put together this music video with an original song, based on her book, Chains.  Notice, especially, the excellent use of multiple camera angles to good effect, and the superb selection of the MLK video at the end. I admit, I teared up.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Order in the Court!

OK, I've probably been watching too much Law and Order or To Kill a Mockingbird one too many times!  But if your classes are studying the Supreme Court and/or the recent appointments, you may be interested in these resources from the Library of Congress.

They provide a collection of documents for the last five nominations, including Harriet Myers, a hotlist of websites related to each nominee, and links to transcripts from the hearings.

It would be interesting to role play the hearings.  Students take various rolls, read a pre-selected set of documents to prepare, then spend a class period or two conducting mock hearings for Elena Kagan. It would be good practice on debate and parliamentary procedure, too.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I really had to...

As a long, ardent and hard-core Buffy fan, I was thrilled to run across this today.

Anyone remember the episode from Season 5 ("Checkpoint") when a visiting Watcher tells Spike, somewhat abashedly, "I wrote my thesis on you"  (I told you I was a hard core fan...)?

Well, a group of geek-fans got together and wrote the thesis.  Complete with annotations, fake bibliography, the works.  Spike lovers, rejoice!

Skype an Author!

Apparently, my school in Mongolia brings in an author once a year--which, as you can imagine, can get a little expensive.  But whether you're in Mongolia or Montana, author visits can be as easy (and inexpensive!) as a Skype call. Started by Ramona Kirby and Sarah Chauncey, Skype an Author hosts a growing list of authors, with an option for a free 10-15 minute "Meet the Author" session, or an in-depth, fee-based visit you arrange with the author.

What a great idea this is, and what a powerful motivator to promote reading!  It would be easy to schedule monthly quick sessions, with maybe one or two in-depth visits each year.  While nothing beats having a living, breathing author in the building, this would be either a wonderful supplement if you have the budget, or a nice alternative to bringing someone in.

For more information, Joyce Valenza's TL Ning is sponsoring a live webinar on June 7th.  You can found out more here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Free Web Developers

I've decided it's time to look more "professional" and upgrade the blog to an actual website.  For one thing, it will give me a lot more flexibility with content development, allowing me extra pages and tabs for specific information.

For example, I was pondering whether to start a blog devoted just to film studies, and another for international librarianship.  But who wants to write three blogs??  I can barely keep one going!  A website that allowed for blog posts would let me create separate pages for each area, but all part of the same site.

So I've been looking around for a web development tool--other than trusty old iWeb--that would give me both the ease and flexibility I want.

Well.  Who knew there had been such an explosion in website tools?  It seemed like a good idea to do a series of posts briefly describing some of what's available.

I blogged a while back about Wix.  It's a great tool, but more towards professional sites, rather than classroom based.  I will probably use it to develop my workshop site. It makes it easy to develop interactive, Flash-based content. and uses a WYSIWYG drag and drop interface.  Downside: Ads, unless you pay for a premium account.

While not as intuitive as Wix, Yola makes up for this by having great help/support pages. It's the site I'm using to upgrade Bib20.  It's advertising free, which is imperative for educational purposes, and offers plenty of free, customizable templates (though the really cool ones require an upgrade to the silver account). Like Wix, you can upload multiple media formats.

Next post:  Hipero, Jimdo, Webs and Weebly

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Up-To-Date and In-Depth

I discovered The Hechinger Report today.  A product of Columbia Teachers' College and the Hechinger Institute on Education and Media, the site does in-depth reporting on educational news and trends.

A combination of articles, blogs,  in-depth reports, opinion and analysis, THR believes "Fewer and fewer reporters at the nation’s largest newspapers and wire services are covering national education issues full time. As a result, critical issues do not get the attention they deserve."   They aim to fill the gap.

They caught my eye with this article on the current round of teaching-bashing in the main stream media.

Support Ed Tech Funding!

Remember, today is Tweet/Blog for Ed Tech day. Ensure the government directly funds educational technology in schools!  For more info check here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Just How Big Is It?

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is fast shaping up to be the biggest environmental disaster ever in the U.S.  It's hard to grasp the sheer enormity of it.

The Google Earth blog  has posted some great links over the past few days related to the oil spill. Google has now created a Crisis Response page, a series of KML files you can download that help visualize the disaster.  There is also an interactive map you can use if you don't want to download the file, as well as links to other sources.

To bring the spill even closer to home (so to speak!), Paul Rademacher, an engineering manager for Google, created this plug-in that allows users to compare the spill to various cities, including their own home town.  A great tool for helping students (and teachers!) get their head around the sheer size of this thing.

UPDATE:  I got curious and started looking around for lesson plans  on oil spillls.  There are plenty out there, but this one looked especially interesting:  students create their own "oil spill" and try to work out methods for clearing it up.  Comes with student handouts and full lesson plan.  I'm not a science person, but it seems very adjustable for grades 6 on up.

Monday, May 10, 2010

This is a Bad Idea

I don't want to be one of those whiners who complain that, because their pet project isn't being funded, the government in general and the White House in specific is ignoring them and destroying America.  It's hard times, and sacrifiices need to be made.  It's not "why, me?"  but "Why not me?"

However....(you knew that was coming, didn't you?) this one does seem counter-intuitive to everything Obama campaigned on, educationally speaking: moving us into the 21st century, promoting meaningful use of technology, etc.

In its FY11 budget proposal, the Obama administration eliminated the EETT (Enhancing Education Through Technology) program, the only federal source of direct funding for technology education, according to ISTE. The plan is to "infuse" technology through the rest of the federal programs.

Is it just me, or is this a bad idea?  It's been my experience that unless something is specifically mandated, monies disappear into the general funds and you never see them again.  If you look at the graph at the end of the link above, there is a disturbing trend in technology funding:  levels dropped from a high of 700 million in 2002 to only 100 million in 2010. 

Only 100 million for technology funding?  And we want to lead the world in the 21st Century? Now, apparently, even that is in danger.

But you can help.

On May 12th, ISTE is sponsoring  Tweet and Blog for Ed Tech.  From the link:
As part of this effort, ISTE is asking all of those concerned about the future of ed tech to start Tweeting.  Tweet about your concerns.  Tweet about your successes.  Tweet about your needs.  Tweet about your future.  Where possible, tag Tweets with #edtech or #EETT so the ed tech community can see the strength of its voice.  Tweets for #edtech is not just an effort for the 100,000 members of ISTE. It is for anyone who is concerned about the future or how we can use school improvement to improve our nation.

See you on Twitter!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Living on the Edge with Doug Johnson

I just finished Doug Johnson's new book, School Libraries Head for the Edge.  I must admit, I bought it a while ago, and it sat around for a few months.  I should have cracked it open sooner.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know Doug is a personal guru of mine.  Well, not mine personally, but.....oh, you know what I mean! I blogged about the thrill of meeting him at ISTE a couple years ago.

Anyway, I like his very down-to-earth  been there, done that, we're in it for the kids approach to libraries.  He's idealistic without being impractical, and he's willing to call out the profession when he needs to. I can respect that.

The book is a collection of his "Head for the Edge" columns for the Library Media Connection. And, as I prepare to start building a library program in Mongolia, it's really helping me think through what I'm happy about with my current program, and where I need to improve it.

He covers everything from values to technology, and is seriously re-thinking what it means to be a library media specialist in this age of increasing layoffs. As he says in the intro: "As education changes because of the information explosion, everyone's role in it will change, including yours and mine." The rest of the book explores how to make your library a meaningful, influential and integral part of the school.

This is a must-read, and ought to be on the reading list of every library school; in fact, I'm going to email a couple of my old professors at Pitt and suggest it.

Zonkk: Create your own social networking site

This is brief as I start playing with it, but you might want to check out Zonkk, a new social networking tool which just went public. 

I say tool, because rather than being a pre-set up site a la Ning, Zonkk allows you to set up your own social networking site, with a pretty hefty (and slightly confusing) set of features.

The website is currently pretty weak on details or tutorials.  I hope they're working on that. But if the photos they give up sites already up and running are anything to go by (and why aren't there links so we can look at them for ideas?), this has potential for schools as a whole or individual classes.

While it's free, there are the inevitable ads on the website you create.  It will cost you $15/month to get rid of those.

I'll post more details once I've had time to play with it.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Flying anywhere? This is a GEM!

If you're tall like me, flying can be agony, trying to cram your 6'2" frame into those cramped seats.  Here's Seat Guru--which gives you seat schemes for any type of aircraft, and recommends which seat you should try to get.  I am definitely using this for that 23 hour flight to Mongolia!

Here's the article that lead me to the site, with some good advice for getting a good seat.

Dumbest Ad Ever

I guess Yahoo! has decided to take on Google, but what's with this ad?   They try to compare My Yahoo (I assume) with the straight-up Google search engine.  Hellooo???  Did they forget about iGoogle, which is infinitely more personizable (is that a word?) than Yahoo. Not to mention the themes totally rock, while Yahoo's are incredibly boring.  

Google Wave: Update

If, like me, you were somewhat bemused about what to do with Google Wave, here's an excellent
post from Fast Company explaining the recent updates to Wave and why they make it more usable.

Still need an invite for Wave?  I think I have a few left--just leave me your email address in the comments.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

First Diigo, then, Evernote

Do you ever feel like we're constantly re-inventing the wheel?  Web 2.0 can be something like that,  as we run across  new or, at least new-to-us apps similar to other apps we're already using.

Having jumped on the iCyte wagon, I groaned inwardly on discovering Evernote.  Another web-based notetaking app! But I must say, I like it. It straddles a fine line: more feature-rich than iCyte (and thus a bit less user-friendly) yet not as confusing as Diigo.

Moreover, it doesn't just store your data in the cloud.  You can download a desktop app, a smart phone app, and they all sync with your online data, making your notebooks available wherever you are.

While that's very useful, I think the notebooks make Evernote the go-to app over, say, iCyte and Diigo.  All three allow you to capture websites, make screen grabs, etc.  Only Evernote allows you to sort them into folders or notebooks.  While diehard social taggers consider folders so 20th century, most of us like the extray layer of organizaiton it allows.

Here's a screen-grab of the desktop application.  In the upper right you can see I have three folders created, though currently it's showing all the material in all the folders.  That includes photos taken with iSight, to do lists I created on the iPhone, as well as websites I visited and documented.

In the online version, you can see similar features.  Here, I've selected the "renaissance" folder, and the screen shots of those websites appear.
  If I click on one, it becomes editable, with a nifty feature showing the URL and the date I grabbed the shot (great for citation).

Create a new text note (in rich-text format, I might add), and it can either be straight-forward text, in a clickable to do list format or a table.  Though I must say, that function needs some work.  To make a to do list, you have to go up to the icon and click it for every new line.  VERY annoying and time-consuming.  You ought to be able to click it once, and have the rest of the note in the selected format.

In edit mode, users can also attach files to documents.  For example, if students took a screen shot of a painting, and they downloaded an article about that painting from a database, they could attach the pdf file to the shot of the image.

Like iCyte, Evernote worked with the databases--in fact, it could either just select specific portions, or grab the entire article, which was nice.  If I opted to just grab sections of an article, I could separate them with a line tool, making it easy to distinguish among the sections, instead of having one long block of paragraphs.

Students doing multimedia projects would find this especially useful for keeping their material organized, and I'm thinking of my documentary makers here.   They can collect all of their online research, use their smart phones to add B-roll images of documents or stills, as well as record audio interviews.  Once all of this is synced onto their laptop Evernote app, it's draggable to be used in video editing software.

Of course, this is imminently usable for personal organization as well.  Though I find all of management apps fall apart in one area for me:  they assume I'm organized enough to put all that info in the app in the first place...which I'm usually not.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Coolest Thing Ever!

You definitely need to share this with your English teachers! Many Eyes is more than just a Wordle clone.  While it works in a similar manner, it provides an option that's very useful for literary analysis.

I taught English--everything from 7th grade up to IB and AP--for twenty years before switching to the library, and one constant during those years was the students' difficulty in recognizing recurring patterns. Many Eyes offers a wonderful tool for helping students  visualize these: the word tree.

Instead of just creating a word cloud, useful enough for analysis in its own way, Many Eyes allows users to generate a word tree, which shows the context where the word appears.

For example, I input the text from Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper";  the narrator repeatedly uses the phrase "but John says" (or something similar), demonstrating her submission to her husband's will over her own desires.  Students often fail to note this on their initial reading.

Once I submitted the text, I typed the word "John" into the search box, generating the tree below:

The resultant tree allows students to focus on, for example, the forceful verbs, actions and attitudes related to John, and allow for great specificity when discussing his character.

Moreover, each of those trees is clickable, to focus on specific areas.  I ran another test to examine the narrator, only known as "I."  It generated quite the word tree...

..but I could focus specifically on the "don't" aspect of her thoughts.

Obviously, any word can be part of the search, so this would be excellent for symbols as well.

Of course, the big drawback is finding a digitized text; otherwise, you'd have to type it all in yourself. Also, be aware that whatever text is submitted, it remains public and available for others; thus, copyright becomes an issue.

Need an Idea: It's Free?

The folks over at ICT in Education put together this free book "Amazing Web 2.0 Projects." Worth checking out. From their website:

* 87 projects.
* 10 further resources.
* 52 applications.
* 94 contributors.
* The benefits of using Web 2.0 applications.
* The challenges of using Web 2.0 applications.
* How the folk who ran these projects handled the issues...
* ... And what they recommend you do if you run them.
* What were the learning outcomes?
* And did I mention that this is free?!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

JayCut: New and Improved!

Jaycut used to be my go-to tool for online video editing.  It was WONDERFUL as an excuse-breaker for students when editing their video.  No more "we can't get together" problems.  But then it closed down.

Well, guess what?  Jaycut's back, and better than ever with a sleek new design. The account is free, and once you've uploaded the video, allows simple editing.  You can cut clips, add titles, transitions and audio with multiple tracks.  It allows publishing either online or as a desktop download.

Here's a sample video I put together using their preset videos/audio, with a simple title in front and a dissolve about halfway through.

Get Mischievous...

I'm torn on this one.  Microsoft recently added a free tool for Power Point that basically functions like those expensive clicker sets that were all the rage a while back. The tool, Mouse Mischief, allows teachers to embed interactive quizzes into their presentations, theoretically making students more active participants in the learning process. The tool also allows teachers to build in quick checks for understanding.

You can access the eSchool News article here.

Since I'm torn on PP presentations, anyway--not very many people do them well (including me, I might add), and they tend to lead to rather deadly lists of points, as this recent article on their use in the military points out, and this classic blog post from Creating Passionate Users.

It could be interesting for simple gaming and reviews, especially for elementary-age students, but the types of responses it allows--yes/no, multiple choice--are definitely NOT the kinds of questions older students should be spending much time on.  So, possibly useful for introductory stages, but not much beyond that?

Or, as I said, on those rare occasions when we have to resort to PP lectures, a good way to monitor students' attention!

UPDATE:  Unfortunately, this  only works with Windows.  No Mac version.  Grrrrr.....