Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Twitter Book Club

I am on page 147 of People of the Book: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks. I am loving this book - partially because it is about a very old, very rare Haggadah, and Passover starts next week. I didn't realize the timeliness of my spring break reading until I started reading the book.

I twittered about loving the book, and then I thought - how about a Twitter book club? I got several positive responses, so here goes: A Twitter Book Club about People of the Book.

Now it turns out I am not the first one with this idea (big surprise). Vegan YumYum, a blogger who is a vegan cook, did a Twitter book club about Twilight. And Picador, an imprint, has a book club too. I found a couple other ones - each trying it out in different ways. Here is what I'd like to try. Your input is more than welcome.

1. Read People of the Book.
2. Twitter about how you feel/what you think of as you read. Use the hashtag #potb.
3. If you have already read the book, you can post too!
4. No spoilers, but feel free to refer to certain page numbers - i.e. -pg 124, Can't believe Hanna did that - so out of character!
5. Once in a while, search the #to see what people are writing, and respond to them, still using the #. And maybe subscribe to the feed for #potb.
6. Let's finish it up by April 15th - the last day of Passover. If that is too soon, we can extend it.
7. If it works, we can start doing one per month!

Part of a great book club is having deep discussions about the text. Obviously this may not happen. But I am a working mom - I don't always have time to meet and discuss in depth!
I also like book clubs that bring in information about the author, etc. This site has it all - even an excerpt read by the author. We should explore this site and share favorite parts via twitter as well, still with the #potb hashtag.

Let me know what you think! Will you join me in the book club?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Yes, We Have That!

When a student asked for a rope the other day, I wasn't surprised to tell him that we had one. He needed it for a clothesline on which to hang some painted t-shirts to dry. We didn't have clothespins, but he used big paperclips instead.

We have many unexpected items /services we provide at our library. Karen, the Library Director, is very crafty and has been found fixing broken flip flops and backpacks. We also store big projects that do not fit in student lockers in my office - not to mention the snacks and birthday cakes (oh the temptation!).

Besides the regular office supplies, the students ask for a variety of objects that we usually have! I do love teaching 16-year-olds about office supplies however. They never know the name of the staple remover, and they love learning how to get paper clips out of the dispenser.

A side note - when our stapler is out of staples, we have noticed our boys ask for a new stapler, and the girls ask for staples to load the current one. Hmm.. what can gender studies specialists say about that?
We have safety pins, stamps, lint removers, markers, and wrapping paper.
We have math supplies,

we have old technologies,

we have items to take care of students when they are hurt,

and of course, I could do a whole other post on what we have put in the lost and found (underwear?)!

What unique and handy services do you provide (that are not library-related)? What useful items do you have that the students sometimes need?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Privacy for our Students

The student body at many independent schools includes some famous people's children, or children and young adults who are famous themselves. Privacy is important for all minors, but especially those who are targets for the paparazzi. As we move into global collaboration and communication, the privacy issue gets difficult. How can we protect our students but still participate? I do not want to compromise their privacy.

In my blog for my students (and also in the student led blog about campus happenings which I advise), we sometimes have a Picasa or Flickr slide show. When I look at my pictures, I have to compare each child with the photo release forms their parents filled out for the school. I cannot put any captions on the pictures, and if I mention a student in a story it can only be the first name and first initial of the last name.

I recently had a privacy problem with Flickr. I put up a slide show of the students and I marked all the privacy settings so supposedly nobody could tag or comment of the photos. I didn't want anyone to tag their friends. After about 7 emails so far back and forth with customer service, I am still left wondering how somebody was able to make a comment (the customer service was really unhelpful, by the way - I could tell they didn't really read my problem carefully).

If we make a wiki, or something else interactive and public, the student cannot use their last name, even without any pictures attached. But their school email addresses have their last names. If a screen name includes an email address, the students are compromised. We don't want to attach their last names to our school in a public way. We can get around this by using the Moodle version of the wiki and forums, which is good, but not public. And therefore, the conversation stays in just their class community, presenting pros and cons.

The athletes don't seem to care. The kids could get written up in the LA Times sports section, with their last names and schools, and in that case it is good - good for colleges to see, and fine with the parents. I suppose when they decide to play football, for instance, they understand it makes their lives more public.

In LibGuides, there is a cool tool that allows you to have a box where students submit links to other students. I put it on my 7th grade LibGuide for Middle East culture. When kids fill out the information, their full name is essentially put on the Internet. I have not yet asked LibGuides if there is a way to customize this, but I sign in every day and delete their user-submitted links, which I then add to the Google Custom Search for the project. That takes away form the visible collaboration with students that I am trying so hard to achieve. I told them not to write their last names, but they still do it. They are 7th graders, after all!

The kids can have aliases in other tools like Glogster, for example, but that is a lot for a teacher to keep track of, if the teacher wants to grade on participation. I suppose we just need to do a great job on educating our kids about the importance in privacy, and how to achieve it in the online world.

Our band teacher posted a YouTube video of our middle school students playing a rock song. The 12-year-old female guitar player was especially fantastic and cool. The teacher didn't put any names up, he didn't mention the school - so all was clear. But wouldn't it be great to be able to give these kids credit? It is so sad that it is so anonymous, though I completely understand why it has to be this way.

As independent school librarians we have to be particularly vigilant to work with our educational technology specialists and together teach how important maintaining privacy is. But no matter how much we teach it, sometimes the 2.0 tools will test our rules.

Librarians have a history of protecting the privacy of their patrons. How can we reconcile the need for privacy and the desire for collaborative and social use of these new teaching tools?

What privacy issues have you encountered, and how do you resolve them?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

LibraryThing and InfoCentre

I have been having trouble with my school account on LibraryThing. I use it to highlight our new books to our community. Each month or so, I import records from InfoCentre, our integrated library system, into LibraryThing. It seems so easy - I can batch import, and tag the whole batch with the same tag (I use NewMonthYear, for instance, NewMarch2009). Sounds perfect, right?
Well, I must be doing something wrong, because in a batch of ninety three, ten are duplicated - often with different cover pictures! Does anyone else have this problem? I'd love your help.

(Update! I figured it out! The MARC records for the duplicated books had more than one ISBN in them, and since I don't do the cataloging at my library, I didn't realize that would happen sometimes. I have since asked the cataloger to only include in the record the ISBN of the book we actually have.)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

How did You Jump into Library 2.0?

I am trying to remember how and why I started embracing the 2.0 technologies.

I think LibraryThing (I am bwoodreader) was my first real adventure into social networking, but I really didn't end up using it in a social way. I suppose you could call it my gateway drug. Now I use it more to keep track of what I have read, with tags to remind me about the content. I should write reviews, but I rarely do. I also have a school account on it to help publicize the new books.

After that, I started paying attention to new integrated library systems. I wanted my catalog to be as interactive as LibraryThing. Alas, InfoCentre is incompatible with LibraryThing, but we are planning on getting a new ILS in the next year or two. We are part of a consortium which shares a catalog, so we have to make the big change all together - it will take time.

By then I was hooked on the idea of 2.0 - I wanted more interaction. I started using Delicious (I am eabarban), then Google Reader (well, really all things Google), Facebook (for home and work - FB just changed their format for Pages, so I am still working on this one), Twitter (I am eabarbanel), LibGuides, and finally, Storytlr (I am just starting with this - here is my story). Now my kids ask me why I my computer tweets so much (I use TweetDeck, which makes a sound when a new tweet comes in). I really ought to shut the laptop!

Here is the important part: all of the tools I am attracted to seem to make my small independent school library world bigger. I have more contact with more librarians around the world, and that is really exciting to me. I learn about what other librarians care about, read, make, teach. I try to bring some of that to my library. I know there are more tools just waiting for me to jump on board (but frankly I don't know if I can add another just yet!).

I do want to teach my students more 2.0 skills, but right now it isn't really a part of the library curriculum. They use LibGuides, sure, and I do teach Delicious to the seniors, but I don't teach blogging or wikis - it isn't what the teachers want right now. Or, if they do, they use Moodle for the wikis, and it has little to do with the library. In this case the teachers are doing it in the classroom - and isn't that one of the goals? We also have education technologists working with the classes on simulation games that use blogs and web pages. In the library we teach research and evaluation skills but not creative collaboration skills in the library...yet.
  • How have you jumped into 2.0?
  • What tools do you recommend for the novice?
  • Which tools do you use for yourself, and which for your students?
  • Have you integrated your 2.0 life into your curriculum?
I'd love to read your journey!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Engaging the Eye Generation - Book Tour!

Today is blog stop #1 for Johanna Riddle and her new book, Engaging the Eye Generation: Visual Literacy Strategies for the K-5 Classroom. (See my previous post for a short overview of the book.) I was lucky to have a Q & A with Ms. Riddle.

You had a lot of energy and inspiration when you started your job in Florida. What advice do you have to new School Library Media Specialists who don't know quite how to get started?

I am well known for my bursts of enthusiasm, often followed by a bout of head scratching and a “now what?” However, I can recommend a few essentials, guaranteed to get any new media specialist off to a sound start.
First, get to know your collection. After all, you are your school’s expert on these resources! That means not only making time to review the subjects, formats, reading levels, and relevance of the materials your have, but finding out how those resources fit into your school’s learning landscape. It is so easy to become, and remain, bogged down in the myriad demands of each day. (My media clerk, Becky Blankenship, and I used to call it “death by minutia”), but carve out some time familiarize yourself with your framework. Get to know the standards and benchmarks of each subject area, and take a good look at the new NETS standards for teachers. You add value to your school and your media center when you have the expertise to help students and teachers draw connections between those resources and your school’s curriculum. It also helps you to identify the holes in your collection, and begin to devise a meaningful map for future acquisitions.
I would also advise new media specialists to cultivate a sense and scope for their roles as leaders, learners, and collaborators. Information Power (1998, AASL and AECT) is the best book that I know for clearly defining the multiple roles of school media specialists. I can’t tell you how many times I read and re-read it. I also looked around my school district for the most dynamic media centers that I could find, and simply asked to spend a little time with the media specialist who created and cultivated these exceptional programs. The programs were widely diverse, yet shared a common thread of excellent management and a sincere desire to be of service to the teachers, students, and parents of their learning community. I would have to add that the National Board process further encouraged me to identify and prioritize principles of effective media instruction and service.
Finally, be kind to yourself. I found working in the media center to be the ultimate professional growth experience. Found your media center on a desire to be of service to your school community, and relevant to the needs of today’s learners. Begin with the technology tools you have on hand, and strategize on ways to include them in student learning. Cultivate a willingness to grow with your profession, and you will achieve great things.

You say that collaboration is key and making "small learning communities" is ideal. Sometimes teachers use the time that the students go to the library to get other work done - have you found this to be a stumbling block? Have you had trouble encouraging teachers to stay with you and help with the class while doing some of these labor-intensive projects? Do they collaborate on many levels of the experience?

The answers to these questions are as diverse as the teachers who comprise any given faculty. If you build it, will they come? Certainly, there are teachers who are more eager to collaborate. Those teachers see collaboration as the way to make learning richer and more relevant for their students. They also tend to view the media center as more of a learning resource for their students. Other teachers are not as eager—they may perceive collaborative teaching as being too different from their teaching style, or too much trouble, or perhaps working with another teacher makes them feel nervous and exposed in some ways. (One of the side benefits of being a media specialist is that we quickly cultivate a comfort level with our own humanity---after all, we're "on" just about one hundred percent of the time.) They may view the media center primarily as a place to check out books, and your primary role as the shelver and duster of those books. You have to build that vision for shared learning. When you know your resources and your curriculum, you can begin to suggest collaborations. Begin with teachers who want to work with media resources and then share those first models with the rest of the faculty. Be proactive about asking teachers how you can participate with them to maximize student learning. Think of collaboration as an initiative that you are tending within your school community. Over time, that initiative will grow.
The best collaborations are the ones where each teacher brings their respective strengths to the table, rather than simply dividing a set of tasks. We’re aiming for synergy here! Planning and management are key. Sit down with the classroom teacher and spell out that plan together. For example, a fifth grade teacher and I decided to teach a unit on early explorers. After some joint planning (some of which was formal sit down planning—augmented by quick emails or a word or two in the hallway), we decided to co-teach a whole group class, outlining and demonstrating the skills and processes that we would be addressing, and providing a foundation of general knowledge for the students. A second session used learning centers to guide students through the processes gathering and organizing multi source research—again, in a team teaching format. After that, the classroom instructor and I worked independently to teach in our particular areas of focus— the classroom teacher handled the writing component of a project while I helped students take, create, or gather digital images, and to organize those images. Finally, the teacher sent small groups of students to the media center to “put it all together” while she continued to cover the topic through learning centers in her classroom. The teachers, the students, and I all knew where we were going—and why we were going there---before we began the process. A side benefit is on-the-job skill acquisition for teachers. I know that I learned more about teaching writing skills from this process, while the classroom teacher adapted my “cut and paste” research technique to future classroom projects. We shared our project with the faculty, entered it into the county social studies fair, and hung an exhibit of student work in the school hallway. And guess what? The next year, another fifth grade teacher asked if I would be willing to work with him and his students in the same way, while a third grade teacher asked if we could use the same approach, with age appropriate skills, to teach a research unit on Medieval times.
Scheduling is a prime consideration in establishing and promoting a collaborative atmosphere in your school. Your principal is the main determiner of the schedule for your media center. If she supports an open media center—the optimal schedule—then it will be much easier to establish and maximize collaborative teaching models. If the role of your media schedule is to provide a steady wheel of planning time for classroom teachers, then the task becomes infinitely more difficult. I worked with a mixed schedule for most of my media career—about half of the time was whole group schedule, with the classroom teacher present, and the other half, open media, which provided time for small group and independent learning. The last year, drastic district actions meant that I was dually cut to half time employment and assigned the new the role of filling in a special area gap. That decision dramatically changed the look and feel of our programs. I did a lot of small group teaching on my lunch break and after school!—but the collaborative nature of teaching was greatly diminished. The further we compartmentalize curriculum and fragment schedules, the more isolated school centered learning becomes, which, is, of course, quite the opposite of the collaborative learning and communication that students engage in during their “off school” hours.

The jewelry box metaphor you use to explain drives and files is helpful. What other metaphors have you found successful?

I was an art teacher for many years. My unofficial motto is “Show me a visual.” I also believe in the notion of moving from concrete to abstract. One of my favorite metaphors is to demonstrate the notion of layering images with Photoshop Elements by showing my students a stack of clear report covers, each with an image drawn on them, or a color added. As I begin to stack the images, adding more detail, students begin to make the connection to the layering process of PSE software. And, of course, storyboarding is a metaphor of types for digital storytelling. I describe our glorious amalgams of index cards, sticky notes, and tape on page 67 and 68 of my book. “Stir me a Story (p. 59) also provides a visual image to help primary students understand how the parts of a story come together to form a whole.

I notice you like the tried and true technologies like PowerPoint and Photoshop. Have you used any new Web 2.0 technologies like Glogster or Mixbook to achieve some of your goals?

During the first few years of my work in the media center, district perimeters afforded much freer access to trials and free downloads. My students and I began our journey into visual literacy using those free resources. It was a district decision to narrow that range, simultaneously increasing firewalls and diminishing school based administrative rights. (In fact, our media specialists no longer have administrative rights to load their own programs on media center computers—they must request that a district tech specialist come out to the school to load all programs). These restrictions made it necessary to focus on maximizing the possibilities of the programs that I owned outright. However, we’ve had fun developing several blog sites, using them to gather resources, share work, and communicate with each other. You can check out one of those at http://mrsriddle.blogspot.com.
I do encourage my students to work with a variety of platforms and software. I found that a simple way to promote that investigation was to print out bookmarks with a sample of a piece of work created with something like Glogster, a header that read “Have you tried Glogster?” and the web address. A number of students who belonged to after school groups like our Samsula Snappers digital photo club would bring in work produced with new and exciting programs. It keeps them—and me-- growing!

Have you made videos with the students? If so, what equipment and software do you use? Do you post them to YouTube or something similar?

Moving from still images to digital story making to video production seems like a natural progression to me. We cut our teeth on our morning news show, a live broadcast interspersed with short video clips from students—interviews, announcements, and so on. Video became part of our wider classroom experience after we had worked with sequential stills for a while. We began with short, whole group projects, such videotaping a science experiment and outlining the scientific process. As the students gained skill with the production process, they began to collaborate on small video projects, such as the persuasive shorts described on page 113. Originally, we used Premiere Elements—it was smooth transition from Photoshop Elements, and, again, the tool we had on hand. Later on, the district supplied each media center with a Mac and iMovie. We submitted some of our work to the International Student Media Festival. Winning projects were uploaded to School Tube, courtesy of ISMF. Others were included in Best of Festival collections produced by the same entity. Adobe also came and made an educational short about the students’ work with Elements.

Where could middle school and secondary school librarians take your ideas?

I consider these concepts relevant for any age range—the teaching materials and processes are more sophisticated, but the literacy concepts and skills remain the same. For example, I am presently engaged in creating a multidisciplinary, online version of the Chasing Vermeer project described on pages 89-93 for a middle school in Florida. I am also contributing to collaboration between a high school and a historical museum in Georgia, in which students write and produce digital versions of their stories of immigrants to the United States. The same principles of visual literacy and 21st century learning skills described in Engaging the Eye Generation are at work in these learning initiatives.

I hope you all enjoyed the book and that it sparked some creativity and new ideas to teach visual literacy at your schools.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

6 Things That Make Me Happy

I was recently tagged by Buffy Hamilton (one of my new friends who I have never actually met in person - but I will at AASL!) in a meme called Things That Make Me Happy. I don't usually do these types of lists - I am not really sure why exactly, but then I saw how easy this one is and thought it could be a nice way to learn more about my new (and one old) friends in my Personal Learning Network (more on that in another post). It is hard to think of just 6, but here they are (in no particular order):
1. Spontaneous hugs from my almost-10-year-old son.
2. Watching my almost-7-year-old daughter figure something out on her own.
3. Finding out about a new reader in the school where I work (aha! a new victim!).
4. The beach. Seeing the ocean from afar, swimming in the water, riding in on a wave - picnicking on a blanket in the sand, anything that involves the beach!
5. Having friends over for dinner.
6. Laughing with my husband.

Here are the rules for this meme:

  • Link to the person who tagged you.
  • Post six things that make you happy along with these rules.
  • Then tag six others (letting them know, of course..I only tagged 5).
  • Let the person who tagged you know when your entry is complete.

By the way, I also get really happy when people comment on my blog!