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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

30D2BBB Challenge--Days 7-10

So, last night I blew threw several of the challenges. Here's a recap:

Day 7: Invite Someone to be a Guest Blogger.
I talked to a friend of mine who is a mid-thirties undergrad college student. He tried this once before, after graduating from high school. The integration of technology has seriously changed education from his perspective. He's completing finals this week, so he'll post later on.

Day 8: Comment Unto Others
Oh, this isn't difficult! I do this A LOT. Especially with our 2.0 Challenge going on.

Day 9: Burn Baby Burn! my feed set's over there in the sidebar.

Day 10: Do you see what they see?
I did look at things in several different ways. I use Firefox at home, because it seems like my stuff works on Firefox when it won't in IE7. I've never looked at this one in IE6, but then I don't have easy access to that without doing some reverting. Things look a little off sometimes, but I have a pretty basic template, so I'm alright with that.

I know I shouldn't have blown through 4 days worth of stuff so quickly. Kind of defeats the purpose of being a better blogger. Does it help at all to know that I spent 4 hours looking at these things?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Technology Mastery

Doing a little blog-shopping this morning, as I try to catch up on posts and comments for the projects I'm involved in this year (see the sidebar).

So, I got to reading the guest blogger post last month over at Tech Thoughts by Jen. The guest blogger was Peggy George, a recently retired elementary principal. She opted to discuss technology and web 2.0 in the classroom from a principal's perspective. Interesting...

She mentioned an article offered in May 1993 in the "From Now On" educational technology Journal titled "Stages of Mastery of Technology." It's really no surprise to me that I'd managed to miss this article before now, since I was a 17 year old high school junior planning to major in business in May 1993.

But it's interesting. It's largely about the levels/stages of integration in the classroom from the teacher's proficiency and comfort level. Really rather fascinating, and I can sit here and count the the teachers who've made it anywhere near stage two or three. They happen to be the ones I have the least difficult time convincing to try new things.

Here's a visual that Peggy put together about the stages. It's a really great way to see where people fit in the continuum.

What does all this mean? Well, obviously, we need to think about how our TEACHERS learn technology. What works best for them? Many of us in education didn't grow up with this stuff.
It's a new language, animal, frontier for a lot of us. I'm not saying anything you don't already know. I often think I've got to approach it with the same mindset as teaching 1st graders how to read or ELL students how to speak English. Technology, Web 2.0 applications, and classroom integration has to come off as interesting and purposeful. I have to prove to them that a little bit of effort now will make it all easier in the end.

The problem is, for me at least, that we don't always remember that when we get ready to teach. I get incredibly frustrated when someone says "I don't have time to learn this" or "I won't use it, so why bother?"

I want to scream when I hear those things. "Why bother?"

Because our students can no longer get jobs at McDonald's without being able to use a computer.

Because soon you won't have access to an overhead projector, only a presentation station with a tv screen attached to a computer.

Because brain research shows that color makes a difference in learning.

Because you might discover a new and better way to present information. Because you might better understand the material you're teaching.

Because it's what all the cool kids are doing. And by cool kids, I mean your students.

My first computer experiences were with a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A that hooked to the TV. It had cartridges that reminded me of 8-track tapes and were read-only. I remember my grandfather setting up his tape recorder to save information he'd put together for some financial something or other, because he had not yet invested in the add-on 5-1/4 floppy disk drive. (And, I kid you not, I think I saw the shoebox full of those tapes a few years ago.) This was in the early 80s, probably right at '81 or '82. I remember the games we played--"A-Maze-Ing" with a little mouse that was hunting cheese, "TI Invaders," "Parsec," "Reading Round-up," "Number Magic" and "Numeration 1 & 2." Grandpa would let us play the "fun" ones, so long as we'd had a couple rounds on the educational ones. I even remember thinking at one point when I was little that it was REALLY COOL that my GRANDPA had a computer at home.

From those early days through to high school, I can't say things got much more interesting with my computer experiences. Yes, I know capabilities and applications advanced by leaps and bounds between 1982 and 1995 (when I graduated from high school), but we only barely had computers anywhere in my high school other than the computer labs. My senior research paper was typed on a word processor that we'd gotten somewhere around my 6th or 7th grade year. I think we'd replaced it by that time, but I don't really remember (I just know that by the time I was writing a literary analysis paper for college freshman English, that word processor was in my bedroom and we'd bought a new computer for the family.). My parents didn't even have Internet access until I was a junior in college. The library I currently work in wasn't even automated at that point--I know this because I keep finding check-out cards with my name on them in the backs of the books!

Now, I not only have a computer at home (a fabulous little green Dell laptop named Emily), I also have 2 in my office (a laptop and a desktop that are used interchangeably) and read my emails on my cell phone (a smartphone named Phoebe who also wakes me up every morning with a song and reminds me to go to meetings). I may have been born a digital immigrant as opposed to a digital native (like our students), I've become a naturalized citizen in the digital community. I LOVE TECHNOLOGY and its myriad of uses. I'm so used to digital things that, though I grumble about students who complain they cannot read Roman numerals and analog clocks (when I know I taught those skills to them in 5th grade), I'll admit that I have to slow down a bit to read one myself.

It wasn't easy for me to make the switch, never mind that college required it. I'd still rather pick up a book or a magazine to do research than to hit my online databases. I much prefer to play solitaire with real cards, and spade with people sitting at the same table as I am. When I write poetry, it's in a spiral notebook (and then transferred to computer at some point.).

My point is this--it's all about mindset, right? You can move beyond "survival stage" and work into "mastery" and "impact" if you have patience and determination and you TRY. "Innovation" isn't unreachable for the techno-phobe who's barely surviving, if you're positive and remember we all have to start somewhere.

Day 5 and counting...globalizing your blog

Ooo...this is fun. I hadn't added a ClustrMap to this blog, although it is on our 2.0 Project wiki for work.

So, I've added that.

I've never thought about adding a translator utility though. Hm..increases your visibility and return visitors for sure, doesn't it? I'll have to post the widget for Google Translate from home, though. It's blocked here at school.

Fun stuff. I can also share this with my library colleagues, what a neat way to share book reviews with ELL students. You just might spark an interest in reading AND provide them with interesting material to practice reading in English if you can hook them in the 1st language.

I found Yahoo!'s Babel Fish Translation service. I've sent kiddos to that one for a quick help with translation in Spanish class. I didn't know they had a website translation widget. I've added that over on the right column.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

30 Days...Day 4 (okay, okay, a month late)

Alright, I really am going to do this 30 days to being a better blogger thing. I feel like I should, since I've started leading our 23 Things project again.

So, today is about Creative Commons. For this one, I chose a "by-nc-sa" license. I'm not particularly worried about what I do here being adversely affected in some way by derivative works.

Not that anyone would want to create a derivative of my puppy dog live feed. *grin*

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Day 3: You gotta have friends..

Today, we're supposed to be thanking someone who's linked to us. Well, I had to search. I haven't been doing this a long time, and I'm certainly not hugely well-known, like, say Steve Dembo.

So, I Googled my links. And came across one that I have to assume is relatively new, since her archives only go back to September of this year.

So, a BIG thank you to Making Connections, for linking to me. I'm looking forward to the connection--teehee!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Graduating Early

Found this today, front and center on Yahoo.

Should Kids Be Able to Graduate After 10th Grade?

Seems New Hampshire is going to implement a testing program in 10th grade. The tests are modelled after current Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) tests, and are supposed to determine if the student is educationally prepared to move on to community college or trade schools. They can take the tests as many times as they would like, though may choose to stay and complete their junior and senior years of high school in order to be eligible to attend a 4-year university.

There are arguments on both sides of the issue. The big question is whether or not a test given at 16 years old is really legitimate for determining a person's path in life. Well, is it?

Working with 14-19 year olds all day long, I'm hard pressed to name one that I think is ready for college or trade school. Maybe my demographic is different than in New Hampshire. But, somehow, I think a Texas 16 is a New Hampshire 16.

There's a comment made in the article
One key concern is whether test results, at age 16, are really valid enough to indicate if a child should go to university or instead head to a technical school - with the latter almost certainly guaranteeing lower future earning potential.
Okay, as the child of a man who started out as a machinist and now makes 4 or 5 times the money I do, that's not fair. Technical schools can set you up for some amazing jobs. Most, if not all, start out making what I did with B.S. in education--if not more.

"You know that the kids sent in that direction are going to be from low-income, less-educated families while wealthy parents won't permit it," says Iris Rotberg, a George Washington University education policy professor, who notes similar results in Europe and Asia. She predicts, in turn, that disparity will mean "an even more polarized higher education structure - and ultimately society - than we already have."

This statement really bothers me. It's not that I don't see how that can happen, or even how it has happened in other countries. It's more that we're classing ourselves when we think that something is above or beneath us simply because of what it is. And we set our children up when we allow them to think the same way.

So..where am I going with this?

We need to accept kids differences. Both in ability and interest. Some just aren't cut out for universities while others are chomping at the bit for one--regardless of their socioeconomic background. We educate ALL of them. Period.

However, I do think New Hampshire's taking a step in the right direction, I just think it's maybe a bit too big a step just yet. We have to start offering more options--more stringent academic routes as well as more vocational/technical routes. We can't keep shoving 'college degrees' down our students' throats...we'll lose them.

Cool stuff

America's 10 Coolest Public Libraries

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ahem..I know, I know..

I've been absent from this blog for several months. These things happen, right?

It's not from a lack of reading. Good heavens, no!

It's not from a lack of interest in what I'm reading either.

Doesn't really matter why. Now, I'm back.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Day Two: Stats..and more stats

So, this task was all about just knowing the stats on your audience.

It seems weird to me that I never set up Google Analytics or Site Meter on this blog. My personal blogs both have them on there. I love getting my emails on Monday mornings, telling me all the cool stuff--hits, search terms, that I've got a reader who religiously checks my site in Nigeria. And one in Croatia.

Seriously cool stuff.

And when I see the numbers drop off a little, it spurs me into action. I get more productive. And since I've started doing a little more coding work (as in HTML) in my personal blogs, I pay attention better to what my audience can and can't see. So, I guess I'm more aware, in that sense.

So, as I get some stats for this site, I'll probably post an upate about what I've learned.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

30 Days....Day One

I'm officially 3 days behind (and counting) on the "30 Days to Being a Better Blogger" challenge that Steve Dembo (lovable teach42) suggested/dreamed up last week. I'm all about it. I know I'm not a great blogger, and I know I'm not a consistent one, which seems to defeat the purpose to me sometimes.

So, here I am. I'm going to bump out all these posts and get caught up. Be watching a space somewhere on this page for news of the wiki that some others and I volunteered to scratch together for Steve.

The "about" page.

I've never had one. Blogger doesn't really lend itself to one (although Dembo pointed out a work-around for that. I just can't look at it here at school, so I can't tell you if it works or not. I'll get to that this evening.)

So, I guess my first job is to set about getting one set up. I imagine this will (as everything seems to) me deciding to completely revamp the look of my blog. No biggie.

I'll update in a little while, and let you know how things go.

UPDATE: Okay, a day later..I've managed to at least update my Blogger profile. Does that count? I say YES!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Cool stuff I learned about today

Check this out. I already knew about the MIT open courseware project.

Here's the Yale one. I'm going to do the Old Testament class. And maybe the philosophy class. Anyone care to join me?

Here's some other interesting open courseware projects:

University of Southern Queensland (Australia)

Utah State University

University of Notre Dame

Learn something people!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

AISDCL20 #14--Technorati and Tagging

I'm just not into tagging through other websites. I tag here, and it kind of feels like way too much extra work to tag to meet other services needs.

BUT, I get it. I do understand how it creates a networking opportunity when you tag your posts and look for similar ones out there. And when I'm searching for specific things in Flickr or, it does, in fact make it easier.

It just work on this end. I know it's not, not really anyway, but it's just an extra step that I (if I really wanted to do this right *grin*) would do.

Okay, I'll give it another shot. (How'd I talk myself into that one?)

AISDCL20 #11--Web 2.0 Awards's probably cheating, but I chose to take a look at pbwiki. I already have one (well, our AISDCL2.0 wiki), so that's why I think it might be cheating.

I think it's easy--just like the name implies (easy as a peanut butter sandwich). Pretty much a point and click editor (like the AISD teacher webpages). The updated version looks snazzier, and is just as easy to work with.

I'm involved in ALL kinds of Nings (which is social networking without the MySpace stigma).

Texas School Librarians

TeacherLibrarian Network


Web 2.0 For Teachers

Progressive Educators

Nings are just a great networking thing, that's tied into a subject/them specific thing. They're easy to navigate and are great ways to collaborate and generate ideas and discussion.

AISDCL20 #7--Something technology related

So, since I think it's bad form for the leader of the project to not quite be done...

So, I'm working on podcasting lately. I've been playing with creating podcasts for the books that I'm reviewing for my library and for Tayshas. I think next year, I'll offer it to my TAs as a project for their grades.

Anyway, check out Audacity to try playing with your own podcasts. As long as you've got a microphone or digital recorder, you can podcast yourself!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch

I am terrifically excited, overwhelmed, and humbled by this book. No, it's not one for the Tayshas list. I don't know that it would ever resonate with young adults. And, to be honest, I haven't had some of the life experiences that Randy touches on as he talks about living your childhood dreams--which is really about how to live your life.

I read it in a day, it's a short one. But the short ones are often the ones most meaningful, right?

If you don't know Randy's story, I urge you to read about him. And watch the Carnegie Mellon lecture video. It is a moving experience if you open your heart and mind.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Regarding a comment

I logged in this morning to find someone had left a comment on one of my book reviews. Apparently, this person thought it would be fun to let me know, with a colorful term of endearment, that he or she needed the Sparknotes for the book I'd reviewed. Let me explain why that's just not going to happen on my blog.

First..and this is important guys...the books I'm reading are often too new to have a Sparknotes package created for them yet.

Second..I have this weird feeling that maybe, just maybe, you think you need those Sparknotes for an assignment. Like, say, a book report. That you've put off until the last minute on Sunday evening and it's due Monday morning. I just have one thing to say--"N.M.P." It's Not My Problem. a teacher-librarian, I happen to think maybe you should READ a book, the whole book, when you've got to write about it. The Sparknotes are great for studying and helping to understand the themes, symbols, etc. They are not a replacement for a book.

Fourth..I love it when students give me a creative nickname. Your choice wasn't creative.

Oh..and if you're looking for Sparknotes for's a crazy one, try the website conveniently titled "Sparknotes." Who'da thunk?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Conference Excitement

Start watching this space carefully. After a wonderful several days learning all kinds of new things and getting excited about lots of different technologies, things are going to get more exciting around here!

Keep an eye out!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Great story

Okay, so it's several months old, but this is pretty awesome. I don't think anyone can come up with a really good excuse now.

Blogging 101 motivates students

AISDCL20 # 7--Technology Related Things...

I tend to "shop" through other people's blogs and websites. (Like when I used to go to my grandmother's house and "shop" through her pantry for a snack. Uusally AppleJacks or Twinkies. I find interesting things for my blogroll, or my feeds, or my whatever. At home, I Twitter it. At school, I book mark or email it and hope I can find it when I next have a chance to look.

Today, I thought I'd share these with you.

The T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project (Google "twinkies" and this is the first hit. I would've figured I'd get the Hostess site first. That was the 3rd link.)

Over at the ReadWriteWeb, this article on e-learning 2.0 kind of explains what Web 2.0 has to do with learning and then highlights some really neat applications. (Oh yes..this was book marked for the 2.1 class).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I am Rembrandt's Daughter, by Lynn Cullen

With her mother dead of the plague, and her beloved brother newly married and moved away, Cornelia van Rijn finds herself without a friend or confidante—save her difficult father. Out of favor with Amsterdam’s elite, and considered brash and unreasonable by his patrons, Rembrandt van Rijn, once revered, is now teetering on the brink of madness. Cornelia alone must care for him, though she herself is haunted by secrets and scandal. Her only happiness comes in chance meetings with Carel, the son of a wealthy shipping magnate whose passion for art stirs Cornelia. And then there is Neel, her father’s last remaining pupil, whose steadfast devotion to Rembrandt both baffles and touches her. Based on historical fact, and filled with family dramas and a love triangle that would make Jane Austen proud, I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter is a powerful account of a young woman’s struggle to come of age within the shadow of one of the world’s most brilliant and complicated artists.

Well, yes, the history is good. I have a penchant for historical fiction set in this time period. And I do think the story line is historically feasible and accurate. It’s very telling, and does show how one can triumph, in a way, over adversity and that the future doesn’t have to be what others would make for you.

However, I felt like this book trudged. And trudged. Parts of it felt like a teen romance novel—where you find yourself thinking “oh, get to the point already!”

The New Policeman, by Kate Thompson

Who knows where the time goes? There never seems to be enough time in Kinvara, or anywhere else in Ireland for that matter. When J.J.'s mother says that what she really wants for her birthday is more time in her day, J.J. decides to find her some. But how can he find time for her, when he barely has enough time to keep up with school and his music? And where will he get time to find out if the shocking rumor is true-that his great-grandfather was a murderer?

It seems as though J.J.'s given himself an impossible task. But then a neighbor reveals a secret to him-there is a place where time stands still. J.J. realizes he's the only person who can make the journey, but to do so he'll have to vanish from his own life.

And when J.J. disappears from the village, enter the new policeman. . . .

Oh..I got so lost in this story, and not in the good way. I get it..there’s the “real” world (the modern world), and there’s the fairy world and somehow they two have crossed. It’s just all over the place otherwise. The flow I expect in a good story is completely lost on me. The premise is original and good—“where does time go?”—I just think the handling is poor.

Wildwood Dancing, by Julie Marillier

High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It's an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle's hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm.But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he's there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena's sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom--an impossible union it's up to Jena to stop.

When Cezar's grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can't imagine--tests of trust, strength, and true love.

It’s a wonderful “lose yourself in the story” story. Beautiful imagery, rich story line. Lots of light and dark imagery and mystery. I just felt like it wrapped up too neatly—and that’s knowing that, to an extent, fantasy should.

Right Behind You, by Gail Giles

When he was nine, Kip set another child on fire. Now, after years in a juvenile ward, he is ready for a fresh start. But the ghosts of his past soon demand justice, and he must reveal his painful secret. How can Kip tell anyone that he really is--or was--a murderer?

Ok..I love Giles’ books. And SOOO many of my kiddos fight for her books—to read over and over again. Having been a high school teacher, she obviously knows that to write to hook readers of every sort.

And I loved this book. I read it in a day, less really. Giles’ books are always good for the reluctant reader, they don’t take long to get through AND you don’t want to put them down. Her characters are real, her settings are REAL, the things going on inside the heads of even the characters who are secondary—but I gotta tell you, few of these characters were REALLY secondary.

The only thing that got me? There was hope at the end—freakin’ hope! What’s that about???

Ordinary Ghosts, by Eireann Corrigan

Emil's brother isn't dead. Just gone. It's his mom who's dead, and his dad who's checked out completely. Emil's alone. Not in a teary-eyed, starving-orphan way. Just alone. As in: nobody to talk to, nothing to do.

Then he finds the key. Not a metaphorical the solution to loneliness was within me all along! key. No, a real key. A key that opens every single door in the elite prep school that Emil's forced to attend. Suddenly, Emil doesn't mind so much the he's a nonentities are much harder to pin down.

Soon, he's sneaking into the school at night to explore -- and falling for a girl who sneaks in for reasons of her own. The keeper of the key is supposed to be legendary but Emil will settle for barely coherent. He's spent a whole of his life dealing with disappearances. Now he has to see what it takes to make things stay.

I wanted Emil to DO more. I realize that this wasn’t central to the story. That the bigger issue was figuring out who he was now that his life was flipped upside down. And discovering who the people in his life really were. Beautiful coming of age and age of discovery story (I don’t think those 2 concepts are the same). Emil’s just an average kid dealing with what is, sadly (because of what it says about our society), an average existence. That’s what makes him so attractive as a character—he’s not any more special than you or I, and he’s dealing with the terms life has given him, the best way he knows how when he’s got little to direct him.

Skin Hunger, by Kathleen Duey

Sadima lives in a world where magic has been banned, leaving poor villagers
prey to fakes and charlatans. A "magician" stole her family's few valuables and
left Sadima's mother to die on the day Sadima was born. But vestiges of magic
are hidden in old rhymes and hearth tales and in people like Sadima, who
conceals her silent communication with animals for fear of rejection and
ridicule. When rumors of her gift reach Somiss, a young nobleman obsessed with
restoring magic, he sends Franklin, his lifelong servant, to find her. Sadima's
joy at sharing her secret becomes love for the man she shares it with. But
Franklin's irrevocable bond to the brilliant and dangerous Somiss traps her,
too, and she faces a heartbreaking decision.

Centuries later magic has been restored, but it is available only to the
wealthy and is strictly controlled by wizards within a sequestered academy of
magic. Hahp, the expendable second son of a rich merchant, is forced into the
academy and finds himself paired with Gerrard, a peasant boy inexplicably
admitted with nine sons of privilege and wealth. Only one of the ten students
will graduate -- and the first academic requirement is survival.

Sadima's and Hahp's worlds are separated by generations, but their lives are
connected in surprising and powerful ways in this brilliant first book of
Kathleen Duey's dark, complex, and completely compelling trilogy.

I get caught up in stories like this. I love the magic, the struggle with good and evil, and how the darker side seems to be carrying the book. I spent a good portion of the book wondering how the two story lines were connected, and making the jumps between the two. It all ties together VERY well, however, it doesn’t stand alone in my mind (it’s the first of a trilogy). The storyline doesn’t progress far enough for me to feel like I’ve gotten into the story (it felt like I was still in the background part of it).

Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale

When Dashti, a maid, and Lady Saren, her mistress, are shut in a tower for seven years for Saren’s refusal to marry a man she despises, the two prepare for a very long and dark imprisonment.

As food runs low and the days go from broiling hot to freezing cold, it is all Dashti can do to keep them fed and comfortable. But the arrival outside the tower of Saren’s two suitors—one welcome, and the other decidedly less so—brings both hope and great danger, and Dashti must make the desperate choices of a girl whose life is worth more than she knows.

With Shannon Hale’s lyrical language, this forgotten but classic fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm is reimagined and reset on the central Asian steppes; it is a completely unique retelling filled with adventure and romance, drama and disguise.

Oh my, what a wonderful read. It IS adventure, drama, romance—and fantasy all rolled into one. What a beautiful way to show that strength is found in so many different places. I think the real “surprise” in the story is Lady Saren, and how through her actions, Dashti is made into a stronger person—because someone has to be. There’s the amazing twist at the end, that you aren’t expecting—so very different from the typical fairy tale ending that all the retellings of Grimms fairy tales tend to ascribe to. The arrangement is a really wonderful way to do this—the diary of a girl who probably isn’t supposed to be able to keep one let alone have one.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Library2Play--Number 13, AISDCL20 #13

Tagging and

Okay...first off, I've gotta rant. Maybe it's because I don't feel 100% today (frankly, 60% is asking a lot). I tried to register for several times earlier this week. My standard username/password combo would've work just fine. However, 3 consecutive letters in my real name are the mimiced in my password (no, my password has nothing to do with my name. It just happened that way.). I tried several different ways around it. Nothing. I now have a combo that is going to be hard to remember because I've never used it before--ugh. Yes, I know I can write it down in a safe place, but that piece of paper would never be found again, it would be so freakin' safe.

Okay, rant over.

Now..tagging. I do this on my blogs. I think I already have a Technorati account, though I'm not sure I did more than register and look around for a little bit. I do, in fact, see the point. I'm just not sure I need to use this (personally), if I'm using something else. Feels like a bit of redundancy, and I'm anti-redundancy (for the sheer sake of being redundant).

I'm open to suggestion though--something more than the "but not everyone uses that other one" reason, please.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Oo...a hack!

Hey, did you guys notice the NavBar is missing from the top of my page here? I learned a new trick!

The question came up after the AISD Classroom Learning 2.0 organizational meeting, specifically about removing that pesky navbar. I have it pulled from one of my personal blogs, purely for stylistic reasons. However, I don't use a Blogger layout on either of those blogs (again, for stylistic reasons. Not one of those templates they offer looks like me. And that would be the point, right? Find one that just says me.)

Anyway, pulling the navbar off of this blog is more about limiting the possibility of hitting inappropriate materials by clicking in my blog. My students do look at this--to see what it is that I'm reading and doing technology-wise.

If you'd like to do the same thing, check out this post at the blog "The Real Blogger Status."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Library2Play--Thing #12, AISDCL20 #12


I swear, you have to say that "roll-YO" Like, "that's how I roll, yo." (It's okay, you can roll your eyes now.)

Ok..I think this is pretty cool. Honestly--it's pre-fab coding. I just love how much easier it is. I've already added somethings to "my rollyo."

I did create a search roll to help me out. When I blog the books I'm reading, I like to put the publisher's blurb in my post so the summary is available to my dear readers. I can't always find them at one or the other book buying site, and having 4 windows or tabs open at a time is confusing. So..the "Book Blurbs" searchroll. I'm not going to post it here, because it really is just for me to keep from being confused. BUT..I did add a searchbox with some of the other searchrolls I particularly liked to this blog. Have fun!

AISDCL2.0--Week Two, Thing #4 (Registering your blog)

Okay, I have to admit, I've cheated on this. It's a little hard to register one's blog with oneself.

However, it is QUITE easy to post later when you've already got the blog, and the avatar. So. here it is.

A couple of people have already mentioned some confusion with getting their avatars over here to the Blogger template. On our wiki (AISDCL20), I put together a 2-page document with screen shots to help us out.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Library2Play--Thing #11, AISDCL20 #19


I've got a LibraryThing account under a different name, somewhere. It's one of those sites that I thought was a fabulous idea, and got started with, but then got side-tracked and forgot what I was doing.

Anyway, I think it's a cool idea. It's another way to feed the "if you liked x, then you might like y" concept. I found some groups that share my particular bend--YA books, and love that I can tag things both for myself and for others. Social networking for the reader--I love it!

I can see where this could be used in conjunction with a library's catalog, too--particularly for the "if you like..." bit. I've always thought that was something missing in catalogs--yes I can do a subject search, but who's to say that I'm going to enjoy vampire novels by Anne Rice after I've loved those by Stephenie Meyer? Those to me aren't even in the same league. (I do, by the way, like both those authors, but they most certainly are not together on the reading spectrum.)

Anyone played with GoodReads yet?

AISD's Web 2.0 Project

Today, we're kicking off something new in my district. After learning about the California School Library Association's Classroom Learning 2.0 project, we decided to get involved. (This is the same structure/format that Spring Branch's Library2Play 23 Things Project is based on.)

It's going to prove to be interesting. I'm acting as Project Manager for us, this time around. Not counting myself, we've got 40 people involved. Some are waaaaaay tech savvy (our Information Systems Manager--read "head tech guru"-- for one), while I think others may still be testing the waters with a lot of what's available.

I'm incredibly excited and can't wait to get to our meeting this afternoon and get it kicked off.

I'll post a link to our wiki for this project now, here and in my links section. Check out us!

AISD's CL2.0 Wiki

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Library2Play--Thing #10, AISDCL20 #12

Image Generators

I tried Image Chef, first, but I'm not pleased. While it's easy to use, there's not a lot of stuff to play with (prefab stuff) and everytime I tried to add the image over here in Blogger, it was broken. Oh well.

I did find the Glitterizer. Cheezy (and yes that word has a 'z' in it.). But cute.

What you don't see here is that the text has an animated glitter effect. But, there wasn't any way to get the HTML code to plug in.

I don't know, this one just seems like a fun way to burn some time. Really didn't do much for me today. I can see where it could be fun to make some different signs or cartoons or whatever.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Library2Play--Thing #9, AISDCL20 #8 & #9

Useful Library-Related Blogs and News Feeds

I played with several of the sites provided in this discovery activity.

Of course, the Edublog Awards are a wonderful place to start. I enjoy finding out what others think are particularly good. That doesn't always mean they've got a large following. It just means they're particularly good and people should know about them. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I wonder what they were thinking.

I do like the blog School Libraries on SuperGlu. There's some good stuff there. And it seems to be pieced together the way my brain works. (That would be randomly). It's a little confusing if you don't already know how it's put together--try finding stuff, okay?

I've never really like searching for feeds in Bloglines. Honestly, it feels like the old versions of search engines, and honey, I'm all about the new stuff.

Still, though, my favorite way to find interesting blogs and feeds is to "shop" others. I liken it to when I'd visit my grandmother's house and go "shopping" in her pantry for a snack. We might have some of the same things at my house, but there's was always something different and WAAAAY cooler at hers.

That's how I found this blog today.

Students 2.0

I love this. What a great insite into what kids are thinking--without having too worry too much that you don't want to know that particular thought!!!

Library2Play--Thing #8

RSS Feeds, and Feedreaders

I have to tell you, I love RSS feeds. Just the advent of them means I don't have to troll through my bookmark list for new things..and get increasingly disappointed to find that my favorite bloggers post about as often as I do on my personal blogs. (I'm averaging 3 posts every couple of months, all at once. Very bad.) I'm not a very patient person (could be that undiagnosed ADD), so I don't like to go looking for something and come up with nothing--like new posts and news. So, RSS feeds and newsreaders are a miraculous thing for me.

I use my feeds constantly, for school and home. Okay, so the school one is relatively new, but I do enjoy it, a great deal. Everything I'm looking for on one page? It's great, saves me time. At home, I keep up with my friends blogs..makes it easy for me to point someone to a blog, and see when my friends have posted updates.

Libraries could do a lot with this. Providing a feed for users of your library's blog would be a good PR tool--let patrons know of new developments and events in your library, even if they aren't faithful visitors to your blog/site. I keep the Amazon blog in my personal feeds so I can see what's up with new books or whatever that I might be interested in, so it becomes something of a collection development tool. Fun stuff!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Before I Die, by Jenny Downham

Tessa has just months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It’s her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is Sex. Released from the constraints of ‘normal’ life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up. Tessa’s feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, and her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallised in the precious weeks before Tessa’s time finally runs out.

With the movie "Bucket List" opening over the weekend, reading this book was a good way to kick off my weekend of self-reflection. Talk about making you think and consider relationships as well as how you live your life. Do you just give up, or do you go out fighting?

Oh, I cried. Wonderfully written, and so touching and real. Tessa is fabulous, Zoey is what you expect—loyal but still caught up in her own life, just like your typical teenager. Adam is an unexpected joy, and Cal, Tessa's little brother, will just wrench your heart out.

I truly can't believe this is Downham's first novel. I can only imagine what she'll give us next, as powerful as this one is.

One Good Punch, by Rich Wallace

ASK ANYBODY AROUND East Scranton High School: Michael Kerrigan is almost too good to be true. Dedicated athlete, captain of the track team, editorial assistant (obituary writer) at the Scranton Observer, he's never been in trouble, and he doesn't associate with troublemakers. This is the most important track season of his life - and he's ready.

That is, until the police find four joints in his locker. Soon Mike's seemingly perfect world is threatened, and with pressure coming from his parents, his childhood best friend, and his sort-of girlfriend, Mike is faced with a choice - a choice that will determine the kind of athlete, friend, and man he becomes.

This is a short, quick read. Readers will relate, quickly, to the guy who "has it all together" and is on track for success.

That being said, the ending doesn’t jive with me. I honestly can’t see too many teenagers throwing away their lives to make the choices that Mike does--most in my estimation aren't ready for the concept of the "the greater good." Maybe I'm a tad jaded.

Head Case, by Sarah Aronson

Frank Marder is a head, paralyzed from the neck down, and it's his fault. He was drinking. He was driving. Now Frank can't walk he can't move, he can't feel his skin. He needs someone to feed him to wash him, to move his body.

When you're a head, do you ever feel like a whole person? Will Frank ever get to forgive himself?

Wow, what different take on this. Or, it feels original at least. Frank's just a kid, just a teenager, with all the teenage boy stuff going on--but it's all, very literally, in his head.

I really, really like that Aronson has worked with individuals with these sorts of problems. She’s seen those who “deal” and those who don’t. I can’t imagine being in a situation in which my body will no longer respond, but I’m still dealing with being a kid and growing up.

HOWEVER, I don’t like that the first chapter makes it appear as if that last drink was somehow the impetus for all of it. The things that happened are the consequences of drinking and driving, NOT just drinking one too many. And, yes, these consequences CAN and DO happen to the kid who has it all.

I realize the book wasn't meant to be preachy, and teenagers wouldn't be drawn to it if it was, but I think that's something to consider.

The Poison Apples, by Lily Archer

We all know the stories of Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel. But have you ever heard of Alice Bingley-Beckerman, Reena Paruchuri, or Molly Miller? Of course you haven't. Not yet. But here's something you should know. What these girls have in common with their fairy-tale sisters is this: They are the stepdaughters of three very evil stepmothers. And they're not happy about it. They think they are alone in their unhappiness until they arrive at Putnam Mount McKinsey, a posh boarding school located in lovely, rural Massachusetts. Here is where they will plot their revenge. But first, they have to meet. In her first novel, Lily Archer tells a knowing, unforgettable story about how friendship just may turn out to be more happily-ever-after than family.

A really fun read. The characters are well-developed, and SOOO teenagery. It really does seem like a rarity that getting a new step-parent as a teenager is sweetness and light. It can seriously stink, regardless of the people and personalities involved. Archer's book is wickedly funny, and heart-felt. Maybe those step-mothers are worth it, after all.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Unwind, by Neal Shusterman

In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would "unwind" them.

Connor's parents want to be rid of him because he's a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev's unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family's strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can't be harmed -- but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.

Wow. I loved this book.

Could be a little controversial, in terms of the extremely “late-term” abortion issue (in utero vs. walking around conscious). Shusterman takes a very different approach to the idea that all are important, they way they are, not in terms of what they could be or be used for. Certainly would spark interesting debate.

Awesome story, very well-written, a characteristic of Shusterman, as we know. The characters are well-developed and it never gets “slow.”

The Declaration, by Gemma Malley

It’s the year 2140 and Longevity drugs have all but eradicated old age. A never-aging society can’t sustain population growth, however…which means Anna should never have been born. Nor should any of the children she lives with at Grange Hall. The facility is full of boys and girls whose parents chose to have kids—called surpluses—despite a law forbidding them from doing so. These children are raised as servants, and brought up to believe they must atone for their very existence. Then one day a boy named Peter appears at the Hall, bringing with him news of the world outside, a place where people are starting to say that Longevity is bad, and that maybe people shouldn’t live forever. Peter begs Anna to escape with him, but Anna’s not sure who to trust: the strange new boy whose version of life sounds like a dangerous fairy tale, or the familiar walls of Grange Hall and the head mistress who has controlled her every waking thought? Chilling, poignant, and endlessly though-provoking, The Declaration is a powerful debut that will have readers agonizing over Anna’s fate until the very last page. ones we follow.

Thought-provoking and intense. The characters are developed to the point that I was rooting for some and wanted to give others a piece of my mind. Teens will gravitate to this one because it’s something that could happen, and because it’s easy to like Anna, even when she’s not standing up for herself. This one reminds us that the paths we’re placed on don’t have to be the ones we follow.

**I think it could be paired well with Unwind (Shusterman). The whole value of life debate.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Get Well Soon, by Julie Halpern

Anna Bloom is depressed—so depressed that her parents have committed her to a mental hospital with a bunch of other messed-up teens. Here she meets a roommate with a secret (and a plastic baby), a doctor who focuses way too much on her weight, and a cute, shy boy who just might like her.

But wait! Being trapped in a loony bin isn’t supposed to be about making friends, losing weight, and having a crush, is it?

In her fiction debut, Julie Halpern finds humor in the unlikeliest of places, and presents a character whose voice-and heart-will resonate with all of us who have ever felt just a little bit crazy.

I described this to my assistant as sort of an anti-Hopkins (Crank, Burn, etc.). Anna is real and honest and funny. I wish I had a wit like hers sometimes. The other characters are great—just as diverse as teenagers in a hospital like this should be. The problems they have come in with are legitimate. I love to see that not every teen with emotional issues is portrayed at the far ends of the spectrum—Anna is just depressed, she’s not cutting or being physically destructive. It does provide some hope and you do see that Anna sees the changes in herself. My only complaint is that all the kids seem to think, and never get past it, that they are there only because someone else (parents) wasn't willing to put up with them and their problems.

It would be GREAT paired with Hopkins’ Impulse. Contrasting the darker side vs the lighter side of being sent to a mental hospital.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Derby Girl by Shauna Cross

Meet Bliss Cavendar, a blue haired, indie-rock loving misfit stuck in the tiny town of Bodeen, Texas.

Her pageant-addicted mother expects her to compete for the coveted Miss Blue Bonnet crown, but Bliss would rather feast on roaches than be subjected to such rhinestone tyranny.

Bliss’ escape? Take up Roller Derby.

When she discovers a league in nearby Austin, Bliss embarks on an epic journey full of hilarious tattooed girls, delicious boys in bands, and a few not-so-awesome realities even the most bad-butt** derby chick has to learn.

(**I had to edit this phrase for language.)

Okay, I have to say it....I LOVE Bliss. She's funny, sarcastic, irreverent (not in a bad way)--she's an edgy chick in an un-edgy world. What punk girl doesn't want to push the envelope, and if you've ever seen Roller Derby--oh my "push" the envelope doesn't begin to describe them! Yet, Bliss is still just a teenage girl with all the emotions and issues.

This is a wonderful choice for reluctant readers. "Outsiders" will grab this one because Bliss is an outsider, too.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Breathe My Name, by R.A. Nelson

I need to see you.

Please come right away.

We have to finish.

Frances Robinson is in high school now. She lives a quiet, suburban life, far from her horrifying past. When she was a child, her birthmother smothered her three sisters. Through pure luck, Frances survived. Now her mother has just been released from prison . . . and she wants to see Frances.
A new boy at school called Nix charms Frances. Together, Nix and Frances embark on a clandestine journey to visit Frances' mother: to confront the monster in its lair. This trip will help Frances at last find peace-or die trying. But no matter what, Frances will discover just what it means to finish.

The intensity of the story line, coupled with a teenager’s real struggle to find herself will grab readers. The characters are well-defined and aren’t static. Even those who aren’t prime players are real and appropriate.

And I just like Frances and Nix. He's good for her when she most needs to have a strong and calming force. She's struggling to find out who she was and what that means to who she is today--and that the two aren't necessarily synonymous.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Library2Play--Thing #7, AISDCL20 #18

Google Tools and Apps

I love Google. I hate to say it..really, there's a part of me that cringes at the thought of admitting it to you, but I do love Google.

It's because I prefer my students not "google" their research. I'm a librarian, though, and I know how, well...academically dangerous googling can be. So, I push the databases that my campus subscribes to and has available. I tell them that I don't want them to go to Google the first day they're in the library researching for their projects, if it can be avoided. (Because I do realize that sometimes it can't be.) And, then, I teach them how to Google (or use Yahoo, or Dogpile, or MSN Live Search, or whatever.)

But I do suggest GoogleTools to my students. I use Google Notebook for myself at home. Honestly, that was how I started my own "jacked-up" version of an RSS feed. Then I learned about Blogrolling and then Internet Explorer came with a bookmark section just for feeds! WHEEEE! There's too many good things around!

What I really like about the Notebook though is that You can get a screen shot, and can make notes as to why you bothered to clip that info. With my bookmarks, and sometimes the RSS feeds, I go back and wonder what I was thinking when I decided to save that page. I did create a couple of new notebooks, under the guise of the "Mean Old Library Teacher." One is for things I run across while participating in Library2Play. The other is for things I collect to use while serving on the Facilities Committee for the new high school we'll be building. Both will be linked in my sidebar under "Place to go."

I opted to look at Google Scholar for the second part of this discovery activity. Of all the Google apps and tools, this is the only one I felt I had much use for that I hadn't played with yet. I like it pretty well, but feel like I might get more immediate useable information through my databases. Or that I can't print what I've pulled up. It was nice to pull up a book abstract and have it provide places to purchase the title--since not everything can be purchased on Amazon. (ssssshhhh...don't let them hear me say that!) So, while there's pros to using Google Scholar, there are cons. I think I'll stick with my databases for scholarly research.

Library2Play--Thing#6, AISDCL20 #6

Flickr Mashups (and other mashups)

Alrighty, I played all over fd's Flickr Toys over at BigHuge Labs. All kinds of cool things there. No one thing jumped out and really, really caught me. I did have some ideas for several of the applications available, though....

The Motivator...I'm seeing things like the ALA "Read" posters. Our PALs could do posters with some of our local stars for younger students. Or we could just design our own motivational posters, with images from around our school and community.

Movie Poster GREAT idea for marketing for the theater departments productions. Or club activities. I was in charge of the prom a few years ago and our theme was "vintage Hollywood." This would've been perfect!

The Magazine Covers and Trading Cards would be great products for projects--a magazine devoted to "The Pardoner's Tale" from Canterbury Tales. Trading cards for our health classes' self-help organization research projects. This could be a lot of fun. Even trading cards for our school organizations and athletic teams.

The Palette Generator for use in art classes and our web design/production class. Even some of our other vocational classes, like the apparel class.

Oh..and then...combine Mappr with Google LitTrips. Honestly, I love Google LitTrips--getting to "travel" to all the places in a story or novel, making it come alive. But you could do the same thing, on a smaller scale with Mappr. OR, combine it with the trading cards application or postcards application and create a "notebook" (or "set") for your studies.

The possibilities are bound only by what we're willing to try. I've got to email that Health teacher about his project now.

Library2Play--Thing #5, AISDCL20 #5


I've always used Photobucket for my pictures and things. Honestly, it's what I've used for my personal blogs, both for photos I post and for the design elements I use. (My personal blogs are far more interesting to look at, if only because I've played with them more.) It's user-friendly and compatible with everything I do. And, if I wanted to, I could order a calendar with my photos on it.

But, Flickr, I like. It's easier to use. Tagging takes less time. Uploading takes less time. This could certainly be more beneficial for my work stuff AND for my family stuff. (I just need to convince my boyfriend that Flickr really, really would be easier to use than setting up a MySpace for his family. Ugh.)

I like the group stuff too, everyone can share photos, or not share, or only share with certain groups. Seems SO much easier than what we do now ("here, let me email you these 50 photos 3 at a time"). It's also a neat way to get into social networking. More free-flowing and unstructured than MySpace or Ning.

My Flickr

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